The Big Orange Tarp at Falcon Ridge 2017

by AlanRowoth on June 8, 2017

After our well received return to Falcon Ridge last year, I am even more excited for 2017. I’m delighted to report that Grassyhill is again the official sponsor of the Big Orange Tarp. I am so grateful for their support and the invaluable assistance of the entire BOT team including Sally Johnson, Jeff Miller, Sandie Reilly, Scott and Paula Moore. With the exception of our cellist extraordinaire, Dirje Childs, who has other obligations this August, the entire BOT house band is returning: George Wurzbach (keyboards), Eric Lee (Violin, Mandolin, Guitar), Mark Dann (Bass) and David Glaser (Guitar, anything with strings). I’m pumped that Annie Wenz will be joining us on Percussion this year. As always, I’m sure there will be surprise guests as well.

The Tarp features music every night from Wednesday thru Sunday night. On Wednesday and Sunday we start around dusk. On Friday and Saturday nights we begin after the MainStage ends and our feature program consists primarily of Artists from the Falcon Ridge Most Wanted and the Grassyhill Emerging Songwriter Showcase, sprinkled with a handful of mainstage artists and other special guests. On Thursday night, we start up when the Lounge Stage ends. Our Thursday feature this year will include the Most Wanted artists and a group rom the 2017 Philadelphia Songwriters Project contest, as well as special guests. We do an Open Circle every night after our feature rounds, where anyone is welcome to sit with us and share their songs. We encourage everyone to stop by and participate or listen.Unlike some of the other camp music sites, I never publish a full, timed schedule ahead of the festival because our format is very organic. I program the strongest music I can find and we try to avoid dead air as much as possible. Come sit with us, you won’t be disappointed.

This year’s Most Wanted artists are Bettman & Halpin, Kirsten Maxwell, and Kipyn Martin. This year’s GrassyHill Emerging Artist Showcase includes: Alice HoweAly TadrosBruce Michael MillerCaroline CotterChristine SweeneyClint AlphinEmily MureFrances Luke AccordHadley KennaryHeather Aubrey LloydIzzy HeltaiJames HearneJohn John BrownJosh HartyLetitia VanSantLisa BastoniMonica RizzioNo Good SisterOrdinary ElephantRenee WahlRobinson TreacherRyanhoodShawn TaylorThe End Of America. Ambassadors from the Philadelphia Songwriters Project include The Whispering Tree, Emily Drinker, and John Sonntag. Rod Macdonald, Annie Wenz, and several other mainstage artists will join us during the festival.

Here is just a taste for you:














Getting the most out of Live.me and live streaming alternatives

by AlanRowoth on May 16, 2017

Rob Lytle - Audio checkRob Lytle – Audio Check

Streaming Video seems to be the focus of all the social media services. In a world of short attention spans and a pathological fear of reading, Live video is the most effective way to engage and grow your audience. Although Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all offer live streaming, you may want to examine some more video specific alternatives. I found quite a few including Live.me, Concert Window, YouNow, LiveStream, Twitch, Busker, and Twitter’s Periscope. For the purpose of this post, I chose to focus on Live.me, since it seemed to be an industry leader. The service claims over 600 million active users,  has recently generated an additional $60 million dollars in investor cash, and has handed out a couple million dollars in payouts to live streamers since launch. They celebrated their one year anniversary in April 2017. There were more metrics available since Tubefilter tracks the top 50 Live.me broadcasters. For instance, veteran broadcaster Kristina Plisko has over 623,000 fans and has amassed over 46 million “diamonds” thru the Live.me tipping system, worth about $230,000. (This may be a little misleading, the most successful broadcasters might reinvest as much as half of their payout in tipping other broadcasters, supporting the community, and raising their visibility within the system.  Still the payout clearly beats Spotify and Apple Music) Kristina added over 3700 fans last week.) The services all have their individual cultures and oddities. I really like Concert Window, but they seem to rely mostly on you supplying your audience thru social media advertising. Live.me is like a big open air bazaar where thousands of people are wandering about, 24 hours a day. All they have to do is swipe up to see the next thing. It seems like there is a lot more opportunity for serendipity there.

Have I piqued your interest? I know this is a bit mysterious to many of you.  Here are some tips to smooth your entry into this brave new world. The first thing that may surprise you is that you can’t stream from your computer. You need an iPhone, iPad, or Android device to become a broadcaster. (Although streams may be viewable thru a web browser on your computer…). The Apps are free and there are no mandatory fees. Participation in tipping is strictly voluntary (and surprisingly well embraced by the users.) tips come in the form of gifts bought with Live.me coins. These gifts can cost the tipper anything from a few cents to $200 or so for a Dream Castle. I see Castles drop with amazing regularity.  Where the users get that kind of money, I don’t know.  There are various opportunities to earn free coins from the system and other users.

To get started, you must first download the App and set up your user Profile.  Use a name consistent with your branding.  My Live.me name is BigOrangeTarp.org, my blogsite.  Most performers use the name their act is billed under on a marquee. You get a space of about 50 characters in your profile to include your Twitter/Instagram/Facebook or website info.  Make the most of this. if you have multiple devices, you may want to set up a secondary account or two. Mine is Alan Rowoth. This way I can gift, like, share, and otherwise boost my own streams

Don’t start broadcasting immediately.  Watch some streams first to learn the terminology and etiquette.  Read a couple of tutorials like this and this and maybe even this. Don’t pass up chances for free coins and experience.  You get experience and sometimes coins just for logging in each day. Popular live casts may feature multiple coin drops for viewers  (Don’t be a “coin thot“, always gift back a portion to the broadcaster.  These gifts help you and the broadcaster “Level up” within the system.)  The first time each day that you share another broadcasters stream to Facebook or another social site, live.me gives you five coins. You can watch up to 3 advertisers 30 second videos each day to earn more free coins. Thru various mechanisms, I have earned as many as 100 free coins in a day. If you have money to invest, live.me has various coin purchase plans. I bought 720 coins for about $10.

