HELLO, THE FUTURE! - Part 2
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This Week in Independent Musicianry: Back to Work

 - by Nicole

Money earned this week: $1,152 (and yes, most of that is from writing/editing, not music sales)

Giant Robot Album status: we’re using the word “finished” an awful lot, and I suspect will wrap things up in the next two weeks

Shows played this week: 1, so far

Upcoming shows: Tonight at M Bar with a roster of Special Guests; tomorrow at Bar Pico; Wednesday at Cafe Fulya in Philadelphia; Thursday at Temple University; Friday and through the weekend at Divine Decadence in Somerset, NJ… here, I’ll just give you the full list

——

A few things.

First, yes it feels weird to be writing up some summary of my whatsit when half of y’all are glued to the news and the other half are chastising anyone who isn’t glued to the news.

But for most of us, today is both a news day and a work day.

——

I’ve been kinda coy about it, but if you read between the lines you should be able to tell that at this point I could just as easily call these weekly summaries “This Week in Freelance Writering” as I could call them “This Week in Independent Musicianry.”

Enough that the label “full-time independent musician” doesn’t exactly apply anymore, although I still use the words “full-time touring musician” when I send my EPK to booking agents because that, at least, is undoubtable.

Adding daily copywriting and editing assignments to my workload has changed the way I look at my music career, and I think it’s a change that was just about due.

Specifically: since I have at least six hours of writing/editing to complete every day, five days a week, I have to be judicious about the rest of my time. I can’t take on music gigs that aren’t worth their weight, or sign up for time-consuming free projects “for the exposure.” (And trust me, in Los Angeles, there are plenty of those.)

——

It is interesting that in order to move forward as a musician — and “as a person,” as cliched as it is — I had to quit my “real job.”

But taking on these writing assignments, which is essentially adding on another “real job,” also feels like a step forward.

Anyway. Come to my M Bar show tonight. We are calling it “Songs and Stories,” which are two of my favorite things.

And until then, I need to get back to work. <3

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LOS ANGELES: Three shows this week!

 - by Nicole

If you are in or around Los Angeles, make sure you come to at least one of these shows:

TONIGHT (Wed Apr 17), Native Foods Cafe, 8:00 p.m.

Native Foods in Culver City is having another community night, so come hear me sing about books and robots and stuff while you enjoy a Scorpion Burger or a glass of wine.

(Note: Native Foods is a vegan cafe; “Scorpion Burger” not made out of real scorpions.)

FRIDAY (Fri Apr 19), M Bar, 10:00 p.m.

This is an evening of “songs and stories” presented by a roster of musicians and comedians including Taylor Negron, Logan Heftel, Rick Overton, Carlie & Doni, Gary Stockdale, and Richard Green. I am so excited about this show. 🙂

$10 cover. Here’s the Facebook event.

SATURDAY (Sat Apr 20), Bar Pico, 8:00 p.m.

It’s that time again. I suspect I am going to graduate from this Bar Pico residency very soon, so come out to see me if you want to spend one more night rocking out with me, Clark Chimp, and Sacred Pools.

A $10 ticket gets you a bunch of SWAG (yes, both kinds of swag), including FREE COMICS which aren’t really free since you just paid $10 for them. 🙂

Hope to see you there. <3

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: On Balance and Ambition

 - by Nicole

Money earned this week: $759.00

Taxes paid: YES

Estimated taxes also paid: YOU BETCHA

Shows played this week: none

Upcoming shows: Native Foods Cafe on April 17, M Bar on April 19 (with Taylor Negron, Logan Heftel, Rick Overton, Carlie & Doni, Gary Stockdale, and Richard Green)

How close Giant Robot Album is to being done: probably around 80%

——

I am at a very strange position right now.

On the one hand, I have nine shows to play in April, in three different cities.

And four conventions in May.

On the other hand, I am getting really good at this freelance writing and editing business. Enough to make a decent income on that alone.

And Giant Robot Album is moving forward beautifully. I don’t know exactly when it will be done yet because I am learning about the album production process as we go through it, but we are getting very close.

So in many ways I have found a balance of working and creating and performing and producing that actually works.

Of course, like most balances, I don’t fully trust it.

The other part of the story that I am thinking about is the “but I’m not faaaaaamous” part.

Yes, it amuses me that in less than a year I quit my job, moved to a new city, ran a successful Kickstarter, recorded an album, became a full-time touring musician AND freelance writer/editor and I am still sitting here thinking “and when do I become Internet Famous?”

There’s a benchmark for success that I haven’t reached, and “internet famous” isn’t exactly the right word for it, but it is this belief I have, which is probably untrue, that at a certain point your authority becomes as valued as your output.

For “authority,” sub in “personality” if you prefer. I suspect you know what I mean.

