You’re not famous? Your music must not be that good.

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I had a discussion today with one of my promoters in the virtual world of Second Life.  Yes, I’m still doing the geeky thing of giving live performances via my Shoutcast radio stream to groups of 10 – 100 people, several times each week. It’s great for keeping myself rehearsed for “real life” performances, and it has helped me to share the music I have felt so driven to write down, record, rehearse, and develop into my art. If you’re interested in hearing one of these live shows, you can find more information about it HERE.

I digress. . . during this discussion with Terrance Popstar (his virtual name), my word-of-mouth promoter, he was sharing some of his experiences in conversing with others about music. It seems that while some people are more than willing to watch a YouTube video rather than just standing around in the glorified chat room atmosphere of Second Life, some get quite irritated by a promoter that drops in to promote. I’m so thankful to have him on my team. It’s not a job that I would do well at all. While I enjoy sharing my music with people that enjoy it, I dread forcing my music at people that don’t want it.

One of the responses Terrance was sharing with me roused my attention more than the others. He said that when he asked the group of SL patrons if they had ever heard of “SaraMarie Philly, a musician on the grid” that he promotes for, one of the people replied, “If her music is any good, she will gain attention without you having to go around promoting.”  

Just typing out that sentence again makes me cringe. This person could not be more ill-informed. There are many, many musicians out there that have great music and writing skills that will never have the opportunity to share their music with the people. Think about your favorite artist or band from when you were in your teenage years….you know, the CD (or cassette….or 8 track….or record) that you played over and over and over again…because the music made you feel a certain way. It spoke to you. It became part of who you are today. That music probably found it’s way into your hands through a great deal of promoting, performing, word of mouth, and money that was behind it. It was probably a group signed to a major label, with the money to make sure that the artist was promoted adequately. Because without that promotion, it would be highly unlikely that you would stumble upon that band or artist.

Unfortunately, the “rags to riches” stories just don’t happen so much anymore. Things were different  50 years ago, before digital marketing and distribution became over 60% of the market. Dolly Parton is a good example of the last “rags to riches” story from that era. Her family was poor when she was growing up, but they noticed her talent for singing and got her into radio at a very young age. Yes, Dolly Parton was a child star. It wasn’t until much later that she became the star with big boobs, and later yet that her song “I Will Always Love You” ended up in the hands of Whitney Houston for the movie The Bodyguard, which earned her more money in royalties than any of her own performances ever did. But….back to the truthful fact. People did NOT just “discover” her because she was a good singer. Her parents promoted her, she was signed to a small label by the time she was 9 years old, and that label promoted her. That’s what labels do. And honestly, even though Dolly Parton claims to have been “dirt poor”, she grew up on a tobacco farm. None of us can really be sure whether tobacco farming was profitable or not at that time, although tobacco products were certainly on an economic rise. It is reasonable to say that while they may have been dirty from farming, they may not have been as poor as she let on. It does however make a great story for promoting the young budding singing star.

Let’s flash back….or forward….to NOW. Artists are not usually just “discovered”. Even the acts that you would think are just discovered via YouTube or Second Life or radio programs are really not handed the golden ticket that you think. In the mind of the public, there are talent-scouters all over the place, and if a good musician should happen to be heard by one of them, they will be handed a business card, signed to a label, and given a lot of money to create music. It doesn’t really work that way anymore. Music labels are looking for acts that already have a following. They are looking for acts that have the money to pay for the recording and production of their albums on the front end and purchase all of their own equipment or already own their own sound system. Basically, they are looking for acts that have done the hard work of promoting themselves so that when the label signs them, their work is a little easier. It makes sense from the label’s standpoint. You may be  thinking, “Why do you need a label? Just release independently and promote yourself. People will notice.”   In a perfect world, this would be great. You would release your CD and have your discs replicated, and then send them out to Target and Walmart and all of those other places that people frequent……scrreeech….oh wait, those places only allow music that is released through a major label to be on their shelves. Really? Yeah, really. Not just “a label”, but a MAJOR label. Meaning…..more money for promotion.

