The SFJAZZ 2011 Fall Season is well underway, and there are still plenty of exciting shows to look forward to. While presenting the best living jazz on the planet, SFJAZZ has become well known for new and innovative artists as well as top-notch international artists.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
A crazy weekend in music: another song-a-day, dancing with Angelique Kidjo and meeting Wynton Marsalis
This last weekend was one of those crazy weekends where I was so overbooked with stuff, I finally had to go home and take a nap.
Friday I recorded another song with Jonathan Mann, the song-a-day guy, called "One of These Mornings". It came out pretty darn good considering that one of the computers totally crashed. I got to overdub all sorts of fun Doo-Wap vocals. I also love that the more Jews there are in a room, the more likely Jesus is bound to be referred to as small club entertainer...
And Jonathan, why do all the songs I record end up having super-creepy videos of you staring into the camera? I swear readers, they're not all like that. Jonathan isn't creepy, well not too creepy... okay maybe he's kind of creepy...
Here are some behind the scenes... including some funny faces at :45... and one by Miss Sarah Dabby at 1:38.
Friday night I went to see Angelique Kidjo and Youssou N'Dour presented by SFJAZZ at the exquisite Paramount Theater in Oakland. I saw Angelique perform last year at Stern Grove, and she likes to invite folks to come dance with her on stage. So we did. It was pretty excellent. She's a tiny person with a huge personality. She acts tough and full of attitude, but really, she seems like a sweetheart who likes to boogie. And boogie she does.
Youssou was fabulous as well, but I almost felt like his band was so polished that it lacked some of the excitement that I felt with Angelique, but that could have also been due to how freaking tired I was by the time his band went on.
Saturday I rehearsed with The Backorders for our upcoming show covering the entire Kinks album Muswell Hillbillies on July 14th at the Starry Plough in Berkeley. I sing lead vocals on a song about booze and one about tea. Haha! This is "Alcohol", I'm going to sing it sort of like this lady...
Sunday was the first show of the 2011 Stern Grove Festival, and what an amazing season it is! We saw Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings with Ben l'Oncle Soul, both were phenomenal. l'Oncle is a French Soul Singer and busts out Ray Charles and Otis Redding vocal deliveries with no problem. He had these incredible dancers/backup singers with him. Stern Grove is a LARGE stage, and I've heard reports that there were ten thousand people there. And l'Oncle rivaled the Dap-Kings for sure, but I still love me some Sharon Jones, that little lady is FIERCE. And at 55, she's still getting down like no one's business.
Between her and Angelique, who is 50, these women give any performer 30 years younger than them a run for their money. They are amazing!
Check out this performance of Ben l'Oncle Soul's cover of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army":
(Tip: if you are driving to Stern Grove, park just north of the park and enter on Wawona and 23rd. I got to the park ten minutes before the music started and I parked two blocks away on Ulloa, entered right there in the back and walked right in down the hill. I couldn't believe how little of a hassle it was. And even if you aren't driving to Stern Grove, it's still a much easier place to enter the park than 19th.)
Sunday evening, I headed on down to Davies Symphony Hall for Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. The show was incredible. My favorite piece, hands down, was Duke Ellington's "Mood Indigo" performed in its original "chamber" (my quotations) arrangement: rhythm section (bass, piano, drums) a single clarinet, trumpet and trombone. It was subtle and gorgeous.
My friend knows the drummer, so she got us backstage to say hello, and then we hung out with them for drinks and shot the breeze. Everyone was super nice and I always love listening to folks who spend too much time together banter, this was no exception. It was really cute.
Another tip: If you ever want to buy Mr. Marsalis a drink, he likes high-end Scotch from the bottom of the bottle, so it's really thick with sentiment.
Oh, and Pomplamoose left their East Coast tour today, and that's been a bundle of work. But they've got four shows starting Tuesday night, Brooklyn and Boston are already sold out. They're playing at the Kennedy Center with OK Go for the Millennium Stage's 14th Anniversary, (which we'll be able to stream live) and there's a new single out today called "River Shiver". Things are happening, and it's really exciting.
Monday, January 24, 2011
A fan named David sent over a link to a recording they made at the Pomplamoose show at the Warfield on December 31, 2010. It's pretty darn good so I wanted to share it with you. I was on a plane at the time, so I'm super happy to have a copy.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
And an old favorite, the PS22 chorus (on Staten Island) singing Gaga's "Just Dance". This little lady Tirzah has a gorgeous voice. I hope she's still singing!
