Quality Over Quantity

Quality vs Quantity Feature image

All too often I see artists overcome the common hurdle of funding their recording budget only to fail miserably at project management. They’re engrossed with recording a full length CD so they focus on how to achieve that goal within their budget parameters.  They choose quantity over quality.Quality vs Quantity Scale image

Professionally this is a poor choice.

What’s your intent?

Do you want to be received as a professional artist or do you want to record a vanity project?

If you intend to sell your project you need to accept the fact that you are competing with all your favorite artists, the ones who inspired you.

Quality stand out in a crowdIt has to be GREAT or you will not stick out of the crowd.

Your mother and your friends will understand how and why your project sounds amateur.

Consumers won’t care.

If the songs don’t blow them away and the record doesn’t sonically sound amazing they won’t buy it.

If consumers don’t buy it that obviously means that they are not listening to it.Quality no buy image

If they’re not listening to the music that means you have a vanity project.

Vanity means it’s just for you, your friends, and your family.

Which is totally fine.

Unless your dream was to make a living making music.

This requires commerce.



Quality Steve Jobs quote


It’s confusing to me to hear artists wax on about how they want to record albums like their heroes did, back when they “made the records they wanted to make”.  However, the artists they speak of were on major labels with incredible infrastructure in all aspects of the record making process.


These heroes wrote world class songs (often with hit songwriters).

They worked with world class musicians (often not the same musicians in the band)

They worked with professional engineers, and producers.

Then they recorded in world class studio facilities.

So they “made the records they wanted to make” with a quality-tested team of professionals who earn a living every day making records (which is a vastly different skill set than recording music)

Quality Professionalism Consistency of quality


Don’t you think this is an important fact to consider?


I mean this is your dream, right?


These are your babies, aren’t they?


If you want your project to be competitive you will not be able to accomplish this in a home studio all by yourself.

Your undying admiration for music and a Pro-Tools rig is nowhere near enough, you’re going to need experience.

The good news is that it is easier and less expensive than ever before to access quality professionals and create your epic masterpiece.

A little consideration towards project management can go a LONG way to making the dent you need to attract major attention in this business.


Attention from consumers.


Attention from the industry.


Quality over Quantity

Quality Universe quoteI constantly see artists screw up their projects from the get-go. They feel they HAVE to record a full length CD because that’s always been their “dream”.

Was the dream really to record 10 songs, or was the dream to be a professional artist who finds an audience and makes a living selling their music to their fan base?

The problem is a smaller budget won’t allow for quality AND quantity so they erroneously choose quantity and go “shopping” for a place that will take their limited finances and deliver a 10 song CD.


I promise, if you are looking for a studio that will charge $250/song or $25/song YOU WILL FIND IT.  Your tracks will suffer greatly but you will indeed have a 10 song CD.


Did you win or lose?


What if you focused on quality instead of quantity?

CASE STUDY: We were approached by an amazing Canadian singer/songwriter named Tanya Marie Harris.  It was time for her to record her next project.  I remember her saying, “Johnny, for what you and Kelly are charging me for 2 songs, I could record a whole CD up here in Toronto.” I remember preparing my usual response of “Well, we aren’t your guys then” when she followed up with “but it would be mediocre and I need something awesome. This is my last shot and I want these tracks to blow people away.”Quality Tanya Marie Harris

We did exactly that.

Tanya recorded 2 songs and is currently building a real career on the strength of those tracks.  She recorded “A Woman Scorned” and “Secondhand Dreams” which currently has almost 2 million YouTube views and is getting more spins on radio every day.

Tanya is touring constantly.

Tanya signed a deal with a Nashville management company.

She made a dent.

Quality make a dent in the Universe


Professional recordings mean that you’re a professional.


How nice would it be to hand someone your recordings WITHOUT a disclaimer?





To quote Steve Jobs, “Quality is better than quantity.  One home run is better than 2 doubles”

FYI, he put his money where his mouth is. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak built their very first run of Apple computers out of Wozniak’s garage.  They had a limited budget and chose to manufacture 50 quality computers over a quantity of 500 of a lesser quality. The rest is history.


What are you after, home runs or doubles?


Find a quality team.


Stay in tune.


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Get Comfortable With Uncomfortable

Uncomfortable head in a jar with water image FEATURE SIZE

In our podcast episode entitled “What Is Producing”, Kelly and I discuss the many hats we find ourselves wearing as artist developers.  One hat is that of a psychologist to our artists and writers. Artists are, and should be, constantly uncomfortable. They need guidance, assurance, a friend, a shoulder to cry on, a champion, a white knight, a mentor, a disciplinarian, a protector, and a confidant as they navigate their way not only through this crazy music business, but in their private lives as well.

