News & Editorial Archives, 2016-2017


The Holidays In Music — How Was It Done?
August 9, 2017

Since tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the release of my most recent CD, The Holidays In Music, I thought it would be fun to share a little about the process behind making the album, which includes revealing some intriguing information and explaining why it took hundreds of hours produce.
 
Most of you have heard the term MIDI, such as when a polka musician says, "I have a MIDI accordion." Since the mid 1980's, many polka bandleaders have used MIDI accordions which can produce the sounds of other instruments, from pianos and vibraphones to trumpets and flutes. The sounds of those instruments are usually stored on a card or a chip inside a sound module. My recording studio used to have several sound modules hooked up to a digital piano. Over the years, I used these modules to add the sounds of many different instruments to my recordings.

Now, let's fast-forward to around the turn of the century, to the propogation of virtual instruments. Instead of storing the sounds of instruments on cards or chips, they're now storable on computer hard drives and accessible as software programs. Since computers can hold a lot more data than a single card or chip, the quality and realism of the sounds of the instruments evolved markedly. Developers of virtual instruments started taking audio samples of real violins, real pianos, real guitars, real choirs, and everything else you could imagine, and creating virtual instrument libraries from them. For musicians and composers using computers in their studios, the era of the MIDI sound module was over.

Fast-forward to today. Computers are wickedly fast and powerful, and virtual instrument libraries have evolved right along with them. Since storage space is no longer an issue, virtual instrument libraries can be many gigabytes in size. The reason a virtual instrument library may be so large in size is because it contains thousands of audio samples of a real instrument playing not just different notes, but many different articulations and volumes for those notes. All of this highly detailed, recorded material results in virtual instruments that sound so real, only experts can tell they're not.

Almost all of the music for television shows and commercials these days is composed with virtual instruments. Blockbuster movies still hire composers who record with real orchestras, but lesser movies will use virtual instruments to create their sound tracks.

The Holidays In Music was created entirely from virtual instruments. Every note of every instrument came off of my studio's computer. The drums, the tuba, the bass guitar, the string sections, the trumpets and saxes — even the accordions — they're all virtual. Only the vocals on this recording were real. If you're thinking to yourself, "No way! That can't be possible because the instruments sounded so real!", welcome to the world of virtual instruments — and thank you for the compliment!

So why did it take sooooo many hours to create the music for The Holidays In Music? Using virtual instruments successfully is not the same as simply playing sounds in a sound module. Virtual instruments are not just banks of instruments like you'd find in a MIDI sound module. Virtual instruments are software programs that offer many in-depth options, allowing you to choose, shape, and manipulate the sounds to create ultra-realistic performances. This requires knowledge of each instrument as well as experience in many aspects of music production (composing, editing, engineering, etc.)

Here's a small taste of the technical expertise required to create just one of the violin tracks in The Love of a Father...

I used a $120 virtual violin library — specifically a sordino patch with the mod wheel mapped to CC11. After performing the parts in real time, I opened up the piano roll mode to edit the notes, their velocities, and their start and end points of the notes to trigger legato transitions where desired. I opened up both the CC11 expression and CC7 volume controller lanes to draw in adjustments to the dynamics. I drew in pitch bends in another lane, and assigned glissandos to a key switch. I then spent a few hours spent editing and making additional tweaks to control details such as bow position, rebowing, vibrato speed and style, and round-robin sample triggering.

One track down — another 182 instrument tracks and 300+ hours to go.

Not all virtual instruments I used were as detailed as the violin above, but every virtual instrument had to be wisely selected, appropriately played, and painstakingly edited to create a realistic performance.
Guitars, mandolins, banjos, and basses have to be edited for hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides, and fret noises. Brass, woodwinds, and strings have to be edited for articulations (sustain, marcato, staccatissimo, etc.) expression, legato phrasing, and dynamics. This is the main reason the album took roughly 370 hours to create.

