I’ve joined forces with an SF based non-profit called Open String, which gets quality musical instruments into the hands of young students.
If you were ever a music student or have your own musically-inclined kids, you know that a huge barrier is the cost of obtaining a quality instrument.
This is a project very close to my heart. I myself benefited from a nice cello made available at very low cost from my teacher David Gibson. I hear all the time about students to want to learn the cello or the violin, but they can’t get instruments to play.
Open String gets string instruments into the hands of students so they can succeed.
We are having a concert in San Francisco on Dec 8 and 100% of the proceeds will go towards the Annual Grant Program, which donates quality instruments to free after-school music programs.
I’m going to perform. Also performing are cellist Amos Yang, the assistant principal cellist of the SF Symphony, and violinist Gilles Colliard, conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Toulouse and director of the Barcelona Baroque orchestra. All of us will be playing instruments made by the co-founder of Open String, luthier Robert Brewer Young.
On Monday I’m participating in a House Judiciary Committee roundtable discussion on U.S. copyright law.
I have my opinions (which I will lay out later). I have heard the opinions of many academics and technologists and music executives…but I would like to hear from you…as artists who make music, as artists who use music and as music fans (this is much bigger than music, of course, but music is what I know).
It’s short notice, I know…but if you could change anything about copyright law, what would that be? What is hurting or hindering you? What is working well for you? What is missing? Is there anything you wish copyright law would do other than bring peace on earth, long life and happiness?
(as always, be thoughtful and be nice to each other please)
You probably know this already but the last few months I’ve been composing another TV score with Jeff Russo (he and I also collaborated on the score for The Returned). The show is called Manhattan and it’s a drama about the making of the atomic bomb.
Episode 1 of Season 2 premiered last week on WGN (the music for the first season was composed by Jonsi & Alex) and I can tell you now that the episode opened with my piece Legions (War) as soundtrack. The creators of the show chose this piece on their own, without realizing that I had composed Legions (War) for the 60th anniversary of the Trinity nuclear test. Pretty amazing coincidence I think and it really reinforced for me how this project and I were a good fit. Episode 2 airs tonight, Oct 20th, on WGN.
Anyway, this TV thing has been a good gig for me. First, it’s something new and I like the challenge. Second, I NEED to make music but the trauma of Jeff’s death is still too present for me to lose myself in the intensity of my solo work. Third, I’ve got to make a living but haven’t yet figured out how to integrate touring and solo-parenting. One thing at a time.
Speaking of touring, I do have a few concerts coming up.
I’m playing at a benefit dinner for The Garrison Institute in NYC to fund their mission for the next decade. They will be honoring Sharon Salzberg and Rabbi Rachel Cowan at the event and there will be performances by me, Shawn Colvin and Phillip Glass.
Old Town School of Music in Chicago
The evening show is sold out so we’ve added a late afternoon matinee.
My little guy and I are in Oklahoma City, where I am rehearsing with the ballet. I’m playing live on Friday and Saturday with the Oklahoma City Ballet in a piece by Matthew Neenan entitled “Exurgency”. It contains, you guessed it, the song Exurgency, and also Sun Will Set and Arrival (which for some reason I have never ever performed and I can’t remember why).
I love experiencing someone else’s interpretation of my work and playing with amazing dancers and being a part of a larger thing and…it makes my music feel new again.
This Friday and Saturday, Exurgency with The Oklahoma City Ballet
Also coming up, I have a concert November 22 at the Old Town School of Music in Chicago and Nov 18 and 19 in Mexico City and Oaxaca.
October 13 is the premier of Season 2 of Manhattan on WGN, where you can hear the spiffy new score Jeff Russo and I have been working on the last few months.
Tickets at zoekeating.com/perform.html
I won’t lie, the last collection of months has been difficult and sometimes I feel like getting up every day to get Alex to Kindergarten is an incredible feat. But I do get him there every day and I like to think Jeff would be proud. Tell me that if you ever see me in person ;-)
Today is the 70th anniversary of the Trinity nuclear test.
10 years ago I played an early iteration of “Legions (War)” for the 60th anniversary at an event called Simnuke
From Xeni Jardin’s coverage of it on NPR:
“The event, dubbed Simnuke, was organized by peace activist Camron Assadi to serve as a reminder of the destructive power of nuclear weapons and the growing global proliferation of the technology to build them. It was also a good excuse to have a Burning Man-style gathering in desert of like-minded techno-geeks and activists.”
And now, Jeff Russo and I are composing the music for season 2 of Manhattan on WGN.