Live.me is a community. People will appreciate you if you are kind and generous. Broadcasts start slow and can build to 10,000 viewers or more. Being one of the first people into a broadcaster and dropping a small gift is one of the best way to make a good impression on a broadcaster who may boost your broadcasts, ask their followers to follow you, come to your broadcast to reciprocate your gifts, or even ask you to “Beam” into their stream and become part of their broadcast thru a Picture-in-Picture option. These are among the most powerful shortcuts to a large following. People who participate in the community can make friend fast. Rude and selfish streamers may never make much headway.

When you do start to stream, pay attention to the tech.  Make sure you have decent lighting and an appropriate background. For god’s sake, use some sort of mount for your iPhone. The most common mistake on Live.me is phones propped up against a pillow or something falling over. I see this happen multiple times per day  it’s so annoying! Pay attention to audio quality, especially if you are streaming music. Telephone microphones aren’t optimized for music. You can buy various addon mics for $50 or more that plug directly into your phone.  I took it a step further and bought a lightning audio interface that allows me to use professional recording microphones, optimized for the best placement, or even directly insert your guitar or keyboard signal (or mixer output) directly into the audio stream. Poor sound is a common problem in amateur videos, don’t let it be a problem for you. Currently I use a Roland Duo Capture EX Audio interface with an Apple USB camera adapter, an MXL990 stereo condenser microphone, and a cool little TP-link wifi controllable light bulb.

Even more crucial than the tech is your narrative, your personna. As with any musical endeavor, the quality of the songs and the performance are fundamentally important, but that isn’t all you need to succeed in Live.me  it is a one-to-many performance that feels like one-to-one. The best broadcasters feel like they are performing for you. In a great livecast, the “4th wall” comes down and the viewer feels like they are with you. You don’t need to lay bare the most intimate details of your private life, but you have to at least seem sincere and genuine in your interactions with the audience.  They will appreciate your honesty and kindness. Smile and be funny if it fits your persona. Look nice. Be courteous and grateful for their participation. They love to hear their names  if you can shout them out for gifting, liking, sharing, or following your stream without disrupting your performance, by all means do it. Learn who your “regulars” are and acknowledge them.  Higher level broadcasters can establish a “family” with a shared direct messaging forum. Read your direct messages in the system and respond if it seems appropriate..Engage your audience. Ask their opinion on things, find out where they are from, look for synergies that bind them to you. Social sharing is key. An active group of dedicated fans will be a huge help in growing your following. Your meta-story is important. Are you the seasoned veteran of a dozen years on the road? Are you the fledgling musician just trying to break into the big bad world of the professional music business? Are you a Faith-based performer who realized this is their true calling? Think of this as an elevator pitch style synopsis that fans can use to describe you to their friends. Why do you need them? Why do they need you?

Don’t be shy about asking fans to follow, like, and share your broadcast. Some broadcasters can be annoyingly insistent when they ask followers for gifts. Some are very successful at this. It’s hard to focus on this without seeming like an ass. I find a laid back approach to this more palatable, but by all means be appreciative for even small gifts, likes, shares, and follows. Ask followers to follow your top gifters. (And follow the top gifters of successful livecasters. I suspect that 90% of live.me gifts emanate from less than 10% of viewers. Follow and befriend the people who shower those gifts)  The amount and type of engagement (as well as the length) of your broadcasts, new followers added, gifts received, and valid (not gibberish spam) comments all contribute to the experience “score” that live.me awards each of your broadcasts. This experience raises your broadcaster level and increases the chance that your broadcast will be “featured”, resulting in a lot more traffic. Broadcasts at least 30-60 minutes long score better, having a good cover photo for your broadcasts also helps. It helps to be consistent  the most successful broadcasters invest an hour or more at least 4 times a week. It takes a while to build up some things, but once things start to snowball… I’ve seen broadcasters get to 1000 views in less than 5 minutes

There are some crazy, disruptive trolls lurking anywhere people congregate on the internet..You can designate a couple of your most loyal fans as “Admins” to help protect you from the worst of the riff raff.  Admins can temporarily block disruptive or disrespectful visitors, so you don’t have to handle that stuff in real time. Most followers are proud to be selected for this duty. Broadcasters can permanently block trolls from visiting your broadcasts. Don’t let anyone bully you or harsh your mellow.

At this point, I believe that quality original music is still underrepresented on Live.me. There is a lot of room to stake your claim to a broader audience, but I suspect that 2 or 3 years from now, there will be a plethora of choices for listeners. The early bird gets the worm. If you join the Live.me community be sure to follow both my accounts (BigOrangeTarp.org and Alan Rowoth) Let me know that you are there and I’ll check out and help to boost your broadcasts. If a bunch of us do that, there will be good synergies. I’m also happy to field any questions you have about how things work.

Have fun, I hope to see you there!

 

Big Orange Tarp SERFA showcases

by AlanRowoth on May 15, 2017

i’m very pleased to be presenting 2 hours of Big Orange Tarp showcasing at next week’s SERFA conference. If the wifi is strong I hope to stream these showcases for free on Concert Window. Click on the artist name to view their website.

Fri May 19th Rm 226 at 11:00pm edt. – Free Show
11-11:30 Al Petteway, Bruce Michael Miller, Rebecca Folsom
11:30-midnight Robin Greenstein, Kerry Grombacher, Blackwater Trio

If the wifi is strong, will probably also broadcast
Rm 226 Saturday May 20
11-11:30 John Smith, Zoe Mulford, Mare Wakefield & Nomad
11:30-midnight The Levins, Rod Abernethy, Mare Wakefield & Nomad

Here are a couple of videos to whet your appetite.  The last three were shot by JB Nuttle of World One Video. I’ll be presenting a workshop with JB called “Videos – How and Why” on Saturday from 1:45-3pm in Rm 230.  I will also talk a bit about live streaming and showing off an inexpensive iOS rig for easy livecasting. There will be a handout called “Getting the most from Live.me.”

 

 

 

Live.me Experiment

by AlanRowoth on April 4, 2017

I’ve been lurking on the Live.me streaming site for several weeks and plan to stream some occasional Q&A sessions about social media and the music business in general. Apparently, if you join the site from an invite that I send we both get a bonus in site currency. Let me know if you are interested and I will shoot you an invite. If you are already on Live.me follow BigOrangeTarp.org to be notified when I go live. If you have any questions you want me to address, you can email them to BigOrangeTarp@gmail.com

I think that brilliant young artists streaming their musical performances would be much more popular, but I am interested to see if I can make new friends this way and draw some of them into our existing community. Wish me luck!

