Goodbye Facebook

thumbs downOk, so I guess it is time. I think I will be pulling back from Facebook for a while.

Because of my former self-employment with Moyers Design, I’ve needed to be heavily involved in social media.  I’ve done that for the past several years. Now that I’m employed at a church, my need for social media is greatly diminished. My desire for social media, on the other hand, seems to be as strong as ever. Social media is a drug. I’ve come to dislike it.

Facebook has become a portal that makes me mad more than anything else. 50% of the posts I see are reposts of things that I saw a year ago (usually video). Another 40% are nothing more than thinly veiled click-bait designed to get you to their website where they swamp you with ads that they get paid for showing.

Let’s see… that’s 90%. Since my percentage calculation is highly scientific, I would say that leaves me another 30%. Great.

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Make Your Worship Song Slides More Appealing

The First NoelIf you are a visual/tech person for an a cappella church, you may be interested in this post. Otherwise, this is a fun exercise in graphic editing.

Many churches are using worship song slides that include music notation. Quite often, there is somewhat of a debate between the people who like the notes and people who want pictures and words. Some need the intellectual stimulus of singing parts from a prepared arrangement while other prefer the visual stimulation of nature, colors, backgrounds, etc. It’s very hard to find common ground. This is a tutorial on how to create song slides that appeal to both tastes.

This will not be an all-inclusive tutorial. I will proceed on the basis that you are aware of some fundamental aspects of editing graphics, and I will be using Photoshop CC 2014 as my graphical interface.

To begin, you’ll need a song. Some churches create their own notation. If so, more power to you. That’s not what I’m covering in this tutorial. If you don’t have the ability to create notation from scratch, take a look at Paperless Hymnal or A View of Worship. Both offer excellent arrangements in pre-formatted slides. For this illustration, I will be using Paperless Hymnal’s version of In Christ Alone.

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Stay away from GuitarTapp Pro

GuitarTapp PROGuitarTapp Pro nuked me.

It’s not often I write inflammatory posts, but this one deserves it. I’ve even reached out to 8:45 Tools, the creator of GuitarTapp Pro, for help.

Silence.

Some background… for quite a while I was in possession of a very nice iPad. It belonged to a company I no longer work with, so I lost it when that employment ended. One of my most used apps on the iPad was OnSong (on which I’ve done a previous review that you can see here). OnSong is a great song chart viewer for live situations… sort of like a teleprompter with all the bells and whistles.

When I moved over to the android platform, OnSong was not available. Shame. Anyway, I had to find an alternative. I thought I had found it in GuitarTapp Pro.

For the past year or more, I have used that app heavily… at least once a week, if not more often. I have over 150 songs programmed into it, all of them tweaked to the way I like and prefer. I even have some alternate arrangements to songs that I liked to use.

It was going swimmingly until a couple of weeks ago. Either android did an update or GuitarTapp Pro updated. Either way, my entire song catalog is now gone. Over a year’s worth of work, disappeared. Talk about frustrating…

Consequently, I would encourage you not to use GuitarTapp Pro. It is most definitely NOT a safe platform. I am even considering getting back into an iPad because of this failure.

Motorcyclegear.com Video Series

MG ThumbnailAs many of you know, I have recently entered the world of motorcycles. Yes, I’m legally on a scooter… a 600cc scooter that goes 120 mph, but it’s still a scooter. Still, I went through a 3-day motorcycle class on a full fledged bike. I figure I count.

Anyway, because of my new hobby/habit, I needed to pick up some gear to make it as safe as possible. Enter motorcyclegear.com. A friend (thanks Buddy Mills) told me about this online company that carries a ton of gear at really great prices. As it turns out, their home office is about 6 blocks from my house here in Shallowater. Yes, I spent lots of money.

In the process, I struck up a friendship with the owner, Paul Thompson. He’s a really nice guy and a sharp businessman who knows his way around the world of e-commerce. Before all was said and done, we ended up working together on a new video series for his company.  Long range plans include at least 2 different types of video series and up to 100+ videos. Sounds like a lot of fun.

If you ride for any reason… commuter, touring, racing, whatever… you really need to check out motorcyclegear.com. Below is an example of the first video series. There should be many more to come.

If you are looking to add a video series for your business or organization, contact me through Moyers Design. I’d love to chat with you about it. Or just leave a comment below.

