Saturday, December 15, 2012

On going gold & releasing my 8th album...

I wrote this on my Facebook page yesterday: "Hey Dad! Happy 68th birthday for yesterday. Miss you, but know you are still with me in spirit. How's Rod? Just wanted you to know that I have just released my 8th album, which is dedicated to you. Hope you love it! It's called 'A Cappella Christmas Vol. 2.' Enjoy. Much love, Rob. Xxxx" I couldn't help but cry, and I am glad they weren't tears of sorrow but of joy, like the ones I experienced in studio the other day - for the first time in my life!
What a year 2012 has been! It's been brilliant and it's been challenging, like every year before and every year that is yet to come in my life. And that's okay, because I know that we, the entire universe, are surrounded and enveloped in an amazing love that is eternal and omnipresent.
Last year perhaps my single biggest musical achievement was my South African Music Award (SAMA) nomination, but this year there have been quite a few:
  • It's official: the "Could This Be Love" house single with Cuebur and Shimza went gold in SA, which is just amazing! I set myself a goal back in 2006 to achieve gold status by June 2007 and platinum by December the same year. Little did I know how much work would be involved! But I am soooo happy that I achieved the first part of that goal, five-and-a-half years later... That's okay too - better late than never, and now at least I am on my way...
  • We finally did a video for CTBL as part of the 48 Hour Music Video Project, which Johannesburg had the awesome privilege of being involved in - one of only 14 cities in the world.
  • The song was nominated as the second-best song at the prize giving for the MVP, and a well-know local group, The Muffinz, said they absolutely loved it, and fought hard for it, so it became a two-hour fight between my song and the winner. I could never have done it without Cuebur, an amazing and humble producer and DJ that is just such a pleasure to work with.
  • A Cappella Christmas Vol. 2 was released this year, and became my 8th album release in 4 years, since my 1st release back in 2008. Shameful that it took me more than 10 years to release my 1st album, but I was waiting for a major label to pick me up. Eventually I woke up and started using my brain, and since then the albums have been coming thick & fast. I like being in control of my career!
  • I may even get a 9th album out this year still, if I can get my awesome graphic designer to finish the cover before the 31st!
I am deeply, richly blessed, I have had an amazing life, and I am incredibly grateful for my family and my life. Just all that good stuff, you know? Every human being has tasted it, no matter how tough they have it/have had it/will have it. There is always something to smile about, even on days when you're totally pissed off.
Musica, grata Deo.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

It's easy to criticise when you're standing on the sidelines...

My blog post earlier today refers. What a day!

So I was busy singing at Hyde Park, when a tenant asked me to turn down the "noise." I politely declined, saying that I would do so when instructed by Tumi from centre management. Tumi then opted to move me to the other end of the lower level mall. Whilst I was busy re-setting up, which was of course a huge waste of time, I get called over to the table of what appeared to be a sweet elderly couple who asked if the music was going to be good, and also implored that it not be too loud.

Considering their needs, I turned the sound way down. To no avail! I sang two original songs and then launched into Elton John and Diana Ross, after which I went and asked the sweet old dears if the music was okay. BAD IDEA! The granny bitched and moaned about how her husband didn't enjoy his cappuccino and how she couldn't enjoy her ice cream because the music was so loud. A real pair of old farts! Anyway, she bitched in my ear, so I called Tumi. Granny then told Tumi that they had come all the way from Pretoria to eat a nice meal, which had been ruined by loud, "ugly" music. Well, I lost it! I told Granny dearest that the music was hardly ugly (I didn't spend 10 years training my voice because it was fun - it was damn hard work), and that I took offence at her rudeness. Well, she laid back into me and told me that I was ugly. Of course that just got my back up even more, so I got stuck into her again and asked her who died and made her the Queen of England, and that there was no need for her to be such a nasty piece of work.

