This is a pretty impressive process these days, becoming a fan.  We have so much rattling through the hallways of our brains that it’s amazing any information stays in there at all, let alone has time to take root and be thought about for a while.

Becoming a fan of something, a musician, a song, an author…that definitely takes time.  It takes a lot of almost random occurrences along the way to really form a person into a “fan” rather than just “someone who likes something.”

The other night I was browsing in Borders, which is liquidating everything here in Austin, sadly.  As I was busy not finding anything I needed to buy, the song being piped over the store speakers caught my attention.  I had no idea who it was, and there was a crying kid in the next aisle so I couldn’t hear the words.  I just liked it, I don’t know why.

I pulled out my iPhone and dialed up the Shazam app, which listens to music playing and identifies it.  The first time was a no go, probably because even Shazam can’t translate through “screaming toddler.”  I moved farther back in the store and tried again…and immediately it told me I was listening to Florence + The Machine.  I had heard the name but never had a reason to pay attention to it.

Shazam is integrated with iTunes so I chose to “Buy” and within seconds the song was on my phone.  I listened to it in the car on the way home and yes, it was just as cool as I thought it was over the Borders speakers.

These tools – or crazy technology, as some would call it – are essential in the process of becoming a fan.  We need a couple of things in place to buy in to something.

1. Exposure. We need to hear it or see the artist.  This is obvious, but it is the thing that musicians spend a lot of time figuring out how to do.  Their songs need to be heard online or on the radio, people need to be in the crowd at shows, their Youtube videos need to be seen.

2. Interaction. Because of the aforementioned plethora of things taking up out time and brains these days, it is often not just being heard or seen that converts people into fans.  People want to be part of a community, or they at least need a reminder that they were interested.

I can tell you that I would not have stalked down an employee and asked who was playing.  Also Florence + The Machine are too busy to hang around Borders and watch for people that are bobbing their heads. Having Shazam handy allowed me to start off with a bit of interaction…I liked it enough to be $0.99 committed to trying it out some more.

The next step is probably something like me signing up for their mailing list or at least checking out the website.  I haven’t gotten that far yet, but I am going to share this song with you because someone posted it on Soundcloud.  I’m doing some legwork for you; you don’t have to go to Borders to find a new song today.

All this to say…I call myself a fan now.  A new fan, so I’m not solidified and I’m not booking any plane tickets to go see Florence play any time soon, but a fan nonetheless.  Have a listen.

02 Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) by NBiszantz

(Note: This is the start of a new series on my part…for kicks and in hopes of being actually valuable to new touring musicians.  All views are my own, but they’re probably right).

The lower you are on the totem pole, the earlier you get up and attend to your needs.  Why?

When you’re on the road and have somewhere to be, you have to leave at a certain time.  There is no messing around with the time-space continuum.

When you’re on the road, there is a Boss, and then there are underlings.  There’s a pecking order.  The higher you are in the pecking order, the more freedom of choice you get.  If all of you need sleep, including the Boss, the Boss sleeps the longest.  That does not mean wait until the Boss gets up and then start getting ready.  This means you ARE ready when the Boss gets up.  If there are 4 people in your entourage and you are the lowest on the totem pole, you are ready when the rest of them get up.

Obviously, these rules change for every group.  Maybe The Boss is an early riser.  Then know your departure time and be ready to go.  This means your hair should be blow dried if you’re gonna do it.  This means have your crap in your bags.  Get your laptop packed up and all your chargers unplugged from the wall (my biggest digression…I scatter electronics wherever I go).   Be hanging out by the vehicle 5 – 10 minutes before you need to be rolling.  Don’t be the one people are waiting on.

Two Boots
Clearly not ready to hit the road.

Whoa.  You never know how cool it feels until it happens.  Youtube has quite the collection of people covering songs, mostly people are covering Top 40 or whatever.  This morning I awoke to a link on my Facebook wall of Hannah Boren, a wonderful singer-songwriter from Amarillo now living in Nashville, singing “New Mexico Boy” with her sister Alyssa and their uber-hip percussionist, Trevor.  (In a…parking garage?  Good acoustics in those places!)  The sisterly harmonies are fabulous.  I am super honored.   My year is made.

