Tag Archives: Five Times August

August & Everything After…

28 year old Bradley James Skistimas is something of a rarity within today’s music scene. Over the last decade he has successfully peaked his way in and out of the limelight as an unsung (and unsigned) “Do It Yourself” indie hero. With his one-man pop/rock apseudonym, Five Times August, he has broken significant boundaries as an artist and garnered a plethora of unheard accomplishments for someone who’s never been signed to a label. Now a veteran in his own right Skistimas is bravely switching gears for a new side project in addition to FTA simply using his first and middle names, “Bradley James.”

The Five Times August project began in 2001 around the dawn of independent music’s online debut. Sites like MP3.com and CDBaby were still in their infancy and much of the industry began to shift as CD sales began to slide in lieu of illegal file sharing. With these changing tides technology was making it possible for an artist to make, sell, and promote their own music, and to boot, build their own fan base around the world. Skistimas, who was 18 at the time, began recording home demos and utilized the new websites to share his original music. The name “Five Times August” was used to promote his songs rather his actual name for fear “Skistimas” would be a confusing mouthful for some. The band title was derived from the songwriter’s birthday, August 5th.

By 2003, Five Times August was regularly playing shows around his home turf of Dallas, TX, but Skistimas was still a struggling artist looking for a break. During that time he took a job at CBS radio where he met Kelly Vandergriff. After attending a show, Kelly instantly found herself inspired to help the budding career and was soon enough acting as manager for FTA. This relationship would solidify as the nucleus inside ‘August’s’ success (additionally, the two would eventually marry in 2006).

The big break came at the end of 2004 when a music supervisor at MTV discovered the song “Better With You” via CDBaby.com and licensed it for use on the widely popular reality series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. Almost overnight Five Times August became an Internet sensation to the high school and college demographic.  After seeing the potential one song license could have, Skistimas and Vandergriff seized the chance to “run with it,” and secured more licenses for the second season of Laguna Beach and several other MTV programs. These original song placements eventually opened the door to increased opportunities making FTA one of the first acts to build a successful career from music licensing, something fairly common and ordinary in the industry now. To date, Skistimas’ songs have been featured in over 80 TV programs, commercials, and films.

Over the course of 2005 and 2006, Five Times August would grow from a buzzed about local in Dallas to a national touring headline act. During this period the dynamic artist/manager duo made the move to Austin, TX as a new home base. There they set up camp in an apartment together and experimented with a variety of online promotional efforts tailgating their successful licensing stent. Among these included a heavy Myspace.com campaign that kept FTA in the Top 10 Unsigned Artist Charts (Worldwide) for well over a year. This was at the height of Myspace’s industry relevance and would eventually lead to meeting with just about every major record label in 2007. Ultimately, the two decided to keep FTA an independent act while the corporate industry model was unstable. Simultaneously, just as they settled in Austin, Bradley and Kelly began their first self-booked national tour on the East Coast. This was to begin an almost non-stop six year tour schedule that lead to playing in every state of the U.S. except two, Alaska and Hawaii. Five Times August was voted one of the Top 5 college acts in America two years in a row (2007/08) by Campus Activities Magazine.

A huge accomplishment was achieved in 2007 with the release of “The Independent.” After an active two-year pursuit with the nation’s largest chain store, FTA was recognized as the first unsigned act in history to have an album nationally distributed through Walmart. This was followed by further distribution in Best Buy chains as well, a testament to the duo’s hard work and innovative “DIY” thinking.

2008 included a follow up album titled “Brighter Side” and tour dates supporting larger acts like Dashboard Confessional, Augustana, Matt Kearney, and Matt White. Press highlights included features in People Magazine, Billboard Magazine, Guitar Player Magazine, USA Today, and About.com’s “Artist in the Wings.” Additionally, FTA made it’s national TV debut on the CBS Early Show, and the FOX Business Network’s Nightly Scoreboard included Bradley on an industry discussion panel as “the expert” on how to make it in the industry without a record label. Others on the panel included KISS’ manager Doc Mcghee and Billboard Magazine editor Jonathan Cohen. Another notable TV appearance was an episode of the PBS series “Sun Studio Sessions” with a full half hour devotedly entirely to an in studio performance at Memphis’ legendary studio.

