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March 11, 2010 

© 2010 Blues Blast Magazine

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Hey Blues Fans,

2010 festival announcements are starting to roll in.  Our friends at the Mississippi Valley Blues Society have announced their 2010 Festival lineup.  The 26th annual IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is scheduled for Friday through Sunday July 2-4, 2010 in Davenport, Iowa’s LeClaire park, right next to the Mississippi River. Considered by many to be one of the best festivals anywhere, they have confirmed the following Blues performers:

Li’l Ed and the Blues Imperials, Ana Popovic, Zac Harmon, Vasti Jackson, Rosie Ledet, Ruthie Foster, Billy Branch and the Sons of the Blues, Shawn Kellerman, Lucky Peterson, The Legendary Blues Cruise Revue featuring Tommy Castro and Debbie Davies, Dave Riley and Bob Corritore, The Nighthawks with Hubert Sumlin.

Friday night July 2, will be a tribute to descendants of blues legends, featuring Mud Morganfield, Bernard Allison, Little Pink Anderson, Caroline Shines, Lurrie Bell, and Shirley King. WOW! Don't miss this one!

Blues In The Digital Age

This week we have the final part of an investigative report by Nikki O'Neill.  Check out part three - Licensing and other Revenue Streams in this issue. Blues Blast readers can download a free copy of Nikki's new single "Say What You Think" for FREE until 4/10/2010 by visiting her website at:

Blues Wanderings!

It was a great Blues week last week. First we caught a show by Biscuit Miller & The Mix. Biscuit is a great bass player, singer and entertainer. He has played with some of the biggest Blues names including a stint as bass player for Lonnie Brooks. His band included Bobby Wilson and Kyle Bledsoe on guitars and Doctor Love on drums.  They had the place rockin!!

Biscuit Miller Bobby Wilson Kyle Bledsoe Doctor Love


We also made it out to a special show from the Illinois Central Blues Club (ICBC) in Springfield, IL celebrating their 24th anniversary. This show featured both of ICBC's 2010 International Blues Challenge entries, solo performer Robert Sampson and this years band entry Eric "Guitar" Davis & The Trouble Makers. What a great way to finish up the weekend!

Robert Sampson

Eric "Guitar" Davis

Chris Robertson

Lee Cain Eric "Guitar" Davis Ron Molten

Illinois Central Blues Club has presented their weekly Blue Monday shows of traveling Blues performers FOR THE LAST 24 YEARS! Congratulations to this great organization for their outstanding dedication to keeping the Blues alive! Check out their upcoming Blue Monday shows at their website or in the Blues Society News section in this issue.

In this issue - Blues Reviews and MORE!

Blues In The Digital Age - This week we have final part of an investigative report by Nikki O'Neill.  Check out Part Three - Licensing and other Revenue Streams in this issue!

James "Skyy Dobro" Walker reviews a new CD from The Hollywood Blue Flames.  Belinda Foster reviews a new CD by The Kilborn Alley Blues Band. New reviewer Jon Norton sends us another review of the new Nick Moss CD. Greg 'Bluesdog' Szalony reviews a new CD by The Reclamators. Mark Thompson reviews a new CD by Quintus McCormick. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!


Festival & CD Advertising Special $180

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Ads must be reserved before March 31st, 2010 but can be used for any dates in 2010. Space is limited during some summer festival season times and will be sold on a first come first served basis.

For complete details CLICK HERE or email or call 309 267-4425


 Featured Blues Review 1 of 5

The Hollywood Blue Flames (and The Hollywood Fats Band)
2 CD set
Deep in America & Larger Than Life, Vol 2

Delta Groove Productions

Disc 1: 14 songs; 51:35 minutes; Library Quality

Disc 2: 12 songs; 68:35 minutes; Library Quality

Styles: Classic styled Chicago Blues, West Coast Jump Blues, & Acoustic Country Blues

Hey Baby Boomers, remember buying a vinyl album to get one particular song, and then falling in love with the entire package? That is undoubtedly rare in these days of single Mp3 file downloads, but I would buy “Deep in America” just to get the live version of the song “Nit Wit” with incredible, blistering guitar intro and mid-song solo by the late Hollywood Fats. At that, I would gain two wonderful CDs of uncompromising classic Blues for the price of one: today’s The Hollywood Blue Flames and the bonus CD of The Hollywood Fats Band recorded live in 1979 and 1980.

The song, “Nit Wit,” about a guy who gets himself “messed up in a house of ill repute,” appears on both Discs. The “Flames” version is newer, shorter (2:13), and more polished with Junior Watson on guitar. The “Hollywood Fats” take from 1979 runs 4:55 minutes and includes extended, break-neck-speed soloing by Mann that is played in rounds featuring monster tone and tight, clever licks. Such playing influenced later work by guitarists like Kid Ramos and The Insomniacs’ Vyasa Dodson.

Michael "Hollywood Fats" Mann is one of the icons and heroes of serious blues guitarists around the world! Given his moniker by Buddy Guy, he was still under appreciated in his own time. Having died too soon at age 32 in 1986, Fats helped define and refine the T-Bone Walker Swing Blues sound into what is now known as the West Coast Blues sound.

Disc one, “Deep In America,” gathers together a collection of recordings by The Hollywood Blue Flames drawn from some newly recorded songs and various studio sessions over the years with previously unreleased material that includes outtakes and alternates.

Disc two, “Larger Than Life, Volume Two,” contains more, rough, vintage live recordings taken from a variety of source materials by the original Hollywood Fats Band, showcasing the amazing talent of Mann and the evolution the band was undergoing before his untimely death. The tapes were forgotten in storage until now when bassist Larry Taylor discovered them in a box while cleaning out his garage. Al Duncan, session drummer for Chess/Checker and VeeJay Records also appears on four Fats’ songs.

