How To Collaborate Musically Across The Miles

For me, music is the richest form of self-expression. I find one of the most fulfilling things about being a musician is working with other musicians. I love making things with other people: I love working on school projects, working in teams in the world of business – actually I really love serving on juries. Yes, I love jury duty. I enjoy the process of creative collaboration. Making art with others is thrilling, and emotionally and technically challenging. It requires focus, passion, discipline, vulnerability – and clear communication of goals, expectations, roles and boundaries. Sometimes the excitement of creative collaborative can overshadow attention to the business details like defining process, expectations and roles. That is the stuff of hard feelings that can last a lifetime between musicians.

I’ve discovered that my collaborators need not be limited to musicians who are physically local. Stevie and I embarked recently on two separate collaborative music projects with other artist/producers who are located in LA and England. We just finished a hip hop piece with my stepson, Danny James, a successful musician and producer in LA. Danny took our original song, wrote and recorded three totally new verses sung by another (hip hop) vocalist he has worked with in LA, and then sent us back the project electronically (more on the logistics below). Stevie made a few musical and production changes, and a new song was born (you can watch the lyrics video here, the audio is available for free download on Soundcloud). To have been able to collaborate on a song with a family member who I both love and respect has meant so much to me, I was willing to wait the 6 months it took to complete!

Continue Reading

StageIt 101: Creating An Intimate Experience

It’s hard to tour – expensive, time consuming, and pretty much out of the question if you have kids or a full time job outside the music industry. But what’s an indie musician to do – you have to get out and promote your music, right?

I liken it to live internet porn for musicians, albeit generally G-rated and a much better value for the audience. Streaming your live music shows over the internet is one of the hottest ways musicians can boost their visibility, grow their fan base, and make a few dollars in the process, all from the relative comfort of their own living rooms. And neither they nor their fans have to pay a babysitter either. I’ve met quite a few musicians now who are putting on regular live performances via a streaming music service. There are several different platforms out there including StageIt, Ustream, LiveStream, Google+ Hangouts On Air, Skype, YouNow, Broadcast for Friends for Facebook, and Second Life Music. What are the relative advantages and disadvantages of each? I couldn’t find any articles that compared all the services, so I decided to try researching them myself and sharing what I’ve learned. In this article I’m going to cover the basics of StageIt.

My partner and I experimented last spring a bit with StageIt. We streamed two of our house concerts using it, and I found it quite fun. You start out by joining as a StageIt audience member, which is free. You can join by using your Facebook page, or by entering a StageIt name, email address and password. One advantage of StageIt is it’s dead simple to join. Once you are signed up as a member, you can sign up as a performer, which is a one-click action. To view a show, you purchase “notes,” a StageIt currency that translates 10 Notes = $1 US. To view a show, you purchase Notes in a minimum of 50 increments ($5 US). Notes are used to pay for tickets and to tip performers during the show (more on that later).

Continue Reading

15 Things I’ve Learned In 10 Months of Tweeting

When I began to tweet ten months ago for my social media class, I didn’t have a clue how much I would learn, both technically and socially, from the experience. This is not a post about the best time to tweet, how to use Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule your tweets, or how to geo-target your Twitter keyword searches. It is a post about some of the more subjective things I have observed about myself and other people on Twitter:

  1. Social media is very much like group therapy. It’s free, it normalizes the human experience, and it is a great mirror for your own behavior. Chances are, the things that irritate you most about someone else on Twitter are the things you could probably stand to work on yourself.
  2. Do your personal work, because who you are shows up in how you interact (sooner or later). After I have interacted with someone for a while on Twitter, reading their posts and seeing which of my posts they favorite and RT, I get a real sense of their values, their goals, and how they treat people. My goal is to work with people who share my values, so I try to remember that other people are also seeing who I am with every tweet I write.
  3. There is no such thing as anonymity. As with email, don’t say anything on Twitter or any other social media site that you wouldn’t want read out loud in a courtroom. Even when you think no one is reading your tweets, someone probably is.
  4. Karma: what goes around comes around. Do nice things, and eventually people notice. The same applies for tweeting mean or negative things.
  5. Learn the rules, but then be yourself. Learn the basic etiquette, but don’t obsess about the details or adopt someone else’s style because you admire them. Pave your own way, let your own social media style emerge.
Continue Reading

Stealing Stardom: Macklemore’s DIY Success with “The Heist”

Ellen DeGeneres Tweets About Macklemore's

Rap artist and Seattle native Ben Haggerty, better known as Macklemore (profile  by Andrew Matson of the Seattle Times here), and his creative partner, producer Ryan Lewis, are performing tonight to a sold out crowd at Seattle’s 7500 seat WaMu theater.  He might be wearing thrift store fur, I’m not sure. I won’t be attending, but both my daughters are big fans, and they bought tickets months ago. I eagerly await their post-concert report – maybe even a text from the show or some iPhone pics (see below). Even though I’m a white woman in my 40s, and not a huge rap fan, I’ve been following 29-year-old Macklemore for almost a year since I first saw him perform on Chase Jarvis Live in November 2011.  I was riveted on several levels: from carefully choreographed performance, to intelligent lyrics, to a masterful DIY social media presence and devoted fanbase. This guy was not just another young musician wanna-be – he was intelligent, articulate, positive, and inspiring. He wasn’t a rainy-day, depressing-lyrics singer-songwriter strumming his suburban-bought Martin guitar. This was a Seattle musician on the rise, I thought. Because I’m a musician myself, I was also interested to know more about how he was cultivating success without a record label.

As an unsigned DIY artist, Macklemore embodies a peculiarly early 21st century musician success story, like Amanda Palmer’s, one that gives hope to millions of aspiring amateur artists around the world. It’s important to note that his success hasn’t been overnight, he released his first album 12 years ago. Through hard work and persistence, Macklemore has gradually created a devoted fan base that numbers in the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions worldwide, with his socially conscious lyrics, artistic and sartorial creativity, and his considerable social media savvy. He’s even getting radio airplay – a seemingly impossible feat for an indie artist.

Continue Reading

Riding the Demon: Music, Love and Addiction

Biography of Ann and Nancy WIlson“Backstage he threw part of the guitar at me, and it whizzed by, just missing my head.” Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day in 2012? Nope. Roger Fisher in 1979, as described by Nancy Wilson of Heart.

The relationship between love, madness, addiction, self-destruction and creativity is always a complex one. Passion is the fuel, whether it comes from love or pain – or both.

I’ve been reading the new Ann and Nancy Wilson biography, Kicking and Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul and Rock & Roll. Fascinated and horrified at turns, I am nonetheless appreciative of the matter-of-fact way Ann and Nancy talk about their love relationships, their music, and the role of addiction throughout the book. The narrative switches back and forth between the two sisters’ viewpoints, although at times it seems to almost come from the same person. The book touches on so many issues that I can identify with – from Roger Fisher’s narcissistic drug-fueled sexual excesses in the band’s early days (as told by Nancy) to the melancholy admission of alcohol problems and body image issues at the end (by Ann). The love story between the two sisters and the two brothers (the “Wil-shers”) breathes like a sleeping dragon throughout the book. In one of the last chapters, Ann tells of the last time she saw Michael Fisher. Never married, it’s clear she never quite got over him. If you watch footage of Roger Fisher talking about Nancy (in VH1’s Behind the Music), it seems he took a long time getting over her as well.

Continue Reading