Hip Hip Hooray for kick ass music teachers like these who use contemporary music that children can get excited about! (My choir sang "We Didn't Start the Fire" when I was 11, and look how excited about music I am!) With the help of Glee, there is hope for our music programs yet!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
So I'm super excited that they have a commercial out featuring one of their songs. I think that maybe even last year I would have looked down upon this sort of musical business deal, but you know what? How are artists supposed to make money anymore with the internet? They certainly don't do it selling recordings or touring! And it will bring Pomplamoose more fans.
Anyway, here's the first bit of an article I just posted on examiner.com about it. I hope that it will help loop curious ears into who made this fabulous cover when they hear it during a V commercial break.
Pomplamoose's cover of "Mister Sandman" originally performed by the Chordettes is currently being featured in a commercial for the 2011 Toyota Avalon. The commercial fits the music perfectly with a quirky 1940s vibe in a train station. Watch the original video here. The commercial has been placed in prime time slots.
Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte seem to be everywhere right now coming right off of airing an interview with NPR just last weekend (listen to the interview and read the article here). Their cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" has just passed the 4 million views mark and their cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" is striding its way through the 2 millions.
Friday, February 26, 2010
What makes this song for me is Nataly's ghostly angelic vocal interlude right after the bridge at 2:18. I've played just that little bit about 12 times now. It's absolutely stunning.
Pomplamoose produced Nulia Nune's most recent EP I Think you Know and the track "Through the Floorboards" features a vocal track that sounds very similar to the one you'll hear here.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Pomplamoose has, in less than two years, become one of the most successful independent bands on the internet: they are in the top 100 most subscribed to musicians on YouTube, they have racked up over 2.5 million hits on their cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" and are completely financially self-sustaining; meaning: they don't need day jobs.
Before I explain the various marketing and artistic tactics made by band members Jack Conte and Nataly Dawn, I must define "internet musician": what does it mean? According to Nataly, it means "being a bad musician." Yes, there are many musicians that can be found on YouTube that aren't very good; and some have enormous followings. But there are also some very talented people out there and just like the regular traditional music industry, they have to figure out clever ways to rise above the rest. But when the internet is your only resource, you can call your own shots. You don't need a record label. The internet has given musicians and artists ways of connecting with their fans directly: no middle men needed.
Here is the main question: How has Pomplamoose reached the hearts of their fans? And how have they gotten these fans to spend several bucks on mp3s and merch?
This is key: being a successful artist isn't really about being rich and famous, it means being able to devote all of your time to your art, and you need money for that.
The way I see it, all the traditional ways of having a financially successful music career have gone out the window. Pomplamoose has eradicated managers, record labels, promoters, live shows, and even actual CDs. Granted, there are many successful internet bands that use some of these (like CDs and playing live), but Pomplamoose has left all of these behind. They've only played live twice and they don't even have a physical CD you can purchase, all of their music is digital.
If you want to be a successful "internet musician," take one of these 10 tips from the Pomplamoose model:
(much of this information I got directly from the mouth of Nataly and Jack in this interview)
1. Be good at what you do
Just watch a Pomplamoose video. They are are great fun, and the music is good enough to take offline and listen to when you're not looking at YouTube. Nataly has a gorgeous voice and her harmonies are well constructed. Jack's musical abilities are varied, well thought out and the mixing and editing is flawless.
2. Make interesting videos that people want to watch over and over again
Pomplamoose works in a new medium called "VideoSong" and it has two rules:
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).
Snarkmarket has a very good discussion of the characteristics of Pomplamoose's VideoSong and why it is so enticing to viewers:
-Normal duds, normal environment. No spandex, no fog machine.
- Gear. Lots of it.
- Subdivision of the video frame: overlapping tracks visualized as overlapping views.
- Performance! This isn’t just a hidden camera in the studio. It’s natural, it’s unpretentious—but it’s still a performance.
[Pomplamoose's VideoSong] is showing us a complicated, virtuoso performance, but making it really clear and accessible at the same time. It’s entertaining, but it’s also an exercise in demystification—which of course is exactly the opposite objective of every music video, ever. Their purpose has been to mystify, to masquerade, to mythologize in real-time.This demystification is one of the most powerful tools that Pomplamoose and other video bloggers use. Music lovers crave something "real" which is why if they think your music is good AND they like you as a real person, you've got a way in.
