It’s Not About Gun Control & Immigration: Why CD Baby Is Refusing To Distribute My Album (and why I’m quitting Facebook)

Preparing music for digital distribution is one long succession of emails and error messages: “your artwork is in the wrong format”, “WAV files must be 16-bit”, “you need to add publisher info.” But you don’t expect to be told “you must change the titles of tracks 1 and 13.” What?

CD Baby are refusing to distribute my new album Fifty Five Stories Down unless I rename John Lennon Blues and Refugee With An iPhone because “digital partners (Spotify, Apple Music etc) won’t accept songs with celebrities or brands in the title.”

That’s heartbreaking news for a songwriter but it sounds plausible. Until you check out those digital partners. Spotify currently has over 120 songs (playlist here) with titles like

  • I Killed John Lennon
  • You Think You’re (John F**king Lennon)
  • iPhone Therefore I Am
  • Got My Mac On With An iPhone 3G

Big Men In Tights, Sex Clark Five and KC Rebell (ft. Moe) all got their songs through somehow. I mean, who the heck put ‘Shaving John Lennon’ on Spotify and Apple Music?

CD Baby did – that’s who.

Am I being singled-out? Most of my songs are personal, humorous or humorously personal. But three are political and two of those were flagged. ‘John Lennon’ is pro-gun control and ‘Refugee’ is pro-immigration. Is CD Baby engaging in right-wing political censorship?

Honestly? I don’t think so. So how should I respond? And what’s Facebook got to do with this?

As an independent musician who promotes his music by telling his story, conflict sells. What would get me the most clicks? “CD Baby refuses to release my gun control song!” But I’m not gonna do it, cos I don’t believe it’s true.

I think the truth is ‘Big Dumb Company refuses to ask other Big Dumb Company to do something in case third Big Dumb Company sues second Big Dumb Company’. Which, as a narrative, has a lot less juice. Especially on Facebook.

Mayor Zuckerberg loves it when all us little zuckers get angry, pick fights and square off into opposing teams. Because Facebook can make lots of money targeting ads, selling red hats to one team and blue hats to the other. It’s much harder to make a sales pitch when interrupting a friendly, nuanced discussion.

In the last year I’ve noticed I’m becoming more angry, more reactive and more intolerant as I spend more time online, to say nothing of how my everyday narcissism is growing fat on likes and shares. I don’t want to be that guy.

So one week after my album launch I’m quitting Facebook completely. As an individual AND an artist. I’m deleting everything, so even if I ‘come to my senses’ I’ll have to start from scratch with a new URL. I wonder if ‘career-suicide music’ is taken?

I love the stories of artists of old –standing up to all-powerful record companies or radio stations, wealthy patrons or the PMRC, refusing to compromise, even though they had so much to lose. When did music stop being something worth fighting for? I’d rather risk no audience and no online presence than be moulded into something I don’t want to be. So I’m leaving Facebook and I’m not going to destroy CD Baby’s reputation for some cheap publicity.

And I’m not going to rename my songs.

Fifty Five Stories Down is out Feb 1st on Bandcamp.

If you’d like to be informed when it’s out everywhere (or just want to stay in touch) sign up to my mailing list right here.

Behind The Song

New Demo: Sweet Baby Hand Grenade

Pretty little weapon of mass distraction
The explosive truth about the Birds and Bees
Download     mp3 demo     Capo Chords in D (pdf)     Chords in F (pdf)     Lyrics (pdf)

I wrote this song in 2013 and it instantly became one of my most popular songs, but that just made it harder to capturing on tape (well digital tape… OK ones and zeroes). Usually recording something tells you if it’s any good but the warm live response created self imposed pressure to make the recording outstanding. As you can hear I finally managed to shake that off and produce this very ordinary demo.

The initial inspiration was the birth of my eldest daughter. She was sleeping when we first brought her home and as she snoozed in her car seat on the floor in front our sofa my wife and I stared at her in shock. What do we do NOW? The next few years turned our lives upside down. Three more children followed, each with their own challenges, but nothing matched that initial terror of having a little human invade your life.

A few years later I overheard a guitarist in a local band say his partner was expecting their first child but he “wasn’t going to let that change anything.” I laughed like the veteran on his fourth tour of ‘Nam, listening to the bravado of a raw recruit.

A few years after that I heard Chris Robley of the CD Baby DIY Musicians Podcast had his first child. I said having a baby is like someone taking a hand grenade and throwing it into the middle of your life (in a good way).