Alex and I went on our sunset walk. We try to go a different direction each time so today we went up a lane on the other side of the valley. We stopped at a playground where two kids were playing. They proudly told us their names and their ages (3 and 5) and then I was quickly enlisted to push each of them on the swings and count to 20 over and over while all three children hid in the giant tire.
After a while we wanted to continue on our walk.
“Alex and I are going up the hill,” I said.
“We’re coming too!” said the little girl.
“Maybe you should ask your parents first?” I suggested.
“Ok!” said her brother, and he disappeared up the road.
A moment later he returned with his mom. We introduced ourselves and I guess she decided I was safe enough.
“Be back before dark,” she said.
Alex was beside himself with glee as they all skipped up the hill. We stopped at every fruit tree along the way. I lifted them up to pick sour cherries and yellow plums and red plums. We ate all the ripe blackberries and then played hide and seek in the tall grass at the top of the hill.
The sun was setting and I said it was time to go.
“Nooooooooo!!” they cried. “Can you come back tomorrow?”
“Ok,” I said.
On the way down I carried the girl on my back. A man sitting on his porch gave us some more plums from his back yard. The two kids skipped down the hill to their house.
“See you tomorrow!” they said, waving.
“See you tomorrow!” we waved back and I carried Alex home through the darkening forest. He fell asleep in my arms.
I admit that I may have designed my life not so that I can be creative or free or whatever…but only so that I don’t have to get up in the morning. I hate having to get up in the morning.
Every now and then I might have to catch an early flight. That’s ok. Or, I might surprise myself by waking up early and then delight in the novelty of a sunrise. But I chafe at the notion of having to get up early for some institutionalized reason five days a week.
So many jobs of my youth were early morning: the nursing home, the coffee shops, the lunch counters, the juice bar, the culinary academy where I was an admin. After quitting yet another one, I threw away my watch and all my clocks and said I would never do that again.
And then we had a child.
For better or worse, we got one of the non-sleeping models, so then we didn’t have to wake up in the morning because we never went to sleep to begin with.
Whenever Jeff and I would contemplate the impending doom of Kindergarten start-time…8:30am (and I think you have to drop them off by 8:20???)…we would stare briefly into the abyss, have a drink and then shrug it off.
“We’ll homeschool him”.
Yes, homeschooling our child sounded preferable to getting up at the buttcrack of dawn (i.e. 7:30am).
I feel quite proud of myself that for four days a week the last few months I’ve managed to get Alex to preschool by 9:30 or thereabout. But in a couple months the hammer comes down and my plan to prepare us for this abomination is not going well. 10pm and he’s still wide awake.
We made it through our first Father’s Day without you.
I know, you and I didn’t usually celebrate these things too much. We always mocked capitalism-enhanced reminders to appreciate something we should appreciate every day. But even though Alex and I can’t go a day without talking about you or looking at pictures, boy did I notice Father’s Day yesterday.
It was kind of hard to ignore. I mean, all month I’ve been barraged by ads for power tools and barbecue grills. Ha! We would have a good laugh about that. You weren’t that kind of a dad. I remember so fondly that Father’s Day picnic when Alex took his first steps, towards a smoked oyster on a cracker, and then grabbed your glass of champagne. It says so much about you that you wanted to have a picnic in a meadow with us on Father’s Day. In reality, I think you would have most liked to spend the day in the hammock with a book of poetry, but again, it says so much about you that you spent it with us.
You might not have been able to build a treehouse from scratch but you were way better at fixing and maintaining things that I am. Take the hot tub, for example. It is a total disaster! I’m afraid to look in there. I found the replacement filter but how do you get that gasket thingy off? The bolts are too tight for me to budge. And while we’re on the subject, the bedroom window has warped and I can’t get it open, the bathtub isn’t draining and the dryer has stopped working again. How did you fix it last time? Did you leave notes anywhere? If only I could crack the password on your laptop.
OMG the kitchen is a mess. I really appreciate that you did the dishes every single day. I only seem to get to them every couple days and no matter how hard I try, I can’t fit nearly as much in the dishwasher as you could. As for mopping the floor, forget it, it’s not happening. I remember you complaining about how the hours between between preschool drop-off and pickup was just not enough time to get anything done. You’re totally right! I haven’t composed even a bar of music, it’s embarrassing. All the child wrangling and housework and errands seem to take up my entire day. I hope I let you know how much I appreciate how much you did.
