Music Industry Essentials : Andrew McKnight and Finding and Connecting an Audience
[This transcript is excerpted from the Songwriters’ TeleSummit.]
Katie: Hi, this is Katie, well sure, I could ask a question and this could be hard, I don’t know if this will be easy or hard to answer, what are some tips that you might be able to give me about finding my audiences in places I haven’t been? Yeah.
Andrew: Are you a songwriter?
Katie: I am. Yeah. I’m starting to write things that are sort of common folk music.
Andrew: Have you recorded anything that you’re able to share with people via streaming or online radio stations?
Katie: Yes, I have a little MySpace page going and about ready to record a few more songs.
Andrew: Tell us your MySpace address. You might as well.
Katie. It’s myspace.com Katie Gosnell.
Andrew: Ok. And, for the next question is, can you tell me a little about what the theme is or what it is that people are saying that they’re drawn to? Do you have enough of a feel for that?
Katie: Well, I’m starting to write songs that are kind of stories about me. Or not necessarily about me but stories about life, again common folk music. That are, I’m trying to think of, how to describe themes there.
Andrew: There’s something in your personal journeys that resonates with other people.
Andrew: Here’s an example. My friend Hugh Blumenfeld said this brilliantly a long time ago and it still sticks with me. Great songwriting is the art of taking something personal and translating it into the universal. I think of a couple of Hugh songs in particular, one is “Waiting For the Good Humor Man” which, you know, you pretty much hit the nail on the head with just about anybody who’s lived in a neighborhood as a kid. You probably try to take something like that and put it into a, ok, what’s the appeal here, is probably to anybody who’s a fan of songs that kind of resonate with their own personal story. You probably have more of an audience for that say in a suburban and city kind of environment than perhaps a town of 200 out on the Great Plains. I’m not sure that the “Good Humor Man” is quite such an icon there. Then, some of it is in how you pitch what you do to a potential venue. Ask the people who are coming to your MySpace page for suggestions about where would be a good place to play or who do you think might be interested in hosting a show. Maybe a house concert is the way to do it. But these are the sort of questions you ask yourself a little bit as you’re ok, what is it that I think that people will resonate with about what I do and then how do I find a suitable place to do that. I don’t know if I answered your question even remotely but I sure was trying.
Katie: It was helpful, thank you.
Andrew: No problem.
Viv: That’s a great question. To wonder, it’s like, I know this is what’s happening for me, and then this is what people are responding to in my music. Now how do I find those people? I would imagine that that would be a question that researching through different papers, local papers, it takes a lot of time and effort to actually locate those proper venues. Appropriate venues.
Andrew: It does. A lot of times there are coffeehouses or open mics and stuff that happen that are sort of sponsored by local musicians and certainly those are good places when you go to a new town, whether it’s an hour or two away, you kind of do a little research in advance and find out where the good open mics are. That’s one way to go and kind of get your feet wet and see if the town is worth putting more effort into than that. I think one of the big things about touring that I haven’t said is it’s one thing to be a solo singer/songwriter and do your solo show all the time. I personally think that having two, three, four facets of yourself that you show is really a strong marketing thing. By that I mean that over the course of the last year I’ve started playing with a band and the band is doing my music but I’m one of the four people in the band. I’m not just the bandleader. I’m not the guy who says “Ok, you guys are my side guys and if you can’t make it tonight, then I’ll get somebody else”. It’s really an integral thing. That’s important for me because the musicianship thing is a big piece of what I do and it’s what I really get enthusiastic about. I kind of laugh about it. I was thinking about a conversation I had with my friend Tim Grim a while back. Tim is a great singer songwriter and an actor and, for him, it’s like I know the chords, and I know the pick and I know that’s where I’m at and that’s what I like doing. And there are a lot of singer songwriters that’s a great way to do it and Tim does a beautiful show. But, for me, the joy of being a musician is an important part of who I am too. It’s what I was first. I grew up as a musician. So having a band, as well as my solo thing, is another facet of what I do and it gives people around here a different way to experience me and my music. But for singer songwriters they put together a short swing with two or three other good singer/songwriters that really you can have some chemistry with and some personal engagement with is a great thing to do too. I did a tour back in 1996 with my friend Terri Allard who’s a singer and songwriter and Seth Austen who’s a national finger style guitar champion. He was living here at the time. He’s been living in New Hampshire for the last decade or so. And we did this thing called the “Shenandoah of Songwriters Tour”. And we got a lot more audiences in places because of the sort of tie-in to where we were from. I’ve seen tours based around the geography like that that work for artists who have kind of a regional sort of sound. But I’ve certainly seen lots of different kinds of tours like that where there’s three different artists and how they interact together on each other’s material makes for a better show than just one of them by themselves. So kind of look for creative ways to market your associations with other people as well. You have a lot more fun doing it. You may not make as much money but you may actually bring more audience to the table for each other by joining forces like that.
Viv: That’s a wonderful aspect too as well. People never know what they’re going to see when they come to see your show. Whether it’s going to be you, singer/songwriter solo, or with the added benefit of the band. All these different aspects of it. It all keeps it exciting and fresh.