“Deep in America” is the continuing story of what happened to the Hollywood Fats Band after his death. The Hollywood Blue Flames began life in 1975 as The Hollywood Fats Band, led by Mann, and featuring one of the best traditional blues line-ups ever – bassist Larry Taylor fresh from Canned Heat, Richard Innes who had recently been with Rod Piazza, Lloyd Glenn protégé Fred Kaplan on piano, and featuring the multi-talented Al Blake on vocals, harmonica, and acoustic guitar. Replacing Fats on lead electric guitar is alternately the stellar Junior Watson and Kirk “Eli” Fletcher. This is their third CD under the name The Hollywood Blue Flames following their 2005 Delta Groove debut “Soul Sanctuary” and 2006’s “Road to Rio.”

Other price-worthy gems: Freddie King’s “Hide Away” interpreted smartly by Hollywood Fats, “Jalopy to Drive” showcasing the Flames’ ability to remake a great Sonny Boy Williamson I song, a moving slow Blues by Blake – “Rambler & A Rollin’ Stone” – with guitarist Junior Watson, “Hushpuppy” - Fred Kaplan solo on piano rocking a tribute to pianist Roosevelt Sykes, group written “My National Enquirer Baby,” Al Blake’s three Acoustic Country Blues numbers, and Fats’ and Blake’s burning cover of Tampa Red’s “She’s Dynamite.”

“Deep In America” stands as a testament to the strength and power of The Hollywood Fats Band which became The Hollywood Blue Flames. Blues purists looking for a bargain should jump on this one; it is a classic leaving the idea of “buy it for one song” only a faint memory!

Reviewer James "Skyy Dobro" Walker is a noted Blues writer, DJ, Master of Ceremonies, and longtime Blues Blast Magazine contributor. His weekly radio show "Friends of the Blues" can be heard Saturdays 8 pm - Midnight on WKCC 91.1 FM and at in Kankakee, IL

To See James “Skyy Dobro” Walker's CD rating system, CLICK HERE 

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 2 of 5

Kilborn Alley Blues Band - Better Off Now

Blue Bella Records

Release Date 3-16-10

11 Tracks, 42 minutes 13 secs

Style: Chicago style blues originals partnered with just enough Soul and R&B tunes; all tracks written by the band members except Track 5 “Watch It” written by Nick Moss and Track 11’s cover of John Brim’s “Tough Times”

Well, it appears these 5 have done it again, and that it’s inevitable they’re positioned for yet, another ‘best of or winner of’ award, after already receiving coveted nominations and awards for their first and second releases. With rare successful starts like this, band mates Andrew Duncanson (vocals, guitar), Joe Asselin (harmonica), Josh Stimmel (guitar), Chris Breen (bass), and Ed O’Hara (drums) have only just begin. It seems they can’t miss!

I mean, who else debuts with a Best New Artist nomination in The Blues Music Awards (Put It In The Alley - 2006), follows up with their 2nd release getting a Best Contemporary Blues Album nomination (Tear Chicago Down - 2007), and ends 2009 with winning the Sean Costello Rising Star Award at the Blues Blast Music Awards held October 29th, in Chicago at Buddy Guy’s Legends. I was there that night and trust me, it was a ‘who’s who’ love fest that neither you nor I will want to miss in 2010, especially since I’m pretty sure these guys may be back.

Speaking of ‘back’, back to Better Off Now. Had I not known that lead singer Andrew wasn’t coming to us straight out of a Delta juke joint, I wouldn’t have known by ‘ear’ alone that he’s a white boy…hey, I’m just sayin’! Starting with Track 1’s “Nothing Left to Stimulate”, we’re bluzin’ right out of the Chicago gate with a steady rollin’ groove jacked up with some hot harp blowin’ and straight forward electric guitar. This could be the little man’s political theme song of the year. But don’t get too comfortable here, as Track 2’s “Foolsville” is going to put you on the train to a reminiscent Clarksdale sound (hey Cedric and Lightnin’ Malcolm, look out for these boys on your turf).

Grab your lady and get on the soul-blues dance floor with Title Track 3 “Better Off Now”, Track 7’s “Tonight”, and Track 9’s “Keep Me Hangin”—all gut-wrenching heart felt soulfully sung blues ballads that only us ladies can inspire a man to write and sing so deeply. Oh, and stay on that dance floor with Track 4’s “Train to Memphis” for a funky little R&B peppered blues-groove.

And so this CD goes, from one great original track to the next. Enjoy some ‘attitude funk’ with Track 5 “Watch It”, written by Nick Moss. Track 6’s “BubbleGuts” takes me to the West Coast surfer-blues era though the organ and electric guitar rifts keep me East Coast soul grounded. You’ll love their final track, “Tough Times”—an appropriate tribute to the great Chicago blues guitarist, songwriter and harp player John Brim who remained active on the blues scene there from the 40’s until one of his final appearances at the 2002 Chicago Blues Festival.

What I like most about this CD is this: the guys know how to layer their harp blowin, organ and guitar solos in a complimentary way, while keeping all the tonal qualities and profiling of each instrument clean, pure, and distinct when mixed. And the nitty gritty vocal instrument of lead singer Andrew is the icing on that cake. No one’s preposterously showcasing, selfishly plowing through it or pushing it down your ear’s throat…it all simply comes together the way traditional blues players ‘play’ off of each other’s strengths with respect. That’s how they do it in Chicago and it’s obvious these boys got a real blues alley schooling.

