Album Review: The Cliff Wheeler Band, “To The Bone”

Yes, I know, it has been FOREVER since I’ve been in the right frame of mind to write an album review, and this is one I’ve been wanting to write for a few months now.  Hopefully, I haven’t lost my touch!

I believe everybody needs a little outlaw in their lives.  For me, it is binge-watching old episodes of “Sons of Anarchy”.  For you, it could be your favorite police show on television.  It could be the latest crime drama book you are reading.  Or, it could be that you’ve stumbled upon the sophomore release by The Cliff Wheeler Band, “To The Bone”. This album helps to define contemporary southern outlaw rock in a fun and interesting way and provides the listener with an infectious listening experience from beginning to end.

The Cliff Wheeler Band consists of a group of musicians that love playing together, which makes itself evident in their music.  Led by frontman/singer/songwriter/guitarist Cliff Wheeler, the band hails from Lemon Springs, NC and has become a regional favorite throughout the Carolinas.  Joining Cliff on the album are his son Garrett on bass, Kevin Humphries on drums and Gary Orlando on lead guitar.  The band’s first album, “Wheeler”, had a more traditional rock to feel to it and produced internet radio hits “Vicous Cycle”, “Judgement Day”, “Find My Way’ and my personal favorite “Long Time Gone”.  The chemistry of this group was evident in this debut album, with a solid musical foundation created between the work of Kevin on drums and Garrett on bass, and the great interactions between the two guitarists to complete this great rock sound.  Cliff and Gary have played together long enough to have formed a great chemistry and play off each other fantastically throughout both albums.  Adding the cherry to the top are the very real vocals of Cliff Wheeler, whose voice adds a very believable and essential raw edge to each song. Put them all together and you have one kickass band that requires the volume to be turned way up!

“To The Bone” is a stylistic departure from their debut release.  Cliff and the band started experimenting with a new sound that draws influence from the great outlaw country and southern rock of generations past while adding a modern twist to make the music unique to the band.  The fear with changing the sound of a band in this manner is that the new product does not live up to expectations.  No such fears exist with “To The Bone”.  In fact, it is as if the band found its true voice in the outlaw world.

The album is filled with a great variety of songs that make listening to the entire album an almost automatic action for the listener.  Every song tells a story. Some happy, some not so much.  From some of the fun songs on the album, like the infectious “Son of a Son” (you can hear Cliff’s dad speaking in the audio before the song starts) and the musical response to an unappreciative crowd in “Ode to a Hater”, to the more serious songs about the struggles of life (“This Old Hat” and “Hard Living Man”), the band perfectly portrays the real emotion needed to make each of the songs believable.  Of course, none of it would work without great songwriting, and Cliff Wheeler provides the kind of storytelling that allows for some personal introspection and a greater appreciation for life.

Musically, the album flows effortlessly from song to song, and the high level of musicianship shines through to enhance the overall listening experience.  The production quality is worthy to note and provides a finely blended band.  The challenge with producing music that requires a raw feel is finding the sweet spot.  Make it too raw, it sounds like it was recorded in a basement.  Polish it too much and you lose the edge that makes the music work.  The mastering of this album successfully walks that tightrope.  From the very first listen, I found myself digging into the mix and breaking it down to its individual elements, each of which worked perfectly in every song.

The best measure of a two-guitar band is the ability of the two instruments to blend together while each defining its own space and distinctive sound in the overall mix.  Cliff provides solid rhythm guitar mixed with creative leads, while Gary Orlando continues to prove why he is one of the most technically proficient and tasteful lead guitarists in the game today.  His use of throwback techniques and sounds fill the arrangements out in a way that completes them.  One listen to his leads on the album will have you falling in love with his style!

If you’re looking for music with a pop feel, you’ll have to wait for another review (maybe more than one).  If you’re a fan of Culture Club (do fans of Culture Club still exist?), this probably won’t be your cup of tea.  However, if you’re looking for the kind of rock music that makes you throw the car windows down and throw the volume up, “To The Bone” is the perfect addition to your collection.

I categorize this as one of the must-have albums of 2018.  You will not be disappointed.

You can purchase “To the Bone” and learn more about The Cliff Wheeler Band on their website,

Summer Vacation is Over

You’ve probably noticed, but I took a break from writing, spending most of 2018 really looking at the music business. When I decided to jump back in the game in late 2016, I reentered a world vastly different from the one I had walked away from decades earlier. While the music I discovered was spectacular (and continues to be), many of the obstacles artists face today required some examination to understand their role in the new ecosystem. Well, the time for examination is over. It’s now time to pass along my observations.  Some, if not most of this will sound familiar, but it is important to me to keep these discussions ongoing.