I am preparing for a meeting we are about to have with an artist who has struggled a bit trying to find his groove as a writer.

I am thinking about pain.

I am thinking about panic.Uncomfortable Panic image

I am thinking about anxiety.

I am thinking about what it means to be uncomfortable.

I remember as an artist I was in a constant state of “uncomfortable”.  Not only was I searching for the tools, processes, and pathways to advance my artist career, but I was trying to be a better person as well.

I was growing

I was effing uncomfortable.

I was always the least talented musician because I chose to (and was lucky enough to) be surrounded by guys with far more musical talent than me.

We worked our butts off and found ourselves in a relationship with a regional booking agent offering a club tour and we had to rise to the occasion.

We had to step up our game as a professional organization

We had to intensely scrutinize the vocal and background vocal components of our live show; because it needed it.

We had to become better musicians

We had to do it fast.  There was a tour coming.  No pressure.

We had to put an incredible amount of attention towards our look and stage presenceUncomfortable No Pressure No Diamonds Black

We had to step up our promo and create a poster for the booking agent to use as a sales tool.

We had to reevaluate our set list which would have ROCKED Milwaukee, WI but nowhere else; which was a disturbing discovery.

We had to overcome the complexities of 5 distinct personalities plus the road crew in a confined space for long periods of time.

We had to learn to say “NO”.

We had to discover and practice politics with club owners, road crew, booking agencies, and the occasional law enforcement officer.


We had to become pros because when we were signed to this agency we were amateurs.

Uncomfortable Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort ZoneWe had to improvise, adapt, and overcome because the “next step” is never anywhere near how you envisioned it to be.

We worked harder and then a producer became interested in developing us.

Guess what?

We had to rise up again.  Now we had to repeat all previously mentioned steps because we were operating at a higher level than before.  So new politics, new challenges, new relationships, and a lot more at stake.

We kept working and that helped us create a relationship with a major record label.  All new politics, new challenges, new personalities, and it never goes the way you imagined it.

Get the picture?

This was far better than the contrary, you know, the scenario where I surround myself with people who are “beneath my pay-grade” solely for the purposes of feeling comfortable.  So I can feel relaxed.Uncomfortable save yourself from settling 2


Kelly and I operate Daredevil Production the same way.  Hell, it’s WHY we named our company Daredevil Production!  The picture of the man performing a handstand on 2 legs of a chair that is balanced on another chair that is balanced on 4 Coke bottles, that is balanced on a tower of platforms that are balanced on top of a B-29 Superfortress is actually Kelly’s Great Grandfather, the Great Al Dault. That is the home page image on our website.

If you’re not feeling these things then you’re doing it wrong.

You’re stronger than you think

You’re smarter than you think

You’re capable of much more that you can currently imagine; I promise.Uncomfortable Rise Up Feature image

Comfortable is for people on their death bed.

Artists that are moving forward are risk takers.

If risk taking was an FDA approved drug the side effects would be:

  • Fear
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Elation
  • Euphoria
  • Devastation
  • Vomiting
  • Paranoia
  • Joy
  • DelightUncomfortable Side Effects image
  • Jubilation
  • Pleasure
  • Depression
  • Despair
  • Hopelessness
  • Satisfaction
  • Financial stress
  • Financial freedom
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Anal leakage


Screw comfortable.


Unless you’re dying.



Uncomfortable get comfortable with being uncomfortable


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12 Thoughts On Un-Professional Songwriters

Professional red ball image

By Johnny Dwinell

I was having coffee yesterday at The Red Bicycle in Germantown (holy crap their crepes are AH-MAZING) with an artist writer friend.  We got involved in a passionate discussion about song demos and some different perspectives to consider before recording and pitching them. We were discussing what it means and what it takes to be professional.

To act professional.Professional Unprofessional image

To be perceived as professional.

To be taken seriously as a writer in this town.

There are a slew of different common mistakes writers and artists make when it comes to the art of recording a song demo.

Remember, a SONG demo is a demonstration (aka demo) of your SONG, not you as an artist. It needs to be treated this way. The purpose of a song demo is to demonstrate the lyric, melody, and vibe of your song in such a manner that an artist can “hear themselves” singing your song and then subsequently cut your song.

I am perplexed when I hear songwriter’s wax about their elitist, unwavering passion for “quality” in their songwriting juxtaposed against their proclivity for cutting corners to save a few bucks in the recording process.

