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OUS – The BIGGER picture and the story so far

When I launched the OUS platform November 2016, the intention was always to make this a global project. One of the reasons for creating the platform was that I noticed that often the ukulele scene, especially in the UK was very territorial, which is often the case for niche music. This can be seen online, in magazine articles and at events, usually (but not always) with a focus on playing cover versions of songs. Uke Magazine to its credit did publish a series of articles and interviews I wrote to show a wider picture than just the same small group of artists, often only from the UK. I am especially pleased with the articles I wrote on the Japanese uke scene and the interviews with the late Bill Collins and master musician Martin Simpson. Both individuals pushed the boundaries of what is possible and I’m my view make the world a far more interesting place. Of course understandably event hosts and magazine editors need to be mindful of commercial considerations to get readers and crucially bums on seats, but such commercial considerations can all too often limit opportunities for artists interested in creating original material.

I always thought that there’s an opportunity for original artists to have a bigger voice. Many artists commented that it was hard to get heard  especially in getting live opportunities. Original artists regardless of talent can often be sidelined and public choice is inevitably limited. Some performers may at their own expense travel hundreds of miles to play a set that can be as little as ten minutes. I’ve received a fair bit of flack for mentioning “the elephant in the room” in terms of some of these issues of course, but I continue to consider such discussions are both healthy and essential. Ultimately of course great music is great music, but I suspect in years to come those performers creating an original body of work will be better remembered than those providing cover versions no matter how entertaining.

There’s of course an understandable enthusiasm for new performers wanting to be seen and heard, This often this means playing for “exposure” also known as playing for free. Professional performers (those who earn a living from music) often lament the fact that hobbyists tend to sometimes limit playing opportunities as they are the cheaper option. Commercial considerations often trump creative considerations and OUS is and always will be a platform to address some of this bias. OUS can be a fair investment in time and income, but its for the love of the music and to give voice original artists on a global scale. I just got back from Japan where I had some great discussions and in 6 weeks I’ll be in the USA for a period, also talking to artists interested in original music. These travels and discussions show a very different picture to the UK, and some of the contrasts are quite striking. In Japan there are in my view many builders who make exceptional instruments of a higher quality than I would generally find in the UK, Europe or USA. The Japanese also retain a love of physical music formats and Tower Records remains one of the last major record stores.

OUS brings together artists from all over the globe and I’m increasingly meeting such artists in real life after initial online connections. Alan Thornton and Bernd Holzhausen are good examples of this and discussions have been very useful. The OUS platform has the advantage of being available 24/7 and the numbers are growing online. My main focus is on the main site and the increasing addition and diversity of global artists who can now all be found in one place. As I predicted in 2014 OUS also polarizes opinion and not everyone loves the idea of more focus on original music. I think the discussion about musical creation is quite healthy and of course the original music of today makes for the cover versions of tomorrow.

I’m currently looking at better live playing opportunities for original artists with particular consideration to those who have supported the platform to date. OUS was always part of a much bigger project and that will continue to unfold in 2018 and 2019, but like all major projects, the devil is in the detail and the success of the platform means taking time to do everything properly and remaining true to the central theme of creative expression.  Special thanks to all those who focus on creating original music and who continue to focus on sharing such material. We now have 85 artists with their own pages on the main site and the FB platform approaches 3000 members. This is of course just the start of something much bigger, but so far, so good…

Warm Regards

Nick Cody

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Would I like my own music? – Bernd Holzhausen

As I started to think about writing songs, while writing a poem, I sat in a park on a bench. On the other side was a poem in French painted on a bench. My French is really bad, cause after learning it at school I never used it but after some minutes I was able to translate it. It was more or less similar like a poem I wrote years before where I was with a Venezuelan girl. And it was about wind, sky, feelings. I feel like a flower in the wind and you are the wind to me.

But the hell, when I write things like that and I feel like that why am I listening to all that music in the radio or on tv. I stopped listening in those days and started to listen newly.

