My name is William Petruzzo
I am an artist and a creative explorer.
I began my journey as a child admiring my father’s photography. I took a liking to illustration and cinema, and later to graphic design. My medium has always been visual, until recently when I began experimenting with music.
In my view, art is uniquely human, and that is how I define it: as that which is created by a human with intention. I believe there is a great deal to learn about ourselves and those around us if we give ourselves to the discipline of bringing things to life every day. Even when it’s ugly, art is love and love brings life.
I believe a happy life is one with people you love, and passions you have the freedom to pursue. I create for myself, and for my livelihood. If you are interested in commissioning my services, you can do so through the Petruzzo Photography collective.
Books I’ve Been Reading
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In the last 15 months, I’ve written and recorded 16 songs. I invested hundreds of hours into the project, learning a great deal about how and why music ‘works’. I am, by no stretch of the imagination, an expert or a professional, or even fairly considered a ‘musician’. I’m a musician the same way someone creating a digital collage is a photographer. That is to say, the end result matters, but the process to get there is how we categorize these sorts things.
The music I created is music I like. I can listen to it in the car and enjoy it–however egomaniacal that may appear to be. When I was younger, I’d really latch onto one or two songs at a time. Some little melodic trick, a combination of instruments, or a vocal rhythm, would stick with me and I’d get obsessed with it. Sometimes I’d listen to those tracks dozens of times in a row and eventually start skipping just to the parts I liked to sing along with.
At the time I started the project (and still today), I am surrounded by a lot of artists and musicians in my free time. They provided the motivation and encouragement to give it a try. Jef, Rivka, Nate, Erik, Felipe (who works with me at Petruzzo Photography) to name a few. I also found it motivating that this might provide an opportunity to peer into the processes and challenges of working musicians. If there’s one thing I love, it’s understanding the needs of a ‘market’. Frankly, I’m not so sure I got that out of the project, but those musicians were often on my mind while I was working.
Fundamentally though, this was a project about me, for me. At no point in the process, or today, have I dreamed about ‘making it as a musician’. I haven’t felt an urge to perform for audiences (even though I was invited to perform at a weird little indie festival down in Virginia Beach, I declined). And, as cool as it is to know someone else has listened to my music, I kind of don’t care. For nearly a decade now, to publish my art where someone might find it has been my way of saying “this thing is done”.
Personal art and photography has gone on this website, on SoundCloud, on 500px, Flickr, Instagram; social networking sites, known for their user generated content. “But why,” I can hear you objecting, “If you don’t care about other people hearing this music, would you put it on Spotify?” Well, not just on Spotify, actually. It’s on pretty much all the streaming sites, Apple Music, iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Prime, and a bunch of others. But I digress.
The reason I chose to push my music onto all these services is twofold. First, after hundreds of hours of work, I thought it’d feel cool to be able to type “Petruzzo” into any of the major music services and see what I’d made right there. It does feel cool. But the second, and much more significant reason, is as a kind of challenge to those musicians around me. Let me unpack that.
I don’t listen to very much local music. Yes, even that of some of my closest friends. It’s not that I don’t like their music, most of the time I do. It’s because their music is not found in the places where I listen to music. I never just throw on SoundCloud and listen to tunes. I suspect almost no one, except those invested in the social network of SoundCloud, does. I open Apple Music or Spotify and press shuffle. A comparatively significant amount of energy must be invested in most local music to make sure it occasionally shows up in that list of stuff shuffling.
To me, I see this as frustrating nonsense.
Of all the kinds of popular artforms out there, the music industry makes, perhaps, the most egregious use of the ‘gatekeeper’. You can listen to SoundCloud, or Bandcamp, or ReverbNation… or you can listen to real music on Spotify or iTunes. I hope you’re picking up on the sarcasm. While music, like photos or videos, is digital and should be easy to publish wherever your want, it’s not. You can’t just log in at 3am and upload some song to iTunes and post it on Facebook. You have to jump through hoops to get the proverbial stamp of approval from Apple, or Spotify or whatever. Not even a stamp of quality-approval, it’s a stamp that just says you jumped through all the erroneous hoops.
Five years ago, that “stamp of approval” was hard to get. It meant spending hundreds of dollars on a distributor, or being signed to a record label who would pay hundreds of dollars to a distributor (and then take all the profits). That is not the case anymore. Let me say this again, in case you need to read it bolder. That is not the case anymore.
I paid $20 to Distrokid, a digital distributor, to upload as much or as little as I wanted for an entire year. $20, once a year. That was all. It took all of about 15 minutes to publish everything, and now it’s practically everywhere.
