Oct 302014
 

jingle_bells_smallHey, I wanted to take a minute to let you know about some exciting new things I’ve planned for this holiday season.

I’ve Got A New Website:
First, Glinda and I gutted the old website and created something completely fresh. The new website is a responsive design, so it looks great anywhere. Visit SkafishHoliday.com and see for yourself. While you’re there, subscribe to the mailing list and you’ll get all Skafish Holiday news first, such as when my new holiday jazz album will be released, performance dates, giveaways, and more. Let me know what you think of the new site!

Visit Our Ebay Store:
Since everyone loves collectibles, we are going to offer some very cool items at our Ebay store this season. You can get personally autographed CDs of “Tidings of Comfort and Joy – a Jazz Piano Trio Christmas.” I can do the autograph for you or anyone else you want to give it to as a gift. I’ll also have limited edition posters, press kits and more. It’s looking like I’ll have these items for sale by mid November.

Video Stuff:
I’m going to post all the new Skafish holiday videos on the La BefanaRecords You Tube channel. If you happen to like the more edgy, out there Skafish (the one some still have a problem with, lol), you can find those videos on the Skafish You Tube channel. However, if you’re only looking for Skafish Holiday videos, subscribe to the La Befana Records You Tube channel and you’ll be first to know whenever new clips are posted.

Fun Skafish NPR Interview:
Last year, I did a post here on my blog to let you know about a radio interview I was doing with my friend, Tom Lounges. On that show, we talked mostly about my background in jazz, and the process of creating and recording the “Tidings” album. However, the real treat was when fans called in from all over the country to receive autographed “Tidings” CDs. Talking with all the callers really made my night, and it gave me something joyous to cherish through the holiday season. Now, we converted the interview into a video and put it on the La Befana Records You Tube channel. Check out the Skafish Interview on NPR’s Lakeshore Public Radio with Tom Lounges from December 3, 2013.

Archival Jingle Bells Video:
In the spirit of saving the best for last, I am elated that everybody can finally see the archival video to the recording of Jingle Bells. As many of you already know, the “Tidings” album was recorded as a jazz trio playing in the studio. We didn’t use any fancy technology, but basically just went into the studio and played. What’s so exciting about the Jingle Bells video is that it puts you right there with us. No gimmicks or trickery – just real simple: three musicians playing the last track of the album. With this video footage, you can experience the actual unmixed performance right as it happened. It is ironic that we hardly ever see actual musicians playing together in a room anymore. But now you can. Watch Jingle Bells here.

If this is an album you enjoy and you’re really a fan, please spread the word – it is greatly appreciated. Also, I am going to have some holiday giveaways this season, so stay tuned. I hope all is going well for you —

Skafish

Aug 232014
 

frustrated SkafishMany of you already know that I have quite a large back catalog of both unreleased and previously released material that is currently unavailable. With some of it, like What’s This? 1976 – 1979 and Bootleg 21-35, I’ve been able to successfully get it out there. At the same time, there are still many other compositions and recordings I’m in the process of trying to release, including my first and second album.

From time to time, I go into the archives and check out how something hits me again. Earlier this spring, I decided to listen to several unreleased tracks I recorded back in 2003-2004. I wanted to see how they hit me and if they might be worth getting out there. These are tracks which I recorded at home, where I did all the singing, instruments, production, recording, arranging, and most of the engineering.

One of them really caught my attention more strongly this time. It’s a cover of the Monkees classic, [I'm Not Your] Steppin’ Stone. Recorded by everyone from Paul Revere and the Raiders to the Sex Pistols, it’s a song that I feel has a lot of edge and still holds up well today. It also takes me back to my childhood when the Monkees television show captured such a free-spirited, idyllically cool and fun vibe. When I used to watch the show, I thought to myself, “I’m too weird to be in a band like this, but wouldn’t it be fun?”