Quality song, inferior recording. What’s the point?

brokenCD2It’s like they put their blood, sweat, tears, and whole heart into creating a killer blue print of a house and then constructed the house out of rotting balsa wood & weathered duct tape. They built this with novice builders too, and as you can imagine, the house looks shitateous and is unlivable.

Then, after all this, they get butt-hurt when they’re judged by the professional world on exactly what they built.



Don’t present crappy, novice song demos and expect to be treated like a professional.

This topic gets some songwriters really pissed off. In fact, I wrote an honest article about it last year called “10 Worst Song Demo Mistakes” and I believe it was the most provocative article I have written to date.  Some songwriters got it and others clearly got emotional and defensive about these mistakes. Many songwriters anonymously wrote negative comments about how a professional community would react to unprofessional song demos (many also wrote negative comments about completely different subject matters which is always amusing).

The song demo “audience” is comprised of producers, A&R execs, song-pluggers, publishing companies, and ultimately artists.

All of which are professional.Professional Judged Empy Picture image

All of which are human.

Here’s the deal, you don’t know what’s going on with them.

Maybe they’re having a bad day and your messy sounding song demo is annoying to them.

Maybe they’ve just listened to 200 PROFESSIONAL sounding song demos, they’re exhausted, and your song demo sticks out like a sore thumb because the sonic quality and performances are so poor.


I mean, why would you think these human beings could read your mind and hear the way you wanted the demo to sound?

If you read some of the previously mentioned article comments you will see a couple responses like “A real producer should be able to hear past the production on a good song, so you suck and I’m not going to listen to your advice…blah, blah, blah

Did it ever occur to you that your audience isn’t just judging the song?

Professional My Song Demo CD imageDid it ever occur to you that they’re judging you as a professional too? After all you are now in a professional environment, right?

What does that amateur sounding song demo say about you, the songwriter who is trying to be professional?





What does that say about your craftsmanship, attention to detail, work ethic, and intelligence?Professional DIchotomy KEEP RIGHT image

I mean, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, right?

Did you ever think that your audience may be hung up on the fact that you have a professional opportunity and you choose to display something that is incredibly unprofessional?  You know, like showing up on a construction site and demanding to use your plastic toy hammer.  Everyone is like, huh?




Here are 12 thoughts I have about unprofessional songwriters:

  1. You’re lazy; if you weren’t you’d do it better.
  2. You’re cheap and unwilling to put skin this game you want to dominate so badly.
  3. You don’t really believe in yourself; if you did, you’d do it better.
  4. I wonder if you can’t hear the difference. If you can’t tell that your recording is second-rate than what else are you naïve and uneducated about?  How will that affect our business relationship?
  5. If you can’t tell the recording is poor than maybe you’re one of those artist writers who is insanely arrogant about their art and not really interested in getting better. These kinds of people are of no use to me in any aspect of my business.Professional Arrogance is Weakness Disguised as Strength
  6. You clearly don’t mind “cutting corners” on your product which infuriates me because I’m ALL ABOUT QUALITY.
  7. You’re not resourceful. I’ll bet you have some really good excuses as to why the demo sucks. Therefore, your professional behavior in the workplace leans toward making excuses instead of overcoming challenges. I need people that can handle challenges; they’re winners.
  8. You’re a novice and I need a professional.
  9. I have artists that need professional writers and we are counting on these writers to deliver consistently on a professional basis. How can you be trusted to deliver for them?
  10. What will my artists think of me if I put someone unprofessional with them?
  11. You have clearly demonstrated your inability to operate at the professional level required in this business.
  12. I also wonder if you even care because your song demo has confirmed you have no pride for the work that you do


Whoa! Read that last one again, man. Yikes!

Think about this for a second.  I PROMISE you that if any hit songwriter like Dallas Davidson, Kacey Musgraves, Craig Wiseman, or Michael Garvin called ANY Producer up and said, “I just wrote a song I think you should hear, but I only have a work tape of it.  Will you give it a listen?” they would ALL listen to it with an open mind and an open ear to give the song its due attention.

Now, think about these writer’s and their publishing companies and how much money they spend on song demos every year at $600-$900 per song.

Stay with me now…

This is business right?

How much money could the writers and publishing companies save each year if they stopped making full production demos knowing their best writer’s songs will be considered with less expensive recordings?

Professional Think Quality Don't Cut Corners


I mean they have proven hit songwriters writing hit songs that are pitched to the best producers and industry execs in town who should all be able to hear through bad production, right?

While there are always exceptions to the rule, all the publishing companies and hit writers continue to pay to for professional song demos.

They do this for one reason.


They’re professional and they want to compete.


If you want to be a professional songwriter, act like a professional songwriter.


Then watch your world transform.



