Songwriting in Your Sleep

A funny thing has been transpiring lately. Something completely unexpected and almost supernatural in a way. If there is any “one thing” that I do well, out of the thousands and thousands of things we do or learn to do or are forced to do while we’re journeying here in the earthly realm — for surely every person possesses such a trait — for me personally, if there is one thing that I do better than every and anything else it is having a natural proclivity to prolifically writing songs and music composition. This is no secret, I know. It is common knowledge. So much so that I don’t even believe the main point of this entry should be to even remotely explore this strange character trait or why it comes so easy to me compared to so many other things. I am sure we have discussed it before here in these pages over the years.

Instead I simply wish to make note of this rather incredible new event that has begun transpiring lately on a near nightly basis. A little backstory…. We just finished recording and finishing over 45 new songs for the “new album”, which we now know will turn into three new albums that will be released over the course of this year. Choosing the songs is always one of the most challenging aspects of entering the recording studio with the guys. For I come in with alphabetized binders filled with thousands upon thousands of songs. Each in my humble estimation as good and worthy as the next to be included on our latest new album. So begins the process of me sitting there singing and playing the guys and the producers and engineers the songs that I have tabbed for whatever new album we happen to be working on and together as a group we semi-democratically choose which songs are yeses, which songs are maybes and which ones are flat-out nos.

Sometimes the decisions make sense to me — often times we go in with a set idea of concept in mind and thus only certain kinds of songs would be appropriate. While other times the group’s decisions about which songs are definite nos disturbs and confuses me. Everyone hears music differently. It is so subjective that it is impossible for one person to even be able to comprehend how another person hears a song let alone why they may or may not like it. And I must admit that at times I even find myself getting hurt a little at how quick they are to dismiss a song that I absolutely believe is “an incredible song!!!” But that feeling is usually fleeting for as soon as the discussion ends I start up another and the process begins all over again — every song carries with it such a special collection of feelings and memories and emotions that it is easy to get carried up and away with it as it was with the last. We will easily listen to a hundred or so songs before we eventually narrow it down to fifty or so. And from there we are all keenly aware that the hard part is yet to come as we have to keep narrowing it down to the ten or so that will eventually be known to be on that new album historically.

With this latest project — lord knows we were very aware that time was of the essence and that we needed to record and release the follow-up to Ballad On Third Avenue as quickly as possible. Ed Hale the artist had never garnered such overt commercial success before and never at such a level as what we were experiencing in that moment. But instead of being disciplined and finishing quickly the project soon turned into yet another large epic battle to not only record a mammoth batch of 45 new songs, but also to create three completely new and totally different sounding albums, AND to incorporate several new innovative techniques into the recording process — using musicians from all over the world to record their parts virtually at their own studios and send them in to our engineers to import the songs into our system — a process that would at the very least create an extremely confusing and disharmonious sound but at best could just possibly create something completely fresh and unique sounding. (Since I am writing THIS post-recording now and we are in the mixing stage, I can relay that it did indeed create an incredibly massive oftentimes muddied even noisy fusion of sound and cacophony at times, this is true…but some of the songs are sounding fantastically unique and innovative in their “sound”, a sound no one has ever heard us create before with more instruments and a wider variety of instruments and sounds than we’ve ever incorporated into our music. Not that it doesn’t still sound like “us”. It does. It has the Transcendence sound all over it… Still basically Brit Pop with a classic rock bent… But the new technique we attempted worked. It is very exciting to listen to. Goosebumps inducing at times even. The mad experiment worked. It’s just taking longer to mix and finish. But the wait will be worth it I believe. )

Needless to say that since all of our attention and focus at the moment and for the next few months if not the entire year will be dedicated to finishing these new albums and then to marketing and touring , the last thing in the world I want to spend any time doing is writing new songs. But what to do when you are able to write new songs as easy as breathing, when it comes that easy to you? You see a guitar, pick it up and bam out comes a song. You sit down at a piano and within minutes I am deeply inside of the inexpressible comfort and pleasure of “new song composition”, completely adrift in it and oblivious to everything else going on around me. Not the most productive way to be when your attention needs to be on marketing and mixing and planning and implementing a new album release.

So when we moved back to New York full-time late last year I decided to store ALL of my musical equipment including all guitars and keyboards in our storage warehouse with our other house items so that way I wouldn’t and couldn’t even be tempted to pick up an instrument and write any songs. For we already have far too many to believe we will ever really be able to get them all recorded. That’s just the hard painful truth of the matter. One that is still hard for me to bare the thought of. Thousands of songs literally equates to hundreds of albums at an average rate of ten songs per album. We’ve done the math. It’s a no-brainer. We will never even come close to recording all the songs that I’ve already written… let alone all the ones that I am destined to still write. In a word, it sucks.

And in that, this strange character trait, this gift as some call it, is (and has always been) both a blessing and a curse. For with each new song that I have composed for years going back and from this day forward I am immediately made aware that one of two not-preferable things will happen: either I am pouring my heart and soul into bringing this song down from the ethers into the earthly realm only for it to sit on paper forever never to be recorded, OR for it to be recorded which instantly mandates that another ten that came before it will suffer the same fate. It is very much like being forced to choose which of your children gets to eat and live a long and prosperous life and which you must starve, knowing that they will surely die never to live a full life or be known by anyone but yourself and never to be known by history.

I’ve played this game with the Divine Force many times before. Refusing to accept the gift and refusing to write any new songs for a while, despite the fact that it is my very nature to do just that more and better than anything else that I do in this life. Sometimes I fear that He/She/It will punish me for my impudence and take away the ease at which I can write a song. But that hasn’t happened yet. Truly I don’t believe that it ever will. For I believe that God knows and understands that I know and understand that my ability to pull these songs out of thin air and bring them to life is as pure an expression of Him/Her/It and their glory more than anything else that I can possibly do or say in this life. They serve through their very existence and how they are brought to being in this world as a glorious reminder of the mystical magical supernatural nature of the Divine Force Itself. My guess is that God gifts every person on earth a special and unique ability such as this as a means to express His/Her/It’s Divinity on earth. Our task is to find what that special gift is and become great at it and share it with the world as a reminder of this powerful connection we share with this mysterious Divine Force that comprises and creates and flows through everything in the known and unknown universe.

But I cannot help but feel impulsively rebellious at times. It is a large task. A time-suck like no other. If I did nothing but sat in a room for 24 hours with a guitar and a piano I would easily be tasked with what I guess would be at least writing fifteen to twenty-five songs in those 24 hours. That’s the easy part…the writing of them… The subtle nature of hearing them come to life in your ears, in your mind’s eye… They already exist… Somewhere else, in some other dimension, and all I am doing is hearing them as they already exist and bringing them down to this earthly dimension so others can hear them. BUT from there there IS still work to do. Flushing out the lyrics. Discovering what THEY wish to be… For they too already exist. Arranging and producing the sound of it. So it is a time consuming burden as much as it is a gift or blessing. But I believe God knows this and accepts that at times I may feel prone to rebel from the obligation.

And such was the case this year as I decided to not bring any instruments with me. And here I have lived now for more than four months without having access to any guitars laying around the house.

But something changed. A few months ago I started having dreams where I would hear these incredible songs — usually it was some random character in my dream performing the song on stage or just sitting there in a room with me and couple of friends or I even hear them on the radio or playing in the air…and then this voice in my head says “Ed you are dreaming. It is you who is writing this song. Wake up and record it NOW. Do not let this song go. Do it now.” So I do just that.

This isn’t the first time this has happened to me. And many other songwriters tell stories of having similar experiences. So I have became accustomed to keeping some type of recorder on my nightstand for just such these occasions. Now I can just use the voice recorder on my iPhone to do this. And so I do. What strikes me most though about this most recent string of new songs is the sheer quantity at which they are coming. Near nightly now. As if God had a leg up on me the whole time and decided “okay then son, if you refuse to pick up an instrument to pick out the songs from the ethers then I will just deliver them to you fully formed in the dreams of your sleep. For that is what is happening now. I hear them fully formed in my head while I am sleeping and I just wake up enough to turn the recorder on and sing them into it. I always listen back to them the next day to see if they are total shite and I was just kidding myself as we are prone to do in our sleep and yet they never are. They are always totally original and beautiful glorious new songs. And yet I have to do absolutely nothing to make them this way. I certainly am not “writing them” or creating them myself. I am simply singing into the voice recorder exactly as I hear it in my dream. It is very close to being almost supernatural. Like channeling. And it leaves me impressed with God’s persistence and ingenuity. And of course with his generosity. I thought I was in control and perhaps had one up on Him, but it turns out that the joke was on me. Truth be told, I am more than fine with this.

– Posted by The Ambassador using the BlogPress app on an iPhone

Buying Selling and Trading Your Digital Media

A few years back I posted an article here suggesting that the television industry needed to institute a radical change in programming and release full seasons of shows all at once instead of sticking to the old model of one episode per week and that they could even charge a premium for it because consumers were changing how they wanted to view TV. Less than six months later the advent of “binge watching” and studios releasing full seasons all at once began when Netflix released an entire new season of Arrested Development. Soon after came House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and once Amazon jumped on board the rest as they say is history.

Well here’s another one for you and I’m going to give it to you free of charge. At some point in the near future we will all hear about an exciting new company — whose title will invariably be one word and be a pun or spin off of another more common word — that gives consumers an opportunity to buy and/or sell to each other their pre-owned digital media such as movies, ebooks, albums, TV episodes or whole seasons.

At one point or another we’ve all sprung for a movie we really wanted to see on Amazon, went ahead and bought it because it wasn’t yet available to rent — and now it sits in our “Video Library” — digitally speaking — even though we may never feel a desire to ever watch that film again. The same is fast becoming true with TV episodes. As more and more of us travel more or ditch cable completely, we still want to keep up with our favorite shows; so we end up “purchasing” different episodes, usually at about $1.99 per OR $39.99 per season.

But let’s say we’ve already binge watched seasons 1 through 4 of Walking Dead a few times and we’re over it. As of now all those episodes just sit in our possession forever. Stored on Amazon’s servers and held in our name — what they call our “Video Library”. After a while we may want to sell all those episodes to someone else, say at half the price we paid, and buy season 1 of True Detective. Again we won’t buy True Detective new, nor will we even rent it via On Demand — we may no longer subscribe to cable. Instead we will have the opportunity to purchase or better put “repurchase” it from someone else who already bought it a year or two earlier.

The biggest challenge to this business — and it’s guaranteed that this WILL BE an exciting new business everyone will be raving about at some point in the next 6 to 12 months — is making the calls to set up all the partnerships that would be needed to make it work. For one thing deals will have to be made with all the distributors, the Amazons and HBOGOs and ShowTimes and the like. Best solution would be to offer them a simple transaction fee for every time they change the name of one of the titles they have in their library from say Mr. John Smith to Mrs. Annabella Washington. The digital media will never move. It will still stay in the same place on their servers. The only thing that will change will be the owners name. Think of it like a virtual eBay for virtual media (since the media is no longer in physical form). No shipping required.

Deals will also have to be struck with all the content providers and the licensing agencies, the people who originally created and licensed the product who usually receive a fee every time that particular title, whether it be an ebook or a movie or an or a TV episode, is purchased; whether it’s a television studio or a production company or a record company etc etc. Yes it will be a challenge. But it’s no more challenging than what YouTube or Sootify or Pandora have had to do. It’s just going to take time, a good law firm, a little effort, a smattering of charm and a gift for gab. In a few months time all of these deals can easily be put into place and the business can be up and running on a simple web and mobile platform for consumers to start using.

Will it happen? Yes, without a doubt. Within a year this is a no brainer for an acquisition or take over by one of the larger media companies. The question is WHO is going to do it? It could be you. Like I said, this is a freebie. Take it. I’ve already got too much in the pipeline. But regardless of who creates it, I personally cannot wait to use this service. I own way too many episodes of The Good Wife and would gladly trade them all in for half of what I paid for them.

The advent of a consumer market for used digital media is right around the corner. The demand is already there. We just need someone to build it.

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 6

Artists Are Getting Screwed in the New Music Business

“The music industry is dwindling, but only for the artists. Something’s not right here. Artists can’t make a living anymore. They’re having to go get second jobs to pay the bills. But look at the profits of music companies like YouTube, iTunes, Spotify and the evil publicly-traded Pandora (who recently sued artists and record labels to be allowed to pay even less per stream — they won btw and are now only obligated to pay a royalty rate of .0007 per stream. Yes, as incomprehensible as that is to fathom, that’s 7/1000th of one penny –that’s all we as artists get paid every time someone listens to a song of ours on Pandora. They’re revenue is in the billions. It’s hard to believe, I get it. It is just as hard for us, the content creators/product suppliers, to believe as well. The problem is the labels. I know and like these guys. And I’ve told them this to their face. They’ll sell their own mother for $25. They’ve got to change and start helping the artists more.” — Garth Brooks to CNN November 17, 2014

Hearing Garth say the words above in an interview today sparked me. It’s easy to feel like you’re being an ungrateful whiner when you’ve lived a life like mine — one that many could easily claim has been privileged, and yet you’re going around complaining about “artist royalty compensation” and other such seemingly elitist issues when regular folks are having a tough time making ends meet or even finding a job in the first place. It’s a subject Princess Little Tree and I discuss often: do I stir the flames of protest publicly about what’s happening in the music business to us the artists and tell people how bad it is? Or do I just play it cool? Is it bad for business? Or is it the right thing to do? Will people think I’m being ungrateful? Or greedy? Will I lose my street cred by bringing up the subject of money — which to certain circles of people shouldn’t even hold a place in the same conversation as music or art…?

Earlier this year I started the Fair Pay for Fair Play campaign to address just these issues. Accessing the Facebook page is the easiest way to get informed and involved in this cause and if you care about music and the artists who create it I encourage you to do just that. Visit the page. Like it. Share it with your friends. Because the truth is we are struggling in a way that we have never seen before in modern times. Artists are quite literally starving. Because we are being squeezed out of the very industry that we create the product for.

There are many many reasons for this sad state of affairs and over the last few months I have used these usually more literary Transcendence Diaries to discuss some of the root causes of this issue. No one diary entry is going to address the entire issue in its entirety. That would be impossible. It would take a volume of books to do the cause any real justice. But at the very least we are getting ball rolling in terms of alerting the public not just to the problem itself but to just how serious it is becoming. The easiest way to sum it up is to remind people that over the last ten years we have moved away from consuming music via purchasing it, through CDs or vinyl or through digital downloads ala iTunes, and shifted instead towards consuming music via “streaming it” online using services like Pandora or Spotify or YouTube.

For you and me as music lovers this has been an exciting trend, a revolutionary transition to a world where any and every thing that has ever been recorded by anyone we’ve ever heard of (or not) can be accessed immediately from anywhere in the world. Even on the go right from our phones. In fact most of us now listen to music via our phones more often than home stereos (remember those?) Besides the most obvious abhorrent problem with this shift — the fact that we use extremely expensive state of the art equipment worth millions of dollars to create the most pristine sounding music we possibly can for the audience and it is now being degraded to sound like shit through phone speakers, there’s another problem: as technology companies quickly take control of the distribution of the music — through the aforementioned streaming services, deals have been and are being struck that leave less than pennies for the artist, or worse yet leave them out of the equation entirely. And the sad part is that is most people have no idea that this is what’s going down. They just assume that because it’s all being done above board and publicly that “surely the artists are being paid as they always have.” But the answer is “No. They are not.”

It’s only been a few weeks since U2 shocked (and to some annoyed) the world by giving away their new album for free via Apple due to the realization that it probably wouldn’t sell many copies and thus like Jay Z, Kanye, Coldplay and Thom Yorke before, they’d be better off just giving it away rather than risking low sales figures.

Even more recently Taylor Swift rocked the music world by pulling her albums, including her very successful new one, off of Spotify completely — due to the fact that Spotify only pays us approximately 7/1000th of a penny per play. Consider that for a moment: Spotify doesn’t even pay us one cent per spin. That’s the cold hard truth. No matter how they try to spin it. And trust me, as a music lover I personally LOVE Spotify and it’s potential as a listening device. But as an artist there isn’t anything I can think of off the top of my head that I loath more than Spotify. Piracy, e.g. people who don’t pay for music at all and just go online to download it for free via bit torrent type piracy sites ranks just a bit higher on my hate list. But Spotify Pandora and YouTube come in a close second. Why? Because at least piracy sites are upfront and honest about what they are doing. They’re criminals and often times proud of it. They see “free music” as some sort of cause of rebellion, as if by stealing music they’re somehow sticking it to The Man. But companies like YouTube and Spotify pretend to be “working with the record labels and artists to create a fair playing field for everyone”. But that claim is total bollocks. It’s just completely untrue.

Today it was announced that platinum country rocker Garth Brooks decided to sell his new album via his own website, something called Ghost Tunes, instead of via iTunes. Why? For pretty much the same reasons. He’ll make a much larger profit that way without having to sell even a fifth of the copies he would have to via iTunes.

Caveat: I and my boys in Transcendence are on an independent label, Dying Van Gogh Records, one which we have a large stake of ownership in. And so we make a larger percentage of sales than artists like Brooks and Swift. We make at least 50% of sales. Whereas artists on larger labels like Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift only make 10% of total sales if they’re lucky.

So do the math. If Spotify is only paying out 7/1000th of one penny per spin of any one song and 90% of THAT goes to the label, leaving only 10% to the artist…well how is that artist supposed to make a living? Sales and downloads?

Well therein lies the problem: because streaming has become so popular, people are buying and downloading less and less music. In a nutshell sales and downloads of music — personal ownership of music has nearly come crashing to a halt. It’s a failed business model. (Unfortunately that also means that album artwork and photography is a dying art form as well. A sad often overlooked side effect of this trend.)

But okay let’s look at downloads still because there are some artists who can still sell some serious numbers. Taylor Swift being one of them. iTunes only takes about 28%, leaving the label and artist a full 72% of gross sales. Not bad right? But again if the label is taking 90% of THAT, leaving the artist only 10% of it…there we are again, asking how can the artist make any real money?

It’s no wonder that both Swift and Brooks have tried to create work-arounds to try to make more money from their new music. It’s only natural.

Speaking about this situation personally, this past weekend it was brought to my attention that the lead singles from my last solo album had huge spikes in their views on YouTube. Granted, they’re nothing close to big platinum selling artists like U2, Taylor Swift or Garth Brooks. But they’re significant. “Scene in San Francisco” somehow managed to hit 225,000 views; “New Orleans Dreams” close to that and “Hello My Dove” still hovers around 20,000. And yes I’m sure if we sat down and did more research we would find that plenty of the other songs we have on YouTube have even higher view counts than these three, because they are older classics and have the advantage of having been around longer, but I am referring to these songs specifically because they are the NEWEST songs from our catalogue. Just those three songs alone have pulled in a healthy half a million views on YouTube since their release. Not bad.

Any normal rational thinking music lover is going to assume that we the artist MUST BE earning something from all this action. After all we are forced to sit through a ten to thirty second commercial before every single song we listen to on YouTube. It only makes sense that if YouTube is profiting from all these commercial spins that at least some of that has to get passed on to the artist and their record label.

Now here’s the deal: we do NOT get paid directly from YouTube. That would be too easy. Too fair. The music business has never been fair or easy. Nope. We the artists get paid by YouTube paying out “public performance royalties” to the PROs (Performing Rights Organizations) like ASCAP, SESAC and BMI on a quarterly basis who are supposed to turn around and pass on ALL that money to us, the artists. Remember, these PROs portend that they are NON-PROFIT, that they are ONLY in business to “serve the needs of the artists”. And yet when we have called our PRO, ASCAP, they have repeatedly told us “hey wow Ed Hale that’s great man. Congratulations! You’re really making good traction with the new songs! But see, with our proprietary system we really don’t even pay out on YouTube views until a song gets at least half a million to a million views. And even then you would have to accumulate those views at a rate of half a million views per month in order for us to calculate them and pay you any for them. So as unfair as it seems we can’t really pay you for any of those views for your new songs sorry to say.”