So, folks, that’s what YOU get when you check out this CD. Need I say more? I rate it a ‘Buy’. See you guys at the BMAs in Memphis and good luck to another great year.

Reviewer Belinda Foster is a columnist and contributing writer for Greenville SC magazine “Industry Mag” and former manager of Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’Blues. She currently books blues-rock-jam musicians and is a devoted promoter and support of live blues root music and history, making frequent trips to Clarksdale MS and the Delta Region. Her column “The Upstate Blues Report can be found on line at

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 3 of 5

Nick Moss - Privileged

Blue Bella Records

Release date: March 16, 2010

There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear …
from For What It’s Worth” Buffalo Springfield, 1966

Buffalo Springfield’s 60’s anthem is the perfect choice of a cover on Privileged, the new release from Chicago’s Nick Moss. In a time when Average Joe’s on opposite ends of the political spectrum are ready to unleash their growing unease and anger against a government they feel is leaving them in the dust of bank bailouts and insurance giveaways, Moss taps into that anger in an unpretentious, direct fury of blistering social commentary. But something else is happening here, as Moss paints a thunderous musical backdrop to that commentary, signaling a change in direction for a man that has been crowned the torchbearer of the traditional Chicago blues sound for much of the last 10 years.

Musically, Privileged owes as much, if not more, to Hendrix & Zeppelin and as it does to Muddy or Wolf. For much of the past decade, Moss has, at least outwardly, accepted the weight of carrying on that tradition with a number of solid traditional blues releases that would make former mentors Jimmy Dawkins & Jimmy Rogers proud. On Privileged, Moss & the Fliptops have freed themselves from the limitations that come with those expectations to deliver a blues/rock blast of working class sentiment that expresses both lyrically and musically the anger and unease permeating America in 2010.

The heads of long time Moss fans will swivel upon hearing the first bars of Privileged, as Moss sounds more Hendrix than Muddy on the opener Born Leader, a stinging indictment of slick politicians who play on voter fears in their rise to power. Privileged at Birth spits contemptuously at silver spoon fat cats with an underlying folk feel that Buffalo Springfield might have delivered on their second album. And when they do cover Buffalo Springfield, Moss yields his microphone to drummer Bob Carter on For What It’s Worth while Moss and the band cover this Classic Rock standard as if they were channeling early 70’s War. Their cover of Cream’s Politician also fits thematically into Privileged, but may be a little too true to the hard rock original for longtime Moss fans.

Long time fans who do blanch at Moss’ new direction will still like much of what’s on Privileged. The shuffling cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s Louise sounds like vintage Moss with an R.L. Burnside groove as a foundation. Longtime bandmate Gerry Hundt brings out the delta in his mandolin on the biting Moss penned Georgia Redsnake. And for those loving those long Moss instrumentals, the albums closer, Bolognious Funk, is a 7½ minute funky, fun romp featuring new organ player John Kattke.

In late 2008, he chuckled as he told me he has trouble veering outside the classic Chicago blues sound because “anything I do ends up sounding like Chicago blues.” It’s clear by listening to Privileged that Moss has found a way to smash through that barrier to forge his own sound, a sound that may bring blues into the new decade or move Moss into a wider audience. Privileged is the work of a man at the top of his game, and his profession.

Reviewer Jon Norton is Music Director at WGLT Public Radio station in Normal, IL. Listen to their commercial free Blues webcast, GLT Blues 24/7, anytime, from anywhere on the planet by visiting

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

Have YOUR Music Considered For Nomination

Last year we had quite a few inquiries from Blues artists around the globe wondering how to get their recordings considered for nomination in the annual Blues Blast Music Awards.  This year we are including a process for those interested to send in their recordings for consideration by our nominators. We have 30 nominators and you can send in copies of your CD to be considered. Eligibility for specific recording releases is from May 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010. For complete details about the awards and the new process CLICK HERE

The 2010 nomination process starts March 1st when we begin accepting submissions from labels and artists. Artist do not necessarily have to submit their releases to be considered but any that do will have their recordings screened by the nominators.  Read all the details at the link above for a complete list of options to have your CD release considered now.

CDs for the 2010 nominations are the ones the nominators have heard. We have a diverse group of 30 nominators and they hear many CDs but if an artist or label really wants a CD to be considered by all the nominators they can send in copies of their CDs beginning March 1. CDs received will be sent to the nominators. A minimum of 30 copies are required so that all nominators get to listen to them. There is no charge for this in 2010 but we reserve the right to change this financial policy in future years. Complete information on sending in your CD is HERE

Nominators begin their initial nomination phase on May 1st and final nominations will be announced after May 31st, 2010. Voting Begins in July.  The 2010 Blues Blast Music Awards will be held on Thursday October 28th, 2010 at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago, IL.

 Blues Society News

 Send your Blues Society's BIG news or Press Release to:  

You can submit a maximum of 175 words or less in a Text or MS Word document format.

Columbia College - Chicago, IL

Free Blues Camp Audition - Saturday, March 13 from 10:00 AM – Noon for Blues students ages 12 – 18 at Columbia College Chicago Music Center 1014 S. Michigan Ave. This is an opportunity to audition for this great youth Blues Camp held at Columbia College July 4 – 9, 2010 by Artistic Director, Fernando Jones.

