|News & Editorial Archives,
From iHeart Radio
April 4 – May 2,
December 5, 2020
I recently discovered
that the iHeartRadio website was dispensing deceitfully inaccurate
information and content to non-iHeart subscribers. Visitors to my
artist pages on iHeart would find a typical landing page
with my name, list of albums, and a big play button, just like you see
in the screen shot below:
The problem, however, is that the big, blue play button did not not
my music. It would play someone else's. Notice above the play button,
says "Feat. Dave Evans & River Bend, Karen Jonas and more". I have
no idea who those artists are. They have nothing to do with me or my
song, Polka Band. But when you clicked the play button next to my Polka
Band album, their music would
play — not mine.
If you hovered your mouse over any of the album covers listed as my Top
Songs, they would turn into play buttons, but the songs they played
not be my songs. They would, again, be songs by Dave Evans or other
artists not associated with my music.
On the iHeartRadio
page for my song Emergency (see image below) the play button did not
And I have no idea who Rozzi Crane and those other artists are, but
most assuredly have nothing to do with Emergency.
I reached out to
iHeartRadio, and they responded by explaining that songs do not play on
demand for non-subscribers visitng the website, so the play buttons
will play a "radio
station" of other artists rather than the specific songs they're
I can understand songs not being on-demand for non-subscribers, but if
that's the case, then why put play buttons on my songs? And
why are those unfamiliar artists listed to look as if they were
featured on my songs? Why is the website so blatantly
deceitful in this way?
iHeartRadio did not offer any response concerning that matter.
With apologies to subscribers who listen to my music on iHeartRadio, I
had all of my content removed from the service. If iHeartRadio ever
decides to nix all the inexplicable and unnecessary weirdness with
their website, I will consider redistributing my music to them.
"Must Have" for Your Christmas Music Library
December 2, 2020
Schneider has done it again! From one of polka's most talented artists
comes a brand new album for the 2020 holiday
season entitled Christmas Kielbasa.
The album features twelve tracks — a mix of Christmas classics and
wonderfully conceived, new compositions.
This album exemplifies what can be achieved with musical creativity,
solid production chops, and distinguished talent. It delivers more than
what you'd expect from a Christmas polka album, because Mike is one of
those musicians who dedicates himself to putting in the hours to
deliver a well-rounded, balanced musical production. Christmas Kielbasa
is no exception, and that's what makes this album not just fun for fans
of polka music, but a true gem for discerning Christmas music
The consummate hallmark of good songwriting is when a simple, catchy
melody conveys well-written lyrics, and Mike hit the mark with
Christmas Kielbasa. Songs like "Christmas Elf" and "Klaus the Yodeling
Reindeer" hearken to the magic that so many Christmas standards are
The album is available on CD from Mike's website
Connection, and as a digital download from Amazon.
Your purchase of this album will go along way to support a worthy cause
— Mike and his musical endeavors, and a Christmas Kielbasa CD will make
a perfect stocking stuffer for the Christmas music lover in your family.
New Single is
November 26, 2020
Receives Clearance for Take-Off
November 6, 2020 [updated Nov. 22]
A blurb on the front page of my website
mentioned I have a new single in the works. If everything goes
according to plan, I expect to release it on my website on
Thanksgiving, and have it available on all the major streaming and
download services before Christmas.
The single is not an original song, but a parody of an iconic rock song
from the 1970s. A parody is like a cover of a copyrighted song, but the
lyrics have been rewritten in such a way that offers an alternate take
on the original lyrics.
The service I use to digitally distribute my
music requires a special type of license for a parody, called a
derivative works license. Any significant change in a copyrighted
song's lyrics, melody, or arrangement is called a derivation.
In the United States, musical parodies may be protected under Fair Use,
which is a legal doctrine that supports and upholds freedom of
expression. Parodies released without a derivative works license may be
protected by Fair Use, but it's important to understand what that
protection does: It does not protect the parodist from being sued for
copyright infringement — it only protects the parodist from losing the
lawsuit when certain criteria are met.
A derivative works license does two things. The first is that it opens
up dialogue between the parodist and the copyright holder of the
original song. In this dialogue, the copyright holder and/or songwriter
expresses their approval or disapproval of the parody. If approved, the
terms of a license are set or negotiated.
Let's say a parodist named Odd Hal wants to parodize a famous song by
an artist named Ariella Gruende. In short, Ariella says, "Sure, if you
give me 10% of your song's sales, 100% of the composition royalties,
and 50% of the lyrics royalties." Everyone agrees, a license is
secured, and everybody is happy.
If Ariella says no, Odd Hal could still release the parody under the
protection of Fair Use, but at the risk of attracting the attention of
Ariella and her lawyers. If they thought could prove Odd Hal's parody
was not a true parody or in some other way infringing on Ariella's
copyright, Odd Hal could end up in court.
In my personal opinion, regardless of Fair Use, if a parody is going to
commercially released, it should be licensed so that the copyright
holder of the original composition gets their due royalties every time
the song is played. After all, the parody wouldn't exist if it weren't
original song. Back in the day before digital distribution, I
mechanically licensed parodies
as covers, which means I automatically took 0% credit for
both the music and lyrics. This is technically not the proper way to
license a parody, but it at least ensured no royalties were being
unduly diverted from the original song's publisher or songwriter.
My parody was recently approved for release, so I'm pleased to announce
it will be posted shortly.
November 6, 2020
Woohoo! Only 5,499 more streams, and I'll be able to buy a first class
Are Consumed by Politics More Now Than Ever
October 19, 2020
A few weeks ago while traveling through the other side of Wisconsin, I
at a small, rural truck stop. The bathroom stalls of its neglected
restroom were etched with the usual amount of graffiti, but what struck
me as odd was the subject matter. Depictions of female
anatomy and sexual innuendoes — staples of bathroom graffiti for
generations — were nowhere to be found. All of the graffiti was
Every message had something to say about Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
I used to have a modest
interest in politics, but around a
decade ago, I noticed a change in the political landscape that
eventually pushed me away from politics altogether. Shortly after
was elected to office, the armchair politician movement exploded.
