Category: Artist Advice

Progress of My Novel – A Resource for Writers & Storytellers

Progress of My Novel - A motivational and useful resource for writers and storytellers

In case you didn’t already know, I’m a writer. I write things. Right now, I’m working as a freelance travel writer and editor, but my real passion is storytelling.

I’m currently working on a novel set in San Francisco during the period between the 1906 earthquake and the start of World War I. I’ve always found this era fascinating, what with all the social and technological changes taking place.

In a hopefully worthwhile fit of distraction, I created a Tumblr page updating the progress of my novel while providing motivational and useful resources for other writers. Please follow me there if you’re on Tumblr, and I’ll follow you back!

(Also, the irony of cutting into writing time to create a blog dedicated to keeping me on track with writing isn’t lost on me.)

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Exploring the Future of Music Tech with Jolie O’Dell

Jolie O'Dell - Photo by Ken Yeung

Jolie O’Dell | Download this issue of Performer Magazine

Technology reporter Jolie O’Dell established herself as an industry expert with her work in publications like Mashable and ReadWriteWeb. She currently writes for VentureBeat and serves as a panel moderator for the SF MusicTech Summit, an annual conference bringing together technologists and music enthusiasts in San Francisco. In this interview, she shares her thoughts on how independent musicians can best leverage technology.

What are some of your favorite apps/services for musicians?

I like tools like Moontoast Impulse, which helps you embed and sell your album on Facebook. I like tools like StageIt, which allows musicians to create webcam concerts so they can promote them to fans and make a little money on the side. Then there are monitoring tools that are really great like Next BigSound. It’s an amazing and really simple interface for bands to understand what effect they have on the Internet. I don’t know if you’ve checked out the other social media analytics tools, but they’re so big and complicated. Next Big Sound is the closest you’re going to get to a simple, color-coded, push-this-button-find-out-where-you’re-most-popular thing for bands to use.

How can bands create brand awareness online?
Continue reading “PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Exploring the Future of Music Tech with Jolie O’Dell”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Interview with Earbits CEO Joey Flores

Earbits | Link to article in Performer Magazine, a new online radio site, formed a collaboration with the San Francisco Chronicle this Wednesday to provide a curated, location-specific music discovery destination. CEO Joey Flores described in an interview how the idea for Earbits came about and how the site can benefit independent musicians.

What is Earbits?

Earbits is an online radio platform designed to be more of a marketing tool for the music industry. Instead of ads, we’re working to turn airtime for artists into sales of their new releases and merchandise. As an example: Later this week we’re launching a partnership with Relapse Records, promoting a new album by one of their artists. Users will be entered into a sweepstakes by joining the band’s mailing list, which will probably include tickets to shows and a meet-and-greet with the band. Anyone who hears one of their songs will be presented with the sweepstakes opportunity. This is a campaign that we would run as opposed to an advertising campaign for a regular sponsor. Right now, we’re working with about 170 labels, we have 2000 bands on board, we have over half a dozen Grammy winners, and we have festival headliners and platinum artists. We’re trying to create a marketing platform that really helps artists and labels get music out there to listeners and consumers with the eye on the music industry as our core clientele.

How did the idea for Earbits come about?

My background is in performance-based marketing and localized ad network marketing — paid search, media buying and things like that. When it was time to market our album and our shows, we spent about $20,000 trying all kinds of things from Sonicbids to all of these other services. We were taking out ads on television and were doing everything we could to try and promote our album and our shows. It was really ineffective. So my buddy says, “Well, how can we translate what you do during the day — ad networks, performance-based marketing — to the music industry. The problem is that people have to hear it. The reason why performance marketing doesn’t work on the Internet — why Facebook ads don’t really work — is because a visual ad can’t convey the quality of music unless you already know that band. You’re not going to click on it, and half of the time you do, you find the bands are not that great. Our concept is to create a curated place where consumers will actually want to go to discover music and find out who’s playing near them.
Continue reading “PERFORMER MAGAZINE – Interview with Earbits CEO Joey Flores”

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – The 8th SF MusicTech Summit

SF MusicTech Summit | Performer Magazine — July 2011

The Brightest Minds in Music Technology Converge

The 8th SF MusicTech Summit, held on May 9, brought together musicians, computer developers and business professionals under one roof for a day of panels dedicated to brightening the future of the music industry.

“You can’t pirate intimacy,” opened Evan Lowenstein of StageIt, concisely summarizing the morning’s panel featuring guests Brandon Boyd and Mike Einziger of Incubus. The panelists focused on fan engagement and stressed that great concert experiences can’t be pirated. Boyd and Einziger offered their viewpoints as established artists, including Boyd’s professed shyness to self-promotion. Einziger commented on the shift with emerging technologies: “When we were young, we mailed out mailing lists and drove around to schools, but nowadays that’s a waste of money.”