Again Tom Waits jumped on my mind stage and I listened to his music, then French chanson singers, like Edith Piaf, and folk music from old times, like medieval songs or songs from the 20s and 30s and the translation to these lyrics where important to me. So I read them and started to write my first stumbling lyrics for my own songs. Then I read about Bob Dylan where he said something like: find your own flow. So I started to try. First on the bass guitar which was really hard doing it, cause I wasn’t able to speak or sing playing bass guitar. Something that I never overcame all the years. So the uke came on my stage and I learned to play. Until today sometimes the uke is a bass to me, while playing. But it never stopped me singing or speaking to what I want to do. After writing songs and listen to my songs I asked myself if I would listen to my own music.

Nowadays I would answer YES, but in the beginning I said NO. I think it is important to make recordings of yourself doing the music and singing or speaking to be able to correct your lyrics, your intonation on the instrument and the flow you are in. Listening to my music gave me somehow the understanding of my approach to swing, to stomp with the uke, to sing so that the instrument is grabbing attention cause of its percussive approach aside the notes and my voice is doing what I know it can do. I listened again to the recordings and found that the percussive approach isn’t hearable on the recording. So I performed with a microphone that took the percussion too. And see there I was listening to myself and smiling.

Writing music starts that I became a listener to the lyrics of others songs. And it opened a dimension to listen to music that I didn’t know I would like to listen to. In my case as I bound myself to German lyrics I find myself listening to old German folk songs and really find inspirations in doing that.

I learned to like music newly and every time I listen to something I learn to explore my own songs differently.

1

Feedback Thoughts – by Sean Hunt

Sean Hunt is a retired ex psychologist living in The Lakes District in England. He has been embarking on a new ‘Third Age’ vocational direction as a Poet, Lyricist, Songwriter, Ukulele Band Member for a number of years. He describes himself as primarily a musically-challenged lyricist.

His principal influence has been Leonard Cohen and he is often accused of a similar ‘darkness’ as his lyrics tend to investigate impermanence, hedonism, suffering, the nature of the mind, and the deceptive nature of reality.

He has been an active (sometimes too active) member of O.U.S. probably since shortly after it started.

FEEDBACK

I think feedback is a rather large issue in ‘Original Ukulele Songs’ our strange cyber-jam-space. Over the few years I have been involved submitting posts, sharing, baring my musical and poetical soul I have received a lot of feedback which has been very helpful. The feedback process itself, though limited has guided me in identifying areas of improvement. In a way this process is organic, not well-defined, and often appears tentative. Since I have not been savaged by any intentionally hurtful feedback, generally I would have to say this is a safe place to ‘bare your musical soul’ and that it works quite well, in spite of some limitations. I realize very well that my personal musical limitations have made many of my postings potential targets for such responses. Youtube for example occasionally invites self-indulgent nasties to try their best to ruin someone’s day by making hurtful comments.

I don’t know if any of the limitations in O.U.S. feedback can be altered without increasing some of the risks. There seems to be a ‘political correctness’ principle at play which works well. There are unwritten rules and principles for feedback which people seem to adhere to. I must admit that I may be making assumptions here because there is the possibility that hurtful or cruel feedback has been culled by the administrators before doing any damage.

Present Feedback Mechanism:

– ‘Likes’ or ‘Loves’
– ‘Non-Response’ I often impute indifference or dislike, especially if I know the person and have had consistent feedback from them previously (I know this response also because I use it myself)
– The optional creative succinct comment about a particular aspect of the posting, one’s voice, playing, the lyrics, the video/audio quality, the rhythm, etc.
– A potential favorable comparison with a successful player/singer
– Potential sharing or posting of one’s song (a high compliment)
– Potential cover of your original song (always a high compliment)
– Potential invitation to submit an application for the OUS ‘Artists Page’
– Potential invitations to ‘Gig’ perform publicly through this network of performers (This happens a fair bit, I imagine)

Alternative Feedback / Supplementary Feedback

This section presents only questions and suggestions, I do not pretend to posit answers or solutions. My intention is only to encourage some contemplation and dialogue. This may or may not lead to change. My hope is mainly that this little article stimulates some thinking on the general issue of feedback and that it is helpful to us individually. Whether or not it leads to any alterations to the ‘Feedback Mechanism’ is not that relevant to me.

