Friday, February 28, 2014

Bummed That More Folks Aren't Coming In Droves To Your Shows? Get Creative...

Who woulda thunk an old dot matrix printer could be ready to go on tour as an electronic dj

Bummed that more folks aren't coming in droves to your shows? Get creative and find new ways to spread your gospel. We are living in the age of information and at a time when we are overrun with so many great things happening, that some will fall by the wayside from the sheer volume of content origination. 

Getting back to basics and telling a good story will never go away so do yourself a favor and focus on being a true individual. There are enough folks trying to be like Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson or referencing them in every song. The same goes for lyrical content about a perceived demi god making you think about the wrong choices. Take action, stand strong and be your own character in this storyline called life.


"Eye of the tiger" on dot matrix printer from MIDIDesaster on Vimeo.

Brand New Rory Kelly Video Premiering March 3rd

Rory Kelly, brand new video for "Lay To Waste"

On Monday March 3 at high noon, will be debuting the brand new video for Rory Kelly with the song Lay To Waste. Barn burning rock n' roll at its finest. Deep southern groove poured over a smooth glass of white lightning is the chosen recipe.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hellbound Glory Featured In The Oklahoma Gazette

Hellbound Glory Featured In The Oklahoma Gazette

Click over to the feature of Hellbound Glory on the Oklahoma Gazette

"When Leroy Virgil heard a Hank Williams Sr. album as a child growing up in Washington state, his lifelong love of country music began. That love only deepened when he heard the voice of Waylon Jennings.

“I developed this obsession with Hank Williams Sr.,” Virgil said from his home near Reno, Nev. “And the moment I heard Waylon Jennings’ voice, it just grabbed me.”

For the last 11 years, he has been the frontman of Hellbound Glory, a band that sounds more like Jennings in his prime than radio-friendly country. Band members have come and gone, but Virgil has been a constant with a voice that often sounds as rough and whiskey-tinged as Jennings but with songs influenced by everything from the country greats to Nirvana.

Virgil grew up on a farm in a small town, but not the sort of farm where cattle was punched and herded. He grew up on an oyster farm near Aberdeen, Wash., the hometown of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Rather than a cool Pacific Northwest town crawling with grunge musicians and coffee shops, Virgil said it was as rural a town as any he has visited in the Deep South.

“My upbringing was country,” he said.

Virgil wrote his first song when he was 12, visited Nashville as a young man and learned to play the guitar and harmonica. He formed the band in Reno and has spent more than a decade singing his brand of country (with an occasional Nirvana cover) in venues large and small around the United States. Last year, he spent time on the road as the opening act for Kid Rock. This year, he played seven dates as the opener for Oklahoma’s own Leon Russell.

Staying true to country, but also to his roots, Virgil does not sing about places he isn’t from.
“Everyone’s singing about Tennessee or singing about Texas,” he said. “I’m not from Texas, and I’m not from Tennessee.”

Hellbound Glory has three studio albums, and Virgil is at work on new material.

In the last few years, Virgil has spent the majority of his time on the road. The current tour will take the band to about 30 stops in the United States and Canada between February and May.

“I really spent the last three or four years playing every dive bar and weird honky-tonk around the country,” Virgil said. “But it’s been fun. We’ve had a lot of adventures.”

Virgil said he is excited to return to Oklahoma to see some old friends, including Meghan McCoy and Jarod Tracy, who he met in Reno and who lined up the band’s first Oklahoma show. Hopefully they will introduce more people to his brand of country, whether they listen to mainstream country, outlaw country or don’t listen to country music at all.

“When the people who listen to pop country hear us, they like it,” he said. “That also has happened with a lot of people who are into rock and metal. I want to make music people like.”"

Monday, February 24, 2014

Each Of Us Has Meaning And We Bring It To Life

New illustration while working on ideas for an album cover with Rory Kelly

"Life has no meaning. Each of us has meaning and we bring it to life. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer." - Joseph Campbell, sums it up quite well. We are the duality and born with the ability to raise the level of cognitive thought.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Sturgill Simpson Featured Song On Paste Magazine

Sturgill Simposon feature post about new track on Paste Magazine

"Following his acclaimed 2013 debut, Sturgill Simpson has announced the release of his sophomore record, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music. Raised in Kentucky, Simpson’s authentic Americana sound has earned him comparisons to some of country music’s early stars. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music is set for release May 13 via High Top Mountain Records. Simpson’s longtime friend Jason Seiler, known for his illustration of Pope Francis XV1 for Time Magazine, was recruited for the album’s cover art.