You were so great at playing with Alex, always patient and kind and you never lost your temper. You could troubleshoot complex Lego engineering problems or play “dumptruck” for ages, whereas I can’t go more than 15 minutes without needing a cocktail. I really miss how you would take him outside to jump off things so I could cook dinner. Now I don’t bother much with cooking and just assemble simple things that don’t involve much preparation. I miss cooking for you. I miss the sound of all that goofy rambunctious stuff, the swinging Alex by his feet or having him climb you like a mountain. I remember how hard he used to laugh and I don’t think I’ve heard him laugh like that in months.
I haven’t made any progress in teaching Alex how to ride a bike. You had such a natural way of encouraging him to test his limits and it gave him such confidence. I feel like I’m failing miserably and that he can sense my cheerful encouragement is little more than a front for all my nerves.
It’s weird, you were sick for only 9 months but I remember so little from before your illness. It’s like my brain is a chalkboard and it was erased. I wonder if it’s the same with Alex because he asks me every day to tell a story from “before Dadda was sick”. I’m trying to do my best to construct some memories for him.
In the trauma of the last few months, I forgot that earlier this year DJ Spooky interviewed me for his gorgeous magazine, ORIGIN. Look for Issue #24, the artist innovator issue, with Peter Gabriel on the cover….on the shelves now!!
Alex and I have been staying this month with family in Dorset, England. It is very sunny. There are walks through green fields filled with baby sheep. The bluebells are out. We’re coming home next week and then I will have some concerts:
8 May: Toronto Canadian Music Week speaking in the morning & performing in the evening at Church of the Holy Trinity
15 May: Dallas Winspear Opera House making a live soundtrack for Jad Abumrad as he presents his solo show/performance/talk/magic (Jad, I’m sorry, it is not possible to describe what you do with one word) about Radiolab and ‘Gut Churn’
It’s the final dub of The Returned today, where they marry all the music together with the picture (I wanted to be there but I’m not for obvious reasons).
Making the music for this show ended up being a needed catharsis during the last few months and I really put a lot of myself into the score. It was a bit like therapy.
I also enjoyed doing something different. The music still felt like “me” but I played cello, piano, guitar, recorder and chopsticks. I whistled and sang. I explored synths for the first time. It was fun (thanks to Carlon Cuse, Raelle Tucker, the editors, producers, everyone on the hard-working production team and A&E for making something so rewarding to write for).
When I initially got the job, my husband’s health seemed stable but shortly afterwards it became less certain. I didn’t know what was going to happen, so I asked if Jeff Russo (who I had just met because he asked me to do some cello on another show) could co-compose and share the job with me. Oh boy am I glad he was willing and able to do it (and he did it while simultaneously composing music for Fargo and Complications!!) because there is no way I could have done it by myself: I was both too green and too overwhelmed at home.
I think the end result is far better than if I had been composing alone. I love everything he wrote and I think we complimented each other pretty well. It was so great to work on this with you Jeff Russo. I hope to do it again.
Several journalists have contacted me to say that a Google PR rep told them my claims were “patently false”. “Patently” means clear and without doubt. Either someone is not telling the truth or the very nice rep I have been negotiating with, for a year, is patently unclear. There seems to be very little clarity and a lot of doubt on this topic.
I still haven’t decided what to do (YouTube is not at the top of my priority list right now) but I don’t want to spread false information and I hope my transcript below will provide some clarity. Please, tell me what you think it means.
We can’t have music available in the free but not in the paid version. So we need to have catalog parity between the services because essentially it’s just one service, it’s just that there are features that are added on for our music key subscribers. So I think where we got stuck was that there’s a catalog commitment language in the agreement that I think your legal team wasn’t comfortable signing with that language in there
So unfortunately we’re kind of at a period where because we have to launch the product fully at this point any music content has to be licensed under this new agreement otherwise we basically don’t have the proper licenses to keep that content up on youtube
Right. So can you tell me how the music service is related to content ID?
So the content ID part is not really affected so all of that part will remain exactly the same the difference that is added to the contract is that the music rate went up so the party who has rights to the music gets 40% so there’s a benefit there. And then the other part is that to the extent that you make the content available on any other streaming services we ask that you make that available on youtube as well.
So do I opt into the music service agreement in addition to the content ID?
No, so all of that is opted in. So what happens basically is that on this service, the assets that you provide to us, that are licensed on Youtube through you are all available for the music features because you’re a music partner. So even if you don’t explicitly deliver us every single song in your catalog if we have assets and they are fingerprinted by content ID to contain that music then it will be included to the subscription service and you’ll be earning subscription revenue in addition to the existing ad revenue
It helps to think about it on our service because it is in a way already, like a streaming service right? like if i wanted to listen to your music but you didn’t upload an official music video but someone else uploaded a version of it or like a performance of it that you are claiming, that content is licensed under the same music agreement.