Example: To give Hail to the Spirit of Liberty that huge concert band sound, I used over twenty patches/sounds from eight different virtual instrument libraries:

Developer
Library
Patch (Sound/Instrument)
Chris Hein
Horns Compact
Trombone Ensemble
"
"
Trumpet A & Trumpet C
Garritan
Concert & Marching Band 2
Baritone Horn Group 2
"
"
Euphonium Group 3
"
"
Flute Group 2
"
"
Piccolo Group 2
"
"
Tuba Group 2
"
Instant Orchestra
Reedy Winds and Attack & Clarinet Winds Attack
"
Personal Orchestra 4
Basic Orchestra percussion - Triangle
IK Multimedia
Miroslav Philharmonik Orchestra
Bass Drums
"
"
Clarinets 2
"
"
Clarinets 1 LP
"
"
French Horns 1
"
"
French Horns Stacc
"
"
Piccolo 1
"
"
Tuba Stacc
Native Instruments
Battery 3
Marching Band Kit Cymbal
"
Kontakt Factory Library
Snare Drum
"
Session Horns Pro
Tuba
"
"
Custom brass trio (x2)

A significant number of hours also went into the songwriting, arranging, auditioning and recording of vocalists, and mixing.

The Holidays In Music was kind of a proving ground for me to discover what I am capable of as a songwriter, vocal producer, and as a virtual instrument composer. I'll be going back to using real instruments on my next recording, but virtual instruments will remain an integral part of my music productions.

Speaking of my next recording, this winter I'll be collaborating with David Austin to create a solid, driving polka album which I estimate will be released in time for the 2018 festival season. After that, I'll be writing and recording a contemporary single that will feature a phenomenally talented vocalist from Illinois. These recordings will be released on CD as well as digital download.



Attention Venues: Book NOW for Oktoberfest 2018
July 25, 2017

With the Oktoberfest season being the busiest time of year for polka bands, I cannot stress enough how important it is that venues book their polka entertainment early — preferably a full year in advance if possible. From mid September through mid October, there are literally more Oktoberfest events going on than there are musicians available to cover them. Every year my email in-box is flooded with last-minute inquiries by venues desperate to find live polka music for their Oktoberfest events. It's not unusual for my band to receive up to ten inquiries for the last Saturday in September or the first Saturday in October.

If you want to lock in a good band for your Oktoberfest event, book the band a full year in advance. The longer you wait to hire, the more likely you are to end up with an incomplete band, a band of questionable quality, or no band at all. I am going to do something at the risk of receiving a little backlash from my fellow bandleaders, which is to publicly reveal one of the hidden reasons why it's important to book early for Oktoberfest.

Most people assume a band is made up of the same musicians all the time, however, that is the exception, not the rule. Almost every musician in the polka music circuit operates as a private contractor, meaning they are free to take any job they want with any band. Musicians typically only work with the same two or three bands, and will ususally take the first job they are offered.
The graphic below shows how the musician hiring fields overlap among bands, ranging from professional to amateur.

During the normal course of the year, bandleaders can almost always hire the same musicians they normally use, but, during the busy Oktoberfest season when all bandleaders are hiring musicians for the same days, the musician pool can run dry. The last hired bandleader will either have to scrape up whatever remaining musicians he can find, or turn the job offer down.

To gaurantee the best live music for your Oktoberfest event, book the band you want early — at least 6-12 months in advance — so that the bandleader can pick all of his regular musicians out of the musician pool before they get hired away by other bandleaders. If you wait until August and September to start hiring bands for September and October, you're really rolling the dice!

Addendum:

I'm adding a paragraph to this article to emphasize the importance of prompt communication and action while hiring bands for your Oktoberfest event.

Every year, I receive multiple inquiries for the same prime dates during the Oktoberfest season. If you are the first venue to inquire of my band's services, I will give you the first opportunity to hire us, however, that window of opportunity can end up being very short if other inquiries come in from other venues. I can't leave those other venues hanging for too long as I wait to hear back from you. I will always try to grant you as much time as you need to make a decision about hiring us, but during the highly-competitive Oktoberfest hiring season, 24 hours is all I may be able to give until
I begin entertainaining the other offers that have come in.



 
After Eighteen Years of Faithful Service, Tom Brusky Band Gets Booted from West Allis Concerts
May 2, 2017

I am sad to report that after eighteen years of performing for the summer concerts at Vet's Park in West Allis, we've been let go from the annual lineup. Earlier this year I was informed that the Mayor of West Allis, Dan Devine, had decided to make some changes to the concerts. I did not know what any of the changes were until I learned yesterday morning that we were one of two bands indefinitely dismissed from the concert series to make way for two new bands.

My band's dismissal from the band lineup came as quite a surprise considering that we have been playing these summer concerts for so long. It was in 1999 when Barbara Lane, who was relocating to Arizona, graciously offered us her band's spot in the lineup. For the next seventeen years, my band faithfully entertained at these concerts, only missing one year (2012) due to a scheduling conflict that was beyond our control.

