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More “Joy of Making Music” – Ron “KrashOBang” Krasinski

Too bad he’s not Irish, then he could be “Krash O’Bang”

krashobang

Back in April, I had the good fortune to spend an afternoon at Azalea Studios in Brentwood photographing singer/songwriter Joy Zimmerman and a terrific group of session players as they laid down the tracks for Joy’s new CD.

Among the players was drummer Ron Krasinski. I got a good chuckle when Ron and I exchanged emails and I discovered that his email address starts with “KrashOBang@….”

I”m pretty sure “Krasinski” is not an Irish name..

More at TheJoyofMakingMusic.com

 

Deep Thoughts on #SaveStudioA / #SaveMusicRow

In which I ponder the endangered Nashville species called ‘Music Row’

(originally posted on July 1; reposted July 8)

“The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.”
                                                   –Marshall McLuhan – The Medium Is The Massage

Here’s a little-known fact about me:

nashville-trolleyThe first summer I spent in Nashville (1994), I had a ‘job’ as a tour-guide and entertainer on the Nashville Trolley.

For several hours on weekend afternoons, I’d sit with my guitar in an alcove-like space next to the engine housing in the front of one of those tottering, wheeled behemoths as it lumbered along a serpentine course from Riverfront Park, up Broadway to Music Row and back.

My job was to recount the history of the landmarks along the route, and between the landmarks and history lessons I’d play my guitar, sing songs from the Nashville canon – and try to be heard over the roar of the diesel engine beside me.

I don’t remember much about my repertoire now but I’m pretty sure that somewhere along Music Row I’d sing Alan Jackson’s Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow (Spotify):

I made it up to music row
Lordy, don’t the wheels turn slow..

It must have been quite a sight: a by-then middle-aged Jewish kid from New York singing country songs from a perch alongside a whining diesel.

I’d had to pass an audition and some vetting to earn this lofty position, but the job only payed whatever tips I could wheedle out of the tourists as they got off the trolley.  So on the floor in front of me I placed a large jar with a label that read, “Garth Brooks and them play for millions – the rest of us play for tips.”

Little did I know at the time what a prediction that was for the future of the music business.

Needless to say the jar was never very full after a shift… and I didn’t last very long at that particular ‘job.’  I guess my ambitions lay elsewhere… Read More

From The Annals of “The Joy Of Making Music” – John Anderson

It’s been a while since I posted one of these…

…but I was just sending somebody a link to some of this work when I saw this one for the first time in a long time and thought… not bad…. I should show it to somebody…

John Anderson recording "The Turning Of A Field" - the  first track of Volume 1 of The 1861 Project.

John Anderson recording “The Turning Of A Field” – the first track of  The 1861 Project.

This was from one of the very first recording sessions Thomm Jutz produced for The 1861 Project.  Renowned country music recording artist John Anderson (Seminole Wind, Straight Tequila Night) came in and laid down the vocals for “The Turning Of A Field,” and I was there, peering through the glass window in the door of Thomm’s studio with my Nikon to capture the scene.

Need a concert or studio session photographed?  Visit http://thejoyofmakingmusic.com for details.

Listen to “The Turning of A Field” on Spotify:

What A Fucking Racket – You’re Screwed Edition

Were you dutifully waiting for tickets for Paul McCartney to go on sale this morning at 10AM? 

Overlay-McCartney-2013Tough noogies, sucker.

Yes, I already have tickets to see Paul McCartney at the Bridgestone Arena on June 25.

But, like a lot of people, I went to Ticketmaster.com this morning when the box office “opened” at 10AM to see if any seats were still available.

I entered the only options the website permitted: QTY (2), Ticket Type (Full Price, whatever that means), Price & Section (Best Available), and clicked “Search.”

And the site tells me “High demand! No matches…”  Here, see for yourself:

That's right, the box office JUST OPENED and there are NO TICKETS.

As I fully suspected would be the case, the box office just opened… and there are NO TICKETS at any price other than the Premium packages which are $700 – $2,000 EACH.