It’s Time for a Compulsory License for Musical Arrangements

Photo credit: Andrew Gustar via CompfightAs an arranger of musical works, I often feel as though my hands are tied behind my back.

I have arranged hundreds of songs for various events and groups, 99% of them being a capella in nature. I would love to publish these arrangements and make them available to the general singing public. How many have I published to date? One. Count them. One. Do not proceed to two.

The problem, as far as it concerns me, is in obtaining a license to publish. Now, any recorded work is a different story. If there is a song that I’d like to record that is something other than public domain, the tools are in place to obtain a mechanical license to be able to record and publish (thank you Harry Fox, Limelight, Loudr and others). Release on video? No problem, just get a sync license.

To release a written arrangement of a work… well that’s a horse of another color. There are no laws in place that allow you to do so. An arranger must contact the owner of the song and request a license to release the arrangement. The answer can be no. Or, the answer could be, “You want to release an arrangement that may sell 10 copies? Ok, that’ll be $2,000.00.” Might as well be a no.

Responses and processes are all over the map. All those composers who make themselves available to arrange that special song you’ve been wanting? Most likely you are breaking the law, since the majority of them do not seek permission and leave it up to you to request the necessary license. And who will most likely get zapped if the copyright police come calling? The arranger.

I read an article that sums up the problem quite nicely. Jonathan Minkoff wrote “The Legality of Arranging” in 2009 and it’s still applicable today (unless a law has changed since I wrote this in the summer of 2014). It’s worth your time to read, but I quote his last paragraph:

The best answer, as I’ve proposed in the past, isn’t a change in the behavior of all these arrangers. It’s a change in the law. It’s time for a compulsory license for musical arrangements. Composers get revenue, arrangers and artists get peace of mind and everybody wins.

I agree. And I’ve got loads of arrangements waiting on it. How about you?

I Was Browsing Through Facebook and This Happened! Totally Blew My Mind!

I’ve recently noticed a trend in how video links are being marketed on Facebook. It’s another way to hook you in and get you to visit a certain site, thereby allowing them to gather income through advertising. See if any of these headlines sound familiar:

  • The Koch Brothers did something that will make liberal heads explode
  • HYSTERICAL! My Puppy Does NOT Want To Get Up. At :52, I Knew It Was Hopeless!!
  • If This Video Doesn’t Make You ‘HAPPY’… Well, There’s Just No Hope For You
  • A Bully Called Her Fat… This Was Her Reaction On Live TV. I’m Speechless!
  • These Two Dogs are Absolutely Hilarious When They Get a Special Treat! The 0:36 Second Mark Had Me Cracking Up–Brain Freeze Anyone? You’ve Got to See It!
  • Nobody Expected THIS To Happen When These 4 Women Walked On Stage. Incredible!
  • This Guy Keeps A Promise To His Dad When He Was 8. His Dad’s Response? Priceless!
  • Her Baby Died During Birth, But Mom Asked To Hold Him; Two Hours Later, She Heard A Gasp
  • This Is Hilarious. This Guy Interviews His Guinea Pig. I’m In Tears!
  • They Almost Laughed Her Off The Stage. Then This 80-Year-Old Salsa Dancer Blew Everyone Away! Wow!
  • This Dad’s Reaction to His Baby’s First Laugh is Priceless!
  • Nobody Expected A Flight Attendant Could Do THIS. And It Was Caught On Video!

These are actual headlines that I pulled from Facebook after about 5 minutes of scrolling. As you can see, there is a new strategy at play. Websites have begun taking YouTube videos posted by other people and reposting them on their sites, usually accompanied by some type of sensational statement. Two of the most prolific offenders using this technique are SFGlobe.com and PetFlow.com, but there are many more.  This is sensationalism at it’s best.

FB Marketing 01To take it yet a step further, they are also using a new image trick. You may have noticed it. Often, they will embed an image that highlights the sensationalism. You’ll see an edited picture from the video that includes a “drawn” red arrow, or maybe something circled. Generally, the highlighted area has nothing to do with the statement made in the headlines, but it certainly gets you wondering. And then you click. And then the website says “show me da money.”