Other audition dates are Thursday, April 8 5:00 – 7:00 PM, Buddy Guy’s Legends, 754 S. Wabash, Chicago, Saturday, May 22, 10:00 AM - Noon, Columbia College Chicago Music Center, 1014 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago and Thursday, June 3, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, at Guitar Center, 4271 West 167th Street, Country Club Hills, IL. Go to for more details. RSVP Online at

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society - Marietta, Ohio

The Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society presents their annual “River City Blues Festival”  Friday, March 19th and Saturday, March 20, 2010 at the Lafayette Hotel, on the river in downtown Marietta. On Friday the lineup includes Shaun Booker and The Kinsey Report. On Saturday the show features
the BITS Band/”High Schools That Rock”, the 2010 BJFMS Blues Competition Winners, Tokyo Tramps, Lionel Young, Zac Harmon Band, The Teeny Tucker Band and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne.

For more information visit or  contact Steve Wells at  or (304) 295-4323

The Friends Of The Blues - Watseka, IL

Spring 2010 Friends of the Blues shows- March 16 - Shawn Kellerman, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, April 13 - Perry Weber & DeVilles, 7 pm , Kankakee Elks Country Club, April 17 - Joel Paterson Trio, Kankakee Valley Boat Club (“Rockin’ the River”), April 20 - Too Slim and the Taildraggers, 7 pm , Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, June 22 - Al Stone, 7 pm , River Bend Bar & Grill. For more info see: 

Illinois Central Blues Club - Springfield, IL

BLUE MONDAY SHOWS - Held at the Alamo 115 N 5th St, Springfield, IL (217) 523-1455 every Monday 8:30pm $3 cover. March 15 - Shawn Kellerman, March 22 - Big Jeff Chapman, March 29 - The Kilborn Alley Blues Band - CD Release Party, April 5 - Motor City Josh, April 12 - Perry Weber and the Devilles,  April 19 - Too Slim & the Taildraggers

River City Blues Society - Peoria, IL

The River City Blues Society has started booking more of their weekly Blues shows. The shows start at 7:00pm at Good Fellas Pizza and Pub, 1414 N 8TH St Pekin, IL. Admission for all shows is $4 or $3 for RCBS members. Shows currently scheduled are:  Thursday March 11 - Shawn Kellerman, Thursday April 1st - Motor City Josh.

 Featured Blues Review 4 of 5

The Reclamators - "sing it, white boy!"

Crooked Walls Records


Releasing fifteen singles over a period of six years back in the sixties with only minor success gave Jerome Mykietyn the blues. His misfortune turns out to be a stroke of luck for fans of straight ahead, no frills blues. After starting a family and working a 'regular job' Jerome put together his first blues effort over a period of three years with the help of his son and various musicians from his musical past. He calls his assemblage of players The Reclamators to signify his interpretations of some classic songs. Also included are five of his originals. Four of which deal with social commentary.

Ably abetted by his son Jeremy on drums and a revolving cast of crack players, Jerome delivers the goods. With his endearing matter-of-fact voice he sounds like he just came in from plowing the back forty to kick out some blues tunes with his friends. There is a country element that flavors many of the songs. The two lead guitarists he enlisted seem to favor a distorted tone, which suits these songs just fine.

The original "Bullet Blues" starts things off fine with Mykietyn's distorted slide guitar added to his tale of losing loved ones to the war. He comments on global warming in "Hothouse Blues" and homelessness in "Man In The Box". He incorporates a working knowledge of the blues idiom into his own compositions to come up with worthy efforts.

Enough of a new twist is added to the cover songs to to render a fresh sound. At first you might say 'oh no, not another version of that' when "Redhouse" comes on, but it chugs along with an energetic vocal bolstered by stinging guitar courtesy of Robert Ross. James Taylor's "Steamroller Blues" loses it's 'Pop' novelty quality here. This version lopes along as a slow blues.

The musicians execute deftly throughout this disc. It's interesting to discover the nuances of other genres that dart in-and-out during the proceedings. It could be a rockabilly inflection in the vocal or some Chuck Berry-meets-blues riffing. The piano and organ backing fleshes out the sound. David Demsey lends his sax playing to the slow blues of "Been Retired From Your Love".

No real 'oh wow' moments here. Instead what is provided is a reliable, easy flowing dose of blues. When something is constructed with such thought we sometimes take it for granted. Here's hoping Mr. Mykietyn has enough blues left over for his next effort. If he can concoct a CD's worth of originals as strong as those included here I know this will be one satisfied Bluesdog.....'Howl!!!!!'

Reviewer Greg 'Bluesdog' Szalony is from the New Jersey Delta. He is the proprietor of Bluesdog's Doghouse at

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Blues Review 5 of 5

Quintus McCormick - Hey Jodie!

Delmark Records

15 tracks

Quintus McCormick was born in Detroit in 1957 & moved to Chicago in the late 70's. His grandma bought him his first Strat after he'd only been playing for 7 months. He attended Columbia College in Chicago ( a Major School for the Arts) & graduated in 1994 with a music degree. When in school, he was a sideman for Lefty Dizz, James Cotton, A.C. Reed & Otis Clay earning spending money while in school. He was influenced by Hendrix, Jimmy Page & Humble Pie before turning to pop music. His intro to the Blues changed him forever.

This is his first Delmark release that delves into the real roots of R&B more so than just Blues. The voice & lyrics are THE mainstay with the music taking a second seat. Not that you don't hear the band (bass, drums, keyboard, harp, trumpet, tenor & baritone sax) but it supports the songs rather than dominates them. Quintus has strong vocals that evoke emotions & remind one of the Otis Redding / Marvin Gaye days of old. He is also an accomplished guitarist but chooses few occasions to showcase as again, the band lays the groundwork for the vocals to shine.

