CVIndependent

Sun06162019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

It’s 2019, and the way we listen to music has changed. We moved from vinyl to cassette, then from CDs to MP3s and now streaming. How we enjoy music has evolved—and not only is it easier to find music to listen to than ever before; it’s easy to share it with others as well.

I recently spoke with streaming music consultant, strategist and curator Mike Warner about the ins and outs of the modern era of digital streaming via services like Pandora, Spotify and Apple Music. He’s had a front-row seat to watch this evolution over 15-plus years in the music business.

The main difference I’ve noticed with these newer services, especially Spotify, is the addition of playlists—specially curated lists that feature artists both popular and unknown. Warner curates playlists via Spotify, Apple Music and other services, and these playlists range from “Wine Bar Grooves” to “Funky and Nu Disco Jams.” He handpicks all of the tracks—which reach tens of thousands of his followers each week.

Beyond this curation, Warner works with artists and labels to find playlists for their music. Most of his work is done through personal networking—a breath of fresh air in this often-distant digital era.

“My primary function, really, in 2019, is education,” he said. “I just want to get out there and educate as many artists as I can.”

This education involves sharing tips with artists to help them better promote their releases. “The more people that become successful, the better,” Warner said.

Warner published an e-book last year called Work Hard Playlist Hard. It details some of the best practices people can use to distribute their own music.

“The stuff that I preach, I’ve done myself, and I continue to do,” he said.

I asked what inspired him to write the book. “It got to the point where I was writing so many emails and sharing the same information again and again that I went, ‘You know what? Maybe I should just write this down one time and put it in a book,’” he said.

Warner also works with commercial clients, including labels.

“Labels see importance in independent playlists and third-party curators just as much as the indie artists do,” he said. “… A lot of the labels are doing the same thing you’re doing now, (so) they’re actually reaching out to independent curators, too.”

Warner himself is an artist; he’s a third of the popular Australian trio Date Night. Warner and bandmates Sharif Darmansjah and Anders Magnusson produce fantastic music; while Warner is now based in the United States, and his bandmates remain in Australia, that hasn’t slowed them down. The year 2018 was big for them, especially regarding the streaming numbers, with a total stream count in the millions.

Work Hard Playlist Hard is available via on Amazon, Apple Books, Gumroad and other providers. If you purchase it via Gumroad or Apple, you will get automatic updates whenever Warner updates the e-book.

Visit www.workhardplaylisthard.com for links to purchase his book, submit music, listen to his podcast and more. If you’re looking to catch me live,  find me Thursday nights at Landmark Lounge, and Friday and Saturday nights at Big Rock Pub. Visit my website at www.alexharrington.co for more information.

Published in Subatomic

Nick Offerman and Kiersey Clemons are a winning, inspiring father-daughter team in Hearts Beat Loud, a musically infused cinematic gem that will stand as one of this summer’s under-the-radar greats.

Frank (Offerman), a record-store owner (he sells mostly vinyl) with a gruff attitude, is dealing with tough economic times—which is not good, considering his daughter, Sam (Clemons), is about to leave for medical school. He informs his landlord, Leslie (Toni Collette, having a great year), that the store will be closing. Frank finds himself at a sort of spiritual crossroads.

He takes solace in his mandatory musical jam sessions with his kid. Both of them are decent-enough musicians; in fact, Sam is actually pretty damn good. She has a knack for songwriting but doubts her talents. Frank pushes her to create, marvels in what she’s able to come up with, and suggests they form a real band.

Sam pushes back, wanting to focus on the whole becoming-a-doctor thing, but Frank persists, ultimately uploading one of their demos to Spotify. He hears the song in a coffee shop one morning—and it’s a great moment. As a testament to how the face of the music industry has changed, an artist hears his music streaming on somebody’s “mix” rather than on the radio in his car. The film is somewhat of an endorsement for Spotify and vinyl.

None of this would work if the music stunk. It doesn’t—it’s good. Offerman and Clemons combine for some sweet music-making, including the film’s title track, one that is repeated often in the movie. Offerman is no Hendrix, but he handles his guitar parts with enough finesse to make you think he’s been playing for a long time, while Clemons is a natural wonder with a great voice.

It must also be said that the people in this movie have great musical taste. The soundtrack and the characters reference a who’s-who of great artists, including Ween, Animal Collective, Jeff Tweedy, Spoon and Mitski. Hearts Beat Loud is the best music-store movie since High Fidelity.

Even more inspiring than the music is a love story between Sam and new-friend Rose (American Honey’s Sasha Lane). Their relationship’s depiction surprises in that it’s allowed to happen without any discussion—it’s just two people falling in love. The film’s other love story—the bond between father and daughter and their musical adventure—is equally lovely.

Offerman, a successful comedic actor, is proving he’s also a dramatic real deal. He had a good co-starring role as a stoner in The Hero, last year’s ode to actor Sam Elliott. He also killed it as one of the McDonald brothers in The Founder. This time out, he has a starring role that allows him to show all kinds of range. The final look he gives his daughter in this movie is priceless.

