Week 4

Bank Robbery

I don’t know enough about bank robbing to get extremely detailed but here’s how I think of doing this.

This started with thinking about stealing from an armoured van, but I ended up reading about how the security guys only carry certain amounts of cash in cases one by one into the bank. The best score would be to wait until the security has delivered all of the cases of money before moving in because the money has to be counted and handled before it goes into the vault. For so much money it is not done quickly, so this would be an ideal time to strike.

I need to be aware of police and security presence. The bank in my home town has no security and the police force is small. I could hire a distraction of some kind to break out a fight in front of the police station or trigger an alarm at another store by smashing a window. Assuming the distraction is secured, I would need to be outside of the bank with a person prepared to drive in a nearby part of the plaza, but not in the bank parking lot. There are not many windows in the bank, I recall one camera on the entrance facing the ATM’s, one camera facing the tellers, and maybe one more.

There is a caged area where I assume the money is counted, I would have to watch this more to be sure, so I will need to be on the heels of this cash as it enters the bank without the driver/security still in the bank. From this point, guns in the air I guess. I need to make it through the very few employees to the cage before it is locked and I need to be sure that I can keep the police from being called for as long as possible.

There will be another person with me, another on the door to be sure no new people are entering by A) posing as a cleaning service that has to temporarily keep the front area off limits, B) posing as a kind gentleman in a balaclava to let allow people to walk in, but not let them back out.

I have to handle the money grabbing as fast as possible, take what I can and call up the driver on a radio, fresh batteries of course. My intentions are to get out to the native reservation as they are large and there are lots of weird tensions between the police and the natives in that area. There is a specific route I can take that would minimize intersections that I have to stop for (or risk being hit in). I pull out of the back alley of this plaza, across and through a Tim Hortons parking lot and then straight into open reservation that has instantly higher speed limits. Not that I’m intending to obey the law in this way, but it loosens up traffic.

ATV’s/dirtbikes are notorious throughout the reservation so we would need to scope out a place to ditch the car (ditched cars are not uncommon on this reservation) and travel across some messy terrain to some forest or hideout.

The weakness in this plan is that I do not have all locations and timing figured out. There are also some fairly loose ends where the initial distraction is concerned, but this thing boils down to dividing forces, striking at the time with the potential for highest take, being ready to go, and using personal tension to my advantage. Though I don’t condone the racial shit that goes on in my town, it can be a tool for me. I think the police would be prepared to point the finger at the reserve for long enough that we could get away with the cash.

Interview with Cameron O., J.P., and Connor(?)

Saw a show with these guys and then asked them what made them go to shows.

20 Questions on Career and Job Success in the Music Industry

1. What is job success? My definition right now is to be making money regularly or getting regular calls for jobs. Is there an objective standard for ‘job success’?

I would say there is no standard for this. I’ve seen someone refer to success as lasting over 90 days (probation period), and someone else give a very well thought out explanation involving challenges and opportunity.

Job success in the music industry for me would be similar to Queens of the Stone Age or John Zorn’s model. They have a revolving door of friends and musicians that reach far across their own scene or other genres. The reason this is important to me is because I think the concept of a band with static members can dry out really quickly. When it becomes a collaborative and colorful ensemble then it always seems far more successful to me. I find it much more creatively fulfilling to have access to people from different backgrounds to help expand my own pallet. Working with a single act for too long makes you tight, or predictable depending on how you look at it. There’s only so much you can squeeze out of something when you don’t tap into other influences and shake things up for yourself.

2. Is there a certain amount of money I need to make to be successful?

Again this is subjective, but it should really be based on my budget. I need to make enough to live comfortably, and I need to define living comfortably by where I need to be to find work or have close access to jobs and by having enough space for myself and music equipment. I almost didn’t include a space for music equipment because I think I could make it work without it, but ideally I think to live comfortably I would want a space to store my things so that there aren’t guitars and repair equipment everywhere.

I just read a Forbes article that tells me that happiness is not really determined by money once you are at the point that you are meeting your needs for ‘comfortable living’. That seems to be as far as the definition of success goes when it comes to money.

3. Is money the only determining factor of job success? What other factors are there?

Again, success is subjective, but in the music industry you’re playing by someone else’s rules, even if you are independent, you have deadlines and are responsible for generating interest or else your fanbase will start to lose interest. I started trying to answer this question by reading a blog about someone with a family remarking “Is the marginal time spent earning a few extra bucks more important than a precious afternoon with my family?”. Her answer is obviously that she wants to spend time with her family more than make a small amount of cash for making a blog. Her point is well made – “time is finite”, and I couldn’t respect that statement more, but projects can’t always be put on the backburner in order to feel successful for having a family or whatever does it for you. I think to strive for success in this business, you have to be the kind of person who feels success in doing things that are based in this business. If some aimless practicing on a didgeridoo is your leisure after recording for the day, then you can find non-financial success in a financially based game. Maybe you’ll even find some groundbreaking didgeridoo technique to bring into your next song or sell in an Ableton sound pack.