So, about that challenge. To other artists and musicians who are working their ass off and telling people to check out their BandCamp page: You’re putting too much time and energy into what you’re creating not to spend a few bucks, the price of a movie and popcorn, not to push your work into a place where ordinary music listeners can find it.
I know you hustle, you go out and play shows, and try to chip away at the task of building an audience. But what percentage of people at your show do you think can be fairly considered “indie music enthusiasts”; people who hear music for what it is, and invest themselves in enjoying it beyond the excitement of a Thursday evening at the bar? I’m betting it’s about 20%. The other 80% are most likely people who needed a place to drink and enjoy live music when they do.
Now imagine you’re finishing up your set and you say into the microphone, “If you liked our set, you can buy our CD’s at our merch table over there, or on our BandCamp page at www….!” How many people do you think will respond to that? It’s probably going to be some fraction of that 20% of genuine local music enthusiasts. But, imagine if you instead said, “If you liked our set, check out our album anywhere you like to stream music!” What percentage of people do you think will be listening on their drive home? More. It will be a larger fraction of the whole group, not a fraction of a fraction.
“But… But our profits!” You might say, spoken like a true artist. I jest, of course. You’re not getting them anyway. You can no longer sell an appreciation for the music you create. You have to use the music you create to sell something to be appreciated; a live performance experience, a t-shirt, or hoodie. You can use the music you create to build leverage and influence; booking larger shows for bigger audiences, creating royalties on para-music content like a YouTube channel or Periscope feed. The person who likes to own a record, will still purchase a record because they are enjoying something beyond the music itself. And the modern music listener, who doesn’t make music purchases anymore, will still be able to find your music and become part of your audience.
If I can spend a year making music and put it on all these streaming services, with hardly a second thought and next to no serious financial investment, you can and definitely should. And that is the reason you can find my music on those services. Stop thinking what you’re making isn’t good enough and start making sure that the people who think it is good enough can find it when they want to.
If you make music, do it now. Get it up there, and then get back to the hustle. You’ll have removed some significant friction between you and your goal.
2016 was an important year for me. I gained a lot of headspace by making some bad decisions with my business (don’t try and outsource your business’s attitude, it won’t work). But, thanks to that questionable headspace, I was able to meet a variety of personal goals which are less overtly, but no less importantly, woven into my efficacy in business. So, like usual, regret wouldn’t be the right response, but not exactly the wrong one either.
As I recently explained in a post on petruzzo.com, I have always had a tendency to fall for the allure of the sole-solution. Or the “magic bullet” as I call it. The idea that something, some one-thing, is somehow holding the keys to all the challenges or difficulties I face. “If I just lived in this city…”, “if I just posted on social media more…”, “If I just had a dedicated studio… “, “If I just…”. While it might be right very rarely, any rational adult can see how that kind of thinking doesn’t make sense in the long run. Every long term effort requires that we focus on a variety of different things over time. That sole-solution doesn’t exist, and I suspect it might be part of a bad habit left over from constantly searching for a finish line. You get tired, and start feeling desperate for something to end, and your mind latches onto the first good-ish idea it gets and starts thinking this is it! But it’s not, and things continue to ebb and flow the way they always do, meanwhile you’ve stopped paying attention to some other crucial activity.
So professionally, this sort of reflection has consumed much of my mind. It’s a regressive mental habit that makes it more difficult and emotionally tumultuous to run a business, and in 2015 I put a concerted effort into being more conscious of the magic bullet syndrome. And, while I was definitely more conscious of it and did not allow it to hinder me as severely has it has in the past, it’s fitting that the year should end with the revelation of another magic bullet I’ve been trying to use. Whose surprised by that though, really?
Personally, 2015 in art was almost all about music. Writing tunes that I would want to listen to has been a kind of pipe-dream of mine since I was a kid, and last year I finally did it. As someone with an aptitude for visual art, stuff with sound was intimidating. But as the year went on, I became a lot more comfortable in the medium. I started to hear sounds and wonder about their frequencies and notice repetitious noises in the environment. I began to hear the separate notes in chords, rather than just the chunk all together. I also took to recording interesting noises I came across, though haven’t come up with anything to use them for.
What was especially interesting was the rise and fall and rise again of the project process. This was the first time I’d set a firm goal around something I was still figuring out, and knew I’d be making public. That sort of thing usually makes my skin crawl. But not with this. Perhaps it was the total void of expectations and the fact that I’m not a musician, but somehow making an ass of myself with music just doesn’t seem as threatening as say, making an ass of myself with a camera. In that way, this was really quite therapeutic. Like a vacation from my ego or something.
I’d like to thank those of you who listened to this drivel all year and said nice things anyway. I appreciate your support, inspiration & motivation.
A project for 2016 is well in the works and you can look for that at the end of January!
