Month: November 2013

Extra, Extra!

by Graham

I got to #3 on my list of broad goals for my solar-powered music project before getting swept up in the Summer. As Fall sets in I have some updates on no’s 4 & 5.

#4 Media Recognition

Fun Story Time:

I attended an event earlier this year which included Bob Boilen, host of NPR’s All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concert. In it someone asked him how he picks music and his response was that he basically starts with the most interesting packaging first. I took that knowledge and sat on it for about 8 months. It proved useful a couple weeks ago at a conference in Washington D.C. called the Future of Music Summit which I participated in. Bob was hosting an artist panel and listening party and I hatched a plan to get my music into his hands in the most interesting way possible. I offer a combination curry powder/download code for folks who want a little personal dinner concert of my music. I was going to give this to him in person, bypassing the chain of folks who filter it before Bob gets to see it and (hopefully) making an impression in the process. Fatefully, on the second day of the conference I was crossing an empty courtyard to get some food and through the open doors on the other side strolls Bob. Seeing this opportunity, I engaged him. “Hi Bob. Say, I have a question for you.”

“Ok”

“Do you like curry?”

“Y-Yeah. W-Why?”

“I have a gift for you.”

“Wait, like is it curry powder or a container of curry” Using his hands to indicate a big or small container.

I explained the Middle Eastern and Indian connection to my music and that it was my own recipe I offered with downloads.

“That’s amazing!”

He asked me where the green room was and I offered to show him.

After getting my food I returned with the package, complete with an Indian themed box, wrapped in fabric (to up the packaging influence) and gave it to him. Mission Success! Well stage 1 at least. Ideally he would be so impressed that he would have me on a show.

This story doesn’t end here though. During the panel Bob was hosting, they got to talking about music and merchandise and Bob pulled my curry powder out and declared it “Genius!” on stage and webcast across the globe. He then looked for me in the audience to engage me on it. I was outside, eating my food, creating another fun story for this post. When I returned the crowd was literally finishing chuckling about my story from earlier. As I sat down a neighbor told me “They’re talking about you.”

At the end of the panel there were questions from the audience.  I took that opportunity to stand up and ask the panel of artists Bob had been interviewing the question of the day “Do you like Curry?” They all said yes. As I turned to return to my seat, Bob called me out and made me plug myself and my project to the whole conference. A definite plus!

Meanwhile. . .

As Bob Boilen was talking me up on stage inside, I was eating breakfast. It was 4pm and I was subsisting on cucumber water and some nibbles on an apple. I was fading. I had acquired a delicious looking salad of spinach, feta, cranberries and vinaigrette but had yet to find opportunity to eat it. I had been running around, hosting event spaces, brainstorming with conference attendees and volunteering in other ways since 10am. As I finished my hard earned salad I was approached by an individual I would come to find out is a correspondent for Radio France as well as manager of a group of well known musicians from Africa, Fela Kuti’s band. She would like to have me on her show for Radio France. I was also invited a few days prior to record in Bosnia. European tour anyone?

The more time I spend thinking and working on things like marketing and publicity for The Sunrise Review the more I realize I am not trying to reach music fans. I’ve come up with a few reasons why. First, “music fan” is not a unique identifiable market as a subset of humans. It’s everyone. Music is so ubiquitous it’s akin to saying “my target market is people who drink water.” Beyond that, birds involve music in their little birdie societies. I’m sure there is some form of appreciation in their bird minds. At least the swooning lady birds show it by their choice of mate. Are they included in “music fans”? As absurd as a notion as that is, it only serves to drive the point home. Secondly, trying to make a name for yourself as a celebrity musician is no different from trying to be popular in High School. It takes tons of narcissism, probably some compromised personal attributes, significant financial outlay and tons of time. I mean TONS of time. 10 years is a pretty accurate and “standard” timeline for breaking even as an independent artist. That popularity can also be fleeting without a long term plan. Add to that the fact that my music is more Avant-garde than mainstream pop (by a longshot) and I’m pretty convinced that I’m just not playing that game. In fact I’m beginning to think more and more that the folks that are best suited to appreciating what I do are environmentalists, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure athletes and sustainability advocates. The fact that I make music is a little bit secondary.

In looking at this I discovered an emerging field of study. Ecomusicology. After investigating it, I fit right into it. It’s included as a branch of the Society for Ethnomusicology. I engaged the community through a list-serve they run and have been asked to contribute my story to their bi-annual newsletter. Perfectly targeted marketing.

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