CHILLFILTR Announcements. - What Have We Learned So Far?
If anyone tells you that music isn't good anymore, just go ahead and punch them in the mouth.
I started writing this post in February, and then tried to finish it in March, and we got hit with the coronavirus. Aside from the fact that we are no longer making lyric videos, and my music publishing deal has been a bit of a disappointment, and the music writer I was going to hire went MIA, everything else is still pretty much on the money. Keep reading below for more news about the evolution of CHILLFILTR. But first, the announcements.
The Song Contest is Back
After spending some time making sure that our new Radio page is working correctly for desktop and mobile, we are re-activating the submission page, and changing the contest format a little bit. There will be two stages now, and stage 2 artists will all be featured on CHILLFILTR Radio (at noon PST on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) during our Fresh Finds segment. More info here.
To Anyone Who Has Submitted Work to The CHILLFILTR Review
I can't believe it has only been 3 months since I rolled out The CHILLFILTR Review. So much has happened since then. The new podcast will launch episode #2 this Friday; we've had close to 400 submissions since we started; and last week, I sent out a few pieces from The CHILLFILTR Review as potential recipients for a Best of the Net award. I'm sorry I have not been able to reach out to everyone that sends in a submission - I am working on sending out a form email to each writer, I think it's important for everyone to get a confirmation that their work got sent correctly, but at the moment it hasn't happened yet. That is why I am writing this announcement. Because the podcast is driven by a topic each episode, I go back and look through submissions a lot, and there is no easy way to keep everyone notified. I know it is not a perfect system, but it is what we have. If you are reading this, please know that I read everything that gets sent in, and there is always a chance, no matter how much time has gone by, that your piece will be published if it fits well with a topic we are working with. So thank you for your patience, and thank you for sharing your art.
Read on for more about what has happened wih CHILLFILTR since we started in February of 2018 (the paragraph below was written in late February of this year, and the one below that, March). I also made some final edits for clarity to the whole thing just now (August, 2020).
I have listened to more than 12,000 submissions since I started this blog - songs that range from Americana, to Folk Pop, Hip Hop, and Electronic, that are sent to me from around the world. I just finished writing a piece about a gorgeous Palestinian vocalist performing live in Bethlehem. Meanwhile, a winery in nearby Medford is posting a video clip from their tasting room while a local Rogue Valley band performs "I Can't Help Myself," from The Four Tops ('sugar pie, honey bunch'). The irony is not lost on me. Every day, I bring an international spotlight to the fresh music that moves me, from a place that is aesthetically frozen in time.
I have been doing this for two years now - I started in Feb of 2018 - and one thing is clear. Ashland, as much as I love it for other reasons, like much of the rest of this country, does not prioritize artistic self-improvement. Sort of like the political ambience surrounding the Democratic primary right now, the focus seems to be on reanimating the past and hanging on to old memories. I get it - you can't just push people into the future and expect them to cope, at least not exactly. But the world is changing, and we need to push out the tropes that are taking up too much space. Make room for another generation. Why should I still be hearing The Beatles and The Who and Doobie Brothers when I am at the DMV while they are collectively almost 50 years in the past? Why are we still living in the shadow of the 70's, when the musical landscape has shifted so dramatically? Boomers, that's why. There, I said it.
So what have I learned? The first thing, and probably the most important, is that if anyone tells you that music isn't good anymore, just go ahead and punch them in the mouth. They aren't paying attention anyway. They probably won't notice.
I wrote those first paragraphs almost three weeks ago, and it has taken me some time to get back to this. This is a tough moment in time - for me, for humanity, for Democracy. Coronavirus; voter suppression; media bias - this is not a good time for anyone with hope for a better future. I feel a mix of positive and negative emotions right now, so I feel like sharing just because I can. Last year, I was mostly gushing about a bright future. I miss that sense of conviction. I would say that right now, the vibe here is more of a rugged determinism.
But first, the good stuff: I have personally written more than 1200 blog pieces since we got started, and that isn't counting all of the early posts that got deleted because of dead links. So that is something. I have been working really hard at making CHILLFILTR great, and on the good days I still feel as connected as I did in the first months of writing - I still find a joy and a sense of wonder listening to new music, and feeling like I can play a small part in the success of other artists. That's why I got started, and that is why I am still here.