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Pandora inet radio image

By Johnny Dwinell

Pandora Blows. Ohand they certainly dont give a shit about you. Not for one second.

Pink Floyd Blasts Pandora

Pandora Pink Floyd image

Pink Floyd wrote an op-ed piece in USA Today blasting Pandora and their douche-bag CEO Tim Westergren for essentially tricking musicians into signing a petition disguised as a letter of support for internet radio that was REALLY about slashing musician royalty rates by 85%. Read it HERE

Pandora Digital Music News imageI initially read about it HERE in Digital Music News. Btw, if you intend to make a living in the music business, youre a moron if you dont subscribe to this magazine. Someone has to at least attempt to keep their eye on the moving target.

So, we have to get educated on this people. The world is changing; fast. Ultimately for the better with regards to the music industry as it relates to indie artists, but we cant let the freakin wolves guard the henhouse any longer.


You can thank Sean Parker and Steve Jobs. Yes, I mean thank them. Thank them for actually making it unbelievably easier to make a living in the NEW music business. Right after you thank Sean you can kick him in the balls for stealing the music and making it worthless in the marketplace, well, at least he won, right? Hes rich at our expense; stealing is stealing and Parker is SHADY. What he did do was prove to the world that digital music was happening right now and put the train on the tracks in a very public way for digital distribution; which is mission critical to our survival as indie musicians. Digital distribution creates real revenue.

Steve Jobs put it all together in a neat little amazing package and got the artists PAID. Steve Jobs believed in artists and liberal arts. Kelly and I just listened to his biography on a long drive home from a WI visit. The reinvention of Apple was based on the intersection of art and technology; around CREATIVES and CREATION.

Eventually the dust will settle on some pretty great new soon-to-be VERY popular delivery methods of music; new and old. Until then, the shakedown will continue. We will continue to have companies who come in and exploit musicians by making millions on their music and paying NOTHING in return.

This is not news. Its been going on for decades.

Record labels have done it. Terrestrial radio has done it, MTV did it, Sean Parker and Napster did it, and now Pandora, Spotify, and a host of other companies are doing it; doing it to us.

The essence of the Pandora shakedown is to convince our Government that they are paying too much money to license your music, which generates all their revenue; thus,

Pandora cant be profitable!

But heres the rub for us. This is really important yall. THINK ABOUT THIS.

Ubiquity is gone. Get over it.

Sadly, the days of the Rockstar are gone. You really have to get over it! If you are truly over the dream of becoming rich and famous as an artist you will damn sure be paying more attention to what is going on right now with your future revenue so you can at least get paid!

As we now have literally thousands of immediately accessible internet storefronts from which to be exposed to and ultimately consume music (although the exposure comes in the form of shitateous algorithms made by techies that are as effective as screen doors on a submarineI mean if you like this then you will like this..WTF, whenever someone figures out that 99% of music consumers dont have time to search for new music, they just want to be EXPOSED to GOOD music, the world will be a better place; and someone will be super rich. But I digress) the market place is fragmented.

When its this fragmented the BIG exposure business model disintegrates and the marketplace descends down into lots of little profit centers. We have already seen it happen with television. In 1979 there were 3 stations. The US Pnadora Farrah Fawcett imagepopulation in 1980 was 226 Million people that 3 networks divided up between them; this is the definition of ubiquitous. If you were lucky enough to be, say Farrah Fawcett, on a hit TV show in the 70s you were HUGE. You were FAMOUS. You were RICH. Everyone knew who you were, what else were they gonna watch? You had a 33% chance of viewership; thats freaking huge! Nowadays, if you are a star on TV you just dont have that kind of exposure because there are 500 channels. Therefore you cant possibly be as famous. Make sense? You cant possibly be as huge. Its impossible to be ubiquitous.


So what DO we have?

We have clicks.

We have tribes.

We have cult followings that REAL GOOD content attracts.

Did you hear that? We have tribes, clicks, and cults, oh my. You are exposed to the actors from the shows you like but you are completely unaware of actors on shows that you do not watch because there is just too much content to be able to keep track of 10% of it all, and have a life.

Back to ubiquitous. In the 70s, if you didnt watch Farrah (or any TV star because you preferred a competing program in the time slot) YOU KNEW WHO SHE WAS, because your friends were talking about her. Everyone knew ALL the TV stars then whether they watched the shows or not. Remember Battle of the Network Stars?? They had all the biggies on one competition show and it got great ratings! Now we dont, there are just too many shows and too many actors to keep track of; too much noise on the radar screen.

So goes the music business. Get it?