Bradley and Kelly relocated again in 2009. It was in Nashville, TN they held auditions to form a touring band to take on the road. Up to that point nearly all shows were done as a solo acoustic performance. It was also during their time in Nashville that Skistimas’ beat many other musicians to the punch by utilizing a then relatively unknown website called Kickstarter.com. Another first, Five Times August was the earliest project to successfully raise over $20,000. Though the site is almost a cliché in the indie artist world now, Skistimas was the first to take the chance on such a large amount and with fan help it was raised in just under a month. The funding helped release and promote the album “Life As A Song.”

In 2010 the husband and wife team made the most daring move of all. In an unbelievable statement to their dedication and dreams they sold most of their household belongings, put their home up for sale and made plans to spend the following two years exclusively on the road in a RV. The entire process was filmed for an episode of the HGTV cable series “My First Sale.” As fate would have it, the house was unable to sell within a bad economy and housing market, so it was rented as an alternative. This would benefit the couple a year later when they returned from the road to find out they had a baby on the way and a home ready and waiting for their new life as parents.

Comparatively, the last year has been a fairly quiet one for Five Times August as Skistimas readies his new work for the first Bradley James release. Inspired by classic artists of yesteryear, you’re likely to find his songwriting channeling hints of Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, or The Beatles. A Gretsch electric guitar will be the preferred choice over his former Guild and Taylor acoustic’s. 50’s & 60’s Jazz, Soul, Rhythm and Blues with modern pop hooks will take reign in his new sophisticated sound.

So why the change after all the devoted years and accomplishments of Five Times August? Skistimas answers, “I’ve learned so much over the years as a “DIY” artist, but I learned it in segments, one year to the next, one project to the next. I’m ready to apply all those different elements at one time, straight at the start with the music I’ve been writing lately.” Admitting further, “It’s been a rewarding thing, being in complete control of my career and it actually coming out a success. The problem is, when you literally “do it yourself” and do it ALL yourself, you don’t have time for anything else, not even the music.” Concluding, “The business has changed, my style and vision have changed, and I’m a dad now so it’s a whole new chapter in my life. I’m just ready to try out new things and it’s the perfect time.”

Stay tuned for news and official announcements at both http://fivetimesaugust.com and  http://musicbybradleyjames.com

 – Laurie Campbell

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“Hey, Can You Spotify Me Some Cash?” – An Indie Artist’s Perspective

I feel the need as an artist who’s songs are on Spotify to clear some things up to the general music listening public. With technology advancing so rapidly I don’t think consumers have had the opportunity to educate themselves on how the whole “free music” thing is putting artist’s careers in danger. While free music is great for the consumer who is so over the whole “buying music” concept and the web traffic is great for the sites providing the content (who generally make their money off advertising) it’s not great for the livelihood of your favorite bands and songwriters. The truth is a Spotify royalty pays out about .004 cents per play to the average indie artist who releases and album through a site like Tunecore. There’s been a lot of debate over whether or not that royalty rate percentage is true so I thought I would share a screenshot of my Five Times August  Spotify royalties from December 2011…

You’ll see that for 4,498 streams I earned $20.76. Type that in your calculator and you’ll get 0.0046153846…

Perspective: What that means is if I relied solely on Spotify royalties to make a minimum wage income ($1,160 a month at $7.25/hr) it would take 251,333 plays a month! Obviously if December accurately depicts an average of monthly listens I am nowhere close to that, most artists aren’t.

So you might be wondering… if I’m not happy about it why even put my music up on Spotify in the first place? Well, as an independent artist I’ve often found myself caught between a rock and a hard place amongst all these technological advances. You see, the basic goal for most of us self funded lil’ bands and songwriters is to make the best music we can and make a living doing just that. At the same time we also want as many people to hear our music as possible but normally don’t have any kind of big budget to promote it to the masses. That puts us in a situation where we really have no other choice than to distribute our music through as many outlets as possible, even if it sometimes results in little to zero financial income. The gleam of hope in giving a song away is that if somebody hears it and likes it they will buy it and eventually become a dedicated fan. It’s a mutual appreciation for one another, that’s how it’s supposed to work. If you appreciate a song or an album buy it so the artist can appreciate your support. Otherwise, and I hate to say it, don’t consider yourself a real fan.