“Hey Jodie!”, the title tune (oh yeah – dictionary definition is a ‘Back Door Lover’), starts us off with what you'd expect from a true R&B artist with horns & all reminding one of Otis Redding days gone by. “Get Some Business” starts off with a traditional blues lick, a driving bass line & keyboards backing the vocals. “What Goes Around Comes Around” begins with a lengthy guitar solo leading into your typical down & dirty blues tune with all the fixins'. “You Should Learn From This” made me think, "Fool Me Once - Shame on You: Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me" with it's upbeat tempo while the horns spicing up the tune. 50 / 50 - a smooth easy offering with horns, harp leading us down the music road. “You Got To Do Me Better Than That” - a Joe Louis Walker sounding offering. “I'm Alright Now” made me think I'd gone back to the 60's at the instant it began, I heard “She Likes Bread & Butter” (that's the lick) but it works.

Get That Money - a rockin' up tempo tune that adds backing vocals for some spice. “Hot Lovin' Woman” is a very soulful offering. “Plano Texas Blues” reminded me of a W.C. Clark offering (I do like him). “I'm a Good Man, Baby” is more of what you'd expect from a current blues-man. “I Wasn't Thinking” is where we get a bit funky (probably his 70's Pop influence coming out). “There Ain't No Right Way To Do Wrong’ is the lone laid back tune on the CD with life's lessons the centerpiece. “You Got It” gets back to the funk, he was in the mood to get down. “Let The Good Times Roll” is the only thing left was to get rolling, here the piano taking center stage (what else!) for some boogie woogie,

If you're tired of being overpowered by the music & long for the days of real R&B, Quintus has given a good shot at reviving this genre. He has learned from some of the best, his talents are on full display with this release & he would be someone to see live for the full experience.

Reviewer  Mark Thompson is president of the Crossroads Blues Society in Rockford, IL.

For other reviews and interviews on our website CLICK HERE.

 Featured Report - Blues Music In the Digital Age

Blues Music In The Digital Age - Part Three - Licensing and other Revenue Streams

By Nikki O’Neill

With the massive changes in technology that have taken place in the music and media world for the last 10 years, we at Blues Blast Magazine wondered how these changes are effecting the Blues music industry and Blues artists.

How are digital downloads and social networks affecting the careers of Blues artists — especially those who aren't computer savvy? We contacted a number of prominent Blues labels and publicists to hear their thoughts on marketing the Blues in the digital age. We also included a Blues artist and founder of a Blues society, who actively uses Internet technologies for promoting and networking in the Blues community.

Everybody answered independently, without hearing the other's responses.  In part three of this report we look a how Licensing, other Revenue Streams and marketing trends are impacting the Blues music market. We sincerely thank those who took the time to respond to our questions:

Bruce Iglauer - Alligator Records

Scott Billington - Rounder Records

Thomas Ruf - Ruf Records

Jerry Del Guidice - Blind Pig Records

Randy Chortkoff and Robert Fitzpatrick - Delta Groove Productions

Joe Morabia - Blues Leaf Records

Steve Dawson - Black Hen Music

Michael Powers - Yellow Dog Records

Mark Carpentieri -  M.C. Records

Richard Chalk -  TopCat Records

Fred Litwin -  Northern Blues Music

Michael Frank, Earwig Music Company, Inc.

Betsie Brown - Blind Raccoon (publicity firm)

Mark Pucci - Mark Pucci Media (publicity firm)

Phil Gates, founder of the Los Angeles Blues Society, producer and blues artist

As record sales are going down, alternative revenue sources have become increasingly important to artists and music companies of all genres. Many hope to get their music into film, TV and ads through so called synch deals (synchronization = putting music to moving images.) Others aim to get their music into games like Guitar Hero, and then we have the world of ringtones, plus various types of merchandising and licensing deals. But how lucrative are these areas for Blues musicians and Blues songwriters, really?

Richard Chalk: Synch deals are where the "Big Money" is. Ringtones and games are miniscule revenue generators for us. Licensing/distribution deals are very important.  

Fred Litwin: Synch deals can be huge and are important.. ring tones are not that important anymore.

Bruce Iglauer: Synch deals for film and TV can be very important and lucrative. We spend a lot of time trying to get these. We have placed songs in many TV shows and some feature films. Ringtones have proven to be a very small market for non-pop music. Frankly, they're not worth the effort. We have pushed hard for Guitar Hero, but still no luck. We've had one other game placement, some years ago, in the UK. So far, we've done very little with licensing of our logos or artist images, but we have licensed for lots of CD compilations. We are working hard to place music in advertising, but with very limited response so far.

Scott Billington: Licensing for film, TV and commercial use can be a good source of income, although it’s obviously hard to predict. We have an in-house person as well as an outside agency dedicated to finding placements for our music. A licensing highlight for me was when the Johnny Adams recording of “There Is Always One More Time” was used over the opening credits of the Eddie Murphy/Steve Martin film, Bowfinger. Not only did millions of people get to hear Johnny (probably more than ever heard him before), but Johnny’s widow, the songwriters and Rounder got a nice payday.

For ringtones or games to generate much income, you generally need a hit record. Lately, we have gotten more involved in creating merchandise for a few of our artists. This requires an agreement akin to a record contract.

Jerry Del Guidice: any label that's going to survive has to generate income from as many sources as possible. Half our income comes from sources other than physical sales nowadays. I would think this will increase significantly over the next few years.

Michael Powers: All of those are potentially lucrative, but are also really hit-or-miss because they require you to have exactly the right thing that someone else needs at exactly the right time for them.  There are things you can do to increase your chances of being in that situation, but I wouldn't want to rely only on revenue from those sources.

Mark Carpentieri:  We’ve had songs and music placed in movies and cable TV. Didn’t see much of a bunch in sales after the synch. That’s why it’s important to get paid.