The thing is, TV actors get paid. All 500 TV networks understand that the actors are going to get paid so they can create interesting content that they can broadcast to generate advertising revenue.

Tim Westergren wants to make sure that doesnt happen to you. He wants your money. He wants to literally take the food off your plate, man.

You are not going to be famous.

But you can make a living. As long as you dont allow assholes like Tim Westergren to screw you out of the revenue he creates from YOUR hard work!

If you wanna be famous, be crazy on a reality TV show, its a long shot but far better odds than getting famous in the music business. Please, do that, and leave the music business to people who really have talent and NEED to create to keep from climbing a tower with a gun. It belongs to us, and eventually this new business model will weed out the wankers and the posers.

US Terrestrial Radio Stations Do Not Pay Mechanicals

This is why this article is so important. You cannot trust the Government to think for us no matter which side of the isle you sit on. They gave terrestrial radio a pass on mechanical royalties back in the 40s; we songwriters and musicians paid for that. How important were the mechanicals? Heres a great example. Remember the 80s band Kix? The bass player wrote all the songs for that band. They had a triple platinum record, lived the Rockstar lifestyle, but the bass player was the only one that got paid because he was the writer; the rest of the band made $400 weekno mechanical royalties were paid by radio. Due to the fact that the US terrestrial radio stations dont pay mechanicals royalties and European terrestrial radio does, American artists DO NOT get paid mechanical royalties from European radio spins simply because we do not pay European artists mechanical royalties. See how huge this decision was?

Our Government gave MTV a pass on ALL royalties until they were operating in the black which magically never happened; we musicians paid for that too (although MTV really did have the power to break a band wide open, huh?). MTV was so ubiquitous, it made the non-payment of royalties worthwhile, but stillthey build a whole network on just music back in 1980 and didnt pay a dime for it.

Now here is another really important fact. MTV was so POWERFUL that they single handedly broke Guns & Roses. You know the story, 1 spin of Sweet Child o Mine at 3am on a Saturday morning and BOOM, the phones blew up! Heavy rotation followed and they were huge; Guns & Roses was saved by MTV. Would have never happened without MTV because as you may or may not know, the Appetite For Destruction record had been out for a year at that point; the band was over. Believe me the labels all quietly argued that MTV should pay royalties but didnt want to piss anyone off over there because they were so ubiquitous; they had the power to seriously launch band up to the stratosphere. MTVs argument to the government included New Technology and Massive Exposure components as they spun a tale of how important these things would ultimately be to the music industry. MTV was right. They were that important.

Paul Westergren (aka Fuckface Von Shitstick) is making the same argument with the Government that MTV did. He is working the New Technology argument, and the exposure argument. MTV was exposure. Pandora is a cacophony of noise on the radar screen that exposes nobody. You really have to be looking for a song to get to it. This is not exposure; its distribution. Westergren really believes that the search algorithms which allow people to discover new music based on what they are currently listening to is exposure. It isnt. How long has Pandora been around? Which bands EXACTLY broke to worldwide success by being played on Pandora? Come on, name ONE!!! I sure as hell cant and Im in the business. So they suck, plain and simple; there is no exposure. Pandora is essentially providing a huge haystack for artists to hide their proverbial needle and calling it important because its possible to be heard there. Ugh.

Isnt it already quite clear that if we are not paying attention to this next congressional episode headed up by Tim Pandora Inet Fairness Act ImageWestergren for Pandora, the Government will do the same thing; cave to big money. How the fuck can you really sell music for a living and go to the Government and tell them that you pay too much for the products you sell and ask THEM to change the rules? How about CHANGE THE BUSINESS MODEL!

How is this different than TV manufacturers saying we cant make a profit on flat screens so you need to tell the parts makers we are cutting their pricing by 85%?

How is this different than your boss going to the Government and saying Im paying too much for labor, so I need you to mandate a wage cut of 85% so I can make more money?

How is this even the Governments problem?


I mean, Pandora has literally doubled their subscribership in the last 2 years but 70% of their subscribers become ghosts. Again, I reiterate, NO EXPOSURE.

Pandora is a hustle, a farce. Why?

No new bands will break worldwide as a result of the worldwide exposure Pandora is giving them. So the whole business will die with the old music that creates the traffic which in turn pays the advertising revenue. Why else would all the executives immediately exercise their options and sell them?

European radio stations pay writers royalties AND mechanical royalties and manage to make a living and keep the businesses going for decades. The business model of profiting off of creatives while the creatives get paid is not a fantasy. It happens every day, just not here in America.

Steve Jobs managed to put together a new platform that pays royalties to artists and writers AND make a profit.

So I would like to say this to Tim Westergren: STFU

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