I did wonder what might supplemental or alternative feedback look like if there were any. My initial response was to design an inclusive ‘Form’ that covered all the areas. I did come up with a few and it was a helpful process but I soon realized that it would be a cumbersome process and time-consuming. In our modern fast-paced world we measure our activities in nanoseconds and automatically reject anything that is cumbersome and eats up our valuable time.

My next thought was that what would be ideal would be a more exhaustive Facebook response system, instead of one-click ‘Like’ there could be one- click likes for songwriter categories … lyrics, melody, rhythm, vocals, instrumentals etc. or a one-click response for ‘Could Use Improvement’ in the same range of categories. This kind of feedback system would be optional, quick, elective and succinct.

I realized immediately that Facebook is set up as a generic system and these kinds of modifications are probably impossible today (maybe in the future).

My next thought was that a more extensive Feedback system would probably need to be presented in a private web page, and some kind of link would need to be made between the Facebook postings and that external Website that could extend the Cyber-Jam community and therefore enhance the feedback system.

So, what seemed to be a simple issue ‘Feedback’ is actually much more complex. What we have works. If we wanted anything different we would need to integrate the concept into a new ‘Platform’ or a new ‘Platform’ enhancement.

In summary, as I said previously, I think the Feedback system is safe and helpful. It could be improved. Probably it will be improved. This will take time and careful consideration.

Any thoughts?

1

And you can tell everybody, that this is your song – by Jon Rissik

A seventeen year old Bernie Taupin penned the lyrics to the seminal Your Song in 1967. They are simple, sweet and possess a glorious naivety of youth. The story goes that he scribbled the words down quickly on a scrap of paper over breakfast at Elton John’s parents’ house, where he was staying. Elton then followed up by writing the music in about 30 minutes. To paraphrase the song, it all seems quite simple, doesn’t it? Elton and Bernie went on to have their first pop hit, and the rest is…well, I’m sure you know the rest.

Okay, so we may not all find inspiration like Bernie and Elton, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from having a go at writing an original song, no matter their age or experience.
I began playing the ukulele about three years ago, having taken a twenty year break from singing, (and playing the odd clunky guitar chord), in a number of bands. As a young man, writing and performing songs was my passion. It was all I wanted to do in life. Unfortunately I spent most of my early twenties sitting sweaty-palmed in numerous record company offices taking painful rejection after painful rejection. Either the verse of the song I had co-written and sang was great but the chorus wasn’t, or the song didn’t get to the chorus quickly enough, or it got there too quickly, or there was one great song but the label were looking for three killer cuts. I just couldn’t get past that initial play through. As the process wore on I started to spend less and less time thinking about making music that I liked, that moved me, and all of my time trying to second guess the reaction of the next faceless record company executive I would be sitting across a table from. As a result not only did the songs become disjointed, but the musical styles became highly reactionary.

Quite simply, I would look at what was in vogue and create solid but uninspired versions of it. So, when the highly produced Stock Aitken and Waterman sound was all the rage in the UK and Europe in the late 1980’s, there I was singing about teenage romance in my Jason Donovan-inspired leather waistcoat. In the early 1990’s when the Manchester sound of Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses was in full bloom, I was on the periphery, hanging around the Arndale Centre in my Joe Bloggs t-shirt trying to get noticed. And when Seattle became the most important musical city on the planet, I was loitering just out of sight, desperately trying to clamber aboard the bandwagon. At one point I became so lost musically that I actually joined a group called Bandwagon! Oh, the irony of it all!
The point of all this is that I stopped writing music that I wanted to hear. It was like I turned up to the best party in the world, about five minutes before the power got switched off and everyone was sent home.
When I made my decision in 2015 to begin playing and performing with the ukulele, I decided for the first time that I was going to write my songs for me. If people liked it – great. If they didn’t like it…well, I liked it, and in my mid-40’s I could live with that.
For me, when you start writing original songs it’s a bit like jumping into a cold swimming pool. You can stand on the side and wonder how cold the water will be, or you hold your nose and jump in, knowing that you may feel chilly at first but after a few minutes your body will adjust and you will start to feel warmer and most importantly, have fun.
Over the past two years I have struggled with chords, melodies, song constructions and lyrics. It can be frustrating, and the temptation to stop trying and knock out another Van Morrison cover is high. But occasionally inspiration comes, and when it does it’s like capturing lightening in a bottle. Boom. There it is. A few weeks ago I wrote an entire song – chords, melody and lyrics – in about thirty minutes. It’s probably the best thing that I have ever written and I am mid-way through a series of studio sessions to capture the track professionally. I may not be Bernie Taupin or Elton John, but I have found my song.
I highly recommend you go out and find yours. It’s out there, if you just look hard enough.