There is no doubt the entire music economy has crashed to levels not seen since the advent of recorded music. Sure, the big labels are still able to cash in on their very rich catalogs of classic music. But, for most of the rest of the industry, pickings are slim. Thanks to the power of Apple, music sales are stuck at a price point reminiscent of the 1970’s, with the bulk of that price point remaining with a company that had absolutely no part in the creative process. Add to that the options for consumers to stream unlimited music for free from places like Spotify, who purposely keep their prices far below what is needed to be profitable, and you quickly see an environment far different from the pre-technology era. Musicians can no longer rely on the sale of their ‘product’ as a means of support, and in many cases resort to giving away their music for free to stay relevant and visible.

With the switch to an online listening habit, more focus is being paid to royalties and performance fees, which is where I want to spend a good portion of time in this article. There is a sub-culture that believes these are the meal ticket when nothing could be further from the truth. I spoke with one artist a month ago who had gone over their royalty statement. After releasing a new album, it was streamed in Russia and royalties were paid on those streams. For right around 7700 streams, the artist received 97 cents. Not 97 cents per stream, 97 cents in total for those 7700 streams. I’ve said it before and will say it again- no artist has ever become rich off performance royalties. At the current payout rates, most artists will never see more than coffee money for their efforts.

This appears to be a continuing trend, as all new legislature concerning performance rights in America give the keys to the car to the big corporations to monitor and administer the process (see The Music Modernization Act). The rich will get richer, and the emerging artist will continue to see a pittance in revenue for the works they have created.

Add to this the growing number of pirate “radio stations” popping up all over the internet that openly flaunt the rules, and you have an ecosystem where the consumer expectation is that music is now something I never have to pay for. Once that mindset is created, it will take decades to level the playing field. Why should I pay to hear a song, when I can over to Bobby’s internet station and request it. Because of the non-existent policing in place, Bobby isn’t paying a cent in royalties and is gaining quite the following because he allows listening behaviors that fall outside the established rules, and in many cases draws revenue in doing so. Meanwhile, those stations that are trying to play by the rules struggle, both from a financial and visibility perspective.  I will be expanding on this subject in a future article, as I believe this sector of the industry is a key component to the success and recovery of the music economy.

I’ve actually had artists argue this last point with me. Artists that are very vocal about the right to get paid for their art (and rightfully so) are willing to look past the fact that Bobby isn’t paying them. To those artists, I say this- you can’t have it both ways. If you want to earn your rightful share, you need to demand that equal share from everyone that uses your music. Quite honestly, you gave up the right to make that decision when you registered your song for royalty gathering (check the agreement you signed with whatever PRO covers your material). By openly supporting pirate radio and allowing it to operate, you are effectively shooting yourself in the foot. This, by the way, is the only of conversation where I lay any type of blame at the feet of musicians.

So, the artist cannot rely on music sales to earn a living, nor performance royalties. Fortunately, they have live performances to line their pockets, right? That would be a ‘no’. For most artists, performing live consists of playing in establishments that, like consumers, feel they are entitled to next- to-free music, something that will draw people in and drink lots of beer, maximizing their profits, but barely putting anything in the artist’s pocket. Tip buckets have become the order of the day, and in many venues, the main source of revenue for a musician. The bar is ringing up hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in sales, and feeling good about slipping the band $100.

However, there is a new wrinkle to the live performance dilemma- people do not seek out live music, as they did years ago. Live venues are disappearing, because they are no longer drawing the crowds they once did. The computer age, an age where I can listen to music whenever I want, also allows me the ability to go to a site like YouTube and find live footage of the bands I like, and do it for free. There is no incentive to go out and find live music. As a result, the live performance revenue stream has been severely hampered for most, making it impossible to earn a living playing music.

The problems are many, but the solutions are few and make sense to all but the big corporations that control the business:

  • Music pricing for the sale of music needs to join the 2018 world economy, and not be stuck in the 1970’s.  Companies like Apple have already established their cost of service (by requiring nearly all of the 99 cents charged for most singles) so the increases can be passed along to the artists.
  • Free unlimited streaming of music by companies such as Spotify needs to be identified as an anti-competitive practice that only benefits big business, and these companies should be compelled to offer a pricing model that allows for profitability, instead of baking quarterly losses year after year because of the rock bottom pricing.
  • There needs to be a concerted effort to clean up the internet radio industry, an industry I firmly believe can be at the forefront of the new music ecosystem going forward with the proper controls in place.


I’m going to stop here for now, because there are another bunch of lessons learned during my summer vacation, which I’ll save for the next article.  That article will deal with the attention seekers that are popping up all over the place and deflecting the attention away from the music and the incredible burden placed on artists to create and market their music, among other things.  It could be an interesting read.