Simpson’s tracks are reminiscent of 1970’s country music, and with tracks full of emotion—both sad and fierce—Sturgill creates nostalgia for country music of days gone by."

Read Paste Magazine

Playlists Around The Shop The Week Of 2.21.14

John Lee Hooker will always be on our playlists as his tempo and signature vocals are timeless

The shop playlist always tends to gravitate through layers of old blues and morphs into metal and back into all that is America's best and brightest export, Rock N' Roll. Here are a few great albums and tracks that have kept things rollin' this week.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Does Your Knucklehead Have A Custom Tool Bag?

Got a 37' Knucklehead in your shop, well Hodge does and now a custom tool bag to grace the bike being built

Doing custom work for a variety of clientele is an absolutely great feeling. Much of the leather work is done via etsy or just the random email coming in through facebook or friends of friends passing the word around. Needless to say, we can't thank every single customer enough and looking forward to all the projects rolling through the shop doors daily.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Does Country Music Breed Republican Sentiment?

Pandora: your music reveals your politics

Big data is measuring all aspects of our lives whether you care to pay attention or not. Each click on a keyboard and every website visited is logged into a vast database and forever stored until someone is ready to access the personal information about all individuals. Take a guess who wants to know all about your personal preferences? Yep, the music industry.

Companies such as Spotify, Beats, Pandora, Itunes, etc. have invested a plethora of capital into analyzing listeners preferences through data algorithm's to help coordinate play lists according to your song and band choices. Could the future in films such as iRobot truly a reality? By measuring the data predictions are you a republican because you listen to George Strait? Is every hip hop listener a wannabe gangster? Time will tell.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lion Created from 4,000 Pieces of Hammered Metal By Selçuk Yılmaz

"Created from nearly 4,000 pieces of metal scraps, Aslan (Turkish for Lion), is a recent sculpture by Istanbul-based artist Selçuk Yılmaz. The piece took nearly a year of work and involved hand-cutting and hammering of each individual metal piece. The final work weighs roughly 550 pounds (250kg). While we’ve seen dozens of artists use multiple components to create a final form, it’s worth noting how well the bent mental lends itself to the final shape of this impressive cat. You can see much more of his work on Behance."

Follow more art and sculpture updates on This Is Colossal

The grace and majesty of a lion is captured in raw metal

Sheet metal forged from organic materials once again reverted back to organic form, the alchemists were right.

Art can allow our vision to be purified into a whole new meaning

Sculptural metal lion that challenges the viewer to believe in what he is seeing


The Greasy Hand Preachers Documentary On Kickstarter

Shinya Kimura's workshop

"A biker crossing a beautiful landscape is an image that, for most, conveys the idea of freedom. However, the mechanic who builds and repairs this bike remains perceived as proletarian with dirty hands, a man who is without a doubt dominated in the economies of knowledge. How did this generalized devaluation of manual labour create the image of a man in his garage as a prisoner of his own intellectual and financial misery? We can often recall hearing this saying at school: “if you don’t work you’ll end up a mechanic”. As if our good report cards would forever prevent us from becoming poor and stupid.

However, recently, the media has taken a liking to this new wave of handymen who seem to have deliberately chosen their track: from vintage motorcycle customizers to bakers, the fact that they are good with their hands hasn’t been a cause for lack of respect. It’s actually quite the opposite.

Often it’s white-collar workers who no longer find meaning in the contemporary working world. They have rediscovered the virtues of “savoir-faire”, the pleasure of building something tangible by seizing control of a method of production fit for their level and, above all, the satisfaction of understanding what they are doing. So, while the contemporary working world renders the act of “working” obscure by relentlessly continuing to separate the conception from the carrying out and the doing from the thinking, these new craftsmen see in the art of mechanics a way of finding a grip on reality. And, if we look at it closely we can see that there’s a lot more to it than it seems.

