​No More Rounds for the Chamber

 

Some days, I feel helpless. There seems to be no end to the violence that is gripping our world. The shootings in America, the attacks in Paris, the war in Syria, ISIS and police brutality.

I consider myself an optimist, but it’s hard to wear those rose-colored glasses when it seems like the world we live in is crumbling around us.

Unless people start making some major changes, I don’t think everything will be ok. The change needs to start with you and me.

My plan is to start by doing little things to make this world a better place. I mean, we have to start somewhere. So I wrote this song.

Sign of the times

It’s a sign of the times we’re living in

Sign of the times

We’re all numb to the headlines


And we’re shooting them all down

We’re shooting them all down

We’re shooting them all down

Until the bullets barely make a sound


Ambulance lights

Shine like a Christmas tree

In America’s night

We’re just filling up the mortuary


And we’re shooting them all down

We’re shooting them all down

We’re shooting them all down

Until the bullets barely make a sound


Steel on bone

no more rounds for the chamber

in the catacombs

Everyone’s a stranger


And we’re shooting them all down

We’re shooting them all down

We’re shooting them all down

Until the bodies barely make a sound



A song may not save the world, but in this climate music and art is needed now more than ever. I challenge you to do something small to make this world a better place. It could be something as simple as a smile. Until we start a colony on Mars, we’re all stuck on this rock together. Let’s try to make it a little bit better where we can. 

5 Questions to Ask Yourself to Avoid Getting Scammed in the Music Business

IMG_3646.JPG

 

I still have a lot to learn about the music business. But I have learned a thing or two along the way. Some lessons were harder to learn.

There are an endless supply of companies ready and willing to take your money. These types of companies prey on naïve musicians. They promise things they can’t deliver on. We musicians are so passionate about our craft that it is easy for our vision to be clouded by our dreams. That means sometimes we make poor business decisions.

There’s an old joke that goes, how do you make a million bucks in the music business? The punch line- start with two million.

I’ve had a publisher calling me nearly every week for a full year. After several phone calls with this “publisher,” I learned they wanted to charge me an exorbitant amount of money to re-work one of my band’s songs. I saw a big red flag and quickly declined. Unbelievably, the calls continue.

The more successful you are, the more people line up with their palms out, ready to take your hard-earned money.

One important thing to keep in mind as a musician is that if you’re paying someone, he/she is working for you. Don’t be intimidated. Trust your gut, but use your brain.

Below are some questions for musicians to ask themselves before hiring a manager, lawyer, publicist, agent, producer, promoter, consultant or whatever.

What exactly are they providing?

They should be able to give details on exactly what work they will be doing for you. Do your research and be well informed. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to spot a weasel.

What is their track record in the industry?

This is pretty self-explanatory. Ask other bands or folks you know that work in the business about this person. I’m no expert, but I’m always happy to offer any insight I can give if a fellow musician has questions. You can find my contact information at the bottom of this post.

Are their practices or fees atypical to the industry standard?

If a manager wants to charge you a big retainer fee, (we got tricked on that one) run away! Managers typically collect 15-20% of your revenue. Again, do your research, so you know what is normal and what smells fishy.

How did they find you?

Referrals from friends aren’t 100%, but a referral is generally the best road to take. If they found you on Twitter or other social media, they are probably contacting a million other bands like you to try and get their money.

Will this add value?

If it’s something that will help advance your career or add value to your music or image, then certainly consider it. If not, it probably isn’t worth the money.

I am the lead singer for The Paisley Fields, a queer country band based in Brooklyn, NY. Our new record, Oh These Urban Fences… is out now, and it is available at thepaisleyfields.com/store. I am always happy to connect with other musicians or industry folks. I can be reached at jameswilsonmusic@gmail.com 

How to Make $$$ on Your Tour

The Paisley Fields live in Brooklyn. Photo by Stephen Jimmerson 

The Paisley Fields live in Brooklyn. Photo by Stephen Jimmerson 

I play with queer country band The Paisley Fields. We are based in NYC and have toured all over the US.

Below are my How-Tos for making a profit on tour.

Keep it small.

The more people you bring, the costlier it’s going to get. Don’t bring a huge crew if you don’t need it. We perform as a 6-7 piece group in New York, and tour as a duo or trio. We only need one vehicle and one hotel room on the road. Pro-Tip - Make sure you’re up front with bookers if the size/setup of your act will be different when you’re on the road.

Make a budget and stick to it.

I like to over-estimate how much we expect to spend on tour. Take into consideration EVERYTHING you’re going to spend. Don’t forget about tolls or other small expenses that add up. Pop those numbers into a spreadsheet, and line that up with how much you expect to make. Know how much $$$$ you need to earn per show to make a profit.

Cut those corners.

Save that stay at the Ritz for the stadium tour you’re doing in a few years. (And don’t forget about your friends The Paisley Fields when you get to the top!) If you can stay with friends or family, do it. Find a points program and stick to it. That has been a huge help to us. There are tons of programs that reward you for frequent stays. Choice Hotels is what we use. Our last two tours earned us $100 in gas cards and a free hotel night. Eat cheap and drink cheap. Venues often offer a comp meal and drinks, or at least a discount. Take advantage of that.

Push that merch.

Make sure your merch display/table is on point, so people notice it. Have enough lighting, so people can see it in the dark. Have quality items for sale. A good gauge is asking yourself if you or your friends would buy what you’re selling. If the answer is no, it’s time to rethink some things. Announce it from the stage, so people know what you’re selling and where they can get it. By the way, our new record Oh These Urban Fences… is out now. We’ve also got t-shirts, shot glasses, bandanas and more. You can get everything at thepaisleyfields.com/store. We accept all major credit cards.

Keep it close.

Draw a circle around your hometown on a map, and hit those cities near you. It saves money on gas and logistically is much easier to play cities where you know you can bring a crowd.

Promote.

I don’t understand why bands don’t do this. It’s not that hard, and it’s so important. Nobody is going to come, if they don’t know you’re there. Send out posters, compile a press list, send out your newsletter and hit up your social media followers. You don’t want to harass people, but you definitely don’t want people saying “I had no idea you were here!”

Get it in writing and don’t play for free.

You are there to do a job, and you deserve to get paid. So many musicians and artists would be happy to play for free because we love what we do. That’s why people so often take advantage of artists. Get your fee in writing, and get that money. Keep a detailed record of everything you make.

Go out, and get it girl!

We will see you on the road in January! Let me know in the comments, if I’ve missed anything. Don’t forget to visit thepaisleyfields.com/store to pick up some paisley swag, or if you need some unique merch ideas for your own band! I’m always happy to answer questions; you can reach me at thepaisleyfields@gmail.com

 

How to Combat Writer’s Block When You Are a Songwriter

Photo by John A. Stevens 

Photo by John A. Stevens 

Songwriting is a rewarding and cathartic experience. I love writing songs. It is part of what defines who I am.

I also dread it.  

A bad song makes me feel like a failure. I doubt I’ll ever write something good again.

I spent a year of my life writing a new song every day. It was exhausting, but fulfilling. At the end of the year, I had a lot of good songs, a few great songs and a lot of crappy songs.

I haven’t been writing as much since I finished the song a day project. Writing this blog now, I am putting off writing new music.

We live in a modern world with everything at our fingertips. We are much more connected then before, but we often feel more isolated. We still feel the same emotions we’ve always felt. We love, we hurt, we are afraid and we are overjoyed.

Music connects people to each other and to themselves. People may express themselves differently, but the feelings come from the same place. As songwriters, we are supposed to reflect these universal feelings and foster these connections.

I’m fortunate to live in a city with a good community of songwriters. I’ve started a songwriter hang where we gather every couple of weeks to share new music we’ve been working on. The idea is to encourage my friends and I to write more and challenge ourselves.

In an American Songwriter article, Ryan Adams said, “I do not entertain doubt or fear in my music.” 

Songwriters need to write fearlessly. There are no wrong songs. Writer’s block and procrastination happen, but you just need to sit down and write.

Tell yourself, I’m going to go write that song now. And then get to work.

What You NEED to Know Before Putting Out an Album

The Paisley Fields new record comes out today. Get your copy at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

The Paisley Fields new record comes out today. Get your copy at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

The Paisley Field’s new EP Oh These Urban Fences... is out today! Making this album has been one of the most rewarding musical experiences of my career. You can download a copy at the link below.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/oh-these-urban-fences...-ep/id1041140905

This isn’t my first rodeo for putting out a record independently. Many people don’t realize what a big undertaking it is to put out an album, unless they’ve done it themselves.