I Know, I Know…

Yes, it has been FOREVER since I’ve put anything on paper.  It has been a hectic and chaotic couple of months in the Coz Kingdom, so I’ll give you some of the highlights:

  • I’ve obviously delayed the launch of the social media network, for a couple of reasons.  The primary reason has a lot to do with all of the negative news regarding Facebook lately.  With all of the concerns over user privacy on networks of these types, I decided to do some additional research to be absolutely sure the proper controls are in place before I go live.  I have absolutely no plans to collect data of any kind from users, and want to ensure that the same level of protection goes all the way up the chain.  I should have an updated launch date in the near future.
  • I find myself much more immersed in the local music scene, which has been an absolute delight!  I’ve made some great connections (and even greater friends), and obviously heard some incredible music.  Our weeks are now planned around two things- my broadcast schedule and who we can catch live in the area.  I’m planning an article to go into this aspect of the business in more detail in the coming weeks.
  • I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to catch up with Branford Marsalis.  Brad and I were roommates at Berklee, and hadn’t laid eyes on each other since the late ’80’s.  Once we got caught up on a couple of decades of life, the talk turned to the current state of the music business.  We share many of the same opinions, and he had some great words of wisdom for the new generation trying to break into the business- get out there and play live whenever you can.  He pointed to a number of well known artists that had already gathered a rabid regional fanbase long before “making it” with a big record deal (like Dave Matthews).  Practicing, writing and rehearsing, and posting music online are all fine, but the real way to success is to get out and let people hear your talent live.  Based on my recent forays into the local scene, I can vouch for the logic of this approach.
  • All of this elbow rubbing with musicians has rekindled something in me I haven’t used in years.  I’ve spent the better part of the last week in the studio, trying to shake off the rust accumulated over many years of inactivity.  The advantage of being the “book smart” musician is that I actually paid attention in class, and it amazes me how deeply the knowledge infused itself.  I’m surprised at how quickly all of the old techniques and tricks are coming back to me, and the challenges are more in getting used to the technology available.  Hell, the last time I spent any real time behind a board, we were still splicing tape and using analog synthesizers (yeah, it’s been a minute).  I’ve also started writing and arranging again, which is my happy place.  As the chaos around here subsides, I’m hoping I will continue to carve out time for all this going forward.

That’s all for now.  I promise to make this aspect of what I do a more regular thing.  I promise.


Cozmic Debris Universe- An Update

Before I say anything else, I want to apologize for being somewhat MIA on social media, and absolutely horrendous in getting back to people over the last couple of weeks.  I won’t say I bit off more than I can chew with the creation of Cozmic Debris Universe, but it has added to the pile of activities that are all vying for precious time.  I knew this would happen, and I am just now getting back into a groove where everything can get its proper attention.  For those who have reached out recently, expect to hear from me shortly.

As promised, here’s an update on Cozmic Debris Universe, my stab at creating a social network devoted exclusively to independent music.  I find myself in a position where I may actually be a little ahead of schedule.  All of the introductory material is written and posted, and I’ve started playing around and doing some sample posts (which will be available at launch).  In short, things are looking great, and it’s on to the next step.

Here in the next week, I will start inviting artists to join, explore and post.  My thought process is to have the artists shake the system down and provide feedback.  The goal is to have a bunch of content already available when the network opens to the public.  Shortly thereafter,  I will be inviting some bloggers and influencers to do the same.  Once I feel that all the bugs are worked out, it will open to everyone.

I had originally set a May 1st launch date.  Quite honestly, it is looking more like a mid-April launch, barring any hiccups.  I don’t see a need to delay the launch, and the quicker we are up and running, the quicker we can all see if this can be the wave of the future for indie music.  Excitement and nerves are running rampant, but I would be concerned with any reaction.

With a great deal of humility, I say this may be the next big development in independent music,  one that starts changing the way fans find music and the way artists share their music.  I hope to see everyone there.

More details to following the coming days.



A Big Announcement From Cozmic Debris

No matter what label you choose to use for me- blogger, social media influencer, radio personality or super fan, I hope the passion that drives everything I am trying to accomplish shines through.  There have been many nights where I have questioned my effectiveness in helping musicians, and I’ve talked myself out of just shutting things down and walking away more than a few times.  However, the rewards have far outweighed the challenges the entire way and have energized me in a way that I have never experienced before.  The time dedicated to making my small contributions to the music community has multiplied, and life has become extremely chaotic.  The hobby became an infatuation, which became a mission and has now transformed into an obsession.  And now the obsession takes a big next step.

I am both very happy and very nervous to announce that I am creating a yet-to-be-named social media network devoted exclusively to independent musicians and fans.  A network where artists can share music, music videos and concert announcements, and fans can explore and discover new music.  It is not meant to replace networks like Facebook and Twitter, but rather to be a targeted resource to help gain exposure.