Eventually Grandpa and Tumi calmed us both down. Gramps took her away, and Tumi suggested that I stand down for the day and pick it up again tomorrow. I said, "Sorry Tumi, but I won't stand for that crap. She needed to be put in her place." She said not to worry, apologised profusely, and asked if I was okay, which I don't think I was. Now I know, based on my blog earlier today that this is part of the game, but I was totally unprepared for Granny's little temper tantrum. As I took my equipment to pack it away, Jurg asked me how it went. I told him the story. This was his response. "They booed Pavarotti off the stage. Don't doubt yourself." Wow, what awesome advice was that!

I also spoke to Kim, one of the tenants. She also gave me some great advice, which I really needed to hear: "If they don't like it, it's their problem, not yours. You are doing the very best that you can, and you love it, so just keep on doing it. I don't see her getting up to sing." Yeah, Kim reminded me of a friend of mine, Roger Dickinson, who said that people used to stand on the side of the soccer field, all liquored up, and tell him he was useless at soccer. It's easy to stand on the sidelines and criticise.

But I am not gonna give up. I may be bloodied, but I am unbowed. And I really need to grow a bigger set of balls. So tomorrow, unless Tumi comes and tells me to shut up, or by an act of God I am struck down, or a tenant takes an AK47 and shoots me, I am just gonna sing. But some won't like it. This is when I become crass and say, tough shit. That's part of the game. Did I learn nothing from the blog post I wrote this morning?

And so now allow me to become even more crass for just a moment: FUCK YOU, UNIVERSE! If you think I'm gonna quit because some old bitch is a miserable pickled old prune and does not appreciate my art, then you have got another thing coming. Arrogant? Maybe. But I think at least the universe appreciates the honesty. Hey, let me remind myself: as John Demartini says, if you're not being crucified, then you're not living on purpose. I can deal with that. Music is my telos, I don't fucking care how hard it is. This is what I was born to make my greatest contribution to the world in.

Time to get back out there, and live to fight another day.

criticism & praise

Urban legend has it that if Madonna gets 10 critiques, with 9 being positive and 1 being negative, she tends to forget about the 9 good ones and fixates on the bad one. Maybe this is just the sensitive nature of the artist, or maybe she just wants to get it right and prove her critics wrong.

Either way, I can relate! I am doing a stint at Hyde Park Corner, a very snooty shopping centre in Johannesburg, every Saturday and Sunday in the month of August (like Madge, it's also my birthday this month). I started last weekend, and I must say it's damn hard work! This is the not-so-fun side of the music biz. Glamour, what glamour?

Because it's in a shopping centre it's an acoustic nightmare. I find it very difficult to hear myself over the PA system, but some of the tenants have been complaining that it's either too soft or too loud. It has been rather unsettling, but I have tried to march forward, despite my aural insecurities, and deliver the best damn job that I can.

In some cases it has worked. Last week on Saturday I had a gentleman walk up to me and say, "You have a beautiful voice. Very nice to listen to." Another gentleman called me as I walked past him sitting at a restaurant and said, "I just want to tell you, you have the most extraordinary voice." Of course these are the wonderful compliments a singer wants to hear. I thanked them both and said that I appreciated the feedback, because it was hard to know what people actually hear - and of course what they think.

The one gent said that he had owned an interior design shop in the centre for 30 years, and that I should take his advice and bring a gun with, because he thought it was a shame that people just walked past and did not even acknowledge me as a singer. A lady on Sunday walked past me and said practically the same thing - that she and her family had been listening, and they appreciated it, and that even though there was no audience to speak of (I am doing background filler music, though thankfully some of it is original), that it was still great. Of course I thanked her and said that we singers really need to hear that sort of encouragement.

And then, of course, there is the other side. A few years ago I delivered what I thought was a great Christmas programme at Greenstone, another large shopping centre on the other side of Johannesburg. When I phoned the marketing manager in January to ask her if she wanted to hire me again for Valentine's Day, she said that the tenants didn't like my singing. Ouch! I certainly have my critics, and it's hard. A music publisher that I submitted some original music to for a possible publishing deal once said to me, "Rob, some of your stuff isn't bad, but please get someone else to sing it!" I guess I just have to make peace with the fact that not everyone is going to be a fan of my music and my voice. That's the brutally harsh reality of the music industry, and if I want to be in it, I need to live with that. Hey, if somebody is willing to pay £1,000 to see Barbra Streisand perform and then heckle her, why should I expect anything different?

