Though we often take the technological leaps of the last decade or so for granted, aspiring musicians now have an astounding array of digital tools at their fingertips, the better to be heard far beyond their bedrooms or basements.
The MacBook Pro I’m using to write these words not only has more recording power than the Beatles had at Abbey Road—minus only the expensive microphones and the engineers in lab coats—but it arguably trumps all of the marketing and promotional power that Capitol and EMI had to sell the Fab Four to the world.
At the same time, as with so many corners of the Web, the potential for costly scams, pointless schemes, and black-hole time sucks is greater than ever. And few indeed are the resources to guide bands through the complicated and seemingly endless possibilities, toward the most helpful sites and away from the worst.
Formed in 2002 and with two albums and an EP to its credit, the orchestral-pop sextet Canasta has been one of my favorite Chicago bands for some time now, as well as ranking near the top of my list for the smartest and hardest working groups in town. I say this both as an observer and as someone who’s been a frequent recipient of angry, indignant, or frustrated emails from violinist and vocalist Elizabeth Lindau, who likes to forward some of the most ludicrous offers, insulting proposals, and egregious contracts that have come Canasta’s way, either to plant the seeds for stories, or just to blow off steam and vent.
Those emails were the genesis of an idea that I eventually presented to Lindau and bassist-vocalist Matt Priest: Given how hard the two of you and the rest of your bandmates work to take advantage of the opportunities of the new digital music business—as well as to avoid its pitfalls—would you be willing to have a series of conversations about wrangling with the Web for the benefit of younger bands that are just starting out or other musicians baffled by the possibilities? To provide a primer, if you will, on the best and worst digital tools now available to artists?
The result was a five-part series of video conversations conducted via GooglePlus Hangouts. Part one kicks things off today with Canasta’s list of the most helpful sites and companies that it’s encountered on the Web: CDBaby, iTunes, AllMusic, Twitter, and Facebook. The conversation picks up with Priest stressing that the band’s basic Facebook page has been one of the most useful tools it has found, though the group has avoided paying for extras such as “boosting” its posts.