Political hobbyism ignited across the country, and politics soon
infested and dominated message boards and social media all across the
But what I'm referring to as politics is really not politics at all.
It's a phenomenon whereby people are using political issues as excuses
to impugn contrary thinkers, further aligning themselves with like
thinkers, which acts as a coping mechanism for their doubts and fears.
When Barack Obama was elected into office, the very idea
of a black man being president rattled some conservatives more than
they were willing to admit — even to themselves. In lieu of revealing
any racist undertones, they manifested their fear in the form of an
unprecedented level of political discourse which labeled the liberal
views of Obama's party as being the greatest threat to health and
safety the United States has ever known.
Republican vs. Democrat discourse like this always existed,
but this time, people who normally restrained their political views
shaken to the point where they sought comfort from like-minded people.
This mammoth movement of banding together
for validation and support intensified, thereby dramatically polarizing
the two parties more than
During the Obama
administration, liberals stood their ground against conservative
Donald Trump was elected, the ground these liberals stood on was pulled
out from beneath
them. Their turn had now come to manifest their fears, and they
came after Trump and the Republican Party firing on all cylinders.
The end result of all this fear building up on both sides is the
politics we see
today — protests, counter protests, rallies, internet memes, campaign
nervous breakdowns, flooded message boards, and now even bathroom
graffiti. These fears are fueled by memes and fake news, and cemented
by selective exposure and confirmation bias.
Politics in America has turned into the amateur hour, where any desire
to tackle and solve problems has been replaced by trash talking,
blaming, and name calling. It's seemingly become the latest hobby for
millions of Americans. That's what
pushed me so far away from politics that I refuse to engage in
discussions with anyone.
You won't find me bitching about liberals or conservatives, attending
rallies or protests, posting
memes, or even so much as placing a campaign sign on my lawn. The only
place my opinions will have any impact is at the voting booth, and
that's where I'll be November 3rd.
Unemployment Assistance Not Kind to Bandleaders
September 14, 2020
As someone who plays music
for a living, I don't turn down work. It's the reason why I haven't
taken a single vacation in the last eight years. [If you don't believe
me, just ask any of my last eight ex-girlfriends.] But the pandemic has
created a situation where a musician's honorable work ethic can
actually result in a loss of
Wisconsin musicians receiving Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
are receiving a nominal amount of money each week — about the
equivalent of one gig's pay. If a musician earns any money during any
given week, they have to report it, and then a calculated amount will
be deducted from their PUA.
That concept is fair from a practical standpoint, but the problem is
that the income a musician is required to report to the State of
Wisconsin is their gross income, which is what they are paid before expenses are deducted. As a
bandleader, my biggest expense is obviously contract labor, which is
the compensation I pay to my sidemen. Since I have to report the entire
check I receive as my own gross income, the amount I report will be
high enough to cancel 100% of my weekly PUA, guaranteed. And, after I
pay my sidemen, depending on the event, my take-home pay could end up
being even less than what my
PUA would have been.
say a bandleader is receiving $200/week PUA, and he books a gig for
$490. He pays $300 to his two sidemen and keeps $190 for himself. Since
he is required to report his gross income for the week, he has to
report the full $490, which is an income high enough to cause him to
lose 100% of his PUA. As a result of booking and playing the gig, the
bandleader will sacrifice $200 in order to make $190.
If the bandleader only had to report the $190 he netted instead of the
full $490, he'd still be able to collect about 50% of his PUA, which
would be enough to cover a utility bill.
My band recently played at a local venue. Before I booked the gig, I
calculated that as a bandleader, I wasn't even going to make a profit.
I was simply going to break even. I took the gig anyway, because it's important to me to continue
providing musical services for those who request it, keep my musicians
working as much as possible, and maintain strong business relationships.
If my playing schedule were
normal, I obviously wouldn't need PUA. But when I can only scrape up
two gigs in a month and each gig lands on a different weekend which
causes me to lose two weeks of PUA, those losses are felt.
The next several months will be interesting. With PUA being so low and
the live music scene still out of commission, living expenses are
eating away at my savings. At the end of the year, PUA will come to an
end. If Democrats and Republicans are unable to agree on a new stimulus
package and gigs don't start coming back, 2021 will start with me
living entirely off my savings just like I was earlier this spring. If
that happens, 2021 will definitely be my year to retire as a musician
and rejoin the workforce. I'll have played professionally for 40 years
(35 in polka) which is a good career.
This is the Year
to Hire a Polka Band for Oktoberfest
September 13, 2020
If you've ever tried to hire a
polka band for a private party on a Saturday night in late September or
early October, you probably ended up getting nowhere except stuck in an
endless loop of recommendations. That's where the band you call is
booked, so they recommend other bands, but those bands are also booked,
so they recommend other bands, and pretty soon you're going around in
Most bands have standing, annual bookings for public Oktoberfest
events, often leaving private parties scrambling to find available
entertainment. But this year is turning out to be like no other in
recent history. The public event cancellations due to the coronavirus
have led to a number of polka bands becoming available for private
Oktoberfest events, even for key dates. My
band, for instance, has nothing booked on the last Saturday in
September — a date for which we normally receive at least a
dozen inquiries. I'm
pretty sure this is the first time in my entire professional musical
career I'll have nothing scheduled for that date.
you're having a backyard Oktoberfest party and want live music, your
odds of finding and hiring a top polka band this year are significantly
higher than normal. Take advantage of it. Next year, hopefully, things
will be back to normal and the polka band circuit will return to being
little humor for my fellow musicians...