So yeah, I have had my detractors at Hyde Park. One tenant, who said she was very glad to hear that I was singing and was looking forward to hearing me the next day, was one of the first to complain to centre management about how I just was not cutting it. Another woman came down from the optometrist on the next level up, and asked me to please turn down the music as she could not hear patients over the phone. A few days later a friend of mine went up there to speak to her, and she did not know who he was. He fished for info, and she eventually said, "Well, I can honestly say that he does not have the voice of an angel!" C'est la vie.

My singing teacher always used to relay the story of Pavarotti, who as a youngster went with his father and uncle to go and listen to some opera. Apparently his father couldn't stop booing, and his uncle couldn't stop lauding the singer. Young Pav then decided that 50% of people will like you, and 50% of people will hate you. My teacher always then said that it would be the same for me, so I should just get on with the job. I take comfort in the fact that my music will resonate with some, even if it doesn't with others. Is that not the way of the world?

John Demartini always says that if you're not being crucified and opposed for what you stand for, then you're not on purpose - you are not making a difference in the world. I believe it was Einstein who said that people with a vision and a purpose will always be violently opposed by those who are against them. I think John Demartini is a visionary who has helped me live my telos, which is music. Some people think he is the anti-Christ.

As Robert Palmer sings, it takes every kind of people to make the world go round. Ain't that the truth! As for me, I am just gonna keep on singing, whether they love me or hate me, and I hope that I will touch the lives of many with my music. I desire to serve people with it.

Well, let me be off. I have to go sing now at Hyde Park. There is nothing else I'd rather be doing right now.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Confessions of a Busker

Katie Melua once remarked, upon seeing a 6-year-old Russian boy busking in Moscow, that busking is a rite of passage for a musician, although she also said that she felt 6 was a little young!

Well, at age 40, I have decided to return to busking, and I have been doing it for almost 2 months now, on and off, every week. I must say it has not been easy!

I first tried busking at The Zone in Rosebank in Johannesburg 10 years ago, when I was in my early 30s. Since then they have built the Gautrain (Johannesburg's subway or underground or metro), which has brought a whole new bunch of people to the area. South Africa has also changed a lot in the past 10 years, and now you will see all race groups with money, not just White people anymore, at the centre. Initially I was a bit worried... would a young hip Black lady give a bald White dude a tip for singing in her ear as she pays for her parking? To my shock initially, and great happy surprise, some of my biggest tips have come from the awesome Black people who now shop in Rosebank - and they are loaded. Chalk one up for my stupid prejudice...

The stuff I busk is quite different to my House music, which I do with very cool young producers. No, at The Zone I sing stuff from musicals and theatre and a bit of opera and a few of the oldies. It is beautiful music. Occasionally I throw in an original. Not being great at guitar and with a keyboard being impractical, I just stand and sing a cappella - which is still awesome. In the underground parking areas my voice sounds amazing because it has built-in reverb.

Today a lady came up to me whilst I was singing and said to me, "Your talent is wasted in this place." I was so encouraged and thanked her for her kind words. About 20 minutes later I thanked a lady for giving me a tip, and she said, "No, thank YOU! It is beautiful." I was truly encouraged. Apparently today I made more than most buskers did.

But I won't lie... It is hard, and I really didn't feeling like doing it today. I felt introspective and insecure, but I kicked my own backside and decided to do it anyway.

Still, the people who are closest to me think that I am a professional pauper, standing, and I quote, "...on the side of the road begging for money." I can understand why they feel that way. I left a lucrative career in corporate marketing to pursue my dream of a full-time career in music, and I am much the poorer for it. It is the fourth time I have shunned the marketing world in pursuit of my musical dream, because I know that music is my telos, my calling, my highest value, my purpose and mission for this world.