So I started the wheels turning in my mind. I thought that it could be a great idea to get the track mastered, do a video, and release it as a single – just for fun. Doing a video, even if that was just a simple performance clip, was crucial. But I knew that I had to have a video, so people could check the song out online, especially on You Tube. If not, how would anyone hear it? Recent studies show that 91% of all people listen to a song on You Tube before buying it, and discover their music there.

So I started researching who owns the copyright to the song and how to get in touch with them, so I could request a video sync license. You may already know this, but everyone is supposed to get a video sync license, in writing, to be able to put up a video when doing a cover of someone else’s song.

I discovered that the publishing is owned by EMI, who is actually owned by Sony/ATV, one of the largest publishers in the world. In mid-June, 2014, I put in a call. I was surprised that my call was returned within an hour by a helpful and nice lady. In that conversation, I explained my situation and told her that I am an independent artist, without financial backing from any outside entity (such as a record label), who wanted to post a low-budget promotional video to my cover version of “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone.” After a lengthy conversation, she told me how to contact their license request hotline, and that they would be able to direct me on how to complete the process. She indicated that they always like to grant licenses, and even added that I might be able to get it for free!

Once I filled out the request form online, I was contacted via email by someone named Ryan Saylor who was supposed to assist me in this process. We started an email exchange, where I explained my situation again. What was odd, though, was that Ryan’s emails kept asking the same questions I had just answered. “Where will the video be shown?” was one of his responses to an email where I had just answered that very question. Like I had just written to him, I wanted to post the video online on my You Tube channels, Vimeo, Daily Motion, Skafish.com, my blog, my Facebook pages, and on my social media accounts. After several emails, he told me it would cost me $1250.00 per year, EVERY YEAR, to post the video online. Keep in mind that I wanted a license in perpetuity, not just for one or two years. So, at ten years, that’s $12, 500.00. At thirty years, it adds up to $37, 500.00. That’s just to post the video online, not sell it in a DVD package or make money from it directly.

I wrote back and told him I didn’t have that kind of budget for this. I asked if we could negotiate, and that I heard in some cases the license could be had for free. He didn’t write back. I waited for weeks, and then I put in a call to him and left a message. I even told him to just please let me know, yes or no, either way, so I could either proceed with this project or move on to something else. Still, no response….

At this point, we’re going on almost two months and I decided to call the lady I originally spoke with again. She got in touch with Ryan and he told her several times that he was going to call me – but he didn’t. Days later when I spoke with her again, she told me what Ryan Saylor said the terms would be, which was quite startling.

I was told that I can post the video to You Tube for free, but only on You Tube. That term is based on a deal that Sony/ATV and You Tube struck. It supposedly allows anyone to post a video of a cover song from the Sony/ATV catalog on You Tube. However, it was made clear to me that they don’t really like people knowing about this “deal.”

So, to recap these “terms,” I can only post a video on You Tube. I would not be able to post anywhere else, such as Vimeo, or even my own website. It wasn’t clear whether I could embed the video from You Tube on other sites. I also have no idea whether I could run ads on the clip, or if Sony/ATV would puts ads on my video.

However, here’s the real shocker: They refused to put it in writing. No contract, not even an email stating that I could post it for free on You Tube. HUH? Are you kidding me? That leaves me completely vulnerable to copyright infringement lawsuits, trouble with You Tube (all they would have to do is ask me to show them proof that I have the rights to post the video), and the idea that at any point, Sony/ATV might have a spat with You Tube and force my video (along with any others done this way) to be yanked. I would have zero recourse.

Keep in mind that Sony/ATV is one of the biggest publishers in the world. They explicitylty know that contracts are a necessary part of doing business. Everyone at that level in the music industry knows that there needs to be a written agreement for this type of thing. When I put up my video on You Tube to “Disgracing the Family Name,” which I own entirely, You Tube made me prove to them, in writing, that I was the copyright owner.

