Posts Tagged 'Myspace'

Remix John Brown’s Body

johnbrownsbody

John Brown’s Body is an eight piece “modern reggae” band that has been playing its way around the country for the last 10 years, during which time they also released six studio albums. In that time, they endured more hardships than most bands should have to face in a lifetime, including the death of a bassist, departure of several original band members and throat surgery for the lead singer for vocal polyps. Perhaps all this real life strife and the revolving door of musical influence in the group is what spawned their unique style. Although their original sound was fairly true to traditional reggae stylings, as the band evolved their sound became more futuristic.

Check out their sound for yourself on their MySpace page. If you’re really ahead of the game you may have already gotten their newest album Re-Amplify (Easy Star Records), which debuted exclusively on iTunes on March 3rd (full release coming on March 17th). Like what you hear? Make your own remix of the song “Zion Triad” using the Remix Wizard on their Myspace page or in the MixMatchMusic Remix Wizard gallery).

Illa J Interview

Illa J

Illa J, the younger brother of hip-hop legend J Dilla, has stepped out on his own into the world of music with last week’s release of his debut album on Delicious Vinyl, Yancey Boys. I had a chance to catch up with Illa J last week and discuss his musical influences, working with Delicious Vinyl, making a recording studio from J Dilla’s equipment, and the importance of originality in music. Here’s what he had to say.

AC: What were you initial musical influences and where do you find most of the inspiration for your work?

IJ: Growing up, the first music I ever listened to was jazz. My Dad would always be playing the Manhattan Transfers and the Four Freshmen, so I got into it early. My early influences were Al Green, Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Stevie Wonder and a lot of Soul early on.

AC: Is it true your parents were in a jazz a cappella group?

IJ: Yea, they had their own group. They used to practice in our living room at home for hours and hours, and that’s how I got my musical ear, because they sang so much I had no choice but to learn all the jazz chords.

AC: Talk about growing up the younger brother of one of hip-hop’s most well known producers. How did this hurt you and how did it help you?

IJ: I don’t think it hurt me in anyway. If anything, people because of that, the first thing they want to do is compare me to my brother. Honestly, I don’t even think about that. When I’m in the studio, I’m in the zone, it’s all about the music. At the end of the day, I was brought up around nothing but music and that’s in my blood lines. In my immediate family, pretty much everyone sings and everybody writes songs and are musicians, so it’s pretty normal in my household that someone can sing or play an instrument. So it’s really no pressure to me, I’m just doing my thing, having fun.

AC: So when did you first start formally performing in front of audiences and when did you actually make the decision that music was going to be your career?

IJ: I always knew from a young age that I was going to do music. I’d be in front of the TV, a video or something would be on and I’d act like I was singing, and I’d always be singing around the house. I always knew I was going to do music, I just didn’t know when. And after my brother passed, when you have a big loss like that, a lot of people when they have big losses, in a sense it gives them a whole new perspective on life. That’s what happened with me. To lose my bigger brother that soon, cause I didn’t expect to lose him at 32, that definitely changed my life from that day on. I knew before that, even midway through college, I kinda knew I was going to work in music, but after he passed, that’s when I dedicated my life to music, just do what’s in my blood, do my craft, and that’s pretty much how it started.

AC: I read in another interview you did that you liked Los Angeles because people were always getting stuff done. Do you still feel that way about the city and what in your mind stands out as the brightest part about LA?

IJ: Not necessarily getting things done… people get stuff done in Detroit too, but right now, Detroit is kinda crazy, especially with how the economy is. Out here, I feel that it’s a whole new city for me, and I feel a lot more relaxed. When I’m in Detroit, I feel that there’s a lot going on and so many distractions, but when I’m out here, I’m free to just stick to my craft.

AC: In terms of music that you created in Detroit vs. music that you created in Los Angeles, do you feel that there’s a big difference there in terms of what you’ve done with the different atmospheres?

IJ: Out here, I really got the chance to practice in the studio. Back in Detroit, at that time I didn’t have a studio, so I didn’t get the chance to be in the vocal booth to practice. I recorded a track in the studio with my brother when I was 13, but other than that I hadn’t recorded anything. When I’m in Detroit, I have a whole different mind state. In Detroit, it’s almost like walking down the street you’re watching your back every so many minutes. People can tell that I moved out here because I’m a lot more relaxed than I was in my music. When I first started recording, I was a lot more aggressive because in a sense it was like I wanted to get out. Now I’m a lot more relaxed in my music, and you can feel that I’m just letting go, not really forcing it and letting it flow in a sense.