Of course as soon as I write this – and this is why I write these essays for you, team – I realize how ridiculous it sounds. There is no legitimate way for me to have any kind of authority since I have just barely started doing this.

So the real question is: if I keep on chugging along, writing and performing and actually also living an interesting and fulfilling social life (surprising twist, that), is that enough?

In so many ways that is more than enough.

The problem is that I am also an ambitious person who doesn’t want to do a thing unless she can be The Very Best at that thing. Or at least at some quadrant above “ordinary.”

And it seems like the next question to puzzle through is how to manage balance and ambition, and when a modest success becomes success enough.

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: Three Shows, Three Audiences

 - by Nicole

Money earned this week: $516.62

Total money earned since January 1, 2013: $6,978.13 (remember my goal was to make $25,000 as an independent musician this year, so I am technically on target)

Shows played this week: Soulfood Books, NorWesCon, Wayward Coffee

Upcoming shows: Here’s the list. Lots of shows in April and May. 🙂 The big one is on April 19 at M Bar with Taylor Negron, Logan Heftel, Rick Overton, Carlie & Doni, Gary Stockdale, and Richard Green.

Giant Robot Album status: Still mixing.

Scene I wish Game of Thrones would have included: Dany giving each of the Unsullied a puppy.

What I need to be working on this week: Cramming five days of work into three before I aim myself back to Vancouver on Saturday.

——

The first show was at Soulfood Books. There were no seats left over. I was given a necklace, and a pound of popcorn-flavored Jelly Bellys. We all sang together, and afterwards someone told me that I was the best person to have ever performed at Soulfood, and someone else told me that I really knew how to “bring the audience into a shared world.”

I left that show knowing that I knew exactly what I was doing.

The second show was at NorWesCon. There were plenty of people there. Most of them had come just to see me. They already knew all the words. We sang the Hunger Games song together and I told them they were my army. I sold nearly as much merch as I had sold at Soulfood.

I left that show satisfied that I could make this independent musicianry thing work.

The third show was at Wayward. There were five people there. They didn’t have a DI cable, so I pushed the mic back and sang really loudly. I should have brought my own DI cable. I should probably own a DI cable. I should be a better musician and publicist so more than five people will come to my shows. I put Monkeys and Robots in the wrong place in the setlist. I sold one thing. I didn’t know all the words to Hero of Canton because I assumed there would be lots of people there who knew them. I felt badly because I was singing while some teenagers were trying to study. I felt like most of the people there were waiting for the show to be over, even the people who showed up specifically to hear me play.

I left that show wanting to crawl into a hole and apologize for existing and asking for people’s attention.

Except for two songs.

There were two moments in the Wayward show that worked, even when the rest didn’t. The first was Big Damn Heroes, when everyone started singing, and the second was Giant Robot Song, when everyone started listening.

And the fact that I saw the audience’s faces lock on, that even for that little bit the six of us were all in this shared world together, was enough.

——

Even for all my flaws as a musician and singer and promoter and Level Four Rockstar, there are parts where I know that I know what I’m doing. I can tell a story and I can share a show with an audience and I can get everyone in a room to laugh when I ask them to add more pop-star scoopy voice to their singing.

And that part gets better and better.

And I need a new guitar, and probably a bass player and hand drum player, and definitely a DI cable, and a thousand other things.

And it seems more and more like the trick of this year is going to be figuring out how to race my own growth. How to stop playing venues I’ve outgrown running against how to get more than five people at a show. How to combine the new songs with the songs I already know work in the set. How to make more money without spending it all in the making of it (see: profit margin on LARP hoodies).

I don’t have an answer for this. But it is interesting that the three shows I just played represented three different potential outcomes for how this year could go.

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Hello, all the shows I’m playing in April and May!

 - by Nicole

LOS ANGELES, CA: April 17, 2013: Native Foods Cafe (evening set, showtime to be announced)

LOS ANGELES, CA: April 19, 2013, 10:00 p.m.: Songs and Stories at M Bar with Taylor Negron, Logan Heftel, Rick Overton, Carlie & Doni, Gary Stockdale, and Richard Green. $10 cover.

LOS ANGELES, CA: April 20, 2013, 8:30 p.m.: Giant Robots, Music, and Beer at Bar Pico with Clark Chimp and Sacred Pools

PHILADELPHIA, PA: April 24, 6:00 p.m.: Cafe Fulya (dinner starts at 6:00, show starts at 8:00)

PHILADELPHIA, PA: April 25, 7:00 p.m.: Temple University Edward H. Rosen Center for Jewish Life

SOMERSET, NJ: April 26-28, 2013: Divine Decadence shows:

Friday, April 26th – Acoustic Stage, 7-8 p.m.
Friday, April 26th – Upstairs Stage, 9-10 p.m.
Saturday, April 27th, Acoustic Stage, 3-4 p.m.
Saturday, April 27th, Upstairs Stage, 6-7 p.m.

