Have you noticed a difference in the music industry since you first came onto the scene? If so, what has changed?
Well, definitely the advent of the internet was a big change. I didn't get my e-mail address until I got to college, now it's unthinkable that everybody has an e-mail address. Websites were this sort of mystery thing with all this code. I came on the scene prior to all the self promotion and production that is occurring today, you used to hope to get signed by a label. Everything has shifted towards the artist becoming more independent, there seems to be a lot more tools geared toward the independent artist.
Living in Chicago, when I first started in the local scene, it was greatly encouraged to mix genres and then, the Chicago scene became a little more closed off. The Avant Garde people did their thing, the funk people did their thing and the straight ahead jazz people did their thing. However, now it's starting to come back to that mixed scene, people are mixing and matching more. People who are jazz musicians are putting together bands to play at rock clubs now, it's really becoming a better scene.
What have you had to do to help market yourself and make yourself standout as an artist?
You need to make sure that your "product" is up to par, you have to make sure that the music you're putting out is good and that the people you are working with are in sync with what you are doing. Beyond that, it's really just common sense with little things you can do. In my opinion, we are 10-15 years behind hip hoppers. They are doing things like mailing lists, give-a-ways, etc.
Sometimes, I think as jazz musicians we get wrapped up in what we are doing and we forget that it's about whether it sounds good to the audience, if you gave them a memorable show and how you entice the audience to continue following you. Interacting with people through a mailing list, using social media, offer dibs on your newest album release and offering give-a-ways are good ways to develop a following. You need to make people feel special about following you. Be diligent and the more you get in the habit of doing this, the more people we will come and see you play.
What was the best thing you ever did to help develop your professional network?
A lot of stuff is trial and error. The best thing I've done is to get myself in the habit of being diligent with my networking. Would I rather be focusing on just making music and practicing? Of course! But at the same time, I like the social aspect of the music industry. For example, at the end of the month I put together my schedule of gigs for my e-mail list. I have to make sure that I keep up this good habit to continue to inform people of my gigs.
I have to make sure I not only send out e-mails to my fans, but I have to make sure I contact clubs so we have actually have a place to play, and I have to set up rehearsals with my group. Getting into good habits is very important for helping to keep the momentum going.
Any difficulties being a self-managed artist?
There is only so much I can do on the promotion side of things without neglecting the musical aspect and vice versa. I think it's all about keeping that balance. I don't want to book a bunch of gigs and sound bad playing them but I don't want to practice all this stuff musically and not have a place to play. Keeping that balance is very important.
Do you have any advice for students that are pursuing careers in music?
You're in a very unique position where you can do a lot on your own, you can write your own ticket! You can build your own network and hope that someone notices you that can help you get to a higher level. I would also say to keep studying, always be working on your sound, and be open to as many musical possibilities as you can!