En. Fuego. I am recovering from being in bed for 3.5 days this week and considerably less than 100% for the tail end of the weekend. Now I feel semi-invincible. Thanks, immune system! SXSW was this week in Austin…I have had incredible times at this festival in other years (two words: Tori Amos…my blog about that lives here), and this year I hardly participated due to said bedriddenness (new word) and gigs this weekend that kept a 50-mile arm’s length from the madness. It’s like Folk Alliance…you can go network and stuff, but you play for free. And when you live in Austin and the people you’d probably end up networking with live here all year round just like you, it seemed more prudent for Susan to dash in and out and play a couple of real shows and sell some more of her brand new CD.  Suz did do a Music Fog Showcase taping because, I mean, go LOOK at the awesome stuff they do.  I’m excited to see the edited product from Thursday.

All of this working toward and through CD Release shows, seeing shifts in crowd attendance and what makes those shifts happen…it has had us brainstorming a lot lately.  We’ve come up with some really cool things to put into practice to focus effort into getting people at shows.  Some of it is administrative, some of it is social media, some of it is street team centered.  It’s made me think a lot about the basics of the questions we are asking, breaking it down.  For example…”How do we get more fans at shows?”  All artists ask this question, even Lady Gaga.

Probably being drugged up on decongestant and not able to leave the house gave me time to  break it down to the first essential component of that question…”What is a fan?”  There is a pattern to acquiring and keeping fans, there is a life cycle to stages of being a fan.

I say this because I am a huge fan of a lot of people, and I am only now thinking about the process I went through to get to the stage of calling myself a “fan.”  Turns out now my job is to figure out and define what types of fans exist, how we market to them, how we keep them, and how we make them into even bigger fans.  I am making a document, because that’s how I cope with figuring things out.  It will be the next blog post.

All this to say, I am really enjoying arriving in a new workspace where things are melding together…years of study and work applied to creativity and some awesome business partners makes for an exciting time because the ideas we have can actually be IMPLEMENTED.  Implementation is fun.

The opposite of implementation is bedriddenness.  Now that I have used that word twice in one post, it is a real word.

This is a woman who looks like she knows how to implement.

Oh yeah. Folk Alliance.  That thing we were at a month ago and I was all, “It was so fun let me split up all this recapping!”  And then I did one recap and now it’s March, exactly one month after Folk Alliance.  Here are my month-after recap thoughts, then.  It’s my blog.

I want to first go back to a simpler time…my first professional conference was (NERD ALERT) with the Western Political Science Association in Oakland, I was a senior in college.  I had done research on a paper with my professor and I got to go help present.  I did my job at our panel, and I tried to sit in on some other panels, but after the first morning I got to realizing…”I have absolutely no idea what any of these people are saying.”  You see, I am a nerd, but I was not THAT kind of nerd.  So with the rest of my 1.5 days in Oakland, I promptly left the conference and went to San Francisco.  Wouldn’t you?

San Francisco
This is me…not at my conference.

Memphis and Folk Alliance was another story entirely.  This was my element, and we barely had time to breathe let alone leave the hotel.  We did attempt to find Indian food via Yelp one afternoon, but after walking past 12 bail bond places and a gas station, we ascertained Yelp had wrong information.  We ate at the hotel, like you’re supposed to do at a conference.

I attended a few really good panels, one on festival booking and one on international touring.  I went to one about social media and was scared I’d either learn I have a lot to learn or that I’d be bored.  Neither was the case…I was reassured that yes, we have our finger on the pulse of most useful social media tools available, and it also gave me a good picture into the next step.  We do a great job at social media at ForTheRecords, but there is a next rung of it, and now I know where to head to get there.  Very satisfying.

I attended the SWRFA meeting, or the regional meeting of our little pocket of states.  It was good to see so many folks I knew in the room and also meet some new ones from states we will be touring in.

One of the coolest tidbits falls directly into the random pile, but many of you who know me know that I grew up on and was musically raised by Mary Chapin Carpenter.  I devoured her albums, videos, TV appearances, etc.  Her guitarist/producer is John Jennings, who is one of my foundational guitar heroes and remains as such to this day.  I have followed that man’s guitar playing since I was 12.  That means 16 years.  Dang.

So anyway, Mr. Jennings has produced an album for a duo from Austin, The Flyin’ A’s, who I also met at Folk Alliance.  (They are awesome, check them out).  John was attending Folk Alliance because of the Flyin’ A’s, and I ran into him in the hallway while Susan was showcasing in one of the hotel rooms.  We chatted (since we go way back, haha), and it was neat to be standing with a mentor at the same professional conference wearing the same same dorky name tag and lanyard.  Rock.  I did not take any cheesy hallway photos.  Sigh.

