Inscrutable, impenetrable iTunes

Of all the people and organizations I deal with, iTunes is the most mysterious. And I work with some freaking oddballs. Somehow my music ends up for sale there, but I have no clue how or why.

Like many independents, I use an outfit called CD Baby to handle digital distribution; their system is easy to use, the prices seem fair, and customer service is excellent. When a tune is ready, I upload it to their site, along with recording and track details, artwork, my family history and physical measurements. They approve all this, list the tune on their site, and send me an email saying they’ve sent it to iTunes. Then we wait. CD Baby suggests that it will take 2 days to appear on iTunes. I’ve seen it happen in hours, weeks, and in the case of my old podcast, never.

In my mind, iTunes HQ is a bit like the Wonka Chocolate factory. It’s giant and old, with imposing fences and signs all around. Nobody ever goes in, and nobody ever comes out. Decisions are made in a theatrically arbitrary fashion by a weirdo in a top hat, and the grunt work is done by underpaid iLoompas. They have golden tickets too, but they don’t really want anyone to find them, so they’re packaged with Nick Hempton Band albums.


In the case of my podcast, I tried for a year to get that bloody thing up. Every idiot and his dog has a podcast on iTunes, and the process seems fairly simple. But if one link in the chain is missed, if one iLoompa is asleep on the job, it seems you’re screwed. Countless emails and phone calls to heads of various departments led nowhere- they all scratched their heads and said everything was in order, and they’d leave a post-it note for Jason in podcasts, but no dice. Eventually I gave up. And really, the world is no worse off for lacking that particular series.

These experiences have given me a sort of awed respect for iTunes; the kind of respect one might have for something that is entirely unfathomable- like, I don’t know, the ocean… Or women. In any case, somehow, magically, all the Hempton Band gear is currently available on iTunes. For now. But tomorrow? It’ll probably still be there tomorrow. But after that? “You should never never doubt what nobody is sure about…”

Hanging for Dear Life

Track #2 is here! It’s a groovy medium-slow swinger called “Hanging for Dear Life”, and features the singularly stonking talents of Tadataka Unno at the piano, Dave Baron on bass, and Dan Aran at the drums!

You can buy it through the Bandcamp player below, or from iTunes: or Amazon:

It’ll only cost you a buck! And if you dig it, please tell your friends! Cheers, Nick

Sixty Seconds of a Very Swinging Trio!

Here’s a clip of the cats swinging out in the studio, on track #2 of Catch and Release. The tune is called “Hanging for Dear Life”, and you’re watching Tadataka Unno at the piano, Dave Baron on the bass, and Dan Aran at the drums.

The tune will be released September 2.  Dig!

Recording Session #2 in pictures!

Tune #2 is done and dusted! I wish recording sessions could all be this easy- a comfortable, relaxed setting, with cats who are not only the most happening, but extremely easy to work with. Thanks again go to Una for some great photos, and there are videos on the way! Next up is mixing, then the tune will be ready for you September 2nd!

Smalls windowIMG_9433









Tune #2, Live From The Streets!

Here’s a preview of the second tune in our little project. Please excuse the camera angles- both my grip and best-boy are on strike. Contrary to what the video tells you, the tune is called “Hanging For Dear Life”. It’ll be out September 2. If you dig it, please share it with your friends!
Cheers! N

We’re just browsing: My attempt to sell music on Facebook

This thing is called an experiment for a reason. I’m trying things out, and sometimes they’re not going to work. One thing I’ve learned so far: sometimes other people know what they’re talking about.

Recently I’ve noticed a number of articles and blog posts suggesting that attempting to sell a product through Facebook is generally a waste of time. That people are in a browsing mindset when they’re scrolling- they’re window shopping as opposed to actual shopping. It’s a good place for businesses to increase awareness of their “brand”, and develop a rapport with their customers, but when folks go to Facebook, they leave their wallets at home. Bah! I said. Fiddlesticks! What do you so-called “experts” know about anything? I’m going to post an attractive, easy-to-use music store, and my loyal, trusting friends are going to have a quick listen, then click “buy”. I’ll be rich! Then I can buy my own experts!

But it didn’t happen that way, did it? Now, plenty of people bought the first track, and I thank them warmly, but they didn’t buy it from the guy standing on their doorstep; they jumped in the car and drove to the store downtown where they’ve been shopping for years. (I’m talking about iTunes. The car thing was a metaphor.)