Also, it looks like we may be bringing another writer on board, I can't say for sure just yet because we are not fully finalized but I should have an announcement to make next week about that. I am looking forward to sharing what I've learned with another music-lover, and the added manpower will help us reach a wider audience. This year I also started branching out into memoir-writing, which was cathartic and wonderful until I hit a sort of a wall - it's one thing to feel like you've had an interesting life; it is another thing entirely to prove that, in a compelling way, on a page. I knocked out a few early pieces, but now the idea of really probing the depths of my personal history in a systemic way feels both difficult and dangerous. The seeds of doubt grow so well. What if the details aren't interesting? What if they are but I can't do justice to them? And on, and on. It occurs to me that I shouldn't be trying to do so much - but overreaching is such a glorious pastime for me. I don't know that I even remember how to relax.
So what am I talking about? Well, just to put it all in perspective, these are all the things I put on my plate this year, even as I run this blog as a full-time job with almost no pay: I started (and ended) a podcast; I signed a music licensing deal; I became a Google Trusted 360 Photographer; I worked as a live photographer and music journalist; I branched out into writing a memoir; I started making mix tapes; I started a vodcast channel on Vimeo and Roku, with both original content and lyric videos; and I am seriously considering doing game-themed screencasts for my YouTube channel. I tried out partnerships with SonicBids and ReverbNation, all at the same time that I continue to write songs and put out new music. I work very hard for this. Yet, so much feels like it is not there yet. George Santayana said it best:
We work in the dark - we do what we can - we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.
I got the passion; I have the doubt. I give everything I have. So this is art, I guess. :)
Now, lest you imagine that I am in a woe-is-me moment, please realize that I am very grateful for the position I am in. I am doing what I love, I get to be creative all day long, and I am lucky to have a very supportive family. It is possible that I am alone in my earnest attempt to combine quality prose with indie music discovery - maybe the market I imagine does not actually exist. So this might be a good time to back up, and restate what it is I am trying to do.
There are two main concepts that drive the decisions I make: longevity, and independence. Both of these fly in the face, dare I say it, of 'accepted' market strategy. None of the top news outlets I know of seem to care much about these issues; but I was always taught to move towards something that differentiates you, and so that is what I have done. It is far too late to change now - these are my guiding principles.
This drives my constant attempts at getting the artists to provide mp3 or wav copies of the songs I share for them - why? There are 2 main reasons - 1, that is the only way for me to be certain that those songs, and the posts I write about them, will continue to be available year-over-time, into the future. I have always been oriented towards the long-term, and I need to control the embed source of these songs so that I never again see - as it happened last year during the great CHILLFILTR data migration - as I scroll through old posts, that the song links are dead and the songs are no longer available. That makes the site look bad, ruins the experience, and makes me feel like the work I am doing is a waste of time.
I am always trying to find new avenues for music discovery, and I want to be able to feature the songs that I love wherever I can. Like I am doing on MixCloud, for example. That kind of stuff makes me happy, and makes me feel like I can create a sense of excitement around indie music discovery. The main markets, that I can see, are pretty closed off already. There is not a lot of room for new players. Sad. I was posting features to Apple News, for example, which I was really proud of, until they decided to turn off my 'reach.' CHILLFILTR went from 10k, sometimes up to 20k views per month on our Apple channel, to fewer than 10 views per week. So, we have stopped posting to Apple News, basically in protest. And don't get me started on Wikipedia, which decided to delete the Krister Axel page after more than a decade, because (true story) some electronic musician from Montreal who also happened to be a volunteer Wikipedia editor was butt-hurt that I didn't cover their song. It's a tough world, and when you play with the big markets - Apple News, Spotify, etc. - things can change quickly, and you may never know why. So I fight for independence: I want to create something that can't be taken away from me. And I do that for the music I love. In that spirit, we have rolled out an internet radio channel, with rotating playlists, because I think the music that I cover should be available for fans to listen to without needing a Spotify account, or Apple Music. Spread the word, if you can, because the more listeners we get, the more the featured artists will get paid (via SOCAN).
I may not be successful in everything I do, but I am doing it for the right reasons. The last 6 months have been difficult, but I am grateful for my health, my family, and the opportunity to always have new music to listen to. To all the musicians, writers, and publicists that I work with: thank you.
You mean the world to me.