Every piece of music starts with some strong feeling that I get swept up in (I’m sure it’s the same for most artists). To put this feeling into music I have to lock myself in the studio, immerse myself in that feeling and go explore the bleeding edges of it. It’s messy: I cry, laugh, dance, go a little crazy. When I appear every now and then to go to the bathroom or make tea (I tend not to eat when I’m in this state) I probably look a little wild eyed and disturbed. This state is precious and fleeting, so I try to avoid email or talking to anyone so as not to break my bubble and lose it.
Before our son was born it was relatively easy. I could turn off email without my world falling apart too much and my husband would leave me alone, knowing that I’d be fun again in a couple days. But nowadays emails increasingly demand to be answered and how can I ignore my son when he sees me, yells “Mama!” and runs into my arms?! So I have to do my best to efficiently work through whatever I’m experiencing in order to be normal again in time for the family dinner.
Anyway, on Wednesday I had the feeling and I acted on it. This one is vaguely about standing on the top of a mountain and being irresistibly drawn towards the edge. What if I leap? Will I fly? Will I fall? Will someone catch me?
It’s not done, but I want to share it anyway. I don’t normally like to play music for people before it’s finished because to me those tiny endless details that take weeks to polish are what take a piece of music from ordinary to special. That said, there is always something compelling about my rough first pass, when I’m just feeling it and not worrying about technique or sound mix or how it will be perceived. I think that’s one of the reasons why I love performing so much, because I get to feel each piece of music anew every night. So before I flesh this one out, polish it, turn it into something album-worthy and give it a proper title, here is the last 48 hrs in musical form.
Back then, I didn’t have a solo project yet. I was playing in a cello-rock band called Rasputina and working as an information architect at the Research Libraries Group. I had an iPod though. I listened to it on tour, lying in the back seat of the van as we hurtled across America.
iTunes opened it’s doors to unaffiliated artists in 2004 and as soon as I had a recording of my own layered cello thing ready in 2005, I put it up there through CDBaby. It was not an auspicious beginning. My music didn’t actually appear in the iTunes store until several months later in early 2006. Multiple emails went nowhere, but a trip to the CDBaby headquarters in Portland eventually revealed that my iTunes submission was getting rejected every day: spit out of a daily upload process because of an illegal character…..the dotted “e” in my first name.
It’s hard to remember what an amazing thing iTunes was at the time. My music…. recorded in my house, on my laptop with a single microphone….could appear in the same store alongside albums from major label artists.
Later that year I got some press coverage, sales spiked, iTunes made me a banner and my album went to #1 on Classical (a few times). That year, my husband and I bought a house. I’ve been paying my mortgage with that monthly iTunes check ever since.
iTunes has been more than just money though, it’s helped expand my horizons. In 2008 I was invited to perform my music with the Ballet de la Generalitat in Valencia, Spain. How did they find me? The choreographer had searched for “cello” in iTunes, fell in love with my music and created a ballet called “Llebeig”. I’ve met so many interesting people this way.
I’ve been incredibly lucky and honestly never expected this to last so long. I still believe it will all end tomorrow and now a lot of people think the same. That monthly check from iTunes will eventually dry up, either because everyone has moved to streaming or because my run is over ;-) But it’s ok, I’ll roll with it. The people who love music will always be out there, I’ll just have to reach them differently. And when my run really is over, I’ll get a real job.
Happy Birthday iTunes and thank YOU listeners for buying all those downloads.
I know, you’re thinking….why is Zoë posting a recording of the Star Spangled Banner???
Let me explain. It’s a long story. Sorry.
Two years ago I got a call from Chris Wiltsee of Bandpage. He was on the board of the SF Chapter of the Recording Academy (you know, the GRAMMY folks) and said, “Hey, there’s an opening on the board in the next election. You should apply!”. I never paid much attention to the GRAMMYs honestly except for the years that Imogen Heap was nominated (I was on tour with her in Europe when she got the news in 2007, and onstage with her again when she got the news for 2010), but my post-production friend Count was already on the board. So was Minna Choi from the Magik Magik Orchestra and some other music folks I vaguely knew. I live far from the city in the forest and often my only interaction with other artists is through the interwebs. I said yes.
Since then, separately from the Academy, I’ve unwittingly become involved in larger ongoing discussions on topics like statutory royalties, streaming payouts, DIY careers, etc. I don’t think my position on issues, when I have one (usually I’m just figuring things out for myself), lines up with that of any organization, as far as I can tell. It’s hard to say what I am: an advocate for the little guy? a gadfly? a naif? It is certainly true that it is easy for me to be a ‘renegade’ when I’m not dependent on anyone (other than my fans) and very few people are dependent on me. But I like it that way.
Anyway, I am curious about how sausages are made, and of course I have opinions, so when the opportunity came up to go to Congress for the Academy’s annual Grammys on the Hill event, I signed up. Yeah, I want to meet my elected representatives! I planned to blend in with the rest of the SF Chapter and get a glimpse of what lobbying looks like. I don’t blend in very well apparently, because shortly after I signed up to go, Daryl Friedman, the Academy’s advocacy chief in DC, asked me if I would play the national anthem at the awards ceremony the day before.
I think I’ve talked about this before, but fancy galas and I are not a good fit. Put me in a meeting room or a beanbag lounge where we can talk big ideas, but to stand awkwardly in a party with a cocktail in my hand making polite smalltalk? Let’s just say that I’ve been known to hide in the bathroom. Luckily, I have this thing I do with the cello and I totally use it as a crutch. Playing the cello at an event is like getting magic fairy dust sprinkled on my head. Suddenly, I have confidence! I can go and talk to anyone! I said yes.
But now I had to learn the national anthem. I have a difficult relationship with patriotic songs. Maybe it started when my family moved to America when I was 10 and I didn’t want to go, but in high school I stubbornly refused to sing the anthem and opted out of the Pledge of Allegiance. So first, I tried playing it straight, in a variety of key signatures. This was unsatisfying. The music just didn’t mean anything to me and I couldn’t muster up the necessary amount of cheese and bombast to pull it off. It’s that kind of piece: major key, essentially a hymn. Maybe I wasn’t patriotic enough to play this thing? Then there are the words. Boy, did I pore over those words. How to match the music with the meaning of the words? Eventually I tired of playing the melody (everyone in the house was tired of it too) and I started improvising. But when I focused on rendering those words into notes, I ended up with horror movie music. I decided to give it a rest for a week and work on my own damn music, which arguably is what I should be doing anyway.
Over the weekend I thought maybe I should educate myself in how other people had rendered this vexing song. I fired up Youtube and watched Jimmy Hendrix, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, Nirvana (theirs was my favorite actually…a staggering Kurt Cobain plays the anthem while the rest of the band trashes all their gear). Watching the endless variations I came to the realization that the most patriotic way to play the Star Spangled Banner is to make up your own damn version. Only in America can you remake the national anthem to fit YOU. That was the permission I needed. I spent a day (the horrible day after the horrible Boston Marathon) working out a looped and layered version of the Star Spangled Banner.
The result is rough around the edges, has moments of hopeful exuberance, doubt and a little bit cheese in the middle. Just like me. Just like America.
We have our issues, but this is a great place to be.
(p.s. this is essentially a live recording and isn’t mastered or anything proper like that, so listen at your own risk.)
I am coming to Europe this summer to visit my old school in Italy (I spent my junior year abroad in Florence). While I’m all the way over there on that side of the pond I would like to play a concert or two.
Where should I play? I usually travel to a distant place because a venue or organization has invited me, often for a private event, and the fee is enough to cover my travel. This is wonderful and I love it…but I rarely manage to arrange other concerts in the area. Sometimes I feel like a ping pong ball, ricocheting around the world with no plan. Plus, there are a lot of places where I know I have listeners, that get left out.