The summer concerts in West Allis provided my band with the ideal venue to showcase our talent and repertoire to the general public. I always put together the best musicians, regularly bringing in out-of-town sidemen at my own expense. I trailered in a full-range, bi-amplified PA system with subwoofers to give my audiences true, concert-quality audio. As a resident of West Allis for nearly twenty years and a 25-year patron of my band's concert co-sponsor, Tri-City National Bank, the sudden loss of this concert was completely unexpected.

To add insult to injury, I was told that if my band was interested in playing for these concerts in the future, we could be placed on a "waiting list."

To the roughly two-hundred people who looked forward to hearing us perform at Vet's Park every year, I can only say how sorry I am that my band is no longer invited to play for these concerts. It was a fun ride, and I am grateful for the eighteen years I've had, but now it's up to some of the polka bands that have come after us to carry on the tradition. Please give them your full support.


If you have any concerns or opinions you would like to share with the mayor in regard to the changes to the summer concerts, please contact:

Dan Devine, Mayor of West Allis
Phone: (414) 302-8290
Links: Website / Facebook / Twitter




Polkasound Productions Shares Climb After Earnings, Stock Buyback Plan
April 1, 2017

Shares of Polkasound Productions closed up more than 13 percent on Thursday after the company posted better-than-expected quarterly revenue and announced a new $75 million stock buyback plan.

On Wednesday, the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based music production company reported fourth-quarter earnings of 32 cents per share, in line with estimates, on revenue of $253.8 million. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast revenue of $224.9 million.

"We are pleased to report continued progress on the strategic alignment of our global music distribution system with polka music consumers, both domestically and in Holland," Polkasound Productions Chairman and CEO Tom Brusky said in a statement.

Polkasound Productions' board of directors also approved a new buyback program for the repurchase of up to $75 million of the company's outstanding common stock. The timing of the share repurchases will depend on several factors, including market conditions, the company said.

Polkasound Productions' stock is up more than 6% year-to-date.

 

 
Wisconsin Polka Fest Announces Band Schedule for 2018
April 1, 2017

To bring more people into the Wisconsin Polka Fest at the Olympia Resort this year, the Wisconsin Polka Boosters have hired the popular variety-party band, Bobby Way and the Fabulous Wayouts. Based on advance ticket sales, the event is gearing up to be a success, so the Polka Boosters have already put together the band line-up for next year's polka fest in 2018:

FRIDAY
6pm-9pm: Cherry Pie
9pm-12am: The Toys

SATURDAY:
1pm-4pm: The Love Monkeys
4pm-7pm: Rebel Grace
7pm-10pm: The Britins
10pm-1am: Eddie Butts Band

SUNDAY:
11am: Polka Mass with a Polka Band*
12pm-3pm: The Rhythm Kings
3pm-6pm: Pat McCurdy

* To be announced
 

 
Reich Digital Accordions Take Europe by Storm
April 1, 2017

Reich Accordions, a German-based accordion manufacturing company, has been a leader in digital accordions since the mid 1990's. Their most recent model, the V-3, has broken new ground with the addition of actual reeds which are triggered by air movement and controlled by bellow pressure.

"It took many years of research and development, but we've done it," said Reich Accordions CEO Hermann Reich. "The idea for the reeded digital accordion came to me one day while eating breakfast at the local Luftwaffle Haus. Our engineers refined my ideas, and now my quest to create the most realistic digital accordion is over. We have successfully integrated real reeds into our latest model, the V-3. We couldn't be more proud."

"We're just having a little problem getting a patent for the new design," added Reich. "For some reason, the patent office in Berlin keeps hanging up on me."

According to the V-3 Digital Accordion user manual, the bellows, which traditionally only controlled MIDI volume data (CC #7) with a pressure sensor, have been re-engineered to physically move air through custom-built blocks on which several sets of hand-made reeds are fitted. The result is a revolutionary musical instrument that is guaranteed to be most expressive digital accordion ever made.

"If you pull hard enough, you can actually hear the reeds choke. Try that on a Roland FR-7!" Reich boasted.

Reich Accordions was founded in 1923, in the basement of a bicycle shop, by Hermann's father, Ferdinand Reich. By the late 1930's, Ferdinand's accordion manufacturing company had become an empire. After the war, they noticed a mysterious, sharp decline in sales, but sales quickly rebounded in 1946 after the company shortened their name from Ferd Reich Accordions to Reich Accordions.