Needless to say every time I have this conversation with them I hang up that phone angry and discouraged. See, there’s no shortage of new fans for the music what with all these new ways to experience our music… But we the artists are just getting screwed out of the process. And yet it is WE WHO ARE CREATING THE PRODUCT!!! Without us there would be NO product for YouTube to play. Nor Spotify or Pandora or iTunes.

I ran the numbers in my head this morning as I was watching Garth complain about the same thing… Even if YouTube only paid us ONE CENT per spin I would make at least $5,000 just for those three songs alone this year. If they paid us just TWO CENTS per spin or view those songs would generate $10,000. No that’s not enough to support a family. But it’s certainly better than ZERO! And zero is what we are currently being paid from YouTube views.

See, the problem is that just a few short years ago we would make that kind of money in just a few weeks from putting out a new album and selling it. Either via a CD or via iTunes downloads. But with every song we release becoming instantly available online there is really no incentive for a fan to make that purchase. They can just go to YouTube or Spotify. And as a music lover myself I totally get how awesome that is. I do it myself. At least I used to. But if these streaming services are not going to compensate the artists for the streaming because of some “proprietary system” ala YouTube or only pay the artist 7/1000th of a penny per spin…the fans and music lovers are getting just as duped as we the artists are — believing their favorite artists are being compensated for the listening pleasure that their music is providing when in reality no such thing is happening.

If you’ve been wondering lately where your favorite artist is or where they have been and why you haven’t heard from them in a while, and who hasn’t… This is the reason why. They’re still alive. They just cannot afford to make music any longer. And this is by no means an exaggeration. As an artist myself I promise you that it is much worse than I have made it out to be simply because it is just too embarrassing to fully admit publicly — especially regarding other people who may or may not want the world to know how tough things are for them. That decision has to be up to each artist and their respective family. But suffice it to say I personally know many who are big names and plenty of smaller names who simply cannot afford to make music at the present time. And that is a very sad thing for all of us.

Of course there is much more to all of this. But this is a start. We will continue to explore this in future updates. In the meantime YOU can do something by simply publicly letting the above mentioned companies know that you believe they need to start compensating artists fairly. Something needs to change. And as always that change begins and ends with us — we the people can turn this tragic episode around and create for ourselves the miraculous happy ending that we all hope and wish for just as we always do in all world affairs.

– Posted by The Ambassador aka Ed Hale using BlogPress on an iPhone

On the Wretched State of the Music Business

A film producer was waxing nostalgic earlier today about how good the music of the 70s was and wondering why the music of today is so horrendous. I have already shared here in past posts that while I wholeheartedly agree with this notion I also recognize that there is some incredible music and musical innovation happening at the moment. It’s an exciting time creatively for music. But with a few caveats:
— It’s just not mainstream.
— It’s no longer about music in the traditional sense as in playing an instrument; the computer has turned into a musical instrument.
— It’s no longer about songs and songwriting as much as about SOUND i.e. What does it “sound like” forget the song or lack thereof underneath.
— It’s no longer limited to a field of a few savants but rather it’s become a very wide open playing field where every and anyone can throw in with their momentary contribution.
— Having “talent”, i.e. being able to sing or play an instrument or perform live is no longer a necessary requirement.

I was ruminating about the same exact thing yesterday. Here’s the thing: the 90s was so filled with kack (garbage) that it DID jade us to what followed, even though some of it was still very good.
Bare in mind the PEAK of the $$$ revenue generation in the history of the music biz was ’98, when the formula was “release ten diff copies/replicas of whatever happens to be hot at the moment” and avoid originality because it’s “dangerous” (may lose money) — (this started in the 80s w the “first wave of consolidation” (of the labels); the revenue has fallen precipitously since, to where we now have an industry that can no longer sustain itself due to no customer demand for the product (more than just one factor, for sure, but yes one can easily blame part of it on the industry’s “churn and burn” practice of releasing crap over artistry jading and turning off the consumer).

Certainly the trend to entice the audience with manufactured pseudo-music ala “DJs” churning out generic computer generated tones over hypnotic dance beats in lieu of real musicians because it was much more profitable also contributed to the wretched state we are in as well. We addressed this menacing trend in Ed Hale and the Transcendence on our NOTHING IS COHESIVE album with the song “Somebody kill the DJ” — whose lyrics if one listens carefully are literally both a lamenting of the loss of traditional music making AND a rallying cry to kill DJs if one has the chance just to save music. Perhaps it was tongue in cheek hyperbole to a certain degree. Perhaps it wasn’t. But regardless it’s way past that now.

BUT, though it was easy to miss, the 2000s DID actually produce some of the best artists albums and songs of all time still (think Rufus Wainwright, Aimee Mann, Phoenix, Strokes, Coldplay, Muse, Jet, Travis, Aqualung, Radiohead, Sigur Ross, etc etc there are hundreds more…). Problem is: “career artistry” is no longer a practice we can afford, i.e. paying for an artist to have a career both with hits and/or no hits. Combine that — the inability to afford career artists financially — w the “anyone can claim to be an artist due to technological advances” trend and we land right where we are today.

Now we are in unchartered waters… all of us, fans and artists alike, adrift in a wicked system where there are no gatekeepers, tastemakers, mentors or arbiters; the trend is “anyone and everyone gets a shot, about 10% of all who try will get 1 hit, 1% may get 2, and 1/10th of 1% may be able to eek a living from it”. But just how one does that is completely different than in times past because all of the traditional revenue streams have dried up. The business still chugs along but broken bankrupt and rudderless because the old rules no longer apply and new rules are constantly forming and re-morphing as Silicon Valley and Wall Street continue to take more and more control over the business side of things. Geniuses they may be — but with no heart and having been bred on coding hacking and the quick creation and abandonment of disposal commodities for profit and fame (websites, apps, software, devices, hardware, etc.) they have reduced music to a perceptually valueless commodity. Now an entire generation — several in fact — have been indoctrinated to fall for that preposterous notion, e.g. music has no value, just like last week’s “app of the week”.

What used to be intangible and transcendent, art heart passion balls love the mind God survival AND entertainment–with $$$ as a side benefit– is now a barely breathing industry that breeds one hit wonders galore through this “replicate what is happening NOW and for Gods sake do NOT innovate for fear of striking out on your ONE chance at bat”, but no “career artists”. Career artists is a term coined in the early 70s that referred to “artists who might not make us very much money NOW but are still very important artistically and therefore might make us money LATER, once the people catch up with them”. We used the money generated from one hit wonders to pay for the careers of career artists. Hence we’d allow Dylan to do a country album or Hendrix to do a 20 minute instrumental jam song or Pink Floyd to record a whole album as one 60 minute song about pigs and dogs or Lennon to release an album of him screaming at the top of his lungs for an hour or Joni to explore jazz fusion etc etc etc. We allowed it because we could afford it AND because it “might” hold artistic merit. Neil Young Lou Reed David Byrne Warren Zevon Led Zeppelin even Van Halen and a million others were born from this ideal…let’s support them a while and see if the public eventually catches up.

The industry can no longer afford this in today’s age because there is no money to be had. And there are a million reasons for this — not just one or two. But making music still costs money as it always has. So WHO is making music now? In this environment? The best and brightest? The really talented? Or “anyone who can afford to”? Sadly the latter. The hardest aspect of the new music business to fathom is that the best and brightest may BE making music somewhere, MAYBE, IF they can even afford to…(big if), but we may never hear it or even hear about it because there’s no money being generated from it, not even enough to launch it out of the artists small local zone.

Very suckass, both for us as artists and for us as music lovers.

Will this change? Can it? Yes. The companies behind the artists simply need to 1, look for the cream NOT the hits, and 2, support those artists through their career in every manner, financially emotionally physically, with mental support and mentoring and lessons etc just as they used to. At least for a few years to see if anything will come out of it. The 70s was the PEAK of that methodology in our industry. Many people consider the 70s to be the BEST decade for music of all time. For a brief period, artists were allowed to record an album that yielded NO hit IF it had artistic merit or the potential to — JUST because it was “art” and that’s what art does. If it yielded a “hit” and made money, even better.

At some point in our future we the people, all of us, will become tired of the current trend of music as a commodity and nothing more and speak up demanding art from our music once again. And through that desire we will create a way to pay for it so that the best and brightest are able to be heard AND make a decent living. It’s only a matter of time.

We are already observing artists and their respective labels devise ingenious ways to generate money through music outside of the traditional means (consumers buying it or paying for it) whether it be U2 giving their album away for free via Apple (Apple paid for it) or Jay Z selling advertising and product placement embedded in his lyrics AND giving it away for free via AT&T or Coldplay having Target pay them or Taylor Swift having Diet Coke pay her etc etc. Of course we can’t all afford giant corporate sponsors and wouldn’t want to if we could. (Personally I could never get away with endorsing something as overtly poisonous as a diet soda — my fans wouldn’t permit me to). But the trend is definitely shifting towards “getting large companies to pay for our music making so the fans don’t have to, or better put don’t want to.” The future possibilities are seemingly endless.

In the meantime we all must realize that even today there really is some incredible music being made out there right this very minute by artists who are busy living and Dying Van Gogh. We just need to look harder for it. And more importantly PAY for it when we do on occasion find it. C

– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone 8s Custom

Correcting Some Myths Regarding YouTube Spotify & Artist Compensation

The always entertaining Bob Lefsetz sent out an otherwise illuminating blog post today entitled “NAPSTER WOULD KILL CREATION AND NO ONE WOULD MAKE MUSIC”. “Otherwise” illuminating because in the first sentence he made a glaring error that is going to just further perpetuate the already pervasive and excruciatingly painful myth with the masses that “it’s okay if we only stream music through all those high tech new services like Beats Music because they’re paying the artists now, right?”. WRONG. They’re not. At least not in a manner that anyone with half a brain would consider anything close to a livable wage. I already knew I would come here to The Diaries and post a rebuttal to straighten out the facts of Bob’s post. But I also decided to write Bob a quick note to ask him to also correct the facts himself. Below is both the first few sentences of his post (PS — subscribe to his blog. It’s almost always worth the read) and my correction of the actual facts.

Below that I have also pasted another blog post of his from a few days ago that deals with the same issue and Thom Yorke’s decision to release his new album on bit torrent. It makes some great points. Again, Lefsetz is completely mistaken in his assertion that “YouTube and Spotify are compensating artists 70% just like iTunes does”. That’s not even close to being true, and it makes one wonder from where he is getting his information. Perhaps he just makes it up to prove his enlightening points? Or perhaps he knows of certain artists at certain large companies who have managed to negotiate completely different terms than almost every other artist in the world today. Not sure. But don’t let the erroneous facts of his post minimize the importance of some of his finer points. They’re cutting edge insightful and almost always entertaining if nothing else. He just happens to be very wrong about the current state of artist compensation in the music business.

“On Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 3:04 PM, Bob Lefsetz <xxxx@xxxx.com> wrote:
NAPSTER WOULD KILL CREATION AND NO ONE WOULD MAKE MUSIC

Just the opposite has happened. With new tools for production and distribution that bring the cost of creating and getting your work out at close to zero it seems like everybody’s got a song in them. More people are making more music than ever before, leaving the audience overwhelmed with productions.

MUSIC IS FREE

It just feels that way.

America’s #1 music service, YouTube, pays rights holders, as does Spotify. Can we stop the mantra that music is free? Sure, piracy exists, but it always did. If you think kids are busy stealing instead of streaming you probably went to the Apple Store to stock up on the discontinued iPod.”

 

Hi Bob.
As you know I’m a fan; often even sharing your posts through my own social media profiles occasionally when I find them extraordinarily prescient or insightful. But you can’t be sending out posts that say things like “YouTube and Spotify are now compensating rights holders” — especially not to what I would guess is largely a musician/music biz exec audience — when these statements are almost entirely untrue. Sure guys like me and others who are buried neck deep in the business and understand how it works understand the finer points of what you are saying, but most people take you at your word and then go to hunt down this $$$ that YouTube and Sp and the like are supposed to be paying them because Bob Lefsetz said so and they come up with nothing. Why? Because as those of us in the biz recognize, YT, SP, Beats and P are “trying” to compensate rights holders to a certain degree, but they have systems set up that are so heinous and prohibitive that it basically means that 99% of artists are NOT being compensated in any way from YouTube, Spotify, Beats or Pandora. Take a little thing they like to call “threshholds”; i.e. YouTube doesn’t pay out unless a song reaches over 500,000 to one million views AND that has to be within the quarter. So even if you get to 499,999 views that quarter you get paid ZERO $$$ from YouTube. ZERO. Now THAT is NOT compensating the artist nor the rights holder. Period. Just pick up the phone and call ASCAP, BMI or SESAC to confirm this fact for God’s sake. It’s common knowledge.

Spotify and Pandora pay us approx .005 to .0007 per stream. As in 500 streams to earn ONE CENT or in the other case 7000 streams to earn one cent. (!!!) So saying “Now that YouTube and Spotify are compensating rights holders…” is completely erroneous and misleading. Not only that, but it then renders the rest of your post less credible. Of course this is just IMHO and I will certainly share my thoughts in the Transcendence Diaries. But rather than have me as “the bearer of truth and light corrections in response to Bob Lefsetz’s erroneous claims”, wouldn’t it be easier (certainly on me) if you just fact-checked before posting? All said with the utmost respect of course as always.

Sincerely,
The Ambassador
The Transcendence Embassy
c/o Dying Van Gogh Records
304 Park Avenue South
11th Floor
New York, NY 10010
800.827.7763
www.dyingvangogh.com
www.edhale.com
www.transcendence.com
www.transcendencediaries.com

 

In the above letter I only point to a very small number of roadblocks that have been built into the new system of the music business that prevent artists and labels from being able to make a living from music creation. There are a TON of them presently. YES the music being created today is as creative and exciting as it’s ever been. But the artists are not just being paid “less than they ever have”, they ARE NOT BEING PAID almost exclusively. This is WHY Radiohead’s Thom Yorke DID decide to release his latest album for free on a flagrant music piracy site — as a statement, as in “fuck all of you if you’re going to stream our music for free allowing these giant new tech companies like Spotify and Beats to profit in the millions while I don’t make shit, I’ll just give my music directly to the FANS!”

U2 decided to do the same thing, choosing instead to sell their new album to Apple so as not to risk putting it out on the market and not achieving any sales. Coldplay used Target. Jay Z used ATT. Artists are nothing if not creative and in this new age of no money for music we are having to be just as creative outside of the studio as we are inside — in an attempt to try to figure out how to squeeze a few nickels out of the fans who very clearly still love our music. That’s right, we totally get that YOU the music lover still love our music and that you’re not directly involved in what’s happening in our industry. I hear it from fans all the time. “I had no idea you weren’t getting paid!” they exclaim. And some even pay that $10 to Spotify or Beats every month. But when these companies are reporting hundreds of millions of dollars in profits per quarter, that should be a tip off to all of us, artist and consumer alike, that there might be a good chance that the artists aren’t getting paid.

So what CAN we do about it? Well, number one, we can always go back to downloading albums from iTunes. Or songs if you like. Yep, iTunes PAYS US. And they pay us well. No complaints from Apple. And they’re still the largest most profitable company on planet earth. Go figure. So next time you hear anyone try to defend Beats, or Spotify or Pandora, in ANY way, regarding their claim that they would be “unable to fairly compensate the artists in the same manner that iTunes does or we’d go bankrupt” just remind them of how many hundreds of millions of dollars they reported earning last quarter. It’s all s smokescreen. They figure that if the consumer doesn’t mind ripping off the artist then they don’t mind profiting from it. And that’s where WE come in.

If you like music, if you love it, if you enjoy it, then shoot off an email to Spotify and Pandora. Let them know that although you’ve been thinking about starting up an account with them, or currently have a paid account with them, you just cannot justify it any longer as long as they are not compensating the artists whose music they are selling. It’s pretty simple. These companies are in the business of SELLING MUSIC. But the problem is that they aren’t BUYING THE MUSIC. In any other world that would be considered criminal. Stealing. And at its eessence that’s exactly what is happening. Legal stealing. Music piracy is already bad enough, but these new streaming services are killing today’s working artists. Ever wonder why they’re starting to appear on singing competition shows as judges? Or cheesy TV commercials? Yep. There’s a reason. Basically because of music streaming services NOT compensating us for our music that they are selling to you the consumer they are forcing musical artists to do anything and everything to try to bring home the bacon. And we’re no longer talking about striking it rich here. We’re talking about just trying to make enough to make a decent living, to pay the bills. That’s what it’s come down to now. I personally make MORE money from buying and selling Pandora stock in a week than I will make from Pandora paying me for streams in an entire quarter. Why? Because no one can make a living from being paid .007 cents per stream.

People complaining about the need to raise the minimum wage have NO idea how much worse it is for musical artists. I would LOVE to be guaranteed a steady stream of income every week from my hard work. But in this ever changing industry, where any moment some new young upstart can grab your entire recorded catalog and throw it up on the internet and call it a new business — completely forgetting to address how the artist will actually be paid, we artists do not have the luxury of anything close to a guaranteed stream of income. It’s potluck now. But again, there IS something that can be done about it. All we have to do is get YouTube, Spotify, Pandora and the rest of them to start paying the artists a decent living wage. It really is that simple. You the consumer will do the rest, as you always have, by consuming the music we make. And as always we are forever grateful to you for that. This isn’t your fault. You just caught in the middle.

 

As always, more later…

 

 

To read the rest of Bob’s (like i said) otherwise brilliant post, go here: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/

U2 Proves Rock is Dead. And So Is the Album

The below is the latest blog entry from music-culture blogger and general curmudgeon, Bob Lefsetz. In it he plainly and clearly argues that the release of the latest U2 album — through giving it away for free via Apple’s iTunes platform — was yet another red flag that rock music AND the album as a viable art-form is utterly entirely and completely dead. He argues a lot of things in the article below. Much of it makes sense and rings true. One of things he emphatically states is that no one has time to dig through 11 songs on a rock music album (or any album for that matter) and therefore U2 wasted years creating their newest magnum opus. They should have just released a 4 song EP instead. You can read it below for yourself. Frankly I don’t have the time to respond to Bob’s ideas — and THIS gives testimony to just how accurate he is in his latest treatise on the rapidly changing cultural world around us.

For my part, I CAN say this. Everyone knows that I am an avid U2 fan. I own all their albums and buy them as soon as they come out or soon afterwards. I have seen them live in concert more times than I can count. But have I heard this new one yet? Nope. Do I even own it? Nope. And they’re giving it away for FREE!!! Yet I still don’t own it. Yep. This fact proves Bob’s point more than I’d like it to. To further prove the validity of his statements below, he is right in these assertions as well: I didn’t want to go to iTunes to download the album — while at the gym I obviously wasn’t able to do this. What I wanted to do was LISTEN TO the album. As in STREAM IT via Spotify. But U2 made the irreversible error of making the album NOT available on Spotify for at least a month or two. By that time no one will be talking about or interested in the new U2 album. We’ll all be discussing something else entirely. So they lost that shot. The next place I went to try to hear the new album? YouTube. Just like Bob predicted we all would. And as can probably be guessed, the new U2 album is not yet available on YouTube. So they dropped that ball too.

This is why, three days later I still don’t own the new U2 album. And I’m an actual FAN. Forget about the ex-fans or never-have-been-fans or the flat-out haters. They’re all having a field day making fun of and insulting Bono and company. They’ve become the punchline of the hour, the battering ram of the week — right after Ray Rice, ISIS and Ferguson, Missouri.

