Tag Archives: Production

BE The Producer!

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Throughout this month, I’m sharing A Few of The Ways I’ve Honed My EntreMusicianal Skills by “Being” All The Things I’ve Needed to “Be” to Advance My Artistry & Career, while making a few bucks along the way. Last Week, I detailed the opportunities awaiting EMs who donned the Booking Agent Hat to represent other Singers/Bands/Artists in their areas. Today, we look into Being The Producer.

In a Tiny Region like Youngstown Ohio, there are very few outlets for Jazz Musicians. Many of Us Frequently Perform in Akron, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and further away, as my band SounDoctrine began to do early on to make a name for ourselves.

Around 2005 the City hired an Event Coordinator, Claire Maluso, to open up the Downtown Entertainment Corridor to other Genres which were traditionally dominated by Rock and College Bar Bands. Claire, an avid jazz lover, reached out to me as SounDoctrine was starting to build momentum due to our music airing on the Weather Channel during their famous jazz filled breaks.

We began to put together weekends in various downtown restaurants which quickly spilled into the annual Youngstown Jazz Fest. When Claire left her position, I began to work with the new hire and representatives from YSU and the Visitors Bureau to broaden the show’s scope. I was Blessed to Oversee Production from 2010-13. This provided two wonderful advantages for which I remain grateful.

1)  Through Corporate and Community Sponsorship, we were able to secure a better rate for All of the Performers. Previously, the “Baby Bands” received $0.00 “for exposure,” which I always thought was a crock after doing my fair share of them. The more notable bands were paid between $250-$400 for a 45 minute set. But with 5 to 6 members…?

What I was blessed to do was raise that rate to $850 per band and then create a “Pre Fest Night” at a Downtown Venue the night before where the “Baby Bands” were paid for their exposure and one of the notables headlined the evening! This created Synergy and Excitement for the Entire Weekend. It also created greater degrees of acknowledgement from the local artists, who all recognized that our team was committed to paying them more respectfully.

2)  As Producer, I Was Able to Strategically place SounDoctrine Immediately Before the Headliner. This meant:

a) More Time on Stage

b) Our Set Would Be Seen by those who may have arrived late

c) The Prime Opportunity to be Associated With (and often acknowledged by) The Headliner who usually arrived during the first portion of our set

Our resume now includes us opening for jazz legends, Spyro Gyra, Pieces Of A Dream and Grammy Winner Kirk Whalum among others, many of which we are blessed to remain in close contact with.

To ensure our momentum, we also created a monthly “Second Sundays” event to keep the jazz vibe alive Downtown, which ran until 2015, which featured regional artists and also gave our band another outlet for presenting new material. We were blessed to partner with our local Chick fil-A franchise to make this a spectacular event.

This past March, I was blessed to produce the very successful “Meet Me At The Cross” Good Friday Event at the Covelli Center in Downtown Youngstown, which by God’s grace was my largest feat to date. We are currently making plans for 2018.

Through this process, I have learned all of the consociate aspects of “Putting On a Show” faster than if I had just remained in the Drum Chair, showing up for Sound Check. Needing to simultaneously wear the multifaceted hats of Technician, Promoter, Marketer, Fund Raiser, Corporate Solicitor, Stage Direction and grasping what it means to dialogue about City Ordinances, Liability Insurance, Unions and how to navigate the various insecure/angry/weird personalities you often encounter in a 20 hour day without losing your cool – while retaining the stamina to play your set, has wholly strengthened me and has helped me to make better decisions in my career.

Production is extremely hard work. “Game Day” will Make You or Crush You!! There are No Gray Areas. One Day I will tell you about the time I almost went to jail hours before I was to go on stage…

I’m forever grateful for an amazing team I can call at a moment’s notice when it’s time to do it again! Michaela Write, Orlando & Dana Watson, Lori B, Phil The Beat & Rosalyn Moore, Felicia (FiFi) Fuller, Jerry & Bea Thjompson, Demetrius Allen, Isaiah Rowe, Dan Glass, Shaun Shaulis and the silent Nia Brown. Y’all Know None of this could’ve been done without you!

BE The Producer!

