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Dec 20, 2011 11:51 AM

Michael Lauf

Happy Hanukkah to our Favorite Jewish Artists

To all my fellow Jews out there, Happy Hanukkah! We thought it’d be fun to compile a list of our top 8 favorite Jewish musicians in ABC order. One for each night! And if you’re expecting Adam Sandler to make this list you can forget about it. Once you play yourself as a girl in a should-be-straight-to-DVD movie, you’re off the list.

So without further ado, enjoy.

1. Beastie Boys

Let’s face it, when you think of Jewish musicians, Hip Hop doesn’t often come to mind. Kind of like when you think of Hip Hop, Jews don’t normally come to mind. But these guys have been holding it down since 1979, and still kicking ass 30 years later. No doubt, they were a driving force behind the modern day Hip Hop era, and anyone (much less three…even if one did convert) who can balance that kind of responsibility and temple at the same time…well I just have the utmost respect.

2. Sammy Davis Jr.

Would he have made the list if this was just best musicians of all time? Maybe not, but let’s look at the facts. He chose us!!! Not only was he an iconic figure in Sinatra’s Rat Pack, but I’m sure he had enough to deal with, being a black musician in the 50’s and 60’s. As if that wasn’t enough adversity, he just decided to throw another wrench in the gears and call himself a Jew? Ballsiest move I’ve ever seen. Yeah…he’s in the top 8.

3. Danny Elfman

Many of you might be wondering who Danny Elfman is. The only response I have to that is 1989, a pivotal year in my childhood. Tim Burton’s Batman came out, as did the first episode of The Simpsons. And Danny Elfman wrote the score for both. Other films he’s composed the score for: Beetlejuice, Mission Impossible, Men in Black, Good Will Hunting, Spider Man, Big Fish, and a TON more. (Not to mention he pulled in a Grammy for those last two.)

4. Art Garfunkel

6 Grammy’s, a Lifetime Achievement award, and in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And he did all of that without ever hiding that magnificent Jew-fro of his.

5. Scarlett Johansson

Let me first address all your questions. Yes, she’s Jewish. Yes, she’s put out an album. And yes, I’m in love with her. My list, my rules. Was her album even any good? Honestly, who cares.

6. Randy Newman

I’ll keep this one short…Toy Story.

7. Gene Simmons

I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Really, Gene F*%king Simmons?” But you can’t deny, this guy revolutionized a very specific brand of music – Glam Rock. There’s no better feeling than coming home from a great concert amazed at not only the sounds you heard, but the visual experience as a whole. Sure, it’s about the music, but the visual effects in a concert can make or break the show often times. And we can thank Gene Simmons for that. Not to mention, he’s slept with, literally, thousands of women.

8. Weird Al

And finally, we have #8, Weird Al. Wait…what’s that you say? He’s NOT JEWISH???? You’ve gotta be F*%cking kidding me!!

The real 8. George Gershwin

Ok, in case you’re still upset about Scarlett, Gene, Weird Al, or any of my other choices, I’ll give you a serious one. George Gershwin. Not someone we think about too often these days, but he truly did change early 20th century music standards. Both classical and modern musicians still, and will always, be performing renditions of Rhapsody in Blues and An American in Paris. My motto, once you’ve had a Broadway theater named after you, you’ve made it.

But now for a special Hanukkah present for all my Jewish and non-Jewish brethren alike. The Jews who didn’t make the list in no particular order.

1. Adam Sandler
2. William Shatner
3. Paula Abdul
4. Neil Diamond
5. George Michael
6. Mike Gordon and the rest of Phish
7. Zac Efron
8. Julio Iglesias (yep, he’s actually Jewish…and maybe should have made the list)
9. Matisyahu (he would have made it, until he shaved his beard)
10. Lenny Kravitz
11. Adam Lambert
12. Ashley Tisdale
13. Barry Manilow
14. Amy Winehouse
15. Michael Bolton
16. Mandy Moore (love her too though)
17. Adam Duritz (Counting Crows)
18. Olivia Newton-John
19. Madonna
20. David Lee Roth
21. Jack Black (he probably could have made the list. He’s Sonic f*%king Death Monkey)
22. Phil Spector
23. Barbra Steisand
24. Adam Levine


Oct 11, 2011 04:40 PM

Michael Lauf

Artist On The Rise - Sarah Wallis

The other week, I had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite new acts to come out of the awesome state of Vermont – Sarah Wallis.  I have been following her progress since the beginning of the year so I jumped at the opportunity to ask her a few questions after her recent gig in Harvard Square for their Oktoberfest celebrations.