4

Songwriting with art by Alison Benson

Each year, Liverpool Acoustic (an organisation which promotes acoustic music) runs a Songwriting Challenge. The challenges are twofold: The first is that potential competitors visit a local art gallery and select a piece of art to write about and the second challenge is a time limit – there are three weeks for you to choose the art and then write the song.
In 2016 I was a finalist for the songwriting challenge and was winner of the audience vote on the night of the final. I thought I’d write my ideas about writing a song in this way because I really enjoyed the process, found the challenge exciting and wrote what I hope is a decent song!
The first stage was to select the painting and this one jumped out at me, in part because I love a good cup of tea and so was attracted to the teapot! In many ways, selection was the straightforward part of it. Then on to writing the song….

I printed a copy of the image, with space around it to write and then I examined it. I wanted to know every detail of the image and then try to build a story around it. I wanted to know why the woman on the book looked so similar to the reflection in the tea pot. I wanted to know what sad series of events had led this woman to sit alone in such a stark room. I could see a half full (half empty?) bottle of wine reflected. A story began to formulate, perhaps she was waiting for someone who didn’t expect her to be there or perhaps she was waiting for someone who had kept her waiting long enough to drink the wine they were supposed to share together. I wondered why there were no curtains and the moon shining on such a melancholic scene added a further shade of sorrow.

I pieced a story together – the woman was led along by the person she’s waiting for. She was given gifts (the black pearls she’s wearing) and promised all kinds of things only to be let down. Her sadness at what had happened turned her heart and she became mad with rage and that is why she’s waiting…she’s waiting to end the unfinished business.
I was struck by the imagery of the necklace she was wearing and thought that would make a good line in a chorus and so then I played around with words that would match, rhyme or contrast. I knew that the verses needed to tell the story and so I incorporated the story I’d made up, elements of the painting and idea about how the woman might feel. I played around with some chords and the tune fell in with the words reasonably quickly.
Having the image gave me some strong ideas about creating a story, reflecting upon the emotions I wanted to communicate and making a song that engaged the listener.

If you wanted to write a song in this way, I’d suggest the following:

• Choose a really interesting picture
• Spend time reflecting upon it, working out a story or scenario or even a mood
• Consider the kind of song that leads to – cheerful, sad, nostalgic
• Work on the music or lyrics or both to create something that draws the above points together
• Then share it with other people. It can be so hard to put a piece of yourself out there, but also such a joy!

It would be great to hear some of your art inspired songs on Original Ukulele Songs Platform. Here’s Black Pearls (Unfinished Business): https://soundcloud.com/user-34273884/black-pearls-unfinished-business

 

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Simplicity in Songwriting, or ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Love the Song’. Simon Fernand

Songwriting can be the most rewarding thing in the world. It can also be the most frustrating. As a songwriter, I often find myself trying desperately to force myself to write a song. Or just a verse. Just something. ANYTHING. And it rarely results in much.

There are plenty of theories on this – many people say that you should keep writing, regardless of quality – that way you’ll exercise your songwriting muscles. Throw the rubbish stuff away – but learn from it. You’ll keep improving. Seems like a reasonable approach to me, but it can still feel rather dispiriting at the time.

One of the things that used to really trip me up was that I believed that writing a song meant coming up with something innovative and new with every song. I’d scoff at the idea of following a G Major with a C Major because…well… that’s been *done*, hasn’t it? It’s so *predictable*. And I’m in the business of writing NEW music. I should be pushing boundaries or I needn’t bother at all.

Right?

Well…yes and no.

The ‘yes’ is simply that original songs should obviously strive to be original (duh!). If you set out to write a song and find that you’ve just written Hotel California – the entire chord progression, melody and all, then you’ve not exactly nailed what it means to write an original song*, have you?