4. Does happiness really matter in having a successful job?

Some psychological studies point to happiness actually being the cause of a more successful job in the conventional sense of more money or higher promotions. Beyond this I think happiness is important in this field because it’s the only thing that will keep you on your creative and persistent edge. You can’t tune out and be unengaged with your music or you will see your success decline (both financial success and enjoyment of life).

5. Does success come from happiness? And can happiness come from success in the music industry? The outlines of ‘success’ in the music industry that I’ve heard are usually riddled with stress and sadness.

Again, success is what you make it. Happiness can lead to success, and as long as you have a fresh business plan to refer to to make sure that your decisions are in pursuit of your goals (such as playing and working as much as possible) then success can lead to happiness. The important thing is to keep updating your business plan and considering how your goals may be changing in order to be happy. You are however playing for an audience/fanbase and maybe will have to cover a band you’re not into to fit the bill for someone now and then.

6. What is SOCAN? 

SOCAN is a licensing society for public performance of the world’s repertoire. “Licensing” is a permit from an authority to own or use something, do a particular thing… SOCAN basically rents out your music to be performed in a public way and sends you the royalties.

7. Can SOCAN help me? What do they offer musicians like me? Do I have to be established already?

This kind of misunderstands SOCAN, I don’t have to be established and they can help me, but I need to have things published or registered already before I can even think about making sure SOCAN is collecting royalties for me. This is definitely something useful for my future.

8. SOCAN says it is not-for-profit. What is the difference between this and non-profit?

They can be synonymous – but the IRS designation is something like this:

non-profit – a business who’s purpose is not to make money

not-for-profit – an activity that actually does not make money

This distinction can be important when a business stops making money. The IRS can identify the business as not-for-profit and deny deductions on business expenses.

To be specific – SOCAN makes 14 cents on every dollar of licensing fees to run the organization.

9. SOCAN says they cannot publish or register a copyright on your music, but what does a music publisher do?

The publisher takes control of your copyright protected work and is able to exploit it and give you a percentage.

10. That sounds awful. Do I need this? I understand the publisher has the contacts, but what does it mean to have control? What does copyright-protected really mean? What is meant by publishing?

Copyright – the sole right to copy

Publish – putting a work or thing on the market to be sold

I think I misunderstood SOCAN’s wording of how the percentage of earnings goes to the writer. The percentage usually favours the songwriter. The publisher having ownership of your work does not mean that he/she will leave you small bits of royalties. This sounds like a fairer exchange than at first.

I expect I would actually need this at some point. I am not extremely savvy with these things, having a person pushing my product to the right people would probably be hugely helpful when I actually have albums to push on people.

11. I am looking at moving to Montreal to try and build a career for myself there, my instrument has sort of relegated me to being a side man – can I make a career as a sideman?

Sideman kind of encompasses a lot of things. I can make it as a sideman if I consider all the things that we have included on the board in class, although I cannot decide if teaching will be better or worse – worse because I don’t know French, better because I know English? I don’t know.

Anyway, there are a few saxophonists that I know of and respect in that area and I don’t know if my sound will stand as much of a contender against the city where more than one inspiration for my sound comes from. I think I have something different to offer, but I will no longer be the only avant-garde saxophone player in town and need to distinguish myself from these pitfalls where more than one person can offer what I am selling.

Where I do feel distinguished is my writing and need to better understand the kind of collective I can hope to assemble there. I need to reengage with the way I was meeting people left and right last year (asking them to come improvise at every free moment). I still engage with people a lot but have been able to relax with the good connections I made from last year and focus this year on making music with them.

12. Is being a career sideman something I would consider ‘success’ for myself?

I always want to be playing, and know that I would find a lot of satisfaction from being someone that people wanted to call and being able to pursue multiple creative endeavours, but being a sideman is really only a side-job in my mind. I do not hope to be just a sideman even though I know that it can be a respectable position. I hope to have a main project of my own, not as a front man necessarily, but something along the lines of running a collective of musicians.

12. What makes me want to go to shows?

A good point of reference for me is Colin Stetson or Moon Hooch. One is a solo act who performs incredible things on a solo bass saxophone and the other is a band who just have a very good vibe to their music.

Colin Stetson gets me interested because A) he does something that is nearly impossible for most people and is just an amazing thing to witness B) he doesn’t actually make that many appearances around here (Toronto, KW, London).