I am very excited.  The platform will provide a number of advantages, combining the best of Twitter and Facebook- no character limitations, no algorithms to determine what people see (they will see it all) and the ability to categorize music in a way that will allow musicians to target specific audiences.  And, of course, this will all be made available at no cost to either the artists or fans.  The goal here is to bring the music to the forefront of the music industry.

Target date for rollout is scheduled for May 1st.  This will give me time to give it a good shakedown, explore some other functionality options that may be of use to musicians, as well as work with artists to have content available when it launches to the public.  This is something that I believe has to grow organically, in order to be truly successful, so word of mouth will be essential.  I’m going to go a little light on the details right now but will start sharing details as we get closer to launch.  Keep your eyes focused here for updates. 

Artists- if you feel this is something you want to be a part of, please contact me.  As I said earlier, it would be great to have a ton of content available when it rolls out

I don’t have any delusions of grandeur, but I do believe this has the possibility of becoming an essential tool for both fans and artists.  If it works, it works, and my dream is for it to be a special place for independent music.  Time will tell.

The Circle Of Life

What follows is nothing more than personal opinion.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, and I could be way off base in my assessment of the situation.  I normally don’t start an article off with those two statements, but I believe I’m about to tread in places that will strike a nerve with many who read this.

There is much talk these days about the odds being stacked against the independent musician.  Hell, I’ve been leading the charge on that front (or at least in the front vanguard).  Lately, the discussion seems to focus around two main areas of concern- Spotify and internet radio.  The first is viewed by many (including me) as the great evil of the music world.  The second is much more subtle in its affect on the industry, but merits just as much discussion.  However, there are many aspects of the industry to be looked holistically.  I’m going to take a stab at providing a high level view of these.

I thought it might be appropriate to look at the lifecycle of various aspects of the industry, as they pertain to artist success.  I’ll start with the perfect world of the artist and fan relationship.  If everything is working as designed, that relationship looks something like this:

Fan Cycle 1

This is the perfect relationship, where the fan supports the efforts of the musician to produce more music, which in turn causes the fan to purchase more music.  It is the perfect circle of life.  It is self-sustaining, and as long as the music remains of a high quality, this cycle can support the needs of the independent musician.

However, we don’t live in a perfect world.  Fans have a myriad of options available, with Spotify being the most obvious.  People do not have to purchase a physical copy, and rather can build their own version of a radio station, where they are in control of the content being broadcast (streamed).  As we all know, this is not a financially viable source of revenue for the artist, and our cycle looks much different with this method of music listening:

Fan Cycle 2


In my humble opinion, there is a place for Spotify in the equation, just not the current use.  Artists should look at Spotify as an advertising medium, much like radio.  Instead of making their entire catalog available, share just enough of their catalog to peak the interest of the average listener.  Rotate songs in and out of that limited rotation, in hopes of capturing someone’s attention enough to drive music purchase.  This is not the perfect solution, and it requires a complete rethinking of the way Spotify is used.  To those that (correctly) see no value in streaming services, it would be a tough pill to swallow. But, used correctly, Spotify can become an effective promotional tool.

Likewise, there is the ‘perfect’ cycle for the use of radio as an advertising and promotional tool that looks something like this:

Radio Cycle


Again, in a perfect world, this is how radio influences buying decisions and becomes a primary outlet for the discovery of new music by fans and listeners.  Radio, whether terrestrial or over the internet, is not the primary source of revenue, but rather used by the artist as an advertising tool to garner more sales.  Often times, broadcasters lose sight of this and try to become the sole point of contact between listener and music.  And while this may have been the case in the early days of radio, the artist is much more dependent on music sales in today’s environment. For some fans and listeners, radio will become their sole exposure to music, but the primary focus should be on the medium being used as the point of discovery.  A growing listener base is built on both the quality of programming and music, which benefits all involved.

Another area of the radio world that dilutes the ability of the medium to be an effective promotional tool is the large number of hobby internet radio stations popping up across the world.  In many cases, these stations are not properly paying their way.  Before I go any further, let me make one thing clear- there are precious few licensed internet radio stations that are going to provide any kind of revenue stream to an artist.  Proper licensing is not done to pad the pockets of musicians, but rather as a sign of respect to the artists.  Yes, there are poorly enforced legal implications, but the true test of a station is its willingness to play by the rules and pay its fair (however miniscule) share.  Yes, it can be horribly expensive on a personal level, but if we were to live in an environment of nothing but properly run internet stations, fan bases would increase for those stations, making them an even more viable promotional tool for the artist.

