The Inexorable Forward March of Bandcamp Friday

Yes, poor readers, here it is again: another Bandcamp Friday.  Other than one of the earliest times I posted about this glorious monthly holiday—during which Bandcamp waives its usual commission on sales through its site—I don’t know that I’ve ever made a sale hawking my musical wares via the blog.

Well, if at first you do not succeed, pester, pester again (alternatively, doing the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity, but all musicians are a bit crazy… right?).  Also, with my lovely new readers from the British Isles, it’s never been a better time to bilk them out of their hard-earned pounds sterling.

Fortunately for them—and you, my fellow countrymen!—my entire discography (seven albums!) is just $19.98, a whopping 35% discount (just £14.50 as of 1 September 2021, according to Bing).  That’s $2.85 (£2.07) per release, the kind of deal you only get on cassette tapes at the gas station (or from yours portly!).

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The Return of Bandcamp Friday

After taking off during the long summer months, Bandcamp is bringing back Bandcamp Friday today, and continuing it the first Friday of every month through the end of 2021.

For those that have forgotten—or steadfastly ignored my many, many, many, manymany posts about it—Bandcamp Friday is when Bandcamp waives the 15% commission they usually take on sales through the site.  So, if you buy, say, Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse for $4, I get almost the full $4 (PayPal takes a small cut still), instead of $4 minus $0.60 to Bandcamp.

Another, more dramatic example:  if you buy my full discography at $19.98, Bandcamp doesn’t take their $3 cut, so most of that goes directly to me (again, minus the transaction fee PayPal assesses).

Bandcamp began doing Bandcamp Fridays during The Age of The Virus, when most musicians (myself included) witnessed a catastrophic drop in their revenue.  Venues closed or stopped live music; parents withdrew students from one-on-one lessons; and private parties were cancelled, meaning fewer of those lucrative gigs.  Also, fewer live performances meant fewer royalties for songwriters.

Fortunately, that situation is improving, and people are eager to get out and hear live music again.  Still, pitching in a few bucks helps immensely—and you get some good music in the process, too!

So, on with the sales pitch!  Here are my seven releases, in chronological order:

  • Electrock Music (2006, $5) – Twelve tracks from my senior year of college, all instrumental MIDI tunes.  I gave physical copies to my Fiction Writing Workshop class; I wonder if they still have those little homemade copies.
  • Electrock II: Space Rock (2007, $7) – I’m obsessed with the idea of the sci-fi rock opera (I actually tried to write one for piano and vocals back in 2012-2013, but never finished it)—it’s the most decadent, self-indulgent form of musical expression.  That was the driving spirit behind this rockin’ collection of out-of-this-world jams.
  • Electrock EP: The Four Unicorns of the Apocalypse (2012, $4) – My younger brother introduced me to a song call “Biomachinery” by some melodic death metal band, and the rhythm of that word inspired the lead-off track of this four-song cycle, “Cyborg Unicorn.”  Of course, the instrumental chorus of that track is basically Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll,” so it’s true what they say:  composers swipe from each other all the time.
  • Electrock Retrospective, Volume I: Dance Party (2013, $3.60) – I had a number of tracks stored up for a never-completed Electrock III, so I thought I would begin dribbling them out as part of repackaged “retrospectives.”  This first one, Dance Party, features “Robobop,” which is also a perk for $5 subscribers to my SubscribeStar page.
  • Electrock Retrospective, Volume II: Technological Romance (2013, $2.14) – Technological Romance features “Pwrblld (Ballad II)“—with apologies to Chicago’s “You’re the Inspiration.”
  • Contest Winner EP (2015, $5) – This album is my tour de force.  I recorded it in a real-life studio, overdubbing my vocals with my piano part.  It was an amazing experience, and these tunes are staples of my live shows (especially fan favorites “Hipster Girl Next Door” and “Greek Fair“).
  • The Lo-Fi Hymnal (2020, $4) – I started playing piano at my little Free Will Baptist Church a couple of years ago, and I began taking little recordings of offertory, invitational, etc.  I compiled the four very lo-fi recordings into a short compilation.  I’m hoping to record a second volume at some point.