And I’m not here to discourage anyone from pushing boundaries. I’ve got a huge amount of admiration for artists who don’t ‘play by the rules’. I listen to a lot of Aphex Twin, Frank Zappa, Phillip Glass, Autechre, Radiohead, Brian Eno, and more. All of whom are well known for toying with ‘the norm’. And I love it. But you should bear in mind that it’s unlikely that many of them were writing songs to play down at the local Open Mic night.

The ‘no’ took me many years to realise. My insistence on using ‘clever’ chords, or notes that jarred with one another was what made it so bleedin’ difficult to write a song that sounded good. And you know what DOES sound good? A good old G Major followed by a C Major.

I’m certainly not trying to suggest that you should write music to a formula. Simply that you should accept that there are reasons why people follow a D minor with an F Major – it feels right.

On this topic – the other thing that took me years to realise is that the casual listener won’t actually be *that* impressed that you used a F#7sus4/Eb when a ‘boring’ F# would have done**. Sure, it’s a cool, edgy, kooky chord and you’re *super* innovative to have used it but…well…your audience won’t give two hoots. They’ll just hear something that doesn’t sound quite right to them.

Ultimately, the question is: Are you writing songs to prove how Avant Garde you are and to start a new musical movement, or to entertain an audience? (I’m working on the principle that, if you’re reading this, you’re more likely to be in the latter category – but if you’re in the former, that’s just great too – you little rebel, you!).

Realising that I’m writing songs for an audience to enjoy has been something of a epiphany for me. Being freed from the shackles of that mindset that told me that everything I did had to be based on hitherto undiscovered principles has allowed me to concentrate on the stuff that really mattered – writing lyrics that people might want to hear and writing a catchy melody; all underpinned by a solid, memorable chord progression. From experience, I can tell you this: it’s far, FAR easier to write a memorable song with ‘predictable’ chords than it is without. And there no shame in it. Think of the catchiest song you can. Something really memorable. Go on…

Now, do you think it was written with complex ‘clever’ chords and progressions or
simple majors, minors and sevenths? I’ll let you answer that one.
Not everyone is trying to write the next Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da. I understand that. But there’s a reason that that song is so memorable. It’s almost childlike in its simplicity. And that’s the genius of it. And that applies to the vast majority of our favourite songs.

Now pick up your uke, put down the Big Book of Unusable Jazz Chords, and embrace the joy of simplicity in songwriting! It’s liberating!

*The obvious exception is when you consciously seek to reference someone else’s song for one reason or another. I like to do this from time to time. And it can really effective – especially with a cheeky little lyrical twist.

**That’s a random chord name plucked from the depths of my imagination – I have no idea if a F# would be a suitable substitute. Please don’t bother correcting me.

5

Why writing original music and why the hell on a ukulele – Bernd Holzhausen

As I started as a musician I picked up the bass guitar. Not because it was easy, because I felt that bass is an essential part of the band. I was 18 years and had my listening experience like most of us: Beatles, Iron Maiden, David Lee Roth, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Peter Gabriel.  Then one day a friend dropped in and gave me a recording of Dollar Brand. So I put it on the player and listened. A total different experience showed up. He was telling stories based on simple melodies and somehow the bass took the whole thing to a grooving experience. I was bouncing between the piano, the bass and what happened in the silent parts. Wow. More jazz came up. More piano, more bass and I practiced bass. Then this Jaco Pastorious showed up and I put the bass in the corner because I started to study design.

But that didn’t mean I stopped educating myself in music. No. I turned to be a listener more than a dancer or just putting music as a background thing so I listened to all the music that was available. Frank Sinatra came along the road, Elvis Presley, Tom Waits. Wait a minute. I collected all of his LPs because he was unique. He was different. I tried Bob Dylan, but he never was grabbing my ear telling me a feeling. On the real side o flive I had to learn drawing, painting, calligraphy, writing, sketching, being an illustrator, a painter, a writer. Well aside that while I was trying to paint something or to focus on scribbling I listened to a wide variety of music. And I always played that game: What’s the next note. How he will finish this line, what chord is next. And as you listen you learn. I finished my design exam with a good note and went out to explore the world as a graphic design artist. Until the world became too digital and the pen wasn’t that important anymore.