I wonder sometimes, though: is the price too high? I am making so little money compared to what I used to, and on a day like today I am not happy that I have chosen music, because it has made me poorer. How can I find a way to make money from my music career? If others can, surely so can I. Well, that's the brave story I tell myself, but I certainly don't feel that way today...

No, I won't go back to corporate marketing, and even though I am now doing my doctorate and I should be earning the big bucks, still I find it hard to make music my career. Well, John Demartini would tell me that at least the addiction to my fantasy of music being a glamorous job is being shattered, so that I can deal with the reality of what music is really about. At least now I know what ABBA and Danny K are talking about when they say music is such a tough job, and you really have to love it.

As I was busy doing my hour of busking, and after I had finished, I felt better. Did I enjoy it? Very, very much. I loved singing. I love singing. It's so hard, but I still love it. And as I was doing it, and placing my voice higher and higher in my head, to get the best possible sound, I gave all my breath, and I loved it. And that's when the lady complimented me on my gift...

Does this blog entry have a happy ending? No. Music is a pain in the ass. But what to do? I am in love with music. And there's not a damn thing I can do about it. So I guess I better just get on with it and sing. What else should I do? Nothing. Sing or be damned. Sing or die. Make music till I die. As Pavarotti said, that is a life well lived, and that is what I have dedicated myself to...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Vivat Academia, Vivant Professores

I just learnt that I have passed my course at Wits University on business principles for songwriters and music publishers with distinction. This makes me very happy, for 3 reasons:
  1. I can use the knowledge to help and serve my students in The Music Business Academy, my school that teaches music business (http:///
  2. I can use the knowledge to protect my music from theft and misuse.
  3. It validates me as a musician, in my eyes, and lends credence to my desire to do music as a full-time career, which I am doing now. I am not just paying lip service to my telos, I am following it up with action.
Music, grata Deo.

Friday, April 20, 2012

It feels amazing being at #1!

Quite inadvertently, 2 days ago, I was doing a routine check of my G Score, as suggested by Catherine Kaputa, when I stumbled across a link on Google to Energy 100 FM, a youth radio station broadcasting out of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia.

To my utter shock and delighted surprise, I discovered that the house remix of my track "Could This Be Love" with Cuebur and Shimza had hit no. 1 on the radio station on 5 April 2012 - two weeks ago already! The track was at no. 5 in March. This means that the music has now truly gone international! I performed the track at a gig in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, in November last year, and now it has moved onto neighbouring Namibia.

I posted the news on Facebook, and the encouragement received from family, friends and fans was amazing, as follows:

Wahooo!!! My "Bel Canto" teacher makes it to number 1 on 100FM Radio in Namibia! What an achievement! (Lisa - singing student, on HER Facebook profile)

‎"CONGRATULATIONS!!!!" ... "mWAH!". This is fantastic to say the least. The hard work is starting to pay off Rob!! (Lisa - singing student, on MY Facebook profile)

Well done Rob! This is just the beginning of a whole string of number one great hits for you all around the world!please Don't ever give up on something that will soon be a awesome future for you. Remember, don't reach for the stars, reach for the galaxys (Sascha Orlofski - fan)

WELL DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Diana Cavill - sister and brilliant novelist/scriptwriter)

2 nice (Bojwa Seewell - former music business student, DJ, music entrepreneur and fan)

Go Rob thats awesome!!! well done!! (Debbie - former colleague from my 'day job' days)

congrats my bro dats my song of da year 2011 (Harold Lebese - DJ)

You go rob!! (very proud) (Master Sdj SA - DJ)

Well, there you have it. It is wonderful to be acknowledged for one's art and craft and hard work, and when the going gets tough it's achievements like these - and the support, love and encouragement of people - that really makes the journey, which is sometimes perilous, really worthwhile.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

10 things I learnt releasing my Christmas album...