It’s a damn sad day when one of the greatest musical acts of all time can become so lambasted, negatively perceived and devoured by mainstream society for such a small and simple mistake. It’s even more disturbing that Lefsetz appears to be right not only in his assertion that rock music has lost all credibility and influence in modern Western society AND so too has the album as a viable art-form SIMPLY BECAUSE no one has the time for either of them. Especially for yours truly, who still bathes in the illusion that I make my living from recording and releasing albums of primarily “rock” music. Oh well. Oh well. Oh well. Better luck next time.

What follows below is the article by Bob Lefsetz. Happy reading. Feel free to share your thoughts.

Ambassador

 

NEWS FOR A DAY

No different from a rape or a murder, but with even less legs. In today’s world it’s not about making an impact, but sustaining. Could it be that Bono’s been living too long in the echo chamber, hanging with forty and fiftysomethings who think they rule the world but truly don’t? Yes, older people build the tools, but it’s young people who utilize them. The older bloke will lament the loss of the record shop, the younger person has never been. If you want to make it in today’s marketing culture you must be online 24/7, picking up the nuances. Because it is about cred and it is about cool but if you think the old rules apply, you probably can’t name a YouTube star.

EVANESCENCE

This is an analog of the above. Here today, gone tomorrow. How could the band be so stupid as to believe anybody would actually play their music, especially the 500 million it was pushed to. Where’s the afterplan? Nonexistent.

PUSH

We live in a pull economy. Nothing pisses off the audience more than pushing something they don’t want and didn’t ask for to their devices. Even if you don’t download the album, it’s sitting there in your purchases, pissing you off.

HOW TO

Did you have iCloud turned on in iTunes? Even those who wanted the album weren’t quite sure how to get it.

ALBUM

How many tracks did PSY have? One!

OVERLOAD

No one’s got time to listen to a complete album, especially when it’s pushed upon them, that’s just too much material. Yes, a nascent artist on his way up might have people check out more tracks on his album out of curiosity, but no one’s curious about U2, they already know everything about them. One must factor in that we’re all overloaded with stimuli and you must point us to the paramount item and make it digestible in a matter of moments. If we love it, we’ll want more. If we don’t, we’re never going to get to the rest of your opus that you spent years creating.

ALBUM TWO

Make it an EP. Four tracks. People haven’t finished Piketty’s tome. It would have been better off as a magazine article. People bought it, they just didn’t read it, who’s got the time?

ENGAGEMENT

Now what. Where’s the game, where’s the jaw-dropping viral video? Where’s the element we can all point to and talk about. If anything, we’re talking about the stunt, not the music.

WRONG SERVICE

They’d have been better off releasing it on YouTube, that’s where the digital generation goes for music. iTunes is a backwater. It may be the number one sales outlet, but it’s not the number one music platform, not even close.

UNHIP

Put it on Spotify. Try to look cutting edge. Meanwhile, having the quality of your music trumpeted by Tim Cook is like having Ed Sullivan say your tunes are good.

CLOSED DOORS

This is the problem vexing filmed entertainment/video, there’s not one platform with everything. But in music we’ve solved this problem, Spotify and YouTube have all the tracks and you can access them for free, but putting hype over practicality, U2 failed to see they were playing in a walled garden, to their detriment.

This was a stunt, poorly executed. Everybody forgets that despite all the hoopla about naming your own price, “In Rainbows” was a disaster, with only hard core fans familiar with the material. Yup, Radiohead may be independent, but they’ve done a good job of marginalizing themselves.

And at least Beyonce had the videos, somewhere to click to.

And Weird Al had videos too, but after a week, few cared.

Because at the end of the day we only care about the music. And U2 didn’t cut that one indelible track that stops us in our tracks, that we want to listen to again and again and pass on. Sure, the song they played at the Apple soiree was good, but good is no longer good enough.

Furthermore, when Bono talked he lost all charisma.

This looked like nothing so much as what it was, old farts using their connections to shove material down the throats of those who don’t want it. It’s what we hate so much about today’s environment, rich people who think they know better and our entitled to their behavior.

Don’t listen to the press. Rock writers are antiques who are underpaid who are in it for access and free tickets.

And the business press doesn’t care about the music.

And the old fart fortysomethings who talk about this music should be ignored. It’s no different from a Jason Isbell fan testifying about his tracks. No offense, but it’s a tiny world. Sure, U2’s is bigger, but until U2 cuts a track that makes the rest of us care, we don’t.

Meanwhile, Jason Isbell had a hit today, he tweeted: “U2 PHONES IT IN.”

Yup, that’s Internet culture, where someone who raises their head above is fodder for criticism.

But it gets worse.

Cultofmac said:

“But trotting out aging Irish rockers after you’ve wowed the world with the first glimpse of the glorious Apple Watch? That’s not thinking different. That’s a pity-f__k for a band that’s lost its edge, and an unfortunate bum note for a company that’s rarely perceived as tone-deaf.”

http://www.cultofmac.com/295084/u2-apple-event/

Whew!

All over the web people are criticizing U2. And that’s where music now lives, online.

So, so long Bono and crew. You’ll continue to sell tickets, but you’re no longer au courant.

So long rock that does not break through on Top Forty. U2 would have been better off cutting a country track, that would have been a better fit with a fighting chance of airplay.

So long albums. If you’ve got an hour to listen to once that which must be listened to ten times to get you’ve got no life, but everyone does, and they’re the center of it, glued to their devices, and to distract them you’ve got to be pretty damn good and the talk of the town for an extended period of time, U2’s new music is not.

So long stunts with no aftermath. If you’re not in the news every damn day, you’re getting it wrong. The biggest pop stars are the Kardashians. Ever notice not a day goes by without them in the news? Bono, et al, would be better off hanging with the sisters than heads of state, at least if they want to have a hit.

And so long the fiction that Guy Oseary would do a better job than Paul McGuinness. There might be a patina of new school, but this album release is positively old school.

Here’s how it goes:

Make everyone aware.

Put tickets on sale.

Make it an event, a la the Stones, i.e. if you don’t come now, you may never be able to experience it again.

Trump up traditional press so wankers believe there’s something happening.

But there’s not.

Because “I Will Follow” was inspired. It sounded like nothing else. It had urgency. It had attitude. You needed to hear it again. It was so good you wanted to hear what else the band was up to.

The new album is paint-by-numbers disposable.

Today we have to pull you into our world. And we only hold you in our bosom if we believe your music is repeatable and deserves our time.

Bono’s on top of the world, he’ll reject everything I say.

Rapino and Oseary will keep shoveling, hoping to keep this alive.

And you and me?

WE’RE ALREADY OVER IT!

THE PROBLEM WITH MUSIC STREAMING FROM A BUSINESS STANDPOINT

Regarding Spotify and Pandora and the like, we have been spending a LOT of time discussing and debating this issue. Just not here. I apologize for that. Unlike the “old days” where everything I did was memorialized here for the ages, social media has now taken over and the majority of my communications, thoughts, feelings ideas are now floating out there somewhere, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or even Pinterest. I encourage you, friend fan or foe, to search for me on those above cited platforms and connect so as to be more readily informed of what’s going on. With that said, I started a simple non-profit to inform and promote a fairer living wage compensation for the musical artist called FAIR PAY FOR FAIR PLAY. Feel free to connect with it on Facebook if it’s a cause you believe in. There you will be able to read more about this subject than you’re even aware exists at this time. but that’s a good thing. We need YOU to. We need everyone to.

Needless to say, pardon that you’ll be joining the conversation mid-stream. But as of today, here is the latest thought about this subject:

Granted we are in the initial phase of this new trend… (streaming taking over purchases…) BUT i do believe that as with all “new things” that it’s important for us to set the rules up fairly and equitably from the start, or else it’s much harder for us to change them later. Be it anything. The problem is that the whole thing is a sham. This idea that tech companies are perpetrating on regular people, that “music can be free”… the business model itself is severely flawed… THEY happen to exist in an industry where everything is “free”. Free apps, free games, etc, because it is funded by venture capitalists. So they are now trying to pass that on to an entirely different industry — the music business — and with other people’s products, i.e. other people’s intellectual property. And therein lay the problem.

It’s FINE if tech companies want to and can afford to give away their product for free for a year or more or forever because they see a bigger picture down the road (advertising revenue, an IPO); but it’s NOT fine to demand that of other people who they don’t even know, i.e. musical artists. The ONLY way they can offer “free music” to people — their prospective clientele — is by either offsetting their expenses — what they should be paying for their inventory, in this case the music — through other revenue sources like advertising OR by funding their business through venture capitalists. Which is fine. IF they are paying for their inventory. Which in this case, they are not. They’re just stealing it.

And by doing so they are programming an entire generation to believe that “music is free”, when in fact it’s not. Music actually costs a LOT to create. Financially. Besides all the other things that go into it. Like talent. What they’re going to end up with is a world where only really crappy music is popular because really good music will not be available for streaming if these practices continue for much longer. Just something to think about..

If you want to find out more about this issue and the problems we all face as music lovers if it continues in this direction, read this excellent article about Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and why he pulled his music off of Spotify: http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jul/15/thom-yorke-spotify-twitter

Bouncing Back When Flat — Ed Hale Opens Up in New Book and Interview

Ed Hale Star Guitar promo photo. Photo by Fiona Pepe, Styling by Jenascia Chakos 2013.

Ed Hale star guitar promo photo by Fiona Pepe, styling by Jenascia Chakos copyright 2013.Earlier this year Ed Hale gave an in-depth interview with the website FlyFreeAvatar.com, where he opens up more about his music, business, spiritual and personal life than ever before. The interview also makes mention of the potential release of a new book entitled Bouncing Back When Flat. The interview is being reprinted here for Transcendence Diaries readers in its entirety with permission from the owners. Original interview published on February 1st, 2014 here: Bouncing Back When Flat — An Interview with Recording Artist Ed Hale

FlyFreeAvatar.com recently had the opportunity to get recording artist Ed Hale to sit down for an in-depth interview. This is a project we have spoken about doing for several years, and the New Year seemed like the perfect time to finally complete it. Hale has been in the public eye for most of his life, having released his first album at the age of 17. He is best known as a singer-songwriter and recording artist — as the lead singer of the musical group Ed Hale and the Transcendence, scoring numerous Top 40 hits over the last fifteen years — including classics like “Superhero Girl”, “Scene in San Francisco” and “New Orleans Dreams”. He is also well-known as a successful entrepreneur and businessman, a prolific writer, and an outspoken social and political activist and human rights advocate. He has a reputation for being open and outspoken about his personal life, especially in his popular long-running blog The Transcendence Diaries, which is celebrating its twelfth year online this year. He is refreshingly candid about sharing his spiritual views as well – a rare quality in the entertainment world. Being actively involved in community building and Civilian Diplomacy work with organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), Hale has traveled the world extensively for diplomatic, peace and work trips and speaks six languages. Most applicable to this site, Hale has taken all of the Avatar Courses numerous times over the last 15 years and continues to do so on a regular basis.

I

FlyFreeAvatar (FFA): When I first thought about talking to you for this interview, there were two questions that came to mind immediately. The first was about how your music has been affected by taking the Avatar courses. And the second was about all the success you’ve had over the years and how much of a role you think Avatar has played in it.

Ed Hale (EH): Yep. I can see that. Those are the two questions I get asked the most when it comes to Avatar. But that’s TWO questions you know. [laughs]

FFA: Okay so let’s start with your career success. With the band’s last album’s success and the hit singles you had from your solo album, “Scene in San Francisco” and “New Orleans Dreams” climbing the Billboard Top40 Charts, why don’t we start there? With your career success. How much of a role do you think Avatar has played in that?

EH: Well I had achieved success in music at an early age. Long before I took the Avatar Course for the first time. So I don’t want to mislead anyone on that count. But it was short lived. I mean, I was signed, released an album, had a few hits and was touring before I finished high school. And then it was all over before I graduated college! [laughs] But this latest success? I think we could safely say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for everything I learned in Avatar; let alone be in Billboard magazine.

FFA: Your early career, that was when you were known as Eddie Darling…

EH: Yes. That’s the embarrassing truth. But you know, when we’re young… we don’t know. We think we know… but we don’t. At the time I guess I thought that was a cool sounding name. But that was such a crazy experience to go through at such a young age. None of it was on my terms. It was all up to other people. Just a very large greedy money-making machine. If they like what you’re doing, you’re in. If they don’t like what you’re doing, you’re out. No compassion, no sense of artistic integrity or guidance. It was really disheartening for me as a young artist. I thought that was going to be the start of this amazing career, but it didn’t last very long. A few years in the big leagues and it was over and I was back in the local club scene.

FFA: But you obviously didn’t give up on music, which has been a hallmark of your career, this persistence. What led you to keep going?

EH: Well I did give up for a while there. I went back to college and got really into that. But it didn’t last long. I just couldn’t stay away from making music. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel comfortable NOT making music. It’s just the one thing in life I enjoy doing more than anything else. Except being married of course! [laughs] The difference was, when I went back into music then, that it was going to be on MY terms. I didn’t feel like I had any control in it my first run-through. So that was one of the many reasons why I took the Avatar Course. I wanted to harness more deliberateness in my life. Not sure if that’s a word… But I really liked the idea of “living deliberately”. [Living Deliberately is the name of the first book by Harry Palmer. Palmer is the author and creator of the Avatar Course and has published many books on the subject.]

FFA: You were young when you took Avatar for the first time.

EH: Yes, I was 21 or 22 years old. Back then that was considered “young”. Now there are kids eight and nine years old taking the courses. It’s incredible. I used to feel like “the kid” around those courses. Now I feel old compared to these kids. [laughs]

FFA: Yes. It’s amazing. But still, 22 is still pretty young to take Avatar. Especially back then when the course was fairly new and unknown. What prompted you to take it?

EH: Well it’s like what I was saying, about the last album, and really all of them over the last ten years… I took Avatar initially because I wanted to feel more in control of my life. I wanted to feel like I was creating my experiences. I could FEEL that what it was about totally vibrated with what I believed personally. I mean, the whole “we create our experiences based on our beliefs” premise… I believed that already. Or at least wanted to. But how do we control our beliefs? That’s what puzzled me and interested me the most. And I learned how to do that on that first Avatar Course; and in the future ones that I took like Masters and Wizards. It gave me the ability to create my beliefs deliberately. So instead of feeling caught up in a large out of control system like the music business, I created feeling in control and confident. And every album since has done better than the last. It’s really been a very positive force in my career. For sure. There’s no arguing about that.

FFA: So do you use the tools regularly?

EH: Yes. Absolutely. I try to live through them… By using them all the time… Like in every moment. After a while, it transcends “using the tools” and just becomes… a way of life, a habit, how you live.

FFA: Have you used the tools specifically about your career? In other words is there a direct correlation between the success you’ve had and using the Avatar tools?

EH: Yes. Absolutely. In terms of using them specifically around my career, I learned from some of the more experienced Avatars out there – and I’m not sure if this is “a thing” or not… But I learned that they might go to a course and dedicate that whole course to just one aspect of their lives, like say their career, or money. Other things come up of course, because it’s all connected, all the different aspects of our lives… but I went to a Pro Course [The Avatar Professional Masters Course] and decided to dedicate the whole course to my career. And it was a truly amazing experience. Doing it that way.

FFA: In what way?

EH: Just the discipline you have to have in order to do that, to stay focused on one thing; controlling your will to be able to do it. And then the variety of tools available to you to explore that one aspect of your life. They offer you so many different perspectives you’ve never thought of before. And the course keeps you on track to really get to the bottom of things. In whatever you’re focusing on. In that case, tackling your beliefs about one specific subject, like your career, from the variety of different angles that are provided to you by using all those different tools. We released the Rise and Shine album a few months later and that album took off bigger and faster than we ever expected. It opened the door for us. Before that, we were a new and relatively unknown band. After that album, we became a national act. The songs were charting in cities all over the country. That was when I first started learning about where all these cities were that we hear about all the time around the country. From the radio station play charts. [laughs] I can’t help believe that part of what helped all that to happen was because I had dedicated that course a few months earlier to focusing just on my career. It was so effortless.

FFA: Have you done that with other areas of your life? Is it something you always do?

EH: No it is not something I always do. But I have done it with other things. But not usually. I did it regarding relationships one year and that was also very successful. I found my soul-mate because of doing that I believe. I cleaned up all the beliefs I had about love and romance and relationships… But usually I just take the courses and allow whatever comes up to come up. And you know, what I notice is that if your attention is on your career, then that’s what’s going to come up for you anyway. So it’s not really necessary. It all tends to work out perfectly if you don’t fight it and you just let it flow. Ultimately it’s your consciousness, no one else’s. You just have to decide if you want to be a victim of it or the master and leader of it.

FFA: That’s well put. So how do the courses affect your music? As an artist?

EH: Well I get that question a lot. And the answer is I honestly don’t know. I know that the answer is supposed to be really incredible and mystical or magical in some way… There’s this expectation there it seems… But honestly, in terms of music, I’ve been writing and playing music since I was a kid, since before I could walk. So if I were to be totally honest, I don’t know what affect it’s had. Freedom maybe?

FFA: That’s fair. Freedom in what way?

EH: Well… I can tell you this. When I first took the Avatar Course and then the Masters Courses, I felt OUT OF THIS WORLD. I had never felt so good in my life. Just like… I don’t know, flying is how I would put it. High as a kite, but without drugs. High on life. [Hale is very animated as he speaks. His eyes are wide and he uses a lot of hand gestures.] I felt SO confident and SO fresh and new and GOOD inside. I KNOW that came through in the music I was writing back then. It gave me a feeling of invincibility and that definitely translated to me having a new-found confidence as a musician and as a writer… to write whatever I wanted to and forget about any of the so-called “rules of the business”. You know? So in that sense, the courses did affect my music tremendously.

FFA: Some of your songs are very spiritual. You tend to write more specifically about spiritual matters than other mainstream rock or pop singers…

EH: So now I’m mainstream? That’s a first!

FFA: You know what I mean, singers in the public eye… most of them don’t write about spirituality as much as you do. Even the ideas of Avatar and Abraham Hicks are referenced. I also couldn’t help notice that you credit Harry Palmer on some of the songs.

EH: Well yeah, [laughs] you get so excited after you first learn all that knowledge. It’s a big WOW moment. Like discovering chocolate or sex for the first time or something. [laughs] But bigger. Just the knowledge is mind-blowing, right? So it’s a given that you’re going to want to share that with people. Just not go overboard with it… hopefully. But if you use the tools on a regular basis, if you practice BEING an Avatar… then you feel like you’re walking on clouds most of the time. Those ideals and principles are embedded in you. Simple things. But profound. So they tend to come out in the lyrics. If I write a lyric that sounds really close to something I’ve read then yeah I’ll give credit to wherever I think credit is due. When I was younger I was writing a lot of songs about spirituality and transcendence and stuff like that and it really did feel like I was channeling the ideas of Avatar through music at times. So I would credit whoever was the inspiration. That doesn’t make our publisher very happy [laughs] because it creates a lot more paper work. But it’s the right thing to do. Harry Palmer’s ideas have been a huge influence on me and how I think… ever since I was a kid.

FFA: Does he know that he’s written songs with you?

EH: I don’t know. [laughs] That’s a weird way to put it. But I’ve never kept it a secret. We’ve never talked about it. I always wonder if he gets these checks in the mail and then wonders where they’re coming from. [laughs]

II

FFA: You’ve also had tremendous success in business, as an entrepreneur.

EH: I’ve tried. [laughs]

FFA: Well you have. That’s an aspect of your career that isn’t talked about as much. You were a successful entrepreneur before you were 30, irrespective of your career in music. And that seems to be a running thread throughout your life, starting businesses and being in business, since you were very young. [Hale started his first company at the age of 20 when he opened up a rehearsal and recording studio. Since then he’s owned health food stores, juice bars, a vitamin manufacturing company, a business consulting company, a record label and a real estate investment company.]