Offending Leads to Extreme Measures
July 8, 2020
now you've all heard Aunt Jemima pancake syrup is going to be
You may have also heard about the name changes of various musical
groups: The Dixie Chicks are now simply known as The Chicks, and Lady
Antebellum is now known as Lady A. But the changes aren't ending
there. Here are a few more you may not have heard about.
if you'll all excuse me, I need to write an email to my neices and
nephews warning them they could receive a $500 disorderly conduct
citation for calling me "Uncle Tom" in public.
- If your musical car horn
plays "Dixie", you can be arrested for a hate crime.
- The Dixie Cup Company is rebranding
their product as "D-Cups".
- Dixieland jazz will now be
simply "land jazz".
- Honky-tonk music will now be known
simply as "tonk music".
- The letter "X" is receiving an
additional line "X"
so that it no longer resembles a confederate flag.
- All roundabouts, due to their
resemblance to a noose, will undergo reconstruction to become square.
- Slave computers, which operate off
host computers, will now be known as "secondary service peripherals".
- The White House going to be
repainted in pastels and redesignated the "Rainbow Residence".
- The verb "loot" has been replaced by
the more politically correct acronym: "Sanctioned Theft Encouraged by
- Actress Rebel Wilson has changed her
first name to Julie.
- Police are no longer allowed to
detain or arrest anyone who claims, "But I didn't do anything wrong!"
- All sports team mascots must now be
animals, inanimate objects, or fictional people of non-descript
ethnicity, color, age, and gender.
- Burlington Coat Factory issued a
statement saying they will no longer be selling gray coats or blue
- The word "y'all" is being
reclassified by the Oxford Dictionary as a derogatory slur with white
- Jefferson Davis County in
Mississippi is being redesignated the Sensitive Persons Autonomous
- Buckwheat's dialog in all of the
Little Rascals episodes has been rewritten in standard English and
overdubbed by Morgan
- The "Too Fat Polka" will hereby be
known as the
- The South — yes, the entire southern
United States — will now be known as the "Lower North".
June 24, 2020
of today, there have been about 121,000 COVID-19 deaths reported in the
United States. Below is the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium in Pyongyang,
which is the world's largest stadium by capacity. It holds 114,000
Insurance to the Rescue
June 23, 2020
4 article, I wrote about how Spectrum raised my internet
service fees by 20% right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic when I,
like so many millions of others, lost my income. Spectrum's rate
increase, on which they refused to budge, really stands out as
reprehensible because it goes against the grain of just about every
other service industry in America who is offering some form of
financial relief to their unemployed customers.
One such company, American Family Insurance, really outdid themselves
when it comes to financial relief. In April they sent me a check in the
form of a $50-per-vehicle credit. And just the other day, I received a
letter from my agent informing me that American Family is providing me
with a 10% premium relief credit.
These credits are not only appreciated by this unemployed musician for
the financial relief they provide, but together, they'll completely
offset the price increase imposed on me by Spectrum for a full year.
I don't know what, besides sheer greed, would possess a company like
Spectrum to willingly impose financial hardships on their customers
during a pandemic instead of doing the opposite like American Family
Insurance. I am grateful to American Family Insurance and my agent, Don
Patnode, for understanding the gravity of the COVID-19 situation and
committing themselves to helping their customers and clients through
this difficult time.
New Song of Hope
and Faith Released
Although the release was delayed
about one month, I think you'll find the wait was worth it. I'm proud
to present my latest single, Light
When the fear of the coronavirus pandemic began gripping our country, I
inspired to write this song which I produced in the contemporary
Christian genre. The purpose of the song is to deliver a message that
strengthens the faith of those who are struggling to cope with doubt
and uncertainty the pandemic is causing.
The lead vocalist anonymously lending her pipes to the song is an
exceptionally talented and renown pop/country artist. I can't thank her
enough for the outstanding job she did.
While the COVID-19 pandemic is physically keeping people apart, it's
bringing people together in other ways. Musicians are uniting in the
spirit of collaboration like the world has never seen before, and this
song is just such a collaborative effort. Twenty musicians and
vocalists from North America, Europe, and Asia have donated their
vocals to the song's "choir". They each recorded their vocals at home
and sent me their tracks.
Singing along with me are Kevin Adams, David Cuny, Anja Dolinšek, Mark
Dubravec, Jana Engel, Keith Gennerman, Lenny Gomulka, Toby Hanson,
Carlos Herrera, Kathy Kozlowski, Lilian Naef, Nathan Neuman, Jim Pekol,
Jordan Rody, Mike Schneider, Sebastian Stefański, Drew Wilson, Gabe
Yurkovich, and Fred Ziwich.
I am grateful to each one of these outstanding musicians for answering
the call and donating their time and talent. Selfless contributions
like theirs are what give songs like Light
the Way the power and ability to lift people's spirits.
The purpose and message of the song so important, I've made the song
free to download from my website. In lieu of paying the typical
99¢ download fee, please put an extra dollar in your church's
collection plate on Sunday.
Light the Way will roll out onto music streaming services and select
radio stations over the next few weeks.
The Sound of
Music – It's Definitely Not "Ka-Ching!"
2020 [Updated June 21, 2020]
many of you know, I'm not one to shy away from tackling the tough
questions. One line of questioning I'm commonly asked is how recording
musicians sell their music in a post-compact disc industry.
Let's first look at how bands profited from album sales twenty years
ago. If a band spent $3,500 producing a studio recording in 2000, they
would have needed to sell 233 CDs at $15 each to break even. Twenty
years ago, selling 233 CDs was not a problem.
If a band today spent $5,000 [$3,500 in 2000 dollars] producing a
studio recording, they'd have to sell 333 CDs to break
even. What makes this nearly impossible, though, is that CD sales are
down 85% compared to twenty years ago. A band that
used to sell 333 CDs in 2000 would only sell about 50 today, leaving
them $4,250 in the hole.
A lot has changed in the last
twenty years. In the early 2000s, digital downloads grew
in popularity. In the late 2000s, streaming was introduced. In the
2010s, streaming surpassed every other format to become the primary
means by which music is bought and sold today.
The two big reasons why streaming is now the standard format for music
consumption are cost and convenience. Instead of paying $15 for one
album that requires access to a CD player, subscribers can pay $10 a
month to listen to an unlimited number
of albums on their phone,
anywhere, anytime. Even without a subscription, polka music fans can
freely access thousands of YouTube videos and listen to radio programs
that run 24 hours a day.
Without doing any math, you can guess that if consumers only
paying $10 a month (or nothing at all) to access music that was once
worth thousands of dollars in album sales, musicians' earnings must be
pretty small. You'd be
right. It may
surprise you, however, to learn just how small
those earnings are...
Twenty years ago, if someone wanted to hear all 18 songs on a band's
album, they'd pay the band $15 for the CD. Today, if someone wants
to hear all 18 songs a band's album, they'll stream it on their
favorite subscription service and the band
will earn about 5¢ in royalties. That's a profit reduction of
At this rate, a band would need to achieve about 5,000 streams to equal
the sale of just one $15 CD. To recover their recording expenses,
they'd have to achieve anywhere from 350k to 1.5 million
So how do
bands today make a profit selling music?
For the vast majority of independent recording artists in
of music, the days of
making a profit through music sales are over. They're simply done.
Since streaming replaced direct sales, the
only musicians profiting through streaming are
the popular artists at the very top generating millions of
Why are some
polka bands still able to release their albums on CD?
Even though global CD sales are
fraction of what they used to be, CDs are still the #1
selling format for polka albums. The key to making CDs a viable
format on which a band releases a polka album depends on
whether or not the band can sell enough of them to offset the cost of
manufacture. There are two ways a band can
Popularity: If a polka band is particularly renown, travels throughout
the country, and/or has a sizable, loyal following, they
can still do quite well with CD sales — well enough to cover the entire
production cost of their album and make a good profit.
2. Skimping on production costs:
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some musicians are vastly reducing
their production costs by recording, mixing, designing, printing, and
duplicating their own CDs at home. Some of these
musicians know what they're doing, but most don't, and the quality of
these "bedroom productions" suffers.
And then there are bands who
continue to record CDs mainly for
posterity. They're simply not concerned about how much money they'll
Polka - My Personal Experience
When my Positively Polka CD came
out in 2018, naturally I took copies to sell at all my live
performances. Between all of the
public dances, concerts, festivals, Oktoberfests, and private gigs I
played in 2018
and 2019, the total number of CDs I sold off the stage were around
25-30. Twenty years ago, I would have sold 175-200.
The bulk of my album sales have always been wholesale, but so many of
the retailers who bought my albums over the years are no longer in
business, so wholesale orders are not what they used to be. By the time
last Positively Polka CD sold to a retailer in 2019, I had only been
recover 85% of the album's production costs due to horrifically low
sales from the stage.
Fortunately, a recent stroke-of-luck opportunity and renewed interest
by a couple of retailers prompted the reissue of
Positively Polka on CD. These wholesale orders were just barely large
enough to cover the remaining 15% of the album's production costs, so
I'm happy to declare that I've now broken even.
Although I did break even, it still wouldn't be practical for the
average polka band or musician of modest popularity to spend thousands
of dollars producing a recording and expect to break even — not when
stage sales are down 85%. This is why many of them have either quit
recording or have gone the do-it-yourself route to minimize production
the Support Going
In this post-CD world, there are things you can do to support the
studio recording efforts of your favorite artists:
1. Buy their downloads
if they are offering them. Whenever you purchase a download of their
music, they will profit anywhere from about 65¢ to 95¢
per song. (In comparison, when you stream their music, they will earn
approximately ½¢ per song or less.)
2. If you belong to a subscription service, stream your favorite
artist's music often. Let it play in the background while you're doing
3. Promote your favorite bands' music on your social media pages. Help
the word out.
4. Above all, never make an unauthorized copy of an artist's music by
recording it to your computer while it is playing on the internet. When
you do that, you are committing copyright infringement and
the means by which the artist earns
their due royalties.
During COVID-19 Pandemic
If you want an example of a
company that knows how to kick a customer when they're down, look no
further than Charter Communications, parent company of Spectrum. I
opened my March 22 bill to pay it, and couldn't believe what I saw:
they had increased the cost of my internet service by 20%.
concede Spectrum reserves the right to increase my bill whenever
they want, but it's almost as if they're clueless as to what's
happening in the world. I called their customer service to express
how shocked I was that they had the audacity to raise my
rates right in the middle of a pandemic that's causing millions of
people, myself included, to suddenly lose their income. The customer
representative transferred me to a customer retention
specialist offered to boost my 20 Mbit/s internet speed, but I told her
wasn't concerned about speed. I was only
concerned about the added cost since I lost all of my income due to
apologized for the timing of the rate increase but said there was
nothing she could do about it. The increase would stand.
If losing my income meant I couldn't
afford the 20% bump in price, my only option would be to cancel my
filed a complaint with the
Business Bureau citing
COVID-19-related price gouging, but they rejected it citing it
falls outside of their "purview of disputes". With the BBB unwilling to
mediate, my next step was writing and maining a letter to the president
and CEO of
Charter Communications, Thomas Rutledge.
always received positive results writing to
company CEOs when something
goes wrong. This time, however, I was not dealing with company that
a mistake, but a company that knowingly and willingly generated
financial hardships for unemployed Americans at the onset of a
pandemic. Since it's impossible to reason with people who do
unreasonable things, I wasn't too optimistic about the outcome.
also filed a
complaint with the FCC hoping it would help urge them to pressure
Charter Communications into temporarity reversing and ceasing their
service rate increases.