The Speech is a transcript from 2010 of Bernie Sanders’ 8 hour attempt to talk the senate out of approving a deal, “Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010”, which would give massive tax breaks to the already “fabulously wealthy”, while mostly just paying lip-service to the struggling middle class. “A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class”, goes the tagline. And reasonably so; almost no politicians were, or are, willing to speak out against corporate greed, or willing to disavow the morally bankrupt strings-attached to the support of the ridiculously wealthy.
“Despite my best efforts and the hard work of many other members of Congress, we lost the vote on the tax deal that President Obama worked out with the Republicans. A very bad agreement was signed into law.”
So Bernie didn’t pull it off. It passed into law 81 to 19. Ouch, for the people. But damn if he didn’t put up a good fight. Now, for 2016, Bernie is running for president. He’s fighting an almost identical battle, like he’s been doing for decades. And almost anyone who’s really paying attention (and not making gobs of money from the status quo) really, really wants him to win.
The Speech lasted 8 hours, and if you’re so inclined, you can watch the entire thing here. But reading is faster than listening, so I grabbed the book.
If you’ve spent any amount of time googling Bernie Sanders, you won’t find mud-slinging. You won’t find dubious connections to corporate interests. What you’ll find are decades worth of attempts to fight for regular working americans. Marginalized americans. Minority Americans. Families and women. Like this video from 1988 where he’s campaigning on behalf of a black presidential candidate. Or this video from 1995 where he tears into California Representative Duke Cunningham for referring to gay soldiers as “homos”. Just type in “Bernie Sanders” and any year in the last 4 decades, and you’ll find something. Something startlingly similar to what you might here today on his campaign trail.
Among his followers, Bernie is known for staying fiercely on-topic, for rejecting the shenanigans, for focusing on the issues, even when no one seems to be listening.
I’ve heard the sound bites. I’ve watched him speak. I’ve seen his campaign advertisements. And while some politicians will put their foot in their mouth as soon as they go off-script, as soon as they have to think for themselves, Bernie only seems to get better the more he talks. I wanted to test this out—I wanted to see what Bernie would say when he just has to keep talking and talking and talking.
What happens is inspiration, and a good dose of repetition.
For some people, Bernie’s candor on the issues comes across as ‘nuts’, but not what he’s actually saying or doing. In an 8 hour speech, he says nothing that marginalizes the people, that demonizes and group of working class people, that obscures facts. Nothing that would make an ordinary American say “hey that’s not fair to me!”. But he is not shy to call Wall Street greedy, which it is. He is not shy to call out the Walton Family for lobbying for bigger and bigger tax breaks for themselves, and fewer and fewer worker protections. Bernie Sanders is ‘nuts’ in as much as the American people are ‘nuts’ in their own paltry little, not-mega-wealthy, opinions. Bernie is ‘nuts’ in the same way that someone who stands between a bully and his victim is nuts, that is to say he’s doing the right thing by the people who have elected him, and never the highest bidder. That doesn’t sound ‘nuts’ to me. It sounds difficult, courageous and absolutely necessary.
Reading The Speech, you get the sense that Bernie still hasn’t compromised his ideals. What he says is exactly in line with the long history of political battles that he’s made it his mission to fight since the beginning. He hasn’t backed down. He hasn’t adopted gimmicks to win, or gotten in bed with corporate interests.
If you’d like to know who Bernie Sanders is—what kind of politician he really is—The Speech provides hours of off the cuff speaking. I dare you to find something in there that you, someone making less than 50 million dollars a year, actually disagrees with on the merits of what he’s saying. We’re so used to the lack of integrity that cross-party politics are near impossible—we don’t think virtually any politician actually believes what they’re saying. We think all of it is lip service, and most of it is. But not Bernie Sanders. He’s about the only politician who’s uncompromisingly proven his values are his own for decades. He’s not rich. He’s not polished. His speech writers, if even has them, weren’t recently writing copy for JP Morgan. He’s the real deal.
The real deal. And if the deluge of video clips from the senate floor do not convince you, The Speech might.
You can learn more about Bernie Sanders and where he stands at feelthebern.org, or you can get involved at BernieSanders.com. Scratch that, you should get involved. Bernie Sander’s campaign is not just about the issues that he is passionate about, you can disagree with those, but Bernie is still your best candidate. Bernie’s campaign is fundamentally about giving the power of the vote back to the people. If we want our politicians to care what we think, we have to elect one who does care what we think. If the people in power don’t care, then whether you agree with them or not doesn’t actually matter. They’re just going to do what they want, what their big donors want. But voting for someone who disagrees with you, but does care what you think, creates a genuine opportunity to change in the way you think is necessary. To build on democracy not worming our way around oligarchy.