EH: Yeah, for sure. That’s another one of those things that I just absolutely LOVE. Business. Being in business. LOVE it.

FFA: You say that about a lot of things!

EH: Maybe I do… [laughs] I don’t know. I guess I just love a lot of stuff. Hey that’s the Ambassador!

FFA: So what is it about business that you love?

EH: Well I was raised in that kind of an environment, number one. I grew up with my parents owning businesses. So I think that was instrumental in it. And I have just always enjoyed being in business for myself more than working for other people. Though I don’t necessarily believe that it’s easier. I actually think working for other people – especially for a large company – is the easier path to take, for sure. But for someone like me… I just could never imagine doing that full time and long term. Plus, there’s also a real rush you get out of the risky and adventurous aspect of being in business for yourself. Unlimited reward but unlimited risk as well. I get off on that.

FFA: But how do you keep up with it? And how does Avatar affect it?

EH: You know that’s two questions, right? [laughs] I’ve always been fascinated by being in business for yourself. Since I was a kid I always admired those kind of people. Tony Robbins has been as big an influence on me as say, someone like John Lennon. Almost equal. And I also found that I was good at it, or at least lucky in it. So I keep up with it as best as I can. Probably not as well as I could honestly. The Avatar thing, that’s a different story. It helps obviously. I know that. That’s the thing… Avatar helps you with everything. It’s not just one aspect of your life. It’s your whole life that is affected.

FFA: You’ve talked about Harry Palmer and Tony Robbins a lot throughout your career in interviews. They seem to come up quite a bit.

EH: [laughs] Yeah I guess I do. But hey if you’re going to have mentors, they might as well be great ones. And for my money those are two of the brightest minds in the world today when it comes to personal achievement. Even though they’re very different. Stephen Bauman too. He’s more of a spiritual intellectual who keeps your integrity on its toes. But really all of them do that. [Stephen Bauman is an author, speaker and Methodist Pastor in New York City]

FFA: I know your love for Tony Robbins and Stephen Bauman. But in relation to this website and its readers, how does Avatar help with your success in business?

EH: Well to me I think the answer to that question is obvious, but for someone who’s never taken any of the Avatar Courses before…. okay, we can go there… Say you’re experiencing the same challenge over and over again in your business. Everything seems to be going well except this one thing… Or perhaps LOTS of things… You can keep banging your head against the wall over it… Hire new people, recruit consultants, read more books, take more classes, etc. etc. OR you can take a look at the beliefs underneath this problem and once you discover them, you can then DIScreate them. That’s a term that Harry Palmer came up with in the Avatar Course. It’s brilliant. And voila! They’re gone. That challenge will no longer be there. THAT’S how it can help. It’s miraculous. If people have ever seen that movie The Secret… it’s like that. But it’s real.

FFA: You make it sound so easy.

EH: Well in a way, it is. Not all the time. But it isn’t rocket science. It’s a very natural thing. It’s an organic process, just like breathing oxygen. We just have to re-remember it… Discreating limiting beliefs helps us remove obstacles in our life that up to that point seem insurmountable to us. I can honestly say I would not have experienced the level of business success I have had in my life, especially as young as I was, without having that knowledge and those tools. To me it’s a no-brainer. The same with religious faith. Both help.

FFA: Speaking of obstacles, you’ve had your share and always seem to bounce back, which has been an inspiration to many people. What’s the secret? Or does that give away the plot to your new book? [Hale has a new business/inspirational book coming out this year entitled Bouncing Back When Flat]

EH: Besides what I just said? [laughs] I mean that kind of sums it up, right?

FAA: I was hoping we could go a little deeper.

EH: Okay well which ones? There’ve been a lot of them. [laughs] It hasn’t been as easy as people seem to think it has. It never is. Not for any of us.

FFA: A few years ago you experienced a major business setback that left you broke and even homeless for a while, which is what your new book is about. I’ve read some of the interviews about that experience and it’s shocking. But you turned it around. What I’m trying to come to is how you did it? [In 2006 Hale discovered that his business partner, Naomi Whittel (nee Balcombe) (now at Reserveage Organics), had sold one of the companies he had founded, Ageless Foundation Laboratories, without his knowledge to a publicly traded company. Hale found out through the SEC filing. Naturade Inc., the company who purchased Hale’s company, didn’t even know Hale was an owner of the company when they made the purchase, finding out months later. The story has been written about extensively, but Hale has been relatively quiet about it.]

EH: Yeah, that… [This is the first time in the interview Hale becomes quiet, anything but animated.] That’s still a tough thing for me to talk about. But I understand that it’s important and why you think it’s relevant. I’m still coming to terms with it all.

FFA: Well that’s why you wrote this book, right?

EH: Yes. Absolutely. It’s an important story. I know that.

FFA: Not many people can imagine living through that kind of a setback, let alone bouncing back from it. But you did. Rather quickly some would say. And you have had tremendous success since then.

EH: Yes, I know. And I’m very grateful for that. Hence the book. If I can do that, then anyone can do anything. That’s how I look at it.

FFA: I read an interview you gave last year where you did talk about it and it was inspiring. I only ask because the story does have a happy ending. You didn’t let it take you down, but instead you found a way to work your way back to the top. That’s an incredible achievement.

EH: Yes, it did take me down. I mean, how could it not have? One day I was going about my business and living my life, not a worry in the world, and then in one fell swoop everything I had in the world was gone. Bank accounts, credit cards, my company, retirement savings. Everything. Gone. It was the single most challenging thing I’ve ever lived through. For sure. But you’re right, I didn’t let it keep me down forever. I started from scratch and rebuilt. And slowly I was able to rise back up.

FFA: Without giving too much of the book away, how were you able to do that?

EH: Well for one thing, my faith is very strong. We’ve talked about that. I’ve never hidden that. I try not to be preachy, but I also think it’s bullshit, pardon my French, when entertainers keep their faith in the closet because they’re worried about how it’s going to affect their career.

FFA: You’ve certainly never done that.

EH: No, I haven’t. I talk about it when it’s appropriate. It’s important to me and I believe it’s important to a lot of my friends and fans.

FFA: You write a lot about religion and faith in your blog and sometimes sound almost anti-religious, almost like an atheist, which I know you’re not. And yet at the same time you write a lot about being a Christian and how challenging it is. Can you explain that a little?

EH: Well I’m definitely not one of those “100% sold” kind of people. I think anyone who’s really honest about their religious faith is going to be confused about it… and struggle occasionally. Because there are just so many contradictions in religion and spirituality… The difference with me I guess is that I haven’t necessarily chosen a side yet… I’m still open to all of them…. dissecting it all. And I explore all that a lot publicly in the Diaries. [Hale is referring to his long-running blog The Transcendence Diaries].

FFA: I know a lot of people find that inspiring. But you also anger certain groups of people with this “openness”.

EH: I know. And I don’t mean to. What I’m really doing is what I believe we should all be doing if we’re serious about spirituality and faith… questioning, studying, exploring. I’m not trying to make anybody mad or even question what they believe. To me it’s fun. It’s academic. But it also meaning beyond that.

FFA: I think most people recognize that. So your faith is one of the things that brought you through that business challenge?

EH: Without a doubt. A lot of reflection and prayer. And a lot of counseling with mentors. Seeking advice from older people that I looked up to. Also I had a really strong community around me. Family and friends who were there for me. That’s a tremendous asset. Something that you can’t buy. If it weren’t for that, I don’t know if I’d be here today. Because when that kind of thing happens to you, you really start questioning your life. All your effort and hard work and even your beliefs, things that you’ve taken for granted your whole life all of a sudden… you start questioning.

FFA: Like what?

EH: Well like… just everything. For example, you assume that if you work hard and you’re a good person that you’re going to succeed. That’s what I’d ALWAYS believed. My whole life. And I experienced that. Over and over again throughout my life that’s what I experienced. And then when this happened, it was so shocking, that it was hard to put those pieces back together, of that belief. It didn’t ring true to me anymore. Being a good person did NOT equal being successful. I started wondering if maybe that was just bs and perhaps we were supposed to be bad people and that was how to succeed. That was my first gut reaction of course. It took me some time to overcome that idea…. because bad people seem to succeed just as much as good people.

FFA: It’s easy to see how you could come to that.

EH: Right? But here’s the thing. I was wrong. We’re not “good” people because we want to succeed. We’re good people because we believe that’s the best way to live life. You know? My friends and family would call me every day, I mean every day, just to see how I was doing and check in on me. That was a big help. And we would talk about it and little by little they got through to me. I remember this one time I was driving around Manhattan with a friend, Big Mac, I LOVE this guy. He’s super funny, a southern guy. And he had just finished seminary at Princeton… So he is a spiritual guy too…

FFA: You write about him in your Diaries. I know the name.

EH: Yep. I write about EVERYBODY in the Diaries. Much to their displeasure! [laughs]

FFA: I definitely want to talk about that later, because I have a lot of questions about your blog and the reaction you’ve gotten through the years, but I don’t want to interrupt your train of thought. So go on with the story.

EH: Okay… So I was telling Big Mac how I was trying to make sense of God’s plan for my life with making this horrible thing happen to me. With Naomi and the business. That perhaps God was trying to show me a different path to take, rather than all this success and being a business tycoon that maybe God wanted me to be more focused on making the world a better place. And Big Mac, he just looked over at me and said “Bro I could never believe in a God like that.” I’ll never forget it. That was just one of those moments in life you never forget. I was like “What do you mean?” And he said “Ed, God doesn’t make bad things happen to people. God is grace. And love. Who did this to you? This Naomi chick did this to you.” The way he enunciated her name in his southern drawl… I can still remember it… He said “People did this to you man. God didn’t. God is the one helping you. Not hurting you.” I turned around in my seat and I began to cry. Right there in his truck. Because that was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I had been so puzzled by it. I couldn’t figure out WHY it happened… I was still trying to make sense of it. But he made me realize in that moment that it didn’t have anything to do with God or God’s plan… it was people. If anything, God is there to help us, not hurt us. At least in his view.

FFA: And is that your viewpoint now?

EH: Yes. Absolutely. That really resonated with me. When he said it. And looking back, still, it totally changed my whole point of view. That’s what I mean by my beliefs were being challenged. I was actually so fooled for a while there that I thought maybe that “God” wanted me to suffer in that way… It’s crazy. But luckily, if anything it made me stronger. And more importantly it offered me a reference point for how to view life when bad things happen to us. That it’s not about blaming God, every time something good or bad happens to us. People were the cause of it. And more importantly so was I.

FFA: How so? How were you the cause of it?

EH: Well that’s the part where I think I got the most out of the experience. Where if there is anything positive to take away from it, I got it. The first thing I did, because I had taken Avatar, was I started looking at my own past actions to see what was there, what had I done, in my life… I started reflecting on my own responsibility in the whole thing, instead of blaming anyone – and trust me it was easy to blame people… it was a horrible thing they did, they broke the law in a hundred different ways, and worse… broke my heart by taking advantage of our friendship… I HATE stuff like that… people like that. But I knew I needed to look for where and how I was responsible… So on the one hand, I saw how we have to be real when it comes to people doing harmful things to us; it happens. We can’t live in a bubble and pretend that there aren’t bad people out there. Because there are. But I also saw that I had some responsibility in it too.

FFA: That’s admirable, but in what ways were you responsible?

EH: Well I can’t act like I did anything overtly wrong to cause it… Sometimes people can make the mistake of over-owning things I think. It’s not like I was acting unethically or broke the law or something… I was a good guy. Same as I am now. But I had been warned that that kind of thing might happen before it did… at least a hundred times before to be honest. It wasn’t like it came out of the blue. I had been in business with Naomi for years. And that was the main thing we argued about, was her always wanting to break the law and me always saying that we most certainly should NOT. And our employees would always be stuck in the middle, between our two viewpoints. She constantly accused me of being “self-righteous” and I just wanted us to play it straight. So I had definitely been warned already. But what had I done about it? Nothing. Sure we had stacks of legal agreements between us that prohibited us from doing those kinds of things… But based on what I’d already experienced with her in the past, I should have known better. I should have taken more action BEFORE all that happened. And I didn’t. Why? Because I was being lazy, yes… or because I was resisting conflict. For sure. I didn’t like conflict of any kind. I love people and I love harmony and I’m all about love and peace, you know? So I just pretended like everything was fine when I knew it really wasn’t. I could feel it…

FFA: You were in denial… of your intuition?

EH: Yes, absolutely. Living in denial. Pretending. I helped to create the whole thing through knowing about the potential for something like that to happen and NOT doing anything about it. NOT acting when you know you should can be just as bad as TAKING an action that’s harmful.

FFA: So you took responsibility for the experience? Did that make it easier to deal with?

EH: Yes, absolutely. It gave me a sense of relief. It enabled me to feel the remorse for my non-actions that might have contributed to it, and other things, and then to move on. What it does is help you feel responsible for it rather than like a victim of it.

FFA: That’s a great example of using what you learn in Avatar in the real world.

EH: Yes. Totally. I think so. That one experience compelled me to fill three whole notebooks with actions from my past that I felt weren’t necessarily aligned with being a good person and to make amends for them. In order to get a fresh start. It led to a lot of self-reflection and taking responsibility for my past. I became a better person through doing all that.

FFA: When you’ve written about the experience that’s what you mean by it also being a positive experience…

EH: Yes. Let’s face it. No one wants to go through something like that. To have everything you own taken from you by other people. That’s a bad thing. The betrayal aspect of it alone is enough to make you feel so discouraged and ungrounded… so unsure of yourself and the world. When someone lies to you so overtly and is doing it from a place of friendship, it can really screw with your mind. But you have to find a way to turn it around and see the positive side of it. And for me the best way to do that was to start looking at me instead of at the others. And to start planning how I could improve who I was as a person… Once again I saw firsthand how our actions in the world can affect others, either in a positive or in a negative way. That’s the least we can do. Take stock of our actions and make sure we are having a positive impact. So that’s what I did.

FFA: That is inspiring. And within a few years you had overcome it and were back on top again with three hit albums, songs on the Billboard charts, and your now infamous trip to Iran… Do you think there’s any correlation between what you went through and the success you’ve had?

EH: No. I don’t. Maybe, I don’t know. I know it inspired me. But only through necessity. Before that happened I was really enjoying life. Taking advantage of how hard I had worked and how successful I had become. After that, I was forced to go back to square one and start over again and rebuild my entire life and career from scratch. It really inspired me to become successful again. I was determined to. So in that respect yes there was a correlation. But I’ll tell you this: no one should ever believe for a minute that they need to endure some kind of tragedy or suffering in order to succeed. That would be a very impeding and unnecessary belief to cultivate.

FFA: That’s a good point to make.

EH: Well if you go and read a lot of the articles that were written when our first album after that experience came out and became successful there is a lot of attention paid to the whole rags to riches aspect of it, “from homeless to Billboard!” became a headline. As if there was a romantic aspect to it. And I can promise you that there is nothing romantic about going through something like that. If you can avoid it, do so.

FFA: Well the story is an appealing and inspiring one, from an entertainment or person of interest point of view. You can see that…

EH: Yeah, I can. Totally. Which is one of the reasons why I wrote a book about it. I mean, I get it. How often does something like that happen to a person? Not very often. It’s more like a movie than real life.

III

FFA: There is another aspect about that experience that I wanted to have you talk about if you don’t mind, because I think it’s important. Ultimately you decided to settle the whole thing with your partner out of court. Yet the case still remains unresolved years later. Why did you decide to do that? And do you regret it now? [Naomi Whittel signed a settlement agreement to pay Hale for the sale of the company in order to render it a legal transaction months after the sale and prevent the case from going to court, but the agreement has never been fulfilled.]

EH: Well that’s more than just one question….

FFA: Okay. Why did you agree to settle out of court? Why didn’t you just go about it in a more traditional business manner?

EH: You mean by taking legal action?

FFA: Yes. Laws were clearly broken. Contracts were breached. It seems like an open and shut case.

EH: Right, I know. And it was. I get this question a lot, especially from other business people. There was a ton of criminal activity revealed. Fraud, forgery, tax fraud, embezzlement, a lot of lying and stealing… You know. Crazy stuff. It was something right out of a movie. Totally unreal and way outside anything I’d ever dealt with before. It’s insane when you think about it. This was a situation where yes, I probably could have played tougher… But for one thing, there’s a good chance that Naomi would have gone to jail if I would have gone public with it by taking it to court. And I was still operating under the misconception that Naomi and I were friends. We had been engaged to be married after all for years. So I still cared about her as a person. Secondly, she literally called me every day for years from the moment I found out what she had done…. Begging me to settle. Even though it may seem in retrospect like such an open and shut case now, at the time, I was still receiving these calls from her every day begging me to settle and not go to court. I felt very pulled. Between my loyalty to her as a person, and to her family… And to doing the right thing perhaps…

FFA: So now you think that taking it to court would have been the right thing?

EH: Well it would have been the more normal action to take under those circumstances…. But also I felt that there had already been enough legal action in our lives. I mean, she had created such a huge mess of legal actions for us already. It was all lawyers and law firms galore… for years. No one was winning except the law firms as they say. But because I had made peace within myself about it, and she was pushing hard for an out of court settlement, I looked at both outcomes… Part of me really wanted to “get justice”. Because in business that’s what you do. If someone commits a criminal act, they deserve to get what they get, right? Justice, to the full extent of the law. I got that. But at what cost to me and my own sanity? And at what cost to my family and friends? They’d already been through the ringer because of what happened. I reflected on it and prayed about it a lot… And it just seemed like settling it was the right thing to do. To put it behind us as quickly and smoothly as possible.

FFA: Plus you assumed that once you settled that it would really be over and behind you as you say.

EH: Yes, I did. Totally. I thought that would be the end of it. The end of “the Naomi saga” once and for all. It happened. It was bad. But the ball was in my court. I could sue and drag it out in court for years, or I could forgive and settle and move on with my life.

FFA: But it didn’t end there. After all that, the settlement agreement remains unfulfilled. Which is what led to the major setback you experienced. So do you regret that decision now?

EH: Yes and no. Yes, because I wish it were over. I regret what I had to go through. And I am sublimely shocked that we’re still talking about it years later. I don’t honestly know how she can deal with it still being out there open and unresolved. But no, because in that moment I feel like I made the most responsible and mature decision that could have been made at that time. Trust me, forgiveness in those kinds of situations is difficult… but it’s the HIGH road. Being vindictive or seeking vengeance, that may be the more common road, but it’s not the high road.

FFA: Yes, as an Avatar I completely understand you choosing forgiveness over revenge. Even though in the end it was a costly decision…

EH: Yes, it was. So far at least. But I’m still giving her the benefit of the doubt. That’s the part that a lot of people don’t understand. At first she swore up and down that she had nothing to do with it, that she was “forced into it by her husband and this pack of evil attorneys” they had hired. I didn’t necessarily believe her… But you know, when you’re close to someone like that… It’s hard to cut the line completely that connects you. There is still love there. And compassion. You want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

FFA: But it sounds like a very one-sided kind of compassion.

EH: Maybe it is… That’s something I wonder about sometimes. Long story short, she swore up and down that she had every intention of fulfilling the agreement, and more than anything she was just afraid. At the time I felt like I was doing the right thing, by being compassionate and forgiving, because that’s what WE do, right? And protecting her…

FFA: Yes, I agree. That’s what we do. But this brings up the question of when is it better to look out for yourself by taking a more Guardian Heart approach? [Guardian Heart is a concept explored in the book Resurfacing by Harry Palmer.]

EH: I know… There’s a fine line between being a nice person or a good person and letting someone take advantage of you… They are two different things. And sometimes we confuse them. Maybe I’ve crossed that line now… I hope not. But I can tell you now, after going through all of that, I understand the importance of the Guardian Heart a lot more now, of not confusing being a nice person with being someone who allows others to take advantage of them. That IS something that we tend to get confused sometimes as humans. I also see the importance of standing up for what we believe in or just being committed to protecting ourselves and our loved ones. I know what you’re getting at. And I am in no way attempting to promote forgiveness as being equal to letting people take advantage of us.