The really unique thing about our platform and kind of the benefits of it is that we get users of all sorts of demographics that come to youtube to consume this content in various ways. some people are looking for a video clip to watch the visuals that it contains but there are also heavy music users that come to youtube to specifically listen to music and they don’t really care about the visuals.
If i wanted to just let content ID keep doing it’s thing, and it does a great job at and i’m totally happy with it and i don’t want to participate in the music service, is that an option?
That’s unfortunately not an option.
Assuming i don’t want to, then what would occur?
So what would happen is, um, so in the worst case scenario, because we do understand there are cases where our partners don’t want to participate for various reasons, what we basically have to do is because the music terms are essentially like outdated, the content that you directly upload from accounts that you own under the content owner attached to the agreement, we’ll have to block that content. but anything that comes up that we’re able to scan and match through content ID we could just apply a track policy but the commercial terms no longer apply so there’s not going to be any revenue generated.
Wow that’s pretty harsh.
Yeah, it’s harsh and trust me, it is really difficult for me to have this conversation with all of my partners but we’re really, what we’re trying to do is basically create a new revenue stream on top of what exists on the platform today.
The way to think about this streaming service is that, i mean, this content is already available on the platform in one way or another and you’re doing the smart thing by claiming everything so in some ways there’s not that much changing on that end it’s just that features are being added to the content that’s already available and how it can be consumed.
So the other thing i want to lay out, and I want to lay out all the options for you., this is kind of like a loophole in our system where like, you know if you’re not so concerned about revenue and its not driving millions of dollars for you then what you can do is essentially um, end the commercial terms, the sound recording audiovisual agreement that you have with us, which is outdated and I actually have to close this out before we can move forward with our product, so this kind of a last call. But what you could do is basically unlink your channel from the content owner that is associated with the deal, so that when the deal terminates on that content owner, your channel will be separated from the deal and you can enter into a regular youtube partner commercial terms which allows you to monetize the content. The content owner account will no longer have commercial terms but it will have the content ID agreement terms which means you can continue to track
My Google Youtube rep contacted me the other day. They were nice and took time to explain everything clearly to me, but the message was firm: I have to decide. I need to sign on to the new Youtube music services agreement or I will have my Youtube channel blocked.
This new music service agreement covers my Content ID account and it includes mandatory participation in Youtube’s new subscription streaming service, called Music Key, along with all that participation entails. Here are some of the terms I have problems with:
1) All of my catalog must be included in both the free and premium music service. Even if I don’t deliver all my music, because I’m a music partner, anything that a 3rd party uploads with my info in the description will be automatically included in the music service too.
2) All songs will be set to “montetize”, meaning there will be ads on them.
3) I will be required to release new music on Youtube at the same time I release it anywhere else. So no more releasing to my core fans first on Bandcamp and then on iTunes.
4) All my catalog must be uploaded at high resolution, according to Google’s standard which is currently 320 kbps.
5) The contract lasts for 5 years.
I can’t think of another streaming service that makes such demands. And if I don’t sign? My Youtube channel will be blocked and I will no longer be able to monetize (how I hate that word) 3rd party videos through Content ID.
I told the rep I’m happy with Content ID as it is. Can’t I just continue to participate in Content ID and not be a part of Music Key?
No. The rep said they can’t have music in the free version that is not in the paid version, it would be bad for their users. All music content has to be licensed under this new agreement.
How many 3rd party videos are there? As of today there are 9,696 videos and last month those videos had 250,000 (*1) monthly views. The Content ID robot sucks up more videos every day.
I got started with Content ID a couple of years ago when someone from Youtube reached out to me and I was offered a content management account to “claim” the soundtracks of these videos. The videos are dance performances, documentaries, amateur films, slideshows, animations, art projects, soundtracks to people doing things like skiing, miming, calligraphy or just playing video games. I love the variety of them all. Who knew there could be so many different ways to dance to my music? The video with the most views (1 million) is a demo reel by the Game of Thrones post production team.
In the majority of these videos the creator was really supposed to obtain a sync license from me but I think a lot of people don’t know. It’s daunting and cumbersome and confusing when all you want to do is add music to slides of your art portfolio. I have a licensing agent who handles the big stuff but there is not enough money in these usages for him and I wouldn’t have time to manage all the requests. Content ID feels like an awkward work around (the language the video uploaders see can be very alarming to them), but it solves a problem.