AC: I heard that you built your own studio out in LA using your brother’s equipment. Talk about that studio, what of his equipment you’ve used, and how that process has worked for you.

IJ: I have my brother’s Digidesign Pro Control board, I have some of the racks, his C12 mic, and his MPC 3000 and of my own, I have a Motif and bass guitar. I’m working on getting another guitar and a drum set. (7:10)

AC: You’re signed to Delicious Vinyl which is known for producing some of the most well known hip-hop of the early ‘90s. Talk about your introduction to Mike Ross and what joining Delicious Vinyl was like for you.

IJ: The first time I met Mike Ross was in ’06 and the next time I met him after that was in March ’07. Around that time is when he gave me a CD with 38 tracks on it that my brother produced from ’95 to ’98. These were tracks that he was making while he was working with Pharcyde and also just doing remix stuff, Delicious Vinyl puts out a lot of remixes. Pretty much, at that time, he told me to just pick a track from there just to see what it sounded like because he was going to try to do a compilation of various artists that worked with my brother.

The next time I talked to him after that was in January of ’08. I was hitting him up cause I wrote this song and I was like, “You gotta hear this song.” At that time, I wasn’t even thinking of making an album with Delicious Vinyl, I was just gonna see if he could help me out in a sense and get out there and try to jump start my career, I just wanted him to hear the song. At that time I didn’t think I was going to do an album with him. He came over in February of ’08 and I played him the song on the Motif and he was like, “I like your voice,” and he wanted to hear some more joints, so I played him some more and he had me perform at this club a couple days after that, and it just happened to be on my brother’s birthday, February 7th, ‘08. After my performance he came up to me and was like, “You killed it, why don’t you just do the whole album?” That’s pretty much how the album started. As far as working with Delicious, it’s definitely dope. Pharcyde is one of my favorite groups, so I’m in the office looking at Pharcyde and Tone Loc and it’s funny to see my album up on the wall with them. Especially Delicious being where my brother kick started his career, it’s almost like everything came full circle.

AC: You mentioned the CD that Ross gave you with all the tracks your brother did from ’95-98. What was hearing this CD for the first time like and when you heard it, did it give you a specific idea of the direction you wanted your album to go in?

IJ: The first time I heard it, I had never heard the tracks before, and I really got a chance to listen to them, they really connected me back to ’95 as soon as I listened to it. It reminded me of the days that I’d sit on the stairs listening to my brother make tracks in the basement, and the sound he was making at that time. I was nine years old, so in a sense I had an instinct for what I wanted to do over them. They also have a lot of jazz chords, and that connected to me well because I was brought up on Jazz first so the minors, D7, changes, things like that I’m used to, so automatically I had a connection with the tracks and they fit my song writing style too. At the end of the day, my brother, even though he could write too, he was known more as a producer and I see myself as a singer/songwriter first before anything.

AC: Let’s talk about Yancey Boys. What was your vision for this album when you started and what was the process like in working on it?

IJ: For one thing, when you listen to the album, you hear the theme of time throughout the album. That’s because the original title for the album was going to be Timeless. I kinda wanted to make a timeless album, for example, so many of the old albums, Off the Wall, or Prince albums, when you listen to their stuff, it was made way back in the ‘80s and it’s still relevant today when you listen to it, you know what I mean? I didn’t want to necessarily try to make anything for the radio, cause there’s not really a single on the album, it’s an album, one complete piece of artwork. The tracks were from ’95, but I’m recording in 2008, so that connection and the fact that the music was still relevant today, that’s the tip I was going on. Mike Ross, he liked the Timeless idea, but he was like, “Yea, it’s timeless, but it’s so much more than that too,” cause he was really feeling it. When I would do shows, and my production company, to pay tribute to my brother and my family, I called it Yancey Boys. He was like, “Why don’t you call it Yancey Boys?” and it didn’t take too long to think about I was like, “Yea, that’s pretty dope.” And we went from there.