Internet promoters and influencers (like myself in a very small way) also have a responsibility to the artist to drive the sale of music, which looks something like this:

Promoter Cycle


This is probably the subtlest of the lifecycles, as the promoter is simply making people aware of music, and if done right, has no skin in the game.  They are playing the role of ‘super fan’ and letting the world know about great music.  Done properly, the influencer is constantly providing ‘teaser’ content to their followers, and much like the radio stations, building their followers through quality content and frequent sharing.  It is easily the least apparent and glamorous part of the business (as I can personally attest), but the role of social media influencer can have great impact on the success of independent musicians.

Lastly, the role of live performance venues plays an important role in the success of indie artists:

Venue Cycle


Honestly, this is an overlooked part of the equation by anyone not tied to the industry.  Often, venues act as if they are doing the artist a favor by allowing them to play, while filling their cash registers with an abundance of food and liquor receipts.  Establishment owners do not recognize (or even care about) the huge financial burden carried by the artist to get to the point of being considered for booking. Many times, the amount paid does not even fall into the range of a fair minimum wage for all involved.  When this happens, the cycle starts to look strikingly familiar to the Spotify cycle:

Venue Cycle 2


So, there you have it.  One man’s view of the music industry.  I don’t expect to get unanimous praise for my thoughts, but I hope it gives you all something to think about.  There is a world out there that can truly support the independent musician.  It is up to us to determine if that circle of life is something we are willing to commit to.

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

I’ve sat down a dozen times to write an article over the last few months.  A lack of time has been the primary reason, as time has become a very precious commodity in the Cozmic Universe.  But, while I haven’t written anything, I have been extremely tuned in to both the industry and the indie music that appears to be gaining some momentum.  In short, the light at the end of the tunnel is getting perceptively brighter.

I’ve written about the great sense of community in the indie music world, and I’ve been able to personally experience the goodness of that community a number of times over the last few months.  Whether it being the honor of attending a benefit concert for a local nonprofit that focuses on bringing music to the children of the community, to playing on stage for the first time in decades with my original musical partner in crime, to attending the show of another lifelong friend and a group of newly found musical friends, to (in the next few days) getting to meet a local talent I have been following for months, this incredible journey I find myself on has blossomed into something resembling a career, but without all of the nasty connotations the word usually carries with it.  It truly is a labor of love, and it is the people I am encountering that are making this truly the most rewarding period of my life.

That is the beauty of most indie music.  This collection of amazing talented people have rallied around me, but not nearly as much as they rally around each other.  I saw this first hand on a recent quick trip to Nashville.  The entire purpose of the trip was to attend a show being put on by Nashville Non Prophets and Cliff Wheeler Band.  Two groups of musicians from different states that had no knowledge of each other a year ago.  They discovered each other on Music Mafia Radio, and started talking about the burning need to do shows together.  This is not going to be a review of that show (that will appear soon on . Rather, this is meant to highlight the brotherhood of the musician I witnessed throughout the entire weekend, along with some other great things I’ve seen recently.

I’m too lazy to go back and see if I have mentioned this before, but Mitch Laney (of Nashville Non Prophets) and I go back decades as friends.  And while I had never met Cliff Wheeler Band in person, they were already great social media friends.  We all had the opportunity to hang out the afternoon of the show, and it was like a family reunion. The Cliff Wheeler Band had driven over eight hours to play an hour long set in Nashville.  Mitch put the band up at his house, and my wife and I were fortunate enough to be around these great musicians for that afternoon.  We got to know each other on a personal level, and I got to witness a young songwriter get mentored by a master of the craft as he was writing a blues song.  It had been a long time since I had been around people that “speak the language”, and it did my heart good to see the passing of knowledge, and the series of “hey, try this” moments made for a very fun and entertaining afternoon. At the show that evening, I got to meet family and friends of the bands and other indie artists that had made the trip to catch the show and support their musical friends.

I’d be in heaven with just that experience under my belt, but my story is not complete yet.  Last night, I heard about a former musician in Appleton, Wisconsin, who bought an old monastery, which he has turned into a place for indie musicians to come and record material, staying in the monastery while doing so.  Oh yeah, one important thing I left out- there is no charge for the recording time.  In addition, a growing indie music festival has been created by the same former musician, a festival that is growing into one of the largest in the USA.  You will hear more about this festival, and the man behind it, a little later in the year.

I bet you thought I was done.  Not quite.  This Saturday, Fiddy and I have been invited to House Concert by an artist we recently brought into the Music Mafia Radio familia.  A very talented kid who has been following me on social media for a while, and finally made the connection between Cozmic Debris and Music Mafia Radio.  I was excited to play his music for the first time on MMR, and we now have a friendship evolving.  I was quite honestly taken aback by the invitation, but like the other stories contained here, it has forced me to realize that I have become a ‘thing’ in the business.  This realization is filled with a mix of humility, encouragement, focus, excitement and purpose.  I can no longer deny that I am a part of this wonderful community of artists, and I find myself now trying to find a way to devote even more of my time and my life to strengthening and lifting these artists to their proper place in society and culture.