And then suddenly ‘songwriting magic’ and here we are.

Musically I was thinking Elvis Costello goes a little country.

Heart-broke grin on the face of my lover
“30 weeks left if you wanna run for cover”
We must have pulled the pin one Saturday night
But how can something so small wreck your whole life?

Nothing ever stays the same
Didn’t know how much you’d change me
You’re the best mistake I ever made
My sweet baby hand grenade

Sweet baby hand grenade
Sweet baby hand grenade
Look at all of the mess you made
My sweet baby hand grenade

My best friend said his wife is six months gone
Now her biological clock (tick tock!) – tickin’ like a time bomb
She’s calling last orders at the milky bar
Now it’s time to show the world what kind of man you are

Nothing ever stays the same
You’ve no idea how much they’ll change you
But the best mistake I ever made
Was my sweet baby hand grenade

Sweet baby hand grenade
Sweet baby hand grenade
Look at all the mess I made
With my sweet baby hand grenade

Pretty little weapon of mass distraction
So cute I can’t resist this tiny terrorist
Though we got no guarantees and no instructions
There’s nothing I would trade for my sweet baby hand grenade

Sweet baby hand grenade
Sweet baby hand grenade
Look at all of the mess you made
My sweet baby

Sweet baby hand grenade
You make me smile like an unexpected key change
Look at all of the mess we made
My sweet baby hand grenade

A Blog's Life

Finally In The Top 100! Count Me Out!

I’ve been working on my album for so long that I’ve built up a tidy little backlog of songs. So now the Let’s Build An Airport album is being edited and mixed and Shabby Road’s had a lick of paint and a erm…patch of carpet (?) I’m hoping to get a few of em up here.

First up is Count Me Out. It’s got a good response when I’ve played this one live. I’ve struggled to write from a place of emotional honesty and now I’m getting some traction I plan to mine that dark seam for all it’s worth. Expect more angst on a monthly basis.

Tech genius Magic Mike Matthews is working on a cool song vault feature but for now you can get links to pretty much all my songs that are online – here.

In other news – I didn’t really make much of this at the time but it dawned on me yesterday that it’s a pretty big deal.

I was named one of The Top 100 Must-Follow Music Resources on Twitter by CD Baby’s DIY Musician’s Blog. This was made even more mind blowing for the following reasons

  • It’s CD BABY for goodness sakes!
  • I’m still not sure I’m in a committed relationship with twitter. We’re both still seeing other people/social media platforms
  • I wasn’t just one in a hundred. The list is divided by type (tech/law/news/gear etc) and I was in the top 10 songwriting resources.
  • Everyone above me in the songwriting list (bar the awesome Nicholas Tozier) is a magazine, publisher, corporation, competition etc)

The post starts

When it comes to songwriting, sometimes the creative well dries up and you need to pray for rain. While you’re waiting for those prayers to be answered, check out the following Twitter resources for new songwriting tricks, perspectives, lessons, stories, and opportunities. I’ll bet inspiration strikes quicker and more often for those of you who do!

I guess I should probably close by saying if you want to follow me on Twitter my handle is Real Matt Blick I’m also on Soundcloud which I’d completely forgotten about. I’ll still be posting everything here, Soundcloud will just have a few (don’t laugh) greatest hits of mine.


FAWM Showing Up

Day 263: The Illuminati Ate My Homework

Really enjoyed this article/video on the making of Bohemian Rhapsody. Also enjoyed this video slightly more than Queen’s original vid.

The great thing about 50/90 and FAWM is coming across musicians creating great stuff. Here’s two very different tracks from ‘RC’ both written and recorded sometime in the last 79 days. (By the way RC has written 45 songs during 50/90 so far!)

You Killed It

Speaking of FAWM, glasgow power pop titan KiDD recorded some great songs, which he’s now gathered onto a free album. Check it out

CD Baby ran a series of songwriting tips from the hitmakers recently

If you want to know what William Gibson told David Crosby about the elves taking over the workshop, why Chris Cornell think’s it’s easier to write melodies over odd time signature riffs and why Richard Thompson recommends copying everyone except yourself check out parts one, two and three

OK I’m off to do more brainstorming on a new song called “The Illuminati Ate My Homework”. BTW – Eleven Sweets has very quickly hit over 100 downloads!