If you are already streaming on Live.me, Busker, or a similar app, please us know how it has been going in the comments.

 

FAI2017 Rm 552 Big Orange Tarp showcase

by AlanRowoth on February 10, 2017

Official showcasers Annie Oakley

Folk Alliance 2017 – Kansas City, MO
Alan Rowoth Presents the Big Orange Tarp
In the Access Film Music Blue Room
Room number 552

Thursday night
11:30pm Heather Mae, Low Lily, Sharon Goldman
12:00am Lisa Aschmann, Greg Greenway, Bill Nash
12:30am Darden Smith, Chick Morgan, The Mari Black Celtic Band

Friday night
11:30pm Annika Bennett, Mel Parsons, Joe Jencks
12:00am Billy Crockett, Jeff Black, Ben Bedford
12:30am George Wurzbach, David Glaser, Alyssa Dann

Saturday night
11:30pm Lisa Aschmann, Annie Oakley, RJ Cowdery
12:00am George Wurzbach, Vance Gilbert, Caroline Cotter
12:30am Freddy & Francine, Billy Crockett, Radoslav Lorković

(Click on the artist names to visit their websites.There’s good stuff lurking under every link I put into this blog post.) I am thrilled to present you yet again with an outstanding artist showcase for 2017. A lot of the usual suspects were unable to attend this year, leaving me with a little more space to present some folks who haven’t played my showcases before. Though I will sorely miss Rachael Kilgour, Kate Copeland, The Sea The Sea, Connor Garvey, James Lee Stanley, and others; you won’t be disappointed with what I have in store for you.

Thursday night opens with Heather Mae and Low Lily, both audience favorites in last year’s Falcon Ridge/Grassy Hill Emerging Artist showcase. Sharon Goldman‘s new record KOL ISHA (A Woman’s Voice) is a brilliant, spiritual work with a modern feminist perspective. Gregg Greenway is best known as 1/3 of Brother Sun, but a very strong and accomplished solo performer as well. Bill Nash has partnered with me on the Big Orange Tarp in Colorado for nearly 20 years. A wonderful songwriter and instructor at the Planet Bluegrass Song School, he has inspired and taught countless songwriters to hone their craft. Nashville based Lisa Aschmann is the queen of my iPod, the most prolific songwriter I know. She has had hundreds of songs recorded by various artists in nearly every musical genre. Her book 1000 Songwriting Ideas has served as a handbook for countless songwriters. Lisa is doing a workshop at the conference on Friday morning called Getting Placed on how to get your songs used in movies and television, so I twisted her arm to come play for us. Don’t miss Lisa in a rare live performance. After that I feature Darden Smith, an artist I have followed for many years. I am thrilled to finally be able to showcase him. In addition to his fine body of work, Darden started the Songwriting with Soldiers Retreat. He still serves as Creative Director. I can’t say enough about this wonderful program. I met Chick Morgan last fall at the Southwest Regional Folk Alliance. She is smart, sassy, and one of a kind. A former singer, I rarely book instrumental acts in my showcases, but I had to have the Mari Black Celtic Band. An incredible mulitgenre instrumentalist, Mari brings a unique sense of humor and charisma to the stage. An educator, She also does a great YouTube series for fiddlers.

On Friday night, I start with Annika Bennett, featured last year as a Falcon Ridge Most Wanted audience pick, New Zealand’s globetrotting Mel Parsons, and Joe Jencks, another 1/3 of Brother Sun and a well known activist songwriter who has done much for workers and human rights. Next comes my long time friend Jeff Black, simply one of the best songwriters you will ever hear. Jeff is ITR with Ben Bedford, a brilliant song painter with some of the most evocative lyrics I have ever heard and Billy Crockett from Wimberley, TX. Billy and his wife Dodee are the team behind the Blue Rock Artist Ranch and recording studio. It’s the best place I know to record your music and the standard by which all other Concert Window broadcasters are judged. Billy rose to stardom in a two decade long career in Contemporary Christian Music before broadening his listener base with a series of Classical and Songwriter recordings, the latest of which is entitled Rabbit Hole. Billy is a Renaissance Man. A world class player and songwriter. Do not miss him at FAI this year. At 12:30am, I feature George Wurzbach (best known for his work with Modern Man). George is putting the finishing touches on his first solo record in quite some time, Curious George, which will feature a couple of cowrites with songwriting legend Tom Paxton. I am super excited for this release. George’s last solo record was nominated for a grammy and generated a lot of covers by other artists. I expect this one to do even better. He is a long time favorite of mine and a founding member of the Big Orange Tarp house band. George is ITR with David Glaser, another member of the BOT band, a highly sought after sideman who plays anything with strings, and a fine songwriter in his own right with several solo albums to his credit. His most recent is entitled Caffiene and Nicotine. Rounding out that group is precocious high schooler Alyssa Dann, attending on a NERFA young artist scholarship. She is very new to this and knocked it out of the park for us in our NERFA showcase in November. We are thrilled to feature her again in her first FAI performance.