I feel badly that I actually have tickets – but only because I first went off on this rant when I saw that somebody had scored tickets in a presale offer earlier in the week. That same somebody – bless her heart – took pity on my whining soul and shared the secret password with me yesterday so that I could get in and get seats while they were still available.  It was $100/ea for  seats near the rafters, but it’s inside the arena, which was all I really cared about.  I figure the sound is gonna be awful wherever I sit (the sound at the Bridgestone Arena is always gawdawful), and I’ve got some really powerful binoculars.

So I will have my “once in a lifetime” experience.

I’m 63 years old.  I’ve never seen/heard a Beatle sing Beatles songs with my own eyes (my wife has seen/heard the Beatles, in Dallas in 1965.  Well, she saw them.  She says she couldn’t actually hear a thing through all the screaming.  And she forgot her contacts, so she didn’t really see them either…).

Now I guess I will have that opportunity, Lord willing and the creek don’t rise.

But only because providence – and a kind friend – shined upon me and I found a way to ‘game the system.’  I know a lot of others were not nearly so fortunate.

– – – – – – –

Update at 11:00 AM.  As of a few minutes ago there ARE in fact some seats available on the website.  However, it appears that the ONLY seats that are available now are the $297.82 seats on the floor or in the lower level of seating.  Less expensive seats in the mezzanine or “nosebleed” levels are indeed sold out.

McCartney2So, yeah, I suppose you can argue that the show is not entirely sold out before the box office opened.  But if you thought you might be able to get inside the arena with a mate for something less than a month’s rent, well then, sorry.  The show was sold out before the tickets went on sale.

 

 

 

 

 

What A Fucking Racket (Updated) Redux

I have tickets. Send me an e-mail or a private message if you want the secret handshake.

It’s a long story, and IOverlay-McCartney-2013 don’t want to go into the details now, but a little bird me told me a secret password and I managed to get into the site and score a couple of nosebleed level seats for $107 each.

But just to give you some idea how fucked up this is: the tickets are not officially “on sale” yet, but if you want a seat in, say, the first section off the floor, the $200 seats, good fucking luck: the “best available” today – 24 hours before the tickets “go on sale,” is behind the fucking stage.

That’s great if you’ve always wanted to see Paul McCartney’s ass.

What A Fucking Racket (updated)

Yes, the show will be sold out before the tickets go on sale.

Overlay-McCartney-2013I missed Billy Joel when he played at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashvile a few weeks ago.  I saw him a couple of times in Los Angeles in the 1970s, but after hearing from people who went how great the show was I’m sorry I didn’t see it.

And I let Bruce Springsteen come and go last week.  Him I saw the last time he was here, and frankly was disappointed in the show.  I do not know entire Springsteen canon by heart, and the sound was pretty awful to my ears.  I guess that’s how it goes for arena shows (although the sound for U2 at the Vanderbilt Stadium one hot July night several years ago was OUT-fucking-STANDING, due largely to “the claw” stage and sound system).

I also missed Paul McCartney the last time he came through Twangtown.  The tickets were pretty well sold out before I could get to them, and when I looked at the after-market prices, I was looking at nearly a grand for nosebleed seats.

McCartney is coming back to Nashville in June, and not to be morbid or anything, but anytime he’s in the vicinity is quite possibly the last opportunity I will have in my lifetime (or his?) to see an actual Beatle sing Beatles songs.  So I have made a note that the tickets go on sale Friday at 10 AM and have arranged to be at my keyboard-and-screen when the time comes.

According to the Bridgestone Arena website,  the tickets for this show will be priced from a low of $29.50 to a high of $254.50.  I’m sure something in between would make sense and even if all I can get is “nosebleed” seats, at least they’re in the arena.

But I don’t think it’s going to happen. I just noticed a friend posted to Facebook that she already has her tickets “in hand.”  She got them through “American Express card holders pre-sale.”

Well, I don’t have an American Express card. I got out of the credit card habit years ago, I now have ONE credit card and ONE debit card an neither of them is American Express.  So no surprise I was not offered a “Pre-Sale” opportunity.

