Blog Contest Week 2 - Your Perfect Pitch

As promised in my previous entry for this contest, here's an update on my progress for the goals I outlined in Week 1. It was a bit of a struggle for me with the "Daily 5" this past week. One reason was because it was Christmas, but the bigger reason was because of the situation with our cat. The short version is our cat had been declining in health over the last few weeks and this week ended up being his last. My concern was more for making him comfortable and knowing that he was loved than it was for my own goals. Next week though, I think the goals will be a good distraction to help keep my mind off of missing my little buddy.

I was able to make some progress towards the re-design of my web site. And since Week 3 is about optimizing your site, I'm actually planning on having that goal completed by then. But for now, let's get started with Week 2 - Your Perfect Pitch.

The point of this chapter is to really help you maximize your online and offline branding, to create your own Unique Selling Point, to create something that will give your potential audience a context about you. I remember back a few years ago when I was trying to do the band thing, trying to explain to people what we sounded like. We said the typical "we sound like us" statements that so many artists say. We didn't want to be pigeon-holed into sounding like someone else. We didn't want people to think we sounded like other bands, we wanted them to think we sounded like us! Looking back at it, how foolish we were.

Humans like context. We like reference points. We like what we know. And back to my old band for a second. People are going to think what they want to. I wonder how much more effective we could have been had we had a more clearly defined strategy in place, if we would have had our "Perfect Pitch". No point in wasting time on "what if's" at this point so moving forward...

The book gives some examples of some of Ariel's client's pitches to help us get a jump start on the process. Then there was an exercise to fill out. The first part was to list out the genres that you typically play, which for me was Rock, Metal, Hard Rock, Pop-Punk and Alternative. Next was to write down all the artists that people say I sounded like. My list included the following: Sevendust, Slipknot, Foo Fighters, Breaking Benjamin, Daughtry, Nickelback, Metallica, Pantera, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

Next was to make a list of artists (and authors or famous people) that have influenced me. I pretty much stayed with just artists and the list included Sevendust, Mark Tremonti, Foo Fighters, Paul Gilbert, Dream Theater, and Joe Satriani. The next step was to come up with a list of feelings and vibes that I want my music to convey. The list consisted of the following: intense, emotional, anger, sadness, rage, joy, melancholy, powerful, epic, melodic, brutal and rhythmic

The next part of the process was to go back over the first steps and choose my favorites and from there, create a few words or sentences that sum me up. I chose the following as my favorites: Sevendust, Foo Fighters, Joe Satriani, intense, powerful, melodic

Now it was time to write out my pitch. And to help test it out, it was suggested we log on to I created a profile there and walked through the wizard that the site had for creating your 15 second pitch. Another term I've heard used to describe this is the "elevator pitch." Heard that term at least a dozen or so times at the TAXI Road Rally. So after going through the wizard to create your pitch, you're then shown the pitch and given a timer so you can test it out.

My first effort, which used the wizard, ended up taking me about 22 seconds to say, and it didn't feel natural. The site is geared towards businesses, and while being a musician is a business, the wizard seemed like a fill-in-the-blank kind of process. I'm sure for other people it probably worked wonders, but for me, it just didn't seem to be a good fit. But one thing it did help me realize was what NOT to do :-)

I continued to use the site and edit my pitch on the profile page I created, skipping the wizard altogether. Then I would use the timer function to see how long it was taking. After a few attempts, I finally came up with something that I felt good about. Something that I felt I could stand behind. Something that was 100% me. And just what is my Perfect Pitch? Let me tell you...

Imagine a steel cage match between Sevendust and The Foo Fighters with Joe Satriani as the referee.

The next step was to start implementing this pitch on my online and offline branding, starting with my web site's home page, myspace page, facebook page and any other social networking sites I use. Since I'm a non-performing artist, I don't really have a lot of offline branding that I'm doing, so I don't really have anything to focus on there but I have added it to my myspace profile, facebook fan page, twitter account and my web site.

Coming up for next week is Chapter 3 - Optimizing your website. The plan is for me to have my new site all finished and rolled out at the time that I post the blog for Chapter 3, probably a week from today. Actually, let's make that a definite. One week from tonight I will post the review of Chapter 3 and will go live with my updated web site. Now I gotta start planning out my Daily 5 to make sure I get it done!

Until next time...

The end of an era

Yesterday, December 29th, 2009, was without a doubt one of the saddest days of my life. It was the day that we had to put our cat, Grey, to sleep. He was more than just a pet. He was family. He was my little buddy. He was one of my best friends. And he was the most un-cat like cat I've ever personally known.

Had he made it another 2 months, he would have been 20 years old. So, while I'm grieving pretty hard for him right now, I know that he was blessed with a long and happy life. Rather... we were the blessed ones to have been given the gift of taking care of him while he was here on this earth the last 19+ years.

For those of you who never met Grey, let me tell you his story...

Our adventure begins back in March of 1990 in Reynoldsburg, OH. One day while walking outside my future wife heard a faint squeaky sad "meow" type sound out in the distance. She walked down towards a field beside her house that was filled with waist-high weeds and also close to the highway. As she got closer to the field, out popped a little grey kitten.

The cutest little kitten she ever saw, with a silvery grey coat of fur and giant ears, about two sizes TOO big for his head. She reached down and picked him up and began to pet on him (she did this to any cat she came across). He let her love on him and began to purr. But when she turned to take him to the house, he jumped out of her arms and went running back into the field, letting out little squeaky "meow's" the entire time, so she followed him in. He even stopped a couple of times to make sure she was still following him.

He led her to a plastic bag like you'd find at Kroger or Wal-mart. The bag was tied in a knot but she noticed that there was a big rip in the side of the bag. The kitten started poking his head inside so she looked inside the bag as well. Inside she found another little kitten, a tabby, that appeared to be the same age as the grey kitten, about six weeks old. It was shivering and looked terrified. She pulled the kitten out of the bag and then grabbed the little grey one and took them both home. Her mom adopted the tabby and she kept the little grey kitten for her own. And she had him ever since. What a sweet little cat he was to make sure that his sister was found too! And how horrible it was for someone to tie two kittens up in a bag and throw them off the side of the road! But our little grey was a fighter, a hero. He wasn't going to let his sister die in that bag.