AC: What I like about this album is how laid back it is. You sit back and nod to it, you never feel overwhelmed by the album. Would you say that that’s a product of your personality, or were you specifically aiming for that and you see future albums going in a different direction?

IJ: Well the album is definitely laidback. One thing about this album is that when I wrote to it, as a songwriter, the music came first. So the beats and the tracks already had a laidback feel to it, and as a writer, it’s my job to let the music speak to me instead of me just writing my ideas over the beats, let the music speak to me because the tracks were already done.

AC: What’s your favorite track on the album and why?

IJ: My favorite track on the album is “Timeless.” On my Myspace page, I have joints on my page, but that was only stuff because I had nothing else to put up at that time, and I wasn’t going to put up my really good stuff on my page, so I just put up joints to keep stuff moving. At that time, I didn’t know if people were ready to hear where I was really going with the music because this album is really a true representation and my intro. This is truly my introduction and music that I feel represents me. “Timeless” was really an expression of me as an artist. It’s so full and the chords bring out the emotions, and that’s what I liked about it for me when I was writing it.

AC: There’s 14 tracks on Yancey Boys and you said you had 38 on the CD from Ross so are we looking at more albums in your future with other songs produced by your brother?

IJ: Maybe, it all depends on the track. A lot of people think that I just went off this with a lot of Dilla beats and was like, “I’ll do an album.” But I was actually working with other producers and was producing myself. I’ll only use my brother’s tracks if I feel it’s right. It’s gotta be the right track. I know that when he was in studio making tracks, even if you were in the studio with him, if he played a beat, you could like it or whatever, but it didn’t necessarily mean he was making that for you, he might just be making that for himself. I know my brother. By me doing this album, it means that I know my brother would be cool with it.

AC: We talked earlier about your initial musical influences. Who in the industry today, music wise, do you look at as a true talent?

IJ: Definitely Amy Winehouse. Her album, Back to Black, inspired me a lot. That album, in a sense, is timeless. You can’t really fit a particular era to it. You could play it way back in the day and it would still sound right.

AC: How do you see the current scene in hip-hop, what do you think is good about it, and what in your mind needs to be changed?

IJ: My main thing is pretty much when I was growing up, the artists I was looking up to, my favorite thing about artists was how unique his voice was or how unique her voice was. It’s about originality, being original. When Busta came out, it’s like nobody sounds like him, he’s got his own style. As long as it’s about being original, it should alright. At the end of the day, you can only be the best you you can be, I can only be the best Illa J, just like my brother is Dilla and he can only be Dilla, that’s him. As an artist, you can’t be afraid to be original, take a chance, and when I think I’m going super left field, at the same time, who’s to say how far you can go?

AC: One last question for you. I read in another interview that you would have liked to work on Michael Jackson‘s Off the Wall album. What album in the hip-hop genre would you have liked to have worked on and what album in your opinion stands out to you in terms of “greatest of all time?”

IJ: I kinda wish I had been working on it when my brother was making Welcome to Detroit. Also, his work with Slum Village.

AC: Anything you want to plug? Upcoming concert dates, releases?

IJ: I’ve got my release party out in Cali at the Little Temple in Santa Monica. That’s November 20th. I’ll be touring soon and check out my myspace page… Myspace.com/illajmusic. The album’s out in stores, go cop it.

MySpace Music

Social networking site MySpace jumped into the music industry recently, setting up deals with the major labels to stream free music to the users of the site. The news I read yesterday stated that in only the first week, over 1 billion songs were streamed. The commentators seem to view this as a monumental feat, despite the fact that a) they’re free, b) there’s millions and millions of users on MySpace and c) they’re instantly and readily available. In fact, the majority of the press I saw yesterday centered around the idea that this was a sort of challenge to Apple’s iTunes.

Let’s be clear. Streaming music that is paid for by advertising is not the same as music sales. The record labels may use the income from the deals to pad their sales/income numbers, but a streamed song does not a music purchase make. The purpose of the move from CD to mp3 rather than CD to stream is that people like owning their music, taking their music around with them and playing it for others. The stream is great as a form of promotion and introduction to the music, but you can’t take it with you.