One evening a friend said: Let´s start a cover band. So I got myself a bass again and we started playing. But something had changed. Sure I was able to play, rhythm wasn’t a big deal, remembering songs neither but I didn’t want to do it. So I focused more on jazz and bass and got a fretless bass guitar. Hell as I grabbed that thing my heart said: there you go. So I learned again. New. There is more on a bass without frets than just playing notes. There is pronunciation, you can speak, bend note play quarter notes and more. Wow. That was my world. So I practiced daily and started writing instrumentals. Mostly in a groovy matter telling stories on live.

Then I founded a duo with another bass player who played the bass more or less like a guitar and we started a show called mellow night grooves in a local pub. We played weekly. More and more. jazz players showed up and improvised with us. Over a year that was my living room. I just walked on stage and started with telling a nice story and then played instrumental bass music. Aside that my work as a designer died and I became ore or less an advisor. So I focused on music and writing instrumentals. One day I was playing an instrumental and another jazz bassist came and asked me: Do you know what you do? I mean it is a nice peace of music and nothing is wrong but I feel that you just play by ear. I was confused but as a designer you learn how to adopt being flexible in any situation and how to finish a good design so that all are happy, So I was honestly looking at him and said. No. I really do everything by ear. I don t know a lot about theory. He smiled and said. 6 weeks and you’ve learned what you need So I took his course and learned. Everything about notes, distances, scales and whatever you learn on a bass guitar. I stopped playing music for a year and started listening again. While that I wondered why everybody was copying songs and styles of other musicians. Do you know this lick? And people always tried to be the perfect studio recording version of this or that song.

I talked with a friend and he said listen to the recordings of Jaco in New York. listen to the early jazz guys 20s up to the 40s. Listen and understand what they do. So Jaco was playing shit on stage, no groove, a lot of errors, but the atmosphere was cool. The musicians in the 20s well they mostly played by ear. Others were writing down the chords. Aha. But why and when did it die. Who took the gun and shot this come lets play some music without thinking of playing Let it be by the Beatles? When that really went along the road and people stopped being creative?
The superstar thing stepped in the door. Become famous, earn a shitload if money, get all the girls you want and don’t want. Be a star. Well but a star not necessarily writes his own music. Some of them can barely sing. Well. Okay. But that changed music. A lot of the jazz players ended up broke in bad conditions. They were focused on music not money. Got that. I don’t care. There are songs to be written. Good ones, bad ones and they have to be played. They have to be tested. So back to be an authentic human being. Writing your own music. Why on the ukulele? Well that´s easy.
The ukulele is an unexpected instrument. It has no superstar aura, even if there are superstars on the ukulele. It still is a simple take it play it instrument. You can fun around with it and you can play fingerstyle Spanish things on it or Jewish traditional scales. Sounds great on a ukulele. And it is in perfect range to the voice of a singer. Singer here. Ukulele there. Stomping the foot on another place, a bass goes around. Well that is unique. That is new. And the same time it is more traditional than anything else. And it offers a door to write your own music cause there is no Add to dictionary of that song. Yeah nicely sung. It´s perfect when things happen like I wrote a German song about luck nd another day I played it on the street to test it and a person said. So bad that I don t understand German I liked his voice and the song. For me that is perfect reason to stay with the ukulele and to just play.

Sorry guys for the long road of letters I took you down the way to think of listening, supporting original music writers. For me personally it leaded back to a regular sketchbook like I had them starting being a designer. Good craftsmanship is essential but spontaneous writing down an experience to put it in form later or to change some words and then taking the uke to play a melody search for chords, interludes and soloing possibilities and then you are an authentic musician. Who cares if you are on hit list number one. As long as you sell CDs after the show as long as you meet people have good conversations and as long as you inspire other people to write original music everything is fine.

Be a gift to the ears of the world. Write original music.

 

1

Expanding the OUS Platform across the globe

I set up the OUS platform 18 months ago and I have been delighted by the number of international artists that have come on board. We literally have creative talent from all over the globe. This main site has been so busy that we have increasingly increased the bandwidth due to the volume of traffic. The FB page also continues to grow at a terrific rate with 2700+ members and growth on a week by week basis. Applications are increasing for artist pages for the main site at an extraordinary rate.

