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Booking Events at Senior Living and Elder Care Facilities
May 31, 2022

Like most bandleaders, I lower my band's rates for senior living residences, veterans homes, and facilities for rehabilitation, memory care, and assisted living.

A few years ago, my drummer and I were asked to play for an Oktoberfest party for the residents at an elder healthcare facility in Milwaukee. While we played, however, I noticed that only a handful of residents were ever around. All of the people milling about were younger and dressed casual.

It turned out that we were not primarily playing for the residents — we were playing for corporate executives and staff. It was their party, although residents were invited. In essence, we were playing for a corporate event, but were inadvertently bamboozled into charging our discounted rate.

What triggered my memory of this situation is that we were recently hired by a senior living facility to play for one of their bi-monthly socials "for the residents." As I would normally do, I offered a discounted rate. A couple weeks before the event, I discovered the facility was advertising this event to the public. It turns out this was not just another social for the residents — it was also a promotional event for the facility.

I don't blame the facility for bamboozling us because they did not know I was offering them a discounted rate, but by inadvertently misrepresenting the nature of the event to me, they managed to book my band for a price less than what I would have charged any other venue for a public event.

The purpose of this article is to educate both elder living/healthcare facilities and bandleaders about the importance of communicating the true nature of an event.

Bands typically have three different rate tiers depending on the type of event: discounted/charitable, public, and private/corporate. If a band is playing for the residents and their families, they'll charge a discounted rate. If they are playing for the general public, they'll charge a public rate. If they are playing for the facility itself (such as for a corporate staff holiday party) they'll charge a private rate.

If you are a senior living or elder care facility hiring a band for a function, be specific about whom the event is for.

If you are a band hired to play "for the residents" of a senior living or elder healthcare facility, make absolutely certain you are playing for the residents before you offer your discounted rate. I will be adding a clause to my contract mentioning the discounted rate, the reasoning behind the discount, and asserting my right to void the discount if the nature of the event was miscommunicated or misrepresented during the hiring process.


New Single Released!
May 5, 2023


"New" Photo of Kittling

April 8, 2023

Last week, I gathered all my video clips of Kittling (1992-2009) and Snickers (2009-2021) and compiled them into two seamless videos. It's something I had been meaning to do for a long time because all the clips are fragmented across 30 years of various video formats — VHS, AVI, MOV, and MP4.

Above is a still photo taken from a VHS clip of Kittling when she was two years old.


Bad Drivers Caught On (My) Camera
April 2, 2023

The internet is full of video recordings of stupid drivers. I find those videos rather entertaining, so I thought I'd put together my own, short video of three close calls that I caught on my dash cam. Enjoy!


Europe's Murderous Volksmusik Gangs
April 1, 2023

Veronique Schweigler, Switzerland's 2019 Cheese Princess, proudly brandishes her Alpenthuggen gang affiliation

It started as a bar fight between two musicians. Today, it's Central Europe's deadliest gang rivalry.

In 2014, at a tavern in the quaint Austrian village of Schädenheijer, a disagreement over the authenticity of the region's folk music erupted between two musicians — a local button box player from the valley, and an Alphorn player from the mountain settlement of Wuenzerdorf. As the argument escalated and more tavern patrons became involved, a rift developed between the valley locals and the moutain visitors. It is not known who threw the first beer, but within seconds, the tavern became a violent and bloody battleground between the two sides. This event is known today as the Schädenheijer Brawl.

Over two dozen people were injured in the melee. One musician, clarinet player Saška Zloblak, died after being struck in the head by a ceramic beer stein.

Two days later, in the nearby mountain town of Kleßergnitt, trumpet player Florijan Mlačnik, who was not involved in the Schädenheijer Brawl, was gunned down inside his barn while milking his cow. A handwritten note assumed to have been left by the killer said Maščevanje za Saška! — Revenge for Saška!