FFA: There is a certain responsibility we have to ourselves and to others in defending integrity and justice for the good of everyone…

EH: Yeah, absolutely. And that’s one of the reasons why I decided to write the book about what happened. It’s not just about the inspiration factor. But more about the responsibility to others. Not just to inspire other people who might be going through a similar challenge, but also to warn people that this kind of thing can happen to the best of us. No matter how nice we are or how good of people we are. No one is immune to it. You have to look out for yourself, no matter how nice of a person you are. But it is how we deal with it that is the true measure of a person.

I remember Tony Robbins telling a story once about how he went through a similar experience in his business life. His CFO was also his best friend and he discovered that this guy had been embezzling a ton of money from their company and it just shattered him; challenged his optimistic outlook for a while. When he told that story, I couldn’t relate to it at all. I was too young. I had never gone through anything like that. But when almost the same exact thing happened to ME… THEN I could relate to it. And knowing ahead of time that he lived through it really helped me. His story and his struggle with that inspired me. And I’m sure there are a lot of people who would be surprised that something like this even happened to me, because I’ve never really talked about it openly before. But I get it now. That responsibility to share it so other people can learn from it. That’s important.

FFA: I believe it is too. Not to spoil the finale of your book, but can you share at least a little about how you were able to rebuild from something like that? Tangible things, actions that you took.

EH: Yes, absolutely. If you can imagine waking up one day and being absolutely flat broke after years of working and having made a ton of money… Going from wealthy to broke overnight. That money still exists, but you just can’t get to it. Someone else now has control of it. You can’t even afford your next meal because your bank accounts have been taken over. Horrible right?

FFA: I find it hard to imagine. I think most people would.

EH: Well me too… Until it happened. After it happened, I wasn’t just broke; I was also extremely disheartened. It was hard to believe in humanity at all. But I didn’t want to become a jaded person. Or cynical. Or believe the worst in people. So I used the Avatar tools to let all those potentially negative beliefs go. I discreated them. And I deliberately created being who I really believed I was: a generally positive and optimistic person who believed in myself and others. I took every guitar I had and walked each one to a different friend’s house and left it there and said “I’ve been hit in a bad way. You know this. I need money for an attorney and money to eat. Here’s a guitar. This is what it’s worth. If you’re willing to help, I’ll leave it here till I can pay you back.” And you know, every friend I had was more than willing to help me out. It makes me emotional still. Because it really showed me how powerful friendships are. I had guitars all over the city in different people’s homes as collateral. And honestly half of my friends didn’t even care about collateral. That was just for me. To make me feel more comfortable in receiving help…

FFA: That’s exactly the kind of thing I was hoping you would share. These tangible actions that you took. I think people will find them very inspiring and informative.

EH: Well yeah, obviously in that kind of situation you have to find a way to get on your feet. Just to be able to eat. The part that hurt the worst is that Naomi and I were connected at the hip for ten years before that. We were engaged to be married for God’s sake. AND business partners for years after that. So she knew that once she did that that I would literally not have a cent to my name, nor even a way to eat. It was astounding to me that someone could do that. But once it happens you have to move on and find a way out of it. So that’s the first thing I did. Then I hired an attorney to help me sort out just what the hell happened. And then I started doing consulting work to bring in money. Business and health consulting. And of course liquidating assets. Physical things… And then I started hardcore trading again.

FFA: You mean trading in the stock market?

EH: Yes. Something I already had a lot of experience with. But besides real estate there’s no faster way to make money fast when your funds are limited. Of course it works in the reverse as well. So you really have to have a strong stomach and nerves of steel. But it was all about taking very real and tangible actions to move forward and start to rebuild. All of this AND still trying to finish recording the new albums with the band at that time and play shows in different cities.

FFA: I remember that. I bet a lot of people wondered why you changed so many things in your life at the time.

EH: Yes I’m sure they did. Because I also leased out my apartment in Manhattan for a while to make money. Whatever it took. Living with family and friends. It was a freaking nightmare honestly. But it was also a tremendous challenge and so kind of fun… When people asked me what was up, I didn’t hide the truth. But I also didn’t advertise it. I just kept moving forward. It was an insane position to be in. But you start from where you are. You start with the basics. You create being happy to be you, and simple things like “I can do this”. “I can make it happen”. “I believe in me”. Things like that. Using the Avatar tools to create those realities. Or whatever “tools” you have available to you. In spite of how challenging things may appear. You do it anyway. And at the same time you announce it to the world. Tell everyone what you’re doing. For me that meant telling everyone “The Ambassador is down but he’s not out! I’m rebuilding the empire!” Perceive it as a challenge, a doable challenge. And set about every day to being real with where you are… but also striving toward bigger things. I truly believed that I had learned a valuable lesson, but that I was not meant to stay down for long. That was not my destiny. I didn’t take all these courses and read all these books to let one major setback ruin my life forever. I was totally committed to rebuilding in spite of that setback.

FFA: When the first song from your new solo album made it onto the Billboard Charts, after going through all that, did it feel like your hard work had finally paid off?

EH: Are you kidding? Yeah. It was amazing! We laughed, we cried. And then laughed some more. A lot of jumping up and down screaming. One of the greatest days of my life. Friends calling from all over the country because they just heard the song on the radio or in their car… Things like that. I think because of the immense disadvantage I had been placed in – and everyone knowing about it…. That’s what made it so much more enjoyable for everyone. To be down like that and to rebuild it all from scratch and then top it off by hitting the Top 40 a few times. That was an amazing moment for sure.

FFA: You really did “bounce back when flat” as you say.

EH: Yeah, it’s hard to believe. But we did it!

IV

FFA: And it didn’t end there. Around the same time, you were invited to be one of only a handful of Americans to visit Iran post-revolution on a peace mission. How did that come about? [Hale visited Iran in 2009 on a well-publicized Civilian Diplomacy mission along with eleven other Americans in leadership positions from a wide cross section of different industries. He represented the arts. He just returned from a similar trip to Israel-Palestine recently. In between he’s also visited countries in Africa, Europe and Central and South America to build homes and community centers.]

EH: I’m glad you asked. Because it’s actually a really magical story in a way. I was at this silent retreat at a convent of nuns…

FFA: You always say these things that sound so outrageous… Like you’re narrating a movie.

EH: Hah! Well I’m telling you, this is what happened. It sounds crazy. But that’s how it went down. I was at a silent retreat at a convent of all these sisters in the middle of nowhere in upstate New York. Episcopalian I think. And you couldn’t talk for like a week. So I used that time to just unwind and decompress. But they had this policy where during meals you could do some light talking… something like that. I met this one sister who was really cool, very hip. And we shared this passion for global human rights activism. We couldn’t really talk that much. But we got to know each other. And at the very end of the retreat she told me about this historic upcoming delegation of Americans who were headed to the country of Iran for a two week peace mission. She said that the application process had expired, but that if I got mine in really quickly that she’d put in a good word for me with the international organization that was putting the thing together. I had been trying to get into Iran for five years. I must have applied ten times and was denied every time. I had already been studying the language, Farsi, so I could speak the language a little bit… That helped. And you know, there’s more, but basically it all came down to me being at this silent retreat in the middle of nowhere that got me into Iran. Sort of. I suppose it was more than that. But that was the original impetus.

FFA: Being in the right place at the right time. It’s fascinating how these little miracles happen in our lives when we’ve put our attention and intention on them.

EH: Exactly! First our attention, then our intention, get rid of beliefs or ideas that are in the way and BAM! Things manifest!

FFA: Can you talk a little bit about your activism?

EH: Well it is something that I am passionate about. I think it’s an easy way to feel good. Because you’re giving back. It’s not all about you. It’s nice to step outside of it being all about us sometimes. A lot of times actually. [laughs. Hale has become reanimated. His eyes have that light back in them.] Every one of those trips will stay with me forever. I hope this is only the beginning.

FFA: And again you started a business around it. But this one was a non-profit. What is the goal of your PeaceWithIran.com organization?

EH: Just that. Peace with Iran. Exactly what it says. I honestly see it as a reality. I see it happening. Maybe not this year. But soon. The alternatives are far worse than the simple act of a peaceful reconciliation between the two countries.

FFA: From your mouth to God’s ears. What was the most important thing you learned from your trip to Iran?

EH: Great question. I’ve written a lot about this already, but I’d say that the first thing that struck me was how genuinely nice they are there and how much they love Americans. That was very much a surprise for me, for all of us on that trip. We never hear about what nice people the Iranians are here in the States. And we also don’t hear about how much they love and admire us here. That’s an important thing to share I think.

FFA: What other areas of activism are you interested in moving forward?

EH: Well now a lot of my focus lately has been on Israel and Palestine… That’s the real hotbed I believe… Even in regards to Iran, it seems to all come down to Israel and Palestine at the foundation.

V

FFA: Before we go too far off into world politics, can you talk a little bit about your new albums? What keeps you motivated to keep making music at such a rapid pace?

EH: Well I tend to write a lot of songs. AND at the same time I tend to have a lot of ambition when it comes to always wanting to out-do what we did last time, artistically. Every time we get an opportunity to make a new album it feels like such a privilege. So at first we just head into the studio to record our quote-unquote next album. It always starts out as a simple process and then it just starts to slowly get more and more complicated. So it’s just me wanting to challenge myself, see how far I can take it I guess. And the fans, their reaction to it…

FFA: So are the album titles official now? The ones that were just released to the public?

EH: Almost positively yes. Welcome to the Rest of the World for one, and Another Day in the Apocalypse for the other. They’re starting to sound really different from each other now. And the songs have been chosen for each. So we can see the finish line… finally.

FFA: So when can people expect to hear the first single or finished product?

EH: We’re not 100% sure, but my guess would be sometime this spring or summer…

FFA: Well I know a lot of people are excited to hear the albums. The last thing I want to ask you is if there was one thing that you could share with people about any of the Avatar Courses, what would it be? As someone who has taken all the courses and continues to do so.

EH: Well that’s easy. And hard, because there’s so much you could say about it. I mean, it’s a HUGE thing, right? I write about it a lot actually. On the one hand, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of being… You learn a whole new way of being, through becoming more adept at feeling and using your intuition… You become more honest and real. More in line with the truth. But on the other hand, it’s also just a series of courses. You know, it is what it is, whatever each person makes it out to be. I guess that’s what I would say about it. That in essence, the Avatar Course is essentially just a series of courses that contain all this confidential knowledge that you sort of already know, way down deep inside, like it resonates strongly when you read it, as if you’ve known it all your life, right? [Hale is once again excited and animated] And yet now it’s been broken down into very easy to understand and doable steps. That’s amazing! No one had ever done that before. I could go on and on… but put it like this: Take all the cool stuff that we’ve read about in metaphysical and new age books, AND all those documentaries about quantum physics and the so-called paranormal, and then turn all that into a nine day course filled with exercises and processes that teach you how to actually do THOSE things. Tools to help you gain more control over your life and the world around you… more personal power. Now do that with hundreds of thousands of other people from all over the world speaking seventy-something different languages! THAT’S what Avatar has turned into now after almost 30 years. A giant collection of the most enlightened or maybe better put the most enlightenment-seeking people on planet earth. It’s the coolest thing happening in the world right now hands down. Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world working on being the best they can be AND trying to make the world a better place! Incredible stuff. People always ask me, “Is it worth the money?” And I’m like “Oh my God, no… it’s worth ten times as much.” Talk about a paradigm shift. If someone is looking for a real paradigm shift –something really transformative in their lives – I can’t think of anything else as powerful or noteworthy. At least not yet anyway. Out of everything out there. And I’ve tried it all and then some.

 

To find out more about an upcoming Avatar Course, visit www.Avatarepc.com

To find out more about Ed Hale, visit iTunes or www.edhale.com

 

Check Your Morals at the Door of the Trading Floor

Deep uncover still, exploring the world of investing and trading. Six months now. Don’t get me wrong, It isn’t just research; it’s also a way to make money. But it isn’t as easy as it once was. Those days are long gone. Yes, with the right amount of capital it isn’t difficult to make anywhere between $500 to $2000 a day actively trading. But it’s intense and stressful. And always a risk. You’re on the edge of your seat the whole time. Every minute seems like an hour when you’re in the middle of a trade. When you win, it’s exhilarating. When you lose, it can happen in an instant and there’s nothing that feels worse.

This is our third exploration into the world of active trading. The first was the period between ’97 to 2004, when I was still a kid, wet behind the ears and green as a newborn. Then 2005 to 2007. By that time I’d already made my fortune and investing was just a way to have fun with money. And now, once again we’ve jumped into the pool with the sharks. But this time it’s different. There are motives here much bigger than just to have fun or make a little extra money. And things have changed in this world. A lot. For everyday readers of the Transcendence Diaries, this isn’t going to be as transcendent as usual, but give it a chance. There is learning here. Just a very different world than what you’re more accustomed to here.

Yes, indeed, things have changed tremendously in the world of trading and investing. And yet things are seeming more and more like the old days. More on that in a few. For one thing HFT (High Frequency Trading) has been invented and is solidly embedded into the system; hell it is the system now. It makes trading operate at a rapid fire speeds. Mili-seconds matter. Pico-seconds in fact. [Many of the things I make note of will need to be Googled if not understood. For the purpose here is to post observations and lessons, not define terminology.] When I first started actively investing it was in the mid-nineties as already established here in The Diaries numerous times. We were in the process of a giant economic recovery in America which many mistakenly believe to be the effect of the Clinton White House or Alan Greenspan, when in reality it had a lot more to do with Silicon Valley and the advent of the internet age and modern technology becoming a regular part of the everyday man’s everyday life. Not only that, something amazing was invented, something truly revolutionary. eTrade. The ability of the average citizen to invest their own money their own way, in real time, without the need of a middle man or a broker.

eTrade was the first such system. Trust me when I say it was truly revolutionary. Up until that point you really did have to call a broker to buy or sell any kind of investment vehicle such as a stock or a bond or an ETF. Hell, ETFs barely existed back then. I was one of the first eTrade clients, coming on board in the beta stage as an early adaptor the same way I did with PayPal and eBay. Elon was still with PayPal back then. eBay was still a home based business. You became friends with the people you bought from and sold to. It was a small community. eTrade too. I still use the same eTrade, ebay and PayPal accounts from 1997 and 98. People are amazed when they see the date attached to my accounts. As if these are relatively new inventions. But to many people they are. That’s something that we always have to remember. The reason why companies like eBay and Netflix are still so valuable is because they’re nowhere near mainstream market saturation. Most people still don’t have a PayPal account; just as most people still don’t have Netflix accounts in their home. So there’s plenty of room for them to grow.

But back to the real meat of the story. Now eTrade is considered the old guard. The old dog that can’t learn new tricks. Try as they might they are having difficulty keeping everyone on board, though they’re still the most used platform out there overall. There’s something about being the first and the oldest that can backfire on you, whether product or service. The same way that Facebook ate MySpace who ate Friendster. Only time will tell if Tumblr will eat Facebook. I’m going to say no. But hey, they made their billion so at this point, who really cares. (Herein lay one of the main points of this post, along with a few dozen more, i.e. how similar today is to the dotcom crash of 2001. But that’s for later.) There are a hundred of these types of electronic home trading platforms out there. Scott Trade, Cool Trade, Ameritrade. Think Or Swim or TOS for short seems to be the popular kid in school these days, the current flavor of the month. Especially with the career traders, the ones who wake up every morning in their bathrobe and actively invest for a living all day. I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. I’m doing it now, though more for research and learning than for a living obviously.

Something has definitely changed though. Now everyone and their brother has access to a computerized home trading platform.  And everyone who does fashions themselves an expert. I’ve joined about two dozen investing services over the last few months in order to get a real feel for what’s going on behind the scenes with these retail investors, the average Joes, versus the big dogs. Whereas the big fund managers that we smoke cigars with every day at Barkley Rex or De La Concha are trading huge amounts of cash in the hundreds of millions and billions, the owners and members of many of these trading services are small players. One thing I’ve noticed is this: the big guys, the ones worth seven figures or more who have taught me much of what I know about wealth and finance are quiet, humble, and careful with their words. They volunteer at their church on the weekends. They do their best to keep a low profile. The smaller guys are the exact opposite. They talk a BIG game. They really believe they’re “the shit”. Or at least they talk like they believe it. Totally the opposite of the guys that manage at the big houses that I’m friends with. These smaller guys prey on small fish through seedy posts on social media like Twitter and Facebook and StockTwits. They claim to be able to make you “a fortune overnight”. Obviously this kind of attitude and activity is not new. It’s been around forever. Back in the day our friends at Agora Financial were the masters of it. They’ve turned it into a gigantic business now. Almost to the point where one could call them, dare I say, viable or nearly reputable. El Infinito is working there now. Learning a lot. Some decent minds are now contributing to their content. Very different than the small team that once was back in ’04 and ’05 when it was just Bill and Addison.

But I’ll tell you, this new breed, see they don’t manage money for any big firms. They’re traders. Pirates. But many of them are also professional hucksters. They need the money brought in through monthly subscription fees from small mom and pop investors to make their living. Whereas the guys we hang with over the weekend wouldn’t sell a subscription to their investment advice if you paid them to. And I’ve offered. They’ll talk to you free. But they would never sell you any advice. Why? Because it’s a very closed and private environment number one. And number two, they know how risky it is and how lucky they are to be in the position they’re in, so they’re humbled by that. And three, they don’t need or want that kind of money. They’re in the game for entirely different reasons. It’s more a professional sport to them. They’re in it for the Superbowl Ring. Not for a monthly subscription fee. Obviously we can’t name names here and I never have; we wouldn’t have any friends left if we did. But I have always been amazed at how cool and humble most of these guys are at the Big Ten. I’ve spent ten years smoking and drinking with them and they’re some of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. They’re not what you think, the way it’s portrayed in Hollywood movies. I’ve been to their homes, been to their vacation houses in the Hamptons, been on work trips with them, building houses with Habitat for Humanity or with church, and you wouldn’t believe the kind of effort they put in. You can tell they’re fighting some inner demons of guilt for making the kind of money they make when most everyone else is struggling just to get by. So they work their butts off on these work trips. You have to admire this.

Then there’s this whole new breed of guys out there now. Hundreds of them. Maybe thousands. They sell subscriptions to their “expert advice” to anyone and everyone who is willing to cough up 20 to 99 bucks a month for it. Some of them are as high as $5,000 a year. It’s an amazing market. For who doesn’t want to make it rich over night? These guys, they fight with each other over Twitter about who’s the better investor, who made the right call on the right stock. Verbally pounding their chest like apes, bragging about their latest great call. Things like that. Constant bragging. It’s silly kid stuff. One thing I’ve noticed is that they are more concerned with being right than they are with being smart. This is definitely a lose-lose way of operating in the world. And this is where it gets really concerning. You’ll notice that their real teeth in the game is in feeling “right”, as opposed to making money. I’ve heard some say “I’d do that trade a hundred times and even if I was wrong about it 100 times I’d do it again.” That’s actually a favorite tag line of this lot. It’s the “asserting identity” gone wild. The ego seems to take over for the being and runs on auto pilot, while the being itself is only God knows where. Very different than the large fund managers who will spend an hour with you explaining how often they are wrong and how careful we all have to be because “no one can time the markets”. This is experience and maturity speaking. They don’t have to brag because their title does the bragging for them.

[It actually reminds me a lot of the music business. When we’re kids, we swear we’re the greatest thing since the Beatles or Dylan. Then we get a few years under our belt and a few Billboard hits and before you know it, we’re taking three years to finish an album because we’re so damn aware of how average it most likely sounds. Our maturity informs our humility. We take on a humility that is more rooted in the reality of being in the business rather than wanting to be in the business. I assume most industries are probably like this.]