"Our first digital accordion, the V-1, was plagued by an incessant buzzing noise, so we re-engineered the V-1 and came up with the more aerodynamic V-2 model." said Hermann Reich. "It remains our most popular digital accordion today."

Reich's marketing team hit Poland and France hard, quickly dominating the digital accordion market in those two countries. Reich Accordions then began pushing their products eastward into Russia, but the Russian people found their marketing campaign to be offensive and resisted. Reich eventually pulled their accordions out of Russia due to the cold reception and fierce competition.

Sales of the V-2 are skyrocketing in England, according to first quarter sales reports.

"[The British] love the V-2! Anywhere you go in London, all you have to do is mention the V-2, and people will tell you it's the bomb," said Reich, who plans to use London as a test market for their latest model. "If everything stays on course, our new V-3 will be hitting the streets of London by the end of April."

"Make no mistake, we want to conquer the global digital accordion market," Reich added. "We're preparing for a media blitz in the United States later this year. When our superior German accordions hit your country, you can bet the Japanese will respond by hitting you with their latest line of Rolands. We're prepared to fight, and we will be victorious! Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Akkordeon!"

For more information:

Reich Accordions GmbH
Panzerfaustr. 15
76742 Schtopenfrisck
GERMANY

 

 
Future Uncertain for the Mollie B Polka Show
April 1, 2017

If the polka music market has seemed volatile lately, it's most likely due to speculation that RFD-TV may be close to negotiating a five-year, $4.5 million contract with Mollie Busta to continue hosting the Mollie B Polka Show. Attorneys for both sides declined to make any statements, but outside news sources have revealed that RFD-TV has been in contact with Ryan Seacrest, citing him as a possible replacement for Busta if negotiations with Busta fall through.

Fans of the polka show are voicing their concerns over the potential replacement of the polka star.

"I don't know who this Seacrest guy is, but he ain't no Mollie B," said longtime fan of the Mollie B Polka Show, Gerald Klopfmiller, 67, of Cornfield, Iowa. "We've followed Mollie to all of her shows. Heck, my youngest even followed her into the bathroom at Cracker Barrel once and got arrested."

A similar but rather confusing sentiment was shared by Agnes Stoltz, 89, of Glaucoma, Wisconsin. "I watch Mollie B every day on the TV and some of the shows are old reruns. I turn the TV off if it's not a band I like. Whatever happened to Lawrence Welk? The tomatoes just aren't ripening this year. Hey, what do we say, Milwaukee Braves are gonna win today! My favorite color is ham! Frogs in a fiddle! Choo choo!"

Industry experts have speculated that if Ryan Seacrest were to become the new host of the Mollie B Polka Show, Mollie Busta would almost certainly be approached by MSNBC or Fox News for a co-hosting assignment. This is likely weighing heavily on contractual negotiations and could potentially push Busta's RFD-TV salary to just over $1 million per season.

While the contract is in negotiations, RFD-TV will continue airing reruns of the Mollie B Polka Show, the Big Joe Polka Show, and the lesser-known Syl Jorgensen's Minnesota Hoolerie Hoedown.

 

 
Polkas Return to Potawatomi
April 1, 2017

For over half a decade, the Steve Meisner Band provided Thursday afternoon entertainment once a month for the patrons of Potawatomi Bingo & Casino in Milwaukee. Unfortunately, attendance at the Fire Pit's Side Bar was unpredictable and sporadic, so last year, the Casino decided to try other options.

In an attempt to bring in more people, Potawatomi hired Klancnik & Friends. Attendance was just as poor, so Potawatomi decided to go yet another route and hired the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra with special guest, Alex Meixner. Once again, attendance remained just as poor. Potawatomi seemed to be out of options.

Then last month, on a whim, Potawatomi decided to hold an open polka jam. They
charged each musician an entrance fee to bring in an instrument and play. The Side Bar filled up beyond capacity, and people had to be turned away at the door.

Potawatomi Polka Jams are now held every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday at the Fire Pit's Side Bar from 2pm to 6pm. Attendance is free for dancers, and $7 at the door for musicians. (Annual musician jam passes are available for $150 at the courtesy counter.) Musicians wishing to play are required to sign up in advance as there is a five-day waiting list.

At the request of several musicians who participate in the jam sessions, Potawatomi has agreed to provide a vintage Rogers drum set and Magnatone amplifier.

Proceeds from the jams will go toward finding and hiring a bass player.
 