So I was left with the reality that the agents of Sony/ATV won’t, can’t, or aren’t willing to put it in writing. After over two months of phone calls, emails, waiting, and several unsuccessful attempts to have one conversation with Ryan Saylor, I had no choice but to give up the project. There was no way I was going to put up a video of my version of someone else’s song without a written agreement, especially because of You Tube’s rules.

I would love to let you hear the song, but unfortunately, I would have to buy a license from Sony/ATV for that, too.

Of course, it’s disappointing, but there is a bigger issue at play here. As many of you may know, there is a compulsory license law that allows someone to do a cover song. Meaning, if a song has been already released, even just once, anyone can do a cover of the song, as long as they get the license and pay for it. So even if I got a free license to post a promotional video to “(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone,” Sony/ATV would have made money from every copy of the song I sold.

I believe that we need the exact same thing for video. If there could be a compulsory license with a uniform fee, everyone would have the chance to put a video out there, the artistic community would be more enriched, and the copyright owners would get paid — it’s a win-win for everyone.

Well, until then, I am working on my next project – and of course, I’ll keep you posted.

Skafish

Dec 292013
 

IMG_20131228_202518I wanted to let you know that I just joined Instagram and I would love it if you followed me there — it would be great to have you on board. Here is the link and my first Instagram pic!

instagram.com/skafish#

To a fantastic 2014 for you — Skafish

Dec 072013
 

For those of you who missed it the first time, or for those of you who want to share the experience again, here is the complete Skafish Midwest Beat NPR interview with host Tom Lounges that originally aired December 3, 2013 on Lakeshore Public Radio. On the show, we discussed and listened to tracks from my first holiday jazz album, Tidings Comfort & Joy: Jazz Piano Trio Christmas The callers were just amazing, and for me, it was a truly magical time.

Click here to listen:

Skafish NPR interview…..

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Walking out the door pre-show.

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with show host Tom Lounges

With show host Tom Lounges.

Special thanks to Tom Lounges, Tavis, Dan, and everyone who took the time to call in and share their thoughts, memories and wishes! I hope you enjoy the show and leave a comment here. To a magical, prosperous and safe holiday season for you! — Skafish

Nov 282013
 

Join me this Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 6 PM United States
Central Time, when I’ll be a guest on NPR Radio’s Midwest Beat with Tom Lounges. This special broadcast will be devoted to discussing and playing tracks from my first holiday jazz album, “Tidings of Comfort and Joy, a Jazz Piano Trio Christmas.” Call in to the show, say hello, and you’ll have a chance to be one of 5 lucky winners who will each win a copy of the album to brighten their holiday season.

Tune In on Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6 PM United States Central
Time on 89.1FM-The Lakeshore or stream the show live at
www.lakeshorepublicmedia.org/radio. You can call the show at
219-769-9577.

I have to say that recording and releasing “Tidings” has been one
of the highlights of my career, especially because it showcases
another side of my talent, which is my ability as a jazz pianist,
producer, composer and arranger. Although a huge departure from
what people had come to expect, it’s opened up a whole new avenue
of artistic expression and audience for me.

Hope you can tune in, and I truly wish you a safe, prosperous and
fantastic holiday season!

Skafish

Oct 232013
 

From 12 years of bullying and abuse in Catholic school to the controversy and violence that followed my band and I in the early days, to where the saga is at today, including industry tips for up and coming musicians, it’s all here in my recent Podcast conversation with Sheldon Snow on Eclectic Max! I hope you enjoy the candid conversation and let me know what you think! — Skafish

Sep 172013
 

Check out the recent review of BOOTLEG 21-35 by Jake Austen in Roctober Magazine. As many of you already know, the bootleg is a live recording of my 21st birthday party concert at Ratso’s in Chicago on August 29, 1977.

The recording was released digitally 35 years later to the day on August 29, 2012. Click here to read the review:

Enjoy the madness — Skafish

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