April 21, I began receiving contact from Spectrum and the FCC.
The FCC complaint went nowhere. All they did was put me in touch with
Spectrum's customer retention department who once again assured me the
price increase was correct.
May 2, Charter Communications corporate pretty much blew me off
by passing me back down the line. The person who was assigned to look
my case told me to reach out to their billing department to help me
with my "billing concerns." My pessimism regarding the outcome of this
matter seems to be justified.
When it comes
to hiking internet costs
for customers who
just lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Spectrum's official
answer, based on my experience, is the equivalent of "ain't our
You may read headlines about how Spectrum gave their employees raises
and is offering free internet to select groups during the COVID-19
outbreak, but if you've ever wondered how they're paying for that, now
you know — they're sticking customers like me with the bill.
never witnessed a more reprehensible, appalling breach of business
ethics in all my life. When so many Americans are hurting as their
savings accounts are being depleted by bills, Spectrum's answer is to
rub salt in their wounds by raising their rates. What a class act.
Integrated Air Filtration
governor Tony Evers' "Safer at Home" edict is affecting everyone
differently. Some people are quietly biding their time, but Jimmy
DeLocke of Appleton has made the best of the situation by turning it
into a uniquely productive one.
the course of a three-hour
performance, the average accordion player will move over 1,700 cubic
feet of air," said
DeLocke, 52, a home ventilation and air
conditioning technician and amateur polka musician. "Why the heck
are we not purifying that air?"
exactly what the inventive DeLocke, who's been out of work since
early March, set out to do with his newly-found free time. After
working in his basement workshop ten hours a day for the past two
weeks, he now claims to have designed and built the world's first
accordions with integrated air filtration systems.
accordions will be available in five different models:
CHARCOAL – Standard air filtration
CHARCOAL SC – Standard filtration with sound chamber
HEPA® LOOSE – Super filtration with
loose bellow action
- HEPA® TIGHT – Super filtration with
tight bellow action
TIGHT SC – Super filtration
with tight action and sound chamber
revealed that he is currently in negotiations with Castiglione
Accordion Company to market and distribute his products.
working out a contract deal with
said, "but they
aren't interested in
all of the models I make. At the very least, I hope they contract my
New Book for
People Under 30
thanks to Don Hunjadi and Steve Meisner for the concept of this article.
witnessing twenty-somethings using a tack hammer to pound
finishing nails into a slat of pine wood at an Oktoberfest party,
author Craig Erickson could feel the time-honored traditions of
Oktoberfest slipping away. The experience motivated him to write this
definitive guide to Oktoberfest.
for Dummies" not only explains the traditions of
Oktoberfest, but goes to great lengths to help millennials find
socially-conscious ways to celebrate it. Erickson's book explores:
"Oktoberfest for Dummies" is
available at all Valdenbooks stores.
- Which brewers support the organic
- Where PETA-monitored wiener dog
races are held
- How to celebrate Oktoberfest without
risking offending Germans by exploiting cultural stereotypes such as
lederhosen, dirndls, beer, and oompah music
Polka Hall of
Fame to be Relocated to Attics
the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame disbanded in 2019, a decision had
to made as to where all of the polka memorabilia would be stored.
Members of the now-defunct organization came together to vote on
potential new locations, and it was decided all of the plaques, photos,
sheet music, and musical instruments would be distributed among their
who wishes to view the former Hall of Fame's memorabilia is
advised to keep an eye on Craigslist for upcoming garage sales.
Walkthrough Guide for Polka PlayerzTM Video Game
now, most of you have heard about the 2019 video game release by
Quantum Entertainment called Polka PlayerzTM.
The game is based on a four-piece polka band working in 1970s Waukegan,
Illinois. There are a total of twelve missions, and the object of the
game is to progress through all of the missions without any contract
disputes, drunk driving charges, or divorces.
Quantum Entertainment contacted me and asked me to write an Xbox
walkthrough guide for their website. Since many of you own the game,
I'm sharing with you the quickest way to win the game's first mission
without incurring any losses.
the start of the game,
band will begin receiving phone calls for gigs. Decline the first three
offers: a Knights of Columbus Dance, a 50th birthday party for Stippy
Applebaum, and a booking agency wanting to hire you for a $400 gig. The
agency is trying to book you for a wedding. Decline the offer because
the next phone call you get will be the groom from that same wedding
wanting to hire you directly. Charge $500 and take the gig.
Y to bring up
directory of musicians. Use the left joystick to cycle through each one
to read their strengths and weaknesses. You'll notice that for the most
part, talent and dependability are inversely proportional. It will be
tempting to pick the most talented musicians, but hiring the more
dependable ones will pay off in the end. The musicians I'd suggest for
the first mission are:
Czerceczki - Guitar
Talent: 5 | Dependability: 6 | Vocals:
Yes | Drugs: Yes
Livsey - Bass
Talent: 3 | Dependability: 8 | Vocals:
Yes | Drugs: No
After you hire Johnny and Frank, do not hire any of the available
drummers right away. They will back out of the gig at the last minute.
Wait until two days before the wedding, and Doug Howerton will become
Doug Howerton - Drums
Talent: 6 | Dependability: 7 | Vocals: No
| Drugs: No
you arrive at the
where the wedding is taking place, choose the loading dock further away
from the freight elevator. If you pick the closer one, the band showing
up for the other wedding will pick a fight with you and cause you to
start your gig ten minutes late.
Take the freight elevator one floor up to the kitchen. There will be
four paths you can take through the kitchen to get to the service
elevators. Take the path on the left that starts between the two linen
bins. As you go around the first corner, look immediately to your
right. You'll see a cart with three leftover pieces of cake on it. Take
a piece for yourself and give the others to the guitar player and the
drummer. Do not give one to the bass player. (I'll explain later.)