Amongst these bikers/craftsmen are those who walk the path to becoming a sensei. They seek perfection in their art without any financial rationality. Their lives are dedicated to this priesthood of seeking perfection; and of going against most things by achieving a certain generosity in their work. Others are, above all, interested in travelling on the machines they’ve created, giving a soul to their motorcycles by redesigning them to fit their own images. But all of them, as craftsmen, gain an honest satisfaction from both the actual physical and practical side and the marvel of the person for whom the machine is meant to be for.

Even if they all demonstrate the same kind of enthusiasm, they remain individualistic in their approach to work. Building a motorcycle is an affirmation of your personality. But, at some point, comes the need to share. Where it be on a road-trip, at a race or at a festival, there is always a sense of community, a “band of brothers”, that involves the enjoyment of being together. There is, in this crude world of mechanics and bikers, a need and desire that reveals an original outlook on work and pleasure, on the group and the individual, on the present and the past. Like surfers, bikers are dedicated to an authentic lifestyle and pure freedom while remaining in connection with the beauty of nature. It makes you wonder if they don’t have in their garage all the tools to build a happy life."

Help them out on Kickstarter

Monday, February 17, 2014

Buell Land Speed Racing Bike Sketch

Sketch for the Buell land speed racing bike

As the final stages of fabrication are coming together, thought it might be a good time to reveal the final look of the land speed racing bike I will be running this year at the Ohio Mile and Bonneville Salt Flats. Highly modified 2000 Buell 1203cc M2 racer number 1517. Lots more work to go but this dream is finally becoming a reality. Aiming for 140+ mph.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Want To See Cool Motorsports Imagery From The UK?

Dennis Goodwin is always capturing a great view

Flickr is always a great repository of photos and ideas. Every day when I log into my account and see the cool imagery being posted by others it makes me a proud contributor to such a diverse and wide open pool of talented folks. These photos all belong to Dennis Goodwin of England and do yourself a favor, start following all of his racing and motorsports related imagery.

While you are over at Flickr, check out our page as well

Rory Kelly Announces 2014 European Tour

Rory Kelly will be unleashing his new album in June of 2014
Rory Kelly is about to embark on a European tour this May through June 2014 hitting much of western Europe including Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. Stay tuned for all the dates.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Jimmy DiResta Creates A Pirate Chest

Jimmy DiResta's Pirates Chest
"As a kid I always wanted a pirate’s chest. A few times I made small ones in wood, but recently I realized as a big boy with big boy tools I can make a more authentic treasure chest with real heavy steel and heavy rustic wood! I wanted to make it strong enough to hold my change bucket full of coins— about 40-50 pounds! The vintage lock is a flea market find from 20 years ago. Enjoy!

  • Pallet Wood
  • 14 gauge steel
  • Welder
  • Electric shears
  • Plasma cutter
  • Table saw
  • Chop saw
  • Bandsaw
In each bi-monthly episode of DiResta (every other Wednesday), artist and master builder Jimmy DiResta (Dirty MoneyHammeredAgainst the GrainTrash for Cash) lets us into his workshop, to look over his shoulder while he builds whatever strikes his fancy. "

Where Are The Royalties And Why Are Bands Getting Screwed?

Mike Schleibaum of Darkest Hour should wreck shop from this piddly royalty check, what a damn insult.

Let's face it, making a decent profit in the music industry can be a tough row to hoe. Opportunities are vast but corruption is truly on a level that would make Somali pirates smile with rotten teeth and make them want to learn more about the internet and Marshall amps. This past year alone, we have unfortunately encountered quite a few swindlers and glad to know they have gone the way towards extinction.

Below are some amazing examples of folks that gotten taken for a ride. The more corporate entities that get involved with the "arts", the better the chances are for the soul to be squeezed out of anything that started off good and pure. My vote is to just get primal and deal with thieves in the proper manner.

Dig into

"You shouldn’t need us to tell you that the music industry—namely, how it chooses to monetize songs—is hopelessly broken. Despite the fact that vinyl sales are increasing, the traditional ways that artists made money (namely, by selling records and touring) are yielding less and less—this, despite Iron Maiden’s new funding model and Beats Music, which aims to pay musicians more for streaming music.