Digging through my accumulated data (Nielsen Soundscan, zip codes from iTunes and Bandcamp, my mailing list, Facebook insights, Google analytics, etc) I’ve discovered that my listeners are spread all over the globe….but I’m not in direct contact with the vast majority of you. And because I operate outside the standard music industry, even when my research tells me there are many of you in a particular city, it’s not always easy to for me to convince concert promoters I will have an audience.
Songkick is trying to help artists solve these problems with their new service, Detour. You might have heard of Detour. They got some press recently when Andrew Bird and his fans used it to bring him to play in Latin America.
Songkick and I have discovered that I have more than a few listeners in London so we’ve decided to try a little experiment and use Detour to crowdfund a concert in London.
Here is how it works…..you pledge to buy a ticket to my hypothetical London show (and you set the price). Once enough people have signed up, Detour works with concert promoters to make the concert happen.
If you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, join me at SF Music Tech on Feb 19 to discuss the path towards creating a public database for music credits, rights, and licensing.
The panel is with David King, formerly Head of Content ID and Licensing at YouTube, Rob Kaye from MusicBrainz, Kevin Lewandowski from Discogs and moderated by Brian Behlendorf, the primary developer of Apache and a champion of open-source software.
You don’t have to be there in person. The entire conference will be live streamed and I believe you can ask questions and contribute to the discussion. Tune in at SFMusictech.com.
Our panel “Towards a Credits, Rights and Terms of Licensing Database” is at 3:30pm PST and there cool things happening all day, like “How We Will
Experience Music in the Future?” and “DIY Musical Devices
Using Arduino and Other Prototyping Platforms”.
I wasn’t paying attention to the internets over the weekend. While I was doing laundry and enjoying a low-key birthday, one of my favorite bands quietly released a new album. My Bloody Valentine put out their first recording in 22 bloody years….which of course makes me feel bloody old both because so much time has gone by and because I wasn’t the first to know ;-)
I love that they put it out without fanfare, just like Godspeed You! Black Emperor did in October and David Bowie did in January. When it’s ready, send an email. That’s what I’ve always done, against the advice of nearly everyone I know in the music industry. It feels real, natural, and uncontrived. If people like what you’ve made, they will tell others.
I suppose cynics will say that this is now an accepted marketing strategy and we’ll see more albums released this way. But I think you’ll always be able to tell when an artist has something real that they want to share with you.
I’ll repost part of his article here, but you should follow the link to read the whole thing:
The future of the arts has been here for a while, but I suspect it required the return of an old hand at the occult mechanics of marketing like David Bowie to drive it home for a lot of people. Imagine if he’d presented the piece like a record of old, or like the way movies are marketed now. The long build-up, the teasers, the chatter. Some people miss that slow process of creating anticipation, and, yes, that was a thrill that is largely gone today. But also lost, with the end of that method, is a really poisonous strain of disappointment, a thing that gave a lethal bite to artists on, for example, their third album or their second book. What we have now, with all its inherent difficulties and issues, is, I would argue, a far more life-enhancing, generous, and magical thing.
What Bowie did—what artists all over the world do now—is create a gift. Turning on the net first thing in the morning can be a real grind. Everyone knows that feeling: time to open the door to the Shit Room to find out what went wrong while you were asleep.
People forget—or perhaps didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago—that the internet is also the greatest delivery system for new art ever created. And now we live in an age where we switch on and find we’ve been given a new favorite song for the day.
Talk about the music you love. Support and embrace the musicians you know or follow, big or (especially) small. Because in these early years of global network culture, they make the world a lovelier place to live in than it has ever in history been.
Many people wrote to me after the NYTimes article with advice. Most of you had some great ideas and I do thank you for taking the time to think about me and write. Several people advised me to consider touring as a revenue stream since “that is where artists make most of their money”.
I do keep hearing that statement and reading it in the press. Is it really true?
“So, do musicians make all of their money from touring? According to our qualitative and quantitative data, income from live performance/touring is a significant revenue stream for musicians who perform, accounting for 28% of the aggregate gross income of survey respondents. But, it is rarely their only source of music-related income. Indeed, less than 13% of respondents rely exclusively on income from live performance and/or salaried work.”
As for me, I have to finish my taxes before my next tour so today I tallied all my revenue for 2012. In the interest of providing data on how “under the radar” artists make a living, I posted it below. You’ll notice that touring was 26.38% last year. Pretty close to the Future of Music Coalition survey average. While that is significant, I haven’t finished tallying the hefty expenses yet. Live performance is usually my revenue stream with the highest expense ratio: flights, hotel rooms, commissions, crew, advertising, etc…
45.55% Music sales
26.38% Live Performance
23.90% Sync/Master Licensing
0.89% Soundexchange (i.e. Pandora)
0.21% Google Adsense
Anyway, I know I put myself into this position by highlighting my own numbers but I feel like I’m harping on about the economics of music too much….especially given how little I am motivated by money and how swimingly everything has been going the last few years. Of course I care about making a living, but just so I can live and make MORE MUSIC. Please tell me if I sound like I’m whining (Again, I appreciate them and I have a thick skin, but those were the advice emails that stung), because I certainly don’t mean to. I’m trying to present an alternate path for artists …the kind you make for yourself through the forest with a machete.
I’m really, really looking forward to being on Jonathan Coulton’s cruise next week and I’d like to leave you with this hilarious animated video made by one of his fans. It’s quick but keep an eye out for my cello spaceship ;-)
From: Zoe Keating
Subject: Re: New York Times On Streaming
I’m totally asking for it by replying, but how can I resist? Plus my toddler is throwing up every hour, so there is no sleep tonight.
As the artist featured in this NYTimes article, I feel horribly misrepresented and I have to straighten out a few things.
I got into the commenting-on-Spotify business last year when it seemed that no one was questioning all their marvelous marketing materials. I felt like it was my civic duty to point out that:
1) the streaming payouts are stacked against unlabeled artists (ie. majors have a stake and get a share of the ad revenue)
2) Psy-style uber-popularity is not the only model out there. The millions and millions of streams needed to makeup for sales are not ever going to be a reality for non-mainstream music, but that does not mean anyone should throw in the towel.
I decided to go the unlabeled route when my brand of cello music didn’t spark much excitement in the people I appealed to (unless I added vocals to it, said one exec). The first year or so without my tech-job-cushion was rocky, but I’ve found the economics of no-middlemen to be good. I’m not mega direct-to-fan like my friend Amanda Palmer but I’m not struggling by any definition. It takes a lot of work but I can support my family on music, take them with me on tour and don’t worry much about money. I don’t feel a need to be any larger. Actually, I don’t see how I can be much larger…. when I’m not sleeping or being with my son, every second is spent on making and performing music or doing music biz. But I’m truthfully, extremely happy and thankful, exactly where I am right now. (The MUSIC I’m never satisfied with that though….always iterating, tweaking, expanding, iterating, iterating, iterating).
I don’t want to be an anomaly. I want others to get into this place too. If you’re fringe, do it yourself! I started posting my earnings online not to whine but because I realized that few people, even artists themselves, seem to have any facts about how the money actually works.
Without the internet my unlabeled career would not be possible and I’m very bullish on the future. I’m not against streaming by any means. I’ve put my music wherever someone might hear it….including onto filesharing sites (gasp). That said, companies do not have our (artists) best interests built into their business plans. Perhaps not maliciously…. they just might not know what our interests are. I feel it my responsibility to educate these companies as to what we need…in order to make the music industry work for everyone, high, mid and low.
