There's a particularly worrying trend for indie venues to close lately, especially since the pandemic began. But in fact, this has been going on for quite a while due to a decline of attendance at live shows. It's been happening up and down the country.
Sadly, I recently found out that Toronto's Rivoli club is has gone up for sale. Now Magazine's coverage of the story https://nowtoronto.com/food-and-drink/the-rivoli-is-for-sale. Being from Toronto, I cut my teeth in clubs like this. Back in the early days my band Touchwood was booked as support act (opener) for Don Ross and his band Eye Music. I was also acquainted with Andre Rosenbaum, one of the original owners of The Rivoli. He'd been involved with Street Cry Theater (a not-for-profit arts grant venture), my first stage experience, and what became my music career launching off point. People like Andre, big arts supporters, can really make a difference and provide much needed nurturing of new talent. The Riv's been trying to raise awareness of the issue of music venues at risk. You can find out more about this on their Facebook page.
Toronto's iconic Lee's Palace is on the endangered Canadian venues list. You can read more about Lee's Palace's plight in this Jul 27, 2020 CBC news report https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/canadian-concert-venues-risk-permanent-shut-down-1.5663655 A shocking 90% of indie music venues are at risk of closures and many have been forced to quit the music biz already.
Video outro segment of my band Touchwood's performance at Lee's Palace. Broadcast on Roger's television (channel 10), in Toronto, 1988.
The Canadian Independent Venue Coalition is requesting your support. Please sign their petition and if you are able to afford it, any donations would be appreciated https://www.supportcanadianvenues.ca
Venues are at risk down south, as well. The legendary Bitter End club of New York is now on the endangered venues list. I personally feel very sad about this. I was booked at the club three times for the singer-songwriter showcases. The Bitter End Club became a very important place for me when a talent scout for a licensing company came to watch me perform in Greenwich Village. I was invited to Tin Pan Alley. I signed a licensing contract for five of my songs. Over the past several decades this club has been the pivot point for many songwriters. Legendary songwriter's such as; Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and T-Bone Burnett have graced their stage. The Bitter End club has recently been forced to campaign for funds of support to remain open. The Go Fund Me link: https://www.gofundme.com/f/22gz4snuk0
My song 'East to West' (released on Symphony for Two album in 1994), and, the Lesley Young Duo's performance for the 2012 Singer-Songwriter's Showcase at The Bitter End Club.
And for all the guitar players out there, I'd like to share my recent invention, which is now listed on the Guitar Tuning Data Base: Double dropped C# (C#,A,D,G,B,C#). "A little wander down from Double dropped D tuning (D,A,D,G,B,D)." I've written a song in double dropped C# open tuning. I hope to share it with you in the near future!
Post was edited at 17:02 EDT.
Steppin' back to 1999. Two songs have never been released. 'This is from a demo I recorded with Evan Dales in Toronto. It features myself on acoustic guitar, vocals, Cindy Smith on backing vocals and Evan Dales on synth, and percussion. Updated 31/07/2020: 'Open Sea' is on the Inside album.
Live Radio Playlist
This playlist features two songs from a Lesley Young Duo live radio performance. I'm posting it for anyone who has recently become a blog reader and may have missed hearing the podcast.
Presented by the Amsterdam Songwriter's Guild, our performance was broadcast on Amsterdam Radio 5. Recorded in front of a live audience in OBA studio, at the Amsterdam library on the 25th of May in 2009.
Another a secret link for all of my fans!
A little snapshot, if you will, of an afternoon Jammin' in South Holland, 4th of April 2019.
Updated 21:25 EDT
There is a studio recording of this song available. 'Wait Until Darkness Comes' was recorded in Toronto, and released on my Inside album in 2007. It was the soundtrack for Cruel and Curious Sea II, a Short Documentary Film about an art installation off the coast of Cornwal, UK, in 2014. Watch the film.
Music composed by Lesley Young Shop.
This is a live performance at the 'Parkdale Then and Now Festival' in Toronto on 6th of June in 1998.
Here's the secret link on Soundcloud.
'River of Life' was later released in 2007 on the 'Inside' album. You can find this studio version of my song with a full band arrangement in the online Shop.