This isn’t to say that I’m against streaming music in any way. Pandora is pretty genius, and I would never knock my old home, USC’s streaming radio station that can be found at KSCR. But for industry writers, who in some part can help influence the record execs that read their work, starting to compare a free streaming music service on a social networking site to the largest music retailer in Apple’s iTunes is like comparing tap water to wine. Just because it’s free and easily accessible doesn’t mean that it can trump the demand for quality and the ability to save something far into the future. Of course, if users find a way to “bottle” the stream to their music library, how interested in continued streaming would the labels be?

As for where this turns the music industry, I think the only answer everyone has for sure is that no one has any answers. The labels are still looking to make money off of solid media sales, as mentioned previously, data companies like SanDisk are looking for ways to make albums smaller and more accessible, and artists are still trying to figure out how the industry would work without them given that they only make 9.1 cents from a song royalty, but there’s no money for the labels if they don’t have the song to exploit in the first place.

So for now, we watch. I’m sure it won’t take long for MySpace to surpass 5 billion streams, but how the labels will react to that and attempt to use it to influence other sectors of the music industry will be interesting to see.

Why Musicians Should Jump on the Twitter Bandwagon

Twitter is not just for tech geek bloggers anymore. (Yes, that was a Scobleizer shout out.) Oh no, my friends. Twitter is for everyone. Especially DIY musicians.

Before you read the rest of this post, open another tab and listen to “You’re no one if you’re not on Twitter” in the background. It’s in the little music player at the top of this page. Just a little soundtrack for ya.

And, while you’re distracted, go ahead and follow evolvingmusic on Twitter.

Now, not everyone agrees with the merits of twittering as a part of an overall marketing strategy for musicians. I, however, would not only include Twitter in my strategy, I would make it one of the main features.

I know, Twitter can be mildly reminiscent of a 90s chat room sometimes. (I never really understood the appeal there). But instead of creepy old men posing as teenage girls and lonely housewives looking for excitement, it’s an entirely different crowd. Twitter is full of intelligent, resourceful, witty people who are passionate about new technology, endlessly curious about a wide range of topics, and more than happy to share helpful information. Twitter has become a great resource for all kinds of things, and perhaps surprisingly, for as-it-happens news as well.

But it seems to me that not very many musicians are taking advantage of this brilliantly simple tool. Yet.

As most of us know by now, the music industry has dug itself into a deeper hole than it can get itself out of for the time being and musicians are pretty much on their own when it comes to creating their own success. Obviously, you need a MySpace Music page. (I hate MySpace. I really do. But it IS necessary for musicians.) Obviously, you need a website, where you post your photos, tour dates, bio, etc. The next steps are also important: your blog (let your fans get to know you), your Facebook page, a Last.fm account, a YouTube channel for your music videos. These are all part of a multi-pronged approach to creating your musical identity online. Let your fans find you in the places where they are already spending their time. Give them the content they are already looking for.

Ok, so if I do all this, do I still need Twitter? Who cares what I had for lunch? Isn’t it a waste of my time??

Absolutely not! And here’s why.

First, it’s another way to broadcast the key things that you already have on your MySpace, Facebook, website etc, like tour dates, album release dates, and what not.

Second, and more importantly, it’s a way – similar to blogging – to get more personal. To let your fans get to know you, the person, in addition to you, the musician. Whereas blogging allows you to rant and rave and express your opinions in a very personal way, Twittering (which is technically microblogging), allows for the same thing. Just, you know….in 140 characters or less.

Those who follow you (presumably your fans) are interested in what you have to say, what you are doing, what you are feeling and thinking. They care. Whether you tweet about what city you’re in for your tour tomorrow or how much you hate the president today or what color underwear you have on, they care. (And if they decide they don’t care, they’ll just unfollow you.)

Say important things, say meaningless things, say witty things, ask questions. It’s all relevant if it’s on your mind.

Next, as a way of rewarding your loyal followers, give them stuff. Much like Obama sent his VIP pick out by text message first, you could announce a small show or party only on Twitter, or include a link to a free download in a tweet so your followers get it first.

Lastly, it’s a way to interact with your fans. Ask them for suggestions, like song requests for a set list at an upcoming show. Ask them which songs they like best on your last CD. Let them show their adulation with their @ replies.

One mistake to avoid: Don’t let someone else produce your Twitter content for you. Letting a PR manager or college intern or your unemployed roommate write your updates for you will defeat the purpose. Only you can mold your online identity and make it actually you.