 

I was listening to Herbie Hancock‘s “Mr. Hands” on Vinyl while composing this.

 

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Ask Yourself The Hard Question!

Let’s Pretend for A Moment…

Say You’ve Invented a Brand New Universal Tool. Its Purpose is to Be An Important, Indispensable Standard that People of All Races, Ethnicity and Cultures will Appreciate & Enjoy!

This Tool Can Be Used In Your Home, Business, Car, Place of Worship or On Your Mobile Device while You’re On The Go. You Know that People Are Going To Love & Appreciate It, Once they are Aware of its Availability  and Affordable Price.

You Own the Patent to this Tool and have Trademarked the Brand Name. Although You Do Not Own the Various Patents to the Equipment & Software You’ve used to Develop This Fantastic Gadget, You Have Patented  & Control the Unique Processes by which Your Tool is Designed & Manufactured. You Are Aware that a Few “knock-offs” may be developed overtime, but Your Methodology Ensures that You Will Become & Probably Remain a Market Leader.

The Next Step is to Partner with a Distributor who can Help Market, Promote and Get Your Tool into as Many Hands as Possible. You Make What You Feel is A  Great Deal with a Company with a Global Reach and Does Not Impede on Your Exclusive Rights & Control over the Manufacture of Your Magnificent Tool.

Overtime, You Notice that This Distributor’s Profits have begun to Eclipse Your Own. For Every $1000 You See, They have made $10,000 and in some cases and in a few regions much, much more, due to their ‘bundling’ of Your Tool with Lesser Quality Devices. Heck, They’ve even Developed a Subscription Model whereby the Customer is able to Use Your Tool As Many Times as They Wish, Without Even Purchasing It.

To Some Extent, You May Not Mind the Creativity of The Distributor’s Concept. After All, Your Tool is Available Everywhere & Absolutely Everyone is Using it and Appreciating its Functionality. Your Tool is a Bonafide Hit!

The Problem is You’re Not Getting Paid What You Know Your Tool is Worth – and – If It Were Not for Your Tool, The Distributor would Never, Ever See the profits they currently enjoy.

So, You Try to Re-Negotiate, Only to Discover that this Very Rich, Very Smart, Well Connected Distributor has successfully lobbied certain Members of Congress, The DOJ, Other Well Established Government Officials and even Similar Minded Partner Distributors to Enforce Laws & Practices that Keep the Big Bucks Rolling In for Them while You’re Left Counting Pennies.

However, Remember that because You Own the Patents, Trademark and the Manufactured Tool itself, which The Distributor Needs to Sustain their Business, You Have A  Crucial Decision to Make.

Would You:

A) Keep Things the Way They Are, Grateful That Your Tool Is A Worldwide Sensation, Even Though You’re Being Robbed Out of Fair Compensation?? (In Fact, You Are Planning to Make More, Perhaps Better Tools to Send Them to Rob You With)

Or…

B) Remove Yourself & Your Tool from The Agreement and Begin the Painstaking Process of Becoming a Niche Distributor where Less People May Be Aware of Your Tool, But You Earn Higher Profits with Each Sale? (the additional profit affords you greater opportunity to improve your marketing)

 

Obviously You Understand that I am Talking About Songwriters and Their Songs.

I Sincerely Desire for Every EntreMusician to Answer This Question Truthfully.

Before You Do, However: Check Out These Two Articles:

STREAMING NOW MAKES SONY $25 MILLION A WEEK

SIRIUS OWNER SAVAGES SPOTIFY BUSINESS MODEL

I Have Had Hundreds of Conversations with Artist/Musicians at All Levels and Each Answer Varies to the Point where I Needed to Simplify My Approach by Presenting a Different Business where the Creator & Manufacture Must Look At The Bottom Line to Determine Whether of Not He/She Could Remain In Business or Close Their Doors.

Music is Such An Emotional Tool that Fame Often Overshadows Fortune. An EntreMusician Can End Up Eating Bread Sandwiches while Everyone is Singing Their Songs… 

 

I wasn’t listening to any music while composing this blog post.

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POWERLESS??