An easy (and free) way to support me is to “follow” my Bandcamp page and my Amazon author page.  I post updates about new merchandise, new music, and other interesting offers about once a month to the Bandcamp page, and new books will pop up on my Amazon page as they’re published.  It’s a good way to keep up with the latest news on my musical adventures.

Another free way to support me is to turn off your ad-blocker.  The site delivers several thousand ad impressions monthly, but most of those are blocked, which means they don’t pay out.  You can usually find the ad-blocker as a little widget or icon in the upper-right-hand side of your browser; click on it and it will usually give you the option to “pause” or stop the blocker from running on this site.  I know ads are annoying, but seeing a few DuckDuckGo ads helps out in an incremental way.

Even if none of that entices you, no worries!  I’m just glad to have you here, reading my self-indulgent garbage and my lengthy advertisement posts.

Happy Friday!

—TPP

SubscribeStar Saturday: Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp Review

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

This past week I hosted the first of two summer camps I’m putting on in June.  Next week is the ubiquitous, ever-popular Minecraft Camp, but this week saw the first inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp at my little school.

I’m not sure why I didn’t conceive of this idea sooner.  It’s not an original one, as rock ‘n’ roll fantasy camps have been around for awhile.  I’m not Ted Nugent teaching middle-aged yuppies how to play “Stranglehold” in the woods, but porting that concept to rockin’ out with kids is not difficult to do.

But last summer my headmaster kept forwarding me e-mails from a local country club, which was itself hosting a summer rock camp.  He did not include any commentary or suggestions along the lines of “you should do this camp,” but I got the message.  So when it came time to put together our summer camp catalogue, I tossed Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp into the mix.

My headmaster’s implied suggestion was a good one:  the camp was really wonderful.  Indeed, it exceeded my expectations, in large part because of the small but talented group of campers who attended.  We only had three kids sign up this year, but I’ve had semester-long ensemble classes with that few students, so I knew we could make some musical magic even with a small group.  Indeed, we had the perfect number for a classic garage rock band:  four (including myself).

Here’s some of the details about the camp—how long it lasted, a breakdown of our days, and the songs we played.  Hopefully it will provide a useful blueprint for other music educators looking to host their own camps.

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Gig Day V: TJC Spring Jam

After seven long months, it’s time for another front porch concert!  Following the success of Spooktacular II, I decided I should try the format twice a year:  the classic Halloween event, and a springtime one.  Thus, the TJC Spring Jam is born!

Halloween is easy, because it comes packaged with all sorts of fun activities:  Halloween songs, costume contests, spooky décor, etc.  A generic springtime theme is a bit more vague, and with it already feeling like summer here in South Carolina, the theme presented some initial problems.

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Lazy Sunday CII: Obituaries, Part II

Another week is dawning, and it’s time to look at the sun setting on some excellent individuals.  2020 was a rough year for many reasons, not least because of the deaths it brought.  Here’s hoping this week’s titans are resting in the arms of Jesus:

  • Rock in Peace, Eddie Van Halen” – If any of these three aren’t resting in the arms of Jesus, it’s probably Eddie Van Halen, though I’m holding out hope he experienced some manner of conversion experience and is playing “Panama” inside the pearly gates.  Eddie was a pioneering guitarist, but he also built on the legacies of past giants, like the violinist Niccolo Paganini (who was so good, it was said he sold his soul to the devil for the privilege; if that’s true, there’s a pretty good band in Hell right now—not that you’d want to go and hear them!)
  • Rest in Peace, Alex Trebek” – Smarmy.  Smug.  Canadian (I think).  Alex Trebek is synonymous with Jeopardy!, and it’s unclear that anyone can fill his shoes.  He brought just the right balance of bedside manner and not giving a damn to his hosting duties, asking guests for their tedious life stories, and occasionally finding them lackluster.  But, boy, he was a good host.  Rest in Peace, Alex.
  • Rest in Peace, Rush Limbaugh” – Speaking of irreplaceable hosts, Rush Limbaugh is one of the first greats to shed off this mortal coil in the great year 2021.  I don’t think anyone can truly replace Rush behind the legendary EIB Golden Mic, but I’m hoping they hire Mark Steyn as a perpetual guest host.  “The Rush Limbaugh Show w/ Mark Steyn” has a nice ring to it.  That’s a Canadian I can get behind.