I couldn’t resist bringing Lisa Aschmann for one more round on Saturday Night. I think that it’s harder to find great songs at Folk Alliance than it is to find great performers. Lisa is a treasure trove. Lisa isn’t showcasing to book live gigs, but I am showcasing her in the hopes that performers who need stronger material for their next release might discover her music and let it propel their artist careers to the next level. She’s playing with long time favorite RJ Cowdery, who is a friend from Song School and an alum of Blue Rock. Great songs and a great performer, I hope everyone knows her by now. Rounding out that group is Oklahoma based Annie Oakley. Founded by teenage twins Sophia and Grace Babb, this group is taking the southwest by storm. Official showcasers this year, they are sure to generate a lot of buzz. Miss them at your peril. The next round features an encore performance by George Wurzbach, ITR with Caroline Cotter, who probably logged more miles touring this year than anyone I know. She’s a pro. I had initially set them up with The Sea The Sea, who I have been a huge fan of since they formed several years ago. They had to cancel and, at the 11th hour, my friend Vance Gilbert bailed me out and took the slot. Vance is one of an elite group of performers who are known and respected by virtually everyone in our community. A frequent festival headliner and radio favorite, he’s been on my showcase wishlist for many years. I typically don’t ask him because I’m not sure how many new fans I can reach for him. But he’s a bucket list artist for me and I could not be happier to feature him in this year’s showcase. My grand finale this year features my absolute favorite duo, Los Angeles based Freddy and Francine. Humans just don’t sing this well, and to have two of the best singers on the planet on stage together blows my mind every time I see them. Incredibly dynamic and charismatic, music doesn’t get to be more fun than this. If you haven’t heard them, run, don’t walk to room 552 to check them out. It’s hard to fill a round with artists who stand up in that company. So I asked back Billy Crockett (who stands up in any company) and Radislav Lorkovic. Rad doesn’t do a lot of solo touring. He’s busy year round on the road with fine artists like Ronny Cox, Susan Werner, Ellis Paul, Shawn Mullins, Greg Brown, Richard Shindell, Odetta and others. He’s also a long time member of the Falcon Ridge house band. He’s world class. Not actively pursuing a solo tour, this might be Rad’s only solo showcase this year.

And that’s my showcase for FAI 2017. I tried to work in Kirsten Maxwell, FreeboMai Bloomfield, Mouths of Babes, Jellyman’s Daughter, John Bunzli, Dave Gunning, and Dan Navarro. For a variety of reasons, I couldn’t get them into my rounds, but all are playing at the conference and well worthy for you to seek out and listen to them. I’d like to dedicate this year’s showcase to my long time friend and sometimes collaborator, the phenomenal Greg Trooper who we lost this year. He is simply irreplaceable. My heart still hurts every day.

Big Orange Tarp NERFA 2016 Twain Room

by AlanRowoth on November 10, 2016

img_6030Alan Rowoth & Sally Johnson Present: The Big Orange Tarp
Sponsored by Grassy Hill
Twain Room

NERFA 2016 Showcase Lineup

Friday night

11:45-12:30a Fox Run (Neale Eckstein w/Stephanie Corby, David Glaser, Ali Handel, Shannon Hawley, Dan Navarro, Eric Schwartz, and Bethel Steele)
12:30-1a Eric Schwartz, Cliff Eberhardt, Louise Mosrie
1a-1:30a Rachael Kilgour, Kate Copeland, Uncle Bonsai
1:30-2a Kirsten Maxwell, Jacob Johnson, Shannon Hawley
2-2:30a Mike Agranoff, Antonio Andrade, Marc Berger
2:30 Open Circle

Saturday afternoon
11:00-11:45 Jeremy Aaron, Amy Soucy, Austin MacRae
11:45-12:45 Cricket Blue, Jim Bizer & Jan Krist, Pepper and Sassafras, Robin Greenstein
1:30-2:15 Kipyn Martin, Allison Shapira, Meg Braun
2:15-3:00 The Everly Set, Boxcar Lilies, Heather Mae
3:00-4:00 Kate Copeland, Jim Trick, Freebo, Dan Pelletier
4:00-5:00 Uncle Bonsai, Cliff Eberhardt, Louise Mosrie, Rachael Kilgour

Saturday night
11:45-12:15a Matt Nakoa, Kate Copeland, Rosie and the Riveters
12:15-12:45 Dan Navarro, Jim Trick, Connor Garvey
12:45-12:55 The Everly Set
12:55-1:15 Joan & Joni: Allison Shapira & Kipyn Martin
1:15-1:45 Eric Lee, Emily Mure, Will Pfrang
1:45-2:05 Eric Schwartz – solo
2:05-3:00 David Glaser, Dan Pelletier, George Wurzbach
featuring special guests Alyssa Dann & Hugh McGowan
3:00a Open Circle

Sally and I have been doing the NERFA showcases almost since NERFA began 24 years ago. We have some old friends that we love to feature, but we are always combing the planet for great new talent to present. This year we are presenting 19 new acts we have never showcased at NERFA before, Many of them are NERFA first timers. But all of them are acts that we have seen perform live before and feel strongly about. We would love it if you could check out all of them. I will attach a handful of videos. They may take a minute or so to load. See you at the hotel!!

NERFA 2016 – Alan Rowoth & Sally Johnson Present: The Big Orange Tarp

by AlanRowoth on October 24, 2016

img_0547Alan Rowoth & Sally Johnson Present: The Big Orange Tarp
Sponsored by Grassy Hill
NERFA 2016 – Twain Room

Friday Night
11:45-12:30a Fox Run (Neale Eckstein w/Stephanie Corby, David Glaser, Ali Handal, Shannon Hawley, Dan Navarro, Eric Schwartz, and Bethel Steele)
12:30-1a Eric Schwartz, Cliff Eberhardt, Louise Mosrie
1a-1:30a Rachael Kilgour, Kate Copeland, Uncle Bonsai
1:30-2a Kirsten Maxwell, Jacob Johnson, Shannon Hawley
2-2:30a Mike Agranoff, Antonio Andrade, Marc Berger
2:30 Open Circle

Saturday afternoon
11:00-11:45 Jeremy Aaron, Amy Soucy, Austin MacRae
11:45-12:45 Cricket Blue, Jim Bizer & Jan Krist, Pepper and Sassafras, Robin Greenstein
1:30-2:15 Meg Braun, Joan & Joni: Allison Shapira & Kipyn Martin
2:15-3:00 The Everly Set, Boxcar Lilies, Heather Mae
3:00-4:00 Kate Copeland, Jim Trick, Freebo, Dan Pelletier
4:00-5:00 Uncle Bonsai, Louise Mosrie, Rachael Kilgour

Saturday night
11:45-12:15a Matt Nakoa, Kate Copeland, Rosie and the Riveters
12:15-12:45 Dan Navarro, Jim Trick, Connor Garvey
12:45-1:15 The Everly Set
12:55-1:15 Joan & Joni: Allison Shapira & Kipyn Martin
1:15-1:45 Eric Lee, Emily Mure, Will Pfrang
1:45-2:05 Eric Schwartz – solo
2:05-3:00 David Glaser, Dan Pelletier, George Wurzbach
featuring special guests Alyssa Dann & Hugh McGowan
3:00a Open Circle

Sally and I are super excited about the new venue and our lineup for 2016. We are also grateful to Grassy Hill for their support of our work thruout the year. I was trying to embed videos for all of our performers, but the page was so large it was overrunning the buffer on my iPad, so I have decided to split the announcement into several posts. The artist names all link to their websites or music.