SPOTIFY AND APPLE ARE AT EACH OTHER’S THROATS…, Apple in Talks to Acquire Jay Z’s Tidal“…, YOUTUBE’S DOMINANCE TAKES A BEATING“…, & The Music Industry Just Lost a Big Fight with the Government Over Royalties” are just a few recent Headlines glaring in the faces of EntreMusicians. And the New News is Spotify Tops 35m Subscribers which continues to support the David & Goliath mock-up we’ve been fed for decades.

Sure, there are Certain Things that Intimidate Us, Most of Us are NOT Millionaires.

But Are We Powerless?  Or Do We Merely Think We Are? Who Convinced Us of This?

Are we Really in No Position to Change this Music Game and Reroute Our Artistry Directly to Our Individual Friendbase while Bypassing The Current System?

Is the notion of An Independent Streaming Model Available to Each EntreMusician Intelligent Enough to Create Continual Content too Difficult to Imagine?

If a $1.99 / $2.99 Exclusive Access Tier from Our Own Individual Channels were Created & Maintained, a Far Fairer Form of Compensation, and perhaps Appreciation, of our Art would be Enjoyed. Obviously, We’d Bear Sole Responsibility for Building & Nurturing our Tribe, but the Truth is We Do This Now while Reaping No Advantages

These Are the Questions I Continue to Ask, Conversations I Constantly Engage and the Plan I AM Currently Implementing.

In Numbers 13 (OT), Moses sends out 12 Spies to Investigate the land The Lord had appointed for them To Conquer. Forty Days Later, 10 of them returned with a Thoroughly Wimpy & Faithless Answer – even confessing that they felt as small as grasshoppers amidst the citizens there and must have looked the same way to them! 

If You’d keep reading, You’d find that the other two spies, Joshua & Caleb Radically Disagreed with the 10 punks and Courageously Inspired the People to Take The Land!

Now You Can Guess Who The Lord (who is a Staunch Rewarder of Faith) Was Ultimately Pleased With…

So, Are You a Joshua or a Caleb?

Or Are YOU Powerless?

 

While I wasn’t listening to any music while composing this blog, Earlier I was digging on Ahmad Jamal’s “Blue Moon

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You Mean They Drilled Into His Vault??

Obviously I have waited for what I feel is a respectable amount of time to bring this topic up. And I No Way Feel a Disconnect from the Main Topic I have espoused for the last few months, beginning weeks prior to Prince’s Majestically Mysterious Departure.

I have been asking “How You Define Success,” “How Important Are You,” and slowly initiating an Obsessive “Psychology behind the Philosophy” Mantra for EntreMusicians to Rethink our Entire Dependence on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and the Upcoming Amazon Streaming System. Irregardless of the fact that the Grammys are now considering a Brand New Category for Streaming Music, If Artists are Not Getting Paid, They’re Getting Pimped! (Tweet That!)

But I Digress…

Reflecting on The Purple One’s Intense Fight for Independence from Warners, His Mysterious Death (You Mean He was Left All Alone, All Night In That Huge Complex After Almost Dying a Week Earlier?), One of the Speediest Cremations of a Body Not Dying by Fire and to Top It All, his Private Music Vault Drilled Open Less Than 10 Days After His Death?!?!!

In Considering He was a Single Man at the time of his passing, Intensely Private and that he Left No Will, One of the Single Most Important Questions EntreMusicians Must Ask themselves is “Who Is My Advocate?” It seems that Tyka and the rest of his half-siblings, along with the Well Intentioned Shelia E, Larry Graham, Morris Day and others who knew His Royal Badness Extremely Well have to Sit on the Sidelines while an Attorney & A Record Company Executive muses through his Intellectual Property.

If  This  Doesn’t  Scare  the  Rhythm  Out  of  You,  You’re  NOT  A  Musician!

Here are a Few Questions You Should Ask & Answer before the End of this Blog:

“Does My Spouse/Significant Other Know Where My Copyright-Publishing Information Is and Can They LEGALLY Speak for Me if I am Physically/Mentally Incapacitated or am Deceased?”

“Where Is My Will and Is that Sucker Updated?”

“Do Select People I Love and Trust Have the Necessary Passwords to my BMI/ASCAP/SESAC and other Pertinent Accounts”

“Have I Explained Very Clearly My Wishes for My Musical Equipment/Software?”

 “Are My Collaborative Agreements with Other Songwriters/Band Members In WRITING and In Order?”

“Are My Trustworthy Attorney & Accountant Up to Speed on My Wishes for any Unreleased Music I Might Have?”

“Have I Backed Up My Hard Drives and Entrusted them to Safe People/Places?”

Hopefully, these are Enough to Encourage You to Become Very Intentional about the Inevitable. Taking Care of Business is Always of Ultimate Importance for the Intelligent EntreMusician.

 

I was listening to Bob James’ “Hands Down” on Vinyl while composing this post.

 

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How Important Are You…?

Face It.

You’re Only As Important as You Think You Are.

You can Either Live By & Under the Expectations & Evaluations of Others – or – You Can CHOOSE to Create & Model Your Own Principles or Ideals.

You Can Either Agree to The “Usual” Pay Scale of the Masses or CHOOSE to Negotiate Your Fee.

It’s Up To You.

Your Self Importance is the Sum Total of Your Own Thoughts, Experiences & Esteem.

Your Self Importance is Directly Tied to Your Own Vision & Goals.

You are Either One Who Sees Him/Herself as Having Very Little to No Worth – or – Someone Who Envisions Endless Possibilities. You Either Settle or You Set Out.

It’s Up To You.

Although Present Options may be Limited, Important People are Always Creating Opportunities to Change that Present Situation and Improve Their Positioning.

EntreMusicians MUST Embrace the Realization that Our Art, Music & Creativity is IMPORTANT. We Must No Longer Accept or Agree to Selling Ourselves Short and/or Out!

It’s Time To Set A Price For Our Shows & Songs that Reflect Fair, Equitable Standards which Put Money in Our Own Pockets or Refuse to Participate on Their Platforms & Stages.

Important People Know How to Say “NO.”

How Important Are You?

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The Plan in Perspective

I have a friend named Joe (real name) who started a New Gym in Youngstown Ohio 18 Months Ago. Geographically, Joe’s Gym is about 2.8 miles away from that Other, Better Established, Open 24/7, Only $10 a Month Gym that Most Everyone Frequents. Joe’s Gym is only open from 5:30am to 9:00pm, has far less equipment & space and his Monthly Memberships begins at 5x more than that other place. Yet Joe has a startling slew of clients and continues to add Specialized Sessions & Trainers to his Growing Roster.

The Secret to Joe’s Success is Joe.His Gym Provides Intentionally Focused Workouts in an Exceptional Environment that Provides Optimum Results to its Members. Joe’s Gym is called The Train Station.

I often think of Joe as I talk to Musicians and Software Developers about this Unfolding Plan I’ve proposed. In case You are Unaware, I began a Post several weeks ago concerning EntreMusicians readdressing the Direct Sales & Digital Distribution of their Art. I continued to Add Thoughts & Emotions and will continue to discuss & work with EntreMusicians to formulate a workable plan. The Conversation is Growing!

In short, I Believe that ALL EntreMusicians must utilize their ability to Stream their Content Directly to Their Own Tribes on a Subscription Basis, without the need of a Billion Dollar Corporation paying them less than a penny per stream. The Technology is Available, but must be Personalized in a format best suited for both Artist & End User. 

Dr. Nelson Harrison, a very forward thinker and founder of The Pittsburgh Jazz Network has proposed an Alternative through Millennium Music Media which I am currently checking into and awaiting a callback from a known Artist Currently on their roster.

Joe’s Success in Starting  & Growing The Train Station is in His Initiative to Customize a Service & System the Larger Gyms simply cannot and markets his personal touch accordingly, without railing against them – and Word of Mouth is growing.

Every EntreMusician Must Go and Do Likewise. The Excuses are Over. Other Options Are Available. The Ultimate Option remains in Controlling & Distributing Our Own Songs on Our Individually Owned Platforms and Doing the Hard Work of Marketing Ourselves Appropriately. That’s The Truth of Being Independent Artists.

I wasn’t playing any music while blogging, but I’ve just finished practicing the drums to the “Dreamland” CD by YellowJackets. William Kennedy, ALWAYS WOW!! 

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The Opportunity in the Obstacle

Obstacles are a Regular Diet of Every EntreMusician’s Life. They are Unavoidable, often Unpredictable and always present hidden Opportunities. Along with the stress that comes with Each Obstacle are Moments to Choose whether to Freak Out, Give Up or Turn Bitter in the process, instead of Zeroing In on the Possible Benefits this Obstacle offers.
I Must Admit that I have done All of These. 

Call it Age, but lately I’ve forced myself to stop and answer the question “What Does This Mean?” right at the crest of every perceived Obstacle. Whether it’s Lack of Resources for a Certain Project to downright Opposition while Carrying out a Goal, if we can Quell our Emotions, have a Team pow wow, or do Personal Introspection to Ask Ourselves the Meaning Behind the Obstacle, we create a Clarity that Allows Us to Better Focus on Acheiving Our Accomplishments. 

In Fact, What I Am Learning Most about My Most Recent Obstacles is that they were more about ME than the Thing, Person or Situation that presented itself. If I Did Not Plan or Execute Properly, I Invited the Obstacle. If I Do Not Adequately State My Goals or Explain to My Team Expected Intentions & Results, I Should Expect Obstacles. 

But What if I Did Do All of the Above? What if My All of My Ducks are in the Provrbial Row? I Immediately Stop Asking ‘How’ this Happened and ask ‘Why’ Questions- which are More Personal and Less Technical. Obviously, a Personal Lesson is Attached and I Need to Open Eyes & Ears and Learn The Lesson.

I Have Not Been Able to Overcome Every Obstacle. Often, I’ve had to work Underneath, Beside & Through the Obstacle. But the Perspective I’ve gained from being “Up Close & Personal” with the Adversity has drawn out a greater degree of Creativity, Perseverance & Wisdom that I would not have gained otherwise. Additionally, Some Obstacles have brought Absolute & Generous Blessings to My Family & I – Opportunities I Would Have Never Walked Into had I just stood there and cursed the blasted thing! 

Many of Our Greatest Opportunities Are Disguised as Obstacles. This Thought does not Minimize the real pain each can bring us, but the Hurt doesn’t have to Harm if we look the Issue dead in the eye, analyze it for what it is and formulate an appropriated response, all the while gritting your teeth and buckling up for the interesting journey ahead.

I’ve been Very Intentional to not discuss specific experiences here, as there are More than Many and I’d be here till Next Thursday trying to explain a few! Like any other EM, I’ve Blundered & Blown It, but Because I Am an EM,     I Learn and I Move On…

Keep Your Head Up!

I wasn’t listening to any music while wrting this, but Jon Thomas & I just collaborated on a track called “Maranatha” that I’m gonna finish tweaking as soon as I post this!

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT SONG (BASS OPTIONAL)

Monday Night I sat mesmerized with millions of Americans, paying homage to the genius of Stevie Wonder whose music has been the soundtrack of our lives for the past 40+ years. You don’t have to look deep into a SounDoctrine track to realize how personally my artistry has been influenced by his innervisions.

Although I got into the show about 20 minutes lates, right smack dab in the middle of Lady Gaga’s rousing performance of “I Wish,” I posed a question to myself concerning this man I’ve grown to love like a favorite uncle. If you were to dissect Steveland Morris into various components of his muse, what, for me, would be the most compelling?

Right off, he IS the total package. But which attribute wins me over first and foremost?

Is it his multidimensional musicianship?
His hypnotic voice?
His profound production and/or forward thinking technology applications coupled with his humanitarianism and completely selfless spirit?

As I pondered the many great voices from Jill Scott to Andrea Bocelli to the outstanding Tony Bennett to the myriad of musicians who adorned the platform, not least of all, musical director Greg Phillinganes, I wondered, what is this One Thing about Stevie that unites all of these exceptional stars?

I concluded: It’s All About The Songs

Always has been. Always Will Be. Always Should Be.