A few years later, my future mother-in-law was emptying the groceries out of the car. She left a car door open and Grey, ever the curious cat, decided he wanted to go for a ride. Just as he was leaping inside, my mother-in-law started to shut the door. She didn't see him trying to get in and she shut the door on him. Fortunately, no ribs were broken, but it did result in him getting a very distinctive "purring" sound, much louder than typical cats. After that incident, he hated to be in a car and would meow his little head off anytime he was in one. It also made him snore at times, kind of a cute little wheezing sound. I miss that sound already.

The first six years of his life he was forced to be an outdoor cat by my mother-in-law even though he often demonstrated signs that he wanted to be inside with the people instead of being outside and alone, such as darting inside the moment a door opened and once inside, hiding so he wouldn't have to go back outside. So six months after my wife and I got married in '96, we brought him home to live with us as an indoor cat where he was well fed, spoiled and pampered until the end of his days.

One of the funniest memories of Grey I have is from the second year we had him when we lived in Nicholasville, KY. He loved to chew on our shoe strings. Well one day he was chewing on the shoe strings of my wife's winter boots. He got startled and the next thing you know he started to take off running down the hall. The one thing he forgot to do was let go of the shoe string. So as he went sprinting down the hall, he had one of her boots in tow right behind him, kicking him in the backside, which only made him more run faster and kept the whole process going. My wife chased after him the entire time, trying to get the boot string out of his mouth. I, however, was crying from laughing so hard at the sight of this poor little cat being chased by the boot. lol.

He ran down the hall. Took a left into the bedroom. Jumped on the bed. Ran ON THE WALLS around the room (just like in the cartoons, I kid you not) back out to the hallway. Down the hall again. Hard left into the dining room. Another hard left into the kitchen until he finally stopped in front of the fridge. He opened his mouth to breathe and the shoe string fell out. He proceeded to wedge himself in between the wall and the fridge (I still don't know how he fit) and let out some of the saddest little "meows" he could ever whimper. We finally got him to come out and we never saw him chew on the shoe strings again! lol

There are so many stories about Grey that I could share, from him climbing into the back of the open dishwasher with it fully loaded, to announcing to us that it was time for him to go to the litter box, or hearing us turn on the TV in the bedroom and then seeing him sprint into the room where he'd jump up on the bed and proceed to crawl onto my chest and just plop down so that I could love on him. But there's one other memory that I'll always treasure.

This past year my little buddy decided that he wanted to become my assistant engineer in the studio. I thought I'd give him a shot since I didn't really have anyone else there to do the job. But he wouldn't run any cables for me. He wouldn't turn on the lights. Pretty much he only did two things. The first thing he would do was wait until I had to record acoustic guitar parts and then proceed to act as if he was on Feline Idol or something. Maybe he thought we would become a singer-songwriter duo and take our act on the road.

But the other thing he did was just so precious to me. He would come into the studio, whether I had a guitar in my hands or not, didn't matter what I was doing, and he would proceed to walk right over to the edge of my chair. He would then look up at me with those big eyes of his (imagine the scene from Shrek 2 with Puss 'N Boots), then proceed to put both of his front paws on my leg (or the front of the chair), and try to climb up on me, even though at this point, he really wasn't able to. So I'd pick him up and then he'd perch himself on me, both front paws dangling over my left shoulder, like he's trying to knead some dough, while I rub his belly and he rubs his head against my cheek, letting out that big ole "purr" sound of his the entire time, which was probably anywhere from 15-30 minutes at a time.

Earlier this year, we noticed that Grey had really started to lose weight, even though he was eating more than he ever had. We took him to the vet and he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. He had some medication that we had to give him each day, but over the last couple of months, the medicine just wasn't working anymore. Last week we took him to the vet for a check up because he just wouldn't eat or drink. For the past week, we had to double up his medication but it didn't make a difference.

Yesterday, I called the vet to give him the latest update. I dreaded making that call because I knew what was going to happen next. So after giving the vet the latest info, he told me what I was dreading to hear, but knew was coming, that it was time to bring Grey in and have him put to sleep. The moment I hung up the phone the tears began to flow. I had been trying to hold it in for the past week and just couldn't do it any longer.

So yesterday afternoon, about 24 hours ago, we put our little buddy to sleep. Remember how I mentioned that he hated cars and would always let us know about it by meowing his little head off? Well, yesterday when we took him to the vet, for the entire duration of the ride over there, he never made a sound. We stayed with him throughout the entire process. It was hard to let him go, but we know we did the right thing. Doesn't make it easier, that's for sure, but we know that we did all we could do for him and that his time with us was done.

After he was given his sedative, in typical Grey fashion, he proceeded to walk over to the scale that he would get weighed on and cozied up for his final nap. He loved to sit on things, whether it was a book you were reading or a notepad you were writing on. He liked to sit on it and claim it as his 0wn. I believe that he thought our house was his and that he thought he was being gracious by allowing us to live here and take care of him.

Earlier today we buried Grey in our backyard. We bought a black wicker box to put him in, one that he probably would have tried to crawl inside of and take up residence in if he were still alive, especially if we needed it for something else. As if saying goodbye to him wasn't hard enough, trying to get the hole dug, proved to be a challenge as well. Between breaking my first shovel, the ground being more mud than dirt, constantly running into tree roots or underground tubing that the previous homeowner had installed to help drain water away from the house, I thought I'd never be able to get it done. But I finally did and we were able to lay him to rest.

In the words of the famous professional wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart. When it comes to Grey... he's the best there ever was, the best there ever is, and the best there ever will be.

I love you little buddy.

Blog Contest Week 1 - Getting Mentally Prepared

As I mentioned in my last entry, I've entered myself into a blogging contest for Ariel Hyatt's book Music Success In Nine Weeks. I'll be doing a total of nine entries, one for each chapter, over the next nine weeks.