But the whole operation is fucked up from the get go.  I fully expect that there will be not tickets available when I go online on Friday.  Because even though the tickets will be “going on sale” at that time, much of the venue will have been “pre-sold” before the tickets become available to the general public.

Or, I could just jump the gun on the after-market and pre-buy them from an outfit called “Ticketdown” which is also offering “pre-sales” tickets at something between 3 and 4 times the ‘rack rate’ listed on the Bridgestone site.  Tell me, how is an after-market website able to offer tickets BEFORE they ‘go on sale’?

The whole set-up is kinda like saying “the tickets will cost $X.  Unless you actually WANT one.  Then it will be 3- or 4- times $X.  And that’s assuming know the secret password and handshake.

Because it’s a fucking racket.

I dunno, maybe I’m jumping the gun here.  But based on my past experience, and what I’m hearing from private channels and seeing online, I expect pretty much the same.  I’ll get online at 10 AM on Friday and there will be no tickets available.

Stay tuned.  Or, if you’re reading this and you know somebody, just please tell me who to call so I can be part of the fucking racket, too.

– – – – – – –

Update 140423:  My Facebook friend who snagged her tickets via the American Express Pre-Sale offer has informed me that she paid no premium for the tickets, they were sold at the rack rate that the Arena is showing on their website.  OK, fair enough.  She also told me that she’d purchased the $85 seats – arguably the sweet spot in terms of pricing and seating – and then adds, “…there are $55, $201, & $297 seats [still] available….” which sounds to me like the $85 seats are gone. I’ll find out Friday.  I’m pretty well resigned to sitting in the “nosebleed” seats if I can get inside the arena at all.  Good thing we have a pair of great binoculars….

 

 

 

Can It Get Any More Cynical ?

And who on earth am I to wonder such a thing?

But after reading David Carr (my new favorite NYTimes columnist) critque the shenanigans at last week’s Austin Clusterfuck (aka “SxSW), you do have to wonder…

You may have heard by now that pop-star performance artist Stefanie Germanotta – aka Lady Gaga – was this year’s marquee performer and keynote speaker, following in the steps of such luminous predecessors as Bruce Springsteen and David Grohl. Maybe you’ve heard that the whole thing was a big shill for Doritos.  Or maybe you heard that who got in to the big show in was determined by a raffle held via Twitter.

I guess this is what we missed:

We missed quite a spectacle, from what I can see in video clips and news reports. Lady Gaga was smeared in barbecue sauce and mock-roasted like a pig and then, with the ink on the check from Doritos barely dry — and with millions destined for her charity — she bit the tortilla chip that fed her. “I won’t play by your” — insert street-cred adjective — “rules,” she said.

She then wagged a crooked finger at her fans who were shooting pictures on their phone and had tweeted their way in at her instruction: “When you leave this earth, no one is going to care what you tweeted. Don’t let the machine and don’t let technology take you from this earth.”

Note the use of the word ‘spectacle.’  A word that often comes to my mind when watching the Grammy Awards.  Who can forget Pink and her Cirque de Soleil routine?

Apparently we are supposed to overlook this latest exercise in spectacle-borne hypocrisy because Ms. Gaga donated the Doritos money to her charity. Well, Gagme.

Carr continues:

At her keynote address on Friday, Lady Gaga thanked Doritos and said plainly, “Without sponsorships, without all these people supporting us, we won’t have any more festivals because record labels don’t have any” money.

And, given the nature of this particular performance, that would be a bad thing because….??

Still, she’s probably right about anybody caring what I tweeted.

 

 

Katy Perry At The Oscars

No, you didn’t see her on the actual telecast – unless you were at our house….

katy_yesterdayAs we do every year, Ann and I had a few friends over to our house to watch the Oscars telecast this past Sunday night.  Oddly, the highlight of the evening was not actually part of the show that we sat through for more than 4 hours (including the whole ridiculous “who are you wearing” red-carpet pre-show….).

No, rather, the highlight came via YouTube AppleTV and Airplay, the feature that lets you watch whatever is on your iPhone on your big TeeVee.