3. Be charming: make viewers care about you
This is true of any successful blogger (video or regular blogger). You have to be cute, funny or on the flipside, totally horrible. Either way, you have to present yourself in a way that people will want to keep coming back to see what you're doing and what you have to say. Fans think of the musician/blogger as their friend, someone they'd want to hang out with. Nataly and Jack are the most adorable couple: she is a smart self-deprecating cutie-pie who likes cereal. Jack is a goofy multi-instrumental smartypants who is obviously totally in love with his girlfriend. They have amazing musical chemistry as well as a social chemistry that you can see when they sit in front of their computer and chat.
4. Use several sites to spread the word - variety is key
Pomplamoose is on: YouTube, twitter, myspace, facebook, digg, iTunes, E-junkie and I'm sure many others. It's true that the average person is probably only on a couple of these sites, but many of these services are free, so why not take the time to set up and account. Nataly and Jack said that two-thirds of their sales come from iTunes and the other third comes from E-junkie. But they like E-junkie better because you can post a song immediately and E-junkie takes a smaller cut than iTunes.
5. Encourage fans to help shape the band's identity
Nataly and Jack have asked their fans to contribute designs for virtual album covers and t-shirt designs. Many of these designs can be found online for all to see, for example as the Pomplamoose myspace profile picture. People love to see their own names in print, they also love to see hard work acknowledged and available for others to see. Fans eat that up, it makes them feel truly appreciated by the musician.
6. Offer free stuff
Covers must be free due to copyright issues; Pomplamoose has used this to their advantage. Nataly and Jack put just as much work and time into covers as they put into their originals. I downloaded all of the free Pomplamoose mp3's off of E-junkie. If I decide to spend another $10 or so to get the originals, it would feel like a 2 for 1 deal. I also want to support my "friends" so that they can keep making more music that I love.
Covers also get viewers who aren't fans yet to take a peek. I saw "Single Ladies" posted on facebook, and since I like the song, I was curious about a cover. Unlike some other artists I've come across, Pomplamoose's originals are just as good, if not better than their covers. So if a viewer is impressed with the originals after seeing a cover, he or she will be more likely to spend a little bit of cash.
7. Get creative with your merch
There has been Pomplamoose soap (handmade by Jack's sister) and dongles (flashdrives). Who else sells stuff like that? They told me that they'd like to do more merch sales that help support and promote artists and craftspeople. Both the soap and dongles completely sold out and were sent to 30 countries. People LOVE to support Pomplamoose. Their fans are very loyal.
8. Have an online network of artists to interact with
I really love watching bloggers have some sort of relationship. Pomplamoose are fans of Julia Nunes and talk her up on YouTube. Julia and Pomplamoose talk to each other through their YouTube videos and fans can watch these coversations. Pomplamoose goes to Julia's house and produces some tunes with her. They make a video about it. Julia's fans mesh with Pomplamoose's fans. It's a big love fest. Nataly and Jack really think of YouTube as a community, they get crap for it, but it makes sense to me.
9. No need to make a big push to play live
Pomplamoose has only played twice in the last two years, this is one of the main things that set them apart from almost every other band. They played their second show ever at the Brainwash Cafe last month in in San Francisco. There literally wasn't enough room for everyone who showed up and folks were outside on the sidewalk.
Pomplamoose has fans all over the world. Until they're financially successful enough to tour extensively, they'll focus on what they do best: videos. Also, preparing to play live is a whole other skill and takes up a good amount of time, so they have chosen not focus on that.
10. Keep it interesting, change it up
I was actually wondering where Pomplamoose was heading and what they might have in store for the future. The VideoSong format is really cool, but it might be losing some of its novelty value. "Come on! Keep impressing me" says the fan. But then I checked Pomplamoose's twitter feed: They're looking for horn players. Nice. Step it up! I don't know how they're all going to fit in Jack's little recording studio, but it will be interesting.
There are many other ways to be a successful "internet musician." One of my favorites is Kina Grannis. She's got another style all together and each musician will. But you have to cover all of your bases so that you win the hearts (and pocket books) of your fans. As I said earlier, being a successful artist isn't about being rich and famous, it means being able to devote all of your time to your art, and you need money for that. If your fans really love you, they will support you.
I mean, look at this video they made me just because I asked...