I released my A Cappella Christmas album into stores last month. Even though it was not my first physical release, I still made a lot of mistakes and learnt so much from it. Here are 10 points I specifically want to document:
  1. Always start earlier! I was only able to afford the cost of the physical production at the end of November, so I only got my stock in December. It was way too late, and I did myself a grave disservice and damaged my sales by doing it so late.
  2. It always costs you more than you think it will! Stores don't take duplicated CDs, they only take replicated CDs. It's a much more expensive exercise, and the minimum quantity is 200, so save money!
  3. People will let you down... I had guaranteed distribution into a whole bunch of CD stores that had been confirmed in writing. Just a few days before Christmas I still couldn't find my CD in certain stores. It was disheartening, but hey, I just had to be grateful for what I got. This leads me to my next point:
  4. Nobody owes you anything! And my next point:
  5. You have to get off your rear and do it yourself. This is a hard lesson to learn... Once you start doing this, and people see you are serious about your career, then they start taking you seriously. Before that, you might as well be an Idols finalist.
  6. You can NEVER do enough marketing! So, I got a CD into stores. So what!???! If nobody knows about it and nobody knows who you are, then it means very little. I always say marketing has 2 simple elements to it: i) give people what they want, and ii) tell them that you have it! Sometimes knowing marketing from a book (I am doing my doctorate in marketing communications for music) is different to actually getting down and doing it on the street...
  7. It's a tough and competitive world out there! Especially over Christmas, there is a lot of competition. My album was up against old Christmas favourites like Mariah Carey, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion, and Michael Buble's new Christmas CD, which was everywhere. I was swallowed up by the big names. But I take solace from the fact that the big names were once small names too. You just gotta start somewhere...
  8. I am building up my bullet-proof vest. Every time I release something new and get it out there, I am becoming more used to the hard graft involved, and I am better able to handle the disappointments and deal with the hard knocks. If the Rolling Stones go out on tour every time they release a new album (and they are a 50-year-old brand in 2012), then what the hell is my excuse?
  9. If I could, I would do it all again! I have no regrets about releasing my music for all the world to hear. It is my calling. It is my telos. I will release more albums in 2012 and beyond...
  10. I still love music and the music industry. I can sometimes get so discouraged by the toughness of this industry. But I have to remember what Seth Godin said: "Hey, if it was easy, everybody would be a rock star!" The truth is, I really love singing, and I really love music. That is never gonna change, no matter how much I fail. As my friend Obita always says too: "You cannot change your design. It is who you are." I just love that!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Demartini Institute Inspiring Client of the Year Award 2011

As we move swiftly into 2012, I want to take a moment to celebrate a recent victory I had when I was named as the Demartini Institute's Inspiring Client of the Year for 2011. This was the verbatim message I was sent by the team:

Dear Rob

At our year-end wrap-up meeting today the Demartini staff were asked to nominate the clients that they thought had been an inspiration for them in 2011, and we wanted to share the below comment that was made about you:

The Inspiring Client of the Year Award goes to ROB RODELL. He came on board as a client a bit skeptical, but has subsequently embraced the work and continues to consistently manifest new opportunities and has grown in a very real and amazing way! Rob is an inspiration for doing ‘the work’ and living his values and dreams!

We honour you Rob and thank you for being such an inspiration to us at the Demartini Institute

Wishing you a successful, empowering and loving 2012

Kindest regards

Clarissa, Gail, Heather, Hugo, Kirsten, Dana, Minalli, Maryna and Blair



Whenever I have a bad day this year, and in the years to come, I am going to remember this! Someone who is extremely close to me had a nephew who committed suicide last year. He had just been accepted to AFDA, the film school, where he was going to study a BA in Motion Picture - no easy task! He chose instead to end his life, causing much sorrow to those around him who were left behind. I say what a waste! If he had seen how much he could have offered the world I know he would have thought and felt differently.

I have much respect for John Demartini and his team, who have taught me to stop feeling sorry for myself and get off my bum and make a contribution to the world. That is what I intend to spend the rest of my life doing, and of course, the biggest contirbution that I want to make to the world is in the field and endeavour of music.

Carpe diem! Musica, grata Deo.