Another trend I’ve noticed now is that social media has really taken a prominent stake in the world of small time investing. People go into various social media outlets and tag the name of companies with a dollar sign. Such as this: $AAPL, when referring to Apple Computer. You see no end to the kind of treachery that one will partake in to make a buck. They pump up a stock the first half the day to trick average investors into believing it’s a great investment and right when it reaches the top of the day, they turn around and dump it — it’s called the Pump and Dump — leaving the average investor holding the bag with a giant loss for the day. Very sad.

Today one such slimy character Tweeted out “$GOGO stock rallying up after FAA approves cell phone usage on flights”. Of course no such announcement had been made. He just wanted to see if he could get a few more suckers to buy some Gogo stock so his shares would go up and he could sell it. Very heinous. The worst kind of pariah. Unfortunately it’s all too common. Lying is about as regular stuff as it gets with this crowd. This is NOT the world of the Avatar or Wayne Dyer or Abraham Hicks. It’s not about being a good person or taking responsibility or helping make the world a better place. It’s about making money. And that’s about all it’s about. Plain and simple. In a post earlier this week, I talked about how the world of investing is destroying the world we live in in the name of making money. Whether it’s the destruction of the environment for fossil fuels or promoting slave labor to improve shareholder dividends, it’s just a very seedy heartless business.

I’ve had a tough time fitting in. But at the same time, it’s the only way we will truly learn all there is to learn about the world of investing in order to better harness the power of Compassionate Capitalism in our quest to create an Enlightened Planet, which is the goal here. Compassionate Capitalism is a growing trend around the world of the wealthy, though very few are as of yet participating. For it takes a lot of self restraint and well, compassion. It also takes a lot of compromise when it comes to foregoing profits in favor of helping. But we’re getting there. More and more are jumping on board. And that’s where we’re headed as a society. It’s just going to take showing everyone else that it’s possible to make a fortune AND be cautious with our investment dollars to avoid contributing to the problems; AND even being pro-active, with a focus on making the world a better place. This might mean investing more in solar and alternative energy rather than oil, fracking and coal. This of course has the potential to lose you a lot of big money. Very true. And I have already experienced the conflict that sets in when trying to stop yourself from jumping into a company that you just know is ravaging the earth while making its fortune. It’s difficult.

A case in point that hits closer to home is that of Pandora. Yes the online radio company. What most people don’t realize is that Pandora has gone public. You can buy and sell shares of the company. And potentially make money doing so. The problem is that Pandora has slowly eroded the very lifeblood of the music industry. The initial deal they structured with the record labels and publishers was for 7 cents a play for each song — try splitting that up ten ways — it was already ridiculously low for as artists. A huge sacrifice. But we were told it was temporary, just until they got their foot in the door, that they were “new and experimental” so we all said yes just to see what would happen; on a temporary basis. Flash forward three years and they are logging tens of millions of listens a day; so they’re no longer “new and experimental”. What was planned was that they would up the ante for us artists once they established themselves and started gaining a bigger listenership. Instead what they’ve done is file a law suit against all the record labels and publishers in the world to ask the courts to allow them to cut that royalty rate in HALF. Yes they now want to only pay about 3 cents per song per spin. That way they can keep the cost down for the listener — it’s already primarily free — AND increase the amount of bonuses they pay to the directors of the company and the dividends they pay to the shareholders.

What’s really heinous is that their primary method of generating revenue — this is classic — is advertising. And who is their main advertising client? Yep. Music business companies. Turning around and selling advertising to US: record companies and publishers in order to promote new albums and singles by the artists. But if WE aren’t making any money from sales anymore, nor from online spins, then what incentive do we have to advertise on their platform? The music business is headed for complete implosion at this point. Not just “gone are the good old days”, but total annihilation. As in no one makes any money at all and everyone just does it for fun IF they can find someone to support them financially. Pandora is one of the reasons why. And what will this lead to ultimately for the average music fan? No good music. Just a lot of random shit gets released — as in whoever can afford to release music of some kind will. No gate keepers. No purveyors. We’ll see. This might be a good thing. But so far all it’s done is muddy the playing field so much that even the most open minded listeners are beginning to recognize that “there just seems to be a lot of really bad music being released these days.” Well now you know why.

[PS — for the record iTunes is not part of the problem. Unfortunately many people are operating under the misconception that iTunes ruined the music business through the distribution of online music and MP3s. But that isn’t the case. iTunes pays one of the best royalty rates out there for artists. And it doesn’t matter who you are or how big or small you are. If people are buying your music, you’re being paid handsomely from iTunes. Kudos to them for this.]

But Pandora, that’s just one example of the kind of conflict I’m talking about. So, let’s say we have a feeling that Pandora is going to rally on Monday, maybe it’ll go up a buck or two. We have a good chance of making some easy money if we invest a large sum. Jump in Friday. Ride it up till Wednesday or so and sell. Easy. But are we contributing to the problem by investing in the company in order to make a profit? I suppose if we turn around and use that same money to fund the counter-suit against them and spread awareness through PSAs about what a wretched organization they are, which is what just about every musical artist in America is doing at the moment — jumping on board this anti-Pandora train, then I guess it’s alright. Especially if we don’t invest for the long haul but only for a few days, to make some money. Why not? But that’s just one example. What about fracking? We know it’s the fastest way towards creating the great zombie apocalypse and destroying the world as we know it, but there’s BIG money to be made in natural gas. I made thousands trading it this week alone. And I KNOW what it is. I KNOW how it is made. And yet… I couldn’t resist the temptation. Again, if it’s just jumping in and out then is it really contributing to the problem?

Unfortunately I would say yes it is. For if NO ONE invested in these companies then they wouldn’t have any access to capital. They wouldn’t be able to keep going. They’d be forced to shut down. There’d be no more fracking. And there’s the problem. The only people fighting the good fight, against the frackers and the GMO monsters and Big Pharma and Big Oil, are the poor and middle class. They’re the ones out in the streets protesting and demonstrating and occupying. Everyone else is trying to figure out which of the big drug companies is going to be the next one that doubles in price next month and investing in it. Along with all the others. It’s a crazy scene. Trust me. For people like us, it’s just an absolutely insane scene. You check your morals and ethics at the door when you step onto the trading floor. You have to if you want to make big money. At least that’s the vibration that emanates from the room as you enter. Very few people speak of changing the world or taking responsibility or faith or peace or love or anything like that.

It’s a strange world full of animal consciousness. A cut-throat world. Ruthless. You hear phrases such as “chop those bears into little pieces” or “major bull trap”  or “we’re going to eat these grizzly bears for breakfast once this stock hits $50”. On and on. Most of it I wouldn’t repeat here. Like I said, it’s cut throat. But remember, we’re here to learn. I do my best to keep the peace and stay true to myself, try to offer some civility into the game while I’m learning.

Another thing I’ve learned is this: no one can time the market. Everyone is guessing, analyzing in hindsight. No matter what kind of analyzing they’re doing, whether it’s technical or fundamental or chart reading, it’s all just made up formulae. Everyone and their brother has a special system that they’ve developed or have adopted from someone else, and they all think it’s “the best system out there”. They speak about proprietary systems and all these rules of the market. But no such rules exist. Every time one of the so-called rules is broken, they’ll come up with a different rule to explain why that other rule was broken. It’s hilarious. But it’s also sad because you can see what a vicious cycle it is of ignorance. A company can be worth a veritable fortune and be ridiculously profitable and still have a stock that is poorly valued. Another company can not even be profitable — they actually LOSE money every quarter — and their stock price can be selling at a price that is in the hundreds. It’s a completely illogical game. Twitter, the little company, is about one-tenth the size of Facebook for instance and yet today it traded for about ten dollars more per share than Facebook. No logic. No reason. Just hype and excitement. This is what makes the world of investing so dangerous. No one is using intelligence or rational thinking anymore.

It’s exactly like 1999 to 2001, right before what we call the dotcom crash. We all know what that was like. Most people weren’t actually investing back then. But they’re familiar with the story. I was smack dab in the middle of it. Though I didn’t do it for a living. It was just fun. But I swear we’d make a few thousand dollars in a day just from jumping into a new company’s IPO at the start of the day and jumping out by the end of the day. Things like that. No one even bothered to check out the fundamental financial health of the company. The fact that it was going public through IPO was enough. It had gotten crazy. Which led to a giant melt down. As I’ve already written here, twelve years ago when it happened, I was one of the lucky ones. I was advised by some friends who managed at Goldmans to get out. So I took everything we had out of the market and put it all into Berkshire Hathaway B shares. At the time these were selling for $3,200 per share. I couldn’t believe that one stock could be so expensive. But after the crash, when everyone around me lost a fortune and my shares stayed relatively the same price, I had a lot more appreciation for quality and value when it comes to investing.

We’re in a similar place now. You can feel the rabid nature of the whole thing crashing in around everyone. And yet all they want is for the markets to keep going up. It’s a fascinating study of human behavior. All the sell signals are there right in front of us that we are headed towards a major correction — for a variety of reasons, not just one — and yet everyday in all these public forums and chat rooms and even on TV, you’ll hear the majority of the people still speak very bullish about the markets. Only the very few, the currently unpopular, speak logically and reasonably about the possibility of a coming crash. And yet the smart money simply wants to make money. And with the system as advanced as it is now, the way it’s been designed, making money in a down market is just as easy as making money in an up market. So being bullish about the markets being bullish is just, well, being bull-headed. Smart money feeds on making money. Not on being right. There’s nothing more rewarding than leaving “being right” at the door in order to make some money. But you’d be surprised how many people are ignoring the signs right in front of us all.

Another thing I’ve noticed about the game in general, the industry, the business, is that there is this very prominent “us versus them” attitude that is very prevalent. You’ll hear people constantly referring to “they” as if there is this mysterious malevolent force out there lurking in the shadows whose sole mission in life is to defeat them. They believe it to be an us versus them game, with them being the heroic underdogs of the story and “they” being the wicked apparition or monster out to get them. In reality, it’s nothing of the kind. There is no “they”. There are just millions of people putting money in and taking money out of various different investment vehicles. No real rhyme or reason. But the conspiracy theories are legend and there are many.

I’ve read hundreds of books about investing over the last 18 years and studied hundreds of different systems; attended all the big courses and bought into all the secret societies. Each and every one thinks that it alone holds the secret key to how the market works and how to “always win and never lose”. But I’ve never seen one person do it. The closer you get, the more losses you see. People tend to only advertise their wins. So you have to actually buy in in order to get behind the scenes enough to see what’s really going on. And once you do, you see just as many losses in the most expensive proprietary formulas as you do from the average investor. One thing that does seem to help though are the guys who strictly do Options trading. They do tend to understand the market better than anyone else. And they also know how to minimize losses better than most. This has been the primary focus of my research over the last few months. Learning about Options trading. It’s complex stuff. It’s calculated risk because it’s limited risk. Though the timing has to be even better; and because no one can time the market, the losses seem to be more frequent compared to the wins. But at least they are limiting them. Last week I made a small fortune with my first two options trades, both with Apple. This week unfortunately I lost an entire premium — luckily only about $1500 — with another options trade. I’m telling you, it’s potluck. Damn close to gambling it seems sometimes.

But not if you’re smart. And that’s one of the things that I’ve learned from the guys at the big houses. They don’t gamble. Everything they do is very calculated. They keep risk to a minimum. And they pay a lot of attention to fundamentals. If a company isn’t worth a shit, they don’t go there. The average investor speculates. They’ll invest in anything if someone tells them that they might make some money from it. They truly believe that “fundamental analysis is old fashioned; that it’s for the old mom and pops who don’t understand the new game”. But they consistently lose trading these highly speculative companies that are pure “trader’s plays”. Those are stocks for companies that aren’t yet profitable or haven’t yet proven themselves. Smaller companies. It’s become a huge trend. Just as it had in 2000. And just as it had in 2007 with Credit Default Swaps and the rest of it. Personally, I smell a major correction coming. So I almost always sell out of everything at the end of each day. This week every index lost money. It was a bloodbath. And December is supposed to be “most profitable month of the year in the stock market”. Go figure. Like I said, there are no rules. And anyone who believes there are is kidding themselves. There are only rules AFTER. Not before. That’s one of the most important lessons I’ve learned on this most recent venture into this world.

What I’d like to accomplish from this little adventure is two-fold: besides just mastery over all the knowledge of the investing world and global economics  — which is what really juices me about all this, I’d also like to be able to understand it all well enough to where I can really help contribute to the advent of Compassionate Capitalism going mainstream. Making money while making the world a better place. We’re a long way from that right now. But we are ON the way. Many have already started. Many more will come on board as older generations die off and the younger ones enter the game. Right now when someone comes on a financial news show who is proposing a business model that helps AND makes money you should see the way that people look at them; it’s as if they’re from a different planet. They are met immediately with suspicion that their business model is no good or is faulty in some way. Just because it has an ulterior motive of doing the world some good. That’s something that needs to change. Together we can do that. We need to continue to spread the meme though mass consciousness that making money and making the world a better place are not mutually exclusive missions. They can easily work together, in harmony and synergistically. It’s the only way we are going to create a world that lasts for a long time to come and is fair and just and friendly to all its citizens. This is the goal. More later.

 

Celebrating Lennon


Nelson Mandela wasn’t the only public figure to pass away into the great unknown this week. Legendary singer songwriter activist and artiste extraordinaire John Lennon also made the journey just yesterday in fact when a crazy schizophrenic shot him down right outside his apt on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Only it was 33 years ago. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less.
 
 
 All weekend I thought about it. It kept bubbling up in the back of my mind. John died this weekend didn’t he… so the thoughts went. I sure do miss him. I’ll never forget that day. We were just kids that day. Little kids. Too young to even really get it. We had already been into the Beatles. That’s how we all came together actually. Me and Toad and StuGuru an Juliet and the rest of the crew. We were all in the so-called “gifted” program at school, which meant that we never for to see the rest of the student body at except at PE and during lunch. We were basically what would be considered the nerds of the school. Major geeks who enjoyed things like Academic Games, Debate Club and Chorus. (Our chorus went to all state that year. My very first television appearance. Was standing on the top row of the bleachers and in the middle of “the sun will come our tomorrow” my foot started to itch. I went to scratch it with my other foot and my shoe fell off and made a huge thud when it dropped to the floor. On live TV. The first of many awkward moments).
 
 
 One of the things we all seemed to have in common was our love of the Beatles. They were an old band. Classic rock. Totally not hip or cool when we were growing up. Which only added to the allure of our obsession with being so different than everyone around us. Outliers. We had this quasi-Beatles fan club which consisted of no more than the lot of us spending all of our free time doing nothing but talking about or listening to the Beatles. That and stamp collecting. Like I said, we were nerds. I didn’t actually become “cool” till high school. And frankly the jury is still out on that. But the Beatles and our love for their music and culture and history bonded us in a special way. To the point where we are still friends today.
 
 
 Of course back then we were just into the early and middle stuff. Hadn’t progressed into the later years. Sounds funny now, but back then, at our age, the music of the later Beatles era felt and sounded “scary” to us. Especially the White Album. On especially courageous evenings during sleepovers we’d turn off all the lights and turn the white album on — only vinyl back then. Cassettes existed but you knew better to not go there. We’d sit in the dark with flashlights and listen to all these epic dark and languishing songs with their stream of consciousness drug-inspired lyrics. It seemed a frightening world to us at such young ages. But an equally appealing one as well.
 
 
 Less than ten years later three of us would be acting the parts out in real life when me and Toad and The Grey Wolf started the band Shattered (Broken Spectacles) and StuGuru started Lobsters and Walruses. As in all bands we subconsciously sparred for who was Paul and who was John. Both of us wanted to be John. Though I was the more obvious candidate, being slightly more of bad boy than Toad ever could be, coming from a broken home, being in constant trouble at school and with the law, and just never having the beautiful voice that Toad had, just like Paul. It’s funny now. Because Id give anything now to be Paul. Now that I’m older. But the Lennon comparisons still are heard now and then from fans and critics. Have never heard or read a McCartney comparison. And for whatever reason the older I became the more obsessed and in love I became with Paul and his music.
 
 
 With that said though, it is still John who tends to influence me more as an artist and as a man in the world. As I’m sure he does to lots of other artists around the world. This is an aspect of being an artist that draws a very clear line in the sand between the real and the pretenders. Entertainers have hits. They have gold records. They may even win Grammys. Hell they do every year. Artists may never reach any of those achievements. But they influence. Like Lou Reed. His is an influence which has spanned five decades and spread to every country in the world. For other artists. But most people only know one of his songs — “walk on the wild side” — out of a forty year career. That’s classic. That’s an artist.
 
 
 John Lennon was the same way. He never did things by the book — at least once he finished with the whole mop top selling out phase of his career. Which no one can blame him for because without that phase he may never have “made it” and we’d never have known his music. He wasn’t around during the indie revolution when everyone and their brother could record an album and pretend they were a receding artist no matter how bad they were, as things are today. You had to sell out if you wanted to actually reach the point of making a record and getting radio airplay.
 
 
 But after that phase — by Rubber Soul I’d say — john was just off on a tangent doing whatever the hell he wanted to. Not only as an artist but as a person. For a lot of us john’s personal life and his non-musical antics inspired us as much as his music did. The activism, the drug busts, the candid truth telling to a fault, the living in a glass house allowing all of his faults foibles and idiosyncrasies hang out for all the world to see. It would be hard for me to ever try to pretend that John didn’t have a huge influence on me. Deeper more profits and more transparent than even Bowie or Lou or Bolan because I got into him at such a young age that the influence was never conscious. It just became a part of who I was and evolved into. I’m saying this now as it’s occurring to me. Have never thought about it before. But it seems true. I never tried to be like or do anything like John Lennon. It was and perhaps still is more like he was a father figure who just rubbed off on me the same way a father does to a son. Never having a father of my own John and Paul played that role vicariously, simultaneously trading places at warp speed depending on what mood I happened to be in at any given moment. Then BAM! 20 years later and I’m a man myself. People say “you remind me of John Lennon” and it never even occurs to me that it could be true because I never deliberately copped John the way I did admittedly with say Bowie or Lou or Marc.
 
 
 Now that I’m older it really hits home how much we have missed by John not being around all these years. We can only guess what his musical output would be like now. Or what it would have been like over the last 33 years past. He was just getting started again when he was killed. That first new album in over five years (Double Fantasy) was an amazing in regards to the John songs in it. Even the Yoko songs were good.
 
 
 As well I often wonder what his social and political ideals would be like. I’m sure he’d be proud of what society has turned into in terms of how popular social and political activism have become. Even with more mainstream types. I wonder if he’d ever turn toward less peaceful more violent means of activism if he knew what we know now about how wicked the powers that be have become. But then again they were pretty bad already In the 60s and 70s. And he resisted those urges back then. Which is one of the reasons why I and probably many people like me still do. No matter how angry or embittered or resentful we feel sometimes. That’s just one of the many many gifts he offered the world simply by being born and being himself and doing his thing. If we’re going to take anything from John and his legacy, it should be that: to remember how utterly profound it can be if we do absolutely nothing other than be ourselves.
 
 
 It’ll never not be “sad” today. Because we will never not miss him and never not mourn his early passing. But there is plenty there to celebrate as well.
 
 
 – Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone

RIP Coney Island Baby Lou Reed

Today’s entry was going to be about Israel. About the not so holy land. I’d already written a lot of it. But due to extenuating circumstances, grueling and devastating circumstances for some us, that one is going to be postponed at least until tomorrow. For we’ve just found out that Lou Reed, yes that Lou Reed… has passed away into the great unknown. This one’s for him. For those that know me, or know of me, it’s a given fact that Lou was my biggest musical influence. Princess Little Tree and I have spent countless hours laughing at the fact that every time I release a new album and do the usual hundred or so interviews with the press to promote it — which now usually come in the form of emails that I dictate and she types out and sends back, there is ALWAYS that SAME question: “Who are your five or six biggest influences on your own music?” Without fail that question shows up. And time and time again I answer that question the same. Bowie, Lou Reed, Donovan, Marc Bolan, John Lennon, Paul, George, Bruce, Joni…. Etc.