How little does the music industry pay artists? Shockingly little. Spotify, the dominant streaming music source in the U.S., is leaking money. They reportedly dole out 70 per cent of their revenue to royalties, and while that number seems high, consider this: each song stream pays an artist between one-sixth and one-eight of a cent. One source claimed that, on streaming music services, an artist requires nearly 50,000 plays to receive the revenue earned from one album sale. Ouch.
Indeed, things are getting dire. And here are seven examples of how bad things can get.

Darkest Hour guitarist Mike Schleibaum recently posted this photo to Facebook with a cheque for a single penny. It would’ve cost more to print and ship the damn thing. “This is what we call, “BIG TIME!,” he wrote on Facebook. “Don’t worry..big news is coming but for now..we got to spend all this cash!” The American melodic death band, meanwhile, is penning a new album and are planning a re-release of their excellent debut, The Mark of the Judas.

Brian T. Murphy can just about afford an ice cold Colt 45

Surprisingly, Brooklyn-based musician Brian T. Murphy, who runs Quarter Rest Studios, a studio providing music to bands, advertisements, and films, did better than Darkest Hour. Murphy, in fact, earned a full 182 times more—he got a sweet $1.82 in the mail.

Isis could have found three pennies in the parking lot and equaled this royalty check

How much does it pay to be in an instrumental post-metal band? According to Isis / Palms member Aaron Harris, not much. He posted the photo above, and told Lambgoat that upon receiving a cheque, “I usually laugh, tear it up, and throw it away.” We would, too.

Camper Van Beethoven just got called a chump Cracker by their ex label
 Last year, David Byrne and Thom Yorke decried the injustices of services like Spotify and Pandora, claiming that they devalued the work of musicians. And they weren’t wrong: Cracker / Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery shared the above pic, which displayed that “Low” was streamed more than 1.1 million times on Pandora. The payment? $16.89.

Bryan Ray is pinching the only pennies he is getting for royalties

Austin-based Bryan Ray works for 5th Street Studios, who’ve recorded excellent independent artists like Zorch and White Denim. For his efforts—presumably as a session player—Ray posted this photo on Twitter of a cheque worth four piddly cents.

Why even bother writing a check for a penny?

Nashville’s Janis Ian has nine Grammy nominations and two songs in the Grammys hall of fame—she’s a songwriter, touring musician, and children’s author. She also received a royalty cheque worth a single penny.

Trivium needs to pull some samurai moves on the folks that cut their checks

Trivium is a giant name in heavy music, and it shows: Matt Heafy posted a check worth $1.41, which is almost Camper Van Beethoven money.

Kern Richards Feature Review On Wild American Radio

Kern Richards has seen many a mile and his songs bare witness

Dig into Wild American Radio

"Country music, like another great American institution, baseball, appears deceptively simple when you watch it. Writing and singing about one's life might appear relatively easy on the surface (just as chasing down a fly ball or driving a pitch into the alley for a double does on TV), but it's an illusion. In both cases the game is faster when you're in it--and requires absolute immersion. Whether it's Merle Haggard or Mickey Mantle, body and soul (and the stars) must be in perfect alignment to manifest something extraordinary--and the merely average fall by the wayside.

California's Kern Richards is a new name to us, but on first encountering his gravely vocals and his world-weary lyrics it's clear he's seen some miles. An admittedly brief attempt to research him on the internet didn't provide much background information, so we'll have to rely almost solely on what he communicates to us through his music (which is probably for the best).

It's impossible to fathom that his debut for upstart ALTCO Recordings, Anywhere But Home, is the first time he's walked up to the plate. There's certainly some major league level musicians backing him--including players who have served stints with Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, and X--but Richards performances are what drives the record. His songs inhabit a dark world where life not only throws obstacles in his path, but were forces (sometimes unseen) conspire against him--akin to Tom Waits at his ugliest, without a hint of beauty or redemption.

If Anywhere But Home is "about" anything, it's survival in world where people are as cold and immovable as the concrete fixtures that surround them. "If the bartender could read my mind/Man, he'd call the police" Richards sings with a believability that can come only from a lifetime of loneliness. These songs are not soliloquys spouted with the intention of attracting like-minded souls (or even with the intention of catharsis), they're the graffiti that's painted on the soul of a man constantly at odds with the world and himself. Projected from his gruff voice--an amalgamation of Lee Hazelwood and latter-day Leonard Cohen--each song is like a photograph that has become worn from being carried callously until it's dilapidated condition tells a separate story from the picture itself.

Kern Richards is a serious talent, and--unfortunately--one that doesn't fit in an age of plastic celebrities and disposable pop culture. Anywhere But Home leaves scars on the listener. Once it's heard, it can't be unheard--and the landscapes it travels through can't be un-experienced. It's not a good time, but it's a great record. Many of today's singers and songwriters are unwilling to travel these crooked miles--and that's fine--but to be truly great, one must dig beneath the skin, to the muscle. Richards does this, and keeps going beyond the flesh and the material world to the chasms of the soul. The best record of 2014 so far, and a tough one to beat."

Fashion Designer Brooke Atwood Digs Our Patches

Check out some of our patches on Brooke Atwood's iconic fashion designs
Damn proud to know that fashion designer Brooke Atwood is placing some of our patches on her iconic merchandise. Collaborations are fun and stoked to have been asked to send some of our items along.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Billy Don Burns And The Song - Motel Madness

Billy Don Burns and Aaron Rodgers doing what they do best

Billy Don Burns never fails to write a song that feels like an old best friend. Do yourself a favor and check out more of his material on his latest album, Nights When I'm Sober... Portrait Of A Honky Tonk Singer.

Purchase Billy Don Burns latest album

Sunday, February 9, 2014

7 Things A Major Label Record Deal Teaches You About The Music Industry, From Cracked

Clay Aiken is a manufactured pop star, where is his career now?
The illusion of fame and fortune is indeed just that, an absolutely wicked illusion. There is a reason the casino's in Vegas are glamorous and beautiful as they rely on a majority of folks to lose their money in a staged bilking draped in a veil called entertainment. 

Notoriety can be born overnight but not when the cards are clearly stacked against success in terms of financial gain and or freedom for an individual or band. Signing a hefty contract with a corporate entity that intends to manufacture pop hits, not careers may be for more pop oriented acts or ones that enjoy swimming in shallow pools. Bands and acts that want to insure a long career path with their music should really vet all the folks that come along their path. If anything is askew or seems odd, walk away as much of entertainment business that we all seem to know and love, is purely an illusion.

Below is a great read we found over on and is co-written by hip hop artist Spose and Robert Evans, about Spose's dealings with a major label.

Read more great articles on Cracked

"Getting a record deal is the musician equivalent of a high school ball player making it pro, only with fewer head injuries and lower odds of an overdose. Two albums into my career as a rapper, I had a hit song, and the recording industry whisked me off to Hollywood. My fairy tale lasted 11 months before they abruptly dropped me from my recording contract without ever releasing my album, despite my first single going gold (selling over 600,000 copies in just a few months).

In that short time, I got a crash course in the recording industry: how it works, how they exploit and manipulate young talent, and how to go from having nothing to everything to nothing again in a very short period of time. My name is Spose, and this is an inside look at how the sausage is made.

7. Labels Hunt For Unique Voices

My first hit song blew up on the radio first. "I'm Awesome" got picked up by the local alt-rock station in my town, the radio station I'd grown up on. It quickly became the most requested song there and then jumped to the local pop station. Keep in mind I'd only self-released two albums at this point. I was very new to the game, and suddenly the two biggest local radio stations were playing the shit out of my stuff, which was unprecedented. No local artist had ever broken through at pop radio in my area (Portland, Maine, is not exactly known for its burgeoning rap game).

We lost a lot of guys during our East Coast/West Coast beef with Portland, Oregon.

The way the world works now, if you're blowing up on the radio, you're killing on iTunes, too. I think there's an intern at Universal who goes through the regional iTunes charts every week, from Des Moines to Albuquerque, and looks for outliers.

"We know all the other guys on here. Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Ke$ha ... who the hell is Spose?"

So this intern looked at the Portland sales and saw that I had the #1 song. I doubt I cracked the top 200 nationwide, but that was enough to get their attention. At this point, I was 24 years old and totally broke, delivering pizzas and raising a newborn. The day Universal sent me a $35,000 check for signing on with their label, my bank account was at -$800. I couldn't even buy gas for my car without overdrafting my account again -- one generally doesn't hear Jay-Z rapping about bank fees and bus passes.

99 overdraft fees, just doesn't have a ring to it

6.  They Have Minions For You

The labels do a great job of making you feel like the center of the universe when you're recording. Every studio I've worked at in LA and New York had runners. Usually we'd arrive at 3 p.m. and go till 3 a.m. Sometimes we'd make one song, sometimes four. The runners were there to keep us from needing to ever leave. We'd say, "We need Heineken, Seagram's Seven, ice cubes, a venti iced coffee with whole milk only, a quarter ounce of weed, Backwoods cigars, and we're also going to need sushi." A half hour later, the runner would come back with a bag full of all that stuff, courtesy of Universal. That means Universal has a designated weed guy.

I mean, at least try to look surprised.

Can a bag of weed be a business expense?

I met a lot of people who were caught in the record label game. This dude Matt Toka was one of the writers they brought in to help us. He could play guitar and sing and had some cool ideas. We wrote a song called "Party Foul" together. I think a lot of guys like Toka get signed for their writing abilities, even if the label doesn't see any star potential in them. But they don't say that, of course: These guys all want to be stars, but writing lyrics FOR stars and up-and-coming artists pays the bills. There's probably a thousand musicians who could've been like the biggest star in Duluth, or wherever, but chose to play the label game in LA instead.

They're not foolishly throwing away their lives or anything -- it's just that they get barely enough hope to carry on in the background instead of doing what they really want to do. And they do carry on, because not all of these dudes wallow in label limbo forever. For example, my lawyer also represents Bruno Mars, and for almost 10 years Bruno Mars was one of these writers, contributing his ideas and scratch vocals to other people's hits, before ever getting his shot at personal stardom. They'd take Bruno's vocals and search for a "real star" to replace them. The irony is that now those same A&R dudes would kill to have Bruno Mars singing their hooks, because he won the "background guy" lottery.

5. The Major Labels Convince Naive Kids They Are Rock Stars
Labels definitely seek out young people, and they are extremely good at making you simultaneously feel like their top priority and like you're fighting against a ticking clock. When they called me the first time, they offered to fly me to NYC. I was at Suffolk University at this point; I stepped out of class and saw that I had like 15 missed calls and voice mails. I Googled the name of the dude from the voice mails, because that is the gift the Internet gave to the antisocial, and eventually called him back. He picked up and immediately gave me both barrels of enthusiasm: "We'll fly you and anyone else you want out, first class, to NYC, right now." If my Myspace had said "I like the Celtics," they would have had me courtside that very night.
Straight up ballin'!

They flew Monte Lipman in to meet me in NYC. He's one member of a tiny group that runs the record industry, and he came over to chill with me and have dinner. Because that's not going to inflate a broke 24-year-old's ego. He asked, "You wrote this song all by yourself?"

I said yes and he started flipping out, telling me to get my passport ready because I was about to be huge, flying all over the world in a private jet fueled by raw hip-hop.

Then he sent me an email on the weekend, mainly to let me know that he never sends emails on the weekend. "I want to get this signed by Monday morning. Your song played huge when we tested it in Miami, we want to sign you and fly you down." But at the same time, he was like, "These references are VERY current and your record will expire really soon. YOU HAVE TO SIGN IMMEDIATELY."

Hurry up and sign the deal!
I'm sure that's a common trick. (Although the record industry does shut down completely by 5 p.m. on Friday. That's a fact. Hip-hop apparently keeps DMV hours.) It was all just smoke being blown up my ass. Monte sent excited email after excited email about how big I was about to be and how we were "just getting started." I think the last "just getting started" email hit about a week before the label dropped me. I guess he was trying to type "We're just getting started on the process of firing you" and hit enter too soon.

4. They Are Casting A Role

When I was making music by myself, I'd make a song and show it to my friends, and if they liked it, that was enough. I'd do it in my live show, put it on an album, and then roll about in piles of literally dozens of dollar bills.