First, how was Oktoberfest? Were you able to check out any of the other artists playing?

Great time in Cambridge at Oktoberfest.  There was so much great music going on, I didn’t get see it all!  It was a great time, lots of fun people.

You’ve had a killer year so far on Sonicbids, having booked 18 gigs already. What’s the method behind the gigs you submit to or try book?

Well, first and most importantly, I think it’s important to have great music and really want to get out there and play! Otherwise, there’s no point in putting your name in for anything.

I really check out the gig.  I look for places that I might like to play, and are a good fit for my style, within reasonable driving time.  Then, I check out the rest of the story: I check out the venue or sponsor, other people who’ve played there, and I read the comments.  I even go to their websites and keep in touch with promoters.

Another thing I do is to use my EPK! Not just for Sonicbids gigs, but all the time.  When I want to connect with a venue, it is SO easy to drop an email with my EPK that has it all. I also try to keep my EPK up to date  – best advice – have your EPK looking great because you never know who has searched your name and music!

I know you’re gearing up to play Indie Week in Toronto next week, and then have a showcase at NACA’s Northeast Conference in November. Are there any other festivals or events you’d like to book in the coming year and do you have any tips for other artists trying to book similar gigs?

Yeah, it was so cool to get an email that I was in the final round for the Planetary Group concert in China.  I would absolutely love to rock a festival like that.  While I didn’t get the China gig, I did get my CD translated into Chinese to be distributed there.  I’m really looking forward to showcasing NACA and booking colleges this fall—such great venues, high energy, and it’s about the music!

I’ve read comments from people who doubt the credibility of Sonicbids – it’s been so very good to me. If you put together a kick-ass EPK, an honest agenda, and a good sound, you’ll get picked up on Sonicbids.  It’s not a scam, you’ll get the gigs if you’ve got the goods, ya know?

Oh, and it’s okay NOT to get selected, there is a lot of talent out there, but at least you got heard and seen, and there will be a next time!

Congrats on your first CD release this past February! Your self-titled album has gotten great write-ups in Seven Days and Verbicide. Is it too soon to ask if you have any new recordings or projects in the works? 

I totally do.  I’m getting back to the grassroots of Vermont!  More boot stomping, upbeat kind of songs, ya know?  I’ve been working in the studio and hope to have some tracks for you very soon.  I’m scheduled to get back in the studio as soon as I get back from Toronto.

As a fellow Vermonter (at least by association as I went to the University of Vermont), I gotta ask: favorite local venue, artist, and while we’re at it, local Vermont brew?

The Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland, VT is very special. It’s a super old Inn as well as tavern.  I also really look forward to Art in the Park in Rutland, super close to my hometown.  It’s an outdoor art show that I’ve successfully rocked 2 years in a row now!

It’s hard to pinpoint one local artist that I hold above the others.  There are so many talented people around and I think we’ve all influenced each other.  I respect every musician I cross paths with, and I think that’s what keeps Vermont music so alive and real.

Vermont brew is the prime brew!  I’m always talking about The Alchemist. And of course, Long Trail and the Trapp Family Lodge – those would be my top three.  In order.

Be sure to look at Sarah’s EPK and view her calendar dates here so you can check out a live show.  You can also follow her on Facebook.

It’s also worth noting that The Alchemist is the only brewery in Vermont I’ve gone as far as to buy a T-shirt.  If you’re ever in Stowe, VT, they’re definitely worth the visit. 

