There’ve been a few times over the last year when I thought it was over and I thought I’d seen the last of them. But then a new one would show up that I’d never seen before, probably having spent the year wending its way slowly from doctor to insurance company to doctor to me. I think, I hope, that I just paid the last of Jeff’s medical bills.
Thanks to health care reform and thanks to you, my fans, the dollar amount of the medical bills didn’t break me….but the administration of them almost did.
I got through the dreaded and dreadful sadiversary (and if you’re also going through such a thing I do recommend unplugging from the internets).
The Manhattan soundtrackis now widely available! The first half is Jonsi & Alex’s music from Season 1 and the second half is what Jeff Russo and I created for Season 2. I have a short list of musicians I’d like to collaborate with someday and Jonsi is one of them. So while I can’t say yet that I’ve collaborated with him, hey, we’re adjacent to each other on a soundtrack album ;-)
Here is a video of my closing performance at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January.
Now for the exciting bit….new concerts for 2016! I do miss performing. This list might not seem like a lot, but it is what I can do right now.
April 15 UCLA, CA -ODC Dance’s “Boulders and Bones”. I’ll be performing with them the original music I composed for this piece in 2013 May 6 Portland, OR - Struktur Event June 3-6 Humboldt State University, CA - New Directions Cello Festival June 15 San Francisco, CA - SF Jazz June 17 Los Angeles, CA - Largo June 18 San Diego, CA - AMSD Concerts Nov 25 New York, NY - Highline Ballroom Nov 26 Brooklyn, NY - The Hall at MP
Tickets for all at http://www.zoekeating.com (and sign up on my mailing list there if you want to get these notes directly to your inbox).
2) There is nothing comforting you can say.* There are comforting things you can do that let your friend know they are not alone. (See #1 **)
3) Your friend is probably having a hard time looking after themselves. If they have young kids, exponentially so. Feed them, clean their house, fix the broken appliances, get the oil changed in their car, take the kids to school or to the park on a weekend.
4) Don’t disappear. If your friend doesn’t return your calls, don’t take it personally. They live minute by minute and probably forgot one second after the phone rang that the phone even rang. Call again.
5) For an absurdly long time your friend will be a really, really, really lousy friend. Again, try not take it personally, they’ll become a decent friend again, perhaps even a better one.
(* There is nothing comforting you can say…unless you are a professional grief counselor or have also been through a very similar thing. No one’s grief is the same, but if you also lost your spouse, or your parent, or your sibling, or your child, then hearing your experience will help your friend feel less alone. But if your friend lost their spouse and you lost your cat, perhaps it’s best just to make them a cup of tea.)
(** Being with your friend will be weird and awkward. Be ok with that. You’re not doing it wrong, this is just how death is in our civilization.)
I love my son and I would do anything for him but it took years for me to come around to the idea of having children. Being a mother just wasn’t a role I ever envisioned for myself. I thought I’d be terrible at it. And seeing how it was for other “career” women, I was afraid of living the life the author describes in this article.
Even with carefully orchestrated co-parenting things still felt insane for those first years. As a new mom I worried about being passed up for the gigs and commissions we relied on (and I was at least one time that I know of, which I will write about someday). I worried about how little time I had for composing (i.e. never). We felt like we were slowing clawing our way back into a life with 8 hours of sleep in it when my husband got sick.
I am fortunate that while I try to figure out my new life as a solo parent I can coast on the earlier successes of my career (i.e. licensing royalties) and the generosity of my truly incredibly fans (i.e. you). The wolf is not at the door, for now. But if I didn’t have that, what would happen to us? What would I have done when Jeff got sick? What do other people do when they have minimal resources coupled with small children and no partner, a sick spouse, a parent with dementia? Why do we leave them to fend for themselves?
This isn’t just a moral issue, it seems economically daft. Policy makers agree that the economic consequences of a shrinking, greying population are negative, yet we penalize the people who raise children and care for the elderly.
There are long-lasting financial ramifications for those who leave the workforce in order to care for a child or a spouse or a parent. Kristen Maschka, the president of Mothers and More, estimated that by staying home for seven years with her child, she was forfeiting $2,000 a month in future Social Security benefits.