About two-thirds through the Oscar marathon, we were all scratching our heads after Pink’s performance of “Over the Rainbow.”  Excuse me but, ummm, “somewhere” is one word.  Why the big breath between “some” and “where”?  Yes, the woman has got some impressive pipes, and I’m familiar with the concept of Creative Phrasing, but this wasn’t that.

After Pink was done chopping up the word some…where, some… body in the room asked if any of us had seen Katy Perry’s performance of “Yesterday” during the 50th-Anniversary of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan tribute show that aired last month.

Why, yes, we had, and it was gratifying to learn that Ann and I were not the only ones who were genuinely impressed with that one performance.  With a bit of further discussion, a consensus quickly formed among us that that particular performance was the surprise highlight of a show that was pretty much filled with highlights – they were, after all, all Beatles songs…

Fortuitously, we’d reached a bit of an impasse in the evening’s programming.  We were watching the Oscarcast via our TiVo; Having started the playback about 30 minutes late, we could skip through all the commercials.  But just about the time Pink was done grinding Judy Garland’s rainbow into breathy little bits, the TiVo recording caught up to real time.  There was no buffer left for commercial skipping.

So, for the benefit of the few people in the room who hadn’t seen the Beatles thing, I pulled out my iPhone, went to YouTube, searched for “katy perry yesterday” and found a recording of her performance from that night; Then I  flipped the signal from the iPhone to the AppleTV to the flat panel HDTV via Airplay (Lefsetz just discovered this feature recently; we’ve been using it for a couple of years).

And so it came to pass that a living room full of boomers watched and listened to a contemporary cheesecake pop star deliver a song that we’ve been hearing since it was new –  with a measure of heart and soul that we probably haven’t heard in that song… well, since it was new.  And mind you, “Yesterday” may be the most covered, and most broadcast, song of all time. I think that song along has made Paul McCartney a billionaire.  So we’ve all heard it at least a million times.

But this delivery of this old chestnut was remarkable and noteworthy, even for a living room full of tired old baby boomers.

This was a very different Katy Perry from the one we’ve seen before, in magazines or on the Grammy show.  She wasn’t prancing around the stage with fireworks blasting from her boobs.  Quite the contrary, she wore some kind of billowing, flowered robe that looked like something that you could tuck a circus under.  And then she just stood there – and knocked the fucking song out of the park.

So here, for the benefit of anybody who might have missed it, is Katy Perry’s performance of “Yesterday” from the “Grammy Salutes The Beatles” show that was broadcast on the 50th Anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb 9, 1964.  Do yourself a favor and listen to it on some real speakers….

More ‘Joy of Making Music’ Sierra Hull

Sierra Hull first showed up on my radar about three years ago, when a friend who worked for her management company invited me to a CD release concert at the Belcourt Theater.

Since then, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Sierra on more than several occasions.  She was a featured performer on The 1861 Project – Volume 2: From the Famine to The Front (Spotify), lending her charming vocals and dazzling mandolin lines to The Song of The Mystic (Spotify), a song about Father Joseph Ryan, “the poet laureate of the Confederacy” and the namesake of one of Nashville’s most prominent parochial schools.

More recently, I had an opportunity to photograph Sierra as she warmed up to perform with Irene Kelley at Irene’s CD release party at the Station Inn.

Sierra Hull on state at the Station Inn

Sierra Hull on stage at the Station Inn

I’ve actually shot quite a few lovely photos of Sierra since she came on board with The 1861 Project, but this one has to be my favorite. I could probably say more about it, but I think this is one of those instances when I’ll just let the picture speak its thousand words and leave it at that….

If that’s still not enough, have a listen to Sierra’s 2011 Rounder Records release, Daybreak:

Celebrating 20 Years Part 2: “What’s The Internet?”

I Was A “Start up” Before “Start ups” Were Cool.

(cont’d from Part I)

I took my sweet time driving across the southern states (it was winter, after all, a concept largely foreign to my experience over the previous 20 years…).  I did spend two nights in Dallas, where I made a pilgrimage to Dealey Plaza and visited the recently opened “6th Floor Museum” in the old Texas School Book Depository building where Lee Harvey Oswald supposedly lay in wait for the Kennedy motorcade.  After that there wasn’t a whole lot I wanted to do in Dallas* so I headed east, and, finally, north.

It's not I-40, but you get the idea...

It’s not I-40, but you get the idea.

Speaking of winter: I arrived in Tennessee just as the state was recovering from a devastating ice storm.  I spent a night with my new step-family in Memphis; they had been without power for two days, but conveniently their electricity came back on while I was there.

The next morning I made a pilgrimage to Graceland, where I discovered that there isn’t any amount of money that can buy good taste.

Then I headed up I-40 from Memphis to Nashville, making note along the way of all the trees that were bent over the edge of the roadway under the weight of the ice that had frozen onto their limbs and branches just a couple of days earlier.

Jerome – my friend from GIT in LA –  had offered me a place to stay when I arrived.  I found his apartment complex off Edmondson Pike, south of the center of the city, and took up residence there for about a week, living literally out of a closet where Jerome had stored a roll-out bed.  A week later (or was it two?) Jerome and the woman he’d been dating (and eventually married, last I heard…) helped me find a room in a lovely house in Brentwood with a kindly lady whose husband had recently pass away.  For a very nominal rent, she gave me the master bedroom, and the use of another room at the end of the hall where I could finally set up my computer.

* * * *

My computer at the time was a “state of the art” PC (manufacturer’s name long since forgotten) with an “80386” processor – one of the first machines that was capable of any kind of multi-tasking – running the revolutionary-at-the-time Windows 3.1.

The "state of the art" ca. 1995

The “state of the art” ca. 1995

By the time I got to Nashville, I’d been using computers and for 15 years;  I’d started using a a computer for word processing way back in 1979, and while I had the boat business in Hawaii I’d used it for accounting and payroll. When things started getting all “graphical” in the mid-80s, I did a little bit of design with one of the first desktop publishing programs, something called Aldus Pagemaker.

And I’d been online almost as long as I’d had a computer, starting at 300 baud with an online service called The Source, which was later acquired by a service called Compuserve, which I used  mostly for e-mail and computer-related support.  Back in LA I had spent a fair amount of time on something called a “BBS” (Bulletin Board Service) that got me into all kinds of trouble (see Part I: Marriage: Destruction Of…).

Conveniently, my arrival in Nashville  also coincided with the time when the Internet as we now know it was just bubbling into public consciousness.  It had been around for at least a decade before that, but until then had been the exclusive province of the military and educational institutions. I had first discovered this “network of networks” late in 1993, about the time I started thinking about the move to Nashville.  At the time, the Internet was mostly text-based listerves and user groups.  With the advent of Mosaic – the first web browser – in 1993, the  Internet began its metamorphosis into the hyper-linked, graphical universe we are now immersed in.

So I got my computer set up in Nashville and started “surfing” the Internet – which put in place the first of two elements that would converge a year later into what would turn out to be the reason I’d come to Nashville.

* * * *

The second element evolved over the course of my first year in The Music City, in the form of a growing awareness of the vast pool of unrecognized talent that subsists just beneath the thin crust of the mainstream commercial music industry.

I started spending a fair amount of time at clubs like The Bluebird, the Commodore Lounge, and a place on Nolensville Road I can’t remember the name of that is now a Mexican restaurant.  In Nashville, it seemed, every coffee house, restaurant and Mapco Express store hosted a “writer’s night.”

Alan Rowoth, the Godfather of all that is "Folk" on the web...

Alan Rowoth, the Godfather of all that is “Folk” on the web…

At the same time I had started subscribing to a listserve called simply “Folk Music” – hosted by a New Yorker named Alan Rowoth – that exchanged dozens of messages every day from all over the world about otherwise largely undiscovered talents.

In these small venues, and through the Folk Music list, I started to discover brilliant, entertaining, heart-touching performing singer/songwriters like Tom Kimmel (Angels), Michael Lille (Life On the Run), Jana Stanfield (I’m Not Lost, I’m Exploring), Buddy Mondlock (The Kid) and countless others who lived not only in Nashville, but all over the country… and the world. I discovered people like  Don Conoscenti, Pierce Pettis and Tom Prasada-Rao, Barbara Kessler and Cheryl Wheeler – all of whom worked a nationwide circuit of small clubs and coffee houses.

“This life as a modern folk musician…” I remember Barbara Kessler saying in the midst of a round at The Bluebird, “…it’s mostly driving…”

But I truly hit the motherlode when I learned about a weekly event called “The 6 Chair Pickin’ Party.”  Almost every Wednesday night, a fuzzy bear of a man named Mike Williams and his wife Kathy would welcome five songwriters to sit in a circle in their living room.  Atop a hill in West Meade Mike with his baritone 12-string guitar and these unheralded talents would swap songs and tall tales for several hours.  It was truly “the church of the Holy Song Circle” – where some of the finest songwriters on the planet would “gather and pray… for cuts” (as I described it myself in one of the few songs I’ve ever written myself…)

In these intimate confines I began to make the acquaintance of some of these people.

This was a community of touring modern day troubadours whose lives were empowered in no small part by the relative affordability of CD manufacturing and the wide availability of home recording. By the mid 1990s, the music business was undergoing an epochal transformation – and didn’t even know it yet.

By the winter of 1995, I had these two things bubbling around in my brain:  The first was the advent of the World Wide Web; the second was this seething cauldron of under-discovered talent that I was listening to in quiet venues all over Nashville.

On some gut level, I began to suspect that there was a business opportunity in there somewhere.

  * * * *

Those nights I wast not hanging out at the clubs, I was up until the wee hours “surfing” around on this new world wide web thing.

One night – probably in February of 1995 – I stumbled across a website for a company called “Rainy Day Records.”   The site described itself as the online home of a mom & pop record store based in Atlanta, adding “we use our record store and this website to help promote independent recording artists from the Atlanta area….”

That’s when the light went on: If it made any sense to operate a website like that out of Atlanta, then it made a world of sense to start one in Nashville.

A few nights later, I’d written a one-page prospectus describing the ‘National Online Music Alliance” and took it with me to my regular Wednesday night songwriter circle.  During the break, I asked a few of the acquaintances I’d made, “What would you think if I tried to sell some of your CDs on the Internet?

Several of the people I asked replied blankly, “What’s ‘the Internet’?”

Tom Kimmel

Tom Kimmel

But Tom Kimmel knew what the Internet was.  I’d met Tom at the Bluebird several months earlier.  After hearing him play a song about being lifted up by “Angels,” I introduced myself and asked how I could get a recording of that particular song.  It was not available yet on CD,  but Tom offered to send me a cassette of the demo, from which I taught myself to play the song.  Tom also turned out to be computer savvy enough that we struck up a correspondence via Compuserve.

Tom knew what the Internet was in part because he’d just come of a circuit on the east coast called “Internet Quartets” – in-the-round presentations that were organized by  Alan Rowoth, the host of the aforementioned Folk Music listserv.

So when I asked Tom, “what would you think if I tried to sell some of your CDs on the Internet,” Tom’s reply wasn’t “What’s the Internet?”  Tom’s reply was “I’ve been thinking I need a Home Page…” and in that moment a partnership was born.

mc-bw2

Michael Camp

A week later Tom was telling me about another fellow he wanted me to meet. Michael Camp knew his way around computers, too, Tom told me, and was also a songwriter and performer, and was perhaps interested in joining forces in whatever it was we were starting to do.  So we arranged a three-way conference call – still an exotic thing to do in the mid 1990s – and I remember Michael introducing himself…. and suddenly it dawned on me I’d heard him play a song as a “pilgrim” at one of Mike William’s pickin’ parties.

“I know you!” I said over the phone. “You’re the clown In the middle!”  – a reference to Michael’s song Brothers –  about being a middle child, an accident of birth that we have in common.  He laughed, and just like that the third leg of the stool was in place.

Later that week, Tom and Michael each wrote me a check for $250  so that we could open a bank account.  And I remember thinking, “wow, these guys really believe in this idea…”  Nobody had ever offered me real money for an idea before…

* * * *

It’s interesting to look back on all this from the perspective of almost 20 years later. We didn’t think of it in such terms at the time, but it’s arguable now that Tom, Michael and I were digging one of the first plowshares into a fertile new field.