Photo credit: Greg Rosenke
This blog post was edited at 22:15 EDT.
The music industry has made a big shift to streaming and Canadian music artists are paying for it.
Streaming has changed the music industry for ever, but not for the better.
It was so gratifying to watch well-known Quebec musician Pierre Lapointe stand up for music creators on this year’s Franco Felix Awards programme, which was broadcast on C.B.C News from Montreal. Lapointe is one of Canada’s most celebrated French singer-songwriters.
Lapointe spoke out against digital streaming sites like Spotify and Apple Music:
“The problem is the huge corporations who make loads of money and are not giving any of that money back to society, as they put all their money in tax havens. They’re the ones who have to make sure that money comes back to the creators to pay for the content they produce. I don’t understand how these multinational companies don’t understand this. So it’s up to the governments to make it happen, but the governments, including the Canadian government, are corrupt. They’re influenced by the lobbyists.”
He went on to say: “For a million streams on Spotify of my song Je déteste ma vie, one of my best-known songs, I made, as a songwriter, around $600.”
It’s clear to many music artists that the Government of Canada needs to ‘step up to the plate!’ Canadian music makers have been dealt a devastating blow since streaming giants have taken over the music industry, and just like anyone else, we deserve to earn a living wage.
In October, over 200 Quebec musicians signed a letter to demand the Government take action to make Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, other streaming giants pay out more to creators.
Excerpt from the letter of protest:
“For sure, the arrival of services like YouTube, Spotify and Apple Music have created a huge amount of choice and access to music like never before. Music has never been more present in our lives and that evolution is fantastic. But the paradox is that at the same time it’s become much more difficult for creators and the people around them to make a living. For many of us, our living conditions have become much worse in the last few years.”
The facts speak for themselves:
- 0.004¢ per song stream is what a songwriter makes on Spotify
- Spotify has raised its subscriber target at the end of 2019, from 255 to 270 million
- Spotify reported total revenue of €1.67bn in the second quarter of 2019, up by 31%, and 108 million subscribers (for the same quarter)
- The hit song “Happy” earned Pharrell Williams a mere $2,700 in songwriter royalties for 43 million plays streaming
– Audio Stream value - 1500 plays equal 1 album unit sale
- Video Stream value – 11,750 views equal 1 album unit sale
- 80% of music industry revenue came from streaming (2019)
- Musicians are the most followed users on social media worldwide
- Streaming on Pandora, an independent artist would need around 87, 515 plays a month to earn the US monthly minimum wage of $1,472 (approx. $9.49 Cnd per hr)
- YouTube and Apple Music pay $0.00074 and $0.0064 per stream
- In 2018, Canada had the world's sixth largest music industry
- In 1986, 26% of all global concert ticket revenue went to the top 1% of performers
- Today, it's 60% of global concert revenue that goes to the top 1% of performers
Why our government should be working for music creators to settle the disparity:
Rolling Stone reported that music makers only receive 12% of the money generated by the music industry and music superstars are the new 1%.
“The IFPI, the organization representing the interests of the global recorded music industry, has released its 2019 Global Industry Report. It indicates that global recorded music market grew by 9.7% in 2018, the fourth consecutive year of growth. The IFPI's figures show worldwide total revenues for 2018 were US$19.1 billion. Canada's recorded music market, however, appears to have stagnated.” Michael Raine, for Canadian Musician magazine.
Perhaps, even if billions of dollars are earned from streaming in Canada, streaming revenues will not sustain the Canadian music industry, if the lion’s share is going into the pockets of transnational streaming giants.
Editorial headline in the popular Montreal newspaper, Le Devoir on 30, October, 2019:
Musique en péril: le temps d’agir
Music at Risk: Time to Act
Robert Dutrisac goes on to say:
“Dominée par des sociétés transnationales, et apatrides quand il s’agit de payer leur dû en taxes et impôts, la révolution numérique est un véritable cauchemar pour l’industrie québécoise de la musique.”
Dominated by transnational corporations, who are stateless when it comes to paying their taxes, the digital revolution is a genuine nightmare for the Quebec music industry.