As the movie’s true heart, Clemons boasts a beautiful singing voice to go with her solid acting chops. She and Offerman are strong enough here to overcome the few moments when director and co-writer Brett Haley (who also directed Offerman in The Hero) drifts into obvious territory. The material is never bad, but there are moments that could’ve been hokey if it weren’t for Clemons and Offerman making them better.

Collette, who deserves awards consideration for her barn-burning work in Hereditary, lends a lot to the film in her supporting role, including a karaoke moment that reminds us that she can sing. Also: Let it be said that it’s always great when a production can coax Ted Danson into playing a bartender.

So, yep, Hearts Beat Loud has real music, real love, and Sam Malone slinging drinks—and as a result, it’s a resounding success. If Offerman and Clemons don’t win you over here, you are a super-grouch.

Hearts Beat Loud is now playing at the Palm Desert 10 Cinemas (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-340-0033).

Published in Reviews

Since 2013, local DJ Alex Harrington has been beating the pavement, playing countless local poolside and club gigs.

He’s also been branching out—regionally, nationally and internationally, collaborating with different artists through various DJ internet communities, and building up his Spotify page with listeners from around the world.

On July 25, Harrington will release his new album, Stargazer. During a recent interview in Rancho Mirage, Harrington discussed how the album came about.

“Ever since July of last year, I’ve been releasing singles pretty steadily,” Harrington said. “Over the past few months, I started writing and stockpiling tracks, not sure what I wanted to do with them. I sat down and said, ‘I’ve put out about six or seven tracks and have another six or seven that are unreleased.’ I wanted to do an album for a long time, and a friend of mine told me that now would be a good time to do it, so I put it together. It’s all come together at the same time as the poolside gigs. Playing the poolside gigs gave me the inspiration to write the tracks and the album.”

Harrington has ventured into varying styles of DJing, from nu-disco to tropical house, and he said playing poolside gigs has always given him inspiration.

“I think with club gigs, you have a certain amount of freedom as far as the vibe goes, but for the most part, you have people who are there to ‘turn up.’ They have drinks, and they get excited. It’s the nightlife,” Harrington said. “With poolside gigs, you can do that, but you can take it in a different direction, and what I really like is that you can affect the crowd. The last set I played poolside was three hours long. I started off upbeat and got the crowd excited, and I dropped it down a little bit to chill them out, and brought it back up at the end. That’s something you can’t necessarily do in a club, because you’re building and building and building, and you hit that crescendo at the end of the night; then everyone gets excited, and the club empties out. Poolside gigs offer more freedom to work with the crowd and more freedom as far as your direction in music goes.”

His DJing has frequently taken him into Los Angeles, most notably at Bardot.

“That was a lot of fun. I was fortunate to have played there a few times as part of an event called School Night! that’s thrown by Chris Douridas from KCRW,” he said. “It’s a fantastic venue. It’s Victorian-themed, and it has two different rooms. I would be in one room DJjing, and (there would be) a band in another room. We’d switch off and go back and forth. That’s something that you don’t get anywhere. It’s right on the Sunset Strip, and I’d walk out on the balcony and see the Capitol Records building.”

Harrington said there’s a definite difference between Palm Springs and Los Angeles crowds.

“I try to bring the same vibe wherever I go,” he said. “It’s the same mixture of my energy and the energy of the town I’m in. Los Angeles is a little faster, and people are a little more with it, so when I go out there, I’m more free to play music from across the board. Out here, I’ll stick more with familiar stuff—but it depends. Los Angeles has a more-trendy crowd that’s looking for new music and to hear stuff they haven’t really heard before, whereas out here, they like the familiar a little more. The bachelorette parties out here are great, but they want to hear Beyonce and Rihanna songs. In Los Angeles, you have so many clubs. … With Bardot, within a stone’s throw, you have so many other clubs. You have to bring something different, because there’s so much great music. Out here, we’re still developing.” 

These days, being an independent DJ/musician is easier than ever … but in other ways, it’s also tougher than ever.

“I think that the tools that artists have to succeed these days—there are a lot more than (artists) used to have,” Harrington said. “But with greater means of access in this business comes a flood of more people doing it. On things like YouTube, 1,000 hits used to be a lot; now it’s 10,000 is a lot. The same with Spotify: Now it’s 10,000, then 100,000 and then 1 million. I think you have to be savvy about it. It’s a lot easier if you know your sound and find the right tools for it.

“I will say this: You have to invest these days. You just can’t put something out there and say, ‘Enjoy it for what it is.’ Even if it’s $100 or $200, playlist services are something you can pitch your music to and say, ‘Hey, I have $100; if you guys like this song, can you help me get some exposure?’”

On Sunday, June 17, plus other dates throughout the summer, you can catch Harrington at the Saguaro.

“The Saguaro has done a fantastic job over the past couple of years curating music that’s on the forefront—music they bring in from all over,” he said. “If you go to a Saguaro pool party, whether you’re there to relax, hang out, grab a day bed or float on an inflatable ice-cream cone, there’s something for everybody.”

For more information, visit www.alexharrington.co.