News From The Woods.42


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published October 5, 2000

"Too late for Rocking Boomers?"

Many of you know that at the beginning of this year I finally released my first solo album on CD. Titled "New Tricks From An Old Dog" , it is a collection of new and old songs. The older tracks have been laying around on the storage shelf waiting to be revived for the "eventual" album I wanted to do for the past 15 or so years. The newer songs were written as recently as last winter.

The main reason I finally got around to actually doing this project was to finally have something to show for my years of writing and recording. I got sick and tired of apologizing for my songs every time someone asked to hear something of mine. All I ever had was a reference mix (because the songs weren't "done" yet) on a cassette. I wanted something to be proud of, both sonically and visually. That meant a "finished product", graphics and all. A tall order for anyone, considering the costs associated with a CD release.

Also a tall order considering that my music is not "new" music. It's not "today's" music. After all, I am 53 (54 next month) and considered over the hill by the music industry. I don't wear flannel shirts. I don't have a nipple ring or my tongue pierced. My surname is Bob, about as boring as you can get in the "New Millennium". My music doesn't have acoustic and fuzz guitars playing at the same time. My solo's sound like solo's, not single note themes played over and over. I usually enunciate my lyrics so the listener can understand what I'm saying. I mix my vocals up front, not buried way back in the track. You know. . . . . . . . it's "old fashioned". Hell, I can't even get my own kids to listen to it!

Nevertheless I decided to go ahead and complete this expensive endeavor just for no other reason than I wanted to do it all these years. Since it's release I haven't pursued any big record company contacts. I released it under my own HYPE Records label. I haven't (and couldn't afford to anyway) send out hundreds of copies to radio stations, music magazines, promotion firms, publishers, distributors, or even tried to get the CD stocked in any major record store chains, even though I DO have bar code on the product. What I have done is make the album accessible on the Internet, though my own web site. I have also placed some cuts from the CD on several of the larger Internet music sites, like, Riffage, and IUMA. That's about all I could afford to do without the support of a major record label or distributor. I have been content to sell a few here and a few there, and have actually managed to get some solid airplay on several regional radio stations who have shown an interest in playing a couple of cuts off the CD. But that's about it.

Until now.

My wake up call came yesterday. And from the strangest place that you wouldn't hardly believe it! Of ALL places - I read an article in the latest issue of Modern Maturity! Now, for those of you too young to grasp what Modern Maturity is, I'll enlighten you. It is a magazine for "old people". AARP members (I'm a bona fide card carrying member myself). I have been receiving Modern Maturity magazine for several years now (when I turned 50). Back then it was chock full of fascinating articles about HMO's, keeping your teeth clean, and droll interviews with "old people". Then there were the usual advertisements for cruise lines, hair coloring, and Depends. Not much there for an old rocker like me so it always found it's way into file 13 right off the bat. Recently, however (perhaps it was a change in the editorial staff), the magazine has realized that us Baby Boomers aren't growing old gracefully as our parents did. We're fighting old age and thanks to modern science and technology we are standing on our own two feet as we stride into this new millennium. In the past year I have actually been reading some of the interviews, because they have been with interesting people who are still living life to the fullest. Granted, I am identifying with many of these people because we are of the same generation, but the articles are focused on "go getters" and young thinking oldsters. Many of the usual ads and some boring (to me) articles are there so I admittedly browse through the mag and light on whatever strikes my fancy. At least I find much of the content more interesting these days.

What caught my eye in this issue was an article written by Mark Hunter called "Rock Around The Clock" .... "Woodstock's Children Strap On Their Guitars". Now, I won't bore you with the content - you can go read it for yourself if you're "old" and receive Modern Maturity - but I learned some really fascinating information from that article. For instance, did you know that "close to 40% of the 2 million active guitar players in the U.S. are over 50" ?? Chew on THAT for a moment .....

The article was intended to guide the reader who is presumably a (former) musician into the possibilities of continuing the trade and taking that old Tele out of the closet and searching out "new" places to play. But for ME, a light went on when I read the article. There might have even been a bell but you know that I've been a drummer for almost forty years, right? Anyway, somewhere in the article the author mentions that the Mandolin Brothers Store in New York has some 200,000 "Baby Boomers and Wartime kids" on their mailing list. This got me to thinking.

As much as I try to like a lot of this "new" music, I just can't enjoy it. I can appreciate it from the professional perspective but it's not what I listen to in my car. So what do I listen to? Well, either music from my vast collection of "old" rock music, or I just put on a favorite compilation CD of oldies. Or listen to a "Classic Rock" or Oldies radio station. So - what are all the other Baby Boomers listening to? The same thing? Probably.

So why isn't this "old" music accessible to the masses? I know it's being written and recorded by people just like myself. Well, the obvious answer is: Because the record industry does not recognize this form of music anymore. Oh, you can still see a new release by Z Z Top or the Rolling Stones, but I mean NEW music written in the "OLD STYLE" by NEW artists ? Again- the answer is pretty plain to see: Since the industry does not recognize new artists who do not write music in the "modern" genre, they are passed over.

But - again - the question comes to mind: WHAT ARE ALL THOSE BABY BOOMERS LISTENING TO??? Isn't that a rather large audience just laying there ready for something "new". YES! I believe there is! The only trouble is there's no way to find that genre of music. It isn't being advertised. It isn't being promoted. There's no airplay. It's not "trendy".

Why can't somebody figure out how to put all these various databases together - like the Mandolin Bros. mailing list, for instance - and establish a (rather large I would imagine) master database to advertise on? Perhaps then a catalog of new artists could be sent to the database, or a web site could be established which caters ONLY to the "classic" rock sound. To my ears, only blues music has transcended the Gift of Ages. That's because the blues has remained faithfully honest in it's approach. It still "feels" the same as it did twenty or thirty years ago. But I have had reviewers say:

"Bob's new CD, "New Tricks From an Old Dog" has it all. Driving 70's guitar work, swirling Hammonds, tasty rhythm & blues...... If you can't identify with at least one of Bob's songs, you haven't lived and you need to get the silver spoon out of your mouth...... Fans of '70s Classic Rock couldn't do better than to add 'New Dog' to their collection...... This is a ready-made classic!...... These songs sound wonderfully dated! And at the same time, refreshingly new...... They don't write this kinda stuff anymore, and it's too damn bad!...... Don't let his modesty fool you, this CD rocks!...... "Screw Yourself For Me" is a perfect example of Bob's ability to balance The Cliche against The Profound...... Can't wait for his first confrontation with David Letterman."

So, if I get reviews like that, why can't I sell product? Because NO ONE KNOWS I EXIST! I don't have the industry behind me. I can't afford to produce enough "freebie" product to blanket the American music scene and get placed out in front of the pack (even for just an hour, much less a week). In other words....... Where the industry points - the masses flock.

The "little guy" was lost from the moment that American radio stations began to subscribe to charts and surveys. When it was not feasible to break new artists, the powerful tool of independent radio was snatched from the hands of the people. Now, with the Internet, the supporters of Napster are again waving the banner of the independent artist. But there are two things wrong with Napster. First, in reality Napster enables music to be transferred from one person to the next without regard for publishing considerations. What's the point of writing and releasing a new song if you'll never be paid royalties for it? Point #2: I think it will only be a matter of time before the original concept of Napster will be watered down and absorbed by the large and powerful music concerns of tomorrow. Back to square one.

But I am still intrigued by my new-found concept of finding a way to tap into that very large demographic of the Baby Boomer Generation. I am going to work on this and I'll get back to you.....

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