Quit Bitching & Start Adapting Part 2

quit complainingIn my previous post I mapped out what exactly this meme means to me, and how I think we musicians miss some of the finer points.

This time I want to take an overhead look at some of the major problems and how we can start addressing them.

Let’s survey the surroundings and talk through a couple possible plans.

Albums don’t sell & record labels are vampires. Obviously there are a million other nuanced issues but we can all agree that these are the top 2 concerns for any musician that wants to be a career musician.

Problem: Albums don’t sell

Adaptation: Sell something else. The music is simply your introduction to an individual. They didn’t buy the album so sell them a concert ticket, a poster, a VIP experience, or a tee shirt. Make those shirts in all sizes, make multiple designs… limited editions… do whatever it takes, within reason, to appeal to them in a way that encourages them to support you.

Problem: Labels are vampires

Adaptation: DIY. Simple as that. You will run into more hurdles than you’ll be comfortable with, but you can release an album on your own. Labels bring an invaluable infrastructure you’ll most certainly not be able to match, but if you put a few friends and family members in charge of extremely specific job roles and you should be able to limp by. There are countless books on this topic, so I won’t bore you.


In my next post we’ll talk about how an individual can build and cultivate a following that you’ll need in place in order to make any of this possible.

Chorus prototyping

We regularly get requests from high level guys looking to get a chorus with more control and an ‘eerie’ voice. The classic TC Electronics chorus pedal possessed a sonic quality that so many players have been searching for. So we got to work…

After 2 years of research and development we’re ready to show off just how close we’re getting to a true classic.

Some refinements are still in work and the overall look will change slightly, but this should give you a clear indication of where its going.

Thanks for reading-


Quit Bitching & Start Adapting Part 1

quit complainingEvery time I post this image I get a ton of comments throughout the social media realm… The responses are split 3 ways- 1 camp wholeheartedly agrees, 1 camp puts on their rebellious act proclaiming how they’re going to change the industry… and the 3rd camp spits venom at me for perpetuating and propping up an industry collapsing while picking the pockets of musicians as it falls.

Let’s unpack the later 2 responses and see if I can help you understand my point so you move on to the next stage of your career.

Before we begin I’m going to establish the audience- if you’re certain you’re destined for fame and international super-stardom, this is not for you. If you’re ‘all about the art’ this isn’t for you. BUT If you’re ready to pivot your artistry and walk the fine line between art and commerce, this is for you.

We should change the industry-

Not going to happen. Household names failed at changing the industry from the inside- we’ve got 40 years of history (that I can think of off the top of my head) that proves this.

Tom Petty couldn’t stop labels from over-pricing their albums, Metallica couldn’t stop MP3s and file sharing… NIN, Radiohead, Prince, and U2 all barely made a blip on the radar of history when they released free or pay-what-you-want albums. So, tell me how you and your 94 Facebook followers are going to change the industry.

The music industry is massive, with more moving parts than a freshly smashed anthill. Industry change will have to come from above. The label leaders are going to have to decide on the new model, but they aren’t in any hurry to do that, Their ship is sinking and they are either too lazy, too stupid or too short-term greedy to do anything about it. So we are left to either become one of those ants scrambling, or to carve out our own path.

You’re just perpetuating the enslavement of artists (actual comment)-

So often we musicians (yes, Kirk… I am a guitarist) have a hard time seeing gray. We live for our art, and in doing so, we embrace the extremes of black and white… c’mon, that’s where the ‘feels’ are, right?

The majority of artists see my call to action ‘quit bitching and start adapting’ as either “we need a revolution”, or “we need to give up and be a part of the problem”. This is where our creative minds fail us. There is gray area here- and it’s huge. In this gray area is the future of the music industry.

Adaptation does not imply acceptance. Nor does it mean revolt. It simply means surveying your surroundings, developing a plan to deal with the harsh environment, and thriving despite whats happening around you.

This should clear up some of the confusion regarding my sentiment. In the next post we’ll start looking at the the top problems and identify an adaptation or 2.

Till next time…

Thanks for reading… now get to work!


Sam Bell and the Dead Horse MKIII

Sam Bell

Sam Bell has been using Pro Tone’s Dead Horse for well over a year now… and with the latest edition of the Dead Horse it only makes sense that he jump on the tonal range offered by the Dead Horse MKIII.

Technical, tasty, melodic, fast… these are just a few of the thoughts that will go through your head when you listen to Sams solo work, lessons at Lick Library, and his band Mask Of Judas.

Here, Sam is using the Dead Horse MKIII Overdrive pedal on all of the guitar tracks.

Learn more about Sam

Sam Bell began playing guitar at age 4, and since then has explored everything from funky blues to screaming metal on an 8-string. A member of tech metal band Mask of Judas, he is also currently writing his own solo instrumental album. For more information, visitwww.sambellguitar.com and www.youtube.com/sambellguitar

Dead Horse MKIII Demo

Learn more about the pedal Sam uses

Maintaining social media momentum during the quiet times

A band recently came to me asking how to continue to engage and grow their fan base while they secluded themselves away to record their second album. Sounds easy right? Just share clips of the new material and the recording process and you’re golden… not so fast says their record label.

The label will only allow them to post limited photos- no audio of the new material- no video that might contain audio of the new material. NOTHING. To me this seems cripplingly shortsighted. In today’s all access, transparent, and reality obsessed world the best way to gain traction before releasing new material is to drip it out… let the fans hear it in controlled limited doses. The free market rewards speed- and today’s young music fan is no exception- I would say that they ARE the rule.

FullSizeRenderThink of this social sharing as test marketing. If you post 15 seconds on Instagram and no one cares- the silence tells you to dump that riff. On the other hand- if it gets great feedback, you’ll know where your audiences listening tastes are today as they might have shifted slightly since your last release.

More than test marketing your new riffs sharing the process with fans and potential fans makes a connection, builds an anticipation that waiting for a finished product simply can’t generate. When people feel like they watched and in a process they are much more willing and excited to support it.

So what do you do if you can’t share anything new? Share the old as if it were new. Get into your fans news streams with continuous (multiple a day) posts from the band- studio photos, old videos, old magazine write ups… remember- not all of your fans have seen it all. Some just found out about you last month and missed EVERYTHING you’ve posted before that.

With all that in mind here is a video going a little more in-depth to the topic.

abstracts featuring Mark Holcomb

The new song “Twilight” from abstracts featuring Mark Holcomb (Periphery) from 3:36 – 3:56

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Signal chain:
Strictly 7 Guitars Cobra Std7(DropC) – Pro Tone Pedals Bulb Overdrive Deluxe – Focusrite Saffire PRO 40 – Positive Grid BIAS Desktop

A demo of several of our overdrive pedals

This is a quick video showing the sound differences between the Dead Horse Overdrive III, the Bulb Signature Overdrive, The Bulb Attack Overdrive and the Jeff Loomis Limited Overdrive from Pro Tone Pedals. The guitar player is Nao from the Japanese visual rock band Arlequin (アルルカン). The guitar was a Strictly 7 Guitar Solar7 and the amplifier was a Blackstar HT-5. The sound was taken from the build-in mic of the camera (Canon 60D).