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Bongo Beat News

Mar. 2nd, 2008
Vancouver, BC

Wow, it's March already. It's been a busy few weeks. We are furiously trying to get all our 2008 releases together (and there are a LOT of them in the pipeline) in the midst of one of the greatest paradoxes in music history - the industry is simultaneously imploding and exploding at the same time. At no other juncture has so much great music (that nobody's getting paid for) been available - probably not since the glory days of the mid-60s.

2007 has been artistically successful for many of our acts; Johnny Dowd was the Winner of Best Album in the Alt. Country category in the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards (Johnny actually smiled upon hearing the news, lit a swamp flavoured cigarette, and said, "Yeah, that's good") and that bodes well for his new album, A Drunkard's Masterpiece, coming this April.

Kevin House came back with a boxload of accolades from his fall UK tour; including rave reviews from The Irish Times, Uncut, The Guardian, Manchester Evening News and much much more. He's eyeing some UK festival dates later this year. His headlining concert at Vancouver's Winteruption Festival was fantastic.

Dave Rave re-confirmed his status as the hardest working act on Bongo Beat, selling over 2000 combined cds during his extensive 2007 live dates in addition to his various production and co-writing duties. Dave, who ran the legendary Warpt Records label in the 80s, got back on the label side of things by helping me out at this year's Midem and Paris Canadian Embassy industry events. Dave Rave and Mark McCarron delivered a chamber pop classic with In The Blue of My Dreams - it's already a staple on many CBC/NPR stations and soon on the BBC as well (it's out in the UK in May).

Speaking of Midem - it was especially good this year and Bongo Beat has secured various digital distribution deals in addition to finally (!) getting a German distributor - New-Music Distribution. More news on this shortly. There's a trip to Hamburg, that's for sure (LOVE that town). We had a fantastic time at the A2IM stand - wow! Plus, in London, we met Josh and Matt from Light In The Attic records - very cool dudes (thanks to Andrew Geddes at Pinnacle and his Super Bowl Boat Party).

On the downer side, our Australian distributor has been bought out by another distributor and we may have fallen through the tracks. We're trying to salvage the situation. Stay tuned. Hopefully we can get that shrimp back on the barbie!

But then, a guy like Ari Shine wins the John Lennon Songwriting Contest (with a Latin! song he co-wrote), picks up a Fender endorsement, has a cool documentary done on his music, gets tracks placed on a ton of TV shows (like Quarterlife on NBC), opens for Ian Hunter, The Gin Blossoms and tons more...AND gets a showcase slot at SXSW! So, it's all pretty good... AND he meets Yoko Ono!!! Click on his myspace.com/arishine page to read all about it. He lives in LA and must take a lot of vitamins and drink those health shakes, he's so busy. It's 3 in the morning and he's emailing me demos! I should talk, I guess.

Meanwhile, CR Avery toured across Canada through snow storms and avalanches, winning over converts and pushing his cd into a third pressing. He is touring the UK in March as guest on the BUCK 65 tour, and then in April, his cd gets released in France on the cool Platinum Records label in a France only version (different tracks and sequencing) with touring to follow (CR already has a Parisian scarf to get ready). Watch this space for news... and check CR's MySpace page for tour dates - the guy cannot stand still, he's always playing somewhere, either solo or with his incredible band (yikes, people, they're TIGHT).

Ian Ferrier and Meryn Cadell are released in the UK this month and I can tell you, HMV Oxford Circus is the place to buy if you are in London. Both CDs have picked up great reviews and college airplay.

And, almost forgot... the Grammy Awards! Ari Shine, Dave Rave & Mark McCarron, Kevin House, and Lola Dutronic all made the final cut on the ballot that decides the final nominees. That is pretty fantastic for us.

Kevin Kane has the little CD that could. How To Build A Lighthouse seems to garner a new review every month, just quietly working its understated magic. It will hit the UK on April 28 and Kevin will be at the Cavern Club in May for our annual Bongo Beat Night at the Intl Pop Overthrow Festival in Liverpool (alongside Ari Shine, myself, Dave Rave, The Plastic Heroes and one or two special guests).