The first week is about "Getting Mentally Prepared." One of the things that Ariel talks about in this chapter to help get you mentally prepared is the concept of setting goals, both short term (daily) and long term (year from now, lifetime).

I'll be honest. This chapter has been a bit of a challenge for me, mostly because it's forcing me to "dream" a bit. Let me explain that a bit.

I joined a company called TAXI in January of 2008 with a long term goal of getting some of my music placed in film and television. Well, honestly, when I first joined, I was hoping that it would be a "short" term goal, but I quickly learned that, for the most part, the music business, especially film and TV, is a very slow moving process.

Back to that goal... I spent the first year really learning the ropes so to speak. Figuring out how to improve my recording and production skills. Then this past year, all of the blood, sweat and tears that I had been putting in started to pay off. My songs started getting signed to different music libraries. I had some placements on MTV. I scored the music for part of an indie documentary film. I landed a spot as a composer for a daytime talk show. And most recently signed an exclusive deal with a publisher overseas. And while all of those things were part of my "generic" goals, none of them were things that I would have written down as specific goals (with the possible exception of MTV).

Which brings me back to the book. Part of the "homework" in this book involves writing down five successes that we hope to accomplish each day, but not all of them will be music related. They can be something as simple as doing laundry to something a bit more involved like composing an orchestral piece. The key is to get in the habit of doing something positive each day and not to focus on the negative.

I'm a pretty even-keeled person, so not focusing on the negative isn't really that much of a challenge for me. But one thing that I think I'll benefit from by doing "The Daily 5" will be to help me keep a bit of balance in my life. When I put my mind to something, I go for it at maximum velocity with every bit of energy that I've got. And while that can definitely be a good thing, it also means that sometimes I might neglect other aspects of my life that need tending to. When I got focused on something, I just block out any distractions that might get in the way, whether they're an actual "distraction" or not because I am focused on the end result, and I'm too stubborn (thanks Granddad!) to quit or give up.

The next section of the chapter deals with setting some actual Goals, and not just strictly music related goals, but also goals for your life in general, some of which are for the upcoming year, and some are for your entire lifetime. While I won't bore you with my "Daily 5" lists, I will however, present some of my music goals for your reading enjoyment. If, for no other reason, then to have them there for accountability. So with no more adieu and no further gilding of the lily, I present you Big Blue's Six Music Goals for 2010, Edition 1:
  1. Choose a distribution model for my music (ReverbNation, CD Baby, Tunecore, etc...) by Jan 15, 2010
  2. Integrate, streamline and improve my online presence (web site, myspace, twitter, facebook) by Feb 1, 2010
  3. Organize my existing catalog into "albums" and make them available for purchase by April 1, 2010
  4. Re-design my web site by May 1, 2010
  5. Write a minimum of 50 new instrumental tracks and get them all signed to a music library by November 1, 2010
  6. Spend an hour each week adding quality friends/fans to twitter/myspace/facebook
It's recommended that your Daily 5 include tasks that will help you work towards achieving your goals. By doing something every day, no matter how large or small, you're at least making progress towards achieving the success that you're hoping for. Every little bit helps.

I'll be sure to include an update on my progress when I post the entry for the next chapter. And for those of you that know me, you won't be surprised to hear that a "lifetime" goal is to have one of my tracks used during the broadcast of a Kentucky basketball game (or highlight package) on ESPN or CBS. That, quite honestly, would be a dream come true.

Well, that's all for this week. I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and I'll be back soon with my report on Chapter 2!

Until next time,
- Big Blue

Music Success In Nine Weeks Blog Challenge

Earlier last week I got an email from Ariel Hyatt talking about a blogging contest that she was going to be doing in regards to her book, Music Success In Nine Weeks. I wanted to take her class at the TAXI Road Rally last month but it was up against another session that I also wanted to see so I didn't get to take it. But, as it turned out, I had a chance to meet her during one of the lunches while I was there.

When I first got the email I really wasn't sure if I wanted to do the contest or not. There were basically two reasons for my indecision. The first reason was that I'm not trying to do the traditional artist route anymore. And though I knew that the book was not strictly for the traditional artist, I still wasn't sure just how much of a benefit it would be for me. The second reason was simply this... time. By doing the contest, I knew that it would be taking up quite a bit of time. And at the moment, time is not necessarily a commodity that I have loads of currency in at the moment. And as much as I'd like to, I seem to have difficulty in maintaining an active blog.

But the more I thought about it, and the more feedback I got from some friends of mine (some of which are also going to be doing it), the more I decided that it was probably an investment worth making so I got the book earlier this week and plan on starting it this weekend.

Over the next several weeks I will be posting a blog entry about each chapter of the book and what I learned, what I struggled with, etc...

I know it's going to be a lot of work, but I'm looking forward to the challenge!

- Barry

BBB Receives Exclusive Album Offer

I'm very excited to announce that I just received an offer for an exclusive publishing deal with a company based in London, England called Music Candy. Initially it's a one album agreement for an instrumental hard rock album featuring big drums, crunchy guitars and dirty synth's with catchy and memorable hooks.

The tentative release date is set for March 2010 with the album being available for film and tv licensing placements worldwide. I'll post more info about it as it becomes available.

Until next time...
- Big Blue

Back home from the TAXI Road Rally, Part 4

Day Six

After getting about 3 hours of sleep, I woke up in time to make it to the Film & TV Pitch panel. As was the case with the other panels I went to, I heard some really good stuff, maybe one that was great, and a few that were just ok. I, along with the rest of the members from the panel I was on, received a nice compliment during this panel. One of the panelists commented on how many of the mixes seemed to be a bit bass-heavy. When he listened to songs on Friday, at first, he thought it was the sound system. But on this day, he said that he didn't think that was the case because he had sit in on the TAXI members panel session that I was on the day before and said that every single mix he heard in that class was clean and clear. That made me smile :-)

After that panel finished up I decided to do some networking and hang out with some friends and "family." I enjoyed some nice conversation time with Dean K., Mazz and one of my newest friends, Jeanna (who's trying to get me to switch to a Mac and Logic Pro... we'll see...). Next thing you know, it's lunch time.