 
New Five-Part Polka Masterclass
April 1, 2017

Wisconsin musician, producer, and retired farmer Arnie Glaschmeister has put together a Masterclass series for today's budding polka music composers and performers. Starting tonight (April 1st) the five-part series runs for the five next consecutive Saturday nights, since that is when most polka musicians are least likely to be working.



The five classes will cover the following subjects:
  • Sat. April 1: The biggest names in polka music, from Richard Andrzejewski to Stas Zajaczkowski
  • Sat. April 8: The sap factor — why "dancing" and "romancing" must be rhymed in every song you write
  • Sat. April 15: The loudness wars: accordion players vs. adjustable hearing aids
  • Sat. April 22: How to get your original music directly into the hands of indie filmmakers (via Craigslist)
  • Sat. April 29: Moose Lodges and church basement socials -- breaking out of the nursing home circuit
People who know very little about polka music are encouraged to join. In fact, the less you know, the more believable this masterclass will seem. The price is $40 for musicians and $50 for drummers.

If by some chance you actually land a gig on a Saturday night, not only will you be refunded for the class you miss, but you will automatically be qualified and strongly encouraged to teach the next class.

Arnie Glaschmeister's extensive film, TV, and radio credits include:
  • Holzburger Chevrolet radio commercial (actually they just stole his music off the internet)
  • Local cable access Channel 7 community calendar background music (also stolen)
https://www.masterclass.com/classes/arnie-glaschmeister-polka-masterclass



Five Years Facebook-Free

  February 1, 2017

 
Over five years have gone by since I left the world of social networking. It was around November of 2011 when I kicked Facebook to the curb for it's deceitful privacy policy, underhanded tactics, and unreliability. I had been thinking about quitting Facebook for quite some time, but what sealed the deal is when Facebook hijacked my account and demanded that if I wanted to regain access to it, I'd have to give them my mobile phone number. (Yes, that actually happened.) Well, there was no way in hell I was about to let Facebook extort private information from me, but now both my personal page and business page were sitting in limbo because I couldn't access my account to delete them. I contacted the Better Business Bureau who intervened and helped me get my Facebook account successfully shut down.

Most people would not have given a second thought to giving up their mobile phone number to keep their Facebook account, but I'm not most people.
I keep a very close eye on my personal information, which is why I'm a fine print reader. I read the fine print for every online service I join and on every document I sign. I look for red flags, the most common being ambiguous terminology. Several times over the years, I've had to amend documents before signing them, whether they were release forms, indemnity agreements, or contracts. When it comes to social networking sites, however, there are only two choices:

Sign up, or don't sign up.


Once social networking services learned they could generate vast amounts of revenue by collecting and selling their members' socialgraphic information, social networking was (somewhat transparently) transformed into a huge data mining industry. Social networking users became a product to be sold. To maximize the value of their product, social networking sites did everything they could to make you want to post, click, like, pin, comment, and share more than ever. Being the fine print reader I am, I read through the continually changing privacy policies of sites like Facebook and Google, and I didn't like what I saw. They were getting away with making it seem like users had more privacy than they really did.
After the Facebook fiasco, I deleted my Google account. Shortly after, I let go of my LinkedIn account and stopped Tweeting over similar privacy concerns.

I value my privacy very highly. My business address is public because it has to be, but there are no more than thirty people in the entire world who know where I live. My mobile phone number, the same one I've had since the 1990's, has never been made public. The GPS on my phone is permanently disabled.

If maintaining privacy were my only concern, I could rejoin the social networking scene under an alias, but the truth is that I don't want to be that connected to everyone I know. I have neither the time nor the desire to be privy to the everyday details of people's lives, likewise, I'm confident not many people want to know the details of mine.

There are some drawbacks to be detached from social networking, though.
  • Some people, especially younger people in the music industry, use Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as their only forms of contact. They grew up using those services as their primary form of communication, so they don't give any thought to publicizing a phone number or email address.
  • I've missed a few funerals, fundraisers, and other important events over the past few years because the news never made it beyond the domain of Facebook.
  • A Facebook account and the ability to "Like" are occasionally required these days to enter sweepstakes or to receive service discounts.
  • Since nearly 80% of all Americans are on Facebook, some people see the non-Facebook user as being odd or eccentric, or worse yet, maybe he or she is a sex offender or some other sort of criminal.
Despite the drawbacks, being disconnected from social networking suits my lifestyle. I'm busy with my business year round, and when spring and summer get here, I'll be back on the bike trails and tennis courts. The little bit of sharing I do is privately with friends, usually through texting or email, and whatever I make public on my website. The tweeting, posting, snapchatting, pinning and liking will have to wait for another day. Maybe when I'm retired.