In this opening post I want to shine a little spotlight on our conference opener. A special 45 minute feature, highlighting the Fox Run Studio and house concert hosted by Neale Eckstein and his wife Laurie. Their home in Sudbury, MA has become an incubator and hotbed of collaboration for songwriting, recording, and generating videos. It is a great example of what artists in collaboration can create together. The seven artists showcasing with Neale are the tip of the iceberg.

Neale Eckstein

Stephanie Corby

David Glaser

Ali Handel

Shannon Hawley

Dan Navarro

Eric Schwartz

Bethel Steele

Videos – How and Why

by AlanRowoth on October 10, 2016

img_2689

In his 1964 book, Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan famously proclaimed “The Medium is the Message.” Fifty two years later, the digital age is In full swing.

In 2016, social media is all about video. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, and the 800 pound Gorilla YouTube all want your content. 20% of American adults read at a fifth grade level or less. The overall average reading level is 9th grade. Many people avoid reading anything longer than a paragraph. Attention spans get shorter every year. As the amount of information on the Internet multiplies geometrically, Engagement ratios for photo/video content far surpass text. As metric tracking improves, it is clear that video is the best way to go viral. The services all know it, so they are pushing all of you to grow their audience.

In the 1980’s, MTV set the standard for music videos unreachably high. Pat Benetar, U2, and other major label artists would create videos costing in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Michael Jackson’s Scream video reportedly cost over 7 million dollars to produce. But flash forward 30 years and that’s been turned on its ear. The major labels are largely irrelevant. An iPhone is a better movie camera than you could buy for $100,000 in 1985. Your laptop or iPad can be a professional recording studio. For less than $5000, you can create an arsenal of tools to make videos that look and sound great.

But why should you? Music lovers are buried in an avalanche of music and media. The low cost of entry has proliferated opportunities. It has never been harder to break thru the noise floor and get your music heard.

And then there are the four major enemies of the touring musician: travel, food, lodging, and time. My four piece band in high school often got $300-500 a gig, back when $500 was worth $2000 in today’s dollars. Now that’s a good gig for musicians with 40 years of experience under their belts.

The success of any modern music group depends on their fan base and mailing list. Growing those is the only sure way to a sustainable career. So what is a better investment for you, driving 5 hours to play to a bar where 50 people might come out to see you, or creating a video or concert window performance that will generate half the income, but grow your fan base more effectively and cost you 80% less. (And leave you with an extra day to write a song or rock your baby)

Don’t get me wrong. I love live performance and I hope it never goes away. But on the low end of the scale touring can be very unprofitable. It doesn’t cost Bruce Springsteen any more to drive to DC than it does you. And, even if he flies first class to LA, his airplane doesn’t get there any faster than yours. Once you start drawing bigger crowds and selling more merch, that’s when touring starts to become affordable.

So what’s an up and coming performer supposed to do? Press is good. You can get some good mileage out of winning song contests and live showcase events. Music discovery through services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora can gain you fans. Despite the horribly low pay rate for musicians using these services, I think they provide valuable and important exposure opportunities to new audiences.

But nothing captures the attention of fans like videos. Ignore these at your peril. There are so many types of video you can use.

Restless Nights

Restless Nights

Back when the physical medium of music defined the product, it was the product. You would get a 12″ square slab of graphics and lyrics that you could hold in your hands and read while Karla Bonoff sang the story of your life. But in the new millennium, much music is formless, existing only in the digital domain. Driven in part by the transition of television from a story driven medium to a character driven medium, the product is no longer “Restless Nights”, the product is you. Audiences are used to intimate access to performers, They have been keeping up with the Kardashians and the Osbournes for so long, they expect to know details about the artists they emotionally invest in.

This is good and bad. It’s intrusive, to be sure, although a media savvy person can sculpt their online persona. The good news is that, effective branding carries over from project to project. As you build audience loyalty, it can be increasingly easy to crowdfund new projects and snowball your mailing list success. Katy Perry (@KatyPerry) has over 93 million twitter fans. It’s not hard to monetize that audience.

So, what are your options? Simplest are talking head videos. Open up your smartphone app and just start talking. If you are smart enough, pretty enough, odd enough, inspiring enough, or funny enough; you can make a lot of friends. There are videogamers who make thousands of dollars playing on twitch.tv  

Here’s a talking head piece featuring Dan Pelletier.

Not much more difficult are lyric and pictorial videos. Load your song into the laptop and then slather it with photos or textify the lyrics so people can read along. Lyric videos can double the exposure of your song if used in conjunction with performance videos.

Here are 2 Cheryl Wheeler lyric videos

And a couple of pictorial videos

Story videos are essentially what made MTV compelling before they discovered that they could attract more viewers by just showing pretty people without the music, especially in embarrassing or sexually suggestive situations. These types of music videos are the hardest and most expensive to produce as they often involve location shooting, sets, costumes, computer animation or special effects. If you have enough time and skill, these can still be affordable and realized on a small personal computer, but they can be a huge time sink. If you enjoy that creative process, have at it.

Here are a few tips for a no budget music video

And this brings us to my favorite music video, the live performance.

There’s nothing so compelling for me as watching a great performer deliver a song. Marveling at their musicianship. Seeing the emotions run across their face. Feeling the excitement of reliving that moment with them. It’s Magic.There are technical elements that must be paid attention to, of course. Camera placement and lighting. The physical setting of the shoot. And, perhaps most importantly, sound quality.

Audio has always been the red headed stepchild of video. Producers and cinematographers obsess over the visual image and they argue that it is a visual medium. I believe that, because it’s music, that the audio should receive equal or greater attention. My number one criticism of the videos that people send to me is that the large majority of them sound just Horrendous. I would rather have to see a microphone in the shot than listen to a recording done down a well. (While you’re down there, could you look for Timmy? Lassie is still upset.)