As always, I’m here to help. 

Here is a basic checklist of to-dos, as well as questions you should be able to answer when you decide to record an album independently.

Of course, there are many different ways to go about recording an album. I know several bands that have successfully recorded and put out an album on a whim. They were just having fun recording some stuff in their living room and boom, it becomes a hit. But that is pretty rare.

What is your budget, and how will you finance it?

Pretty straightforward, but setting a budget is key. You don’t want to run out of money before you lay the vocals down. Even if you’re recording at home, there will probably be other costs that factor in. Make a list. You’ll need engineers, musicians, gear, post-production, etc. You can make an album very cheaply, but it’s smart to know exactly where your money is coming from and where it’s going. If you can’t fund it yourself, or you don’t have label backing, think about using PledgeMusic or Kickstarter.  

When and where will you record?

Figure out early whether you’re going to record at home or a recording studio to minimize surprises. Studios often times book far in advance.

Who is going to produce it?

Good production is key. Many bands and artists self-produce, which is great. Plan ahead if you’re self-producing as an individual, as a band, or are bringing in an outside set of ears. You don’t want too many cooks in the kitchen, so I find it best to appoint someone to lead the pack.

Who will be recording with you?

Scheduling tends to be a real nightmare for our group. Even if it’s just you recording, you will probably be playing more than one instrument and one part. Know exactly what you will be doing and who will be playing what. Things always happen and change in the studio, but the better you’re prepared, the easier it is to adapt.

How will you release it?

There are many options available to you. ONErpm is a great place to start for digital distribution, if you plan to self-release. If you’re shopping it to a label, keep in mind they generally won’t put out something that has already been released.

How will you promote it?

You could hire a publicist, but if it’s your first record, it’s probably a better idea to promote it yourself with the help of friends. Publicists can be very expensive. Coming up with a solid marketing plan before you step into the studio is a good idea. Start implementing the plan before the record comes out. You might be surprised at the results you get, if you have a solid plan and stick to it.

-Make sure you and your band are well-rehearsed before stepping into the studio. 

-Register the songs with your PRO (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC) and the copyright office. You can do this all online.

-Decide on the release format- vinyl, CD, cassette, or digital - and where you will manufacture them.

-Take photos and videos along the way to keep your fans engaged.

If you take a few hours to hash these things out, you will feel much more prepared when it’s time to record. Do your research ahead of time, so you can focus on what’s important- the music!

Is there anything I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Remember to pick up a copy of our new record at thepaisleyfields.com/store or listen on spotify!

 

 

Being Queer Without the Fear

Photo by Joseph Ibrahim. The Paisley Fields new record Oh These Urban Fences... comes out Friday November 6th, one week from today.

Photo by Joseph Ibrahim. The Paisley Fields new record Oh These Urban Fences... comes out Friday November 6th, one week from today.


After our show in Tampa, I was talking to a booker. He asked if I had encountered homophobia because being a gay country artist is not common.

Yes, I said.

Homophobia, bigotry, anti-gay, whatever you call it, it is pervasive in the music business, especially in country music.

Multiple bookers at multiple venues have made it clear The Paisley Fields are not welcome because we are a queer country band. 

We define The Paisley Fields as a queer country band, and I am an openly gay artist.

I was not always so open about my sexuality.

In my last musical incarnation, I was on a small record label in NY. The label encouraged me to stay in the closet.

So I did.

It took a long time for me to tell a crowd of strangers that I’m gay. Performing leaves you vulnerable and exposed.

Openly discussing my sexuality left me more exposed, but I also felt more liberated.

There is power in dropping the pretense, in showing your true self.

Me being a gay man often comes up at shows. It used to be hard for me to talk about, but the more I speak about it, the easier it is.

Being more visible as a gay man increases the profile of the LGBTQ community. It shows people how normal we are.

People may start to see us as humans and not just homos.

I may still get dirty looks when I walk into a venue in a sparkly shirt (I’m looking at you, Roanoke).

I worry some person might retaliate, turning their hate into violence.

Some people laugh at me.

It doesn’t change who I am. It took me so long to get here.

I am a queer country singer.