Cash Money Records showcasing the jewels

But in the recording industry, you might make 25 songs and none of them ever see the light of day. You develop real thick skin. I'd pour my heart into a song, spend all day making it, everyone in the recording room would be feeling it ... my friends, my family, management, engineers. We'd all be stoked, and then I'd send it to Universal in an email, and a few minutes later: "Ehhhh ... not really what we're looking for." To get that response to my work for the first time was A) shocking; B) disheartening; C) a wake-up call; and D) oddly erotic if you get off on unhelpful apathy. I realized then that we were at the "you either win a Grammy and sell lots of records or get the fuck out of Hollywood" point. I sent them songs that are now somewhat classic fan favorites, and my A&R dude responded with "Yeah, that's not it" more often than not. Super helpful criticism! I didn't realize I had sent you the "not it" song, when I clearly meant to attach the "it" file.
I grew up idolizing Biggie and Jay-Z, artists with real, intricate lyrics. And that's part of what I love about music -- great descriptions and verses. But that's the opposite of what my label wanted. I got in the studio for the first time and spent like five hours writing what I thought was one of my best songs yet, only to hear:

"The lyrics don't even matter, write that shit tomorrow. We just need the hook. All Universal really cares about is a catchy chorus."

And that's what the industry runs on. The label comes up with a chorus, a pre-chorus, and a melody, and then they fill in the blanks with people like me. In pop music, artists are like those Styrofoam packing peanuts, just there to make sure nothing shifts around too much in transit. When it comes down to the music, the labels have a very narrow idea of what they want, and no new artist is going to change their minds. The producer they paired me with did a lot of dance music. You know -- "bottles in the club, bitches on my junk, Cadillacs literally infesting my house" type stuff. I don't do that, and the song that got me noticed was nothing like that. But once I was signed, that's the only thing they wanted from me.

Universal picked me out of the crowd because I had a unique style. Like a fool, I thought that meant they wanted me to keep making my style of music. But they just wanted to take my name, my sorta-notoriety from one hit, and plug "Spose" into a bunch of pop songs. Probably because it's really easy to rhyme with "hos." They're playing the long game, those keen, strategy-minded record producers.

3. You Write Songs By Committee

Music is a big business, too big for something as expensive as a pop song to hang on the shoulders of just one dude. We all like to imagine the songs we like being penned with a shaking hand by some weeping artist staring out at the sunset and letting the muse guide his soul. But when it comes to pop, it's much more likely that those lyrics were banged out by a conference room full of writers trying to rhyme "make it rain" with "hand grenade" because it's late and they're working against a deadline. I'd always written my own verses before, but when I hit LA, they invited me to a session with Mike Caren (the head of A&R at Atlantic), a producer, and four writers.

Dilbert explaining the complexities of design by committee

It seemed like a weird way to do things, but I gave it a shot. Sticking a bunch of creative people in a room together and letting them write can work pretty well. Just ask Breaking Bad. But it's the kind of thing that only works out when everyone more or less has the same vision for what they want to write. Stick Vince Gilligan in a room with all the writers from Glee and you'd wind up with a real different series. Perhaps ... a better one? Who doesn't want to see Mike rock some Journey?

Anyway, when I came in for my first session, the other guys were already clustered around the table, listening to the melody they'd picked out and trying to figure out what sort of song should go with it. Finally Mike said, "You gotta make it about a party ... a party you, like, filmed. You filmed all these chicks! And the hook can be "... and I got it on caaamera." They started getting deeper and deeper into brainstorming this song.

Say my name!

Then I pointed out that this wasn't at all the kind of music I did. In fact, it was the exact type of song I'd gotten famous for mocking. It was like I'd sucker punched the whole room. You get caught in this downward spiral where everyone's a yes-man to the producer and the producer's a yes-man to the label. A producer decides he wants to do a "caught it on camera" song and no one wants to contradict him, so they just build on this idea that has nothing to do with anything the artist has said, thought, or even mumbled to himself in a stoned haze and immediately rejected when the cold light of sobriety dawned the next day.

So the next time you're barreling down the highway listening to some overproduced piece of pop crap, don't blame the artist. If pop music is the aural equivalent of a sausage, most singers are nothing more than a clear casing ready to be stuffed.

That sounds way dirtier than I intended.

2. It's A Ridiculous Numbers Game

For people in the recording industry, the whole world revolves around the "second single." I recall one specific email exchange between Mike Caren and Imran Majid, who is now the head of A&R at Columbia. We'd just made four songs in a night, and they were convinced that one of them was my "second single." And in the course of a single week, they made me do 60 revisions of this song. I have them all in my iTunes still: "Don't Let This Be Over (Version 44)," "Don't Let This Be Over (Version 5538438)," etc.

There was this guy named Owl City who got signed around the same time as me. We reached out to see what he thought about the label, because his song "Fireflies" had been a big hit and he was in the midst of trying to find his second single. Universal stuck with him, but he didn't end up finding it for a couple of years. Then Carly Rae Jepsen came out with "Call Me Maybe," and on her second big hit, he sang backups. I'm not saying that reflects on him as an artist at all, just that it's weird. That was the big break the studio wanted to wait years for: "Guy in the back of the Carly Rae Jepsen song. No not that one, the other one -- you remember the other one? No? Nobody?"

It's all a numbers game

For every Macklemore who has a hit song and follows it up with another, there's at least 20 more who never have a second hit. And I'm one of the latter. After 11 months, they didn't find a second single -- even though a bunch of the songs I made then still sell well today -- and a new VP came in and dropped me.

You can make great, heartfelt music with a sound all your own that thousands of fans love, but none of that is going to convince Universal that you know better than they do. If you want to break into pop music, you'd better be ready for hundreds of hours of failure. The labels aren't looking for brilliant artists to drop fully formed beats onto the radio. They want someone who'll help them Frankenstein some hybrid pop monster from the stitched-together corpses of originality. And that's how we wound up with the Black Eyed Peas.

1. There Is A Blessing For One Hit Wonders In 2014

Today, failing to follow up on a big success with a second single doesn't mean you're back to spinning signs for mattress sales on the street corner. My first big video, "I'm Awesome," got something like 10 million views. When the single released on iTunes, 850,000 people actually paid to download it. When I released a mix tape recently, about 8,000 people bought it. So I was able to keep, like, 1 percent of the fans that "I'm Awesome" attracted. It might sound grim, but do the math: If you put out something for $10 and 8,000 fans buy it, that's a pretty solid year's salary. My album The Audacity came out in 2012 and sold the same number, $10 apiece. iTunes took a small chunk, and then the cost of making that album (production, printing, studio time) was probably $6,000. So I made a profit of $70,000. And that's before royalties from Pandora, Spotify, and YouTube come in quarterly for years to come -- hell yeah, that's where the real "make a modest living" cash comes in. We're gonna make it rain! With actual water -- because this motherfucker can afford his water bill this month, baby.

I reinvested about $40,000 in new projects, but that left enough to cover rent and food and Scotch and a nice Christmas. It's not small-yacht-in-the-pool-of-a-bigger-yacht money, but I don't have to play that game of trying to keep up appearances with fancy clothes and cars. That's part of traditional rap nonsense, and my fans don't expect that. My "brand" is just being me. A regular dude. So, thankfully, for my finances' sake, the more I relate to my brokest fan, the more albums I sell. Which is good, because there's like a million things that rhyme with "Hot Pockets."

I released the songs Universal hadn't wanted in a free album called Yard Sale and used that to advertise my Kickstarter. It brought in $28,000. And now that I have that small, loyal fan base, I'm able to make the music I want to make without spending 300 hours per song pleasing a bunch of record executives. I make all the money from my iTunes sales now, too. I pay $35 to list it and get close to $1 per sale. When I was with the label, I made 16 cents per sale. If you're Lady Gaga or Ke$ha, the recording industry is one big blank check for a life of unfathomable luxury and custom-tailored meat clothing. For the rest of us, connecting and selling to the people who like our music is a little less soul-crushing and at least sort of profitable, and at no point do you ever have to talk to a guy who describes you as "the next Fred Durst" and means it as a compliment.