Its also fascinating to see the breakdown of traffic to this site. By far and away the biggest flow of traffic is from the USA and each month more and more artists appear on the main site. This means that the public can find a huge range of talent all in one place, rather than having to scrabble around online. This is a win win situation for artists who want to reach a wider audience and especially those who live in remote parts of the world and who inevitably struggle to get good exposure. Although there is a lot of enthusiasm for the mighty uke, the market I suspect is way smaller than folks might imagine so any centralized platform can only be a good thing.

I have always stated that OUS is part of a much bigger project and the full details of this will be revealed in 2018. With all projects the detail is crucial in order to create something substantial and long lasting. Sincere thanks to everyone who recognizes the importance of creating original music and shares the passion for making this available to the wider world.

0

Difference dictates – the importance of being original

Since setting up The Original Ukulele Songs platform and running the OUS stage at GNUF 2017, I have talked a lot about “differentiation” This has (and I’m putting it mildly) provoked a great deal of discussion, some miscommunications and even some online tantrums. I have had folks shout “You are being negative”, totally missing the point of the importance of provoking discussion. I have always consistently maintained that whether you are writing a song, running an event or creating any piece of work, consider making something new as opposed to just copying what has gone before. In all marketing “difference dictates” and I speak from 25 years in business having personally learned this truth on some occasions the hard way. If you don’t stand out, you are in danger of blending in with everyone and everything else.

In 1980s I ran a number of reasonably substantial events and in 1990s set up and ran some substantial business concerns, some at a multi million pound level. In all these instances I learned some tough business lessons and some even tougher marketing lessons. I have also been fortunate enough to know a number of professional musicians who decades on still play at an international level. All these artists have had a very strong work ethic and crucially have created and maintained a unique identity. This differentiation has meant that they are globally recognizable and their work has stood the test of time. Its of course the same for all successful businesses and in my day job I am fortunate to meet with people from literally all over the globe that reconfirms this view. Striving to create something new means taking a risk rather than playing it safe. I always make a note of anything that gets my attention whether its a song, advert or live performance. I may not even like it, but at least it got my attention and that’s usually through differentiation.

A lack of differentiation means you are in danger of being lost in the crowd and although it can be seen as a safe option its often not going to result in long term success. In the music business, I’m acutely aware that I have a definite personal taste but appreciate that there is scope for all kinds of entertainment. I massively respect those artists and promoters who encourage new talent, rather than recycle the same artists, songs and event formats. We may agree to disagree on what constitutes “great entertainment” but all my experience suggests that the work that stands the test of time, does something new to stand out from the crowd. Adopting a position of differentiation also means inevitably being a target for all kinds of personal attacks, some quite hilarious

I’ve also learned the value of working with folks who have shared values. Since setting up OUS I have met some extraordinary artists who have become good friends. At the heart of OUS is a spirit of collaboration and selflessness. There’s no place for divas or folks with poor manners and that is IMO 100% a great strength. There are some great plans ahead and I think people will be surprised at the scale of the project. In the UK there will be an OUS stage at GNUF 2018, even more extraordinary than 2017.

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Now we are 60 at OUS

We just added the 60th OUS artist to this site and in a month’s time will be running the first ever OUS live stage at The Grand Northern Ukulele Festival aka GNUF. The FB page has hit 2500 members and the quality of the material just gets better and better. I have noticed that there is a real energy associated with OUS artists and I have been greatly impressed by the support folks are giving each other.

During GNUF my own house will become something akin to a hippie commune with many artists from overseas and the UK coming to stay during GNUF 2017. This will give us the opportunity to discuss other phases for OUS that will be rolled out in 2017/2018 and 2019. I always maintained that this is a BIG project and its certainly starting to gain momentum. Over the next two months I’ll be working on another dimension to OUS, that will be unveiled later this year. The new OUS stickers will also be available at GNUF from the OUS stage with a great design by Max Wootton

Special thanks to everyone who continues to contribute to the platform and maintain the momentum for creating Original songs. There are some very cool surprises in the pipeline…

Warm Regards

Nick

 

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