A group of us decided to have lunch at the hotel restaurant. One of those happened to be my buddy Devin. As we were having lunch, Devin said he had a story for me. The story concludes with him giving me a gift. An official replica of the Canadian national team hockey jersey. Again, another humbling moment for me. Being a sports fan, I know the passion that goes with following one's team (by the way, college basketball is now officially underway... C-A-T-S! CATS! CATS! CATS! Go Big Blue!) so I can appreciate the depth of this gift. I've already thanked him in person, but I'll say it again. Thank you Devin, love you man!

While I was at lunch, a gentleman that was sitting behind us said hello and told me that next year, he wanted to be me. I spent a few minutes talking with him to find out that he used to play in some bands in the 70's and 80's. Though the name of the band escapes me, it was one that I was very familiar with. Once again, another humbling experience.

After finishing up lunch, it was time to head upstairs for the TAXI 5 Year Plan class that was being taught by Matt Hirt, Dave Walton and John Mazzei. All three of them are TAXI members, at different stages of their career, but all successful, and all very generous and approachable. I got a lot out of the class and it really helped to answer some questions I had.

The last panel was the Producers looking for Crushing Gray, I mean... looking for Hits panel :-) As was the case with all the other panels, some pretty good stuff but nothing that I would have taken out a 2nd mortgage on my house for. Just being honest. There was one track that was REALLY good, but the chorus just wasn't there.

After that panel wrapped up, a large group of us had dinner at the hotel. Had some great food and great conversations, one of which included many references to Lord of the Rings and Samwise Gamgee. I also had a chance to meet some more new friends, Jeffrey and Theresa (hope I'm spelling their names right) that night. And then came the process of having to say goodbye.

Some of us where staying around till the morning but leaving on an early flight, while others were leaving on a red-eye flight that night. It was really hard to say goodbye to a few folks as many of these friends are as close as family. It really is difficult to put into words just how close so many of us have become.

As surprising as this may seem, I'm sure that I'm leaving out some great stories (I can already think of some that involve David Trotter, Sherrill Blackman, Fett and Michael Laskow). To all of the people that I may have left out, it was not intentional. As you can see, there was quite a bit going on. I'm already going through Rally Withdrawal and can't wait to see everyone again.

I guess I'm going to wrap this up for now. I'm planning on posting some more thoughts about some of the things I learned while I was at the Rally in a day or two.

So there you have it... TAXI Road Rally 2009 through a pair of blue-tinted glasses :-)

Love you all!

Back home from the TAXI Road Rally, Part 3

Day Five

This was the day that I was a panelist during the first session, which was on writing songs and composing instrumentals for film and TV. I was a bit nervous at first but as the rest of the panel members showed up, the nerves started to leave. There were only two members on the panel that I hadn't met before, so it was very much a "family" type of feeling being up there on stage with them.

One by one, we were called to sit in the chair at the front of the stage with Michael Laskow as he moderated the panel. Each member would give a description of the song that they were going to play and then after the clip was done, they would be asked a question by Michael.

When it came my turn, Michael introduced me as "Barry French, but better known as Big Blue Barry." I couldn't help but smile. But before he had me introduce my clip, he said he wanted to share a story. He proceeded to tell the crowd about how we had met about 18 months ago in Nashville during a seminar he put on there. Then at last year's Rally, we had done a video interview, during which I was giving him a bit of history on my musical career. At one point I had told him that my wife and I had went through a rough patch several years back and that I gave up music to focus on healing my marriage. I got pretty choked up and they didn't know whether to hug me or stop filming. I eventually got my composure back and told them that several years later, with my wife's blessing, I got back into music and was going to work my tail off to not let her down and show her that her support was going to be worthwhile.

As he was telling this story, I couldn't help but to think back to that night he was talking about and I started to get a bit choked up. I kept telling myself "Pull yourself together man!!!" While I may look like a grizzly bear on the outside, I'm more of a teddy bear on the inside. Well, what happened next was completely unexpected.

As he's wrapping up the story, he says something to the effect of "Barry, you've been an inspiration to all of us here over the past year and we'd like to present you with 2009 TAXI Road Rally Inspiration Award." I was completely overwhelmed and I couldn't stop the tears from flowing at that point. I was in a state of shock from it all. So after the camera man finished snapping pictures, tears and all, Michael then asked me to describe my clip. Needless to say, it took me a few moments to regain my composure.

Once I got the tears wiped away and took a deep breath, I tried to explain the next clip that the audience was about to hear. Basically, I was trying to convey a couple of things. One of them was pay attention to the "listing." Even though the clip wasn't written for a TAXI listing, the process was very similar. The other concept I hoped to get across was to not spend too much time "tweaking" things. While you want to make sure you get the track to sound great, there comes a point where you just have to stop tweaking things and move on so that you can get it done. This is really more towards the film and TV market than it is making an artist's album. The one phrase I meant to say was being able to determine the point of diminishing returns, but I was so completely caught off guard by the award, that I forgot to say it. Hopefully, I was still able to get the point across.

After I sat down, the next person up was John Mazzei, better known as Mazz. He and I are both in a music library that composes for some popular daytime talk shows. As are most of the people that were on this panel, Mazz is truly one of the nicest and most helpful and generous guys you could ever meet. He's always giving of his time on the forums and is willing to share information with people to help them improve, not to mention, he's also one of the most ridiculously talented composers you'll ever meet. I really look up to Mazz and feel blessed to consider him a friend. So I was EXTREMELY happy to see him get presented with an award for all his contributions on the forums. He TOTALLY deserved it!

After the panel was over, I was met with several hugs and congratulatory remarks from people on the panel, as well as members of the audience. I had planned to watch the next seminar in the main ballroom but I ended up talking to several people outside in the hallway area instead. I can't even begin to describe how it felt to have people come up to me telling them how I had inspired them over the past year. It was one of the most humbling experiences.