Word of the revenge murder spread quickly throughout the Alps, echoing from mountain to mountain and sparking increased violence between the two growing factions. By the end of the year, ten more musicians, two radio deejays, and a tavern owner had been slain.

Today, folk musicians and fans throughout south-central Europe are divided into two warring factions: the Alpenthuggen and the Tirolerbluuds, commonly referred to as the A-Ts and T-Bs. The A-Ts control the mountainous high country, while the T-Bs control the riverways and valleys.

Since the Schädenheijer Brawl, more than 130 members of both gangs have been killed by their rivals. Statistically, some of the most remote, picturesque regions of Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia are now the deadliest places to live on the continent.

Schonnäu-Konigsleiter, Austria — the murder capital of Europe

In an early attempt to escape the violence, people from the valleys fled to the mountains while people from mountains fled to the valleys. It didn't work as they all crossed paths in the foothills and ended up fighting anyway.

"What's making things extra complicated," said Slovenia's Director General of Police, Andrea Valesko, "is that the T-B's gang sign is the same as waving hello. I mean, who's the Einstein who came up with that? It's affecting our tourism industry. Imagine innocently waving to a passing goat herder while visiting Switzerland and getting your head blown off. That actually happened last year."

"Wait... maybe don't print that last part," Valesko added.

The gang rivalry has changed the way many people in south-central Europe live. Gun and ammunition sales in and around the Alps have increased 800% over the last five years. As soon as children are old enough to churn butter, they are sent to the local armory for weapons training. One out of every four haystacks conceals a machine gun nest. Residents have installed metal bars on the doors and windows of their chalets. Cows are not allowed to graze outside past their 7pm curfew.

In the wake of the increased gang rivalry, some residents have diversified to meet the needs of their fellow gang affiliates. Franc Horvat, 62, an accordion teacher from Odjušova, Slovenia, became a certified firearms instructor. He offers his students accordion lessons followed by semi-automatic weapons and hand-to-hand combat training.

"We need to raise our children on authentic folk music. Real music. Not that dang blasted crap the A-Ts play," exclaimed Horvat while flashing the Tirolerbluuds gang sign. "And we need to train these kids to kill the A-Ts so we can finally live in peace."

Anja (14) with her accordion/firearms instructor, Franc Horvat

Goodwill Now Nation's #1 Polka Music Retailer
April 1, 2023

It wasn't that long ago polka albums were flying off the shelves of retailers like Rod's Music and T.K Frank's Polka Records. It was the heyday of polka album sales when vendors competed for table space and online shops updated their websites.

Many retailers have since folded, but one has picked up where they left off: Goodwill. Ask any polka enthusiast where they buy their music, and they'll all mention Goodwill. It may sound prestigious to have a nationwide store handling the bulk of the country's polka album sales, however, it comes with a catch.

"When I heard Goodwill was such a big retailer of polka music, I stopped in with a box of my band's CDs and asked what they were paying," said Wisconsin musician Emil "Skip" Dallman of the Dallman Dutchmen. "The kid behind the counter just looked at me funny and handed me a donation slip."

$0.00. That's the current wholesale album price Goodwill is paying to polka bands.

"The distribution has been excellent, though," added Dallman. "We were able to get our albums in every Goodwill store between Cedarburg and Kenosha, and it only cost us about seventy bucks in gas."



Julie Andrews Burns to Death; Mollie B in Custody
April 1, 2023

The Brentwood, California residence of Dame Julie Andrews engulfed in flames

The world's most renown musical songstress, Julie Andrews, 87, was tragically killed yesterday after allegedly being set on fire by polka star Mollie Busta, known professionally as "Mollie B". Surveillance video obtained by police shows Busta entering Andrews' residence in Brentwood, CA on the evening of March 31. She confronted Andrews, doused her with gasoline, threw a lit match on her, and fled the residence.