At the other end of the kitchen there will be two service elevators –
one available and one currently in use. Do not take the available
elevator. On the way up it gets intercepted by hotel staff taking dirty
dish pans back down to the kitchen. They'll make you five minutes late
for your gig. Wait for the other elevator and it will take you straight
up to the ballroom floor.
When you get to the ballroom entrance, you'll notice all of the routes
to the stage are blocked by guests sitting down for dinner. If you try
to roll your equipment past any table, the guests will get angry and
complain to the bride. You'll need to use a cheat code here. Walk up to
the gray-haired gentleman eating the beef tips and press A + X
+ LB + RT on your controller. He will excuse himself to
use the restroom giving you 90 seconds to move your equipment through
you get set up on
press Y to bring up songs you can add to your playlist. Do not
choose all polkas and waltzes. You'll need to choose a variety of
styles. Here's why:
When your band begins to play, you'll start with a crowded dance floor.
Your objective is to keep as many people on the floor as possible by
reading the crowd and calling the right songs. For every person who
leaves the dance floor, the bride's drunk aunt will stagger three feet
closer to the stage. If you lose too many dancers and she reaches the
stage, she'll start demanding rock songs that are not on your playlist.
You'll need to choose the best alternate songs from your playlist that
you think will appease her. If you fail to make her happy, she will
complain to the bride's mother who will then refuse to validate your
hotel parking ticket.
Pressing LT will allow you to switch between piano accordion
and button box. The button box can only be used once on a gig, and
switching to it will temporarily disable all but two polkas from your
playlist. Make sure you choose it at the right time or you'll risk
Keep an eye on your band members' health meters during the gig. Those
three pieces of cake you found in the kitchen were energy boosters. The
musicians who got one will have enough energy to get through the gig.
Your bass player didn't get any cake, so toward the end of the night,
he will begin to fade. This is OK, because no one will notice the bass
you exit the hotel
garage, press RB to bring up the police scanner and A
to turn it on. Listen to the volume of the broadcasts. If a broadcast
gets louder, it means you're getting too close to a police car. Pick a
different route. If the broadcast gets quieter, you're traveling in a
safe direction. Keep the scanner on and weave your way through the city
avoiding loud broadcasts until you're home.
for Xbox® and Playstation®
is available at all GameStop outlets in Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland,
Pittsburgh, and the Netherlands.
TIP: Whatever streets you choose
coming home from a gig, do not take West Street. There is a police
precinct and a Dunkin Donuts on the same block. You will be spotted, a
radio call will go out, and your DUI wanted level will increase by one
star every 60 seconds until the entire police department is looking for
TIP: When police broadcasts are quiet
enough, you can risk flooring your car and blowing through red lights
to collect bonuses. When you get home and walk into your house, go over
to the refrigerator and press X to open it. If you were
successful in blowing three consecutive red lights without being
spotted by the police, you'll be rewarded with three slices of leftover
in-game screen shot courtesy of Quantum Entertainment
Tom Brusky Band
you in the mood
for some lively polka music? We'd love for you to come out to see us!
Here's a complete list of our upcoming performances:
The Impact of
COVID-19 on Musicians
are all feeling the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but the
self-employed were more or less blindsided by it. Within a matter of
days, musicians lost 100% of their gigs. As they scrambled to research
what options were available to help them through their predicament,
they discovered to their dismay that there were no options. Musicians
and other contract workers had no safety net available to them. They
had fallen through the cracks and were going to have to live off their
personal savings for an undetermined length of time.
workers cannot collect unemployment benefits since no
portion of the taxes they pay goes toward the unemployment insurance
fund. Although President Trump asked states to expand their
unemployment eligibility requirements to include the self-employed
during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wisconsin was not among the states that
workers can purchase unemployment disability insurance to
cover themselves when they are sick or injured, but loss of work due to
pandemic quarantine does not qualify as being disabled. A worker would
have to literally contract the virus and become sick to receive
president's recently-signed stimulus package is apparently going to
offer Disaster Unemployment Assistance to self-employed workers, but as
of yet, no key details of that program have been worked out. It's not
yet clear if all self-employed workers will be eligible, nor whether
the federal government or individual states will be controlling
the details of immediate relief (other than the $1,200
stimulus payment that everyone will receive) are still unknown,
self-employed workers will eligible for a federal tax break in 2021 in
the form of an exemption equal to ten days pay.
for me personally, I'm doing OK. I live rather frugally and saved up
an emergency fund that will get me through the coming weeks. The
biggest threat to my situation, believe it or not, is my cat Snickers.
A few times a year he gets sick and requires emergency care, which can
be costly. Snickers needed emergency care just last weekend, but I had
a hunch what the problem was and opted for the minimal care I believed
he needed. Thankfully my diagnosis was right, and I saved hundreds of
dollars in unnecessary x-rays and blood work.
also fully stocked with food and supplies. When I first saw the
news of the virus spreading in Washington and California, I was pretty
sure it would only be a matter of time before the virus and the panic
buying would spread to the Midwest and a quarantine could be ordered.