Another tip: Share music with your fans on Twitter! You can do this by using Tra.kz, which will shorten your long audio links into cute, little links that point fans to a player page for the song; the song’s Tra.kz page  displays all the tweets about the song and makes it easy for people to share.

Which artists are currently on Twitter? Only a few have caught on so far. Here is a sampling: Snoop Dogg, MC Hammer, Jimmy Eat World, Sara Bareilles, Bjork, Brett Gurewitz (of Bad Religion), A Fine Frenzy, and Patrick Wilson (of Weezer).

Is Last.fm the Profit Mechanism DIY Musicians are Looking for?

The $18 billion music industry includes a relative handful of famous acts and tens of millions of independent and semi-professional artists who have very limited opportunities to profit from their art. Because of the Digital Audio Workstation (music software) revolution, more people are recording music than ever before. And through the use of music discovery sites, more people are distributing music than ever before. But, what we haven’t seen from the music discovery model is a way for DIY and unsigned artists to profit from their art online. Last.fm hopes to change that, apparently.

Starting July 1, Last.FM (or rather, CBS, I should say) will have an Artist Royalty Program, where artists get paid whenever their music is streamed from the site. The most important thing is that this program is intended for and marketed to unsigned/DIY artists, as Last.fm already pays royalties to signed acts via SoundExchange. According to Last.Fm: “This is a big day for DIY artists. We’re leveling the playing field by offering them the same opportunities as established bands to make money from their music. The young musician making music in a bedroom studio has the same chance as the latest major label signing to use Last.fm to build an audience and get rewarded.”

Here’s how royalties will be paid:

  • If your track is played on their free radio service you will accrue a 10% of the share of Last.fm’s net revenue from the free radio service.
  • If your track is played on their personalized premium radio service, you will accrue the greater of either 10% of the Share of Last.fm’s Net Revenue from the personalized radio service, or US $0.0005 for each complete transmission on the personalized radio service.
  • If your track is played on their free on-demand service, you will accrue 30% of the Share of Last.fm’s Net Revenue from the on-demand radio service.
  • If your track is played on their premium on-demand service, you will accrue the greater of either 30% of the Share of Last.fm’s Net Revenue from the premium on-demand service, or US $0.005 for each complete transmission on the prepaid or subscription on-demand service.

While the royalties to be paid aren’t much, they’re a good start, demonstrating the larger issue of finding ways for DIYers to profit form their works. Since most people have their music on several (if not all) music discovery sites, hopefully other sites will follow suit (myspace, are you listening?). Imeem implemented a rev share program last year, but it has failed to produce any real revenue for unsigned musicians. With these moves, however, Last.fm has elevated itself past the clutter of music discovery sites, to become a premiere destination for on-demand music discovery. While I personally prefer music recommendation sites like Pandora, after I discover an artist on Pandora, I want to hear more tracks, see more content, and learn more about the artist. That’s where sites like myspace, last.fm, and ilike come in. And while music recommendation sites would be crippled by paying royalties, sites like myspace and last.fm should do so.

Unfortunately, neither Last.Fm nor Imeem is the answer. Rather, they are both part of a solution that will require DIY musicians to aggregate many sources of revenue in order to make some money. But, there are not many of these sources currently available. A lot of DIY musicians have been distributing under Creative Commons (“CC”) for the last 7 years, but nobody has figured out exactly how to monetize CC works. You would think that the collective strength of CC music could be leveraged to make some money for the artists, but this hasn’t happened. The only caveat to this is Magnatune. For this reason, CC has proven to be a valuable alternative to copyright law for reference and informational works, but not for works of art.

So what other profit mechanisms are there for unsigned musicians? There are a ton of iTunes style sites where people can purchase MP3s, but lets face it, most people aren’t buying tracks from us DIY guys. Certainly sites like PumpAudio, YouLicense, and AudioMicro have helped, but the go-to-profit mechanism has yet to be unveiled. Stay tuned!

The SanFran MusicTech Summit: Rockstars, Lawyers, Nerds and Me

Last week, a few of us attended the SanFran MusicTech Summit to worship learn from some of the innovative leaders in our rapidly evolving and still young(ish) industry. After nearly breaking off my big toe during a confused jog through Japantown, I limped into Hotel Kabuki armed and ready for note-taking, question-asking, and hand-shaking.