Busta was identified in the video by a polka fan working in the Brentwood police department. She was spotted and arrested in Santa Monica later that evening. Busta is being held without bail at the Los Angeles Celebrity Detention Spa & Resort pending charges.

"At this time, we are trying to come up with the appropriate charges, but new information discovered during our investigation is making this rather difficult," said Los Angeles County Sheriff, Timothy Guerrero.

The new information is a text message on a mobile phone which Busta voluntarily gave to authorities. The text is part of a conversation with musician Tom Brusky of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In the conversation, Busta and Brusky appear to be discussing the vocal style in which Busta should sing one of Brusky's music productions. Guerrero is particularly focused on what is believed to be an auto-corrected typo:

"In this particular instance," explained Guerrero, "it's highly unlikely we will pursue homicide charges. Or arson charges for that matter. It's kind of obvious Tom Brusky's instruction to Mollie was to emulate Julie Andrews, not immolate her. It's just a very sad, tragic misunderstanding caused by a phone app."

We reached out to Los Angeles District Attorney Christine Walker to ask whether or not she intends to go easy on Mollie's charges based on the auto-corrected typo. Walker replied via text:

— Yes, these kinds of thongs harpoon all the time. We'll mosh likely be charring Ms. Buster with 3rd Decree Négligée Engenderment for failure to recognize the auto-corrected typo. That's a Class E misdemeanor perishable by up to a maxivan fine of $150 and 40 hours of commune tea servants. —

Although the death of Julie Andrews exemplifies the potential danger of auto-corrected texting, the most horrific auto-corrected typo on record occured shortly before Christmas in 2015, when the children at Sunnyview Day Care in Pocatello, Idaho were taken to the local community center to have their pictures taken with Satan.

Aiden Laravee, 4, thought he was going to the Pocatello Community Center to see Santa.


Artificial Intelligence and Music
March 31, 2022
AI has infiltrated the music industry, but it is not welcome in my studio

My last article was motivated by all the buzz regarding the uncharted waters of copyrighting artificially-created material. Artificial intelligence, commonly abbreviated AI, is a very hot topic in music forums lately.

Chances are you don't know how much AI has infiltrated your life over just the past two years. More and more of the content you're seeing and hearing every day — music, art, films, photos, advertising, articles — is being artificially created.

The benefits to AI creation are speed and cost. They days of laboring over writing music and lyrics, commissioning artists and photographers, and hiring journalists to create fillers for newspapers are numbered. More and more people in these industries are embracing AI to speed up their workflow and cut labor expenses.

AI has already infested the music industry to the point that none of us can be certain if the music we're hearing behind a TV commercial was created entirely by a human, created by a human with the aid of AI software, or created entirely by AI software. AI-generated pop songs have already been playing on the radio for several years. Library music tracks – the generic, cookie-cutter instrumentals you often hear behind videos – are being churned out by AI-assisted producers.

None of this really affects me because music is both an art and an industry, and I am an artist. Just like robots replaced assembly line workers in the auto industry, over the next ten years, AI will replace many of the musicians who currently make a living producing music for clients, such TV/radio producers and video game developers. I'm not involved in that section of the industry. In the coming years, those clients will begin employing AI software to generate the music they need because AI doesn't ask for contracts, licensing fees, or royalties. It will put a lot of industry musicians out of work, but AI will never prevent artists from creating.

The one thing that bothers me about AI is that it's being used as a crutch by creatively-challenged musicians to "create" new songs. The world has always been filled with musicians, and music production was traditionally a rather expensive endeavor reserved for only those who took it seriously. Over the past twenty years, however, the drop in the cost of computer technology paved the way for all the world's fame-starved teenagers to create laptop-based music production studios in their bedrooms. With no musical training whatsoever, these bedroom producers can download and splice together pre-fabricated beats and call themselves music producers. AI is advancing this phenomena by creating not just music for them, but lyrics as well.