Pick a location free of sonic and visual distractions. Light it in and effective and interesting way. And spend time getting the audio right. If there are a number of musicians and instruments, you may want to multitrack the audio and mix it after the fact. When doing this, I like as much isolation between the tracks as possible. Multi tracking also allows you to do dynamic or ambience processing afterwards. If you do it in protools you have access to autotune and other plugins. All the general rules for making records apply to your videos as well.

You can do it all in realtime with a single camera or shoot with multiple cameras. You can shoot “B roll” of a second performance with audience reaction, different views, or supplemental material. Apple iMovie can assemble a beautiful finished movie for you with professional looking titles and video effects. Even more professional looking results can be generated with Final Cut, Sony Vegas, or Adobe Premier. If you are serious about this, you can get amazing dedicated DSLR or video camera at bargain prices. To interface these to your computer, you may need a box like the Black Magic Intensity.

here is an interesting article with some editing tips.

And here is another

You can shoot on location

Or in front of a neutral backdrop

At a gig

From a showcase

Or even from a recording studio

Once you have the video, what do you do with it?

Share the hell out it it on social media.  Enjoy this side-by-side feature comparison of the seven major social video players — YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat and Tumblr.

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It’s important to note that live videos can be an essential booking tool. Presenters know how powerful punch ins an other studio tools are in recording today’s music  they want to see you actually perform a song. They want insight into your charisma and stage presence. Many showcases and contests require videos for entry  it’s good to have something to show them

For more information on using the internet effectively, view my handout Your Internet in 2016

Your Internet in 2016

by AlanRowoth on September 14, 2016

Social cloud

Your internet in 2016


This is a living document. Make use of the dozens of live links, leave me comments, and stop back now and then to check for updates.

Create an Internet Identity and Master Social Media

Technophobia? Get over it! Musicians have never been more empowered to control their careers. Building a following and connecting with listeners and bookers has never been less expensive. Electronic distribution has cut inventory and distribution costs to the bone. But the music business in 2016 is very different than it was 30 years ago. The old tools and techniques no longer work. It is unbelievably cheap and easy for you to record, distribute, and promote your music. This is both good and bad. It’s good because you can do it all. It’s bad because so can everyone else and more albums are released each week than came out in all of 1964. Your dentist, your priest, your grandfather, and that cockroach who will survive climate change are all dropping their recordings the same day as yours. There is a tsunami of music raining down upon the listener. Yours is a needle in a huge stack of needles. You are going to have to do everything right if you want this to be a success.

So, how do you leverage social media to boost your career?

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I do. The recording has to be GREAT! The songs have to be strong, the musicianship excellent, the vocals outstanding, and the recording top notch. You can’t promote a bad recording. Don’t waste your time and money. Go back and start over if you have to.

Are you still here? Once you’ve made your “Rubber Soul” you need to tell the world it exists. The absolute barest minimum essentials are a webpage host (very likely running WordPress software) and an email host. There are quite a few free services available, but you may very likely achieve more satisfactory results by buying services. Whatever web server you use, it has to be mobile responsive. 60% of Internet traffic now comes from mobile devices, a number that keeps growing. This means trash the Adobe Flash media content and make sure your page renders properly on all screen sizes and popular web browsers. As your career grows, you will certainly need an email list provider, like MailChimp or Constant Contact, to do mass mailings. My websites are all hosted by MidPhase.com, but there are tons of web providers out there. Shop around. Your web page is your own little piece of real estate. Facebook and Twitter and Instagram may all be gone 10 years from now, but ElvisNewsome.com can last forever. Your webpage should contain everything people need to know about you. Your bio and testimonials. Links to your sales and streaming outlets. Photos, videos, music to listen to, booking information, your EPK (Electronic Press Kit). It’s the encyclopedia of Elvis Newsome. There’s just one problem. Nobody knows you exist yet, so nobody is visiting your site.

So, how do you get the word out?

Playing gigs is good. Except few venues will hire you to play, because nobody will come out to see you, because nobody knows who you are yet. So you have to play for almost nothing, and to almost nobody, in the beginning. (This might take a long time…) You can accelerate your visibility by leveraging the power of social media to expand your reach and your mailing list. But make no mistake about it, YOUR MAILING LIST IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT CAREER DEVELOPMENT TOOL! It is your responsibility to identify, enumerate, and engage the people who resonate with your artistry. Adding people to your mailing list is always part of the goal. Once you find your audience, hang onto them! That means you need to USE your mailing list. It’s no good having one if you never post to it. Don’t inundate people, but I think once a month is a perfectly fine frequency for almost any list, with special postings if something important comes up. You’ll want to be able to tag venues, media, and other contacts. They may or may not need your monthly mailers, but you will certainly need to know how to keep in touch with them.

Let’s go viral!

Fortunately millions of people are just a WiFi connection away, soaking in a jacuzzi of social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+. and YouTube. Of course a million other artists are vying for their attention, but many of these social media users are relentless, passionate consumers of information. And a goodly number of them are also curators, like me, who sift thru enormous quantities of dross looking for the golden nuggets that occasionally glint and catch our eyes. Curators delight in passing these morsels along. But developing compelling content, building your personal social networks, and making it all work for you is very time consuming. The good news is that, as an independent musician you have more time than money, so this is still doable for you, right? But where to start…

A lot of people will tell you to pick two services and ignore the rest. I am more of an “All of the above” kind of guy, or at least I try to be, but you may need to pace yourself. If you get overwhelmed and quit, it’s worse than just doing one or two. Each service has different citizens. If you ignore those services, you are ignoring the potential audience pool that uses them. Major corporations generally support Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at the very least, and Pinterest seems to be becoming a must have also. There is a lot of “voodoo” in maximizing your social media, but due to the interest in this powerful new tool, numerous studies and metrics have been developed. It’s too much to go into in this handout, but I have created a Pinterest board with a mind blowing array of observations, tips, and tricks. Visit it at https://www.pinterest.com/alanrowoth/sociability/ At 273 entries, it goes into FAR more depth than this handout. It will tell you when to post, what to post and how to maximize the reach of your postings. It’s a lot to digest, but worth your time. Periodically examine your metrics. If a service clearly isn’t reaching your audience. Focus on the outlets that are working for you.