I would go much further and say this immense disparity is hurting the entire music industry, not just Quebec artists. Talented music artists in all of Canada have been marginalized and face poverty. I have personally seen the music industry go from being a viable income source to a financially risky bisiness since the 1990’s. We need Federal legislation to force the streaming giants to pay us our fair share.
“Pay the Band Not the Man”
Canadian Federation of Musicians - video
What's the best way to support Canadian musical creators? Buy downloads, buy CDs and albums of your favourite indie music artists!
Recently the UK's Guardian newspaper announced that protest songs are back in fashion. Well, I guess this means this generation is wide awake!
On September 27th, John made signs and we marched with 500,000 in the streets of Montreal, as part of a global protest for climate action.
I’ve been involved with environmental and anti-nuke causes since I first marched 10 miles for Pollution Probe, picking up trash from the streets of Toronto in 1970. Back then we were on a mission to save the city from garbage and to clean up our air. Now of course Toronto has anti-littering laws and ground breaking recycling programs, not so then.
During the past twenty-five years, anti-nuke and ecological themes have run through my songs.
In 1980 I was “roughing it,” living on my mother’s property on Cape Breton Island, at the top of a large mountain outside Mabou. With no running water, no electricity, I learned to appreciate the simpler things in life and I wrote my first environmental song. The title escapes me now, but I do recall a few lines: “they can’t see the woods for the trees, looking out with dollar sign eyes.” Soon to be piped out of a loudspeaker on a truck during a parade down the main street in Mabou, I had written that song to protest the spraying of toxic herbicides along the roadways of Cape Breton Island. I was very sympathetic to the cause. The fresh water spring on my mother’s property was at risk. The Mi'kmaq nation had begun a fight with lumber companies to protect the water supply on their reserves. Our family friend Neil Livingston was making a film about this landmark court case seeking to ban the herbicides.
View Neil’s film here.
Despite all the negative evidence, the Nova Scotia Government has continued spraying these toxic herbicides. Read this article. As always, the roots of corruption are deep!
My first solo gig was at the ACT for Disarmament Cafe in Toronto, in 1985. The cafe was opened to raise awareness of nuclear issues and fund campaigns.
In 1994 I recorded and released ’Song to the Wilderness’ on my Symphony for Two album. This track was written after a canoe trip to Algonquin Park. I had seen the beauty of the locations where Tom Thompson (Group of Seven) spent many years painting landscapes. Sadly, I had also discovered that in the middle of this stunning wilderness there was a brown forest of trees beside a quiet lake, dead from acid rain.
The recent climate march in Montreal had the largest group of protesters I have ever seen together in one place. It was impressive to hear Greta Thurnberg’s speech and I do hope much more people across the globe will be galvanized into action.
Hear 'Song to the Wilderness' on Earthy Acoustic playlist.
“Did you hear that iTunes are closing down?” Those were the slightly ominous words I heard during a long distance phone call from Canada a few weeks ago.
I hadn’t. Why? Well, because there’s been a little misunderstanding of what has occurred. It seems that many people are confused.
To explain this issue properly I have to share with you the title of a blog recently posted by my digital music distributor CDBABY on 5th of June, 2019: “Apple isn’t REALLY closing iTunes, and downloads aren’t dead.” The blog states, “iTunes Music Store will be accessible from the Sidebar of Apple Music.” Some media have been erroneously reporting the '‘killing off' of iTunes, but in truth, iTunes is simply being rebranded by Apple Music. Read the blog.
In other words, I’m happy to tell you that the Lesley Young music catalogue will still remain available on Apple Music’s website.
Apple explained that the iTunes “music player isn’t really going away; those features are just being folded into Apple’s dedicated music app . . . ” So for those of you who wish to buy your favourite music selections on-line, you can still access the iTunes music library from the sidebar on the new streaming site Apple Music.
For those of you who like to support indie artists without a “middleman,” you can also always purchase music in my dedicated online shop, hosted by the best indie music distributor on the planet, CDBABY. So enjoy!