The “Live Music Marketing” panel brought together founders from a number of top events promotions websites. Live Nation’s Aaron Siuda opened: “I’ve shifted 30% of my budget to online ads. You don’t need to do the shotgun approach.” Artists are now able to cost-effectively target demographics using metrics offered by platforms like Facebook. Julia Hartz, co-founder of Eventbrite, added, “Ticket buyers are ten times more likely to buy a ticket if they see a friend sharing it.” Songkick’s Ian Hogarth offered a reminder of the importance of simpler communications: “Text, phone and email still rank high on shares next to Facebook.”

In the afternoon, Mashable’s Jolie O’Dell quickly bypassed the obvious platforms of Facebook and Twitter in “Tools for Your Band.” The panel suggested services for artists like Topspin, SoundCloud, and Songtrust and SoundExchange for royalties. Perhaps the most celebrated tool of the Summit was RootMusic’s BandPages, a Facebook Page customization service. While such tech-centric recommendations were common throughout the day, the majority of the panelists still emphasized the fundamental importance of creating great content and engaging authentically with fans.

And to that, some things never change.

– Keane Li, photo by Kara Murphy

The Only Social Media Marketing Concept You Need to Know

Through the morass of marketing buzzwords and new technologies, navigating the field of social media marketing can seem difficult. Engage. Influence. Target. The tiring terms are so prevalent they even slip into my vocabulary.

But through it all, there is a simple concept that puts everything into a healthy perspective. It’s a concept that most people already know but often forget when muddled with the distractions of everyday marketing life:


Forget about “engaging.” Don’t stress about “influencing.” Nuts to “targeting.”

Consider yourself a new individual entering a cocktail party. You have your background and valuable thoughts to share, as does everyone else, and you want nothing more than to have meaningful conversations with the other members of the event. Do you look for who seems to be the most “influential” person and start spitting your ideas?

No, you introduce yourself politely to a few people, share stories and become better acquainted. A relationship is built through mutual respect with the potential of building trust if your ideas are relevant. You treat each other as friends and share value as if you were friends. The “engaging” and “influencing” comes naturally as a side-benefit, with a relationship built on caring. Because that’s what friends do for one another.

How do you become “friends” with your customers?

Follow the Oprah effect. Many of her fans don’t personally know her, but would probably be willing to follow her into the sea. Trust through respect: Give out value as you receive it, while focusing your efforts on positive industry change and not profits or the increase in marketing metrics. Treat your customers as if they were close: be honest, compassionate and human, and you will find reciprocation.

Friend-to-friend is a concept that refocuses everything that’s already been said ad nauseam in social media marketing, a more polite framework for reimagining how to “engage” and “influence” your “target” demographics.

But you already knew that.

PERFORMER MAGAZINE – SF MusicTech Summit (12.06.10)

SF MusicTech Summit | Performer Magazine | Download Issue

Networking Hotspot Invades the Bay

The SF MusicTech Summit opened for its seventh year on December 6. The conference, focused on the convergence of music and related technologies, featured a total of 19 expert panels and new product demonstrations. The list of speakers included notables from both the music and tech worlds: reps from Universal, Avid, MOG, SoundCloud, RootMusic, Talenthouse, Gracenote and, to name a few; and musicians like Del the Funky Homosapien, Evan Lowenstein and Rana Sobhany, New York City’s iPad DJ. Attendees flew in from all around the world, making SF MusicTech a hot networking spot for both up-and-coming musicians and app developers.

In the opening panel, “Engaging Your Community,” moderator Brenden Mulligan from Sonicbids led a discussion on how independent musicians could tap into the vast resource of social media platforms, including tips on uniting online fans. The panel recommended an online hub, such as the band web page, linking an artist’s various profiles to one location. Author David Meerman offered tips from his book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, such as involving fans by providing items of value for free. He suggested artists ask themselves not only what fans are going to like, but rather what fans are likely to share.

The afternoon’s “Live Electronic Musicianship” panel focused on the future of the live “controllerist.” Featuring artists from LoveTech SF, an amazing electronica troupe, they acknowledged that innovations arise when artists test the limitations of their gear. Similarly, the speakers in “Tour Secrets from the Pros” recommended working with the restrictions of live surroundings and listening to your best friend: the sound guy.