SAN DIEGO, CA: May 3-5, 2013, 2:00 p.m.: Gaslight Gathering outdoor stage

LOS ANGELES, CA: May 10-12, 2013: BlasterCon (showtime to be announced)

SAN MATEO, CA: May 18-19, 2013: Maker Faire Bay Area

PHOENIX, AZ: May 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.: Phoenix City Comic-Con Captain’s Cantina

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: How is Business Formed?

 - by Nicole

Money earned last week: $592.90

Shows played last week: Native Foods Cafe and Soulfood Books

Current location: NorWesCon

Other shows and things of which you should be aware: NorWesCon show Friday night, Wayward Coffeehouse show Saturday night, Gamerthrones party Sunday night

——

Playing shows in LA is hard.

It’s actually relatively easy to book a show in LA. I started booking shows in LA from the very beginning; some places all you have to do is put your name on a Google calendar and you’ve got a slot.

But playing the shows themselves is hard. Getting an audience is hard. Getting a venue with a decent PA is hard. Because LA has so many options, or maybe because everything takes forever to get to, it’s like nobody cares. Doing a show in LA is like doing a simulacrum of a show.

But playing shows in Seattle is awesome.

There shouldn’t be a difference, really; Seattle has just as many interesting things to do, and probably about the same amount of people who get nerdy references.

And yet I’ve never played to a packed house in Los Angeles, and never had a LA venue treat me as well as Soulfood did, or Geekfest last year.

I was thinking about it on the drive back, when we passed some exit that, out of the corner of my eye had the word “raven” in it. I thought “oh, of course; Seattle is a Ravenclaw city.”

Not that I think that’s exactly why I have better experiences (and make more money) playing Seattle than I do playing LA. But it was an amusing thought exercise, for a moment. (Could Los Angeles be anything besides Slytherin?)

Anyway. I am way excited for NorWesCon and Wayward Coffeehouse this week. 🙂

——

I have gotten a lot of messages in the past week asking me how to start a business. Or how to improve an existing business. Or how to turn a passion into a business.

I even met with a few people in person to talk about their work and where they wanted to go next.

These kinds of strategic planning conversations have always been super-interesting to me. If there is one thing I have a skill for doing, it’s for pulling critical paths out of wide-ranging ideas.

I’m also ruthless about dispassionately forcing every idea down to its barest question: how will this make money? Yes, give away your tracks or your prints or your chapters. But have a way for people to give back, know what that is, and know how much you need to make every month.

One of the biggest roadblocks to starting a business – or even taking the step of trying to sell your work for the first time – is knowing when to take the next steps. I am a huge advocate of stepping before you’re ready, because you learn things that way and because it’s important to get the real business out and running and away from the fantasy business you’re running in your head.

(Remember my first CDs were burned on my laptop, with covers I folded from printer paper and held together with gluestick. They were unmixed, unmastered and a terrible mess of room noise and bad guitar playing. And then I took them to MAGFest and I sold them all.)

At this point I’ve had about ten official project management clients, and have helped people with their project burndown, their sales funnels, and their business plans.

But I’ve never done a full-on “how is business formed” class, and since people are asking me, I thought it might be worth trying.

So what do you think, team? Let’s say I put together a course along the lines of “how to sell your first $1,000 of stuff?” This would include project timelines, what to sell vs. what to give for free, sales techniques, and of course how to take next steps even before you think you are ready for them.

(I’d call the course “How is business formed?” except really in most microbusinesses the answer is “you sell about $1,000 of stuff and then you know how to sell the next $1,000.”)

What do you think? Want to give it a try?

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Life is a LARP hoodie pre-order for Seattle shows

 - by Nicole

LARP modeling front and back

Team Soulfood, Wayward, or NorWesCon!

I can only carry so many Life is a LARP hoodies with me to Seattle, because they take up a lot of space.

Because they are SO SNUGGLY.

If you would like me to bring you a LARP hoodie, which includes a rewritable character sheet on the back of the hoodie, I have set up a pre-order just for you. 🙂

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All of the ways you can see me at NorWesCon

 - by Nicole

This is NEXT WEEK, team. Are you excited? I am WAY EXCITED.

Here is the full list of my panels and appearances:

Thursday, March 28:

7pm-8pm: Opening Ceremonies! What will I wear? What will you wear?

8pm-11pm: Art Show Reception. I suspect this will have free food. Also art.

9pm-Midnight: Small Press Social. Gotta support your small presses, because that’s how you get Johnny Wanders and Scott Pilgrims.

Friday, March 29:

6pm-7pm: Geek Geek Don’t Tell Me participant. I had better brush up on my geeky current events. Who’s directing the new Star Wars again?