Oct 5, 2011 04:38 PM

Michael Lauf

Office Gig Recap: Sinem Saniye

Last Thursday we had the pleasure of watching Sinem Saniye play a few songs for us inside our office. After helping her carry up an amp, mic stand, bag full of pedals, another bag full of percussion instruments, and two guitars –for a solo performance, mind you – I can honestly say, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Soon after, I was one of many in our office, beer in hand and jaw on the floor, as Sinem demonstrated an unbelievable range of styles, playing originals in Pop, Latin, Jazz, and I may have even heard a little Bossanova in there!  Of course, it wouldn’t be her style if she didn’t throw in some cultural flares, which included a cover of The Girl From Ipanema in Turkish.  45 short minutes later, and she was on her way to gig at Johnny D’s, in Somerville, MA - although, she really drove up to see us, but don't tell Johnny D's!

While this was Sinem’s first time in the office, she’s certainly been a familiar name for quite some time.  She’s played SXSW, MUSE EXPO, NXNE, MIDEM, 20+ TV appearances, performed with Lisa Loeb, Michele Branch, and Stephen Kellogg, and has booked over 80 gigs on Sonicbids since joining in 2005.  You can say it…damn.

Check out this video clip of Sinem’s performance below and  visit her official website here.  Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear about our office gigs!  You can always catch them live here.

Marketing & Promotion

Aug 23, 2011 10:28 AM

Michael Lauf

Our Farewell to Summer Reading: Recap

Well friends, as the summer comes to a close, I thought it’d be fun to post a final recap of each book covered in our weekly Summer Reading posts. While Summer Reading might be over, it certainly doesn’t mean we’ll stop writing. Send us your suggestions if you ever come across a book you feel your fellow musicians might want to know about. Tweet at us @sonicbids or feel free to email me directly!

Without further ado:

All You Need to Know About the Music Business: Seventh Edition
Now in it’s 7th addition, Donald Passman has created what many consider to be “the industry bible.” There’s a reason why we started off the series with this book. Covering everything from recording, publishing, merchandising, copyright, management, to digital media, All You Need To Know About The Music Business hits just about every aspect of the music industry. Simply put, it’s the what’s what of the music industry.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Revised and Expanded Edition
This book explores the awesome power music has on the brain. The author, Oliver Sacks, is a Neuroscientist who went looking for the answer as to why certain songs get stuck in our head, or how brain trauma can have a dramatic affect on how we perceive music. One example is of a middle-aged surgeon who had no notable interest in music, but after getting struck by lighting became obsessed with piano and even went on to play and compose his own pieces. As musicians, we often get caught up in our own musical success and sometimes forget why we even chose music as a lifestyle or even a career choice. Musicophilia helps us understand exactly what’s happening in our brains causing us to make these decisions.

So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star: How I Machine-Gunned a Roomful Of Record Executives and Other True Tales from a Drummer's Life
In this memoir, Jacob Slichter, recounts his experiences going from a Friday night bar band to selling out stadiums and festivals in the ‘90’s hit band, Semisonic (yeah, you remember this song). His writing is witty and honest, making it an easy read and something you don’t want to put down. Along the way, he describes with brilliant detail, the process of getting picked up (and dropped) by a major label, the corrupt business of radio, how nothing is actually free, and what it’s like to play in front of 100,000 screaming fans all singing along to lyrics you wrote. Slichter’s book is the best artist memoir I’ve read to date to learn about the realistic inner-workings of the music industry.

The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World
David Kirkpatrick may not have written this with a musician audience in mind, but it’s still important to understand the digital era we all live in – whether we like it or not. Lets face it, starting a band really isn’t much different than a startup.  And like a startup, bands need to find the right people to work with, create something cool and figure out how to get people to pay attention to it.  In almost all cases, the examples used in The Facebook Effect can be applied to artists to help make your career more successful.