If we don’t like the world we live in, it’s up to us to either change it… or change our perception of it. Beyond contributing music, I feel like can’t do much about pointless wars, or climate change, or mass shootings, or all the other huge issues in the news every day, but I feel like I might be able to do something about this tiny little streaming thing. I’ve been engaging with these issues with the goal of encouraging digital music services to incorporate the needs of artists, not just record labels. What are those needs? Linking of avid listeners with artists for concert tickets, merch, music purchases, etc; crowdsourcing tours; providing listener stats and location data, maybe even emails; your idea here, etc, etc. Lift all the little boats. If this quixotic strategy doesn’t work, then I guess I’ll have to change my perception instead.
I was disappointed in the NYTimes article….like I’m often disappointed in the press. A 30 minute interview full of nuance squashed down to one sentence taken out of context and used to prove some other point. I know, I know, I’m naive. I’ll keep trying.
Another incredible year has gone by! Thank you for buying my albums, coming to my concerts, putting my music in your projects, reading my blog, writing me emails and letters, sending me gifts, and being encouraging and generally just the very best audience I could have ever asked for.
Here are photos of some of the places we visited in 2012…America, England, Scotland, Holland, Germany, Ecuador, Australia.
(Click on the image below and a Flickr set will launch)
During the SF MusicTech conference in October I found a quiet corner in which to talk with Mat Earp from Create DIgital Music.
She shocked the music business by revealing she wasn’t making money on Spotify – then shocked them again by revealing she was making money on our own. Now, CDM’s Matt Earp talks to cellist Zoe Keating about surviving as a creative musician, and keeping the music coming. Hint: “exposure” is not necessarily the key to survival. -Ed.
In between tours and mothering, I’ve been working on a new album. Sorry I don’t have anything to play for you yet but that’s just the nature of how I work. I tend to compose, record and refine all the songs/pieces/doodads on an album simultaneously. For a depressingly long period it’s a mess while all those hundreds of cello snippets gradually coalesce into a larger whole. Then at some point, the shape of things starts to emerge and I continue hacking and polishing until the album is revealed. But not until the end is any of it ready to be heard, and I’m not at the end yet.
I do have something else to share with you though, a 2-song collaboration I recorded with my friend Jane Woodman.
Jane and I first met in 1996 when I answered a listing in the San Francisco Bay Guardian for “moody, darkwave band seeking strings”.
A few months before, my dreams of a music career (I wanted to be an orchestral cellist) had been crushed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. After a couple post-college years playing cello at weddings and struggling to make ends meet in foodservice jobs, I had decided it was time to go to grad school. I put in an application to the conservatory, spent several months practicing and hauled my cello on the bus over to the audition. But when I sat down to play, my old nemesis, Mr Performance Anxiety, appeared. I seized up, like the proverbial deer frozen in the headlights. I could barely play any notes and the few I squeaked out sounded like the inexperienced scratchings of a beginner.
I know this happened, but I hardly remember it. All I remember is waiting for the bus afterwards, in the freezing cold San Francisco fog, and at that moment vowing never to play classical music again.
So that was that. I got an entry-level job at a software startup and thought maybe I could handle playing in a rock band. I started looking for other musicians who shared my love of the Cocteau Twins and English shoegaze. That’s how I found myself playing the cello through an amplifier in the living room of an Italian ballet dancer-turned-bassist named Gianfranco Pescetti and his friend, guitarist Jane Woodman, who was already well known as the founder of a hard-hitting, two-guitar, all-girl rock band called “Van Gogh’s Daughter”.
We hit it off. I roped in my college friend Tony Cross to play violin and Jane brought in Kat Zumbach to play drums. After calling ourselves a variety of (possibly) pretentious names, we landed on “Alfred”…for very important reasons that I can’t remember.
We quickly zeroed in on our sound, which consisted of long and intricate arrangements of dark, distorted guitars, dramatic strings, and harmonized vocals between Jane and I. We were invited to perform our very first show in 1997 at a warehouse/art space at 964 Natoma. Things seemed to be going well but with four songwriters in the band, the inevitable happened and just as we were gaining momentum, we broke up.
“Alfred” didn’t last, but my relationship with 964 Natoma did. I fell in love with the guy who invited us to play in his warehome (which apparently was his plan all along), moved in with him, married him, built a studio there, developed my sound and recorded my first album. We’re still together, and now we have Alex, a.k.a. #cellotoddler.
Anyway, fast forward into this millenium. Jane and I have meant to collaborate again for ages, but you know how life gets in the way. Over the summer she asked if I’d like to play on a cover of Sister Europe. We did that and in addition, decided to complete an unfinished song from our Alfred days called “Tango”.
It was fun to take a break from my solo project and do something different…to sing, and to make little bleepy electronic beats on my headphones while #cellotoddler took his nap. Here it is, on Bandcamp or iTunes, or just listen below:
I probably deserve any flaming for putting forward a vague nascent idea but I do want to respond to the Slashdot commentators, because I think they misunderstood me (not that they will read my blog). It could be interpreted that I’m demanding everyone’s email addresses… but I’m not. I have as many privacy concerns as the next person.
Of course I would *like* your email address. I can tell you I would be ethical about it (those of you on my mailing list know that I only write about once every 2 or 3 months) but you’d have to take my word for it and I know others might not be so scrupulous.
I would love it for services to allow listeners to opt in and pass on their email address to me (Bandcamp does this nicely I think), but I’m not even asking for that. In the case of a service like Pandora, when someone has taken the time to create a station around my music or given my songs a “thumbs up”… I’d rather know where in the world those particular listeners are than be paid the $0.0011 per play that is currently required by law. That was my point.
To ask for listener stats in lieu of statutory royalties doesn’t seem that extreme but I understand that in some circles it is considered too much for artists to ask for anything other than they be listened to….and even that might be too much. However, I do believe my music is worth something, if only because I’ve been supporting my family with music sales for 6 years. I never take that for granted and I’m lucky and profoundly grateful that convincing listeners to buy my music has not been hard. What has been hard is finding out where those purchasers are.
The majority of my music sales are on iTunes. Until August 2010, when I managed to get a direct label account with them, the only info I received from my distributor was what songs were purchased and in what country. Now that I have a label account, for every iTunes purchase since August 2010 I’ve been able to correlate each transaction with a customer ID# and a postal code (I’ve since heard that CDBaby now offers some version of this). It’s not a total picture of my audience, since I know not everyone purchases music, but it does help me plan tours more efficiently (i.e. so the tours don’t lose money).
Again, my blog was in reference to compulsory licensing, where in exchange for playing my music without a direct agreement with me, certain types of services pay me per-play at a rate determined by law. I’m saying that listener data is more valuable to me than those tiny royalties. What kinds of data? A bunch, but let’s start with the same kind of listener data I get from iTunes: randomized customer IDs attached to postal codes for avid listeners (i.e. ones who choose to listen more than a certain number of times). I’d also like this for on-demand services like Spotify, which is not internet radio, but the financial result for my purposes is roughly the same.
Here’s what I’m concerned about: as we move into a world where music consumers will supposedly not own any music and will stream it rather than purchase it, musicians will supposedly be making a living by touring. How can we help them figure out where to perform? Google analytics can only help you when a listener comes to find you on your website, and every service does everything it can to make sure listeners never leave their playground.
(Dear developers, it seems like there is a big wide-open opportunity at the intersection of streaming and crowdsourced touring?)
Royalties from all these music services (internet radio and on-demand streaming) are never going to amount to much for a non-mainstream artist like me. So rather than get hung up on the payments, lets figure out what would make them work for all of us in the music ecosystem. I was encouraged at the Billboard FutureSound conference last week that in this discussion there might be some agreement between artists, labels, music services and listeners. That was a nice change of pace.