Music AI, just like pre-fabbed beats and loops, will never be welcome in my studio because I take pride in calling myself a songwriter. I work the old-school way — I compose music with a piano and write lyrics with a pen and paper, aided by nothing more than a thesaurus. I use the latest virtual instrument synth and sample technology as tools to produce music, but you can rest assured my original songs and arrangements are, and will always be, products of the neurons firing in my frontal cortex... the way music's been created since the beginning of time.



A Common Misunderstanding About Copyrights
March 30, 2022

One of my favorite pastimes is watching Live on Patrol, a YouTube channel run by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office in St. Paul, Minnesota. They livestream themselves on patrol several times a week. I believe they are the only law enforcement department currently livestreaming, but for the past five years, a police officer from a small Midwestern city also livestreamed his patrols. One of his hallmarks was singing, albeit terribly, while patrolling. He'd crank up his iPod over his car's stereo system and croon away as if no one were listening.

Everyone got a kick out of his vocally-challenged livestreams, except he kept on running into problems with Facebook shutting his streams down for violating song copyrights. After a while, he got smart and contacted the bands whose music he wanted to play. He'd get their permission to play their music, and use that permission to successfully appeal Facebook's actions and get his deleted videos reinstated.

But there was something he did that annoyed me much more than his singing: When he ranted about Facebook pulling down his videos, he would tell his audience that it was okay for them to play copyrighted music over the internet as long as they weren't making money from it.

This is a very common misconception about copyrights. A copyright violation is not determined by whether or not money changes hands. A copyright is purely about distribution. It's literally the right to make a copy of something. When you distribute someone else's copyrighted material without their permission, even if you're not making any money from the distribution, you're still potentially harming the copyright holder.

Here's a simplified analogy to explain this harm:

Let's say you're a photographer and you've just set up a kiosk to sell copies of your photographs. Then someone else sets up a kiosk right next to yours, fills it with unauthorized photocopies of your photographs, and instead of charging for them, gives them away for free. So now you're going to lose an entire day's worth of kiosk sales because the person next to you is giving away all your photos for free.

Even though they're not making any money, should they be allowed to tank your sales like that? Of course not. And that's why copyrights exist.

Song copyrights work the same way as the photo copyrights above. When you play someone else's copyrighted song on your podcast or social media page without permission or licensing, you are assuming control over the distribution of that song. Instead of fans getting the song through authorized channels which pay the artist/publisher royalties, they can now get the song from you for free and the artist/publisher gets nothing. That doesn't seem right, does it?

Another common and often related misconception about copyrights is that any non-profitable distribution of copyrighted material, like the kind mentioned above, is protected under the Fair Use doctrine. In a nut shell, the Fair Use doctrine upholds the distribution of copyrighted material, but only under a few specific conditions. For example, if a news network does a news segment about a song, Fair Use upholds their right to broadcast a snippet of that song in their segment. If a music university professor discusses a particular song during a lecture, Fair Use upholds his right to play portions of that song for his students. If a parodist pokes fun at a song by creating a lyrically funny version of it, Fair Use may uphold his right to share that version.

Generally speaking, as long as the distributor's commentary or criticism is focused specifically on the song itself (e.g. dissection of the chord structure, discussion of the song's history) and it's very clear they are not using the song for any other purpose or agenda (e.g. background music for a personal video, promotion of themselves or other products) their distribution is more likely to be upheld by Fair Use. But Fair Use is not a guaranteed shield of protection against a lawsuit. It's merely a legal defense that may be used in the event of a lawsuit.

Questions like these come up every now and then in the internet forums to which I belong. I find these business-oriented topics to be much more fascinating than the usual, "What's the best reverb plugin?" [a question typically followed by 200 responses... all of them different.] I'm not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but as a recording musician, I have to educate myself about these topics. Hopefully the knowledge I learn can help you in some way.

At some point later this year, I will revisit the copyright topic, but the focus will be on DMCA takedowns and online platforms utilizing Content ID and automated copyright strikes.


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