Here’s how it works: I upload my music and the Content ID robot identifies matches. I never block anyone’s videos or stop them from using the music except for special cases, like videos from hate groups or unauthorized product advertisements. Once Content ID finds a video with my music in it I can decide if I want to just track the video, or “monetize” it, i.e. put Dorito ads on it. That doesn’t always seem appropriate but if I do decide to monetize a video, or if the uploader already had ads on it, Google gives the majority of the ad revenue to them and about a third to me for the soundtrack. It really doesn’t pay very much but it does put “Zoe Keating” and a song title in the description of every video…in other words, credit.
One thing I don’t have on Youtube is music videos I’ve made myself. I don’t have a good explanation for why I’ve never made a music video but as I started work on my new album in 2013 I made a few quick videos about my life for my fans, meaning to make that a regular occurrence. I also thought I’d make a couple music videos to go with the new album.
But then my life changed. My husband Jeff was mysteriously and increasingly ill until in May 2014, he was diagnosed with stage IV non-smokers lung cancer. For most of last year I cared for him and our son and was unable to work much, let alone tour. Making videos was the last thing on my mind. When Jeff’s health stabilized in the fall I started working as a TV composer (for a show called “The Returned”, it airs on A&E on March 9). Working on the show has offered a much-needed creative outlet, steady pay and allowed me to stay close to home (his health is still fragile and we’re living in the moment but I am going to try to get that album out this year).
Anyway, a year ago my Youtube rep let me know there was a new music service coming and she sent along a new agreement. I read it and raised my concerns and asked if I could return the contract with those particular terms struck out. Alas no but the product folks seemed genuinely curious about my concerns and I had a phone meeting with them. The meeting was similar to one I had with DA Wallach of Spotify a couple years ago. Similar in that I got the sense that no matter how I explained my hands-on fan-supported anti-corporate niche thing, I was an alien to them. I don’t think they understood me at all.
The catalog commitment is the biggest issue for me. All these years I’ve yet to participate fully in any streaming service although I’ve chosen to give a handful of recordings to a few of them. If anyone wants more and they balk at paying for it, they can always stream all my music for free on Bandcamp(*2) or Soundcloud or they can torrent it (I uploaded my music to Pirate Bay myself many years ago). I’ve heard all the arguments about why artists should make all their music available for streaming in every possible service. I also know the ecosystem of music delivery made a shift away from downloading last year. Streaming is no longer advertising for something else, it is the end product. It’s convenient. Convenience is king. Yup, got all that, thanks.
This is the important part: it is my decision to make.
Is such control too much for an artist to ask for in 2015? It’s one thing for individuals to upload all my music for free listening (it doesn’t bother me). It’s another thing entirely for a major corporation to force me to. I was encouraged to participate and now, after I’m invested, I’m being pressured into something I don’t want to do.
I re-evaluate and change my mind all the time and I might decide to put everything everywhere at some point. But I want to decide what to do when. That is a major reason why I decided in 2005 to self-publish rather than chase after a record deal. I am independent because I didn’t want a bunch of men in suits deciding how I should release my music (*3). For 10 years I have managed to bushwhack a circuitous path around them but now I’ve got to find a away around the men in hoodies and crocs (I’m sorry, that was low, but that story was so funny).
The Youtube music service was introduced to me as a win win and they don’t understand why I don’t see it that way. “We are trying to create a new revenue stream on top of the platform that exists today.” A lot of people in the music industry talk about Google as evil. I don’t think they are evil. I think they, like other tech companies, are just idealistic in a way that works best for them. I think this because I used to be one of them (*4). The people who work at Google, Facebook, etc can’t imagine how everything they make is not, like, totally awesome. If it’s not awesome for you it’s because you just don’t understand it yet and you’ll come around. They can’t imagine scenarios outside their reality and that is how they inadvertently unleash things like the algorithmic cruelty of Facebook’s yearly review (which showed me a picture I had posted after a doctor told me my husband had 6-8 weeks to live).
I’ve been invited to play at Google twice. I went to the World Economic Forum in Davos last year and bumped into Eric Schmidt (not a croc-wearer) in the crowded halls. I was introduced to him a few months later at Google Zeitgeist (where I performed before a talk by Bill Clinton) but I doubt he has any recollection of me. So I might be well-connected but in the end I am a nobody.