In the decades since, the Internet has become a fundamental pillar of the global economy, and Nashville in particular has done an exemplary job of fostering an “entrepreneurial ecosystem” that has drawn an exciting array of talent to Middle Tennessee.

But there was no support system in Nashville – or anywhere, really – for a “music-tech start up” in 1995.  There was no pool of ‘mentors’  offering sage advice and counsel like there are today.  We didn’t put together a Powerpoint ‘deck’ outlining a set of prescribed highlights to pitch investors.  There was no “investable story.” The only thing we pitched in was a few hundred of our own dollars and an intriguing idea.  We rolled up our sleeves and went to work.  We didn’t go looking for investors. We started right out selling our service to vendors and customers.

At the time this is beginning to unfold, I had a temp job running computer charts for HCA, the big hospital chain based in Nashville.  And I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time for a job now… I have work to do…”

The first order of business was figuring out how to create a website.  Michael and I found a book  called Teach Yourself Web Publishing In A Week with HTML (Amazon) and started teaching ourselves how to cobble web pages together. It’s almost laughable now to look back on what was “state of the art” in 1995.  Blinking graphics that seem hideous now were still cool…

We were all comfortable with the name “National Online Music Alliance” for the business. Being left-leaning, quasi-socialist types we were probably drawn toward the idea of an “alliance” – a notion that was probably planted in my head by (stolen from?)  the organization called “Folk Alliance” which convenes an annual gathering of the community we were drawing on and hoping to contribute to.

As we learned how the web works, we knew that we would need a domain – a “dot-com” – on which to build the website.

One night in May of 1995, I visited the website for Network Solutions, which at the time was the primary source for securing domain names.  I did a search for the acronym based on the name – “NOMA-dot-com” – and waited for the search results.

Remember "Bubble Lights"

Remember “Bubble Lights”

You can perhaps imagine my dismay when the search results returned with the news that the domain “NOMA-dot-com” was already registered.  It belonged to an ornamental lighting company in Canada that made mostly Christmas tree lights – most notably the “bubble lights” that I remember so well from the Christmas trees of my childhood in the 1950s and 60s (yes, we were Jewish, it’s a long story, don’t ask…I”m trying to stay focused here!).

“Oh jeez,” I thought, “what on earth will we do since that domain is taken?”

And then, I swear, the heavens opened and a chorus of angels sang, “try ‘SONGS-dot-com.”

Ooh.  I really liked that idea. Fingers shaking, I typed that domain into a search field, and then waited nervously as the result trickled back at the blisteringly slow pace of 2400-baud.

The name was available.  What would eventually become one of the most enviable five-letter domains on the whole Internet was available – in the spring of 1995 – for a whole $35.

I grabbed it.

Shortly therafter Michael and I started building web pages.  But neither of us had enough computer skills to create a secure shopping cart, so we had to hire a programmer from Vanderbilt to create a script so that we actually could sell CDs from the website.  I don’t remember his name now but I do remember that that’s where most of our $750 seed money went.

One of the first "NOMA" logos, ca. 1996.

The first “NOMA” logo. The site offered “Local Music for a Global Audience.”

In June of 1995, The National Online Music Alliance went online with four independent recording artists:  Tanya Savory (the very first to say “yes”), Joni Bishop, Jana Stanfield, and Buddy Mondlock – all singer/songwriters I’d met at Mike Williams’ house.

We’d no sooner launched the site than we had our first sale for one of Buddy’s CDs.

And until somebody tells me otherwise, I’m pretty sure that was the first time music from Nashville was sold directly over the Internet.

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Coming next: Part 3: (Update March 28 2016: Part 3? Hasn’t been posted yet.  Maybe one of these days…)

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*Ironically, a few years later I met and married a woman whose family lived in Dallas, so I wound up returning there countless times.  I never did find anything to do in Dallas.  One time I complained, “there’s nothing to do in Dallas!” to which my new wife replied, “sure there is.”  “Like what?” I asked.  “Well… you can go to Fort Worth….”