That’s it for another macabre edition of Lazy Sunday.  Happier retrospectives to come in March.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

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Phone it in Friday XVI: Week in Review (5-8 October 2020)

I’m out of town for a few days, so I’m resorting to something I rarely do:  a week in review post.  Some bloggers feature these weekly, such as my blogger buddy Mogadishu Matt.  I sort of did one back with “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap,” but that was more a review of a week-long series of posts, not a review, per se, of the week itself.

Ah, well.  That’s just nit-picking.  Here’s what I wrote about this past week:

That’s it for this edition of Phone it in Friday.  Here’s hoping I wrote some material good enough that you don’t mind reading it (and reading about it) again.

Happy Friday!

—TPP

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Rock in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

It is with a heavy heart that we bid a fond farewell to the Mozart of our time, Eddie Van Halen.  Van Halen passed away after a lengthy struggle with lung cancer.  He is survived by his brother, drummer Alex Van Halen, and his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, who joined the band as its bassist in 2006.

Van Halen was truly one of the guitar greats of the twentieth century, the second half of which witnessed the rise of many guitar heroes to the pinnacles of superstardom, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.

But Van Halen’s licks didn’t stop with memorable riffs.  He could play neoclassical passages with ease, weaving them into songs about partying and and lusting after one’s teacher.  Learning his signature solo, “Eruption,” became a rite of passage for budding guitarists in the 1980s and beyond.  Van Halen also dominated on the keyboards—much to the chagrin of perennial showman David Lee Roth—as is clear from the entire album 1984, one of the best albums of all time.  Who can resist jumping when hearing the opening strains of “Jump“?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Making Music, Part II

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

This school year I began transitioning from teaching a blend of history and music classes towards focusing almost entirely on music.  While I still teach a couple of sections of American History, my teaching duties these days consist primarily music classes.

One of the real joys of teaching music—besides the fact that it’s just plain fun—is to see students inspired to create their own music.  I have been blessed over the years to witness the musical development of many students, and to hear some of their creations.

During our remote learning rehearsal day earlier this week, I pulled out some old concert footage to show my HS Music Ensemble class, a course that is entirely performance based.  That class does not port well to a fully online format, especially to a livestreamed one, as latency is so intense that it makes ensemble performance impossible.  Indeed, if that class goes to a fully online format, we’ll have to focus more on solo work and and music theory, which is what we did during distance learning earlier in the spring.

In watching that old concert footage, I was reminded of some wonderful moments in my school’s unorthodox music program’s history.  It also reminded me of the power of teaching music to inspire the creation of new works.

To hear my own musical works, visit https://tjcookmusic.bandcamp.com/ or www.tjcookmusic.com.

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Phone it in Friday X: Coronavirus Conundrum, Part III: Working from Home

Well, another week of distance learning is in the books (nearly), and it seems folks are settling into an uncertain new normal as The Virus—what I’ve taken to calling the coronavirus (or COVID-19, to your cool kids)—continues to spread its invisible tentacles.

I personally have enjoyed the transition to distance learning, though I wish it were under rosier circumstances, obviously.  It’s been stimulating to solve the puzzle of moving instruction online, and while I think I’m actually working harder and longer most days, I am far more refreshed.  Being able to wake up at 7:30 AM and shuffling to the computer with some coffee is much more pleasant than my typically frantic morning routine, with both starts earlier and is more hectic.  It’s also nice knowing that, once 3:30 or 4 PM hit, I am done, if I wish to be.

Naturally, I realize many Americans don’t have this luxury—they’re either in essential jobs that require them to risk constant interactions with other people, or they’re in non-essential work that can’t simply move to the Internet, so they find themselves out of work.  My heart goes out to both groups.  The real heroes of this situation are the garbage men, nurses, doctors, utility workers, cooks, plumbers, and the rest that soldier on.

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