The History of the Kerler House

December 25, 2016


As a Christmas present to my mom this year, I spent about 80 hours researching the history of her 112-year-old house and putting it all together in the form of a website.

Link: www.tombrusky.com/kerlerhouse



Music Finally Available on Amazon

December 9, 2016


It took 118 days for my music to become available on Amazon.com. According the CD Baby, Amazon was mistakenly flagging my material as "non compliant content". It's a shame that it took nearly four months to correct this error.

LINK: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NAGQLKZ/

I extend my apology for the delay to those of you who subscribe to Amazon. And I want to caution musicians that digital distribution, even though you pay for it, is truly a crapshoot. There's no better way to describe it. CD Baby got my music distributed to some services, such as Apple iTunes and Spotify, right away. But an error caused placement on Amazon to take nearly four months, and placement on Pandora is apparently still a work in progress. (CD Baby re-delivered my music to Pandora in November, so hopefully it will become available soon.)

Since all of my music is available for immediate download right here on my website, and, in light of the surge of interest in "O Holy Night" after it was aired on Milwaukee radio the other weekend, I am offering a special holiday sale on my website. From now through December 25th, enjoy discounts on the downloads of "O Holy Night" and the entire "Holidays In Music" album!




Band Contracts, the Long and the Short

October 15, 2016


In a nutshell, a band contract is a document that spells out the details of a public performance agreement, such as the performance date and time, location, and compensation. When it is signed by both the purchaser and the bandleader, the document becomes legally binding. Some contracts are very basic, while others can be pages long. My band's contract is only one page long. The top section covers all of the details (what, when, where, etc.) in an easy-to-read table format. The middle section lists conditions. The bottom section is where both the purchaser and I sign and date the contract.

The conditions in my contract are few, but they are important. For example, if my band starts late because stage access is blocked or someone is giving a really long speech, we still receive full compensation. If we are playing outdoors, we must be placed under some sort of shelter in the event of rain. And if there is lightning nearby, we can cease playing to protect ourselves and our equipment from damage. Another important condition states that if our performance is canceled on short notice, the deposit, or a percentage thereof, may be forfeited.

For most performances, your band's own contract will suffice. In fact, a lot of band jobs, such as public dances, are still booked on the honor system with no contract at all. Now and then, however, a venue will supply their own contract. These contracts are often ambiguous to cover everything from solo performers to theater troupes and may be several pages long, but, just because they are official-looking documents, don't sign them without reading them. I'm a shrewd reader of legal documents, and over the years, I've found a few venue-supplied contracts to contain some rather questionable conditions.

One summer a few years ago, a church festival hired my band to perform. I sent them my contract, but when they returned it, they included a rider with an indemnification agreement mandated by their insurance carrier. I read the agreement carefully, and that's when I discovered something fishy. Their agreement stated (in a long, legalese way, of course) that if any employee or volunteer of the festival intentionally or accidentally damaged any of my band equipment, I would be unable to sue them for damages. Could you imagine someone knocking a $5,000 accordion off the stage and being able to walk away harmless?

The other day, I received a venue-supplied contract to perform at a university for a private event. The contract was four pages long and listed twenty-four conditions. I read them all. Everything looked pretty standard, but one of the conditions stood out as peculiar. It stated that I, the artist, was responsible for performance royalties. I've never seen that before. The venue hosting the band is always responsible for the band's live performance royalties, not the other way around. That's what ASCAP is for.

Several years ago, my band was hired for a popular music festival. The festival supplied their own contract, and in the contract, they requested a 25% commission on all CD sales. My profit margin was thin to begin with, so a 25% commission would have made it useless for me to even sell my CDs.

If you find yourself disliking something you see in a contract, can you do anything about it? Yes, you can. Everything in a contract is negotiable. If there is something in a contract you don't like, you have the right to submit or request revisions before signing the contract. In the first scenario with the church festival, I submitted a revised version of their indemnification agreement stating that I did retain the right to sue for damages, and it was accepted. In the second scenario, I simply requested permission to strike the performance royalty condition before signing the contract, and it was granted. In the third scenario, I negotiated a 15% commission fee instead of 25%.