Closing the day, “The Artist Panel” offered tips from a list of successful musicians. “Good music. Product. That’s where it all starts,” advised Del, “Bring back the mystery between artists and fans.” The panel closed with an uplifting nod to indie musicianship from recording artist Raul Malo: “This is the most promising time for the young artist,” he said, “We don’t need the wizard behind the curtain anymore. We’ve seen the wizard, and he’s an idiot.”

The next SF MusicTech Summit is scheduled for May 9, 2011.

-Keane Li

How to Prepare for Your First Gig as a Live Musician

Occasionally I’ll write a reference post for the independent musician based on my own personal band experience. These are the points of advice I wish I had when I first started. If I’ve missed anything, I gladly invite you to contribute by adding comments, so that others, including myself, can learn from your experience as well. And please check out my band, Festizio, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.


If you haven’t performed before, the first show can be intimidating. With images of professional musicians recalled in mind, you’ll inadvertently make an attempt on living up to the musicians you admire. The first, and probably most comforting, bit of wisdom is knowing that everyone is scared the first time. If you give a damn about what you’re doing, it’s only natural to feel self-conscious. And that’s okay. The trick is to remember why you’re performing in the first place (hopefully you love music) and to focus on having fun, because more often than not, the audience wants you to succeed.

Understanding Your Venue
It’s important to take into account the type of venue and, consequently, the type of audience you’re about to perform for. There are essentially four types of settings you’re most likely to encounter when you first start out:

– Traditional club
– Small bar, pub, or saloon
– Coffeehouse or equivalent
– Outdoor venue

Each comes with a different set of expectations, and so you should set your own expectations accordingly. While a traditional club may offer a soundcheck and adequate monitoring, a smaller venue may not provide sound support. An outdoor venue will diffuse your sound more than an enclosed space, altering the impact of your music as heard by the audience. A coffeehouse most likely will offer only a PA for vocals with restrictions on overall volume. In this situation, you may opt to play an acoustic set if you’re usually anything louder. Knowing your venue can help tailor your performance appropriately so you don’t seem awkwardly out of place.

Planning Your Set List
A carefully planned set list provides the emotional balance for your set. A good general order is to start upbeat, keep downtempo songs in the middle, and end with your strongest song. Like movie scenes, you progress the experience from high to low to highest in terms of energy. Maintaining an appropriate mix keeps the audience interested. If you can, space songs in the same key apart. Additionally, adding some artistic transitions between songs dramatically enhances the show.

Before the Show
Aside from your standard instrumentation, it’s a good idea to bring backups whenever you can. Personally, I always pack a spare guitar for the possibility a string might snap. It never hurts to be a little prepared. Be sure to check your patch cables and connections before packing for the show. Maintain and clean your instruments. A little organization goes a long way during both pack-up and load-in. I also find it helpful to bring a few extension cables in the event there aren’t enough sockets for everyone. If you’re a guitarist, a separate portable tuner proves useful in tuning backstage before a show, so you can warm up while ensuring you’re in tune before hitting the stage.

If you’ve been offered a soundcheck, be pleased. A good soundcheck session turns night to day for live performances. Be sure to pick a song to check that encompasses all your instrumentation so that the sound engineer has a good idea of how best to set the various instrument levels. Make sure the engineer gets a taste of any surprise instruments or sounds you plan on using throughout your set so there aren’t any mid-show surprises. Finally, don’t just be on time for soundcheck. Be early. Introduce yourselves and be nice. The sound engineer is your best friend.

During the Show
There are only two rules for performing authentically:

– Be yourself
– Have fun

Seriously. If Cat Power can vomit on stage and still win over the audience (for the most part), you’re allowed to do anything. It’s your show, so don’t feel hard-pressed to live up to any other standards beyond your own. Have high goals but don’t compare yourself too much to others. Take a second to enjoy the moment. Time moves faster than you think when you’re on stage.

After the Show
Despite popular belief, the show really ends when everyone is home and asleep (assuming you sleep). The period after your set is the most opportune moment to connect with others. Thank attendees for coming, make some friends, pimp out your record, or, if you don’t have one, share your mailing list. The goal is to connect with the audience, so that your relationship with them doesn’t end when the night is over. Facebook. Twitter. All that. Thank the venue manager with a free album or shirt.

If you’re still reading this, you’re probably a musician or a close friend of mine reading out of pity (thanks!). If you’re the former, you already know that you do what you do because it’s what you love. So enjoy what you have and be grateful for the rockstar life that you lead.

Closing Checklist
– Extension cables
– Extra instrument cables
– Backup instruments, when practical
– Instrument stands
– Spare tuner for tuning backstage
– Set list for each member
– Mailing list for fans
– Merchandise, whether an album or free info cards
– Positive attitude