Phil Gates: From the DIY point of view, all of these resources are important. I'm not a label, so for my artists the ringtones and merchandising are as important as the CD sales themselves.

Steve Dawson: a) Synch deals for film/TV are very valuable. When you can get them, they can provide a solid source of income. Some are small, but some can be significant.
b) Ringtones - I have no interest in those. I guess I'm ignoring a revenue stream there, but I find it kind of a repulsive way to sell music, speaking mostly as a music fan. I just don't like the idea of putting effort into something like a ringtone. I spend countless hours making records, and breaking it off into a ringtone seems ridiculous to me.
c) I've never had experience with games aside from playing guitar on one or two. We've never licensed music to a video game.d) Merchandising in the blues/roots field has always been a break-even endeavor. We never sell enough to profit, but it usually pays for itself and it's good promotion, so we get involved in it to a certain extent. But again, our focus is really on the music, so we don't put a lot of effort into the merch side - we let artists deal with it themselves.

Randy Chortkoff: HUGE!! As I said, it is increasing SLOWLY everyday.

Michael Frank: Synch deals for film are very important and a great way to make money for those who are patient. From the time a song or master recording is licensed, it can take over a year to get paid. Earwig and our artists do not get any significant revenue from ringtones, though all Earwig recordings are available through my digital distributors The Orchard and Bug Music, Inc. Game manufacturers seem to be interested in celebrity artists and hits. I am always interested in licensing and merchandising. I have over the years licensed tracks to other labels, and a few to films. I also sell all Honeyboy's CDs, books and DVDs by all labels, not just those done for Earwig Music. I also co-produced a documentary on Earwig and its recording artists, Six Generations of the Blues: From Mississippi to Chicago, and we are seeking to license it for worldwide television broadcast, theatrical release and DVD and CD sales. In this case, the documentary will incur significant licensing costs for synch licenses, but will hopefully also generate significant revenue after expenses, at least to break even and then some. Documentaries are very expensive to produce. 

More and more EPs are appearing on the Billboard top album charts, and many labels are trying that approach instead of releasing a full-length album once a year in order to maintain "buzz" and keep an artist's presence on the market. Does the EP strategy work in Blues/roots music?

Fred Litwin: No.

Betsie Brown: It works for the consumer, but it's still too early to tell if radio/media are ready for the EP in the blues world. In the roots world it is already being done.

Mark Carpentieri:  Not sure, haven't tried it.

Bruce Iglauer: Honestly, we haven't tried it. Traditional retailers aren't very interested in EPs. They want the larger profit margin from CDs. But at the same time, there is intense pressure from retail on the labels to give them prices so they can sell CDs in the stores for $10. This is really pretty much impossible, considering the costs of recording, paying the artists, paying the song publishers, manufacturing, advertising, promoting, publicizing and giving the distributor their sales percentage. Actually, if the price of CDs were 'fair' (based on the price of an LP in 1965) they'd sell for about $40. Pretty much the only things that haven't gone up at this rate are CDs and movie tickets. But movies have multiple income streams — theatrical, DVD sales, rentals, premium TV, commercial TV, etc. We have one income stream — sales of the music in either CD or download form.

Steve Dawson: It's a good idea in some cases, but I'm not interested in EP's, so we don't ever bother. The album format is still viable.

Richard Chalk: This is the traditional means of "breaking" a new artist or song, but blues fans seem to want the whole CD so as to experience and enjoy the artist's full range of music and talent.

Jerry Del Guidice: We haven't been doing EP's, but we are talking about doing some 45's. We also started doing select titles as vinyl LP's again.  That's been fun.

Joe Morabia: The EP strategy could definitely work, as an artist always has to have a new product to promote. A lot of artists make the mistake of waiting too long in between releases.

Mark Pucci: As far as EPs go, I think blues is a more “artist” and album driven genre, as opposed to pop/rock music, which has always been driven by singles or EPs. That was the case years ago with 45 rpm singles, before albums became the catalyst to help launch artists into much longer-lasting careers. Depending upon an artist’s timing and situation, though, sometimes a single or EP could work to bridge the gap between album releases.

Phil Gates: Does the EP strategy work in blues/roots music? I think it can, labels have been using slow release models for years. I might be wrong, but I think the blues audience is more the "whole CD" type than the single song type, but the EP might be a good lead in.

Robert Fitzpatrick: Blues is not a single driven format. The entire market is an artist driven one. It's not like the pop field where it's hit driven.

Scott Billington: EPs sold from a band website can be a good idea. The Billboard charts have very little to do with what a roots music band might offer to fans.

Thomas Ruf: Well, it's a strategy that works for some. Basically, the music industry is going back to the era of the pre-mid 1960's, when labels mostly produced singles and it was all about getting airplay. Later on, acts developed profiles as album artists — sometimes without having any radio hit singles. This is still the main concept for touring blues artists today: you make a new album; tour for two years to push the album until it runs out, then make a new album and continue the album release  and touring routine.

The younger generation that consumes music on iPods and computers and doesn't own a stereo system or CD/LP collection mainly downloads single tracks, not entire albums.

That's why labels in the pop field generally start carefully with a new band, by only producing a couple of tracks rather than an album, to see how it does. The label checks how the band develops a fan base before they invest into an entire album.

As long as there is a consumer interest in the concept of an album, there will be albums. If a younger generation does not rediscover the album format as an artist's concept worth owning and identifying with, it will go away.

Michael Frank: I think it could, although for a small label or independent artist without a label, the cost can be high, unless they burn the eps themselves. I think a monthly or weekly email and regular mail newsletter is a better approach, than doing an EP.