I was recently asked to sign a release form so that parts of one of my band's live performances could be aired on public television. On the release form, it was declared that the music I played I either owned or had "full authority to use for such purposes." In my opinion, the ambiguous wording reads too closely to a licensing agreement. The songs I played were cover songs, and I did not secure any permission for them to be recorded or distributed because that's the responsibilty of the public television network — the people who are doing the recording and distributing. So I wrote an addendum on the release form stating that the songs my band performed were cover songs, and I did not secure any form of licensing or permission for their recording or distribution. Why? Because if the public television network failed to secure licensing for the songs we peformed, and they were subsequently sued for copyright infringement, they could pull out the release form and claim that I authorized the recording and distribution of the music we performed.

You don't have to be a lawyer to review and question contracts and other legal documents. Anyone can do it. All you need is enough common sense to spot when something doesn't seem right.
 


Seven Weeks After Release, Album Reception in Polka Market Gaining Momentum

October 1, 2016


The time and money I invested into producing The Holidays In Music was truly a gamble. The CD is so unique in nature, there was, and still is, no way to know who its chief consumer will be.

As usual, I marketed the CD to the people who are already familiar with my music: Polka fans. I'm happy to report that the response has been nothing but positive. There seem to be a lot of Polka music fans who appreciate other styles of music, and what's interesting is how different everyone's tastes are. One person who buys my CD might rave about the 1940's ballad, another person might rave about the Volksmusik hymn, or the Sousa march, and so forth. This feedback is very important to me, because it tells me that my songs are reaching a broad spectrum of music aficianados. It also tells me that those of you who know me for my Polka music are not having reservations due to the lack of Polka music on this CD. Instead, you're opening your minds to explore the music I've created in all different genres. That means a lot, and I appreciate your intellectual generosity.

For the past two weeks, The Holidays In Music has been holding rank as the fourth best seller on PolkaConnection.com — not a bad accomplishment for a non-Polka CD if I may say so!

Outside the Polka music circuit, statistics are just beginning to report streaming radio plays. People from as far away as Norway and Indonesia are finding and playing my music, however, it's still too early to speculate the start of any sales trends. The digital distribution of my CD is an ongoing process that will take several more weeks, and the physical distribution to radio markets will continue over the next couple months.

Thank you all for your continuing support of my musical endeavors!



The Holidays In Music - Funny Outtake

August 29, 2016


This "blooper" is from one of the recording sessions for the Halloween Rag Medley:






"The Holidays In Music" Finally Hits the Marketplace

August 10, 2016


I'd like to thank you all for your enthusiastic response to the release of my new CD! Your support of my endeavors and encouraging words are what keep me motivated to continue creating music. I am humbled by your kindness and generosity.

There are a few common questions I would like to address:

1. What is downloading?  For those of you who don't quite understand what downloading is, when you download an album or a single song, you're not purchasing a physical CD. What you're purchasing is the music in a digital format that can be played on your computer and most mobile devices, such as your laptop, smartphone, iPad, etc. If you want to buy the physical CD online and have it mailed to you, the only place to order it is: PolkaConnection.com. The retail cost of the CD, with shipping included, is $16.88. If you want to save $1.88, you can purchase the CD in person for $15.00 wherever my band is performing. Mollie Busta also has the CD for sale for $15.00 at her public performances.

2. Did you really perform all of the music on the CD?  Yes, I did. Although I play several different musical instruments, there are plenty of instruments I don't play, like the violin, mandolin, theramin, and Vitameatavegamin. I work extensively with software-based virtual instruments, which is how I am able to replicate many of the instruments needed to sound like, for example, a symphony orchestra or concert band. But, to make a virtual instrument sound like a real instrument
requires an enormous amount of patience, musical knowledge, and technical expertise. To perform all of the music on this recording required literally hundreds of hours in the studio. At first I estimated my time producing this CD at around three-hundred hours, but, after more careful retrospect, I would estimate it very close to four-hundred hours — the equivalent of ten forty-hour work weeks.

3. I thought you were just a polka musician!  I make a living working as a polka-variety musician, and that's how most people know me, but my musical interests extend well into other genres of music. I grew up on Polka music, but I also grew up on Classical, Heavy Metal, Country, Big Band, Top 40, and much more. As a performing musician, I don't stray from the polka-variety music, but as a music producer, my creativity takes me in many directions.




Upcoming CD Hits a Roadblock With Digital Distribution
July 31, 2016


I ran into an unexpected hindrance while submitting my new recording for digital distribution.
According to CD Baby who distributes independent artists' music to major download and streaming sites such as iTunes and Pandora, any artist who creates a medley is required to title the medley with the name of every song in it. In my opinion, not only can that result in some absurdly long and redundant song titles, but it flatly undermines the autonomous creativity of the artist.

