Steve Ball Diary  







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  Monday May 07 
Tuesday May 08 
Wednesday May 09 
Thursday May 10 
Friday May 11 
Saturday May 12 
Sunday May 13 
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Monday May 14 
Tuesday May 15 
Wednesday May 16 
Thursday May 17 
Friday May 18 
Saturday May 19 
Sunday May 20 

Monday May 07

A new week begins with a clean slate after a wonderful weekend.  

* * *

This just in:

here we are so close together
each a candle, each a flame
all the dangers were outside us
and we knew them each by name

  see how the bramble and the rose intertwine
  love grows like the bramble and the rose
  round each other we will twine

now you've hurt me and I've hurt you
just to see what we can do
to ourselves and to each other
without really meaning to

  see how the bramble and the rose intertwine
  love grows like the bramble and the rose
  round each other we will twine

so put your arms around me
and we'll sing a true love's song
and we'll learn to sing together
sing and laugh the whole night long

  see how the bramble and the rose intertwine
  love grows like the bramble and the rose
  round each other we will twine

* * *

And this, also just in from TravisM, taken at Mr. Spots two weeks ago:

* * *

Tuesday May 08

Spent most of the day today thinking it was Monday.  A close friend arrived home last evening, and last night felt like a Sunday night to me.  Missed SGC rehearsal in lieu of the airport; seems like that may have thrown a twist into rehearsal as well based upon Curt's description of rehearsal.  

* * *

Spent the bulk of the afternoon compiling six months of emails from an unfortunate character from whom I made the mistake of purchasing a major music editing system via ebay last November.  After six months and 80+ emails back and forth regarding the status of this multi-component system (for which I paid cash in advance, mistake #1, and of which 20% has still not arrived), it seems he is convinced that he can sleep soundly at night even though he has left a paper trail documenting his own blatant lying and interstate mail fraud.   

Clearly, he does not know who he is dealing with.

* * *

Tobin is back in Seattle, and he came over for a humble dinner this evening in Belltown.  Great to see him.  He brought over his new classic guitar and played a few ditties in TBST (Tobin Buttram Standard Tuning) for a grateful audience.  His tone kills me. Wish he would find a way to play out this summer...

* * *

This just in c/o TravisH, soon to be newly employed again by a top international photo distribution company.

Going It Alone

Singer-songwriters like Jonatha Brooke and Aimee Mann are using the Net to work their careers from outside the major-label system - and doing quite well for themselves, thank you.

By Julene Snyder

There's little glamour to be found at the Doubletree Inn in Omaha, Neb., but Jonatha Brooke isn't complaining. The independent singer-songwriter is in the midst of "touring her butt off," hitting what must feel like every town in the country to support her latest record, "Steady Pull."

Skipping the glitz that comes with touring on a major label has its challenges, but that's part of the price you pay for controlling your work and keeping a bigger cut of the profits. At a time when the entire music-industry landscape is in flux - with artists and labels alike trying to hammer out issues over copyright and compensation for digital use - former major-label artists like Brooke, Aimee Mann and others are finding that going independent and using technology to their advantage can pay off both financially and creatively.

After all, it's certainly no secret that the current major-label system is set up to make stars in the short-term, not to build careers for the long haul. "Major labels don't have much of an attention span unless you're 19 and really cute in hot pants." Brooke says ruefully.

Brooke, formerly with the critically acclaimed folk-pop group, the Story, says that on a major label, her new record - which came out in mid-February - would probably have been shunted to a back burner by now. But by releasing music on her own label, Bad Dog Records, she's already sold twice the number of records at this point in her new albums' life than she ever did on a major label, and she's just getting started with her own media blitz.

While it's standard today for artists to have their own Web sites, Brooke is more involved with hers, , than most. Her official bio calls the site a "remarkable tool in her independent marketing quest," and says that she uses the site to respond to fans directly and let them feel like they're part of the songwriting process.

So far, doing it her way is paying off, big-time. Brooke says her record's first single, "Linger," has reached the top 10 on adult-alternative charts, which is better than she ever achieved on a major label. She attributes this at least in part to her own passion for the music and, of course, being single-minded about promoting the record. Bottom line? "I get more of that money," Brooke says.

Having creative control is another significant reason for going independent. Aimee Mann, who came to fame as the lead singer of new-wave band 'Til Tuesday in 1985 and was nominated for an Oscar and a Grammy last year for her soundtrack to the movie "Magnolia," is also finding that independence suits her better than being signed to a major label.