Last year after I got back from the Rally, I had told my wife that I wanted to be a panelist one day. Maybe in three or four years from now, I wanted to be able to be up there on stage so that I could give back to the people what they gave to me last year. I had no idea that it would happen so quickly. THANK YOU Michael for giving me the opportunity this year.

I met so many people afterwards that either gave me a hug, shook my hand or simply said congrats that I can't remember them all. So, to all of them, I simply say "thank you" and I hope to continue to provide inspiration to you for years to come.

Up next was the mentor lunch. I was able to get a seat next to Ronan Chris Murphy, an audio engineer who's worked with tons of talented individuals over the years. I had lots of questions for him and I got lots of great info that I can't wait to start applying later this week! (Sidebar: I have 15 full-length tracks to complete in the next 30 days!)

I also had a chance to meet a record producer, the bass player for The Knack, Dan Kimpel (one of my favorites from last year too!) and Ariel Hyatt, a cyber PR specialist! I enjoyed them all, but one of the highlights for me was when the record producer asked us what the highlight of the Rally had been for us so far, one of my forum buddies Erich aka Teleblaster said "seeing Barry get the inspiration award." A couple of the others said that was their highlight as well, and I'd never even met them before. Again, it was just another, very humbling experience.

After that lunch I headed off to another listening panel, Major Label A&R. There were some good songs, but nothing really grabbed my attention. Admittedly, I'm kinda picky :-) The next panel was one about composing music for video games. LOTS of great info in this one! I look forward to the day when I have more time to focus on my composing skills as I would really like to do some composing for video games. One day!

After this panel, I went to dinner with the Pepper's and their friend Mary. We drove up to Manhattan Beach and ate at Pancho's then took a quick walk down to the beach and saw the ocean. I had such a great time with them. I wish they lived closer!

Got back to the hotel and did some more hanging in the lobby. I met some new people that night (Danny, his girlfriend Daneel(sp?), and also Rebekah aka Shorty). Danny and I talked about guitar mics and techniques. Thanks for the tips Danny! After talking to Rebekah about Master Release forms and other work-for-hire situations, I was about to call it night. But as I left, I ran into Ted (Australia) and he talked me into coming up to the 2nd floor and hanging out with him and some others for awhile. Ted told us about getting hustled while he was at the Venice area. Felt horrible for the guy, but I was glad that he was OK. It could have been much worse than it ended up being. Soon after that story, it was time to get some sleep. One more day left...

To be continued...

Back home from the TAXI Road Rally, Part 2

Day Three

After a few hours of sleep, I made my way back down to the lobby to see that more and more people had started showing up. I had a chance to meet some more forum members for the first time. I made a quick trip to Denny's for some breakfast then back to the hotel to get in line for registration.

While in line I had a chance to catch up with a few old friends, Ragani, Dean K., Dave Penn, Trent Oliphant and Mark Smith. What a great feeling it was to see them all again and be able to catch up with everything that's been going on in their lives. That's one of the best things about the Rally, the "family reunion" aspect of it. The friendships you make there are of the life-long kind. Seeing each other online and chatting via email or phone is one thing, but it is no substitute for the real thing.

After a few hours of standing in line, the registration process started on time and with the addition of the 2 extra workstations, the line moved fairly quickly. After signing in, I went over and signed up for the mentor of my choice. After that I headed into the bookstore area to catch up with one of my personal mentors, Fett. He has a studio in the Nashville area and has been so gracious with his time and knowledge with me. I feel blessed to be able to call him a friend, just a great guy.

After spending a bit of time with him, it was back to the lobby to catch up with some more friends, both old and new, as well as await for the arrival of the other half of Crushing Gray, Logan Rayne Pepper. It wasn't too long before he and his wife Karen showed up. After developing the friendship with Logan over this past year, I was also looking forward to spending some time with his wife as well.

I ended up hanging out in the lobby for the rest of the night and forgot to get dinner!!! It was just so great getting to see everyone, my hunger actually took a back seat that night. But don't worry, I made it up for the next day :-)

Day Four

The Pepper's and I took a trip to Denny's for some breakfast before the first session of the Rally actually started. Mmmmm... Denny's... Man oh man, how I wish we had a Denny's closer to here!

We headed back to the hotel and found our way to the main ballroom for the first session, an interview with hit country songwriter Jeffrey Steele. After a nice introduction by Jason Blume, Michael Laskow came out and gave a "brief" bio of Jeffrey's accomplishments. Amazing. The interview was great and Jeffrey really came across as a genuinely nice guy who feels blessed to be doing what he's doing.

I had never seen him before but my goodness, that guy can sing! He did a 20-minute concert for us at the end of the interview. Talk about powerful. He did a couple of songs on piano and a few more on guitar. For anyone who doesn't think a simple guitar/vocal or piano/vocal demo can "sell a song" then all they need to do is check out his performance from that morning. It left many people with chills on their arms and tears in their eyes. I'm not going to say if a certain tall, long-haired individual falls into that category or not :-)

The next panel was Broadcast Quality Demystified. They played some examples of tracks that were broadcast quality and some that were not. They then went around and grabbed some CD's from the audience to play. I wasn't able to stay around for the whole session as I had my one to one mentor session to go to.

My mentor session was with a music publishing guy. It didn't go quite as I had expected in my mind, but looking back on it, it was definitely helpful. It really confirmed some things that I knew I needed to do already. I didn't necessarily want to do them, but I knew that in the long run, for me to reach the goals that I have set for myself, it was something that I knew I was going to have to do.

Up next was the mentor lunch. There was a nice blend as far as the mentors went. I think there was at least one mentor that was able to connect with each member personally, myself included. In fact, as she was about to leave the table, she tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to email her later that night with some links to my music.

Up next was a listening panel for Film and TV music. None of my music was selected for this one either (a trend that continued throughout the weekend). It's always interesting to hear the songs that get picked in those panels. Most of them are pretty good, a few of them are REALLY good, an occasional great one, and then every once in a while, you get a dud. This year was no exception.