After spending fifty hours producing a medley, I'm not about to let some outside entity, who had nothing to do with the creation of the medley, dictate how I must title it! Rather than compromise my integrity as an artist, I instead chose to remove two "non-compliant" songs entirely from digital distribution.
This hindrance will not affect anyone who buys the physical CD or downloads the album from this website — it will only affect people who download the album from third-party sites such as Amazon or iTunes. Those consumers will receive an incomplete album, and will be encouraged to download the remaining two songs from this website.

It really is a shame that, in 2016, a major digital music service doesn't yet have the technology to accept medleys in a way that allows the artist to retain the medley's proper title. What's next? Are they going to begin requiring artists to submit their songs as MIDI files on 3.5" floppy disks?



Removal Of Jim G's Videos Explained
February 3, 2016


[Update 2017: Due to this matter being old news, I have elected to truncate the last names of the people involved so that this article does not show up in search results when searching the names of those people.]

It's always been my preference to keep the legal matters of my music businesses private, however, when a third party makes such a matter public, I feel obligated to respond. This article is written in response to Jim G's February 2nd claim on Facebook that Joe F. and I are supposedly "shutting down [his] YouTube channel."

Early last year, several recording sessions for a recording project, An Evening At Martin's Tap, took place at my studio. At one of the sessions, Mr. G. was filming video. I had no problem with him or anyone recording video for posterity, however, I made it very clear to everyone at the end of the recording session that the videos could not be posted to YouTube or distributed in any way because they contain audio from an unreleased recording project. Everyone in attendance at that session, including Mr. G., heard me very clearly and seemed to have no problem understanding the reasoning behind my statement.

About a week ago, while browsing YouTube, I stumbled upon six videos from the recording session at my studio that Mr. G. had made publicly available. I immediately sent Mr. G. a friendly reminder via email that, while I appreciate his willingness to share the music, the videos needed to come down because they contained music from the recording project that may be on a future CD release. I waited several days, but never received a response, and the videos remained posted on YouTube.

[It is not my policy to publish private correspondence out of respect for the other party, however, I will forward the email I sent to Mr. G. to anyone who requests to see it.]

Joe F. is the executive producer of the Martin's Tap recording project. He paid for the editing, mixing, mastering, graphic design, and duplication of the project, as well as all applicable licensing fees for distribution. He is the sole non-registered copyright holder of all the music that has been recorded for that project, both released and unreleased, and is the only person on earth who has the legal right to distribute that music. Mr. G. is not authorized to distribute that music. None of the musicians who performed on the CD are authorized to distribute that music. Not even I am authorized to distribute that music. Only the producer, Mr. F., is authorized to distribute that music.

In response to Mr. G's apparent noncompliance with my request to voluntarily remove the videos, Mr. F. authorized me to act as his agent and work with Google to have the videos involuntarily removed. Google reviewed my request, found it legal and valid, and acted promptly by removing the six videos from Mr. G's YouTube channel.

Regarding Mr. G's claim that Mr. F. and I are "shutting down [his] YouTube channel", I don't understand his reasoning behind that statement. It is my understanding that Mr. G. recently opted to make many of his uploaded YouTube videos private, however, neither Mr. F. nor I know why he decided to do that. Our
only concern was the removal of the six copyrighted videos. Once Google removed those six videos, the problem was rectified to our satisfaction and we considered the case closed.

This entire problem could have, and should have, been avoided from the very start. The videos should never have been uploaded to YouTube, but they were, and it became a problem that had to be dealt with accordingly. When my personal communication to Mr. G. failed to solve the problem, the next logical step was to work with Google to solve the problem.
 
Polka music and studio recording are fun, however, they are also legitimate businesses and must be respected as such. When you distribute music to which you have no permission or authorization, not only are your actions illegal, but they can have a detrimental effect on the legal sales of the music. CDs are not inexpensive to produce. It's not uncommon for a typical polka CD to cost a few thousand dollars to produce. These large investments must be protected, and that's what copyrights are for.

Google's removal of Mr. G's videos was not personal in any way. It was simply a standard act of due diligence to protect the copyright and investments of Mr. F. Neither Mr. F. nor I harbor any negative feelings toward Mr. G. We believe he provides a valuable service to the polka community with his enthusiastic video documentation of the area's musicians, and we fully support his endeavors to continue sharing those videos with the public.


 Copyright 2005-2017, Tom Brusky LLC