I never care that most people don’t know who some of those people are. It just is what it is. You can’t listen to me without hearing Lou and Marc and David if you know their music. And I have no idea why that is except to think that that shit just washes over you and then seeps under your skin, gets inside of you and stays there forever… Becomes a part of you.

So it’s finally happened. We’ve lost one of the BIG ones. One of the REAL greats. No we’re not talking about Michael Jackson or Whitney Houston et al. Sure those artists have a place, somewhere, in the bastions of music I suppose… just not rock and roll. And certainly nothing to do with me. We’re talking about Lou. Yes, THAT Lou. My Lou. Our Lou. Lou Reed. The guy that when you tell people he’s your biggest influence they ask “Who’s that? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of him…” which leads slowly down the path to help explain why artists like me, and Lou, have never reached the highest heights obtainable for musical artists. Because most people have never heard of him. Or me. You always have to follow his name with “You know, that song “Hey babe/take a walk on the wild side…?” And then they’re like “Oh yeah I’ve heard that song. Was he a one hit wonder or something?” And of course that’s a very loaded and telling question that speaks tons about contemporary music, and art in general, in the modern world; for what IS a one hit wonder? Most of them are some of the greatest artists to ever burst out of the human genetic tree. But they just aren’t pedestrian enough to achieve massive fame with the unwashed working class masses. Which in a way is grace and glory and in another way is a deeply sad tragedy.

I’ve told this story before. But if there’s one place where it belongs, in perpetuity, it’s here in the Transcendence Diaries. For without Lou Reed there would be no Ed Hale and thus no Fishy, no Transcendence and no Transcendence Diaries. By all accounts I lucked out. I got signed and had my first album come out when I was 17 years old. What is now commonly called The Eddie Album. Yeah me and Beav were psyched. We’d waited for that moment since we were little kids. We knew I’d get signed. Knew I’d release albums all my life. Knew I’d be a rock star. It was a given. But then something that I’ll never forget happened. Something that I for whatever reason believe changed the trajectory of my life and career forever.

Beav and I were sitting on the floor of my bedroom. We were smoking out, pretty high. I was home on break from college. We were talking about big dreams. Our local paper in Pine Ridge had just run a big cover story on me. We were so freaking happy. All our friends were there. It was a scene. I was talking about how big I was gonna be. Bigger than Elvis. Like all kids do I suppose… And then Beav, as he always does, just out of the blue, after minutes of not saying anything — so when he does speak, everyone goes quiet and listens — he says “Nah dude…” he glances down and takes a drag from his cigarette “you’re not gonna be big like that bro…”

“What are you talking about man? Of course I am!” I protest.

“Nah man. What would be cooler is if you were more like Lou man. More underground. More cool. More intelligent. You don’t want to be a sell-out bro. And let’s face it. You’re not really like the kind of artists that make it big bro. You’re short and ugly as hell and you’ve got that giant schnoz of yours…” Everyone starts laughing. But I continue to protest… though I knew he was just ribbing me. I also knew there was some truth to what he was saying.

“What about Prince? HE’S a real artist and HE’S super big!” I exclaim.

“Yeah man but dude… You’re not like Prince. I mean… You don’t dance and sing like that. You’re more like Lou than anyone… Or Marc Bolan…. You’re underground. You’re an acquired taste dude.”

I never thought that Beav even thought about me or my music… let alone had such insight to what I really sounded like or would come off like to millions of people… Especially not when we were still kids… But I thought about it… I went silent… I just sat there thinking about it. I mean, hell, he was right…. Most of the artists that I grew up loving were already dead or dying or at least 30 years in the past and they were all pretty underground… I never listened to contemporary music when it was contemporary. I shunned it for older cooler stuff. For the exact opposite of superstars. Marc Bolan (T. Rex for those of you who don’t know who Marc is. “Bang a Gong” for those of you who don’t know who T. Rex is…), Donovan, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop….

Sure I was a Beatles fan and as a kid with The Toad and Stu Guru we would daydream about being as big as the Beatles like all young up and coming musicians do. But my tastes ran way deeper and more eclectic than just the Beatles. The Beatles days were when I was a kid. As I grew older I began looking for things that were much more intelligent and eccentric than anything the Beatles ever offered. And as an artist on my own, I quickly began to diverge off the commercial path before my second album even came out. Which of course led to it never coming out because it wasn’t “commercial enough”.

But this isn’t about me. This is about Lou. Who died today. Yesterday Beav texted me a batch of Lou lyrics. Just yesterday. Little Beav texted me almost ALL the lyrics to Lou’s song “Trade In” from his Twilight Reeling album. See. That’s what most people aren’t going to understand. That’s why I’ll avoid social media like the plague for the next few days. Because now that Lou is dead all the pretenders will come out talking about how great they thought Lou Reed was, but they’ll be full of shit. They might know a song or two but they didn’t love the guy. They usually made fun of him. “Oh that guy who always talks instead of sings his songs…” You know who the Lou Reed fans are. Beav just texted me twenty freaking lines of Lou Reed lyrics because he LOVED Lou. For real loved him. As we all did and do who really knew him and loved him. We didn’t care that he lost his singing voice thirty years ago. We still went and saw him live because we wanted to be in his presence and we wanted to support him. Let the pretenders be damned. In fact, standby; I’m going to post something on social media now to all the wannabes who might dare take advantage of Lou’s death for their own selfish glory. I’ll be right back.

Okay I’m back. Had to do that. Social media is awash with these catfishing self-serving whores who will take advantage of any event to get some attention for themselves. One of the things I loath about it. Though for the most part, I am one of the big fans of social media obviously. On certain days though…. Today, wow. The more it hits me the sadder I get. I am starting to feel that deep sadness, the kind that is there when you are crying uncontrollably. It still hasn’t completely hit me yet. I just cannot get it through my head…. that Lou is really gone. Yes, I was lucky enough to meet Lou a few times. I can’t claim that we were friends. Not many can. Tony can. He actually had ben doing tai chi with Lou a lot over the last few years. So for him and for David (Bowie) I am truly truly sorry. I know they must really be feeling it, maybe even more than I; because they were close to Lou as a person. I was more just close to Lou as an artist. Is there a difference in our grief? in the feeling of loss we feel? How can it be quantified? Not sure it can be.

Today started out like any other. Just another Sunday. Wake up late but just in time to rush to church with Princess Little Tree. Making notes the whole time about this and that, different ideas that would eventually become books or screenplays or blog posts or songs. Then off to Victor’s the closest cool coffee shop in town for a cappuccino and some bakery items. Then home for all the Sunday news shows…. And then BAM! A friend posts something to facebook about Velvet Underground. I see it as a strange. SHE would normally NEVER post anything to social about Lou Reed. That’s odd. Let me check it out… Why would she…? And then I see it. Tony posts something confirming that it’s really true. Lou really passed. Fuck. Wow. Could it really be true? We just had a scare like this with Lou a few months ago. His liver was failing. So we knew this was coming. But man…. Couldn’t we get one more live show in? I really wanted Princess Little Tree to see him live. Just to feel that energy of all that love in the room…. But that’s not going to happen now. Ever. She’ll never get to experience that. And neither will I ever again.

But that’s okay as sad as it is. A few years ago as you know, I had the chance to experience Lou up-close and in person at Carnegie Hall. Along with a handful of other legends. At one of the Tibet House Benefit Concerts. Laurie was there too. (Laurie Anderson, Lou’s genius wife who on her won is one of the most innovative and influential artists of all time). So too was Philip. (Glass). It was an incredible show. When Lou came on you would have thought that Jesus himself had resurrected, again, and walked onto the stage. This was Lou’s home turf after all, New York City, a place that made him famous and that made even more famous just by being him. All you could hear were people screaming “LLLLOOOOOOOUUUUUUUU!!!!!!” It was such an incredible energy. I felt very happy for Lou in that moment. He hadn’t had a great ten years last. Yes he was being lauded by many notables for being the visionary that he was. Wim Wenders and Bono and Julian Schnauble and David Bowie had all done plenty to alert the world to his genius as he got older. But commercially his ship had sailed decades before. And his original albums were not just failing to get anywhere commercially; they were failing to even connect with his small fanbase. The last album that he recorded with Metallica was purely dreadful. To this day I have no idea why he or they did it. It was just a mismatch. I get that they loved him and wanted to work with him. But man when something doesn’t work, it just doesn’t work.

David said once, “The thing about working with Lou is that he will ALWAYS find a way to deliberately fuck things up when you’re in the recording studio. That’s the thing. He doesn’t WANT it to be perfect and polished and commercial sounding.” That quote stayed with me for a long time. Never left actually. I have never forgotten it. For better or worse, from the moment I heard it, I kind of adopted it as an ethos for my own art. I understood from that moment on what it meant to record a Lou Reed Album and why his music always sounded the way it did. He was doing it on purpose. So yes, I can admit it here, I adopted that same principle. That’s how big of an influence Lou was on us, on me I guess I mean to say. There is this strong desire to not suffer this grief alone. I want to call someone. Someone who gets it. But only Beav really gets it out of all the people I know. Most people just don’t love Lou the way I did. Tony is feeling it.

I just texted Tony. Just to connect with someone else who can really understand and who is feeling the same kind of grief. It would be like if David passed, God forbid; I shouldn’t even say such a thing. But it’s that kind of pain and shock. We know it’s inevitable. And God knows that for Lou to last till 72 with the insane lifestyle he had then man was he lucky… but it still comes as a shock. Just one of those things we KNOW is going to happen but we just pretend is NEVER going to happen. That’s being human isn’t it? That knowing combined with that uncanny ability to live in denial as only we can out of all the other animals on the earth…

One of the first things that Princee asked me is “Why is he considered so great? Why is he so loved?” So I went on YouTube and began calling up songs of his to play for her and post to social media. So others could become aware of his great works. At the bottom of this post I will paste the link to a PlayList I created of some of Lou’s greatest musical achievements. It’s just really a start. There is SO MUCH more to his achievements than what is on here. It’s a start. It’ll turn you on to a very small sampling of some of his greatest moments and that’s all. There is plenty more beyond it if you dig what you hear. Lou was one of those very rare artists who continually changed and evolved artistically. He never settled down. He never repeated himself. This is why is so beloved by those that know. For those that do NOT like the usual dreck that dominates the airwaves of today, call them the literati or the cognizati or whatever, they all have a small handful of things in common; a sincere love and respect of Lou Reed being one of them. He was a master wordsmith. Unlike Sir Paul, who can sure write a pretty tune, or even a badass one (“Helter Skelter”), but who often disappointed lyrically, Lou NEVER disappointed lyrically. He was the exact opposite. Like Paul Simon or Elvis Costello, Lou never wasted one word. He never took the easy way out lyrically. He never rhymed just because he needed to. IF he had to, he would forsake the rhyme for the meaning. How FEW artists dare do that in contemporary music?

Listen to the song “Street Hassle” or “Kicks” if you want a taste of what a genius writes like within the confines of modern music. Of course the music isn’t the least bit commercially accessable. But that isn’t why Lou made music. And perhaps that’s why we loved and admired him so. Because he just didn’t care as much about that kind of thing compared with being a great writer. His heroes were real poets, cats like Delmore Shwartz, so he didn’t compare himself to other singer/songwriters… He compared himself to real poets. That had a huge impact on me.

The first time I met Lou was twenty years ago. I was a freshman in college. My own first album had just come out. I had written my final term paper on Lou Reed and Velvet Underground, as crazy as that sounds now. And I was playing on a side stage at an Amnesty International event in Atlanta, GA. So was Lou and a still young U2. I got to meet all these amazing people. I went up to Lou and told him how much I loved him and that I had just written my final on him. His response was something like “That’s nice kid….” and that was it. I didn’t expect any more, but it still stung a bit. But why would he care? Would I now? Do I? In all honesty, it’s not that I don’t, when I am told similar things… It’s more like I just don’t have the time for it… That’s really what it comes down to. It took me years of walking in his shoes a bit to get that. For the little me who got hurt as a young fan to integrate with the larger me that began to do the same things to people as I became older and busier.

A few years later I was on the phone with Laurie’s (Anderson) personal assistant. He told me he was leaving the position. I asked why. Laurie is the BOMB. She’s a freaking genius. “I just can’t take having to deal with Lou” he said. “Is he that bad?” I asked. After all, we were talking because I wanted to cruise over and hang with Laurie but I really wanted to hang with Lou. “How often do you really have to talk to him anyway?” “Well now that he and Laurie are a thing…. even if Lou answers the phone, he’s just so fucking rude and callous sometimes. I can’t deal with it.” This really helped me understand. Lou was still coming out of something. I mean, all that pain that created all that incredible music… Music that could only be created from that kind of pain…. He wasn’t just exploiting it. He was living it. He was it. It was HIS life. And it showed. It hit me… Wow, the reason he is able to touch upon these things… is because he feels this pain, he lives it. And unfortunately for those who have to deal with him on a day to day basis, it can be hard to handle at times.

A few years before, I was at Rudy’s Music, the famed guitar dealer in New York City, this is back in the Acoustic In New York days, circa ’95. Fame was about to come and go yet again for me. Or at least any semblance of importance or relevance in the music business. I was sleeping on couches and knocking on doors. Again. Trying to get this new album out that I had recorded for SONY that now was never going to be released because “the songs were too long”. (This was just one of the many aspects of Lou’s influence…. the ironic balance between the quest we had to achieve at least enough appeal to the suits to be able to release our music but our totally fuck it all attitude to the rules and constraints of the business of music to the point where it became harmful to our ability to achieve any kind of real commercial success…. I mean, without Lou…. I don’t know if I would have ever known to reach that far… In terms of artistic reach…. song length…. the need to tell the whole story regardless of how long the song ended up being…. a lot of that came from Lou….)

Around this time I wanted to buy an original Lou Reed black Telecaster. As close to original and as close to Lou’s as I could. So I went to the source. I knew Lou has all his guitars made and repaired by Rudy. Rudy just flat out told me that yes Lou was a special customer but he was a total dick to work for. That again upset and disappointed me. Beav kept telling me to “go bang on Lou’s door and reintroduce yourself and make friends with him man!” But I kept hearing these things that didn’t bode very well for something like that. As much as I would have loved it. Like Bob did with Woody or Lou himself did with Delmore…. I always pictured myself doing it with Lou. But reality told me that it wasn’t going to play out like that. Speaking with Laurie’s assistant, who I’m deliberately not naming, was the closest I came and I really wanted it to happen. But he assured me that if he were to even get up the desire to do me the favor that it would not turn out the way I imagined. Laurie, sure, no problem. But Lou, not a chance. So it never happened back then. Then I got older and my own star started to reignite.

Tony shares things with me. Evidently Lou became much more kind and docile over the last few years. Which makes me happy. He got clean. He went on antidepressants. He had to. He went all natural, which is always good. Started doing tai chi. Tony said he even became nearly personable. But I just didn’t have the chance now at this stage in my own career; I had become so busy… it’s strange how that happens. I could have made the effort to take just half a day to make the pilgrimage, to share with the man how much he meant to me… But I could never make the time. So there’s that too. Just regret. I could have taken the time. I always just figured there would be time. And maybe that’s one of the lessons to be plucked from this great loss. The intense need there is for us to take the time to do things that are most meaningful and important to us. So we DON’T spend the rest of our lives in regret.

For those that know me, I guess it’s enough just to acknowledge what has happened today and that will provide plenty of context as to why I might be MIA for a while, as well as to help explain what and how I’m feeling… If I come off angry or hostile or overtly down…. I really can’t find the words. I feel as though I’ve lost a family member. And more so than most family members I have truth be told. More so certainly than any kind of sadness I might feel if and when my own father passes. But alas you all will understand the other side of that as well. It hurts. I’ve not yet reached the point of tears.

Because I just feel so goddamned angry still. Mad that it’s happened now. Mad that I’m in bumfuck nowhere instead of New York where I should be at a time like this. Nowhere Lou or Laurie or Tony or any Lou fans, nowhere near any vigils that are going to be taking place tonight all over Manhattan. Just mad that it happened. Mad that I never took the time to go pay my respects when I could. Mad that he’s gone forever now and there’s no chance for that “one more great album from Lou”…. The anger is masking my sadness. But I can feel the pain swelling up inside my chest past my throat and into my face. Pain. Deep painful hurtful pain. Lou is one of the last of them. Besides the obvious ones and I’m not going to name them. But God he was still so young.

It wouldn’t be fair to write about Lou without saying a big FUCK YOU to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting Lou as solo artist until AFTER he’s dead. For surely NOW they will rush to induct him next year. Even though every fucking year his name comes up and they’ve been passing it up; assuming they had plenty of years to do it still and besides “we’ve already inducted him once with the Velvets….” But no that wasn’t good enough. And now like with so many you’re going to end up doing it posthumously. And that sucks. For Lou, who really wanted it, and for all of us who believed that he should have gotten in there long before half the people who are in there now. I mean, this is the guy who gave us “Walk on wild side,” “Sweet Jane” “Satellite of love” “Coney Island Baby” “Street Hassle” “New York” “Blue Mask” “Berlin” on and on and on. On one else gave us what Lou gave us.

He deserved more recognition in his lifetime than he received. I am sure there is going to be plenty now that he has passed. And that’s one of the many aspects of who and how we are that enrages me to no end. But that’s politics. Today should be a day for remembering WHY we love Lou so much. All those songs man. All that brilliant poetry that spoke in a voice that only he could. That white soul groove that he laid down in song. That razor guitar sound and that wall of noise with that mid-toned nasally New York accented voice that hauntingly floated just above all of it speaking truths about the world and the human condition more honestly and more poetically than almost anyone else before or since. “Hey hey Lou Reed/ there aint no way you’ll ever be a human being….” “And some people they’ve got no choice/ and they can never find a voice/ to talk with or even call their own/ so the first thing that they see/ that gives them the right to be/ why they follow it/ and you know man/ it’s called bad luck”

Lou Reed I’m going to miss you. I loved you dearly. Without you there could never be a me. I’ve never been ashamed or too proud or selfish to admit that. Wish I would have told you that in person when I was older, more as peers and not from such a distance as is created by age. But I know you knew how influential you were to guys like me. To so many. I hope you passed on easily and confidentially knowing how important you were and always will be. And how truly loved admired and respected. Here’s to you Coney Island Baby New York City Man.

 

Here’s a playlist of just a few of Lou’s greatest contributions to modern music:

 

 

New Album Coming Along – Stepping WAY WAY Out There Now

Well I think we’re doing it again. Princess Little Tree and I joke around about “what a challenge it is to BE Ed Hale” compared to just “dealing with him” like other people do. I’m always like “yeah yeah I know, I’m sorry about that,” when she complains about how many different projects I have going at once and how unwieldy and crazy our schedule is, “but just imagine BEING the person who has to LIVE AS me!” I respond. “It’s hard enough dealing with me, I know, but it’s a whole different thing to keep waking up to the fact that you ARE that person and trying to figure out ways of handling being that person!”

I think of it like this: I’m just me. A regular Joe like anyone else. But on top of it, I was born INSIDE this totally crazy super-curious and ambitious wild man who never stops thinking and planning and taking notes and starting new things. If it were up to me, I’d just be chilling like anyone else. The usual things, picnics, TV, movies, family, the park, having drinks with friends, I don’t know, whatever normal people do… But I feel like I’ve got this responsibility to try my best to honor this guy that I was born inside. And he’s got this massive imagination and all this ambition and he really does believe he can do it all and more. So I just do my best to make that happen and hang on for the ride; and hopefully survive it all. Yep. It feels like that.