I decided to hang around for the next session in the ballroom as well. It was an A&R panel for World, Electronica, New Age, Jazz and Christian music. Of all the panels I sat in, this one was a bit painful. I'll try and be diplomatic about this and just say that as a musician, that happens to be a Christian, the majority of the submissions I heard for the Christian genre, made me want to hide my face and leave the room. I'll just leave it at that. Moving on...

I checked out the Advanced Record Production class for a little bit but had to make a phone call in the middle of it. Then after that session, I went back to the lobby and ran into some more friends I met last year (Debbie from Idaho) and some new friends (Tyler from Canada). A group of us went to Denny's for some dinner and had a great time, even if it took forever to get our refills and desert :-)

We headed back to the hotel and hung out in the lobby for awhile. I decided to call it an early night so I could take some time to prepare for the morning panel that I was going to be on. But later on, I did end up going back downstairs and hanging out some more. There's just so many people to see that you just hate to sleep, 'cause you don't want to miss anything.

One of the funnier moments was finding out that Ted (from Australia) has a dream of eating at an American KFC with someone from Kentucky :-) Unfortunately, there were no KFC's nearby, but if he comes back next year, we're going to try and make that dream come true. The reason it has to be an American one is because there is an apparent ban in Australia on one of the ingredients used in the chicken here in the States. There was also a discussion about the differences in KFC between the US and Canada. Logan and Karen were shocked to find out that we have all-you-can eat buffet KFC's here. Good times :-)

To be continued...

Back home from the TAXI Road Rally, Part 1

Incredible. Amazing. Shocking. Humbling. Familial. Loving. Giving. Educational... The list of words I could use to describe my TAXI Road Rally experience this year could go on for a long time. Words simply cannot describe the event. It is something that one truly has to experience for his or her self to be able to appreciate the depth and range of the event. TAXI CEO Michael Laskow is one of the most generous and caring persons I've ever met and he truly does want to see people succeed in this grueling and demanding business.

I'll go ahead and warn you now that this is going to be a series of very lengthy posts. Maybe it'll make up some for the lack of posting the previous months. And so without further gilding the lily and with no more ado, I give to you my recap of the 2009 TAXI Road Rally.

Day One

I arrived at the hotel on Tuesday night. I wanted to get there early this year. Last year was my fist trip ever to California and I stayed in the hotel the entire event other than one trip to Taco Bell on Sunday afternoon. So this year I wanted to be able to see a little bit of the city.

After checking in at the front desk, I made my way across the lobby and immediately saw three fellow members, Dave Walton, Christi Green and Martin Haene (my roomie for the week). Had a great time chatting with them for awhile. Dave and I went to Subway for some late night dinner and more great conversation about life and music. Really enjoyed hearing his stories about the Billboard conference he went to the previous week, especially about Bear McCreary and Glee.

Day Two

I spent most of the morning putting together the rest of my CD's. I would have put them together before the trip but let's just say that I ran into some technical difficulties with the printers. Argh! As I was working on them, I got a text from my friend Devin letting me know that he was now at the hotel. I've been wanting to meet him since April of last year. His friend Mark was with him and the three of us made a trip to Subway for some lunch and gear talk. Good times!

As the day progressed, more people started to arrive. It was so great to see so many familiar faces, some of which I hadn't seen in a year, others in a few months. Even though it had been a year since I had been there, it really felt like only a few days had passed (and I'm already looking forward to next year!).

During the afternoon and early evening we had a chance to see parts of a Jewish wedding that was going on in the hotel. It was very unique to say the least. While that was going on, I shared a pizza with my friend Christi. We did that last year and since this past year went so well, we thought we'd try it again :-)

As I mentioned earlier, I arrived early so that I could see some of the sights. So what better thing to do in LA than take in a rock show. One of my fellow TAXI members, JVB, was playing a show that night with her band, Pinkstar. One of my forum friends that I finally got to meet for the first time, Jeff Greenleaf, gave me a ride to the show in his Corvette. It was quite fun cruising around Beverly Hills with him in a 'vette.

We arrived at the venue and actually found a great parking spot across from the venue. We ran into JVB outside and got a chance to meet her guitarist Jim. We caught a few songs from the opening band, can't remember their name, but I think their guitarist might still be playing his solo... lol... you had to be there...

Pinkstar hit the stage and delivered a very high-energy show. The bass player had some technical difficulties with his rig but that didn't keep them from rocking the place. They were a very tight band and JVB definitely puts every ounce of energy she has into the show. Fun show! Jeff dropped me off back at the hotel and I was planning on just heading up to the room but ran into some friends in the lobby so I stuck around, and I'm glad I did.

I had a chance to meet Josh and Ted from Brisbane, Australia, which for those of you that don't know, is close to Sidney... lol... again, you had to be there... These two young lads were one of the highlights of the Rally for me. It was their first Rally and Ted's first trip to America. LOVED their accent. Just really had a great time hanging out and getting to know them. Josh (fellow Pro Tools user) and I traded CD's. I was VERY impressed with his production, great stuff!

Finally headed off to sleep around 2am I think. Had to get a little rest as the next day was registration day which meant standing in line for a while.

To be continued...

Quick update: Crushing Gray, TAXI Road Rally

It's been quite a while since I posted so I figured I should probably at least put out a quick update on what's been going on. The last several months have been filled with lots of music, work and excitement to say the least.

For starters, I've been going through some changes with the day job which initially I thought would free up some more time for music but it actually had the opposite effect for awhile. Now, I think things are about to settle down there again, so that's good.

One of the more exciting things that happened during the last couple of months was actually getting to hear some of my music on TV for the first time! I had been accepted into a new music library as a composer and a few weeks later was presented an opportunity to write some tracks for a new daytime talk show.

It was very much a whirlwind experience to say the least. In the end, I signed four new tracks for the show. During the first two weeks of the show, I heard one of my cues get used three different times. It was quite a feeling to say the least!

This past week I've been finishing up the mixes for the new Crushing Gray album. We were hoping to have the full album done in time for the TAXI Road Rally later this week but it just didn't work out. BUT... we will have 6 songs finished. We're still working out the details in regards to distribution, etc... but the wait is almost over!