In Futurehit.DNA, Jay Frank provides 15 rules artists should abide by when trying to make a hit song. These rules take into account not just industry trends, but the ever-changing consumer market. How often do you listen to a song and immediately hate it within the first few seconds? We all experience this but don’t want anyone to feel that way about our songs. Frank uses technological changes in the industry to explain why this is and how to avoid it. Whether you’re trying to make a commercial hit, or just widen your fan base, Futurehit.DNA introduces important rules you might want to pay attention to.

Eating the Dinosaur
Not every book in this list is an industry guide to success. Some are for pure pleasure and entertainment, which is exactly what Eating the Dinosaur is. In this book, Chuck Klosterman explores the greater picture in American pop culture. Each chapter tends to be a philosophical prompt revolving around music or pop culture, and is completely unrelated to the last. Music lover or not, it’s an entertaining read that’ll have you laughing most of the way through. Was there really a connection between Nirvana’s In Utero and the Branch Davidian Cult?

The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution (Berklee Press)
Wouldn’t it be cool if record execs actually worked hard to make music accessible to everyone rather than charging $.99 per song, or $15 per album! Pipe dream? -- Maybe not. David Kusek and Gerd Leonhard, make predictions and suggestions to what the future of music might and could look like. They introduce ideas of a Utopian society where the music industry is more like a modern day utility company, charging a premium for unlimited access to music. The key takeaway here is that change is inevitable and necessary. More importantly, there are options. People just need to be flexible and willing to look outside the box.

Artist Management for the Music Business, Second Edition
Whether you’re an aspiring manager or just manage your own band, managing an artist’s career is not something most people do well. Paul Allen uses real world examples from real artist managers to teach every thinkable aspect of how to successfully manage a band. Not only does each chapter go into unbelievable detail, but he also provides actual templates for recording contracts, band partnership agreements, and more. This book speaks to both managers and artists and is an absolute must for any artist trying to propel their career to that next level.


Aug 19, 2011 10:18 AM

Michael Lauf

Best Summer Festival? Our pick is Bonnaroo!

There’s nothing better than sitting back with a cold beer in your hand, shoes off, grass in between your toes, watching your favorite artist perform live with a cool breeze and the sun setting in the background.  Beg to differ?  You might be right.  Let me paint another picture…

Imagine the same scenario, but replace the cold beer with a warm beer, keep the grass but instead of a cool breeze, how about 99 degrees with no wind at all, no tree or any shade for that matter in site – in fact the sun doesn’t seem to ever set.  It seems to stay up in that noon-position 24 hours a day, burning the skin off your back.  You’re with 80,000 of your closest friends and instead of seeing your favorite band, your seeing 15 of your favorite bands, with another 30 you’ve never heard of before…and then some.  You’re at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival and it’s a fucking blast.

Without a doubt in my mind, the summer I attended the Manchester, TN-based Bonnaroo Festival forever changed my opinion on the best summer concert I had ever been to.  How many other opportunities do you have to camp out on a 700-acre farm and bounce back and forth between over 6 different stages almost 24 hours a day for 3 days?  With the wide open space and amazing stage setups, it’s hard find a bad seat and you never quite feel over crowded.  Whether you choose to stand up close and throw your hands in the air like you just don’t care or sit further back on a blanket, you can make the experience has intense or relaxing as you want.  For those who need a bit of a break from the music every now and then, there’s an endless supply of food vendors, sponsor tents (with a ton of fun activities), shops, and artisan tents to roam through and get out of the sun.

Having started primarily has a festival for jam bands, they’ve since expanded their pallet to include almost every genre.  I dare you to find another festival where Chris Rock opens up for Metallica.  A glimpse into the artists I saw in 2008 (besides Chris Rock and Metallica) include Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson, B.B. King, Robert Plant and Allison Krauss, Umphrey’s McGee, MGMT, Bela Fleck, Ben Folds, Kanye West, Widespread Panic, O.A.R., Lupe Fiasco, Adele, and about 50 other’s.

There are no words to describe the feeling other than a true experience.  Live shows are always a blast to go to, but a 3 day event, camping out on 700 acres with more bands than you know what to do with…well that’s just special.

Got a favorite summer festival? Leave it in the comments or tweet it to us @Sonicbids.