By popular request, tshirts are available for sale on my website. Now you can have a cello-action-figure silhouette of me emblazoned on your chest with which to, um, impress your friends and family with both your sublime style and taste in music. The shirt was designed by yours truly, made and printed in the US of A and will be personally mailed to you by my sister. You can find these shirts (and posters too!) at http://music.zoekeating.com.
More tours are being plotted for next year. So far we’ve got the Midwest in February and then Virginia, southern California, the Northwest and Ecuador in April/May (those places are all near each other, right?). I’ll also be an artist ambassador at the Direct2Fan camp in MIDEM in Cannes in January if you’d like to come and hang with me on the French Riviera in the middle of winter. Tickets for all these dates (and more are coming) at http://bit.ly/zoetour.
In other exciting news, I’ll be performing live with San Francisco’s legendary ODC Dance at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in March. More about that one as it draws closer. Have I missed anything? Well, I can definitively say that I am WORKING ON A NEW ALBUM. I might even release it next year…. but I am the parent of a toddler so I don’t like to promise too much.
I guess that’s it. I hope you enjoy the long, dark days if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere…the long, light days if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere…and the equally light and dark days if you’re near the Equator.
Thank you for listening and for your continued support!
best wishes to you and yours,
Feb 11 Evanston, IL: SPACE
Feb 13 Iowa City, IA: Englert Civic Theater
Feb 14 Omaha, NE: Waiting Room
Feb 17 Scottsbluff, NE: Midwest Theater
Feb 18 Denver, CO: Soiled Dove
Mar 15, 17, 21, 23 San Francisco, CA: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Apr 12 Minneapolis, MN: Cedar Cultural Center
Apr 14 Reston, VA: Reston Community Center
Apr 26 Los Angeles, CA: Largo at the Coronet
Apr 27 UC Riverside, CA: Culver Center of the Arts
I've been having a very productive and enjoyable month of composing. It really is such a joy to be writing new music and its been just spilling out. I'm trying to capture it as quickly as possible before it evaporates (I don't know if it WOULD evaporate, but better safe than sorry).
A little interruption though to announce some things....
In case any of you are NPR listeners, I'm on All Things Considered today. Tune into your local radio station, or you can hear it on the NPR site.
I have short Northeast tour planned for November. There are more dates coming, but here are the three confirmed so far:
Nov 5 - Boston, MA Nov 6 - Burlington, VT Nov 18 - New York, NY
- A speaking engagement on Sept 12 at the SF Music Tech Summit - A short performance on Oct 3 at the Fillmore in SF to kick of the SF Mayoral Candidates Forum. - The November 3 premier of the Kepler Project at the SF California Academy of Science Morrison Planetarium. I'm currently composing the score and it's an inspiring subject to write music for: snowflakes, harmony of the spheres, paradigm shift. Plus it will happen in a DOME. - A Midwest tour in Feb 2012 - A new work for the Low End String Quartet that will premier in April 2012.
Tickets and details for all these events can be found HERE.
A couple of weeks before I left to go on tour, a crew came north to the forest to shoot a short documentary about me. Most interviews have tended to focus on either the technology I use, the business of my career or my use of social media. So it was refreshing, and anomalous, to be asked about music for once. The video crew wanted to know about my artistic life and inspiration and point of view. But what makes the video even more unusual is that this wasn't made by an indy documentarian or a media outlet....but by Intel as part of their Visual Life campaign.
If you know me, you already know that I don't do endorsements (well, to be honest, no one has ever asked) and that I choose my licensing clients very carefully (you'll never hear my music in a Coca Cola ad for example). So for the record, I was not paid to do this video. So far everyone I've met at Intel has been genuinely interested in and supportive of the arts. So if they want to highlight that support with their campaign, I think its a rare example of corporate intent and artistic purpose dovetailing. I'm ok with it.
Its beautifully done and I think they captured me and my artistic life extremely well (although I find it hard to watch myself on video without putting my fingers in my ears and diving off my chair to hide under the table every 30 seconds). Thank you Intel.
Hooray, an "Into The Trees" tour is finally coming into focus!
I've said it before, booking seems to be the last hurdle for a DIY artist. My previous efforts at lining up concerts in a logical geographical order haven't always been a success ;-) These new headlining concerts are thanks to my new booking agent.....(thank you Mark Lourie of Skyline for helping me get to my fans)
I'm going to visit the continent in stages. This first round I have concerts on both coasts, and a few dates in Europe. We'll visit more of the continent in May and June. I say "we" since for the foreseeable future I tour with Cellofamily in tow (i.e. #cellobaby and #cellobabydaddy to those of you who follow me on Twitter...or Alex and Jeff to everyone else!). No doubt this experience of touring with a baby will lead to a fair amount of mommy-blogging....I apologize in advance.
In March I'm pleased to announce that I'm joining the creators of my very favorite radio show, Radiolab, as they hit the road on a three-city tour...
"Jad and Robert will be performing an upcoming episode on symmetry, and how it shapes our very existence—from the origin of the universe, to what we see when we look in the mirror. We'll search for love in ancient Greece, head to modern-day Princeton for a look inside our brains, and revisit an unlikely headline from the Oval Office circa 1979. And one of our favorite musicians, the amazing Zoe Keating, will be on stage to provide live cello scoring!"
We're performing the show in NYC, LA and Seattle. Tickets for these very special dates can be purchased here
Kaki King shows...
AND last but certainly not least.... I have four concerts on the West coast supporting Kaki King! Kaki is amazing and I love her music (did you hear the score to "Into The Wild"?). I can't tell you how pleased I am to be opening up for her. We have plans to do a little special something together too...
Baby Alex (aka Cellobaby) has shown himself to be a happy sailor. He seems to enjoy new places, people and singing along during my concerts. So while the going is good, I have a plethora of performances in the approaching months. If you don't see your fair port in this list please do not be alarmed! In the coming year I do really intend to visit as many locales as possible, but I must do it in small chunks. Stay tuned for more concerts as I book them.
One huge way you can help....tell me where you are! While we might occasionally frequent the same cafes in the astral plane (you know that one with the red sofas?)...I only know the terrestrial location of a small fraction of you. To tell me where you are, just sign up on my email list (I won't write you too often, don't worry).
Lastly, I wanted to mention that (cough) my cd "Into The Trees" could be the perfect gift...say for a certain someone you'd like to impress with your sublime musical taste...or maybe as a peace offering to an estranged relative...or maybe to the person who seems to have everything and you never know what to give them. My sister Laura has been doing an amazing job sending cds off to every corner of the earth, and if you need them sent speedily or to be gift wrapped, she can do it (just say so in the order). They are available at the usual place: http://music.zoekeating.com
Here are those shows in 2011...
Jan 19: SAN FRANCISCO The Independent 628 Divisidero Street San Francisco, CA 94117
I've had a stroke of media luck this last week. I was interviewed by Laura Sydell for NPR's All Things Considered. Then, over the weekend BBC played me on "Introducing with Tom Robinson" and NBC used one of my songs (without telling me, ahem) in a Dateline special about Hurricane Katrina. Not a bad week!
Right now I'm working on three things. First, my composition for the 01SJ Biennial with digital artist Robert Hodgin. We'll be premiering a BRAND NEW WORK in San Jose on Sept 18th. Here's where you can find out more details about both this incredible art festival and the concert.
And second, I'm recording some more cello loops for Mark Isham for his score to a film called "Warrior" (can't remember if I mentioned it, but less than 1 day before baby Alex was born, I recorded parts for another of his scores...a Robert Redford film called "The Conspirator"). Then, I leave in less than 2 weeks for Switzerland, where I'm performing in the tiny town of Ilanz and in Berne. Thank goodness baby Alex seems to enjoy traveling...so far ;-)
My concert with Apex Dance at Boulder Chautauqua was heaps of fun. Thank you to Apex Dance, Dan Gesmer of Seismic Skate and the Colorado Music Festival for hosting Jeff, Alex and I and for making my first major concert as a mother logistically possible. And thank you to everyone in Colorado who came to see us!