Her turning point came in 1999 when Interscope decided not to release her album "Bachelor No. 2." "They'd basically inherited me and didn't know what to do with me," Mann recalls. "Since I'd come in under budget, if they'd released the record, they would have had to pay me." Instead, in an unusual deal, she used the money the label owed her - which she says was in the low six figures - to buy back the record and put it out herself. She considers herself the winner in the deal, even though she spent the money she'd been planning to live on for a year to regain ownership of her work. "I do exponentially better financially releasing my music myself," Mann says. "I've sold more records with my rinky-dink system than Geffen ever did with their whole staff." That rinky-dink system consists of Mann, her manager and an assistant, who've done whatever it takes to get her music to the people who want to hear it.

Mann also has relied heavily on the Internet, especially before she got a distribution deal for "Bachelor No. 2." She used her Web site, , as a way for fans to mail order the album, and she offered the entire album for paid download for just under $10.

To date, Mann says she's sold about 185,000 copies of "Bachelor No. 2," and the "Magnolia" soundtrack - composed almost entirely of Mann's songs - recently went gold with more than 500,000 copies sold. "On a major, you might make 50 cents a record - and you have to pay back the costs to make that record," Mann says. "As an indie, you make $8 a record."

Not to mention the psychic toll that being on a major label can take on an artist. "Nothing makes anyone happy," Mann recalls. "As an artist, you start to think, 'Maybe I'm not that good.' To go from that to being nominated for awards, getting great reviews and a great response from fans makes you think, 'Hmm. Maybe I've been hanging out with the wrong people.'" 

Go buy Bachelor No. 2 and the Magnolia soundtrack immediately.   And every Jonatha Brooke CD, in this order:


* * *

Turned off my phone this evening to put my full attention into crashing into the local scenery at home.  Well worth it. 

* * *

Wednesday May 09

Up early, walked the dog, and now, catching up on some way-behind email.  Scheduling for DavidS' upcoming visit to Seattle.   And working with a new notation program Curt turned me onto.  I'll be Scaling some Whales this afternoon before SBRS work with Travii later today and SGC rehearsal this evening.

* * *

Quote of the day:

"There is no double standard; there is only my standard."

- LH reflecting on a controversial group conversation regarding gender-based linguistics from a few weeks ago at Wild Ginger.

* * *

More reflections on life in a start-up (thanks Curt):

"If you join a team to play basketball and halfway through they decide without consulting you to switch to soccer, and soccer isn't your thing (or you don't think it's theirs), what do you do? What if you've placed a big bet on the team?" 

- from Ray Peck's Diary

* * *

Meeting late morning to discuss prudent ways to build a sustainable support structure for the next phase of work within the greater Seattle Guitar Circle. 

* * *

Afternoon: more work planting seeds for a new phase of SBRS performances to be launched shortly.  A new piece (with an XTC-esque hook and twists) is effortlessly delivered and dressed very quickly by this team.  These have been meetings with remarkable men.  It is a good sign for me when I leave a rehearsal with more energy than when I arrived.   

Tired, certainly, but energized.  

* * *

A small, but un-ignorable, medical emergency kept me home from SGC rehearsal this evening.  Sometimes our bodies sound warning bells letting us know that something is out of balance.  

Time to listen.

* * *

Thursday May 10

Follow-up lunch meeting today with some good progress from a core team committed to making a viable rehearsal/meeting/performance facility happen in Seattle. 

Some highlights from the two meetings:

"...the experiment here is over - this is as far as it goes - either it falls backwards, or it goes forward.  To go forward, it is time for someone to do something stupid or implausible."

Attributes (not necessarily limiting) of where we are:

1. no enthusiasm
2. no money
3. experience within the team
4. other non-cash resources 
5. many new people

T-shirt idea: "your contribution buys you jack"

Some quotes delivered by DeborahG via cell phone during our meeting from some old Red Lion House notes:  

"the aim in any GC house or community is transformation, in both wider and specific meanings."

"the question in any community is 'why?'   what is the aim?"

Inventory of potential facility functions:

acoustic rehearsals
electric rehearsals
private lessons
group lessons
acoustic performances
electric performances
private performances
public performances
temporary lodging
recording projects
merchandise sales
rental for other groups

Weighing the pros and cons of an LLC vs. a not-for-profit corporation.  After consultation with a remarkably useful attorney who works with many NFPs, and after exploring and evaluating our resources and goals, it is clear that a NFP corp is the way to go for this project.  

Still need to answer a few logistical questions, then we will be ready to move into action:

1. announce the project to those in the extended team who may wish to become involved 

2. formalize and actualize the NFP corporation

3. search for the appropriate facility to cover (at least) highest priority functions

4. put our money where our mouths are; sign a lease

5. define and ramp up operations in the new space

The small team discussing this project is neither closed, nor exclusive.  All it takes to get involved is a commitment to work to make this happen backed up by the ability to reach for your checkbook.

* * *

Late afternoon: finally, potential settlement from an ongoing Ebay entanglement.  Hopeful, but not holding my breath. 

* * *

Friday May 11

Up very early this morning.  Sleepless.  What to do?  Practice: airport exercise.  (Where am I going?)

* * *

External forces could be dragging down your brilliant effort. While it may be hard to take this on the chin, you will still gain an awful lot that you may not be immediately aware of. So you need to start thinking of the long term right now. Even if things seem rather bleak, there is a silver lining to be found. You would do well to hang around your most optimistic friends, at least for the next few days. It seems that the cosmos is not so much out to get you as it is out to challenge you to use the resources at your disposal.

- Infospace Horoscopes

* * *

Way to go Horacio, Martin, and Claudio!   Big Time have a new website. 

* * *

A good day, all around after a largely sleepless night.  Nice meeting with DonM at lunch.   Preparations and logistics for DavidS to arrive tomorrow.  

* * *

Another fun SBRS seed rehearsal chez Travii this afternoon; this time using TravisH's mini-disc recorder.  Great results from a dinky little device.  TravisM mailed an MP3 of rehearsal highlights later in the evening.  Nice stuff.

* * *

Wonderful conversations during dinner this evening.  Moving closer to clarity regarding the possible futures.

* * *

Saturday May 12

More underwater sports training this morning and afternoon.  Learning to breath underwater.  This time, in some very, very cold water in West Seattle.  Saw some amazing underwater sights including a Lays Potato Chip bag.

Passed Bob, Jax, Isabel, and Eve on the road while driving home after my class and exchanged cell phone messages.

Post-dive: slept like a rock briefly, body recovering from the shock of two dips into <50° water.   Complete disorientation after waking up.  Same deal tomorrow: last day of class.

* * *

Found this during some late afternoon mail clean-up:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "DL" 
To: 'SB"
Sent: Wednesday, May 09, 2001 9:34 AM
Subject: DS


I've been rolling over a line in my head, makes me think of the whole VC  thing, "How to succeed at trying without really business".
 Hope that gives you a chuckle.

Chuckling out loud!  Looking forward to dinner with DL tomorrow evening.   Tonight: LH has yet another shower to attend, and DavidS arrives.  

Some early evening Seattle orientation to follow my afternoon disorientation.

* * *

Heard rumors about a version of the Possible Productions pentad knotwork showing up on the 30th Anniversary re-master of "Discipline."   

Love to see this up close myself someday on the finished product.  Wonder if they did an emboss like the original?  

* * *

Do not miss Tobin's Friday May 11th entry.  Excellent stuff here.  An excerpt: 

"12/29/91 - Just thinking:
Level I: There's always hope.
Level II: The more you work, the more you have to keep working. And, thankfully, the more you're able to. Sometimes. 
Level III: I am an asshole.
Level IV: Choose and commit.
Level V: Learn to work.
Level VI: Work."

To which, ten years later, I might add: 

Level VII: Work in the world.
Level VIII: Work being watched, measured, perhaps even judged by the world.
Level IV: Let it go; begin again.

* * *

Sunday May 13

Feeling like early days of BTV around Seattle today.  DavidS in town, schedule packed with meetings and greetings, some of these happening in various Starbucks around town.  Just back from two in a row.

Well-timed call from RF to DS during the beginning of the first meeting this afternoon; seems RF has recently read somewhere about the looming end of the Seattle Experiment and apparently has his own take on this...

* * *

Wonderful dinner on Mercer Island with LH and DavidLV.  Great to have these people around one table.

Tomorrow is another full day.  And I am now a certified scuba diver.  To bed early this evening. 

* * *

Happy Mom's day, Mom(s).

* * *


Monday May 14

More meeting facilitation with DavidS.  All over the map today.  MS in the morning, lunch with Mr. Cranium, afternoon follow-up with DavidL, then afternoon tea and dinner with the last of the Bootleg hold-outs.  

Something new is being born out of necessity.  Theme for this period: scale back to what is real and necessary in the short term.  Ironically, we are back where we were one year ago, facing many of the same problems with new, but experienced eyes.

* * * 

SGC rehearsal this evening: a septet.  Hard work with very little glamour or gratification.  It is like that sometimes, much of the time, in fact.   

Too much email to deal with any of it tonight. 