Intimidated by my HUGE Pinterest board? In a nutshell, Facebook is essential because everyone is on Facebook (everyone except that guy yelling, “Hey you kids! Get off my lawn!” and your friends in sensitive corporate or government jobs). You probably need an Artist Page as well as a personal Profile. The biggest downside to Facebook is that their business model doesn’t accommodate your business model. They assume that you are making money or you wouldn’t be a musician. (and they are most likely wrong.) You can’t afford to pay what they ask to “promote” (actually, to not hide) your posts. You need to be on Facebook, but it’s hard to be effective. Your Facebook friends are going to have to like and share the hell out of your posts for you to have a major impact. Check your security settings to be sure your public posts really are public. The profiles, pages, groups, and events can be confusing. Here is a link to Facebook 101.

Twitter doesn’t suppress your feed, but it has its own drastic limitations. Originally conceived as a pithy, text only, terse medium, it has grown into a bloated Facebook wannabe with awkward kludges to get around the standard Twitter 140 character limitations. Users are increasing diverted with promoted postings. You can probably tell by my tone, that I think Twitter is struggling with its identity. Nonetheless it can be a very powerful way to reach your audience. Here are the Twitter Basics. You may also want to follow Madalyn Sklar and her excellent TwitterSmarter Podcast.

Instagram has limitations as well. Simplistically described as Twitter with pictures instead of words, it has a lot of members and is a good way to reach an increasingly illiterate constituency. People who are afraid of words just love Instagram. The upside is that Instagram posts have a higher degree of engagement than Facebook or Twitter. And a compelling image can sometimes get people to drill down into more precise content. Here are some Instagram tips for musicians.

Pictures rule. Even on Facebook and Twitter, postings with photo or GIF content get twice as much engagement as text only postings. And still pictures are rapidly being replaced by animated GIFs or imbedded video feeds. The main takeaway is you need something shiny to catch the eye of those media surfers who would otherwise rapidly scroll past your postings. Cell phone cameras are getting better and better. Shoot photos and video like mad and view them later to see what might catch the eye of your fans. Track your likes and shares to see what kind of images get the most traction.

Pinterest and Tumblr are very versatile at integrating various media types and have a lot to recommend them. Neither has the same user population as the Big 3. But Pinterest especially is coming on strong and they have recently implemented a click to buy feature that I have not yet explored. I exist in all 5 universes and several more besides. You probably need a Google+ account too, if only because you need to link your YouTube channel to it. Video is becoming more and more essential.

Audio and video files are larger and require greater bandwidth than photos and text. Selling your music also requires payment systems. Web servers frequently aren’t great at serving audio/video, so you’ll need help. Artists typically sell their music thru iTunes, Bandcamp, cdbaby, Noisetrade, Amazon and other vendors. Amazon and iTunes don’t want to deal directly with indie artists preferring that the relationship be managed by an intermediary, who also gets a piece of the pie. With the exception of Noisetrade, these are all fairly standard commission vendors. The Noisetrade model is different. The downloads are “free”, but members “tip” the artists. I am not sure how revenues compare to the old ways, but I suspect they may get more music out there to listeners. It bears further research. Here’s one take on this.

Many listeners no longer buy music at all, preferring to stream it online from sites like Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Prime, and the Standing O Project. Revenues from these partners (except the tiny Standing O Project) are notoriously stingy. Numerous artists have complained about the remuneration, without a lot of success. They can be a good way to get your music circulating, but they probably won’t pay the rent any time soon. Music is placed with most streaming services thru a 3rd party aggregator like Tunecore or cdbaby. Once your music is available for streaming, you may gain more traction if you can get it playlisted by a curator with a following. Your Royalty payments come thru your aggregator, but be aware that approximately 10% of the royalties are diverted into a royalty fund which is distributed by Sound Exchange in a manner similar to the way ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI pay writers and publishers for other uses of their work. I am not sure how Standing O structures payments to artists,but they claim to pay at a much higher percentage (from their much smaller listener base).

Social Media is in LOVE with streaming video. Online services like YouTube and Vimeo are overflowing with it. The average YouTube visitor spends 40 minutes a day watching YouTube. Shouldn’t they be watching you? Vimeo offers higher quality and a smaller user base at higher cost. Though just a promotional tool for most indie artists, it is possible, though improbably to garner a solid income from highly shared YouTube Videos.Here are more ideas for generating income from YouTube. Facebook is offering great inducements for you to place video directly on their site, despite their clearly inferior quality. The latest greatest is Live streaming video, offered now by Facebook and peer to peer services like Concert Window (remote concerts with them collecting your fees, for a percentage.) And pure peer to peer video challengers like Periscope and Meerkat. These services are new and frequently beset with technical challenges and glitches, but I am confident that live video feeds are going to be an important part of our indie music future. Touring is incredibly expensive and time consuming. Lower merchandise revenues only exacerbate that. Reaching out to your audience over the Internet is far cheaper than doing it in your Honda CRV. It’s gonna get better. Contrast and compare Meerkat and Periscope here.

Many social media sites now support the use of #hashtags to make computer assisted discovery easier. Learn how you can do this here.

So, where does the money come from in this brave new world?

Fundraising (and promotion) may find you using sites like KickStarter, indiegogo, GoFundMe and Patreon to raise money as well as awareness of your social profile. Kickstarter has a great reputation. Some artists are afraid of it because a Kickstarter is all or nothing. If you ask for $10,000 and only get $9000 in pledges, you get nothing and the money all goes back to the pledgers. In a way this makes sense, because if you ask for what you NEED to make the record and don’t get it, they assume you can’t do the project and they have a vested interested in keeping Kickstarter patrons from investing in projects doomed to fail. Indiegogo and GoFundMe will allow partially funded projects, but they suffer a bit of a credibility gap because of a higher number of failed projects. They all do credit card processing and make their money by taking a percentage of your proceeds. All three are project oriented. You can learn more about crowdfunding here.