My next goal is to do a national tour to play for as many of you as possible. I'll need your help in figuring out which cities to visit...but more about that in my next post.
Anyway, I hope you've had a wonderful summer, nutty weather and all.
Last year, egged on by the ubiquitous "We've Got Money for Artists!" advertising campaign... I signed up for Soundexchange (Soundexchange, in case you don't know them, are the entity entrusted by Congress to administer performance royalties for artists for internet airplay).
I've been a Pandora fan since they began. I remember seeing a job posting for the Music Genome Project back in maybe 2000 and considering applying. I have a subscription and listen almost every day. I had a vague sense of my internet plays from other people. From what i hear, I think a lot of people listen to and discover me there. So to GET PAID indirectly by Pandora, in addition to being a fan, seemed, well, awesome.
It took over six months to process the Soundexchange paperwork and I waited with cautious optimism to receive a check. I got it last week. The amounts were, from 2006 to the present:
$158 as copyright owner (i.e. label payment since I'm my own label) $135 as performer
Honestly, that seemed kind of low. So, I wrote to Pandora to ask my total plays. They, bless them, wrote back that collectively all my songs have had about 423,000 spins
That number isn't up there with Lady Gaga, but it seemed like a lot of plays to me. Not having followed the outcome of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, I naively thought that 423,000 plays should surely amount to more than $293. I wrote to SoundExchange asking for details about how the math works.
Their response I did not understand....
...Digital service providers are only required to reported 2 weeks worth of performances a quarter. Moreover, those 2 weeks do not have to be on consecutive days, they can report any 14 days worth of performances within a 3 month period. If your performances do not occur within that period, then there are no reported performances to be compensated for...I believe that while you had 423,000 performances from Pandora, not all of them were during a reported period.
I was confused, and spawned a discussion on the Tunecore mailing list. However, a few hours later, after writing it all up for this blog, I got a message from Soundexchange which explains the math once and for all.
To address your concerns about the amount, the number you cited ($290 or so) is just about correct for 423,000 performances by a service operating under the pureplay rates (as Pandora does). The nonsubscription “per performance” rates for services that elect the pureplay rates start at $.0008 in 2006 and rise to $.00097 “per performance” in 2010. Remember that by law 5% of your earned royalties are paid into a fund which supports backup musicians and session players, and around 8% is SoundExchange’s administrative rate, to pay our staff and keep the lights on.
So there you have it. There is no mystery or shadowy accounting going on. The numbers are just very, very low. Lower than I realized, which I suppose is the tradeoff to keeping internet broadcasters in business.
End of story. Now I'm off to put baby Alex to bed with his favorite Ulrich Schnauss Pandora station.
My first gig as a new mum was last Tuesday: a short performance at an Intel conference in San Jose. The days leading up to the gig, I managed to practice in little chunks in between Alex's feedings. Then on Tuesday morning, I tanked him up for the 2 and a half hour drive, gave him a quick feed when we got there, sent baby Alex off with his Dad, rearranged my outfit and played the concert. On the way back home we got stuck in traffic in San Francisco and since it was a nice day, decided to wait it out at the Java Beach Cafe on Ocean Beach.
While we were there, soaking up the beachy atmosphere, I got an email from someone at Billboard inquiring about details for "Into the Trees" for the charts. Oooh! I took Alex back to the van for another feed and called the number.
"What is the record label and catalog number for this album?" the man on the phone asked.
"Er...none", I said, "I released it myself."
"Ok, and what is the retail price?"
"Well, I'm selling physical copies for $14 and deluxe editions for $20, but I sell them from my website so they aren't reported. I guess I'm charting from digital downloads on Bandcamp, which are pay-what-you-want with a minimum of $8".
"Bandcamp?" he asked.
At that moment Alex started crying.
"Hang on a minute! My baby fell off the nipple, I have to adjust him".
I got Alex latched back on and picked up the cell phone again.
"You have a new baby?"
"Yes, he's seven weeks old. I'm nursing him in the car on the way home from a corporate gig".
"Ah...well that's all I need to know. Congrats on the new baby and on making the charts".
The following day, sure enough, there I was on the Billboard classical chart at #7. I was very pleased. However, I kicked myself for not doing all my sales through Bandcamp because none of my pre-orders were counted through Soundscan. Until last week, I was still selling the physical CDs from my site, which means they don't "count". So on the one hand, I was happy to chart 100% from digital downloads and no advertising or PR other than a couple tweets and emails.... but on the other hand, two thirds of my sales weren't reported. 24 hours previously I hadn't cared about reporting sales at all. Now I cared about it.
You see how this goes - its the musical equivalent of keeping up with the Joneses. Before, I was alone in my forest and happy as a clam to be selling any music at all but now I'm comparing myself to others and left unsatisfied (Semi OT: this is one of the things I like about living where I do. There aren't very many people around to remind me that my car is old and I've been wearing the same grubby outfit all week).
I had been revamping my website prior to the album release in a piecemeal fashion (i.e. doing bits of HTML with one hand while breastfeeding) and hadn't gotten around to changing the ordering page. So the day after charting on Billboard, you can be sure I moved all my physical sales to Bandcamp as well (much to the relief of my sister, who handles the mailing of my CDs, and was exasperated with both me and Paypal. Bandcamp has a much friendlier order fulfillment interface).
AND NOW WE COME TO THE MEAT OF THIS RAMBLING BLOG POST where I talk about how many sales figures it takes to chart on the Billboard classical charts.
"The dirty secret of the Billboard classical charts is that album sales figures are so low, the charts are almost meaningless. Sales of 200 or 300 units are enough to land an album in the top 10. Hahn's No. 1 recording, after the sales spike resulting from her appearance on Conan, bolstered by blogs and press, sold 1,000 copies."
As delighted as I am to be able to add the tagline to my resume, I was actually surprised to make the Billboard charts because I didn't think I'd sold very many. How many did I sell that week to make the #7 spot? I sold 640 full album downloads (I'm assuming Soundscan doesn't count single song downloads). This last week I sold 709 copies, which put me at #12.
What doesn't get reported though is what I call "purchase enthusiasm". In other words, how many of you opted to pay $20, $30, $50, even $100 for a download of my new album. I've been floored by your generosity (thank you!).
Other bits of data for you to interpret as you wish: on Bandcamp, as of today I've had 71,115 plays (57,789 complete plays, 13,317 partial plays)...1700 Bandcamp album sales and 1988 album pre-orders. Someone also pointed out that my album is on numerous filesharing sites, and one site logs 27,000 downloads of it. This listen-to-buy ratio doesn't seem all that great to me, but then, I have nothing to compare it to.
I'm in this for the long run (the Natoma album has keep me housed and fed for four years) and happy with how things are going, especially given that I've done zero promo. So I won't dwell any more on the numbers but will get back to the more important task of making music. I have a performance with a ballet to get ready for on August 3rd.
It felt rather epic getting the album out. There were an astonishing number of snags that had nothing to do with me having a baby. Maybe I'll tell you the story later when its aged enough to be funny...
For those of you who pre-ordered....thank you again. My wonderful sister is mailing your CDs as I write this. To tide you over until your copy arrives in the post.... the album is temporarily streaming at music.zoekeating.com
For those of you who would still like a physical copy...the album comes in 2 flavors: a regular edition with 11 tracks in a cardboard digipak; and a deluxe edition with 16 tracks, album notes and photo-booklet in a cardboard digipak. Both can be obtained on my website www.zoekeating.com
I don't know when "Into The Trees" will appear on iTunes, hopefully soon, but digital copies (including 320k mp3 and FLAC) can also be downloaded at music.zoekeating.com.