And speaking of the Road Rally... I'm actually going to be a panelist during a session on Saturday morning. I'm humbled and honored to be chosen and a bit nervous as well :-) The panel is on writing songs and composing instrumentals for Film & TV. We're supposed to choose two tracks that we'll play for the audience. Before playing the tracks, we're supposed to discuss what made/makes it a good track for Film/TV. I know one of the two tracks I'm going to use but I'm still undecided on the second one. Gotta choose quick!

Well, I still have some prep work for the Rally to get done. I am going to make a much stronger effort to keep this blog updated in the future.

Until next time...
-Big Blue

October Update

October is shaping up to be a busy month for me. I just wrapped up the tracking on a non-seasonal musical for Counterpoint Music. This was the first time I've tracked an album for them in which I wasn't a co-writer. Definitely a unique experience for me.

As a lot of you know, I'm a huge Kentucky basketball fan. Next week I'll be heading up to Lexington to watch the Big Blue Madness, also known as the first practice of the new season for the men's hoops team.

Once I get back from that, I'll be spending the next couple of weeks getting ready for my trip to L.A. and the TAXI Road Rally convention during the first part of November. Last year was my first and it was such an incredible experience. Can't wait to see what this year's event is going to be like!

September Update

What a crazy month it's been! I had a wonderful time hanging with my buddy Logan over the weekend and we made some great progress on the Crushing Gray album.

In addition to that weekend of awesomeness, I got to hear my music on TV for the first time ever. During the 2nd episode of a very popular daytime talk show one of my cues was played as they were cutting to commercial. It was only for a few seconds, but it felt great nonetheless!

In total, I landed 4 cues with this show and so far I've heard one of them used at least 3 times this week! Again, a great feeling!

Next month I'll be heading up to KY for some UK Basketball excitement. Can't wait to see what October holds!

Crushing Gray Update

I'm about to head to the airport to pick up my partner in crime, Logan Pepper, or as my wife and I call him, Dr. Pepper, for a weekend of writing and rocking in the studio.

This is going to be his first trip to Nashville but we're not going to have a lot of time to do any real sight-seeing while he's here.

We've got some ambitious goals for the weekend so we're going to hit the ground running tonight. Hopefully by the time he leaves on Sunday, we'll have made some significant progress on the Crushing Gray album.

August Update

This month saw a big change as I started working from my house. I still have the same day job but now I'm working from home instead. I'm very excited about the time I'm going to be saving from not having a commute, much less the money I'll save on gas!

I recently signed on as a composer with a new music library that is being started by an industry vet. He currently has a library that supplies music to a very popular daytime talk show. I met him at the TAXI Road Rally last year and gave him a CD. Fast forward about 9 months later and I got an email from him with an offer to join his new library.

That opportunity lead to me getting a chance to write some cues for an upcoming TV show. I'll post more about this in the next few weeks, once everything is finalized.

MTV Placements

Earlier today I had my first ever music placements on a TV show. I didn't know that the episode of the show with our music was airing so I didn't get to actually see it when it first aired. Maybe I'll catch a replay one day.

The show was Parental Control on MTV, Season 6 Episode 53. There were actually two songs used in the episode, "Everybody" and "Hidden Beauty", both of which were co-writes with my best friend Joel Shoemake. We're both pretty happy to say the least!

Scoring to Film, Part 2

I had a few moments so I thought I'd try and finish up the story on my first film scoring experience. The last post ended right as the scoring process was about to begin, so that's where we'll resume.

I was expecting it to be a challenging experience, and IT WAS. VERY MUCH SO. But as much as it was challenging, it was every bit as rewarding. In fact, I would even go so far to say that of all the projects I've been involved with, and all the music that I've written, I don't think I'm any prouder of any of them than I am of what I accomplished on this documentary.

You see, it's not just about the music. While I am very proud of how the music sounds and the parts that I wrote, I'm much more excited about how the music FEELS. That was probably the biggest challenge I faced throughout the project.

It's easy to write a piece of music, at least, I think it is. Now, that doesn't mean each piece is good. But I can sit down with a guitar and within 5-10 minutes, I can typically have the basic outline of a song started. I'm sure I'm not the only one who can do this. It comes with years of practice and dedication.

But to sit down and write a piece of music that:

a) Is high quality and performed well
b) Fits within the parameters that the producer has given you to work with
c) makes the listener FEEL something as they watch and listen

Well, that's a whole other ball of wax. For me, the first two were nowhere near as difficult as the third one.

I can remember a couple of nights where I spent probably 3 hours or more trying to write a piece of music that was around 30-45 seconds long. I would come up with something that met the first two criteria, but when I listened back to it while watching the scene, I would say to myself "That doesn't make me feel anything... ok, it makes me feel like crap 'cause I've spent over 3 hours on this and I'm nowhere close to what I want it to sound like!" Yeah, I occasionally talk to myself. :-)

Part of my struggle, especially early on in the process, was in the way that I typically write music. When I'm "riffing" on a guitar, I'm not really watching anything, so I'm not really concentrated on if the riff makes me feel anything for a visual cue. Continuing with that theme, from a physical standpoint, my actual recording setup made it difficult to record acoustic guitar while I was actually watching the scene. I eventually just settled on "writing" while watching the scene, then when it was time to record, I wasn't concerned about watching, as I had already "validated" that the music had the necessary emotion behind it before I began to record.

One thing that really helped me in dealing with the producer was drawing on the experiences I've had co-writing with my best friend Joel. I speak in numbers and he speaks in colors. Because of that, I've learned how to communicate better with people who deal more in generalities and less in specifics, stuff like "Can you make the song sound more orange?" Or in this case, "Can you make cue 10 sound like a Jewish song, but not really too Jewish?" Let me tell ya, THAT one was a challenge, but I think it may be one of my top two or three cues in the whole film.

