My previous feeble efforts at album releases have been to:
Put in a tremendous amount of focus and energy into making a great album
Once complete, blindly brainstorm poor ways to draw attention to said album
The field is incredibly crowded. Even children with no musical training can produce a professional-sounding track with a laptop and not much else. Furthermore, the pool of people who can actually discern and prefer the organic, human touch of mature musicianship dwindles each day.
Promotion and production needed equal roles.
With that fact in mind, I decided I was thinking of advertising all wrong. It could no longer be an afterthought. The promotion of my project needed to be just as important as the production of my project.
So, in response, I’ve decided to invite you in to watch the sausage be made.
I am very excited to announce I am producing a 12-part weekly series chronicling the making of The Lesson of I.
Each segment will be around 8-minutes long and focus on a different stage of production. Every topic will be discussed: songwriting, getting good tones, DAW processing, arranging, mixing, etc. The series will culminate in Part 12 – The Worldwide Release.
It’s been a little weird getting used to baring your soul to the camera, especially when talking about something as personal as your art. But, I feel I start to get a little more comfortable as the series progresses, so I hope you’ll bear with me through the beginning while I get my selfie sea legs.
I am not really creating this to be a “how-to” for music production, although I do believe there will be a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned. I think of it more as like a “Misfit Music Producer Bob Ross.” Even if you have no intention of ever painting, it’s still chill to just watch the guy ‘do what he do.’
Also adding intrigue to this project is the fact it is unlike anything I have attempted before. The cameras will be rolling through the triumphs and the setbacks. I will be feeling my way through on faith and intuition. That could be fun to watch! I mean, I’m not exactly Nik Wallenda out here without a safety net, but things could go horribly wrong! I could get to the end and realize it is all garbage. Similar things have happened before…
When might we start seeing this project?
Even before I conceived of the video production component of the project, I felt as if I scheduled an ambitious completion date for this summer.
Recently, I’ve tried to tie album release dates with easily-remembered dates. Just What the World Is Looking For was released on the numerically-friendly 11/12/13. Almost Alive was released New Year’s Day 2017.
My dream-come-true goal would be to release The Lesson of I on August 21, 2017, the date of the total eclipse across the United States. That date has been on my radar for over 4 years. I made my family promise years ago they would drop everything to see it when the day arrived. 🙂
Weather and circumstances permitting, I plan on loading the family up in a vehicle and spending the day in South Carolina with friends and strangers celebrating this rare celestial event – and hopefully a hugely-successful simultaneous album release!
I think the very best times of elementary school were the days when the Scholastic Books orders came in. Ah, nothing like that wood pulp smell. I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it. 😉
I was blessed enough to have been born to a reasonably well-off family with an appreciation for the importance of reading. I typically had carte blanche to choose as many books as I thought I could actually read.
Rarely did I get a book I did not enjoy. They were all very, very good. But for me, the creme de la creme of the Scholastic library was the Choose Your Own Adventure series. I am not at all surprised to see they are still quite active and going strong.
So, just the other day I was in my attic and saw my forgotten collection of classic Choose Your Own Adventure books. I grabbed the closest one.
It’s a little beat up and well-loved, but more or less intact. I scanned the title page to see when it was produced.
My naturally curious mind demanded a little digging. I found an author named Sean Munger who wrote an incredibly in-depth review which filled in a lot of blanks concerning the real-life story the book was based upon. This was great reading, but not really where my interest was centered.
I’ve attempted this in the past, but fell short of my goals. Taking on a 700 page novel proved to be too great a task for me. The Case of the Silk King however, only weighed in at a slim and trim 115.
This didn’t seem so daunting. I wondered, was this something I could do with my existing time and talent stack?
I needed to figure out what makes a Choose Your Own Adventure book tick. Just reading a few dozen of them isn’t the same as forensically analyzing one under a microscope. This time-tested process is a oft-overlooked key to obtaining real knowledge and understanding. So, let’s get started!
“You” are the star of the story. You are a young girl who operates a well-known detective agency. You receive a mysterious package in the mail directing you to investigate the disappearance of an American businessman in Thailand. You are immediately tasked with deciding to trust the anonymous sender and boarding an international flight, or staying home and trying to find out more about the case from there.