On a more personal note, recently, John and I (reluctantly) came to the conclusion that our music project is still not quite finished. After remixing what we thought was the last track for this project at the end of April, we have decided that we need to record a new song of mine. The song seems to have taken on a life of it’s own, and it’s demanding a spot on this recording project . . . yes, I know, this may be the longest running music project in history . . . sigh.
While looking for songwriting inspiration this week, I came across “107 Song Prompts for When You’re Really Stuck” put together by Ed Bell on his website The Song Foundry. #95. Write a song about the life and death of Hildegard von Bingen. I thought, "Hum . . . who would be interested in collaborating on this one? Hit potential?" But then surprise, surprise, I found myself thinking about this one for several days . . . then I wrote a verse . . . that’s where the muse took me. I bow to the muse. A song could be waiting in a secret doorway, in a can of spinach or on the tip of your tongue . . . you just have to find it.
The recent closings of many small music venues is a growing concern not only in North America, but also in the UK, (and everywhere). An organization called Music Venue Trust supported by Sir Paul McCartney, has worked hard behind the scenes in the UK, to keep small venues from closing. When John and I went to see The Pretty Things at the historic 100 Club in London several years ago. Sir Paul’s roadies were just packing up the gear, while we lined-up outside. He had just done a fundraiser to save that club. Totally amazing, because it is a very small club. I only wish we’d been in-the-loop and had seen this show.
Our economy is stimulated by investment in music. A study commissioned by London’s mayor found that every £10 ($17 CAD) spent on a ticket at a London music venue makes an extra £17 ($30 CAD) for the local economy. This is just one of the great reasons local governments have to work with musicians and advocates to keep venues running and to help indie music makers.
A 2019 BBC evening news report about Music Venue Trust, with an optimistic spin.
(Draft 4) - 15 April, 2019 posted at 16:59 EU time
Songwriting becomes most interesting when you are carried off in an unexpected direction. Often it is a theme that reflects a phase of your life, or a very personal experience, that will galvanize you into action and make you want to write on a particular theme. That desire to write is the spark, but bringing that tiny spark to life is the realization of a completed song. These two things are commonly referred to as 'inspiration' and 'creation.' For a songwriter it can be an emotional experience, almost like giving birth, and each song you create has it's own distinct voice and personality.
Elephant in the Room is a song that I wrote when we were living in Montreal. Everyone has their own Elephant in the Room as some aspect of their life (see definition below). So I would call this a universal theme.
Cambridge Dictionary (online) definition:
If you say there is an elephant in the room, you mean that there is an obvious problem or difficult situation that people do not want to talk about.
Thesaurus: synonyms and related words
Difficult situations and unpleasant experiences.”
The Elephant in the Room that I write about is described in details, such as that it is pink, to bring a whimsy and life to a more serious subject, which is that no-one wants to face a serious problem;
If they think
I can’t see
He’s so pink . . . “
and it takes up a specific space in the room;
“Lying in the corner, asleep most of the day
With one eye open, watching, everything you say . . . ”
Feelings of melancholy are also ascribed to the elephant;
“It must be sad to never laugh
It must be hard to never cry
When no one hears you
And no one wants to try
To understand, that you exist, and why . . . ”
Elephant in the Room © Lesley Young (SOCAN). All rights reserved, 2017.
What is this pink Elephant in the Room, and why did it come to be? To me, explaining the situation in the song was not important. I wanted to leave a space for the listener to bring their own Elephant and their personal experiences to the song. Sheila Davis an expert songwriter and teacher has often talked about. That is what is known as the universalisation of a theme.
This song has never been recorded, it’s also never been heard by an audience. I’m looking forward to changing that in the near future.
Secret link for blog readers only: LISTEN to preview
(1 min:58 seconds clip) - Elephant in the Room (solo). Roughly recorded on my Zoom digital recorder.
Note: this is a work in progress.
For those of you who celebrate this holiday, wishing you Happy Easter!
This week we worked on a new duo arrangement of my song ‘Inside.’ John and I released this on the Inside album in 2007. This track was a top five finalist in both folk-pop categories in several international song competitions. Recording a video in your flat can be a bit challenging. Without effects and a microphone for vocals, the vocal is unadorned. In a live show or recording studio situation you would normally have reverb and other shinny effects. Just keeping it real folks!
