Echoes & Light: How the Dot-com Bubble Accidently Paved the Way to My First Album
In 2009, I printed and released Echoes & Light, an album of instrumental guitar music that I wrote, performed, and recorded myself. Upon release, I immediately focused my efforts on spreading the word about my album, and as a result, I began receiving booking requests. Now, that seems pretty straightforward and unremarkable, right? However, the events that led up to its release were anything but a straight path. Here’s the story that I never get a chance to tell — until now. It started before anyone had ever heard the term, “dot-com bubble”:
I have often referred to Echoes & Light as my first album, but before this, I had recorded two full-length albums. They were briefly available online between 1999 and 2003. In those days, releasing an album online was still a new endeavor, and the tools to do so were in their infancy. Back then, I was mostly writing and recording electronic music consistent with the ambient, downtempo, and electronic music genres of the day (think early Moby).
Sometime in 1999, my music caught the attention of a music supervisor of a new entertainment startup, Moderngroove Entertainment. They felt that the music was a good match for a game they were developing for Sony. They reached out to me with a licensing agreement to use an entire album’s worth of new songs I had just finished.
The company was also shopping my music to record labels at events such as MIDEM. Moderngroove had artists on their roster who were creating amazing music. They also struck a deal with Ministry of Sound to provide music for their first game in development, and this received much attention in the music press. My music was to be included in the second title they released. I signed the contract and announced to everyone that I now had an interesting project in the works. My music was going to be on a Sony Playstation game!
After many delays and setbacks, they released Moderngroove: Ministry of Sound Edition (2001), featuring over five hours of Breakbeat, Garage, House, Techno, and Trance music as mixed by DJs Tall Paul, Ferry Corsten, Paul Dakeyne, Krafty Kuts, and Paul Jackson. Each track had a pre-scripted “music video” but users could remix and customize the visuals using the Visual Mixer (source: steam-games.org).
As it turns out, Moderngroove: Ministry of Sound Edition (2001) was the only game completed and released by the company. They never got to release the second title.
Due to excessive development and research expenses, the company ran out of working capital and closed in 2001. At that time, the company reported having a staff of over 50 artists, engineers, producers, and business personnel (source: mobygames.com).
In all honesty, it pretty much sucked that Moderngroove was out of business. I had previously announced to everyone that they could expect my music on a Sony Playstation title, and now I had to figure out how to explain the dot com bubble and the aforementioned failure of their first title. Moreover, I had to figure out how I was going to get my music to the public without their assistance.
The Early Days of Home Studios
Now that Moderngroove was no more, it became important to find a way to release music on my own. In those days, releasing your own music online meant learning all the tools, code, and programs yourself. These were the early days of Napster, Adobe, Macromedia, Digidesign, Cubase, Sonic Foundry, Waves, eBay, Amazon, Netscape, and all the classic CMS platforms of the early 2000s.
For musicians, spreading the word meant having a presence on MP3 dot com and your own website. The concept of “social media” came much later. Other online platforms came and went as the dot-com bubble became the now-famous graveyard of the tech industry.
As I learned to use these tools, I got to work recording my music. I invested in a very nice Pro Tools rig and bought everything I needed to record. I took classes on MIDI integration and programming, digital audio, recording techniques, videography, photography, and multimedia production. I read all the applicable chapters in All you Need to Know About the Music Business and other books. Sites such as YouTube and Skillshare were nonexistent, so I learned everything I could by reading, asking a lot of questions, and by doing. By 2003, I had attended every class on audio, video, and multimedia design offered by my local college. Every class!
Feedback — The Good Kind
I went to songwriting and recording workshops in Manhattan, Nashville, Dallas, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I attended conferences such as South by Southwest in Austin and signed up for mentoring tracks and listening sessions. Over and over, I had my songs evaluated by producers and songwriters. Some of the best feedback I ever received was from Charlie Peacock (Grammy-winning producer), advice that I use to this day.
By 2006, I felt I had a pretty good handle on how an independent artist could release music and remain in creative and financial control of their career. Only one more skill set was required to complete this education in music: performing music outside my comfort zone. That year, I joined Geno, an 8-piece variety band that performed each week at area clubs and events. The greatest growth I experienced as a musician came as a result of performing each week, year after year, with these guys.
Despite my tenacity to learn each and every aspect of production and performance, I still felt that recording a guitar-oriented album was a long way off. I was nowhere near where I wanted to be as a guitarist. Time felt as if it were rushing by faster than I could keep up, and I wondered if an album of original music would ever happen. Then, I found a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.
The Artist’s Way
Julia Cameron provided an answer to each and every doubt and insecurity that artists experience on the way toward a creative life. For the first time, I felt that recording this album would be possible for me. I applied her advice to my creative process. To say that the book positively impacted my approach is an understatement. The Artist’s Way, and her follow-up, Walking in this World are the reasons Echoes & Light became a reality.
Echoes & Light has a special place in my journey and represents some of my first attempts at writing, performing, and recording a guitar album myself. I have to admit, it took some courage to release this to the public. I wanted a good album, one that I would listen to myself.
Despite this, since its release I sometimes catch myself saying, “I don’t think I would have played it like that today,” and other observations about my competence at the time of the recording. Because I felt that it did not represent my current skill set, I had this album removed from streaming services at some point. However, I often run into people who tell me how much this album meant to them and reminds them of a particular time in their life. They tell me they often played it during their commutes, at their weddings, while they worked, and in the classroom. So after giving it some thought, I decided to release it here again.
For the first time in a long time, I feel grateful for the experiences of Echoes & Light, and the tremendous support I received upon its release. It represented a starting point, a place from which music became for me more than just rote and repetition. This is where music took on greater meaning for me and played a larger role in my life.
So if you can get past the passé gradient font and lo-resolution audio, I think you will find something interesting and emotional here.
Also, I should mention that one thing I enjoy doing is revising the production values and performances of past releases. So there could be a situation in which I replace one of these songs with an improved or remastered version. It’s one of the freedoms I enjoy as an independent artist. It feels like complete freedom when I can revise my music like this. Check back often to see if I have revised another track. Consider this a “living document” that I will revisit from time to time with new versions and updated technology. As long as I’m alive, the music will be, too.