* * *

Tuesday May 15

Some photos from a recent Electrochakra show:

Note the inventive use of high technology lighting...

* * *

Wednesday May 16

9am meeting at Cafe Ladro in Freemont with the team working on acquiring a work space in Seattle.  Some good discussion and general agreement about what we are looking for.  Here is a draft outline:

Seattle Circle (working name) is a not for profit corporation.  We are looking for a commercial space to lease for at least one year.  The space must be at least one large room, with attached bathroom.  At minimum, the room must be suitable for group meetings of 6-20 guitarists, private lessons, and sittings.  Available monthly budget (including all utilities, hidden costs):  $500-$2000, depending upon features of the facility.

Facility Needs

Priority One (necessary)

q       large room with good acoustics

o         minimum 15’ x 15’

o         ideally at least 25’ x 25’

o         unobstructed view for circle work

o         square-ish dimensions

q       bathroom

q       secure space with multiple keys

q       available parking nearby for 8-25 vehicles

q       controllable heating

q       distributed electricity

q       sound proof enough to be isolated from neighbors

q       available for operations between at least 7am – 11pm, 7 days/week

q       ideal neighborhoods: ballard, phinney, greenlake, wallingford, fremont, queen anne, ravena, capital hill


Priority Two (optional)

q       storage space (chairs, gear, cases, blankets, supplies, tables, furniture)

q       simple kitchen facilities (sink, coffee station, small refrigerator)

q       extra room for private lessons, min 8’ x 8’

q       extra secure room for administrative office, min 6’ x 6’

q       extra room for kids playroom, min 8’ x 8’

q       available 24/7


Priority Three (luxury)

q       electronic security system

q       expanded kitchen facilities (stove, preparation area, food storage)

q       secure storage space for electric gear, PA system, supplies

q       extra room for guest lodging, min 8’ x 8’

q       soundproof for electric work

q       zoned for public events

q       built-in or natural stage area for performances

q       hang-out room or foyer with couches, coat storage

q      self-cleaning

q       attached recording facilities


Potential functions within the space

q       sittings

q       meetings

q       acoustic rehearsals

q       classes

q       private lessons

q       group lessons

q       instruction

q       short courses

q       electric rehearsals

q       acoustic performances

q       electric performances

q       private performances

q       public performances

q       child care

q       meals

q       meal preparation facilities

q       temporary lodging

q       recording projects

q       merchandise sales

q       rental for other groups

Functions key:

priority one
priority two
priority three

Participation in this project is not limited by physical proximity. Active participation is not exclusive to the core team who have already assembled to begin the project.  Consider this announcement as notification that your participation is possible and encouraged. 

* * *

Another day full of meetings.  Followed by a too-long list of necessary preparations for a trip east to visit my family.  

* * *

un·re·solved [ůn ri zólvd ] adjective 
not resolved: not resolved or decided a list of unresolved queries 

re·solved [ri zólvd ] adjective 
determined: determined in purpose

-- Encarta® World English Dictionary

* * *

Thursday May 17

Up circa 4:00am to head to the airport.  Later in the day: meet the parents.  And sister graduates from Law School.  Photos to follow.

* * *

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "SHEEBA" 
To: SB
Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2001 9:27 AM

How quiet the world seems.
In spite of the racket.
What is this mutedness?
Is it me?
Are you finding things strange, too?
Activity not really catching fire.
Momentum needing prodding.
Quiet rearrangement of known rules.
Time opening up like a strange flower.
You look up from the book you are reading.
Then you see that so much work has been done.
You say, no one is calling me.
Then you see, you calling no one either.
Did it snow last night and we just can't see it?
Did someone leave the emergency brake on?

Yet ...
Days crystalline.
Joy shardlike.

Are you finding this, too?

. . . . . . . . . .

SHEEBA wishes you, on her fifth birthday, all abundance.
May we be ever more aware of our blessings.

I am aware of the blessing of you.

Jane Siberry

. . . . . . . . . .

He lifts the street with his pure strain. He sits alone in front of the tv.
The neighbours lights go out. The garden. Love flows between, down and
around the darkened abodes as people give up.
A baby bird starts peeping in the dark.
Shhh! say the other birds.


* * *

Friday May 18

Family day.  Translation: slept until noon.  Ate lunch.  Nap.  Ate dinner.  Early to bed.

* * *

Saturday May 19

Sister JD


More tourists

* * *

Sunday May 20

Just back from four days with on the east coast.  My sister just graduated from Temple University Law School.  I had a debilitating stomach flu during the entire trip.  

Just ahead: a full mail box and a fresh week of work from which to unbury myself.   

* * *