This drops you right into a world of mystery with two reasonable choices. A bold choice, and a cautious choice. This ‘bold or cautious’ motif occurs often throughout the book.
Little time is spent establishing extensive character backstories. This seems appropriate, sense the story is about “you.” No need to agonize over the protagonist’s motives and aspirations. “You” already know them! The author quickly gets into the action while allowing your imagination to fill in any missing detail.
By the way, if you want a copy of your own, there is a modern remake of the same story available here.
The cover boasts of “19 Possible Endings.” I decided to read and grade each one based on quality of “your” life and the fulfillment of the stated objective. My results were very interesting.
No ending scored an “A,” in my opinion.
The most shocking finding is that there is no “home run” ending. I suppose this keeps the fictional story in line with its real-life unsolvable counterpart, but that did not mitigate my surprise. I wondered if withholding an A+ result could keep eager readers longer engaged in the story? Perhaps they hoped you would go down each and every rabbit hole searching for a better result?
In the back of my mind, I assumed as a game maker, you were obligated to provide an opportunity to “win.” Dissecting this story turned this idea on its head. Interesting.
Also interesting from a cultural perspective was the writer’s willingness to graphically kill the main character. (You.) It even boasts on the back cover, “You might find yourself dumped into a snakepit or fed to the sharks.” This seems to harken back to a less-snowflakey time. I wonder if the modern remake tempers the violent endings a bit?
But, what is the path to arrive at these endings?
The Decision Tree
First, let me explain the chart. You start at the top on page 1. You go down the next two pages, 2 and 3, and then you leap over to page 8 where you are faced with your first decision. This comes at the 4th page you read, as indicated by the leftmost column. You must then decide to turn to page 4 or 12 to continue your story.
Now, some facts the tree illuminates:
The “Best” Endings
There is a “best” ending down each of the major trunks of the decision tree. They are highlighted in green. This means you do not doom yourself with your first choice of the game.
The number of “correct” choices you must make to arrive at one of the best conclusions are 6, and 5, respectively.
Choices Made Per Game
There is one possible ending that can be reached by making only 2 choices. There are 2 endings that occur after 3 choices. The most popular choice length is 5. The range is 2-6 choices, with 4.68 being the average.
Pages Read Per Ending
There is a broad range of story lengths. You could read as few as 11 pages, or as many as 25. There is a fairly even distribution, averaging out to 18.68 written pages per adventure. But the story isn’t only told in words.
There are 25 high quality, full-page black and white drawings by Frank Bolle sprinkled throughout the book. That means almost 22% of the book is illustrated. In addition, there are 3 pages where artwork and text coexist.
I think it would be difficult to overstate how important these drawings were in providing the immersion necessary to become emotionally invested within the story. Perhaps, if I want to pull one of these things off, I’m going to need to brush up on my drawing skillz.
I counted a little over 20 characters. Only a dozen or so are given names. Many of the characters fill obvious roles, simplifying the verbiage needed to describe their significance. For example, a Librarian, a Police Chief, etc. Remember, the author is attempting to convey a complete story within 11-25 pages. Brevity is essential! With that in mind…
Average story is 4.68 choices, 18.68 pages, and has a 61% chance of reaching a “bad” ending
The “best” endings require many “right” choices
Don’t take too long establishing the story
Start with the hook (mysterious envelope, immediate choice)
Often offer the option to be bold or cautious
Keep characters mostly one-dimensional
You don’t have to offer a “100% win” conclusion
Good artwork is as important as a good story
I have no idea what copyright claims the Choose Your Own Adventure series may hold precluding any commercial use. My interest in one day formulating a story experience is not motivated by money, however. Maybe I can resurrect “Ricky Rockstar” to, I don’t know, …Rock Your Own Way On The Road…
Don’t worry, I doubt I’ll attempt to make you pay to play out Ricky’s adventures. I’ll probably just add some links at the bottom to my music…umm, like I’m doing now.
Are you only going through the motions, powered by a zombie-like inertia, unaware of your true passions? Are you truly living? Or, are you merely Almost Alive?
I am very happy to be able to hang a new album plaque in Pigeon Spaceship Studios.
There’s almost an hour of original material on this project – and more than a few magical moments for you to discover. I sincerely hope you’ll take a few seconds out of your busy day and seek them out.
But don’t take my word for it, here are a few popular places where you can experience this for yourself: