Thursday, June 21, 2012

Folk Music is Boring!!!

And it's their own, damn fault

I've been looking around the web at different "folk" music sites. I've also started listening to the radio again. I live in Austin, so, yup. I listen to KGSR.

Here's the deal. It's like watching a soap opera. The songs and artists never change. Within two seconds of turning on the radio, I can recognize the song, and turn the radio back off. Same goes for folky websites. Same short list of artists. Same greying beard on the programmer.

That's another thing. All these damn programmers look exactly alike. 60ish male with greying, short cropped beard. He's wearing his newest and latest folk festival shirt and baggy jeans. Usually Keen's or Merrill's on his feet. You know the guy...

Why can't we shake it up? Kick new-age sexism in the ass? Start calling KGSR or logging onto Folk Alley and DEMAND some variety. There are a lot of great artists that need to be heard beyond their hometown or some friendly house concert along the road. And this is my theory. Most folk  programmers/producers are star f***ers. They are middle aged men who want to boost their ego by "getting to know" the big folk acts. You'll notice that you'll find plenty of photos of these guys mugging with somebody "famous."



I hate that crap.

I love a new discovery or re-emergence of an old artist. And, of course, I have my personal favorites. Some, I love because they are just so wonderfully talented. Others are just great people who are also wonderful artists. I still get excited when a new discovery comes to me. However, it's just little old me. If you read this, then you probably are somewhat like me. Demand that those great folks under the radar are deserving of some attention from the establishment.

Yes. Even folk music is an establishment.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Is Performance Important for a Songwriter?

That seems like a dumb question, and let me answer it by saying, "Today it is." The world of a singer/songwriter is really the world of performing songwriter, and those are two different things.
  1. I sing. I write songs.
  2. I am a performer who writes songs.
I know some perfectly good songwriters that are terrifically boring to listen to in a live setting. Therefore, I rarely go to their performances, and if I do, it's more about putting a few bucks in the tip jar to support their songwriting. I also know some amazing performers who write fantastic songs.

The Performing Songwriter


Jean Synodinos is a performing songwriter. 


Erika Luckett is a performing songwriter. 



Zoe Lewis is a performing songwriter.



What make these women (and many more) stand out is that there is an element of "theatrics" is their performances. It's not just two hours of story telling and singing. It's personal transformation into something that is partly a character of themselves... or the people they write about. Zoe throws in elements of vaudeville. Erika can throw off a sudden steam of conscious spoken word that would take Whitman to his knees is ecstasy. Jean seems to become the subject of the song, thus moving her performance to the edge of musical theater. 

These women define a subculture that quickens the pace of the craft, and therefore, they help bring their ilk out of obscurity. You don't have to know them or their music, but if you happen upon their shows, you won't forget them. It's magical fan making.

Yeah, So What?

Somewhere, on some blog, I've written about the ongoing challenge that songwriters face to get people to actually COME TO A SHOW.

Performance
Craft
A little theatrics

Otherwise, you better be the most charming person in town. You better be the master connector. If you aren't, then I suggest you explore the 4th wall idea and learn to perform. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Take a Break


I'm going to be a total hypocrite on this one. I'm sitting here with my back on fire because it's so stiff, and I've spent the better part of the afternoon emailing with Jessi about promo stuff. She's overloaded with work, and she won't be able to work on promo until the winter when things... slow down.

I start a new job in a week. I'll be working the usual corporate 8 and then book ending my day with writing and promo stuff. I'm not sure what will happen first. I'll get a chronic crick in my neck or I'll get fat.

Take a Break!

 

I'm not really sure how to tell you to take a break since I don't follow my own advice, but I do think it's important for your creative self. If you're in a fog, you need a break. If you piddle more than you work, you need a break, so figure out how to take one. If getting away is out of the question then:

  • Take a daily walk
  • Exercise
  • Ride your bike
  • Meditate
  • Read a trashy novel
Most of the time, I could get away if I'd just do it, but I tell myself that I can't. It comes with the fatigue. Denial. Can't, can't, can't.


Folks, we have to take care of ourselves. Otherwise, that stress just builds up in the body and makes us sick and unlikeable.

Try Something New

 

If the things you love to do seem boring or uninteresting, then you're probably burned out. Try something new. If you're a folk singer, write a rock song. Go to a jazz club. If you're a promoter, stay out of the clubs and off the internet for a day or two. Try a hike. Give up drinking.


The only way to survive this music business is to get a change of venue every once in awhile. Even healthy practices can become rote, so mix it up. Take a break! Really refresh. It will be good for your creative spirit.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gen Y Doesn't Tip

I've noticed something when I'm playing gigs that allow me to throw down a tip jar. Generation Y doesn't tip. It's not an anomaly. I promise. I've been doing my own casual research for awhile. These 20 to 30 year old couples come in to the establishment for dinner or drinks, and they show signs of enjoying the music. You know. They stop talking and listen for a minute. Then when they leave, they make meaningful eye contact, and walk right past the tip jar.


I think several factors play into this behavior.

They don't make that much money.
They are still young enough to be unaware.
They grew up with iTunes.
They don't understand the real meaning of "connection."

I read a Seth Godin interview where he said the only thing of value that a musician has left to sell is intimacy. I thought that was a dumb statement the first time I read it, and after many gigs watching the Y factor walk past the tip jar, I still think Godin's full of shit.

I live on the cusp of Boomer and X. My parents were continually exposed to live music. In fact, it's my parent's generation that tip generously. They love the presence, the "connection" and the idea that someone can add value to the atmosphere with a voice and a guitar.

The Difference Between X and Y

My generation, which is more X than boom, went out to connect with friends. We went to concerts. That's how I spent my after school job money. I was also raised on old fashioned manners. You demonstrate your appreciation for something good. You tip to keep the good stuff coming.

Here's the problem, Generation Y probably doesn't care if there's a real human being producing the music. After all, they spend more time staring at their smart phones than listening to my music or even talking to a date. The date doesn't seem to mind because that's just the way they are.  I get seriously sad and lonely just thinking about the future.



So what do we do? Priming the tip jar will get the older people to give a few bucks. It won't work on the youngsters. Should I start a facebook campaign?  Tweet it? "Tip you brats." or "#tipyoubrats.



If you're huffing and puffing because I stepped on your toes, then I've been effective. I read somewhere that this generation lives with their parents longer, has better family connections, and desires meaningful relationships. I think the misstep comes from trying to find that connection via an electronic device. It will never be satisfying.

What Can Musicians Do About It?

I want my musician friends to work on their social message. Make sure you promote the real meaning of "connection." Then make a habit of talking to those young people. I admit to being really bad about sinking inward when I'm doing a dinner type gig. My generation and older will engage with me, and I always love it, but this group of people who claim they need connection can't do it in the flesh.



I think the work is up to us musicians. Maybe make a sign that says, "If you tip, I will talk to you, and smile at you, and like you." Gen Y loves music. No doubt. It's just a matter of honing the soft skills to make them understand real connection.

Gen Y musicians can learn from this, too. Don't just play your gig and scoot. Take a little time to mingle. Here's a scary suggestion. Turn off your phone. Once upon a time, the phone was connected to the wall by a curly cord. That's why we old folks are so damn good at small talk. Turn that SOB OFF! You're an entertainer, and part of being a good one is learning how to really connect.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Make Friends. Real Friends in the Music Business

Jean Synodinos, Christy Claxton, Jessi Lynn

I've been around long enough to notice something. Musicians who don't create real friendships with other musicians don't have a long-term presence. Often times, young artists see other artists as competition. Certainly, to a degree they are, but "embrace the enemy" because he or she is not really the enemy.

Safety in Numbers

There is a very small bevvy of musicians that I have been friends with for over 10 years. In some cases, it's closer to 20 years. I live in a city that hardly ever books a single act a night. That's when those friends come into play. We can join forces and book out a night. It's a winner for everyone. Their fans see me, and my fans see them. The venue has more patrons than if I showed up alone.

If I don't share the gig, and only a handful of people come to see me, the chance of getting a second booking is nil.  If at least one other person is on the bill, it's always better for the venue, and ultimately better for me. I just have to make sure that I pick a friend with a similar sound. Fortunately, for me, I can go Country, Folk, or Singer-Songwriter.  I have options and I have friends:
That's just a few. I have others, but these are truly my friends. Jean and Kiya live in Austin. We hang out and share drinks or dinner. Jessi stays with me when she comes to town. It's about more than musical support. We know stuff about each other. We're friends. If the gig is a total bad scene, it's nice to be in it with someone you can trust.

Pick Up the Phone and Say, "Hey"

Here's the very most important part about making real friends in the music business: Pick up the phone and just call to chat. If all you ever do is contact your so called musician friends when you want something, then you're not really a friend. The business relationship is short lived.

I've encountered my fair share of users. Some were a little more sly about it than others. They were able to pretend the friendship was real for several years. It might take me that long to pick up the pattern, but when I did, I was done. It's very important that the friendship is true.

Kiya Heartwood

Here's an example: About 10 years ago, me and my drummer friend (actually best friend before we played together) got ourselves into a bad situation in the Northwest. A "known" promoter/performer did a gig swap with me. She came to Texas, and we worked our butts off to give her good gigs. I got to Seattle, and she couldn't even say, "Hello" at the first gig. Nobody came to that gig.

The truth came out. The spin was bigger than the reality.  I was in a bind. I called Kiya. She gave me honest information about the situation, and then she asked me if I needed some money. 

How many musicians will give you money to help you out?
Real friend.

So, that being said, you should stop by her website and listen to her music. I want her to be rewarded for being a real friend to the people she associates with.


Make friends. Cherish those friendships even after the gig is over.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Custom Jewelry by Jessi Lynn


Songwriter Creates Personalized Wedding Gifts for the Wedding Party

 

This is actually a re-post because I wanted to share something with you that will illustrate how even successful songwriters and independent musicians find creative ways to increase their income and their name recognition. Jessi Lynn is a jewelry artist. Recently, she was commissioned to make gifts for a wedding party.  Read on!



 If you're looking for the perfect gift for the wedding party, try custom jewelry that can be worn during the wedding. I recently had a house guest who is a touring musician. Jessi Lynn also makes custom jewelry. I've purchased a cool necklace from her, and the thing I like about her work is that it is unisex. On her last visit, she was busily making necklaces for a wedding party. That's a great idea.

These gifts were perfect for the causal theme of the wedding. Often, brides struggle to find the perfect gift to say, "thank you." By purchasing necklaces that would work with the wedding, but also last beyond the special day, was a beautiful idea. Jessi Lynn has a variety of simple
styles, so one could order a pendant for men that is on a leather chain and put the same pendant on something more delicate for women.

Bracelets are a good idea, too. Once again, this made-to-order jewelry is unisex, durable, and lasting. If you’ve never heard of Jessi Lynn, chances are your gift will be as original as her music. Check out her YouTube Channel in the side bar. Then check out her
custom jewelry store on her website.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Art of Independent Music

Noelle Hampton & Christy Claxton

 













Yes, of course. Music is art, but I'm not talking about that kind of art. Mostly, this blog will be about the art of the business of independent music. No secret that the major labels are in a free fall. They'll land somewhere, but in the meantime, DIY musicians are on the scramble to redefine the music business.

It's a art form. Everyone has a little different way of doing it because everyone has a little different audience, lifestyle, and musical milieu. Here are a few things I'll talk about:
  • My music marketing ideas
  • Musicians' music marketing ideas
  • Musicians' other forms of income
  • Product and service reviews
  • Artist profiles and reviews
The guest book is where you can leave me tips and suggestions. I'll be straight up and tell you right here that I'll delete cyberjerks' comments. So you have to be nice, and you have to write something that readers and I can really use.

About the Blogger

 

I currently live in Austin, Texas. I used to live in the country on a little patch of land. I ran a concert series from my front porch. From there, I created The Peace from the Porch Project. It's still active, and this is one of the projects for PFTP. I've always be a "go to girl" for independent musicians. Whether I hosted house concerts, wrote reviews, or helped with promotions, I managed to meet many great musicians.

I play a little music, too. It gives me a little empathy towards the art of independent music. So let me say right here. It's a hard business. Nobody has it easy. Nobody. No magic bullet. Slow and steady. That's mostly it. 

About the Artists

 

I'm fickle, so I will have a "favorite" artist or idea one day, and then totally celebrate something else the next. It's like art, you know. It grows and changes like I do. However, I promise that the people I do talk about are worth your consideration, so click the hyperlinks when you see them.

I'm always amazed at the talent that's out there working. Some of these musicians have been around for many years, and others are relatively new to the scene. That doesn't seem to be a factor in who is successful and who isn't. Remember, it's an art. If I share someone's idea that doesn't resonate with you, then likely, it's not a good idea for you.

Music fans, you'll find plenty of good stuff here, too. Just click on those hyperlinks. You'll discover a few things you will really like.  O.K.!  Let's get started. Next entry will include something you can take away with you. Could be a song... could be an idea.