Not a parent? If you have parents the chances are you will need to look after them some day and so you’d better start saving up. The individual impact cost of leaving the workforce to look after aging parents is $280,000 for men and $320,000 for women in lost Social Security, pension benefits and wages. Across all people who look after their parents, this amounts to nearly $3 trillion. (source: MetLife study)
At Davos last month I heard lots of discussion around Universal Basic Income, the idea that all citizens receive a minimal salary regardless of work. It is talked about as a way to protect workers from automation and globalization and a potential fix for income inequality. It’s also a way to compensate caregivers for their unpaid labor.
As it is now, inequality is baked into the cake. Companies pay their workers minimum wage, knowing full well that those workers will rely on taxpayer funded services like food stamps to survive. Governments cut services, employers cut benefits (and forget the self-employed) and the financial burden of austerity is shifted to caregivers. I think Universal Basic Income has legs. What do you think?
I went on a hike, enjoyed the view, ate some oysters. The sun came out. It was beautiful. I was alone but felt loved by many from afar. Then I had a sweet dinner with my little man and enjoyed his silly company.
I’d say that today is my first birthday without you, but you weren’t totally there for my last one. By then you mostly slept and you couldn’t get out of the house without being carried. With everything going on I didn’t want to remind you what day it was. Alex and I went out to dinner and the waitress brought him a candle on his dessert and the staff sang him happy birthday. He was so delighted that I didn’t correct them. I remember you were up when we got home and though you couldn’t talk very well, you insisted on getting dressed. You really surprised me by giving me that amazing necklace! Was that the last time you got dressed? I can’t remember. I do love that necklace. My birthday before that you had to travel suddenly to Oregon to look after your Dad so your Mom could go look after your Sister. So much sickness. That was the day I discovered Alex loved sushi. We meant to take a raincheck but then you really started feeling bad and, well, we both know what happened after that.
You and I had the kind of marriage people dream about but I’m sorry to say that I’ve had a few too many non-celebrations since then: mothers day, fathers day, our wedding anniversary, your birthday, etc, etc. If you could talk I’m sure you’d tell me to be grateful that I’ve lived another year, so I’m going down to Tomales Bay to have oysters for lunch.
When my husband Jeff was diagnosed with cancer I dove into research mode. I went looking online for others with his disease, I read their stories and lurked on their blogs. Paul Kalanithi was one of these people. He also had non-smoker’s lung cancer, a wife and a young child.
I learned that Paul died a few weeks after Jeff, as did another person I followed, Oren Miller. My heart aches for these strangers and their families. My friend Maria Popova wrote this review of Paul’s posthumous book about living with a terminal illness, gathered and brought to publication by his wife Lucy.
Here is a NYTimes interview with her from last week on why she had to finish the book. I’m not ready to read it yet, but I look forward to it.
Jeff, for his own reasons, decided not to believe the doctors when they said his illness was terminal. He didn’t want me to relay to him what I learned about his disease, or the stories of other patients. So while I knew exactly what we were facing, “terminal” wasn’t a word allowed in the house.
It was Jeff’s illness and his story and I let him live it his way. He seemed so certain about it that everyone believed in his success. The few people I confided in expressed worry about me instead that I was seeing doom where there was none. Maybe they were right? I’m known as someone who has a real and truthful connection with their audience and yet I couldn’t talk publicly about what was really happening. I chose to present an outward mask of hope when really there never was any, as much as I wanted there to be. If Jeff knew what was going to happen, he never let on and I can’t find it in anything he wrote. When he began his precipitous decline in January of last year the cancer very quickly took over his brain. If he knew by then, he was unable to tell me.
Everyone has their own story. Even though our lives are intertwined and you might have known someone for decades, or even all their life, you’ll never really know the inside of it. Their story is unique to them. When I was at Davos last week I realized that each of us wants to be understood, yet so much human conflict is because we can’t imagine other people’s lives. I’ve been thinking that an important role of artists and writers is to help total strangers glimpse, just for a moment, the inside of someone else’s story.
Part of the grieving process is to tell your story (and if you’re a friend of a grieving person, the most helpful thing you can to is to let them tell it). I’ve been privately writing mine for almost a year. Maybe it will be a book, maybe not. The important thing is to for me to tell it.
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.
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