Here's a question about live shows, which is the main source of income for Blues artists. The jam band ethos — which was covered in a special issue in Billboard Magazine in August, 2009 — has always been based on touring hard, making money on merchandise... and letting fans tape shows. Billboard raised the question if this is the future success model for other genres as well. What do you think?

Mark Pucci: As someone who did a lot of publicity work with the jam band audience when I was the VP of Publicity at Capricorn Records in the ‘90s, and worked with bands such as Widespread Panic, that type of marketing and promotion was a huge factor in making Panic the big success it’s become.  And because blues music has an honest and real quality to it that jam band music does – many of the bands and their music are rooted in blues – I think it could work very well in being applied to a blues marketing and promotion campaign.

Bruce Iglauer: This ethos has worked for some jam bands. Some allow live taping, some don't. We totally object to it, as the blues artists don't make so much on their live gigs that they can forget about making additional money on CDs. If the audience records, they don't buy CDs. As far as merch, most (not all) blues artists sell CDs at gigs, and this represents an important part of their touring income. The CD sales can pay for the rooms for the night, or the repair of the van, or next month's rent. Now, more than ever, the fans can't find the CDs in the store and the gig is often the only place other than Amazon or the label website where the music is easily available.

Richard Chalk: CD sales at shows are very important. Merch sales are much less important. Allowing fans to tape/video/distribute live shows for free (usually ending up on YouTube), although good promotion, it doesn't generate sales revenue. However, this is difficult/impossible to  stop, so 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!'

Joe Morabia: Touring is really the main way to sell product. An artist can make a considerable amount of money from CD sales and merchandise, many times even more than the gig pays itself.

Scott Billington: Touring and building a fan base must be the primary focus of any blues artist. If people keep coming back, then merchandise, CDs, etc. make sense.

Fred Litwin: It is now essential for blues artists to sell as much merch as possible...

Thomas Ruf: I am surprised that so many people have this perception that jam bands are something unique. All of our blues artists make a living on touring, and they all must utilize the sales opportunity of their concert appearance by selling CDs, t-shirts and other merch.

Michael Frank: It is nearly impossible to stop fans in the audience from taping shows, even if they are asked or told they do not have permission from the artist, as evidenced by all the recordings on YouTube. Earwig artists for the most part are opposed to allowing taping for free. 

How lucrative is merch as an income source for Blues acts? What else can you sell in that area besides CDs and t-shirts?

Mark Pucci: Merchandising, if done properly, can be a bigger income generator than album sales for bands that tour a lot and develop the right products for sale at gigs.

Steve Dawson: It's lucrative, for sure, but we mostly leave that up to our bands. I think if you're touring a lot, it makes a lot of sense. If you're just doing local shows or touring in small amounts, it's not going to make much difference.

Phil Gates: Merch is only as good as the people selling it. It's Sales 101 at that point. The idea is to be creative. Place in the booth whatever you think can sell. Whatever sells, stays. What doesn't sell goes. Just like a dept store.

Joe Morabia: Besides CDs and t-shirts, you can sell caps and posters, etc. But you need to invest in all that, and that is not something many artists can do.

Richard Chalk: Novelty items: shot glasses, panties with the artist's or band's logo, etc. Very small volume though.

Thomas Ruf: Blues artists mostly sell CDs and t-shirts. There are very few other items that are of interest to the fans. Merchandise sales are a substantial addition to any artist's yearly income.

Bruce Iglauer: A few artists carry T-shirts or other merchandise, but as most blues artists are playing clubs with a few hundred people or less, investing in these things can be a risk. If you print t-shirts in bulk to save costs, it may take you many months to sell them. If you print less, the price goes up. The labels invest in the CDs, so it's easiest for an artist to sell them, rather than manufacture his own merchandise. I think that many of your readers would be surprised at the prices that blues artists command, and how difficult it is to survive financially playing the blues. To invest in merchandise, first you need the money to do so.

Randy Chortkoff: It's all about touring and trying to cross over to different audiences. Selling any kind of product at live shows is a great way to make money for the artists and keep the labels open. The problem is... some artists are so desperate and broke that they spend the label's or investor's money to support their gas, food or rent, etc., etc. This creates a situation where the labels or investors will not front any more product. It's a Catch-22. The artist must always remember... the profit belongs to them, but the cost of the product belongs to someone else. Artists starting out have to realize that spending what they owe the provider is cutting their own future supply and is comparable to stealing. Being a musician (as I have been), is a huge sacrifice but well worth the pain!!

Michael Frank: I sell books and dvds, and some artists sell ballcaps, pins, stickers, posters, photos. I sell whatever I can carry in my car or on an airplane in a suitcase, or that is not too prohibitively expensive to ship ahead, and to have to ship back if it does not sell on tour.

Selling CDs, DVDs, t-shirts or anything else that a fan will buy, is absolutely essential for any musical performer, local or touring. Labels now need their recording artists to buy CDs form the label, for resale, due to the vast numbers of stores which have gone out of business, that fans used to buy from. For touring artists, gig sales can make the difference between a profit, breaking even or losing money on any given night and on a whole tour. For musicians to do well on gig sales, it is absolutely essential that they stay after the gig as long as possible to sign autographs for fans who buy and for those who do not, and to get at least the name and email address of everyone whom they encounter while on their gigs, and add them to a mailing list, which they need to keep current by regular follow up with those fans.

And here's our last question: what marketing trends for Blues acts do you see happening in 2010?