THANK YOU for your patience and I hope the music is worth the wait. I've already started on Album #4. I've found motherhood so inspiring and my head has been filled with music since I gave birth six weeks ago.
Yes, I know, I know...I missed my album release date (I'm gonna fire myself for sure this time!). I really thought I could get it to you by March 1st, but I was sorely mistaken. There's no problem other than I'm just a slowpoke and doing too far many things at once.
Also, for the reason I announced here (i.e. I'm having a baby in May!!) for the last 6 months I haven't been able to work late into the night as is my custom...because I keep falling asleep! I've been doing little bits here and there, in between all my other projects, but not the solid music immersion sessions that I like to do.
However, I am at last happy with how everything sounds. Now I need to finish up the mixing/mastering process with my trusty post-production friend Count and then Jeff and I will package it up...and hopefully some of you will still want it!
In the meantime, I've got some performances coming up that I'm really looking forward to.
The first is my SXSW showcase, next week on March 17 at 8pm at Central Presbyterian Church. I'll also be speaking on a panel, Effective Online Marketing Platforms, on March 19 at 2pm, along with Lou Plaia from ReverbNation, Corey Denis of Not Shocking, Jason Lekberg from Epic Records and Josh Wittman of Redeye Distribution.
Then, after SXSW, I'll be heading to LA to play a very special show with Curt Smith from Tears For Fears on March 23, at Largo at the Coronet. As Mashable wrote recently, we collaborated via Twitter on his new song "All is Love". I'm rather happy with how the cello arrangement came out (you can download it on Amazon and iTunes.).
On March 23rd, I'll play my own set, with songs from my new album, and then I'll sit in with Curt and his band on "All is Love" and maybe even "Mad World", if I can hash out a good cello version. More info at the Largo website and tickets are available in advance by calling (310) 855-0350.
Jeff and I went down to see Robert Hodgin & Aaron Toblin's exhibit at GAFFTA a couple weeks ago. They are both such awesome artists. I'm really excited to be collaborating with Robert for the 2010 01SJ Biennial in September. We're going to put on a joint performance. The spiel:
"Composition for the ears meets composition for the eyes in an organic, evolving world of sight and sound. Zoë Keating will create a lush soundscape of live, layered cello, which Robert Hodgin will translate into light. "
While we were there, I finally saw the SFMOMA posters in the MUNI station that everyone's been talking about. I really wanted to steal one, but I refrained.
However, I doubt you will find the poster the most interesting thing about this photo ....
Yes, its true! We're expecting a baby in MAY! So, if you see me over the next couple months, please don't think my latest hippo-look is just because I've gone all crazy with the chocolate ice cream (although I admit I have felt compelled to eat a fair amount of it over the last few months).
A very happy New Year to you!! 2010 feels like a very futuristic number. Are we in the future yet?
I have so many things to tell you that I'm going to have to break it up over several posts.
But to start....
***MY NEW ALBUM*** is called "Into the Trees" I've selected March 1st as the release date. Much more about that next week!!! Please stay tuned...
- "In C Remixed", which is an album of remixes of Terry Riley's "In C" as performed by the GVSU New Music Ensemble (with pieces by me, Jad Abumrad, David Lang, Mason Bates, DJ Spooky...many others) was named one of the top 10 classical albums of the year by the Washington Post. Here's where to get a copy.
- I did some cello arrangements for a new song by Curt Smith (who you might know from Tears For Fears). Its called "All Is Love" and will be released on Jan 24th.
- I recorded cello on this lovely little song by a new band called Pomplamoose
- For the 75th anniversary of the SFMOMA, I wrote some music to go with 2 works in their permanent collection (Rothko "No, 14, 1960" and Ellsworth Kelly "Stele 1"). The music will be included in the museum's launch of a multimedia tour of the collection, be available on your own handheld devices, such as cell phones and MP3 players, and as an application for iPhones. The app will launch on their anniversary weekend, Jan 16.
And speaking of January 16.....
- FREE concert at the SFMOMA with Loop!Station and Matmos.
I'm looking forward to performing for you, then listening to some music, maybe having a sip of wine while walking around the museum...and its all free. I'm playing first, so make sure you come early, or you might miss me!
Saturday, January 16, SFMOMA, Haas Atrium 6:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. Zoë Keating at 7:00 p.m. Loop!Station at 8:00 p.m. Matmos at 9:30 p.m.
Thank you so much for listening. In preparation for my next release, I did a detailed tally of albums sold and its almost 30,000 (breaks down to 64% digtial and 36% physical) !!! Not bad for no record label, marketing or publicity...and especially considering my 100% lack of "strategy" other than "be myself". I know that many of you have bought CDs multiple times just to support me. I keep thinking that I'll have to eventually go back to working my tech job, and each year, I'm amazed that this music thing is working out. Really, I can't thank you enough!
I went down to San Jose last week to do an interview and performance on the NBC Bay Area show Press:Here. The host, Scott McGrew was awesome for making the whole thing happen. The piece aired on TV this morning (its also available on the web here) and one of the interviewers also wrote about it for TechCrunch.
The interview went by so fast, and there was such much I wanted to say that I didn't get in because I was so flustered. Thankfully, that's what blogs are for: a chance to elaborate. Here are some of the questions I was asked, and how I would have liked to answer them if I had had my wits about me and an hour instead of a few minutes.
Thank you Scott McGrew and everyone at Press: Here TV and thank you Sarah Lacy for the follow up story. These things really help, they really do.
---- Do you feel like you've sold out in licensing your music?
Nope. Basically I think "selling out" is when you compromise your creative ideals in exchange for money. I have never done that, so I don't think I'm selling out.
I've been lucky that the companies who've wanted to use my music are selling things that I approve of, like Apple, Specialized Bikes, and Herman Miller. Second, in every single case, I didn't solicit them. The people making the commercials found me and asked if they could use my already existing music, or if I could tweak something to fit. Thankfully I haven't had a situation yet where I've had moral problems with the company (i.e. Exxon).
The film work I've done has been custom in that I've had to write to the movie. But I don't feel like I'm selling out there either. Directors ask me to write for their films because they want a certain style that I presumably have. I would never compose anything out of character. Its all MY music and I think its recognizable as such. If someone approached me wanting me to write a score of salsa music, well, I'd turn them down...because I don't write salsa music.
How did you get 1 million followers on Twitter?
I've been very upfront about this. I've written about it, the SF Chronicle and Billboard magazine have written about it: I am on the Twitter Suggested User List! I don't know how I got there, or how (or if) I deserve it...but of course its incredible and I'm grateful and I should probably give Twitter a cut of my income if it makes me a lot more money than normal (I don't know yet if that is the case).
I will say however that I don't think this all this is a big deal. I honestly don't believe that 1 million people are listening to everything I say. I use Twitter to talk to whatever subset of that million is my friends, fans and potential fans.
What is great about Twitter is that, like I said in the interview, it allows me to be myself to as many people as possible. Me and my music are the same thing and I've always had this stubborn, egotistical belief that if I just had a chance to get the real me across....people would be interested. The belief that what I'm doing is worthwhile, even if no one hears it, has sustained me through a lot of rejections and hard times.
I doubt my current career would be possible without the internet. Thanks to social networks I can have what feels like a direct relationship with an increasingly vast audience. There is no middleman.
If a label approached you with a huge record contract, would you take it?
No. There are so many reasons....
I can't help noticing that most of the signed musicians I've known are broke or struggling. Those on small labels keep their day jobs. Mid-level bands, they run through their advance quickly and then they make a living by touring constantly so that they can sell t-shirts. It will be several millennia before the amount they owe the record label is recouped out of the band's royalty, and they don't own the recordings. New music/modern classical artists seem to sustain themselves with teaching and maybe performing as they get more well known.