Anyway…I will most definitely be going back to regional and national Folk Alliances.  It took me about 3 weeks to sleep off the craziness of this one, but it was worth it.

And this is a photo of the coffee maker in our room.



First, IN MY DEFENSE…this photo makes me look like I was an intern in 1986, if you look at that computer.  In all reality, everything in our PBS station was from 1986, even though it was 2005.  I am not that old.  That was a crochety computer even then.

Anyway…the other day we were at Schreiner University in Kerrville listening in on some classes and playing the coffee house series at the student union that night.  One of the super nice frat guys that helped set up chairs asked, “How do you get to be a tour manager?”  I said, “Work really hard for free for a long time.”  In other words, make yourself an intern.

Josh, my fellow KNME intern, now works full time there.  He does their social media, a job that didn’t even exist when we interned in the prehistoric ages of 2005.  In fact, we invited the first ever blogger guest  to appear on In Focus, the local show we worked on.  Our overlords at the time said, “Blogger?  What type of respectable news source is a blog?”  We won and the blogger appeared on the show.  Turns out we were so right.  (Her name is Chantal Foster, she started Duke City Fix, the best ABQ blog around ifyouaskme).

So Josh worked for free at KNME and landed a sweet job.  I worked for free selling t-shirts and carrying stuff into venues, which after a while naturally turned into more stuff, which after a while allowed me to acquire enough skill that made what I do…reimbursable.

Now I work with Team SG and Rubicon Artist Development, and a big part of my job is social media…but with a focus of building a community with social media as the means of collecting and maintaining that community.  The other night I was one some tangent driving home from a show, as I am wont to do, and I estimated that I have been studying social media for about 7 years now and actively using it to engage people online for a purpose for at least 4.  That’s a long time in internet years.

All that experience, in which I worked for free, is now parlaying into paid time in forming useful and profitable online presences for the organizations I work with.  It takes a lot of try, fail, and try again to get to a point where I feel comfortable calling myself knowledgeable about anything…and then something new breaks through and I start learning all over again.

The point is, I guess, to value your time.  This goes both ways…value your time so that you get paid for what you do.  However, if you’re drawn to something but are in the beginning stages of it, value your learning time.   Sometimes the internship is the best doorway to bigger and better.

Meh.  I’m sick.  Seems like every March right around SXSW I get some sort of a cold.  I am a whiny patient, so it’s good my roommate is gone for the week.  Because I’d be whining at her instead of the internet.  The good news is I think I’ve turned the symptom corner after a steady diet of Dayquil, Mucinex, and Excedrin.  Eck.  I’d like to think I am all natural and herby, but sometimes I just want to pass out.  Hence, drugs.

I’m hoping to feel humanoid enough to experience some SXSW this weekend, though I have decided that next year I will pony up for the conference…but not the music part.  The Interactive part.  I’m sure the music conference has fabulous panels and such, but I think the future of music marketing is more based on what the SXSW Interactive panels might offer.  I’m saving my pennies.  Geeks rock.

I played a fun show last night songswapping with Drew Kennedy.  He makes me happy because not only is he a great writer and player, but he’s a history nerd.  We get along.  I didn’t take any photos.  Apparently I need a monkey to do that for me, but I hear they eat a lot of bananas and I don’t have a lot of bananas.  Please make due with this photo I took of the poster in the bathroom, because I am on the list here.  In GOOD COMPANY.  I usually am unless I’m home alone.  I’m fortunate like that.

Phoenix Saloon List

I played 2 new songs, which is what I like to call taking them out of the bedroom.  (In my case, bedroffice, as I call it).  You can play it sooo.  Many.  Times alone in your room all happy-like, thinking “This is easy!  I know this!”  But for some reason debuting a new song in front of PEOPLE is always going to be different.  They went well, I think.  They shall continue to get out of the bedroffice.

My friend Nancy Jane gave me a bag of cayenne pepper marshmallows at the show in The Woodlands.  They are kind of amazing.  I thought I had tried to put chile pepper on just about everything, but I was wrong.  And these are hand crafted marshmallows.  They are hardcore.  Perks!

Shown with kettle corn for scale and also as a tasty snack combo suggestion.

Cayenne Marshmallow