Richard Chalk: More growth in digital downloads and blogs via the Internet. Continuing decline in physical CD sales volume. Now that the Grammys finally have recognized the blues as a major music genre and have established a separate blues category, hopefully this will result in growth of the blues market and increasing sales volume.

Phil Gates: It's all about getting the blues to more fans. The artists and labels have to stay on top of evolving technologies in audio and video. I also think the fans will have a bigger say, as disposable incomes shrink. So we need to listen to the fans, continually query them about how they like to listen to music, where, how, when, why, and make our products more available to how the blues community will see it as a simple, cost effective way to connect to the continually growing list of blues artists.

Joe Morabia: I don't really see any new marketing trends in 2010 that weren't done in 2009, but again, it is rather early in the year.

Mark Carpentieri:  Trying to work social marketing as best as you can.

Fred Litwin: More reliance on gigs to sell CDs and merch.

Thomas Ruf: The ways of doing business and promoting a career are changing all the time, but in essence I do not see much difference to what it takes to be successful.

Those who work hard, have long term goals, and are willing to pay the price without moaning about it — those who are in it for the right reasons and do not hold on to false illusions will find a place to perform their music and make a living. How large or how small their success will be depends on many factors, but in essence anybody who has real talent, real charisma and a kind personality, who utilizes it all well and works hard, will find an audience and appreciation.

Betsie Brown: Using all the tools effectively and efficiently. Working it day in day out. There's no shortcut for most of us. And don't get caught up in hype or the short-term fix. Have a plan.

Steve Dawson: I think web marketing will start to take over way more than print marketing. It's more affordable, and seems to be more effective these days.

Jerry Del Guidice: Blind Pig Records stays focused on the music and the people that make that music. The music should always speak for itself first and foremost. Good music is its own reward. Whatever shape the music business takes, and whatever trends develop, they will be developed by independent labels.  That's been the case throughout the history of the business, and I don't think that will change.

Mark Pucci: I think things will continue to develop as they have, with more downloads and an increase in ways to deliver music to existing and potential customers. For my money, however, there’s no substitute for hearing an artist performing live. Blues has – and will always be – best experienced in a performance situation, where fans can also enjoy the company of others who enjoy the same music. Blues is visceral; it’s a feeling unlike any other music that’s been done, or will ever be done, in my opinion. That’s what’s always made it so special to me.

Robert Fitzpatrick: As for marketing trends, I believe it is more imperative than ever for labels and artists to focus on touring and live performances.  This where the artist makes the connections with his fans and new audiences and gains acceptance, and in some instances, crosses over in to multiple markets.

Bruce Iglauer: We continue to base a great deal of our marketing around live performances. Almost all of our artists gig year around, and we create publicity and resulting sales around those gigs. We publicize every single artist appearance, with two full time publicists on staff, and two full time radio promotional people setting up interviews, in-station appearances, whatever they can.

We continue to depend a great deal on non-commercial radio. It would be incredible if there were a national NPR blues show, like there is on CBC in Canada, but it doesn't exist. We'll try to follow up on every new technology tool that comes along. For example, we're working with Pandora, last.FM and Spotify, the streaming services. They are very cool for the fans, but they pay so little for using the music that we can't count on them for anything except exposure.

The future may be in music 'rental' rather than ownership--basically streaming on demand. But if that's the case, someone is going to have to figure out how to glean enough money from that to pay the cost of making and promoting new records.

Frankly, I'm very anxious for the future of the recording business, and not at all sure that most of the blues artists can survive and have careers without the support of the labels. It's relatively easy to make a record these days; almost every "weekend warrior" band is doing it. But taking the steps for the public and the potential audience to discover and embrace the music requires a huge amount of effort and expense.

Commercial radio and major media isn't going to pay attention to someone with a self-released record. Also, do-it-yourself artists aren't necessarily do-it-yourself publicists, or distributors. And traditionally blues artists are people with very little in the way of financial resources. So, they must depend on folks who can invest in their careers. Mostly, that means labels. And because the blues market is very small (perhaps 1% or less of the music sold in the USA), no one with big money is likely to invest in making a blues recording or managing a blues artist, because the chance for any major financial return is so slim. It's a really, really tough business, both being a blues artist and being a blues-centered record label.

We hear all the time that 'the blues will never die', but no one says that about rock, or hip hop, or classical, or many other forms of music, because they aren't in peril. The blues is. For blues to have a future, we need younger fans, we need the loyalty of older ones, and we need blues to continue to evolve so that it is relevant to a new audience. The existing blues audience hasn't been very hospitable to artists trying to push the blues envelope and widen the definition of blues, even if some of the critics have. The reality for all traditional music is that it must evolve or become a museum piece. That includes evolving musically, and evolving in the way the music is exposed to the public. So, new technology must be embraced, as long as it treats the musicians and the songwriters, and their patrons (the labels and the song publishers) fairly.

Michael Frank: I do not know what trends will be happening, but I know that I will not be waiting for customers to find Earwig artists and recordings. I will also be looking to diversify the Earwig mail order catalog by adding CDs from other compatible labels. I will be much more proactive in direct marketing on a more frequent basis and in many more ways than previously. One trend I would like to see but do not expect, is that festival talent buyers become more proactive in booking acts from more sources than just a few well-known booking agencies. I expect that labels will want their artists to get up to speed in the use of social media for promotion, in collaboration with the labels.

Nikki O’Neill is a singer, songwriter and guitar player in Los Angeles. She fronts the Nikki O’Neill Band – a soul, r&b and rock band. She's included in Sue Foley’s upcoming book “Guitar Woman,” featuring a who’s-who list of great players like Bonnie Raitt, Ana Popovic, Me’shell Ndegeocello, Jennifer Batten, and more.

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