Lovely blossoms and signs of spring are appearing up and down the canals.
Earth Hour was quite a refreshing change of pace, with quiet time in conversation and contemplation away from zombie devices. Our television set is almost always tuned in to the three BBC news channels we receive in Holland. We’ve been ‘on the edge of our seats’ watching the ongoing (tragicomic) drama of Brexit unfolding into a full blown crisis . . .
The heat wave in Montreal chased us indoors to air-conditioning for the past few afternoons. I got to thinking about all my favourite albums, the albums that influenced me the most as a musician and songwriter. There have been some truly amazing records released over the past few decades. I have chosen these albums for various reasons. Some were quite influential in the early days of my musical development and others were important in that they changed my way of listening and expanded my musical tastes. Many of my choices listed are from the 1970's, as these were albums I heard in the formative years of my musical development. I have to say that I could easily have made this a top 200 or 500 album list!
My 150 Desert Island Album List (in no particular order)
1. Al Green’s Greatest Hits - Al Green
2. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
3. Blue - Joni Mitchell
4. Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club
5. River: The Joni Letters - Herbie Hancock
6. Days of Open Hand - Suzanne Vega
7. Show Some Emotion - Joan Armatrading
8. Rubber Soul - The Beatles
9. Outskirts - Blue Rodeo
10. Le monde est virtuel - Serge Fiori
11. Flying Cowboys - Rickie Lee Jones
12. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
13. High Winds White Sky - Bruce Cockburn
14. Humans - Bruce Cockburn
15. Aerial Boundaries - Michael Hedges
16. Talking Timbuktu - Ry Cooder, Ali Farka Toure
17. Toys in the Attic - Aerosmith
18. Sargasso Sea - John Abercrombie, Ralph Towner
19. As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls - Pat Metheny, Lyle Mays
20. Quadrophenia - The Who
21. Songs In The Key Of Life - Stevie Wonder
22. Let It Bleed - Rolling Stones
23. A Salty Dog - Procol Harum
24. Vol 3: Further in Time - Afro Celt Sound System
25. Sweet Dreams: The Anthology - Roy Buchanan
26. Emily 13 - Michael Keith
27. Voice of the Blood - Hildegard von Bingen
28. Marquee Moon - Television
29. Live at The Apollo - James Brown
30. Court and Spark - Joni Mitchell
31. Solitude Standing - Suzanne Vega
32. Thick As A Brick - Jethro Tull
33. Exodus - Bob Marley
34. Are You Experienced? (American and international edition) - Jimi Hendrix
35. Faerie Stories - Peatbog Faeries
36. Xoa - Anais Mitchell
37. The Living Room Tapes Vol 2 - Lenny Breau, Brad Terry
38. Ok Computer - Radiohead
39. Blue Valentine - Tom Waits
40. All Things Must Pass - George Harrison
41. Tapestry - Carol King
42. Putamayo Celtic Cafe - Various Irish and Scottish singer-songwriters
43. The Mission [Original Soundtrack] - Ennio Morricone
44. Pretzel Logic - Steely Dan
45. The Dutch Masters - Focus
46. Crime of The Century - Supertramp
47. Two In Time - Gene Bertoncini, Michael Moore
48. Revolution - The Beatles
49. The Best Of Tim Hardin - Tim Hardin
50. The Best Of The Guess Who - The Guess Who
51. Phoebe Snow - Phoebe Snow
52. A Whisky Kiss - Shooglenifty
53. It Ain't Easy - Long John Baldry
54. These Foolish Things - Bryan Ferry
55. Harvest - Neil Young
56. Sweet Dreams: The Anthology - Roy Buchanan
57. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics
58. Gonna Take a Miracle (with Labelle) - Laura Nero
59. On The Shore - The Trees
60. Toulous Street - The Doobie Brothers
61. Rickie Lee Jones - Rickie Lee Jones
62. American IV: The Man Comes Around - Johnny Cash
63. Light As A Feather - Chick Corea's band, Return To Forever