Musicianship, Showmanship, Vocal Talent, Production Skills, Arranging, Dance Routines, Million Dollar Light Shows and Superior Sound do play their parts, but each element must bow down – all the way down – to the raw emotions, contemplations and motivations prompted by a great song.

If Stevie were to somehow lose, or were not as proficient in any of the aforementioned talents, his songwriting has set him further apart from any of his contemporaries in the last four decades than anyone and his legacy will cast him as the Bach of the next few hundred years to come.

This is why we celebrate his genius.

This is why true EMs must make writing great songs a priority above all else…

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POSITIVE FEEDBACK?

ALL FEEDBACK IS POSITIVE!

repeat:

ALL FEEDBACK That Critiques Your Work, be it thrilling, outstanding, honoring or insulting and insane will only improve you as a person and your output as an EntreMusician!

Since the wee hours of the morning, our team has been test marketing the new SounDoctrine Single, “Selah.” Not with any mass email blasts, mind you, but true ‘One on One’ old school queries, seeking honest to goodness transparency and boy is it coming in! I had to pause briefly to do this post before heading back.

We made certain that we responded as immediately as we could to every participant, answering questions, talking about the song, it’s availability, the guest musicians, everything!

This is important because this particular song is quite the departure from SounDoctrine’s main direction. While the band loves to experiment with different sounds, earning a reputation for “Originalternativefunkjazzfusion!” this time we stood on the edge of the cliff on tip toes!!

So it was necessary to make sure we were not alienating core SD fans in the process of wooing new ones.

We’ve had all kinds of responses from all kinds of different audiences. What’s most important is what we are being taught about ourselves as we respond. Both as Human Beings and Artists…

Shall we defend ourselves against the “idiot” who just doesn’t get it?
Is she being way too kind because the flute is her favorite instrument?
Did he even listen to the lyrics?

or
Well, we just scored another 20 downloads in the last hour, so who needs you, Bub?

No.
Emphatically NO.

We have appreciated each single comment and are grateful for each & every person who took the 5 Minutes and 29 precious seconds out of their day to consider giving us their unbiased, unsolicited opinion.

Selah” was fun and exciting to produce. It features newcomer Sheldon Grayson on Vocals & the wonderful Jeremy De Jesus on flutes.

We don’t want you to miss out on getting in your 2 Cents, so Here is the link- http://bit.ly/SDSelah

Post Your Comments Here on our SounDoctrine FB page!
We would love to know your thoughts.

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The No Comfort Zone

If Music is anything at all, it’s an Adventurous Journey into Amazement! Music is an Oasis of Emotions which ofttimes teasingly, lovingly, spiritually and at other times, violently causes the Listener to Experience a moment they could never imagine on their own. My definition is Completely Melodramatic, I know, but not without reasonable consideration for what usually happens in the Musician’s mind…or at least in my own.

Interestingly, in the course of time, that same musician, if not intentional, begins to Slide into the Frontier of the Familiar. They recycle Chord Changes, Patterns, Harmony Structures, Beats and Choruses that meander subconsciously without the least bit of explorative engagement. Usually this happens once the Artist’s fan base is well established and the season of scratching and hoofing out gigs while tearfully begging people to download their music has become a distant memory.

While it’s always important to maintain your own DNA and promote your unique style of singing, playing and performance antics that make you You, the moment you quit learning, taking risks and expanding your palette for the minds, hearts and souls of your tribe is the very moment you’ve filed for retirement. A Musician’s laurels never look as cute to their fans as they do to themselves and they can always smell when you’ve phoned in a gig.

A true EntreMusician graces the tender tightrope of keeping their identity while stimulating advancement, growth and progress in their art. No “cookie cutter” formulas and presumptuous phrases which undermine the intelligence of your audience will last for long. They will remember and they will defect in time. It’s an uncomfortable position to be in, but well worth the music that results if you stay on your toes!

Finally, an EM realizes that his/her music is not just for the entertainment of others. Our souls are also fed when The Spirit downloads into us the wellspring of New Life in Song. The more we return, the more deliciously refreshing we find the water and the more prone we are to resist pondscum.

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