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An Open Letter to Singers and Producers

You know we wait for your new album with bated breath. We read all the blogs, listen to the samplers and call the distributors endlessly to find out when the CD will finally hit the shelves. But there are some things you really ought to know.

For starters, we really are a lot more savvy than you think we are. We know what good music is when we hear it. And all too often, we just don’t hear it. We hear a CD with two, three or maybe four good songs. The rest of them are just padding. Songs you put in so that you could fill up the CD. That bothered us in the good old days when we were paying ten bucks for a cassette. But now that we’re paying anywhere from fifteen to seventeen dollars a CD, it really annoys us. While we realize that CDs with ten amazing songs are few and far between, it seems to me that the ratio of good songs to bad ought to be at least two to one.

Second of all, unless you’re putting out a dance, wedding or mix CD, we expect new material. A bare minimum of ten new songs. If you want to recycle your old material and call them “classics”, go ahead. Use them as bonus tracks in addition to the requisite ten new songs. And by the way, audio from your last concert, featuring a special guest performer does NOT count as new material.

And while we’re at it, it seems that lately everyone has special guest singers on their CDs. Here’s a tip: if your special guest isn’t such a great singer, then maybe it’s not such a good idea.

On to the insert. So much you need to know. We understand that from a marketing perspective, you need to have an eye-catching cover. There are dozens of CDs on the shelf and you want to make yours stand out. So go ahead and hire a graphic artist to make sure your CD has the right look. But here’s the thing. When you get to the point that you’ve invested so much in your cover that you need to charge more for your CD to cover your costs, you’ve gone too far. Let’s be realistic. Your mom is going to display it proudly in her living room. And I’m guessing your producer will find it a prominent place in his studio. And you? You’ve probably got it framed, right next to those pictures of your kids. But the rest of us don’t really care what the cover looks like. We care what the CD sounds like. So don’t charge us more just so that you can have a really shticky cover. It just doesn’t matter to us.

As for the content, lately it seems like bigger is better. Lots of pictures. You. You in the studio. You playing keyboard. You on stage. You gazing soulfully into the distance. You and Yossi Green. You and the engineer. You, Yossi Green and the engineer. You might be overdoing it just a little with the pictures. No full size posters of you either. And if your publicity shot is more than five years old? You might want to splurge on a new one.

Finally, it looks like you spent a lot of money on your booklet. The graphic designer did a fabulous job and it looks awesome. But I have news for you. It’s not just about the graphics and layout. Some of us actually read those inserts, cover to cover. We notice all the typos and inconsistencies. So take the time to proofread. Be careful what you write. And don’t copy your thank-you’s word for word off another CD. Someone will notice.

As for the actual music: don’t feel pressured to include an English song. Or a Yiddish song. Or to sing a song with any kind of accent. If you want to, go ahead. But if it’s not something you do well, we won’t think any less of you for just being who you are. In fact, we’ll respect you even more for recognizing your limits. And if you’re going to “borrow” bits and pieces from secular music, don’t think we’re not going to notice. No matter how obscure the song, someone, somewhere is going to recognize it.

It’s really simple. If you want us to keep buying your CDs, keep putting out quality products. Give us great music. Your reputation will speak for itself.

The bar has been raised in Jewish music. Mediocrity just won’t cut it anymore.


Your Loyal Fans

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