Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nearing the end of 2012...

...this has been a year with a lot of challenges both personal and in music. Personally my dear husband had more health challenges then any one person should have to deal with in a lifetime let alone in the last year. Although as the saying goes "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." he is now a true Olympian in my book and has managed to fight his way back to a healthy state.

Musically it's been a fun yet challenging year in regard to the difficulties with the economy forcing so many venues, festivals, corporate and private parties to scale back both the pay scale and number of opportunities available for booking. Clubs closing, pay dropping, players giving up the game or having to take the dreaded "day job" took it's toll. These challenges reach their tentacles into the individual basis and force many otherwise stable bands to shuffle players as they scramble to secure the next higher paying gig or plug the holes in their otherwise sparse schedule "filling-in" in effort to keep financially afloat. Next thing you know it seems like every band in town is playing the same set of generic material or there is no "band" but instead a "jam session". Throw in the DJ's and reduction to duets and trios and really good, "bands" with really good variety are scarce at best. Don't get me wrong, that's not a criticism, that's just survival.

Regardless, ZG has again managed to survive another year and had a pretty good run in regard to bookings.We've seen our share of working with an "open door" policy and we've all done our share of "side jobs".  I think the biggest slow down was in the ability to freely add new material in the wake of all the shuffling about. However, on a positive note ZG's rhythm section has found what's shaping up to be a solid foundation with drummer Art McAvoy and bassist Avel Rios locking arms and falling into that solid groove so necessary to support our particular style of music. We've had a few really fun and talented lead guitarists share the stage and thankfully Lenny Locken has stepped up and managed to ride the waves with us and has put his stamp on ZG in an unmistakable fashion. So with these three solidly in the mix we're looking forward to adding a fifth player (guitar, keys, or sax) and rocking our way through 2013.

Finally, With the recommendation and introduction by my dear friend John R Borja to Steven Wetherbee of Golden Track Studios, I've begun negotiations with Steven to produce, arrange and engineer my first professionally produced original CD for release in 2013. I'm so looking forward to working my A** off to get it all in motion. It will be spectacular, with Steven at the helm. Simultaneously, I'll be doing a number of live performances including guest appearances, duets, showcases, gigging with ZG  (of course) and vocal coaching to foot the bill. In addition, after we've completed the first single I'll be releasing it to entice investors and running an online support campaign for shameless self promotion to my adoring fans who will, no doubt, want to offer their financial support and have their names listed on my "forever grateful" list on the CD insert, lol. So stay tuned...and wish me luck!

All in all it's been a great year and I feel completely blessed, especially in these trying times. To all those friends, family, musicians and overall music lovers and organizations I offer my sincerest wishes and support all you do to help me and all those who work with me in  "keepin' the music LIVE"!

____Deborah Blake

Friday, July 13, 2012

7 months in...

Can you believe it! This year is half over. And of coarse the changes in the music and band have kept up pace. I sware sometimes it feels like I'm out to sea in a dingy during a perfect storm. Good thing I'm a good swimmer, lol.

The band has morfied through some interesting characters as I continue the search for that magical combination. Most of these "passers-by" have been a pleasure, others not so much. I've reunited with some solid foundation players and parted ways with a few long time players (it's all good). Along the way I've had the pleasure of playing with some new acquaintances.  These players were mostly hired guns, contracted to do a job, and who come and go like chaff in a wheat field. Others are players from the ever popular "Jam" sessions that have saturated the club scene. I have mixed feelings about this style of booking since it tends to be a much better deal for the venue then the musicians on a financial level, but they are fun and great way to meet new players. It also tends to eat up available booking dates for bands.

ZG is definitely moving forward although it ain't been easy. Writing has been good although due to the shifting foundation in the band it's difficult to get new original material into the sets. It's always more fun if the players are invested and are around long enough to put their own artistic stamp on them. This challenge is what keeps me writing "predictable" progressions making it easy for new players to come in and catch on quickly so they can embellish easily on the arrangements. Funny thing is the fans really dig them.

The music business on the "Club" level is really suffering. And, yes largely due to the economy but more so from piss pour management and business practices. Ethics are at an all time low and the economy gives them the perfect excuse. They reduce the band share while increasing the expectations of the bands' role. It is now common practice to require the bands to do all the promotion, bring in a minimum of 50 new patrons, supply the sound equipment, take less money, charge a cover (which is not always shared) meaning you have to beg your friends, family and fans to come to every gig and pay the venue to see the band. In turn the venues, don't promote in print, online or run specials to increase their own traffic (even fail to post the flyers the bands must supply), cut staff so service sucks (and food in many venues does too),  raise their prices and charge for parking. I'm surprised they don't sell token for bathroom use. Of coarse this is the worst case scenario and there are a few really making the effort to do right by everyone on all sides. Frankly I consider it a blessing that we manage to work and have kept our standards while doing it.

This does however make it extremely difficult to get musicians to commit to any one band. It's pretty much "Every man for himself" today. Maybe that's just going to stick as the new model. Unless band leaders are willing to "take one for the team" and pay the difference out of their own pocket they quickly find out their "team" scatters faster then cockroaches when the lights come on. Next thing you know every band in town is playing the same generic tunes just to get through a gig because rehearsals are out the window since no one can afford the gas and they don't want to "waste their time" learning new material since they may or may not be their on the next gig. Originals! Forget about it.

No really, this has never been a great "for profit" business but for those bands that have to make a living at club work, well I really empathize with them. It's a bitch.

I'm pleased to say although I do do some club work I have been fortunate enough to have a significant number of great musicians that I can call on that are capable of covering vast amounts of different material quickly and on the fly, making it possible for Zero Gravity to rise above the challenges and continue to stay above the fray I look forward to what ever and whom ever is on the horizon and sharing the fun with my friends and fans.

___Keepin the music LIVE
Deborah