Then there are the bands I know who've been dropped as soon as their sales dip. I know bands who've been majorly screwed by this: they recorded followup albums that never saw the light of day, or had nervous breakdowns. A basic financial decision to a company can feel like a matter of life or death to an artist.
So I've just watched all this and since I'm realistic that my brand of instrumental cello music is never going to go platinum anyway, I might as well save myself some suffering, release it myself and keep all the money.
I didn't always think this way. I used to feel like landing a recording contract was like a "stamp of approval" and I wanted that approval. Back when I was starting out my solo career, Myspace didn't exist yet. The standard wisdom was that the way to success was to build a local following and strive to get the attention of a record label. I spent some time and energy sending my music unsolicited to record labels, agents and managers that I thought would be a good fit for me. Of course I didn't hear back from most of them. I did hear back from two labels that were kind enough to reply. They both said that I didn't fit with the other artists on their roster.
Since then, I've had industry executives tell me very respectfully the following things: my music is interesting but not marketable; my music can't be sold because it doesn't have words & it lacks a single, simple melody for people to latch onto; and I am not young/not sexy enough/too nerdy. I've had classical industry people tell me that my music is too pop. I've had pop industry people tell me my music is too classical. And by the way, what category am I in and can I name any similar artists? The music industry seems entirely focused on releasing albums that are similar to albums that have sold before.
Very quickly, it became clear that I would never fit on any label without serious compromise....so I stopped trying. I didn't bother to hire someone to craft a "story" that would fit me into a neat little bucket. I just focused on playing music and selling my CDs at shows and on my website, and on Amazon, CDBaby, iTunes, Rhapsody, etc.
I'm not trashing record labels. They perform a useful service for many artists. But I don't think the model works for me. I think of recording contracts as very, very expensive bank loans. In the future, if I need extra money to make an album, I'm more likely to try and raise it by appealing to my fans.
Because there aren't very many mouths to feed, I don't feel any pressure to continually be selling more, more, more. I have never done an ounce of official marketing or publicity. I make enough to pay the mortgage, the bills, go out to dinner and a movie every now and then, go on vacation and save money for the future. I'm not rich, my car is old, but I have enough to live well and not be continually worried about money. That's really all I want. I want to exist and keep making more music. I'm in this for the long haul. Slow and steady is fine by me.
How do you make a living?
I realized that I should probably know the exact percentage breakdown of my finances before I answer questions on television. I just went and looked up all my tax returns, looking from Dec 2005 when I released my Natoma album until today. Averaged over that almost 4 year period, roughly speaking, digital sales have totaled 40% my income. Of the remaining 60%, maybe a quarter of that is physical sales and the other 3/4 is licensing, commissions, performance fees, grants, and royalties. That's all 4 years together. This year physical sales and performance fees are much less because I've spent most of the year in the studio and not performing (that's the deal... if you're out there performing, you sell music, but then you can't write music). But digital sales and licensing has been much higher and made up for it. This year has been my best year ever, I'm guessing because of my internet presence.
I'm optimistic about the future. However, the entire situation is constantly changing and I know I can't keep all my eggs in one basket. So if by this time next year everyone has migrated to subscription music services, I'd better find a substitute for the digital chunk of my income. I don't want to start selling T-shirts, which I've resisted to date. I do know it helps when people know that by purchasing my music they are supporting me directly, that each CD sold is a vote for me to continue as an artist.
Phew! That's it!
I'd love to hear your comments about all of the above!
The press gods have been smiling on me recently. I'm sure it won't last, so if you are near a magazine shop this week, pick up a copy of Billboard Magazine and you will find in there a picture of me with a wee story.
(one detail about the story I feel the need to correct: my so-called "sales" figures. As you know, I don't have a record label and sell the majority of my CDs through my own website and at shows. Because individuals have to jump through such hoops to report sales to Soundscan, I don't. I never saw any point. Anyway, the sales figures they mention in the article can only be be digital....unless Soundscan is omnipresent and knows what people buy directly from me on Paypal. The article failed to mention that detail.)
Thank you again for coming to see me in April and selling out the Old First Church. I never believe there will be more than two people in the audience, so you really surprised me.
Since I forgot to say anything about it at the April show (doh!) just a reminder that I'll be doing it all again (sans Charles Rus, alas) at the Great American Music Hall on Thursday, June 4th. I'm opening for Amy X Neuberg and her cello chiXtet. Its an early night, the doors are at 7:30 and I play at 8pm.
Amy X Neuberg & the Cello ChiXtet Zoe Keating
"Amy X Neuburg & The Cello ChiXtet celebrate the CD release of "The Secret Language of Subways" -- an 'avant-cabaret' song cycle for voice and 3 cellos, with live electronic percussion, looping and processing. Opening the show will be the incomparable Zoë Keating performing her one-woman orchestra of solo works for layered cello. "
Thursday, June 4th Great American Music Hall 859 Ofarrell St San Francisco, CA 94109
The cello and I have a few things we'd like to tell you about....
A few weeks ago Dylan Tweney, the Wired "Gadget Lab" editor, and a video crew, made the windy trek up to my forest studio north of San Francisco. We talked about composition and information architecture and I played a few songs. The result was captured in these THREE videos now up on the Wired website.
You've heard me talk about Scott Crocker's film "Ghost Bird" that I wrote music for last year. Well, the official world premier is happening this week at the Toronto Hot Docs Festival. "Ghost Bird" will be screening Wed May 6th and Friday May 8th. I realize most of you are not in Toronto, so, for your listening pleasure, here is some of the never-before-released music that I made for the film
And lastly, tickets are onsale for my performance on June 4th at the Great American Music Hall. I'll be sharing a bill with Amy X Neuberg and her cello chiXtet for her CD release party. So yes, a cello extravaganza!
Australia was amazing. I've been back for two weeks now and already I'm wondering if that really happened. Did I really go sunbathing on a perfect white beach and then swim in the Indian ocean, on the same day as a show? Did I really play four nights at the Sydney Opera House? I loved the people I met, the coffee, the light, the food. Fantastic.
Touring is wonderful, its one of my favorite things about my job, but it can be maddening when you are a "slow" traveller like myself. I like to explore every nook and cranny of a place, preferably over a period of weeks. I like to buy fish and vegetables in the local markets. I like to sit in cafes and learn bits of history or language from locals who will humor me. But on tour, especially one where I'm in a different city every day, I might have only a couple hours, if that, to absorb as much atmosphere as possible. I spend those precious hours alone, getting drunk on scenery, gorging myself on whatever local delicacies I can find. Sometimes I think I'm invisible, am I really here? Then, I race back to the venue to setup my equipment, soundcheck, and start the evening's work. All these delicious glimpses of a place make me fantasize about the adventures I will have when I come back. That list of places is now impossibly long. I've written about this before, but I really felt it keenly in Australia.
Anyway, back to the present. I have some nice bits of news to report.
First, Scott Crocker's documentary "Ghost Bird" was accepted into the Toronto HotDocs festival. I composed and recorded the soundtrack and I am very happy with the music. I would like to come out for the screening, and so I'm trying to arrange a performance in Toronto around that time. More details soon I hope. Until then, here is info about when the film will be screening:
Next, I have a couple of performances coming up in San Francisco!
April 24th with organist Charles Rus. This is a very special concert. Charles is an old friend, he's an uber talented organist and all-round amazing human being who lives and breathes music. He recently moved to Seattle, but prior to that he played organ with the San Francisco Symphony. We'll be doing a joint performance that will include my solo layered cello music, some modern and classical works for solo pipe organ (i.e. Phillip Glass and Bach), some duets and some cello plus pipe organ ambient improvisation.