The group I found there was a rather predictable (yet lovable) mix of demographics including your standard socially awkward tech geeks (my favorite), the token I-was-born-for-networking (and my-Rolodex-is-bigger-than-yours) schmoozers, some badass rocker chicks turned marketing gurus, the young and fearless CEO/CTO/COO/founders of countless startups, the smartypants intellectual property attorneys (bless their souls – I’d rather be forced to listen to Mariah Carey* on repeat for a year while locked in a windowless room than be in their shoes), career musicians and producers, and a smattering of randoms. Each hour we had the choice of attending one of two panels or general schmoozing in the lobby.
* To be fair, I think she has an amazing voice, I just hate her music. A lot.

Halfway through one of the panels I noticed someone on their laptop twittering. Of course! I thought. Twitter! This is the perfect time to twitter. (Until then, I had only used the service a few times to say mundane things like “sore from working out” or “yay iPhones” or some such nonsense, and when you only have two people following you that seems pretty pointless). Suddenly it was starting to sink in how Twitter can be a very powerful tool. I quickly logged on and found the SFMusicTech live feed which, to my pleasant surprise, was filled with commentary ranging from concise updates about the panels (helpful for those not at the summit or just in the other room) to snarky comments about the speakers. It felt like a cross between real-time news coverage and anonymous chatroom blather.

When I twittered later in the day noting that most of the food on the snack table was yellow, someone promptly reiterated my observation and wondered if there was a hidden symbolism we were missing. Later one of the panelists messaged me directly and thanked me for quoting her earlier. That’s when I suddenly felt like part of some sort of cozy little invisible family. Want to join my twitter family? Follow me here.

Here are some highlights from the day:

  • During the “Future of Radio” panel – major trends include personalization and recommendation (think Pandora and Last.fm) and mobility (internet radio integrated into your car stereo, tabletop devices, on your phone, in your stereo etc).
  • During the “Creator’s Perspective on Technology” panel – Creeper Lagoon‘s Sharky Laguana talked about a cool service he created called MixPal. MixPal allows you to upload your music, choose the price, place a “MixLink” anywhere online (website, blog, MySpace, whatever) and you keep almost all the proceeds (they get 10% commission). Look at how their pricing compares to iTunes and Snocap. Since they’re non-exclusive you can use them in addition to any other service you use. MixPal is simple, straightforward and all about letting the musician decide.
  • Also during “Creator’s Perspective…” – panel moderator and summit co-producer Shoshana Zisk commented that now in the music tech industry “People don’t have to learn the language to speak music”, which resonated with me because that is very much one of the things that MixMatchMusic is facilitating – allowing non-musicians and music fans to participate in the creative process too.
  • During the “Social Networking and Music” panel – Ali Partovi, CEO of iLike, noted that they DO compete with MySpace Music. He recommended that artists keep a MySpace presence, but also use iLike because they will find far more fans on the latter.* Also interesting – apparently, people who use iLike purchase 250% more music online than people who don’t! I bet the ringtone companies love them… Toward the end of the panel, Ali asked with a note of exasperation in his voice why there isn’t just a “buy this” button anywhere and everywhere that you find music?? Excellent point. Anyone know if this is a realistic expectation in the future?

*Are you a musician who has a profile on both iLike and MySpace (and/or other sites)? I’d be curious to hear where you feel you’ve established a larger fan base. Leave a comment or email me.

  • During the “Business Models That Work…and Those That Don’t” panel – moderator Andrew Stess, CEO of Music IP, mused that someone should build a choose-your-own-price service for concert tickets a la Radiohead. I so agree. In the meantime, Inticketing, one of the summit sponsors, has a great online ticketing system and event management solution (not to mention a green business) with clients like Burning Man, the Great American Music Hall (where our buddy Scott recently performed), Yoshi’s, and Victor Wooten.

After the panels ended, we were unleashed into the boozing and networking portion of the event, which also included a performance by singer-songwriter Samantha Murphy. Though I had to run off to my own weekly musical endeavor, in the hour or so I was there I met some interesting people. One musician/student I was chatting with about MMM emailed me later to say he was delighted to see that I had blogged about the Bubblegum Sequencer. Turns out he is one of the Berkeley students that made it! Small world.