Still thinking that maybe an artist can get “discovered” by just putting themselves out there with no promotion? Let’s look at Beyonce Knowles, for example. Her father took classes in music business and started managing Beyonce’s music group Destiny’s Child when it was just in it’s beginning stages. How many dads, upon seeing their little tween girls singing and dancing around with their friends would take this kind of financial risk to try to turn them into superstars? One with lots of money, and the willingness to promote his butt off.

Taylor Swift is another great example of how most music success happens these days. Her father was willing to co-invest millions of dollars into the label that signed her, making her at the top of their promotion priorities. Don’t believe everything you read in a musician’s Wikipedia profile. One of the thing they tell us at seminars and music conferences is that we need to have a compelling story. Some promoters even encourage people to make things up, or stretch the truth a little. An example? I tell people I grew up on a rabbit farm. It’s true…we had a big barn full of rabbits that I raised to show for 4-H. About 50-60 rabbits at one point. But reading the sentence, “I grew up on a rabbit farm” makes it sound like that was my family’s main source of income, which it was not. Both of my parents had full-time jobs. Taylor Swift grew up on a Christmas Tree farm. Her father also happened to be a very successful stockbroker.

You may point to the band “Karmin”, who got “discovered” on YouTube.  Let me first point out that YouTube is NOT the automatic-success-for-the-talented story that you think it is. After the basics of having good recording equipment to make a video that is worth watching, there is also the issue of promotion. You think that there is no promotion that goes into YouTube? You just put up a video and people flock to it and watch it? Consider this. . . YouTube sells advertising. So, people that pay that fee to be advertised get listed at the top of the search results, sometimes with a pretty box around their video, and get more views than people that don’t pay that advertising money. Also, the more views a video has, the higher it will appear….so if you are uploading a video with 0 views, it will show up at the bottom of the search query, not at the top. And that’s for people that happen to search for it. The way that YouTube videos become viral is that the uploaders promote the video to their friends, and it spreads by word of mouth.

 

There IS an element of needing to be “good” in the music business to share your product, but please don’t think that just because someone hasn’t been “discovered”, isn’t “famous” or doesn’t have a huge “following” that their music is of any less quality than those that have the three aforementioned attributes. And if you’re ever standing around in Second Life and my promoter happens to drop in, try to be nice to him, please.

Fat Singers

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As a woman of “average” to “curvy” size/shape, I often find myself considering whether I “belong” in the pop music genre. Let’s be honest, there aren’t that many female artists who have breached a size 8, let alone thesize 14/16 of the average American woman. Every time this subject comes up, someone mentions “But there’s Adele, and Ditto…and Jennifer Hudson. Oh wait, Jennifer Hudson lost a lot of weight.” The Grammies also revealed a thinner Adele, and Ditto’s weight is constantly a subject of talk among interested musicians, as it yo-yo’s from quite “round” to “deliciously plump”.

I don’t want to say that I advocate an unhealthy lifestyle, but I do think our culture has gotten a bit ridiculous when it comes to expectations about size, weight, and appearances in general. There will always be the person that argues that they are simply fighting the obesity epidemic because of the health implications and the cost that it imposes on the rest of society. OK, fair enough. Let’s look at this in a different way. We all know that drinking and smoking are also bad for one’s health. Moderate drinking can have positive effects on the circulatory system, so we’ll just ignore that one and go for smoking. Smoking has no health benefits and one should consider the impact of second hand smoke if they are genuinely concerned about health only. However, while we may agree that smoking is a bad habit, we are more inclined to accept someone’s addiction to smoking but find saddlebags and pudgy tummies “disgusting”. Think of all the mean things that have been directed toward overweight people and imagine that those same words were applied to a person that smokes. It just doesn’t equate. So, we can safely say that the problem our society has with heavy people is NOT the issue of health, but the issue of how a person looks. 

I’m happy for Jennifer Hudson and Adele who are undoubtedly happier with a few less pounds, but I can’t help but think there is no place in the current entertainment industry for women who are not “the entire package”. Sadly, many fantastic voices of our time will go unheard because we are seeking the most beautiful/trim  people rather than the most talented.

While I’m not an advocate of gluttony or forgoing health efforts, but I do advocate self-acceptance and following your dreams no matter what your size, age, race or experience. Share your gifts.