Friday, April 24th 8:00 pm Zoe Keating & Charles Rus
Old First Church 1751 Sacramento St. (at Van Ness Ave) San Francisco, CA
June 4 with Amy X Neuberg Amy is another amazing musician I've known for a while. She is celebrating the release of a new CD with a performance with her Cello ChiXtet at the Great American Music Hall. I will be opening the show and playing the 1st half of the evening. So an all-cello, all-the-time, evening at my favorite local venue.
Thursday, June 4th doors 7:30 show 8:00pm
Great American Music Hall 859 O'Farrell Street San Francisco, CA 94109
...Jeff Rusch and I were awarded a performing arts grant by the Creative Capital Foundation! The initial grant is for $10,000 and we are eligible for up to $50,000 over the course of the project. In addition to funding for our project, which I'll tell you about in a minute, we also get to participate in Creative Capital’s Artist Services Program. The program "offers artists assistance in areas like as fundraising, networking, marketing, and strategic planning, with the goal of advancing both their projects and their careers".
Um, WOW. The application process spanned several months last year and it seemed like such a long shot that I tried not to get my hopes up too much. In fact, I had put the grant out of my mind entirely and assumed we would do our project this year without funding. So when I got the phone call, I happened to be at a restaurant at the time, and I promptly lay down on the floor in shock.
What is the project? It is to create a live synaesthetic presentation of my music. Jeff and I will be taking one step further the work we have done together in the past with our layered cello-plus-video performances in San Francisco, in Italy, and in France. The goal is to create an ideal live performance environment in which you, the audience, can experience a version of what I see in my mind's eye as I play.
I'm very grateful. The first meetings with Creative Capital are this week. The work begins!
Obviously, I'll keep you posted on all this as it develops. If all goes well we should be ready to perform in November.
2008 went out with a bang. I had a great time on tour with Amanda Palmer and the Danger Ensemble. I really love performing, and also I love to travel. Its already a blur of warm fuzzy memories. A special treat this time around was that I got to tour with my sister Laura and her pregnant belly (she is Amanda's as merch girl extraordinaire).
Now I'm also very eager to be back in my studio because being in my studio means I can WORK ON MY ALBUM, which I haven't been here to do since August. I've been tinkering away on it the last 2 weeks, hopefully productively!
Thanks very much for listening. I know these are tough times for a lot of people, but watching the inauguration today gave me so much hope.
It is 6am and I am wide awake here in my temporary apartment on a quiet medieval street in Valencia, Spain. It is so beautiful! Its like a stone stage set. I am still having difficulty believing I am here.
How it happened....the choreographer Asun Noales discovered my music on iTunes. She choreographed a ballet to "Updraught", "Legions (War)" and "Frozen Angels". Then she was invited to put on the ballet at the Teatro Principal here in Valencia so the music director of the theater contacted me to see if I could produce sheet music for orchestra. However, because I didn't have time to do that (because I was leaving the following day to play at MIT and then join Amanda Palmer's European tour) they asked me to come do it live.
Hmmm...let me think hard about that one...a two week trip to Valencia, Spain to perform with a ballet company in a grand theater that is a copy of La Scala in Milan...how about....FUCK YES?!
So here I am. I've stayed up nearly every night the last 4 days making the music perfect. I'm finally ready, which is good because the premier is today.
Here are the details if any of you happen to be in Spain over the next week (come on, the weather is lovely and the food here is fantastic!).
danced by the Ballet de Teatres de la Generalitat choreography by Asun Noales
Here are two videos from my performance in Paris last week at La Boule Noire. Thank you Fanch Oriant and Alexandra Opillard for taking video! Also, these two songs are still untitled...if you have any suggestions, write to me!
I'm writing this from Paris, where I just spent a lovely day wandering with my sister. Because we're here on tour we had no plans, which is kind of nice. We headed off in the most appealing direction and went from pastry shop to pastry shop until we found ourselves at the Louvre. Then we strolled along the Seine to Notre Dame and wound up the day in the Latin quarter. I have to say, it is days like today when I LOVE MY JOB. I think we stopped for crepes at least three times.
The concert is tomorrow at La Boule Noire in Montmartre and that's my last performance on this leg of the Who Killed Amanda Palmer Tour. Amanda and the Danger Ensemble will continue on to Belgium and the Netherlands, but I must get myself to Chicago for another live installment of Radio Lab on Oct 26 and 27. You might remember last year I performed with Radio Lab in St. Paul Minnesota for their deconstruction of War of The Worlds. They are reprising the show, for two nights, at the Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago and I am providing live music. Details below!
Then, in November I'll be in Spain working on live music for a ballet. It will run from Nov 20 to Nov 28 at the Teatro Principal in Valencia. And immediately following that, I rejoin Amanda Palmer in Toronto on Nov 30 for the rest of her North American tour which ends on Dec 16 at the Henry Fonda Theater in LA.
That's the scoop! All the dates are below...and will be on my website as soon as I have internet for more than 30 minutes!
Thank you to everyone in Europe who came to see us. I've had an amazing time. Its all still a bit of a blur, but there were so many amazing moments, and audiences. I will certainly be back.
celloly yours, Zoe
-------------------- Oct 26, Oct 27 RadioLab Live! Chicago: Victory Gardens Theater
Victory Gardens Theater Fresh Squeezed and WNYC's Radio Lab will present Martian Invasion! Decoding the War of the Worlds, on the eve of the War of the Worlds 70th anniversary, at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, October 26 and 27. Radio Lab hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich will deconstruct the original broadcast of War of the Worlds and describe what was happening-sociologically and psychologically-at each step. The program will be accompanied by cellist Zoe Keating.
more info: http://blogs.wnyc.org/radiolab/2008/10/08/get-yer-tickets-war-of-the-worlds-live-in-chicago/
-------------------- Nov 20 to Nov 28 performing live with the Ballet de Teatres de la Generalitat Teatro Principal, Valencia, Spain
Who Killed Amanda Palmer - North American Tour (supporting and accompanying Amanda Palmer on all dates)
Nov 30, Toronto, Ontario: Mod Club Theatre Dec 2, Ferndale, Michigan: Magic Bag: Dec 3, Chicago, Illinois: Cabaret Metro Dec 5, Minneapolis, Minnesota: First Avenue Nightclub Dec 6, Denver, Colorado: Bluebird Theatre Dec 7, Apsen, Colorado: Belly Up Dec 8, Murray, Utah: Murray Theatre Dec 10, Vancouver, BC: Richard’s On Richards Cabaret Dec 11, Seattle, Washington: Showbox Theatre Dec 12, Portland, Oregon: Wonder Ballroom Dec 13, Sacramento, California: Harlow’s Dec 15, San Francisco, California: Bimbo’s 365 Club Dec 16, Los Angeles, California: Henry Fonda Theatre
i'm in edinburgh right now, in a fantastically homey pub called the Black Rose Tavern. the mohawked staff is attractively decked out in black, the music loud and punk, but most importantly, they have all day breakfast (black pudding!!), comfy sofas and free wifi.
anyway, i haven't had internet for a few days and see that i have a PILE of messages! i will do my best to read them all, but you should know that i might be a bit out of touch for the next 4 weeks since i'm relying on free wifi in conjunction with free moments to find the wifi!
thank you for the lovely messages. as some of you probably heard, amanda palmer got hit by a car in belfast. she stepped off the curb while looking the wrong way. thankfully, only her foot was injured, but pretty seriously, and she has three broken bones in her foot, a broken big toe and a cast up to her knee. the girl is a trooper though and even performed an extra long set in belfast that same night. so...the show goes on. send her your best bone-healing wishes....
i'm going to go now and have a wander while the sun is shining. i forgot how much i LOVE BEING ON TOUR.