You might also be thinking “Well, I just don’t buy music anymore, and you’re not REALLY relying on just Spotify for income.. so someone else can buy your album on iTunes and you’ll be fine.” Not so… I’ve noticed in my overall royalty statement that lately subscription and streaming service plays are rising while actual Mp3 and CD sales are steadily declining. I can only assume the same trend is happening for other bands and artists. So the truth is I am starting to rely on sites like Spotify and Pandora to pay for my career. That’s pretty scary. Imagine working for .06 cents an hour! (4 minute song played 15 times an hour)

Honestly, I’m just trying to give you some perspective as a listener. Spotify is fine in moderation or for discovering new artists, consider it a way to sample music – not have it. The fact is, if the free services become “the new thing” for music there are a lot of humble and hardworking songwriters, bands, and artists who’s careers hang in the balance. That’s a lot of music that could potentially change your life that you’ll never know about. It’s important for people to know about this because everyone has the power to control the situation – and I’m not speaking just for my own sake, but for all musician’s sake.

Now that you know, please pass this page and message along, inform your friends and get this conversation going. Start supporting your favorite music again and make the difference.

Thanks for reading,

Bradley

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ready to Mix…

I’m excited to announce that the new songs are ready to be mixed. After this phase they’ll only need to be mastered, then they are just a few steps shy of getting to your ears. I thought I’d bring you up to speed on the process of making this record up to now and talk a little bit about the talented folks who’ve taken part in making it all possible.

We began recording in Nashville back in December. I drove up from Texas to work with producer/arranger/keyboardist extraordinaire Rob Arthur who has been rock icon Peter Frampton’s keys player the last seven years. Rob and I played together a few years back and we reconnected the previous October about recording a some of my new songs together. I had a mixed bag of new material but wasn’t  exactly sure what direction I was heading musically. On the last Five Times August tour I had experimented with writing country, americana, folk, soul, blues… you name it. Eventually I had to sit down and list out the songs  that were most compatible with each other. I sent Rob seven rough demos with the intention of picking only 2 or 3 to fully record.  Ultimately, once I got to  Nashville we found ourselves liking all of the songs enough that we decided to just try and cut as many of them as we could while I was there. We only had a day in the studio to do basic tracking so the session was very fast paced but so much fun. We assembled keys, bass, drums, guitar, and vocals in the studio and came out with a whopping six of the seven songs tracked, an amazing accomplishment for a session that only lasted about 9 hours. We played live in the studio together with no click track. Not many bands record that way anymore. With technology what it is today you can record piece by piece, tracking drums, THEN tracking bass, THEN tracking guitar, THEN tracking vocals, and so on. There isn’t anything wrong with that,  that was the process on most the FTA albums. For this project, however, we harkened back to the lost days when band members played together in a room, not just to record a song, but to perform it take after take until they got it right. The difference on this album though, being the independent artist I am, we didn’t have time/budget to do more than three takes per song which certainly kept me on my toes. Fortunately we did get it right! But it’s no wonder considering the caliber of musicians I had at my disposal. It was truly a nice, easy, and super enjoyable session… positive vibes all around!

On drums we had Charlie Morgan who spent 13 years touring with Elton John. On bass, Saul Zonana, who in addition to his own solo career has worked with Ace Frehley of KISS and Crash Test Dummies. Naturally on keys, the previously mentioned multi-talented Rob Arthur, who has been so great in helping my concepts come to fruition. I’ve joked that the album should be “Bradley James with the Rob Arthur Orchestra” considering his role in helping arrange the additional components to these songs. All told I had a great band play on this record and I couldn’t be happier with what we accomplished in Nashville.

So two days of pre-production between Rob and myself, one day in the studio with the band, one day post production and I was back home in Texas for the holidays. Rob was heading down South as well, moving to Miami, Florida where we would reconvene in January for additional studio tracking. We booked another full day session to record live strings arrangements and vocal ensemble parts for each of the songs. Since then Rob and I have been sending files back and forth via internet. I tracked additional guitars, vocals, and other instrumentation at home while Rob, on tour with Frampton the last two months, has been putting the peaces together in hotel rooms and on bus rides across the United States. Really the album is a nice hybrid of professional studio and home recording techniques sprawled out over several months. So, having finished recording the tracks, Thursday I mailed out a hard drive with the session files on it to get mixed by 8 time Grammy Award winner Jay Newland who mixed for Norah Jones’ first two albums, Missy Higgins’ Sound of White, and Esperanza Spaulding’s critically acclaimed Chamber Music Society. I can’t wait to see what he does with the songs.

So, that’s what’s happened in a nut shell, everything couldn’t have come together better. I’m really proud of this project and I’m excited to see where it goes. No definite release date yet, but I’m sure as we get closer I’ll be posting some teasers and sharing clips. Until then, hang tight and check back here often!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,