Free download: Never Be Silent
Other free songs by Matt Blick


My Friend Tom

From CD Baby

You all remember Tom Anderson, right? He was probably your first friend on MySpace. Back in 2005, he and his co-founder Chris DeWolfe sold MySpace to Rupert Murdoch’s NewsCorp (Fox News, New York Post, etc.) for $580 million. Those were glorious days. Simpler times. Before the constant spamming. Before the ad blitz of gyrating ladies and American Apparel ad nauseum.

Today, it is rumored that NewsCorp, who’d hoped to unload MySpace for $100 million, started the bidding at $30 million (only 5% of its $580 million purchase-price).

Read the whole article

Download my new song: Faithful And True for free!!!
Other free songs by Matt Blick

Music Biz 2.0

Don’t Accept Speed Limits On Learning

Derek Sivers is the indie musician who started CD Baby to release his own music and later sold it for $22m. He has a lot of interesting things to say about building a career in music.

In There is no speed limit he tells the story of how he got to know an inspiring teacher Kimo Williams who taught him whole semesters worth of college courses in a few lessons. Here’s a few quotes

Kimo: My doorbell rang at 8:59 one morning and I had no idea why. I run across kids all the time who say they want to be a great musician. I tell them I can help, and tell them to show up at my studio at 9am if they’re serious. Almost nobody ever does. It’s how I weed out the really serious ones from the kids who are just talk…

Kimo’s high expectations set a new pace for me.  He taught me “the standard pace is for chumps” – that the system is designed so anyone can keep up.  If you’re more driven than “just anyone” – you can do so much more than anyone expects.  And this applies to ALL of life – not just school.

 (Derek passed 6 exams on arriving and ended up conpleting the whole course in just 2 1/2 years)

He touched on this story when gaving a speech called 6 things I wish I knew the day I started Berklee. More quotes

The teachers are taking their favorite music and using it to teach you techniques. Learn and appreciate those techniques.  They’re great. But if you only learn the techniques they teach you, you’re only learning their favorite music. Never think their heroes are better than yours. The same way they will break apart a Shania Twain hit song or a classic Charlie Parker solo to teach you the craft inside, you must learn how to break apart your favorite music and analyze it. Learn from your heroes, not only theirs.

While at Berklee, I felt I had to learn Donna Lee, the old bebop jazz standard, to be a good musician. Got a great gig going to Japan for a month with Victor Bailey…He’s one of the best bassists ever, who’s played with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Sonny Rollins, Sting, and more. He heard me playing Donna Lee…and said, “Man – jazz was all about inventing something new. For a musician 50 years later to be stuck in the 1950s would be like a 1950s musician being stuck in the 1900s. There’s nothing cool about that.”
A couple weeks later I was at the piano quietly working on one of my own songs, and for the first time he said, “Hey – wow – what is that? That’s great, man. Can you show me?”

[If you’re subscribed to this blog via email, you will have to click on the post’s title to watch any video content (the link will take you my site). This is so feedburner doesn’t clog up your inbox with large files!]

Related Posts: The best music business college is free
Too much monkey business

New free song: You Spoke The Stars
Other free songs by Matt Blick

Music Biz 2.0

The Shocking Truth Behind Artists Royalties

This post is no longer relevant but I’d still recommend Dave Kusek‘s book The Future of Music. It is an incredible road map for the next 10 years. It’s almost all come to pass since I wrote this in 2010.

Related Posts: Copyright mythbusting
CD Baby Podcast


The Best Music Business College Is Free

During the school holidays I’ve been creating a dedicated download page where you can browse the songs by topic, get chord sheets & mp3s demos (all free) and read story behind the song posts.

I’ve also been listening to the CD Baby Musician Podcasts and have found them incredibly interesting, thought provoking and helpful. If you’re an independent musician, whether as a singer/songwriter, a band member or a worship leader who writes songs, I’m sure there’ll be things there that you’d benefit from.

I feel as though I’ve been taking classes at a music business college!

My favourite episodes have been with people who have really made the new music business (internet based, instant access, free downloading) work for them.

People like Jonathan Coulton – who wrote and released a ‘thing a week’ every for a year. Some odd experiments, but a surprising number of excellent songs. He gave them all away for free and still made lots of money.

As did Corey Smith, who grosses millions of dollars per year. While only touring locally.

Pianist David Nevue plays house parties, sells shed loads of CDs without a label even before he did any touring.

One other cool podcast is with Duff ‘Rose’ McKagan – who quit Guns n Roses cut his hair and did a degree in business, then grew his hair and formed Velvet Revolver.

Related Posts: Trent Reznor music biz lecture