So we started Ed Hale’s new solo album in the summer of 2011. Right at the right time. The first single from the last solo album was taking off. A few months later the second single was doing even better than the first. We needed a new album and we needed it fast. Problem was that we recorded about 17 songs initially and instead of one good solid album, it sounded more like two partially completed albums. So we all flew back to New York to record more songs. Ended up with 34 new songs. So now we’ve been slowly making progress on them. Little by little. Drums, bass, acoustic guitars and vocals are slowly all getting done. Along with various percussion and keyboards. The crazy thing is how many hundreds of hours it takes to finish one song. At least for us. Now. On this album. Let me put it into perspective. We’re in the summer of 2013 now and I’m only done with 12 songs in terms of being done with MY parts. That’s insane. I know it. But it’s just a lot of work.

This album started out as a continuation of the Ballad On Third Avenue album. Acoustic pop, or what in the business we call Adult Contemporary; that’s the actual format. But what we’ve ended up with is three distinct sounds for three distinct different albums. One is still more organic acoustic, what you would call almost folksy. Think Bon Iver or Fleet Foxes or The Lumineers. Simple stuff. Do it in your sleep stuff. But I tire of that real quick. Whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I have a tough time getting through three songs in a row of that kind of material. So we branched out and made some of the songs more electric, more upbeat, more pop. I dig that. Though it takes a lot more instrumentation and production. And then there’s this third style that’s coming out that’s more like electric folk, kind of like Dylan when he went electric… Rubber Soul perhaps? But not really cause it’s more folky.

It’s all acoustic based. None of it is “rock” per se. And that was the plan. These are Ed Hale solo albums after all, and since all the same players play on these that do the Transcendence albums, THAT’S the only difference between the two artists at this point: the solo albums are slower and softer, more acoustic, more pop, and Ed Hale and the Transcendence albums are more rock. It’s just a name/style thing, rather than a change in lineup. I’ve been working with the same group of guys since 2002 and don’t see changing that anytime soon. They’re like brothers now. They know what I write and sing like. And they call me on my stuff; they know what to do and say to bring the best out in the music.

I’ve been living in Seattle for the last few months and so we’re working out of a studio here. Only problem is that all the guys are in different cities and states around the country now. Most of the guys are still somewhere in South Florida. But others are in LA or Texas or Minneapolis or Atlanta. It’s crazy. What we’ve decided to do, what I’ve decided to do, is keep on recording the songs here, my parts, and then we email the songs out as MP3s to all these other players — we’ve got about 15 additional players now around the country, adding strings, woodwinds, horns, guitars, keyboards, drum programming, background vocals — and have them import the MP3 into their recording studio rig. They then record their parts onto the track to their liking and then they send only their parts back to us and we then drop them into the original open track, as if they were there in the studio with us.

We’re really tracking three albums here… We have about 13 songs done with “my parts” now… meaning the basic drums/bass/acoustic guitars, some keys and all my basic lead and background vocals. That’s what these guys will be tracking to. But we have musicians all over the country adding other instruments while I am NOT there. And neither is the producer. So there is no way to monitor what they’re going to be recording. I’ve never done ANYthing like this before… NOT being there when peeps record their parts. It could turn into a total MESS. But I’m hoping to create a totally NEW sound by doing it this way — encouraging the dissonance that will naturally come from the musicians stepping all over each other without knowing it. Trumpet parts stepping all over sax and flute parts etc. It’s a crazy idea.

Of course we’ll mix the messy parts out and just keep the “good parts” Meaning whatever fits and sounds good. And hopefully that will provide a GIANT palette from which to choose for Zeke Zaskin who is set to mix yet again. He’s mixed every one of our albums since Nothing Is Cohesive and he always does a great job. Bear in mind that we usually provide absolutely insanely confusing tracks. Usually very messy because we record A LOT. I’ll lay down at least 15 different vocal tracks plus three to five guitar tracks and two to five keyboard tracks. In addition Vancouver will lay down five to ten additional guitar tracks. Now we’ll be adding an additional 10 to 15 additional musicians all laying down whatever they want to however they want to…

It has the potential to be a royal mess. But it also has the potential to be a roaring success, something brand new and exciting sounding. the potential for the musicians to step on each other musically is VERY high. Notes that may sound good to them clashing with notes that other players have added… Cause none of us are going to hear what the other people are adding. But that’s what i LOVE about the prospects of this new way of doing it. The utter randomness of it. No, it will not be the usual organic “all built up from the bottom up together as a unit” kind of recording style that we are used to. It’s going to be the exact opposite. But that’s what I am kind of digging about this new method. We now have the technology to record in this fashion. Of course no one in their right mind would do this on a professional commercial release. It’s crazy for sure. But it just may blow us all away with how cool it could sound.

In any case, there’s a catch up for ya. That’s where we are. If you were wondering where this new album is. Yes I know we’re a year behind schedule. But there’s a valid reason for it. We’re trying something a little different with this one. So be patient. As soon as we have something finished, IF we ever finish a song that is…. We’ll post it for you all to hear. Frankly I can’t wait to hear what this grand experiment produces. It’s bound to be new. Good? Can’t say yet. The songs are good. But I just may ruin them… LOL! We’ll just have to see. Standby on that.

As always, more later.

Bob Lefsetz and a Night at the Opera

Love him or hate him one thing is for sure, Bob Lefsetz loves music. The way that WE love music. The way MANY PEOPLE used to love music. Not as a money making commodity that has to follow hundreds of modern trends, rules and industry codes the way that people in our industry today “like” music; to them, and there’re many of them now unfortunately, music is something to buy and sell. Preferably sell. To whom? They don’t care. Just as long as it sells. What it sounds like they don’t care about that either. Just as long as it sells. The singer’s a 17 year old white Midwestern girl who pretends to dress and act like a black slut from the ghetto because she’s insecure about her coolness in the industry right now and thinks we might “sell more if we sell sex instead of music”. Shes willing to act even sluttier if we’ll let her. She has a potentially large demographic of young middle American girls she may influence in not the healthiest manner if she treads down this path. They don’t care as long as it sells.

The music sucks in general. It has no long term historic appeal. U don’t hear an artist as much as a short lived trend coming out of the speakers. It all sounds the same at the Top 100 level no matter which format you dial up. Every damn song is a 3 minute and 30 second mirror copy of the song that played right before it. Forget about by the same artists. A whole album with ten songs that all sound exactly the same. They don’t care. As long as it sells. Granted the artists come and go faster than anyone can remember their names or ages or what town they’re from and every few weeks the cycle repeats itself. God help the artists long term…

We’re growing a new commodity here — catchy but cheap contrived often vulgar and depraved disposable soundbites — and in the process destroying a classic one, i.e. music as art/history/cultural landmark/hero/messiah.

Those in the biz, we in the biz, still know there’s good stuff being created out there. All over the world. More so now than ever. It just doesn’t hit the Hot 100 very often. So we buy those for our own enjoyment while giving the masses what we assume they want in exchange for the .99 cents per track they’re willing to throw down for a download times a few hundred thousand to million people. Thats our pay. With that revenue earned we can afford to buy the good stuff we hear coming out around us. We just can’t promote it. Why? Because that’s what “they” say. Keep the real artists off the radio and on the road. That’s where they belong. U can always get them late night shows and some morning show play. On the radio we keep the cheap candy, the disposable hip hop hits dance tracks and Pitbull raps about drinking and cars and gold chains. And pistachios.

Hasn’t always been this way. Sometimes we just need a reminder. Music industry vet Bob Lefsetz acted as that reminder for us today with his random blog about his first experiences hearing the forever amazing british rock band Queen. Read on and prepare to re-remember what getting excited about great music feels like.

Here it is in full:

We were not prepared for it.

I bought the initial album, with the pinkish purple cover, based on a review in “Rolling Stone.” You could tell by the enthusiasm and the description that this was something you wanted to check out. And from the very first note it was enrapturing. That’s the power of “Keep Yourself Alive.”

Right, now it seems obvious. But it was anything but in ’73. I never heard “Keep Yourself Alive” on the radio, it was kind of like Yes with the first three albums, they were for fans only.

And then came “Queen II.” Also with no synths. Oh, how amazing is Brian May. And it wasn’t quite as good as the debut, but it got even less traction, it was like it didn’t even come out, and I figured Queen was another one of those bands I knew by heart who were destined to disappear. And then came “Sheer Heart Attack.” “Killer Queen” was all over the radio, like the band always belonged there. And at this late date, you can see that “Killer Queen” foreshadowed what was coming, but those who bought the album heard cuts like “Stone Cold Crazy,” which also got airplay, which were closer to what had come before as opposed to what was in the pipeline. Queen was another hard rocking band with impeccable chops, very British, very interesting, but they were still making music tied to their roots. And then came “A Night At The Opera.”

At this late date the album is overshadowed by the enduring success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but the breakthroughs were on the first side, with “You’re My Best Friend” and “’39.”

It was not like today. In the midseventies you could like singer-songwriters as well as hard rock. A true music fan had broad tastes. So when you were expecting bombast and heard “You’re My Best Friend” a smile crossed your face…how’d they come up with this combination of west coast and UK? Soft with harmonies was positively SoCal, but previously Queen had been more about assault than subtlety…but the band was not afraid to experiment, saw no need to repeat itself, “You’re My Best Friend”…sounds like the joy of said, that one person you can count on, but it’s not only the vocal and the harmonies but the pure instrumental sound, it was an aural concoction that accelerated to its conclusion and begged to be played again when this was difficult, when we lived in the vinyl era and the needle segued into the next cut.

Which was even quieter, something more similar to the Band than anything Queen had done previously, the aforementioned “’39.” Unlike today’s in-your-face music, “’39” was reflective, a whole story, with a jaunty chorus… It’d be like Angus Young suddenly cut an English folk song!

But those two cuts were just the most obvious. Before them on the first side was…”I’m In Love With My Car.” Which was typically Queen heavy, but in a newfangled way. It was slow where everything previously had been fast. Not sung by Freddie Mercury, but drummer Roger Taylor, who wrote it!

“I’m in love with my car, got a feel for my automobile”

We all felt it, but we never heard it put so emphatically, not by the Beach Boys or Jan & Dean. This was an English sensibility, with all the joy of pride in your machine. With harmonies to boot!

And what was dramatic was that none of these three songs sounded remotely alike. Once upon a time a band could be more than one thing, and the audience rewarded them for it.

Then there’s the baroque “Love Of My Life” on side two. You’ve got to understand, Queen was a heavy band! But now they were quiet and meaningful, and to listen to this alone in your bedroom on headphones brought in to question your masculinity not a whit. Boys are romantic, and Freddie Mercury gave us permission to be.

The only track on the album that sounded close to what came before was the opener, “Death On Two Legs.” It was like the band jettisoned a few stages and rocketed into hyperspace, years before “Star Wars” was released.

And when we initially heard “Bohemian Rhapsody” we didn’t think all time rock classic but innovative ear-pleasing cut.

And there wasn’t a single other band doing anything like this in the marketplace. Nobody was Queen-like.

And the audience could have rejected “A Night At The Opera.”

But no, when something is this good, people can’t help but embrace it, the way all the musos acknowledged how great a guitar player Eddie Van Halen was when they heard his band’s debut.

And if they had no base the album still would have succeeded. But with some airplay from “Sheer Heart Attack” and relentless quality touring, making diehard fans on the road, the audience was primed for what they didn’t expect, with “A Night At The Opera” Queen became superstars overnight

Bob Lefsetz

After Tomorrow

Track #10 from the 2011 Ed Hale and the Transcendence album All Your Heroes Become Villains, the anthemic “After Tomorrow” is the climax of the album, a suicide letter and soundtrack to the lead character’s journey to the beyond after death. A dirge-like heavy Brit-rock foundation punctuated by a lone echoing trumpet played by Emiliano Torres.

A Fascinating Consideration – What ARE Musical Notes? WHY?

In one of those “Human beings are amazing. You never know what they’re going to discover and/or explore” moments, someone randomly posted a YouTube video to my Facebook wall. Normally this is not something I enjoy or encourage. Not even a little bit truth be told. But in this instance I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not one of their songs or videos or essays or lectures as is usually the case, nor was it some political article skewed one way or the other. Rather it was a strange video explaining why the note we know as “middle A” in Western music is tuned specifically to the frequency of 440 Hertz. I knew this to be true, just as any musician does, amateur or professional, because this is what we are taught in school. The real question is WHY do we never question why that particular frequency was chosen to represent this particular note?

Back in music school when I was a kid just out of high school, all the other students were a few years older than I was — to say the least. I was 17 at the time. I think the youngest person in any of my classes was probably in their early 20s. So there was a lot of learning for me then, both in the classroom and out. I actually believe that I could confidently state that I can recall more of what other students taught me or attempted to teach me during those two years than anything I learned in any particular class. There were many lessons… About romance, the art of music, literature, and life.

One night in particular I remember this guy named Tim who was probably about 25 at the time (though to me he might as well have been 40 — everyone seemed old and very adult to me there) explaining to me how the notes and scales we use in Western music are random when you consider them from a bigger more global viewpoint, especially contrasted with music and scales from other countries. I had honestly never thought of that before. Didn’t even know about it.

How we just assume that there are 12 notes in between C and C, when in fact there are many more, infinitely more in fact. This blew my mind. How our guitars and pianos are actually crafted to ONLY play those 12 notes. We can’t play all those other notes in between those dictated 12 notes even if we wanted to due to the construction of the instruments we play here in the States and in other so-called Western countries. Imagine that…

How we consider C to be the start of our scales. Why? How we usually have 8 notes in a scale. Why? Other countries don’t necessarily limit scales to that. Some have less. Some have more. That all of our music, including what we call Middle C, is based on a random tuning of the note A to the frequency of 440 hertz. I had never thought about musical notes in terms of what frequency they are tuned to… Never got that deep with it. I was 17. Just beginning to peek my head out of the clouds. I did remember learning that electronic tuners, the ones we use to plug our guitars into, were calibrated based on A being set to 440. But I didn’t really know what it meant. I just remembered it as one of those unimportant random facts we pick up along with the way.

Ever since that evening I have gone back to that conversation again and again in my mind… Especially when listening to music from other countries that do not use or rely on the traditional Western 12 notes for their music… wondering about those secret hidden notes between the 12 notes we use. Simply put we go from C to C for example and in between those two Cs there are 10 notes and that’s it. Bear in mind that we have no actual scales that use all 12 notes because it wouldn’t sound like a scale per se. It would just sound like a bunch of notes all run together. Unless someone just plays what we call a “chromatic scale” which literally translates to “play all the notes in between one note and it’s octave (the C higher than Middle C, the C higher than that one, etc…)” What you end up with is the sound of “no discernible scale” because you’re playing ALL the notes available to us. But “available to us” is the key to seeing the magic and mystery in that sentence.

Most of our most common scales have only 8 notes in them actually, 7 really if you don’t count the octave (the C higher than the C you started on). Think Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do. That Do represents C. So really there are only 7 notes. Sometimes we’ll veer off of that and add an extra note or 2 in there, such as a 7th, a 2nd or 9th, a 6th. These are all pretty common additions. Depending on how you play it you might be still playing just 8 notes or you might play 9 instead. Sometimes we’ll use more than one of those, let’s say for example the chord Cmin7(9), meaning that we’re adding the 7th and the 9th to the chord in addition to the usual 1st, 3rd, and 5th. On and on. It’s an endless contemplation. And not really pertinent to this post. The main point is that we have for whatever reason limited our music in the West to the above explanations. For better or worse. That’s just how it is.

But deeper than that. We’ve also limited it in terms of WHAT each individual notes ARE exactly. That’s something that most of us don’t think of. Hum something right now to yourself. Just one note. Out loud. Any note. See, here’s the deal. You MAY have hummed a real note (in Western music) OR you may not have. You might have been off a little. Perhaps you were “real close” to humming an A let’s say. That’s what is known as a tone or a frequency in reality, in the study of sound. You hummed a tone really. We don’t know if you hummed an actual “note”. It’s a tonal frequency, but not necessarily a “note” in a strict sense. We’d have no way to know IF we hadn’t chosen specific frequencies to represent the individual notes we use. How would any of us know what an A was unless we specifically decided as a society that the note A was to be represented exactly by the frequency of 440 hertz? We wouldn’t. We’d all be playing slightly different tones or frequencies and calling them “A”. SO at some point 440 was chosen to be “A”.

So… What’s all this lead to? Well the video below says it way better than I could at this point. The main thing to consider is this: What if A isn’t really 440? Hah! In reality it’s NOT. That’s the thing. It’s an illusion that we have all just agreed to agree on. Like almost everything we think we know or believe as humans. That seems to be the pervading theme of the Transcendence Diaries isn’t it? All these illusions that we have agreed to agree on in order to make life more acceptable and sensible to us, to create order out of the chaos. Of course that’s where we get Chaos Theory and Quantum Mechanics, this realization that the actual universe is NOT ordered or sensible, that there is no way to really nail things down as much as we’d like to… not even things that seem relatively stable and solid such as atoms or time or gravity… Ever heard of leap year? It’s mind boggling really.
It’s certainly NOT the year 2013. We know that. My name isn’t really Fishy. We know that too. truth is I have no name. My parents were asked to and one assumes felt compelled to at some point “name their first born son”. So they did. But it isn’t really my name. This isn’t really the United States of America that we live in. Consider the origin of this country, even just it’s name… and you really start to bend over backwards trying to take in all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies. Primarily because it’s all randomly man-made. They say Christopher Colombus “discovered America”. But we know in reality that his name was Cristóbal Colón; that the land he “discovered” had already been discovered 10,000 years before and was inhabited by millions of other people; that the name “America” came from the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci who supposedly had “discovered” the land before Colon had. And on and on it goes. That’s just the tip of the iceberg really. So many illusions, just in regards to the name of one country.

Forget about all the other illusions that we agree to agree on. “God” anyone? In the history of humanity we’ve believed in and had over one-thousand “gods” so far. And we’re really just beginning in our evolution. Hell we don’t even know when we started out in our “evolution” or if we even evolved so to speak. I cannot help but entertain the theory that we may just have been created by another species of sentient beings entirely and that we never really “evolved” from fish as some people agree to believe. I mean, that’s the thing isn’t it? It’s all just man-made.

Which beings us back to music. More and more people are beginning to explore this idea of WHY we use the specific frequencies we do for the musical notes that we use to create music in. The video below goes into this. How some frequencies are “healing” and how some may be “harmful”. I’m not sure I could fully get behind believing in this belief system 100%. After all, it is just a belief system. Being true for a person to the degree they believe it to be true and thus dictating their experience. But it is a fascinating thing to explore. What if we did decide to change our entire musical architecture and make the note A 432 hertz instead of 440 hertz? We could easily make that decision. No problem in that decision. The problem would be all the music instruments all over the world would have to be re-tuned and re-calibrated. In other words, we’re so far gone in this belief system, it’s such a rigid system, that there’s no way in hell that collectively enough people will ever allow this decision to be made.
And therein illustrates a damn good example of why so-called conspiracies exist and may just not always be “theories”. One might say that certain conspiracies exist simply due to the fact that the majority of people involved in the decision making process of whatever paradigm or system we are discussing decide that things are fine the way they are and that it would be too much trouble to make things different.

This isn’t to say that WE can’t choose to decide that the note A will from now on be represented by 432 hertz instead of 440 hertz. We can. We can even re-tune all our instruments that way and continue to write all our music like that from now on. Of course no one else would be able to play with us unless they did the same thing. Frankly it’s something I’d like to hear. Changing A would necessitate changing ALL of the frequencies of all the notes in any musical scale we would use from that point on. So every note we play in any given piece of music would have an entirely different sound to it…. Fascinating… I’d love to hear it. So much more. But good for now.

I highly recommend these videos. Check out this one.