These stories are meant to be examples of the awesome counter culture of independent music that exists and is growing all around us.  They are not unique experiences, and a quick poll of those who will read this would result in many other stories of a similar nature.  Musicians supporting musicians.  My generation providing options and opportunities for the new generation.  The old guard passing the knowledge on to the new breed of musicians.  No attitudes or egos, but rather gatherings of lovers of the art form doing their small part to elevate the craft.

This, my faithful readers, is how this business will flourish.  This is how the indie music will bring the big industry interests to their knees.  It is a long, hard battle ahead of us, but if we do band together and support each other, that light at the end of the tunnel will get brighter and brighter.  I’m committed to doing part (and more).  Who’s willing to join me?



Cozmic Debris is a social media influencer, blogger and on-air personality on Music Mafia Radio.  You can catch Coz every Tuesday and Thursday, 8pm Eastern, on Music Mafia Radio (  Artists are encouraged to submit their music for consideration by emailing

Random Debris

I haven’t been here in a while.  Between the holidays, doing some social media reorganization, some web development, a couple of radio shows a week and paying the bills, time has been very limited.  There is a ton of stuff going on behind the scenes, all of it in the continuing effort to provide maximum exposure to all of the this incredible indie music.  This article is nothing more than a few updates and some of the plans I have in place for 2018.  If you’re looking for my normal soapbox stuff, you’ll have to wait a little longer.

  • Artists, I want to hear your music.  Between the mountain of submissions received at Music Mafia Radio and those bands following me on social media,  I don’t have as much time to go out exploring for new music as I used to.  I do want the opportunity to hear you, but I need you to get my attention.  The two best ways are to either send an email to the website, or follow me on Twitter, Reverbnation or Soundcloud.  I don’t mention the social media follows because I’m looking to add to my followers list, but instead because it is easy to identify new people to the group.  In any event, I ask for you to have some patience, as I may not be able to get right to you.  I do promise that I will, as time allows.
  • New Releases are so awesome.  My social feeds are active, to put it mildly.  I probably see about 10% of what is posted by folks, and I know I’m missing some incredible stuff, simply because I can’t catch everything.  I absolutely love new releases from those artists I already know, and want to do whatever I can to get the word out.  This is another “help me help you” moment.  Tag me in social media, send me an email or private message, do whatever you can to get my attention.  I plan to feature new releases prominently on the website (including links for purchase).  I just need to know they are out there.
  • Social media mayhem.  At the end of the year, when I looked at my social media strategy, I found it to be incredibly scattered, to say the least.  While both Twitter and Facebook were operating under the Cozmic Debris brand, my accounts on Reverbnation, Spotify, Soundcloud and a few other places were set up as personal accounts.  This explains why I wasn’t seeing a whole lot of activity on these accounts- nobody knew who the hell I was.  I am currently working to fix this by creating branded accounts on these platforms.  It is time consuming, because I have to go through the list of almost 1100 artists in the Cozmic Debris library to find who I can follow on these platforms.  I’m currently working through Reverbnation, with Spotify and Soundcloud to come next.
  • Social media segmentation.  The problem with following and sharing music of all styles is that is extremely hard to catch the eye of the casual music listener, who typically tend to gravitate toward a specific style or genre of music.  To address this, I am working to create style-specific social media pages, where I can group like artists in one spot.  I will still post everything to the master Cozmic Debris accounts, but plan to see Cozmic Rock, Cozmic Country, Cozmic Pop and a number of genre-specific CD pages start to pop up in the near future.
  • The website needed a refresh.  I’ve been working on a complete redesign of the website, with the goal to provide as much content as humanly possible.  I recently purchased the domain, and my intent is to make the branded website the center of the cozmic universe.  The long range goal is to have a website with artist showcases and links to the music, websites and social media for all of the artists I follow.  This is a huge undertaking, and the fact that I haven’t done any serious web development in almost a decade makes it a slow process to start.  My hope is to have everything on place by the end of 2018.
  • Coz, the on-air personality.  In addition to all of the above, I’ve still got a very passionate commitment to my duties at Music Mafia Radio.  I don’t think I ever announced it here, but in addition to doing live shows a couple of nights a week on MMR, I accepted the position of Programming Director, which fits perfectly with the skillset I bring to the table.  I’ve written here about Music Mafia Radio, and much like the Cozmic Debris brand, MMR is using 2018 to lay the foundation to implement all of the dreams and ideas the staff has for both the artists and listeners.
  • Cozmic Debris TV?  Okay, it sounds silly to even me, but the idea of putting together a YouTube channel has been rattling around in my head.  For those of you old enough to remember it, think old school MTV- all music, all the time.  It’s a longshot, but a possibility.  It’s at the bottom of this list, because it is at the bottom of the list of everything I’d like to do.  Everything else mentioned here would need to be in place before I consider getting this off the ground.