8pm-9pm: MY SHOW YAY DO NOT MISS THIS ONE

9pm-Midnight: Pro Social. Come be social!

Saturday, March 30:

12pm-1pm: Writing in Hard Mode panel. Step one: change your name to Zelda.

3pm-5pm: Cascadia’s Got Talent judge. Do you have talent? Do you know what a Cascadia is? Either way show up and LET ME JUDGE YOU.

Sunday, March 31:

11am-12pm: Bechdel Test panel. Does Avengers pass the Bechdel test? NOPE. Does Cabin in the Woods pass the Bechdel test? ABSOLUTELY NOT. Does Much Ado About Nothing pass the Bechdel test? SORRY JOSS WHEDON YOU ARE THREE FOR THREE.

4pm-5pm: Closing Ceremonies. Sadface.

8pm-whenever: GAMERTHRONES GAMERTHRONES GAMERTHRONES season 3 premiere party at my hotel room. RSVP here.

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: In Which I Am A Moron

 - by Nicole

Money earned last week: $304

Tracks released last week: Reflected in Yours

Shows played last week: two: Bar Pico and Native Foods Cafe

Next shows: here comes the list:

SEATTLE, WA: March 27, 2013, 7:00 p.m.: Soulfood Books with Ship of Dreams (sign up via Facebook)

SEATTLE, WA: March 29, 2013, 8:00 p.m.: NorWesCon (I am also doing a gob of panels, but my official show is Friday at 8:00)

SEATTLE, WA: March 30, 2013, 8:00 p.m.: Wayward Coffeehouse (Sign up via Facebook)

—-

So I was catching up on my Google Reader, which I love, and which I am sad that Google is disintegrating.

And I saw a post on the Bandcamp Blog about how Bandcamp now lets musicians sell tickets through their website, and how it’s a good way to offer bundled packages for ticket-buyers, e.g. “buy a ticket, or for $20 more buy a ticket and get a t-shirt when you arrive!”

And I thought “dang, I wish I had a show where I was selling tickets, because this sounds like a really great idea.”

And then I thought “WAIT WHY AM I NOT SELLING TICKETS TO MY SHOWS.”

I don’t think I’ve ever had a ticketed show. People who see me play at conventions buy convention passes, but that’s not the same thing at all (and I don’t see any of that money).

This whole time I’ve been supporting Hello, The Future! off merch sales alone and have never once tried to sell a ticket.

And the reason I never tried this is because I never thought it was an option. I play at a lot of bars and coffeehouses and places that aren’t ticketed venues, so the idea that I could still sell tickets never occurred to me.

But of course I can.

I can start selling tickets right now.

Or, at least, I can start putting out the “suggested donation” box for venues that might feel uncomfortable with ticketed entry.

And there’s nothing to stop me from selling pre-show bundles for any and all of my shows. Come to my Soulfood Books show next Wednesday and buy the LARP bundle which entitles you to one LARP t-shirt and a D20. That kind of thing.

I don’t know whether any of this will actually work. Online show publicity is still hit-or-miss for me, and I hate having to integrate everything through Facebook Events. And the combination of doubly integrating everything through Facebook and Bandcamp (and Songkick?) is a bit convoluted.

But it’s certainly worth trying.

The whole Amanda-Palmer-TED-Talk quote “how do we let people pay for music” comes to mind.

And one way we let people pay for music is we start selling tickets to our shows. 🙂

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Top Ten Reasons Why You Should Go To My Native Foods Cafe Show On Wednesday

 - by Nicole

1. Because I have officially decided that Native Foods Cafe is my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles and now I want to share it with EVERYONE.

2. Because all of the food is hand-crafted and locally-sourced and also you can eat there for $12.

3. Also they have nachos. Were you aware that there is a novelty Twitter account devoted to cataloging how often I eat nachos?

4. Because I am performing as part of a larger Culver City Community thing and everyone likes Community. I mean, we liked Community until it started to suck. Now it’s like The Simpsons; we’ll say its catch phrases forever but we’ve secretly stopped watching.

5. Because they have this drink made of lavender and lemon and you can put mint in it and I generally drink two huge tumblers every time, Diana Barry-style.

6. Because if you got both the references in #4 and #5, you’re going to like my show.

7. Also they have beer and wine. And coffee and chai.

8. AND PIE

9. I’m going to play my new song, Reflected in Yours. 🙂

10. Because Native Foods Cafe is the kind of place where you can go hang out, and sometimes they give you a free brownie, and other times they give you free cheesecake, and everyone there is super-nice and they help fund elephant sanctuaries and their steamed kale is AMAZING and they do so much work to give back to both Culver City and the larger community, so you should TOTALLY GO.

Wednesday, March 20, 6 p.m. 9343 Culver Boulevard.

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