64. Beethoven Symphien nos 5, 7 Wiener Philharmoniker Carlos Kleiberhestra recording
65. Bad Benson - George Benson
66. Sakura. Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp - Jean Pierre Rampal & Lily Laskine
67. Mona Bone Jakon - Cat Stevens
68. Songs of Leonard Cohen - Leonard Cohen
69. Grace - Jeff Buckley
70. Led Zeppelin IV - Led Zeppelin
71. Luck Of The Draw - Bonnie Raitt
72. The Köln Concert - Keith Jarrett
73. So - Peter Gabriel
74. Inside Canyon De Chelly - Paul Horn, Carlos R Nakia
75. Harmonium - Harmonium
76. The Story Of British Folk - from Fairport Convention to Johnny Flynn
77. Women of The World Acoustic- Putamayo Presents
78. Blind Faith - Blind Faith
79. At last - Etta James
80. Sultans of Swing - Mark Knopfler
81. Running on Empty - Jackson Browne
82. Raising Sand - Robert Plant, Alison Krauss
83. Blow by Blow - Jeff Beck
84. S.F. Sorrow - The Pretty Things
85. Promise - Sade
86. Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
87. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John
88. Synchronicity - The Police
89. Highway 61 The Soundtrack - Various
90. Sail Away - Randy Newman
91. Stardust - Willie Nelson
92. Sweet Baby James - James Taylor
93. Crash - Dave Matthews Band
94. Desire - Bob Dylan
95. Gord’s Gold - Gordon Lightfoot
96. Seven Deadly Sins (Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) - Brecht, Weil
97. Music for Airports - Brian Eno
98. First Time - Roberta Flack
99. Surfacing - Sara McLachlan
100. Harley and Rose - The Black Sorrows
101. Streets of London - Ralph McTell
102. Deja Vu - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
103. American Pie - Don McLean
104. Between the Lines - Janis Ian
105. Simon and Garfiled’s Greatest Hits - Paul Simon, Art Garfunkle
106. The Best of Aretha Franklin - Aretha Franklin
109. Cover Me - Percy Sledge
110. Temptations Greatest Hits - The Temptations
111. John Denver's Greatest Hits - John Denver
112. Tuesday Night Music Club - Cheryl Crow
113. Jagged Little Pill - Alanis Morissette
114. Pearl - Janis Joplin
115. Tracy Chapman - Tracy Chapman
116. Stop Making Sense - Talking Heads
117. The Best of Sam Cooke - Sam Cooke
118. Marvin Gaye's Greatest Hits - Marvin Gaye
119. Kate & Anna McGarrigle - Kate & Anna McGarrigle
120. Ophellia - Ray Charles
121. Time Out - The Dave Brubeck Quartet
122. Getz/Gilberto - Stan Getz, João Gilberto
123. Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan
124. Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue / An American In Paris - George Gershwin
125. Tchaikovsky: Ballet Suites (Swan Lake; The Sleeping Beauty; The Nutcraker)
by Berliner Philharmoniker and Mstislav Rostropovich - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
126. The Velvet Underground & Nico - Velvet Underground
127. The Very Best Of Jacques Brel - Jacques Brel
128. Beat - King Crimson
129. The Spirit of India - Ravi Shankar
130. Chronicles: Best of Al Stewart - Al Stewart
131. Mother Sky - Can
132. The Best of Simon and Garfunkel - Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
133. Rumble! The Best Of Link Wray - Link Wray
134. Live in Cook County Jail - B.B. King
135. Blackwater Side - Bert Jansch
136. Dark Side of the Moon - Pink Floyd
137. The Pointer Sisters – The Pointer Sisters
138. The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway - Genesis
139. Abraxas - Santana
140. The Grand Illusion - Styx
141. Sunny Days Again:The Best of Lighthouse - Lighthouse
142. Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus - Spirit
143. Shakti with John McLaughlin - John McLaughlin
144. Five Leaves Left - Nick Drake
145. Pink Moon - Nick Drake
146. Bryter Later - Nick Drake
147. Ladies of the Canyon - Joni Mitchell
148. Walk Under Ladders - Joan Armatrading
149. Pirates - Rickie Lee Jones
150. I'm Your Man - Leonard Cohen