Not only is Facebook more a place for watching people pour buckets of iced water on their heads than purchasing quality jazz recordings, when people do buy something, that want it from a source that’s convenient and trustworthy. Say you’re stepping into your favourite sushi restaurant, and I roll up in my two-tone 1987 Yugo (which for the sake of this story, we assume I own), and offer you the same delicious raw fish from the trunk. And first you need to spend five minutes filling out paperwork, and giving me (a frankly suspicious looking character) all your personal and banking details. Now I’m not suggesting for a moment that iTunes is a reputable Japanese restaurant, or that Bandcamp is a tall, ruggedly handsome Australian fellow driving a brown Yugo, (that was another metaphor), but you catch my drift.

Every time Yugo away, you take a piece of fish with you.

Every time Yugo away, you take a piece of fish with you.

 So the result of this revelation is that, while I’ll continue to post the Bandcamp music store (‘cos it’s actually very good), I’ll focus more on sending folks to iTunes, Amazon, and something called GooglePlay. I make slightly less money from them, but you can’t fight the big guys.

 Do you download music exclusively from one source? A combination? Have you had success selling on Facebook? Want to buy some sushi?

How I became a shameless media strumpet

A big part of a project like this is telling people how excited they should be about it. I could happily record these tunes and tap away at my little blog here without anyone knowing, but it’s unlikely to lead to the astronomic sales figures I’m hoping for. So I have to get the word out. And as an independent musician, there are two ways of going about this.
The first option is to hire a publicist. These people have a network of industry connections in radio, print, and online media, and will contact them on the artist’s behalf. It’s effective because media folks are more likely to take a chance on new material if it comes from a source they trust. It also takes the burden of publicity off the artist, leaving them free to lie on the couch all day and be artistic. The downside, of course, is that publicists charge like a wounded bullshit artist. Actually this is hearsay, because I’ve never tried it, but I’m told a standard campaign will run about two to three grand. That’s a lot of one-dollar downloads.

"Nick! Nick! Can you move out of the way please!"

“Nick! Nick! Can you move out of the way please!”

Or, you do what this idiot does, and handle the promotion yourself. A few years ago, a very generous colleague gave me his media contact list. This was a spreadsheet with the names, addresses, phone numbers, and companies of about 350 jazz-related journalists and radio folk. In recent years, I’ve edited this list, adding and subtracting, until I now have about 250. For our little experiment here, I spent a few caffeine-fueled days emailing everyone on the list, with a few words of introduction, and a link to a press release. Those who responded were then added to a mailing list, to receive each track as it’s completed. It’s relentlessly tedious work with low yield: of my original 250, I’ve convinced about 40.
The upside is it doesn’t cost much, and I’ve now built ongoing relationships with some of these people. Here are a few articles and radio spots that have appeared since the first track:

interview on Jazz88 San Diego

Catch and Release at Critical Jazz

Something Else Reviews

Step Tempest

At Vandoren




You won’t believe this video of adorable cats!

Jazz dudes are not generally the prettiest things to look at, but we do live in a visual age, so I’ve made a video for the first tune. Just two minutes of music, accompanied by photos and video from the recording session. It’s supposed to be a bit of a teaser, which might entice new listeners into the fold, or serve as a gentle reminder to those who meant to click “Buy”, but got sidetracked by an adorable cat video. (Or by their outrage at a fake Sonny Rollins interview…)

Anyway, here’s track #1 in video form- let me know what you think!

mp3: How much music are we missing?

I just stumbled across this interesting, if somewhat overly earnest, documentary about the low audio quality of digitally released music. This is an issue I was aware of, but frankly hadn’t given much thought; and one that pertains to our little project here.

I’m just old enough to have had a few vinyl records when I was a kid. I managed to skip 8-track, and spent most of my childhood with cassettes (for transcribing, they still can’t be beat, in my opinion…). I eagerly moved to CDs when they arrived, and am now grudgingly accepting the digital format as the way forward. But we might be missing out on a lot; and I worry that the more we listen to compressed music, and value convenience and portability over sound quality, the lower our standards will become.

What do you think? Is this important to you, or is the ability to have a thousand tunes on your phone worth a drop in quality? Have you ever put on a vinyl record after listening to mp3s and been blown away? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers, Nick

(For the record, I upload tracks for Catch and Release in CD-quality .wav files. If you buy them through Bandcamp, you can choose to download in formats of varying levels of compression. However, once iTunes gets their hands on them, it’s out of my control…)