What should I do? As much as it makes me grind my teeth, does having all my music forced onto Youtube’s music service really just not matter all that much? Should I just close my eyes and think of England?
Maybe after writing this blog Google will make the choice for me. They will block my channel and I will have to decide whether to block those 9,696 videos….and anger 9,696 fans. The usual people will talk about it for a day or two (*5) and then it and I will be forgotten.
Anyone starting up a new video service?
(*1) I know it is not the same thing but it’s interesting that my monthly number of Pandora spins is also about 250,000. I’m allowed to talk about how much that pays, about $324 (sound recording + artist payment combined). It’s a violation of my agreement to say how much a comparable number of Youtube plays pays.
(*2) Here is something weird. Until yesterday a search for “Zoe Keating” would yield a Google Knowledge Graph box on the right with all my info, including links to listen to my music. It always bugged me that those links were only to Google Play, Rhapsody and Spotify, all services which have hardly any of my music in them. If the metadata about me is really pure, why not link to the only services that actually have all my music? i.e. Bandcamp, SoundCloud and iTunes? I know the links were there yesterday because I searched to get the list for this blog. As of today, there are no music links whatsoever. Ideas?
(*3) Real things said to me by men in suits in 2004: “This could have potential if it had vocals.” “I don’t see a market for this”. “We need a sexy photo of you naked with your cello on top of you.”
(*4) I came of age in San Francisco working at a software startup during the dot com boom. The cyberpunks and the geeks were my friends. We worked together, we lived together, we raved together. Yes, a lot of what motivated us was the golden handcuffs (i.e. a salary of stock options only good in a future IPO) but I remember being motivated by the idea of technology changing the world for the better. Sometimes it felt like we were revolutionaries. Unfortunately a lot of those ideals, if they still exist, have become…corrupted is too strong a word….subsumed. The revolution has been corporatized.
(*5) Now commence the usual commentary about stupid artists and their entitled attitudes ;-)
UPDATE: 24 Jan
I’ve been in the midst of a medical crisis. It’s been horrible, an MRI found 25+ new mets in my husbands brain yesterday. It’s the first time the cancer has grown since it was discovered last year and we need a new plan.
I didn’t realize until late last night how widespread my blog went. Some people are saying that surely I must have misinterpreted what Google said to me. I based what I wrote off the transcript of our conversation ( after 9 months of dealing with the health insurance company I’ve gotten good at taking transcripts).
The rep said Google would “have to block my channel” if I didn’t sign the new music services agreement. They went on to say that if didn’t sign the agreement and wanted to keep my videos up I would have to unlink my channel so that it is not connected to the music agreement and then make a new channel under their regular non-music partner terms. In other words if I wanted to upload my own videos to youtube i would have to create a new account so my own music could be treated not like a partner account but like 3rd party videos (who would get the soundtrack share of the revenue I wonder?)
“the music terms are outdated and the content that you uploaded will be blocked. But anything that we can scan and match from other users will be matched in content ID and you can track it but won’t be able to participate in revenue sharing.”
"All music content has to be licensed under this new agreement. We can’t have music in the free version that is not in the paid version”
In the panoply of Christmas holidays ours would be considered incredibly boring. It was a week of casual dinners and crazy eights and reading the paper in pajamas by the fire and picnics on the beach in the Californian winter sun. There was no riot of extended family but just the four of us: Jeff, Alex, Granny and I (actually, there were five of us if you include the lego).
I think it was perfect.
The doom is still there, gnawing at the edges of things…but isn’t it always, for all of us? Maybe this one week of perfection will bloom into another year. Maybe it won’t. You can never know. You can, however, banish the doom for a moment with a pot of tea.
This is what I’m doing right now, at all hours of the day and night.
Jeff Russo and Zoe Keating are composing the music for the upcoming A&E original series The Returned starring Mark Pellegrino, Tandi Wright, India Ennenga, Sophie Lowe, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jeremy Sisto, Kevin Alejandro, Agnes Bruckner and Sandrine Holt. The show is based on the International Emmy Award-winning French series Les Revenants and focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people, who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel) has written the pilot episode and is writing and executive producing the series with Raelle Tucker (True Blood). Thom Beers, Craig Cegielski and Stefanie Berk are also executive producing the A+E Studios and FremantleMedia North America production. The Returned is set to premiere in 2015 on A&E.
Happy (um) 6 month cancerversary! It was the 15th of May that the horror was revealed in its entirety. Here’s a pic from less than 2 months before my husband’s diagnosis of Stage IV lung cancer. Still as unbelievable now as it was then.
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