Another image trick I’m seeing used much more is to embed an image that actually includes a play button. FB Marketing 02Visually, it appears that if you click on the image, the video will play, much like an embedded YouTube video. Nope. You will be taken to a page that includes the actual embedded video and loads of advertisements, often a few pop-ups as well.

None of this is bad, and generally the videos actually are rather cute and worth watching. It just bugs me to see this marketing approach being taken. It smacks of the magazine covers you see in line at the grocer. The main goal of this new approach is to get you to share the link, thus opening the ad-laden site to more and more people.

Sensationalism and Capitalism tied up in one little nice bow. Go ahead and click the link and watch the video. Just be aware of what’s going on. I dislike manipulation.

I have included a little gallery of examples below. All of these were found with less than 5 minutes of scrolling through Facebook. By the way, did you see my embedded pic for this article in Facebook? What did you think? Totally blew my mind! Amazing! I never would have expected that!

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The High Calling of Worship Leaders

worship leaderIt seems that worship wars will never desist. They only move from one front to the next. Satan allows no cease-fire.

I was recently reading a post by Jamie Brown entitled, “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship.” Jamie had just returned from the National Worship Leader Conference, hosted by Worship Leader Magazine. In his article, he reflected on the state of worship, specifically regarding the role of worship leader.

He picked up on a theme that has been building in the church universal for a while now, which he referred to it as “performancism.” The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall.

I agree. It’s a worrisome thought and it’s something I’ve also seen growing in the past decade.

Where did it come from?

How did this tendency arise? That’s a tough question. I suppose the easiest answer is that anything God intended for good can be turned bad by the father of lies. I will be the first to admit that standing before hundreds of people to lead and direct their worship by using your own talents is fertile ground for the seed of pride to root and grow. It is something that all worship leaders must guard their heart against.

I also believe that the rise of worship music as a popular medium has also contributed to performancism. Before I get bashed here, let me first say that I love worship music and it’s an important part of my life. There’s nothing better than dialing up KLOVE or Air1 in the car. It’s meant to be uplifting and it is.

But again, anything good can be turned to bad with the wrong heart direction. In the early 2000’s, we saw the rise of Chris Tomlin, Lincoln Brewster and Michael W. Smith’s worship albums. There were others who shared in the same vein. This was quickly followed by “worship-oriented music” by Building 429, Casting Crowns, Jeremy Camp and others. Many of these songs were adopted into corporate worship, and rightfully so. The model of worship-minister-turned-professional-musician was born.

While I’m certain most, if not all, of these professionals you hear on the radio came into their international recognition with a good heart, great intentions and amazing results, it’s still easy to see how this would be enticing to the everyday worship leader who’s muddling away in the trenches on a weekly basis. The opportunity to be seen and heard on a larger scale is a desire for most musicians out there, and desire can easily become a temptation.

What should it be?

I need to stress that performance of Christian music is not bad in and of itself. I did it for 11 years all over the world. Still, there is a distinct difference in the performance of Christian music and the leading of corporate worship. I certainly believe that everything we offer God, especially in corporate worship, needs to be of the highest caliber. I am a big devotee of Willow Creek and their approach to the quality of worship arts, but there is much more to consider when leading worship than the presentation of good music and how good the “performance” may be.

Let me quote Jamie on this one:

“Sing songs people know (or can learn easily). Sing them in congregational keys. Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God. Serve your congregation. Saturate them with the word of God. Get your face off the big screen. Use your original songs in extreme moderation. Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on. Keep the lights up. Stop talking so much. Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel. Point to Jesus. Don’t draw attention to yourself. Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology. Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can. Lead pastorally.”

The leading of corporate worship is a high calling and one that should not be taken lightly. Our job is to point people to Christ. If that leads to a larger audience, then let the glory be to God. If not, you’re calling is already fulfilled.

The Fab 3 Strike Again

My son, Austin, has released his third video in the series of five he must do as his Senior Project in high school. This time, he went for a classic (at least in my opinion). He chose The Beatles’ tune Come Together. Enjoy!

Herculean Tasks – otherwise known as Senior Projects

My son, Austin, has a task he must undertake. Like any ancient hero of old, this task must be completed in order to advance “beyond.” In his case, it’s called a Senior Project.

Students at Shallowater High School, here in Shallowater, TX, must complete a project their Senior year. This project must be something that they would not have done otherwise. Something that will stretch them a bit. Something that educate them in a new field… and they must invest at least 18 hours into the project.