While store shelves were still full and life was carrying on as usual,
I inconspicuously bought several months worth of groceries and
supplies. My reasoning was primarily safety. I figured it would be
safer to shop now rather than later when the virus was more widely
of viral distribution, I hope you're all doing your part and
staying home! The best way to slow the spread of the virus, obviously,
is to be someone who neither gives nor receives it. We all have to take
this measure because hospitals are not equipped to handle unprecedented
spikes in admissions. By all of us staying at home and away from other
people, the pace at which the virus spreads will slow down, giving
hospitals a chance to care for and discharge patients at a more
manageable rate. Most importantly, it may mean having enough
ventilators available for those who need lifesaving treatment.
benefit to staying home is that you don't have to keep
re-sanitizing everything. A simple trip to the grocery store means
sanitizing every container of food you bring into your home, and then
re-sanitizing your gloves, doorknobs, car keys, wallet, counter tops,
refrigerator door handles, etc. It's a big job. The fewer times you go
out, the fewer times you have to sanitize.
discovered a couple of benefits to being stuck at home. The
biggest one is having an unprecedented amount of time. I've already
completed a few cleaning jobs, and have a few more to go. My main goal,
however, is to use the time to write and compose music. Another benefit
is that my two cats have never gotten to see this much of their dad
before. They're not taking the opportunity for granted, either. Most of
the time, one is on my lap and the other is at my feet.
help you enjoy your time at home, if you're not already aware of
this, my four most recent albums/singles are posted online in their
entirety for complimentary listening. They'll help you kill about two
hours of time.
hope for all of us is that the viral threat will abate by Memorial
Day so that our summer festival season will not be affected.
final thought: The people on the front lines of this war against
the COVID-19 virus are healthcare workers. Our country's doctors,
nurses, paramedics, and EMTs are putting their lives on the line every
day. If you know someone who works in healthcare, reach out to them and
offer words of encouragement.
Recording Studio is Now Closed
30 years in operation, my recording
studio, Polkasound Productions, has officially closed. Sales of polka
CDs are just a fraction of what they used to be, which has made the
investment in studio recording economically unviable for most bands.
services to the public have ceased, I will continue upgrading
and using the studio for my own private use. My future polka albums and
singles will continue to be released on the Polkasound Productions
recording label, whereas a new label will be created for my future
music releases outside the polka genre.
Affect My Livelihood as a Performing Musician?
my gig on Tuesday, I stopped at Woodman's Market to do some
shopping. It was a normal shopping day. Toilet paper was fully stocked,
so I bought some with the rest of my groceries. The next day I took
care of my mom's shopping at a local Pick N Save. It was another normal
shopping day, so I casually bought some more toilet paper with her
next day I was shopping at Target and again at Woodman's, and their
toilet paper supplies were nearly depleted. Both stores were rationing
what they had left. There was a checkout line at Woodmans over 50 feet
long. One shopper was wearing a face mask. It was anything other than a
normal shopping day; it was a reaction to the news of the Coronavirus
becoming a pandemic.
is when the reality of the situation sunk in as to how it might
affect me as an entertainer.
is no way to know exactly how much damage the pandemic will
cause, so prevention is where most of the focus is right now. This
means concerts and other public gatherings are being canceled and
postponed in record numbers to minimize the spread of the virus. So
far, none of my band's scheduled performances have been canceled, but
we're only three days into the pandemic.
this virus appears to start spreading exponentially, it will
certainly mean polka dances throughout the state will be canceled. At
many of the venues where I play, most dancers are over 70 years of age.
I would not expect nor want them to venture out into the public while
the virus is spreading. For this reason, I am mentally preparing to
find myself out of work for weeks. Possibly up to two months or more.
a self-employed musician is very rewarding, but it's always had
its downsides: you can't call in sick, you don't get vacation days, and
you have to provide for your own health insurance. Being "laid off" due
to a pandemic, however, never crossed my mind until this week. That's a
My Response to January's
Newspaper Article Discussing the Wisconsin Polka Hall of
A recent article in the Green Bay Press
Gazette talked about the problems facing polka music in
Wisconsin, culminating in the folding of the Wisconsin Polka Hall of
Fame. Since the article was published, I've been asked for my opinion
on the subject by enough people that I thought it might be worth
sharing my views publicly.
My opinion doesn't sugar coat the truth, however, I don't believe the
truth is something to fear. Yes, the fan base is dwindling and the
continually declining in numbers, but polka music itself is absolutely not going away.
Polka music is a traditional form of music, which means it
intentionally does not change. The demand for this accordion and
concertina folk-based music peaked well over 50 years ago. Through the
decades since, rock and pop music emerged to capture the younger
generations. Accordions gave way to guitars and synthesizers, and the
demand for polka music
naturally decreased. As the older polka fans passed away, there were
less and less younger polka fans to take their places.
This phenomenon is still continuing, and it is why polka organizations
breaking up. It's why musicians are retiring and dances are folding.
But these effects are only felt within
the polka music circuit where the memories of packed dance halls still
exist. Outside the polka
circuit in the realm of the general public, polka music has retained a
lot of its appeal. It doesn't have the large, devoted fan base to draw
anymore, so the overall demand isn't what it used to be, but there
still is a demand for polka
there are, and will always be, people of all ages who want and
In my time as a bandleader, I've seen a lot of Milwaukee-area polka
dances fold — Bradley Road Inn, Country Keg, Hiawatha, Orchard Inn,
Nick's Nicabob, Pulaski Inn, Richfield Chalet, Russ & Darlenes,
Serb Hall, Sue's Bayview Bandwagon, and most recently the Thursday
afternoon dances at the Moose Lodge. We've lost all these places in
the past 20 years, and yet, my band business is going stronger than
ever. How is this possible?
I owe a good portion of my band's current demand to the last bastions
of the polka generation — the venues still hiring bands like mine and
the dancers who follow us. This dedicated fan base, however, just
doesn't have the numbers needed
to maintain the status quo of decades past. It can't sustain a hall of
fame. It's not going to form any new polka clubs. It's not large enough
to warrant any new weekly dances. And the days of bands going into
recording studios and dropping thousands of dollars to record albums
are over. The existing polka circuit is simply too small for these
The annual polka festivals and monthly/weekly dances that we have going
on right now are all that we have left. We'll
enjoy them for as long as we can, but in the coming years, we can
expect most of them to
dwindle in attendance and fold as well.
But there's life outside of
this polka circuit. There are
beer gardens, breweries, music festivals, Oktoberfests, and all
kinds of other public, private, and corporate events in need of good,
polka music. Yes, polka music is still in demand. There is a universal
for it that, from where I'm standing, has no end in sight.