So, there you have it, the crazy dreams of a music fanatic.  I promise I am constantly busy, trying to get all of this in place.  I also promise that my goal of exposing incredible indie music to the world is as important as ever before.  I’m excited for what 2018 may bring.  Stay tuned, it could be a fun ride.


Help Us Help You

For the independent musician, the goal is to always work towards making it to that next level.  Working to get their music in rotation wherever possible, convincing venue owners to pay them just a little more, finding a way to keep the music flowing to the public, and coming up with a strategy to separate them from a pack of a thousand similar acts.  It can be a daunting task, and one that many times can require more hours than are in a day.  For most, it is very much of a shotgun approach- get the music out to as many places as possible, in hopes of the right person tuning in at the right time.  In many ways, the business hasn’t changed in this regard in fifty years.  However, the business has changed in other ways over that fifty years that make this approach less successful than in the past.

There is another group within the music industry always working just as hard to get to the next level.  A group that works countless hours to gain exposure for talented musicians, trying to find that one gimmick that will separate them from the pack of a thousand similar competitors.  Just like the musicians themselves, most of these people are doing what they do for little or no financial gain, many times doing it at an expense, doing it out of an obsession for the art that matches that of the artists themselves.  This group I speak of are the internet radio providers.

Before I go any further, it is imperative that I make the following disclaimer- I am a dedicated part of the internet radio community.  And yes, I have a bias toward the product I help put out.  If I didn’t believe in what I’m doing, I never would have turned on the microphone in the first place.   It is that passion that forces me to constantly look at the current state of the industry and identify those areas that need to change.  This article concerns a couple of those necessary changes.

The internet is the wild west of the industry.  Most internet radio goes unregulated and most tend to make up their own rules.  Add to that the vast number of free streaming services available, and it is quick to see that the power and pull of these countless outlets is extremely diluted, to the point where there is no guaranteed outlet for proven success.  The industry must realize and admit that the growth of technology far outstripped its ability to keep pace, which has resulted in less effective channels for artists to utilize. 

The very idea of ‘radio’ itself, in any form, seems alien and outdated to the clear majority of internet users.  The truth is just the opposite, as radio, done the right way, is the most effective vehicle, both for the artist and the listener.  For the artist, a radio station with a large listener base (who does play by the rules) is the perfect platform to develop a meaningful relationship with.  Gone are the days of geographical limitations tied to terrestrial AM/FM radio.  An internet stations can reach around the globe, and a successful one makes the legwork required to gain attention much more efficient.  And for the listener, a successful internet radio station can be the best way to get exposed to new music and have a true voice in the success of an artist.  Radio stations do not rely on algorithms to suggest new things to hear (as the streaming services do), but rather tailor their playlists to those artists that garner interest from the listeners.  And a good radio station will have the expertise behind it to play nothing but incredible music, one song after another.

I’ve more than once mentioned the importance of ‘playing by the rules’, and it merits an explanation.  As I stated previously, many stations openly flaunt the requirements to legally play and broadcast music, hoping to fly under the radar and avoid detection.  What puzzles me most about this is the blind eye given to this by the musical community.  One of the biggest complaints I hear from artists is the lack of a meaningful income stream for their music, but then they turn around and give it to someone to use that will never pay a penny to use the product.  Quite honestly, this scenario has forced me to rethink my negative attitude toward the streaming giants, because they do play by the rules.  This doesn’t mean that I agree with the rules, but rather is a recognition of their practices in compensating artists (no matter how little it is).

So, now that I’ve spouted off for a few paragraphs, what are the changes that need to occur?  First off, there needs to be a huge consolidation of the industry, which focuses the content towards legitimate entities.  While this will still leave thousands of alternatives, it will allow those remaining legitimate stations to capture the listening base of the many more thousand pirate hobby radio stations.

The second thing needing to change falls squarely on the artist.  Does it make sense to throw your incredible work out to the wind, hoping that it will catch on with one of the hundred or more stations you have blindly submitted to?  Or does it make more sense to build meaningful relationships with a handful of content providers to build a ready-made audience of listeners from the ground up who are hungry for your new material?  In other words, get in on the ground floor and do nothing more than make a station (or two or three) become the listening destination for your fan base.  Find those stations that are willing to do more for you than just play your music and brag on social media that they played it.  I’ve got to be honest and say that after a year of watching the shotgun approach with many artists, I see almost no success with the results.