Fraze Gang is released in the USA this month and Canada/UK in April. Greg Fraser is a one-man promo machine... the international metal community has really taken this cd to heart both in its original indie version and now the Bongo Beat release with the "Jackhammer" bonus track (mixed by Beau Hill of Warrant, Ratt and Europe fame, among many other things). Look for new videos and touring news shortly. People who know me know I was one of the main engines of 80s metal at the defunct Attic label (Anvil, Lee Aaron, Triumph, Thor, and Roadrunner Records, etc) and I'm a fan of good well-played/well-written hard rock. What I like about Greg's writing is he's got a way with a hook (he wrote all the Brighton Rock hits as their lead guitarist) and if you like straight up fun riff-filled 80s friendly party metal - this is it. It doesn't hurt that Greg put in time touring with Helix (another band I worked with).

Lola Dutronic is taking her Love Parade everywhere cool people dig cool music - is it 20,000 MySpace friends yet? Producer Richard Citroen is already in the studio crafting the next album. This is one of the great success stories for the label - lots of TV placements and radio (we're also the theme for a Radio Canada show). None of the commonly held rules apply to Lola Dutronic - they are in a (French) class of their own.

Bongo Beat will be at SXSW 2008 - contact us for meetings. We're also part of
the SXSW Speed Dating event as part of the Meet The Canadians panel, eh?

There are new releases coming by Plastic Heroes, Bedsit Poets, Alternative TV, Land Of Giants, Kimberley Rew, NOM and more (Paul Hyde!). Our next blog will give you the lowdown... including expanding our Cavern Club night into a small UK tour!

We must tip our beret to our UK consultant Mike McNally of McNally Consulting for taking the time to guide us through the intricacies of the UK music biz - i have 15 pages of notes and homework - eek! Our small victories in the UK means that we are going to concentrate a little harder on this market (and Europe) over the next coming months. We just need that one break and then we can hire staff so I don't have to do everything and we can give Kevin Komoda big bags of money for all his hard work waving the Bongo flag at radio/retail and anyone who'll listen ("Really! This is a COOL label! Ok, we don't have bushy beards, but we WILL!!!")

We can also say that Kobayashi fans can rejoice - The Franco Proietti Morph-Et is coming! myspace.com/francoproietti has the previews!

And finally, some people can't figure out HOW and or WHY we release so many different kinds of music. Well, I don't know, do you listen to the same record over and over? (no, you're a liar). Atlantic, Elektra, Island - those were all cool labels I loved and they put out all kinds of music. Releasing the same music over and over seems kind of boring to me. If you think of Bongo Beat as a great mix tape - perhaps that might be the analogy (in fact, if you click on the Bongo Beat link on the red menu bar, it will take you to the Bongo Beat radio station stream you can listen to via itunes - or realplayer or whatever - that shuffles up all our tracks and might be a cool thing to have on to sample our sounds... you will find that it all actually makes sense.

The unifying factor is always the packaging and look of what the label releases, just like the labels I admired as a music fan (which I still am). It is the visual clue to the discerning music buyer that this is a Bongo Beat release and we take the time for the extra little touches and effort to make things look and sound great. Just like in the fake blog - i argue with people all the time to not settle for less, to not rush things out just to rush things out - the extra effort for quality is worth it.

All the great labels lost the plot as soon as corporate masters took over and homogenized the music and disrespected the history.

At Bongo Beat, we bring diverse artists together in hopes of collaboration and interaction and 2007 was a great year for some of that to take fruition as Dave Rave and Ari Shine toured together; Ari and The Plastic Heroes and myself recording in London; CR Avery and Ian Ferrier hooking up in Montreal; Lola Dutronic remixing other Bongo Beat artists; and lots more to come as the various artists realize each other's resources. It is getting closer to the ideal of a Bongo Beat pool of musicians and studios working together to create great new music and experiments by otherwise (on the surface) disparate entities. It's based a little bit on the house musicians of Motown, Verve, and the Atlantic soul studios (Stax, Muscle Shoals, etc) with a dash of Stiff Records and Nick Lowe recruiting all and sundry for the various Stiff singles and albums plus the improvisational spirit of the great jazz visionaries assembling and disassembling superstar groups for individual projects.

Does that answer it?
Some people have built in musical walls for no real reason.. even artists on my label. There is no greater joy than to see someone go from "Huh? Why are THEY on the label?" to "HEY! How do I get to work WITH them???"

Folks at retail and media who have taken the time to live with our records have all been encouraging and enthusiastic and a common reaction is "Ralph, I always look forward to what the label puts out - you guys do interesting things."

That's a compliment I'll take.

Stay tuned - more news to come!!!

Ralph Alfonso
Bongo Beat

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