Patreon is a different breed of cat. They are spearheading a model where patrons create an ongoing relationship with artists and organizations and agree to fund them on an ongoing basis. This, of course, requires a much higher degree of engagement and commitment from the patrons, but if you have that kind of support, you don’t have to go back to the well over and over and over again to ask for help. The jury is still out on the Patreon model, but if you think your fans are rabid enough for that, it may be worth a look.

Don’t make the common mistake of assuming that crowd funding sites are a big pool of money just waiting for you to suck it up. While Kickstarter and other campaigns can raise your visibility somewhat, the lions share of funds will come from listeners already on your mailing list. (Remember that bit about your mailing list being the most important career development tool? If you haven’t already, write that down.) Top flight Kickstarter campaigns can have some news value and find favor on sharing sites. But don’t launch a campaign until you have a decent mailing list and a reasonable expectation of its success. Starlet Melissa Joan Hart became a laughingstock when her comeback movie Kickstarter went over like a turd in a punch bowl. Kickstarters are a great way to presell your record, and bundle the release with other high end merchandise or house concerts and other perks. And the necessary sharing may build awareness and excitement for your upcoming release. If you aren’t successfully selling albums at your gigs, don’t assume a Kickstarter will sell them for you. It won’t. If you are struggling to support your craft, don’t ignore traditional sources of support like family or committed, affluent friends.

If your career is really starting to take off, there are also business services sites for musicians like ArtistGrowth.com that can help you manage your schedule and your finances, create and manage budgets, manage merchandise, attract the attention of agents and managers, and much more. I don’t know of any direct competitors to ArtistGrowth. If you are a full time musician, they may make a lot of sense for you. You may want to use Songkick.com to manage your online tour calendars and sync those calendars between your social media points of presence. (Web page, Bandcamp, Spotify, Soundcloud, Facebook page, etc)

SonicBids or similar services like Bandsintown.com, artistdata.com, and Taxi may help you get gigs or monetize your music in other ways. They may allow you create and store an EPK (Electronic Press Kit) online for use in attracting the interest of music festivals, song contests, or music supervisors searching for music to place in film and tv. Your mileage may vary on the effectiveness of these services. A rule of thumb, The better you are, the more useful they are liable to be. SonicBids was bought out a couple of years ago and general consensus now is that they are no longer worth dealing with. You’ll have to make that decision for yourself.

So, how do you get started?

What do you need? Hardware- A Mac, iOS, Android, or Windows device or combination of devices. Most of these services can be administrated from an iPhone. A computer can come in handy for setting up your services. Most services are designed in such a way that they can be administered on the road from a personal device.

Software- Web Browser, Emailer, and possibly dedicated clients for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, SoundCloud and other services.

Many of these services can be automated. For instance, whenever I post to my WordPress blog, those postings are announced on Facebook, Google+, and my two Twitter accounts. You may also employ more sophisticated management tools like HootSuite, IfThisThenThat, Dlvr.it, PostPlanner, or Buffer.

How do I know if it’s working?

Most services offer you some sort of performance metrics and more sophisticated tools can give you a wealth of information like who visits your website and how they use it or performance metrics on your social postings. The two best indications of whether or not your are doing it right are product sales and a growing mailing list.

What else should I be doing on the Internet?

First and foremost, don’t just be a taker, be a giver. View, react, and share your friends postings to increase their social media reach. Remember that music world isn’t all about you. The golden rule applies in your virtual life as well.

Besides that, you can use the Internet for: Researching gigs and technology. Following marketing and other trends. Seeking out niche marketing opportunities. Travel routing and booking. There are great location sensing mobile apps for finding cheap lodging as you travel (Like Air BnB and hotels.com), cheap gas (GasBuddy), decent food (Yelp). If you have a question, the Internet may have the answer. It can’t hurt to ask.

Thanks for reading. I hope this has been helpful.

Please address questions, comments, or corrections to Alan Rowoth BigOrangeTarp@gmail.com

 

Why you should set the ID3 tags on your downloadable MP3’s before you release them

by AlanRowoth on September 11, 2016

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You know how you buy a CD and you come home and pop it into your computer and it recognizes what CD it is before you download it into iTunes (or whatever MP3 player you may use)? That MusicID information is called MetaData and it comes from an online database run by Gracenote.

It didn’t get there automatically. Somebody had to type that data in and send it Gracenote. YOU should be that person. If you leave it to somebody else, they will mangle the data, misspell and misattribute. You should generate and submit this information as soon as the CD is mastered as it can take some time to get into the database.

If you don’t take control of that data, all sorts of bad things can happen. Illegal characters, like apostrophe’s get lost from Title tags generated automatically from file names. Other special characters may get lost. Meta tags supported by iTunes include Title, Album Title, Artist, Album Artist, Composer, Year, Track Number, Genre, and even more esoteric stuff like BPM (Beats per Minute), an essential value used by music supervisors and film editors to match up songs with the tempo of edited video content. Song lyrics and album art can be bundled into the MetaData. There is also a large comments field which can be used to embed your website and social media links, sideman data, etc. I have been unable to determine from online documents if all of these tags are supported by MusicID, but they are all supported by iTunes. It takes just a few minutes to cover them and you are nuts not to.

All this is even More Important if you are preparing files for digital download. Don’t ship your MP3 files off to iTunes or anyone else with incomplete ID3 tags. If you do a Google search on ID3 tag editors, you will get a ton of listings for free and paid programs. I have tried half a dozen of them and I liked iTunes the best. (plus it is most likely the program people will be using to read your tags.) But, if you are an AppleBasher, please feel free to use any editor you like. Once you have entered this data and saved it (iTunes saves it automatically) it becomes part of the individual MP3 files and travels with them wherever they go.

Many other multimedia file types also support MetaData. If you are working with nonstandard file types, check to see if you can’t tag your data in those files as well.

I wasn’t prepared to do a big tutorial on this. I was just amazed when a close friend of mine recently released a record with no tags (even after I had sent them a detailed email as to why tagging is so important.) And then they wondered why their artist name and album title didn’t show up and the song titles looked funny. Don’t think it doesn’t matter. This stuff matters.

And now I go back to preparing for the upcoming NERFA conference.
Ciao.