Some of the dances where polka bands play today have been slowly and
steadily infiltrated by non-polka dancers, evolving into ballroom
dances where cha-chas and slow waltzes far outnumber the polkas. Still,
there is plenty of polka music to
be enjoyed throughout the year. You just might have to travel a little
or plan a little further ahead to catch it, that's all.
your eye on your favorite bands' schedules. Polka music is not going
Auction Raises $427 for Alzheimer's
Idea for Auction
Instigated by Music Fan's Bizarre
2020 [updated February 11]
couple of weeks ago, I posted an article
about a music fan who, instead of purchasing my latest music release
for $3.49, copied the music for free off YouTube. I
kindly advised him that what he did was a copyright violation. He
seemed to understand and offered to buy me a beer at an upcoming polka
festival. That sounded great to me, so I accepted.
the matter was settled, but I was wrong. He wasn't able to let the
issue go, and started peppering me with irrational reasoning.
me for the theft
because my music was easy to steal, and suggested that
since he owns my older recordings, he was entitled to the
freely-obtained copy of my new
recording. I explained to him that my albums cost anywhere from several
hundred to several thousand
dollars to produce. By entitling himself to an illegally-obtained free
copy, he's not
helping me recover a dime of my production expenses through
download sales or streaming royalties. Needless to say, what he did is
not just a copyright violation, but it's an incredibly
disrespectful thing to do to a musician.
willing to put the matter to rest over a beer and not make a big deal
out of it, but his
behavior deteriorated to an even more disturbing level. He took all of
recordings from his personal music library and shipped them to me, but
before permanently damaging them. He cut the tape inside the cassette
shells, gouged the surfaces of the CDs, and wrote "rendered uplayable"
on all the album covers with a permanent marker.
included a note:
When I opened
the box and saw my damaged
recordings, the first thought that came to mind was... what a complete and
utter waste! If he no longer
my albums in his
library, why didn't he donate them to a nursing home or assisted living
Any such place would have been thrilled to
receive a multi-volume polka music collection for their
I began thinking of ways I could compensate for this senseless loss,
and that's when I came up with the idea to run a charity
auction to which I'd donate a handful of my CDs.
But then I got another idea. A bigger, better idea. My CDs alone would
have little impact on any charity, but I could organize a fundraiser on
a much grander scale, for an even greater cause, by asking my fellow
musicians to donate one of their CDs.
That's when I decided to create an eBay
charity auction to benefit a
Wisconsin-based non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives
affected by Alzheimer's disease and related dementia: The
Alzheimer's & Dementia Alliance of Wisconsin (ADAW). Most of us in polka music know
who has been affected by this disease, whether they're a family member,
friend, fellow musician, or dancer. I reached out to polka musicians
all over the
country and Canada to ask if they would like
to donate a CD or DVD to this charity auction, and they responded.
Collectively, 89 items were donated by 35 musicians:
The winning bid was $427.22,
of which 100% will go to ADAW. (In addition to the $427.22 raised for
ADAW, this auction also generated about $26.00 in Pennsylvania state
tax revenue, and no less than $100.00 in revenue for the U.S. Postal
My sincere thanks to everyone who donated, everyone who placed bids,
and everyone who
helped promote the auction!
2020 (updated every now and then)
organizing receipts the other day, I came across Snickers'
medical bills going back to the year he was born:
as of December 5, 2020: $15,806.11
this article is to remind people that pets are not novelty items. They
should never be given out as gifts or brought into a home without
careful consideration. They become family members who entrust their
owners with their health and happiness, and that means owners must be
willing to provide their pets with whatever medical care they may need.
Music is Free to Hear On
Internet; Not Free to Copy Off the Internet
corresponded with a music fan who casually admitted putting
all five songs from my Country Christmas Collection EP onto a CD for
personal listening. I didn't see a record of a download sale to that
person, so I asked him where he got the music. He said he got the music
was violate a copyright by making an unauthorized copy of
basic ways people get music online: streaming and
downloading. To download a
song means you pay to receive a digital copy of it. You can then make
additional copies of the song to play on your phone, MP3 player,
wherever else you personally listen to music. You can also burn the
song to a CD for your car. To stream
a song means you can listen to the song online as much as you want, but
you are not authorized to have a copy of it in your possession. The
music stays on the
streaming site. The music fan who copied my songs off
YouTube assumed that since he was allowed to freely play the songs, he was allowed
to freely copy the songs. No,
it doesn't work that way. Even though there are a lot of ways to easily
music from streaming sites like YouTube, with a few exceptions, doing
so is a violation of copyright law. If you want to have a copy of a
song in your possession, you must either pay to download it from a
download site or get
permission from the copyright holder.
from YouTube's Terms of Service, with key points that I've highlighted
in red, states:
|You may view or listen to Content for
your personal, non-commercial use. You may also show YouTube
videos through the embeddable YouTube player.
The following restrictions apply
to your use of the Service. You
are not allowed to:
1. access, reproduce, download, distribute,
transmit, broadcast, display, sell, license, alter, modify or otherwise
use any part of the Service or any
Content except: (a) as expressly authorized by the Service; or
(b) with prior written permission from YouTube and, if applicable, the
respective rights holders;
fraudulently engage with, or otherwise interfere with any part of the Service (or
attempt to do any of these things), including security-related features
or features that (a) prevent or
restrict the copying or other use of Content or (b) limit the
use of the Service or Content;
you play a song on a streaming site like YouTube, you generate a
payment. Artists and recording owners rely on those royalties for
income, especially now since physical sales (i.e. CDs) are obsolete. If
you make an illegal copy of a song off a streaming site, you are
artist and copyright holder their due royalties. You're also
saying to them, "I know it cost you
hundreds if not thousands of dollars to make this recording, but you're
not going to recover a dime of it from me."