I haven’t seen Moon Hooch, but I have seen live videos of their performances. Usually I am let down by these kinds of recordings, but Moon Hooch is able to deliver their style and high energy through these crappy videos. They are A) extremely energetic, B) use dance music as a basis for the weird extended techniques they use

These bands are putting out a product. Like products in a grocery store, there’s name brand and there is no-name. I am not inspired to go to particular improvisation shows if it has no identifying quality to it. If Branford Marsallis did a weird free jazz show, he has the brand power to drive people to see it. I like improvisation, but I rarely feel more driven to see one show than another – these are more so if the mood strikes me, I know the performer, or they are playing a rare instrument.

13.  How can I make use of social networking?

Everyone has an online presence on Facebook or Twitter or Bandcamp. I need to choose the easiest way for people to have access to my music and events, I personally don’t like using sites like Facebook very much because they keep changing and I just don’t care to keep up, so I want to make my stuff available to people like me if I can.

My brother is going to host a website for me, he is going to school for networking and is actually very good at what he does, so I have confidence in his ability to present me professionally. I hate most of the websites that I have seen for other musicians, they are either slow to access from an overload of graphics and things or too plain to really be interested in. My brother is consulting me on these kinds of things.

14. What are some ideas for branding myself?

I am considering something that includes the concept of saxophone repair. It’s kind of an interesting profession with working class connotations that might be endearing. My last name is not easy to remember for people who only see it once, and I am considering using my initials instead MJMB, and potentially introducing other letters to make this one or two words.

I have no confidence in having some kind of mystical or crazy band name, ironic band names (formerly: Emmer Effers, Damn Hell Ass Kings) seem kind of old and not worth taking seriously. I often end up ignoring bands if they have a sarcastic or ironic name because the name tells me how seriously they take themselves and aligns themselves with other bands with silly names. In my head, if the band has a silly name, they probably have a similar sound as another band with a silly name and I will probably only give them a chance if someone recommends them to me.

I am trying to find something timeless to represent myself, but not something that necessarily says something about myself. I like the detachment of the band Battles, it does not really say much about themselves but it’s straightforward. I think I would simplify my original thought about saxophone repair, just to repair.

15. Are there any other ways of branding yourself besides a name?

Each of these bands brings a certain image to mind when I think of them. Modest Mouse is insects, the sea/being a sailor. QOTSA is dark art, dry desert, drugs/alcohol. Dallas Green (not a favourite artist) has this sort of rustic appeal of being a starving artist or being a drunk. His opening line to his MySpace used to be: Hi, I’m Dallas and I can’t sleep at night. (or something like that). He puts on the tortured soul act, as though he’s all alone, even though he is obviously aware of his success.

16. What does fashion do for a bands image? What do I think about fashion?

I am aware of what people are wearing for performances. I am aware that I should not go on stage in my everyday clothes, it really brings down the image of the band when no one is coordinated. I would say shorts seem to have a negative impact on stage appearance. People I look to for stage fashion are Jack White, Andrew W.K., and Modest Mouse. Jack White has a distinct style currently with his variety of classic suits, but even in the White Stripes, his red/white gimmick was present. Andrew W.K. always appears in all white for the sake of giving nothing about himself away – he wants to appear as a blank canvas so people don’t pigeon hole him as one thing or another, people can project themselves on to that and get to know Andrew W.K. as himself. Modest Mouse puts on the working class persona usually, they don’t wear street clothes, to me they look like they are wearing a more stylized version of working clothes, like a fashion designer may interpret a ship hand to dress like.

Also this:images

17.  “Art within the constraints of a system is political action in favour of that system, regardless of content.” — Murray Schafer. This is a really interesting quote, and I’m forced to consider that everything I have said has been finding away into the existing system (finding fashion that is ‘different’ is a part of the system, branding uniquely is part of the system). Can I escape this?

The system I am looking at is North America, the logical way to escape this system is by taking in influences from other cultures. I have read some things on ethnomusicology and thing I need to take another look at this approach, but Coltrane and Ravi Shankar did their thing, Shankar continues to educate the West on Indian music, Gamelan music already exists here, Dave was telling me about Dawn of Midi’s influences which I can’t remember right now. So I think this is still part of the system. I need to question this further. I think the way I’m asking this question is ultimately leading me to find something absolutely brand new, something that is not influenced by anything else.

Moon Hooch for example uses elements of jazz, house music, funk and dubstep to create something new to my ears even though these are all American things. They are working in the system and it does not seem so bad for them.

Can’t think of final questions. Hopefully the questions I have asked are large enough to be acceptable.


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