In her Senior year, my daughter chose to turn the animated movie Mulan into a staged musical, complete with full cast, props, arrangements of the songs from the movie and sound effects. Her project took over 250 hours and was a big success.

My son also chose to venture into the arts. Being a child of the millennial age, he has grown up watching more YouTube than broadcast television. It came as no surprise that he wanted to create a YouTube channel of his own music videos. Voilà! A senior project is born.

Each senior must enlist the help of a mentor in the process. Austin was able to recruit one of YouTube’s more popular artists, Justin Robinett, as his mentor. Justin has been very helpful and as I write this, Austin is finishing up the mix on his 3rd video. He has two more to go to complete his project.

You can find Austin’s videos on his YouTube channel – ProbablyNotAustin. But for your enjoyment, I present his 2nd video in the series… Don’t Worry be Happy by Bobby McFerrin.

The End of an Era and the Wheel of Time

WheelOfTimeAnd so an era comes to an end.

I started reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan in the early 90’s. Last week… over two decades later… I finished the 15th and final book in the series. I find myself already missing the world of Two Rivers, Tar Valon and Andor.

If you enjoy fantasy fiction and are ready for a real reading challenge, The Wheel of Time is waiting for you. The series includes 15 books (one of which is a prequel that was written toward the end) and 11,916 pages. Would you rather listen to the audio books? No problem… it’s only 461 hours and 25 minutes long. That’s over 19 days of non-stop listening.

The Story

Before you jump in, let me tell you a bit about the series. First off, the scope of the story is so far reaching it is impossible to sum up in one page of writing. It starts off simply, focusing on just a handful of people in one geographic area called “Two Rivers,” a small hamlet in this new fantasy land. Before all is said and done, Jordan takes you through a multitude of lands, countries and continents exploring their culture, customs, people and leadership/royalty. Not only that, Jordan introduces you to over 700 characters, the majority of which have recurring roles. It becomes increasingly hard to keep up with who is doing what. He must have kept copious notes to be able to craft such a detailed landscape and cast.

In the time in which the novels are set, humanity lives under the shadow of a prophecy that the Dark One (Shai’tan) will break free from his prison and the Dragon will be reborn (Rand al’Thor) to face him once more, raining utter destruction and chaos on the world in the process of saving it from the Dark One. The Dragon Reborn is accompanied, mostly, by his companion ta’veren (those born with unnatural, influential luck) – happy-go-lucky Matrim Cauthon and blacksmith/wolf Perrin Aybara. Also coming out of Two Rivers and intertwined with the three in the story are Egwene al’Vere and Nynaeve al’Meara. These two go on to be extremely important characters throughout the storyline along with Lan Mandragoran, the Uncrowned-king of fallen Malkier, Moiraine Damodred, an Aes Sedai sister of the Blue Ajah… and 695+ other people. As I said… this is a challenge. The series moves ever so slowly toward Tarmon Gai’don, or the Last Battle, which is the topic of the final book (A Memory of Light).

The Author

Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan, released the first book in the series (The Eye of the World) in 1990. He wrote voraciously, releasing one novel per year through the first seven volumes… keep in mind that each book averaged around 800 pages. After that, he slowed to one volume every 2 years. In late 2005, Jordan was diagnosed with terminal heart disease. From that point on, he worked tirelessly to finish up his notes on the direction the series was to take. He wanted to make sure that his story was finished utilizing the vision he had set. After his death in 2007, Jordan’s widow chose Brandon Sanderson to complete the anthology. Sanderson stepped up to the plate and hit a home run, expanding the outline for the final book into 3 full novels to completely flesh out the story that Jordan had begun.

It’s hard to adequately express the scope of this series and the job Jordan has done. As with anything even approaching the size, there are slow moments in the series. Some books are better than others. Some are shorter, but not many. All in all, it’s a great ride and I would strongly encourage fans of the genre to read it. Most likely, if you enjoy fantasy fiction, you’ve probably already read it. Even if you’re not into fantasy, give the first book a shot. It will hook you.

If you like e-books, this is where you start. I will end with the quote that appears at the beginning of every book of the series:

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth comes again. In one Age, called the Third Age by some, an Age yet to come, an Age long past, a wind rose in the Mountains of Mist. The wind was not a beginning. There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.

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