Let me end by saying that this is no way intended to be any kind of advertisement specific to what I personally do in the business.  I do believe that my expertise and reputation among many of you would speak to my ability to help you succeed, and I believe I have attached myself with a product that is solely focused on the success of the musicians it plays, but that is a choice for you to make.  I also believe in the power of a traditional radio format to bring attention to the work of talented artists.   In the end, there is a wealth of incredible talent out there, just dying to help you out (and do so by the rules).  Are you willing to help them help you?

Time For A Change

Yes, I know, this has been a while in coming.  A few in the indie world knew this was coming, and I’ve written and rewritten it a dozen times.  Quite honestly, there is so much to be said on this subject that I briefly considered writing an entire book on the subject.  Instead, I’ll subject you to dribs and drabs over the next few months.  The root of the issue presented here is that the entire music industry needs to change.

The deeper I plunge into the world of independent music, the more I am astounded by the antiquated and absurd rules in place, touted as there to ‘protect’ the artists, when in fact they hinder the artists’ ability to successfully market their music.  The rules exist at many layers, but there are a few that deserve special mention.

The Publishing Rights Organizations.    Here in the United States, these would be ASCAP, BMI and Soundstream ,most notably.  Their stated purpose is to protect the rights of composers and musicians by requiring licensing for public performance or purchase.  On the surface, a very noble endeavor, but as you dig in deeper, you see that the terms of that licensing benefits neither the artist or the consumer.

To give a little history, ASCAP holds the record for the longest running antitrust consent decree in US history.  Dating back to the 1940’s, it sets in place guidelines that no longer pertain to the business as it is designed today.  Over that 70 years, royalties have fallen far behind the pace of inflation, having only been adjusted twice in the span of that time.  It is no wonder that artists receive nothing close to meaningful compensation for the broadcast of their music.

In addition, the PRO’s have put in place ridiculous rules that hinder those trying to showcase music.  BNI requires a station’s website to close when playing music over the internet.  I find it hard to understand how this affects the performance of music.  Is it their position that you cannot multitask while listening to music?  Internet stations are limited in the amount of time they may use and the quantity of music they may play over a period of time.  Internet stations may not take requests and play them immediately, according to the terms of the licensing in place with the PRO’s.  All of this, by the way, is not in place for terrestrial AM and FM stations.  Collusion?  Possibly.  Creation of an environment that creates competitive advantages for some?  More than likely.

And I have yet to talk about the disadvantage of the artist in these scenarios.  In previous articles, I’ve discussed the economics of having your music on services such as Spotify.  For most emerging musicians, the financial results are abysmal.  More on that later.  The proliferation of ‘free’ music has lined the pockets of advertisers and content providers, but done nothing to compensate artists appropriately.  And the PRO’s sit back silent on the subject, while collecting their fees.  Where is the advocacy for the artists they claim to protect?

In short, the PRO’s need to come into line with the 21st century.  Just because technology allows for the free streaming of music does not make it right (use the movie industry as an example).  We have conditioned the American consumer to believe that access to music at no charge to them is an unalienable right.

The Music Streaming Services.  Here is where I really start losing my mind.  Services like Spotify and iTunes are creating another uncompetitive market, and doing so by throwing around the power of their scale.  Paying pennies on the dollar for downloaded music to the artist, they have created a pricing structure that is financially unfeasible for the artist, and unlikely to be duplicated by new players to the game.

Spotify and iTunes add nothing to the creative or entertainment process, as most radio does.  They are simply huge repositories of music, many times played for free by their customers.  Those they do charge typically pay $10 a month for unlimited music.  Do I need to remind anyone that $10 would not have covered the cost of a single album thirty years ago? And yet, because technology allows it, we have an environment where my cost per album can be a penny or two, depending on my listening habits.  I have access to an exhaustive library of music.  Artists are forced to list their music on these streamers because ‘everyone else does it.’  And for most, it is charity work.

Regardless of an artist’s wish to put their music out for free, iTunes still charges 99 cents for that download.  Let’s examine this for a minute.  The artist is willing to give away the music at no charge, but Apple still feels the need to exact a 100% profit from the consumer, at the same price as it would be if they were paying the artist.  However, ‘paying’ might be a little too strong, as the artist is lucky to get more than a couple of cents from that iTunes download.  The scale of economics is clearly not slanted to compensate the artist for their work, and totally structured for the benefit of the corporate machine.

Fortunately for those of us looking for great new music, the true musicians do not make money the primary concern, and continue to provide us with a vast wealth of incredible music.  However, their willingness to look the other way does not make it right.  The machine needs to change, or more accurately, the current machine needs to be dismantled and replaced with one that benefits both the artist and consumer.  One that allows for the ‘discovery’ of new music, and does so in an environment where the talented artist is able to flourish.  Unfortunately, that day may never come, unless we force the change.  More on that next time.