Overall, I found the Summit to be helpful and inspiring. What struck me was how nobody really knows where the music industry (especially the online music industry) is going. Licensing, copyright, distribution…these areas are rapidly being dismantled and slowly rebuilt without any concrete blueprint. Or vague guideline for that matter. All I know is that I’m excited to be riding the wave that is technology and I can’t wait to see what kind of distant exotic shore it dumps us on.

Social media, which wikipedia says uses “the ‘wisdom of crowds’ to connect information in a collaborative manner” is redefining the way that we interact with technology, one another, and our environment. I think this is especially true for those of us who are building something online (a fan base, a website, a blog, a clientèle, an identity) or those of us who simply enjoy being a prosumer/producer/content creator/participant (via blogging, twittering, digging, social networking, posting YouTube videos etc) rather than just a consumer. Passivity is so…well, passè. But it’s not just a matter of getting involved. Once you’re involved, you have to participate. And regularly. Let’s face it – no one is going to read a blog that you update once a year.

Ariel Hyatt of Ariel Publicity put it best when she said: “New media is like an endless garden – you can’t just plant it and walk away”.

Quirky Singer-Songwriter Chicks

You know the ones – sweet voice with maybe a hint of defiance, lyrics that are playful but actually say something, girl-next-door approachability, quirky personality. Maybe this trend has been going on for some time and I’ve been oblivious, but I feel like recently there are a growing number of artists who fall into this category. They write their own music, find fans online, and forge ahead without the help of big record labels or shows like American Idol, doing the thing they love on their own terms. Personally, I don’t love all of their songs, but I respect what they are doing and how they are doing it.

Here are 5 examples (in no particular order):

Colbie Caillet
The Malibu, California native – whose Myspace profile catapulted her to fame primarily due to her hit song, “Bubbly” (which I think I remember hearing was the number one song used at weddings in 2007) – is the first one I noticed. Her mellifluous voice has a tiny bit of raspiness to it, which is something I’ve always dug in females singers. I’m sure her critics probably write her off as just another feel-good annoyingly saccharine pop artist, but I think she’s pretty solid.
::Official Website::

Sara Bareilles
Here is another Cali girl who I just realized that I went to college with. She sang in the kick-ass a cappella group, Awaken, there. Actually…now that I think about it, I remember her performing at our annual talent show, where another up-and-coming act, Kara’s Flowers (now Maroon 5) also showcased their skills once upon a time. The story behind Sara’s hit, “Love Song”: Her record label, Epic, requested that she write a marketable love song to which she responded defiantly with a song saying “I’m not gonna write you a love song cause you ask for it”. Ironically, it turns out to be…well, quite marketable. Then again, having it featured as the free download of the week on iTunes in June 2007 certainly didn’t hurt either. After that her first major album shot to #1. There is something intoxicating about her voice – that husky lower register and crystal clear tone when belting the high notes. If you watch her in the “Love Song” video, watch for my favorite parts: her confident key-banging piano-playing style, how she stares right into the camera boldy as if she’s saying “what?”, and that mischievous glimmer in her eye.
::Official Website::

Ingrid Michaelson
Best known for her songs on Grey’s Anatomy and One Tree Hill, as well as that Old Navy sweater song, “The Way I Am“, the New York native is an excellent example of another artist who self-produced her albums and found fame on the internet. Her sound is edgy but simple, her lyrics are honest and unapologetic, and even her look is quirky and just real.
::Official Website::

Lilly Allen
One of my favorites is this English singer-songwriter, another Myspace darling, but that might be because anyone who sings with an accent automatically gets a ton of street cred and extra stars in my book. Her hits, “Smile” and “LDN” are deceptively catchy and sweet tunes, but the lyrics give you a little insight into the girl and her somewhat rocky history.
::Official Website::

Regina Spektor
Another international import, Russian-born Regina Spektor is classically trained in piano and initially gained recognition in New York’s anti-folk scene, where “the music tends to sound raw or experimental, and generally mocks the seriousness and pretension of the established mainstream music scene and also mocks itself.” Her music is diverse, from the light girly sound of songs like “Fidelity” to her more edgy and whiny sound in “Us“.
::Official Website::


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