We were on a pretty tight deadline. Even though I was only responsible for about 12 minutes worth of the film, I still only had about 2 weeks to get it completed. One thing that I wasn't sure how to anticipate would be the revisions process. Fortunately for me, nearly every piece, if not every piece, that I submitted was generally accepted for use in the film. There were usually a couple of tweaks here or there, but I don't recall any major re-writes taking place (thankfully!).

One thing that I learned throughout the process was that in my heart, I felt a feeling of completeness, a feeling that to me was saying, that I was/am doing EXACTLY what I was created and born to do. And by that I mean, working with music in general, not specifically scoring acoustic guitar music to film.

I guess that's it for now. Please feel free to leave me comments or questions and I'd be glad to answer them.

Until next time...
- Big Blue

Scoring to Film, Part 1

It was about a month ago that I was first approached about writing an acoustic guitar score for an indie documentary film. I was very excited about the possibilities but also, a bit nervous as I had never attempted to do that before. I got the opportunity thanks to my friend Lydia Ashton, an incredible composer that I met via the TAXI online forum site (see, ANOTHER reason to consider TAXI). She and I had been working on another project together (which I'll blog about in the future once it's all finalized) when she asked me about assisting her with a documentary that she was working on.

Before I could start on it, I had a phone call with the producer of the film. We went over some of the things he was hoping to hear music-wise in the section that I would be working on, as well as some general background info. It was a great conversation and I was excited to get started right away.

Later that night he sent me a video with the time code display box of the section of the film that I would be scoring, along with some examples of songs/sounds that he was looking to hear for various sections. I also had a copy of the entire film with the temp tracks in place so that I could hear a general idea of what the producer had in mind.

Before I actually spoke to him, I did some research to try and get a gauge on the types of questions I should be asking. I wanted to be prepared. So based on that research, one of my first questions to him was "How married are you to the temp tracks that you used?"

I had read a few stories where some producers had gotten so used to the temp tracks that anything else that was used, just didn't work for them, and they would end up licensing the temp tracks in the end. So I wanted to know what kind of battle I was in for. And while he did like the feel of the temp tracks, he was certain that he wasn't married to any of them.

So armed with the freedom that knowledge provided, I began the process of writing the score.

More to come in Part 2!

Until next time...
- Big Blue

My 10 Step Plan to Success

About a week or so ago I made a post on a forum that I'm a member of and I thought I'd copy it over to here and make a blog entry out of it. The context of the post is that I had been notified by one of my music libraries that I had at least 2 tracks placed in an episode of MTV's Parental Control.

So here is what I called Big Blue's 10 Step Plan to Success

1) Join TAXI
2) LEARN as much as you can about where your skill sets and ability levels are at. Be realistic, drop your ego and LISTEN.
3) Write material that falls squarely in your realm of expertise, and produce that material at the highest quality level that you possibly can
4) Submit that material to the appropriate listings
5) Don't wait around to see if you get forwarded or returned and immediately begin to repeat steps 2 - 4
6) When you get a forward, immediately repeat steps 2 - 4
7) When you get a return, immediately repeat steps 2 - 4, but pay special attention to step 2
8) When you get a deal, be polite, courteous, and professional with the client, ask them if you could send them more material and then repeat steps 2 - 4
9) When you get your first placement, scream like a little kid, jump up and down in your kitchen, make a fool of yourself in front of your wife, then repeat steps 2 - 4
10) When you get your royalty statements, don't focus on the numbers to the left of the decimal point, be grateful that there even IS a decimal point, then repeat steps 2 - 4

I'm sure there are other methods and plans you can use to find success for getting your songs placed in Film/TV but this one worked for me. But just like with any weight loss program you may try, individual results may vary. But I'm fairly certain that if you follow those steps and work hard, you'll see the same results.

Until next time...
- Big Blue

Three Keys To Success

The other day I was thinking about what it takes to be successful in producing a song for someone. As I pondered the subject I came up with three things that I think are absolutely essential: Technical know-how, the ability to listen, and interpersonal skills. I also believe that these same three ideas can be applied to the general business world as well.

1) Technical Know-How

Let's face it, if you don't have the skill set to perform the task at hand, it doesn't matter how nice you are, how well you can listen, or how many credits you might have. If you can't do the work, then your clients are going to move on to someone who can. And in this day and age, not only do you need the technical skills, you also have to be quick. We live in an "instant" society and the practice of patience is an art that seems to be long lost and forgotten, unfortunately.

2) Ability To Listen

Listening. It sounds easy enough. People do it all the time. But do they really? I mean, I can have a conversation with you and hear everything that you say, but if I don't "listen" to what you're saying, I may miss something. It could be minor and insignificant or it could be major and potentially serious. The key is to really focus in on what the person is trying to say, their intent, and not necessarily the words that they use. I've been married for nearly 13 years and this is a skill that I'm still learning to develop every year.

3) Interpersonal Skills

Finally, the third key is the ability to relate and interact with people. For the most part, people enjoy being around other people that treat them nice and with respect. The Golden Rule really does apply here. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I'm sure there are probably a few people that would be classified as exceptions to this rule, but I don't know too many people that enjoy working with jerks.

Tie Them All Together

While each one of those skill sets is important, the interaction between all three is just as vital, and in my opinion, necessary, to success. Being able to relate to someone is great, but if you're unable to listen to what they're saying, you're not going to be as effective as you could be. And likewise, if you're able to hear what they're saying, but you don't have the technical ability to bring that thought into action, you better hope you have the interpersonal skills to tide them over until you can figure it out!

Until next time...
- "Big Blue" Barry

A Clean Start

Since I'm in the process of giving my studio PC a clean start, I figured I'd do the same with my blog. I hadn't posted in several months and when I did, the posts did tend to be all over the map, though a good deal of them dealt with UK basketball :-)

So I decided that with this new clean slate, I would try and focus this blog to be a bit more on my musical journey. I'm going to try and post more frequently but that's part of the irony of the blog being about my musical journey. You see, the better it's going, the less time I'll have for blogging!

I'm going to keep this one short, but I do have some thoughts for a couple of entries that I'll try and post later this weekend.

Rock on!