Online Debate Ettiquette

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When responding to a person’s views with your own contrasting views, the dynamic of the conversation can quickly turn sour. The arena of debate through the internet has often turned into name-calling, profanity, and overly condescending language. I see so few comments that are worded in a productive way, that I decided to provide my personal method.

1. Read the entirety of any comment you are responding to. (Or watch the entirety of any video you are responding to.)

2. If there are any points that you AGREE with, mention that first.

3. Say which part you don’t agree with and why, without calling names or making the message overly personal.

4. If there were two things that you agreed with in the video/comment, mention another thing at the end. If there was only one thing, or nothing at all, THANK the person for participating in the discussion.

 

Categories: Random Stuff Blogs

People On The Internet Are Rude

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If you ever doubt that racism still exists, just start reading the comments left on African-American YouTube channels. You’ll be appalled at the kind of trash you will read spewing from people’s fingers with little care for politeness or grammatical correctness. The truth of the matter is that people feel protected from behind their computer screens, completely unaccountable for their words and actions. While that can be true through the use of multiple proxies, people should not be led to believe that their words won’t follow them. I was taught when I was little that the written word is powerful – because others can find it and read it. One great example of this was my diary. I quickly learned after several arguments with my mother and subsequent angry diary entries – which were later read by Mom – that the written word can come back to haunt you long after the initial impetus for writing them strikes.

Facebook is a great example of where people are opening themselves to the world. You may think that all of your comments are only read by your 300+ friends, but think again. If you make a comment on a friend’s link, the friend sees that comment – your 300 friends see the comment – – AND your friend’s 300 friends also see the comment. When Your friends’ friends comment after you, their friends also have access to see the comment, and the chain reaction grows. Basically, don’t fool yourself into thinking that your snide remarks are only being shared with a handful of people, or that they aren’t searchable. It only takes one angry, crazy person to come to your place of work (which you’ve so prominently listed at the top of your FaceBook profile) and harass you – or worse.

Youtube has become the all-time low of rudeness. People make up pseudonyms and say the most hurtful, hateful things. There is definitely a trend to compliment young, attractive people (particularly teenage girls) for any videos they post – while openly ridiculing less attractive people. As a musician, I am often listening to music on YouTube, and in the musical arena of pop culture, there is much fighting and debate about the artists. Singers must “compete” with one another, and they are forced to do so by their fans – who listen to their music and make comments about who is the best/better singer. These comments aren’t just said to the artist, they are shared with the world. My biggest gripe is that people rarely tell us why one artist is better than another – unless they are pointing out that one artist is fatter/hotter/uglier/prettier, etc. We live in a very shallow, superficial world.

Of course, the most disturbing part of all this is the fact that people don’t just “become” rude when they log onto a computer. They are rude already, and being behind the shelter of a screen brings out that horrible quality. It is very much like the sense of protection one feels when driving an automobile and cursing the other drivers. You feel completely unaccountable for your actions. You will never see that person again in your life, and as a result all of the anger within comes out.

For the first time in my musical career, I have come to a point where I understand the feelings of Lauryn Hill, whom I always thought was crazy for her Malcolm-X-like approach to racism and her desire to slip out of the public eye and live her own private life. Why would she want to share her music with such a horrible world? A place filled with evil people who have such hurtful things to say? There are still some good people in the world – but not many.

Categories: Random Stuff Blogs

Remix of “My Turn” by Louisiana Jones :)

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When Louisiana Jones contacted me saying that he wanted to do a electronic remix of “My Turn”, I wasn’t really sure how that song would nicely fit into that genre, but I had hopes that he could make it work. I listened to some of his other work on SoundCloud and loved the way he remixed things. Some Dubstep and Electronic music can get a bit “heavy” and “depressive” for my taste, but he tends to keep it really alive and full of energy. After a few weeks of figuring out how to extract and send the main vocal file, he sent me an email that said, “Check your Dropbox!”  To my surprise, this awesome song was waiting for me there! Enjoy!

 

My Turn Remix-Sara Tiemogo-Louisiana Jones by Louisiana Jones

Categories: Music Blogs