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This Week In Independent Musicianry: How Does This Possibly Benefit Anyone

 - by Nicole

Money earned this week: $643.17

Shows played this week: ConDor and Vancouver

Shows booked this week: I think four?

Next show: Saturday, March 16 at 8:00 p.m.: Giant Robots, Music, and Beer at Bar Pico (no cover, playing with Clark Chimp, Adam Sakellarides, The Sacred Pools, and The Spaceship Martini)


Two stories, in backwards order.

1. The border guard was confused as to why I was coming up to Vancouver to play an unpaid gig for approximately twelve people. I tried to explain in a few words as possible that sometimes that’s what musicians do.

“How does this possibly benefit anyone?” he asked.

2. My ConDor show was standing room only. My convention shows tend to be, these days. Afterwards I was at a self-rescuing princess party and I was approached by a man who said he had a great gig for me.

Turns out he wanted me to come back to San Diego to play at a car wash benefit.


So after the car wash offer but before the border guard asked me why I was flying to Vancouver to play an unpaid show, I sat in my hotel room in the Town and Country unable to sleep, trying to puzzle something out.

I ended up writing the following in my notebook:

You are not going to get what you need on the con circuit. Go bigger. Tell bigger stories.


I didn’t realize until this afternoon that the question the border guard was asking me was the same question I was asking myself.

Not necessarily “how does this benefit anyone,” because there is always a benefit to playing music and singing together and connecting with people and then going out to eat enormous piles of nachos, but “if you are a professional musician, why are you playing unpaid gigs?”

And, literally, “how does this benefit me?”


I love giving things to people. If you know me, you know I play pretty fast and loose with my merch and my music and my resources. Of course you can have it.

But I don’t even want it to be a question whether I will take the train to San Diego to play at your car wash.

I want it to be ridiculously obvious that I am a professional and I work professionally.

Which requires owning what I do in a way that I haven’t done before.


It was difficult but also easy for me to figure out how to get to the level at which I currently am. I knew that if I played conventions I would play more conventions, and then play more coffeeshops, and then move from secondstage to mainstage, and then start getting paid to play at conventions.

And when I knew I had outpaced my own guitar I went and got myself a band.

But I have no idea what comes next. The “indie musician” thing is quirky and fun and I can play for free and do whatever I want. The “professional musician” thing feels different. Like, once again, I have to throw myself in and fully commit.

Like I wrote last year: at some point you stop practicing.


This is a question I can’t answer right now. (Also I have to go get on a plane.)

But it’s what I’m thinking about, this week.

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Hello, The Future Shows!

 - by Nicole

Here’s everything I currently have booked through 2013, team.

SAN DIEGO, CA: March 8, 2013, 8:00 p.m.: ConDor 2013 (sign up via Facebook)

VANCOUVER, BC: March 12, 2013, 7:00 p.m.: Gallery show at the Jacobsen Building (sign up via Facebook)

LOS ANGELES, CA: March 16, 2013, 8:30 p.m.: Giant Robots, Music, and Beer at Bar Pico with Clark Chimp and Sacred Pools (sign up via Facebook)

LOS ANGELES, CA: March 20, 2013, 6:00 p.m.: Native Foods Cafe in Culver City (it’s an amazing vegan restaurant, even if you are not vegan) (sign up via Facebook)

SEATTLE, WA: March 27, 2013, 7:00 p.m.: Soulfood Books (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)

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

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.

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

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

THE INTERNET: June 19-22, 2013: Victory Tour 2013 (an online convention YAY, showtime to be announced)

SANTA CLARA, CA: July 13-14, 2013: California EXTREME!!!!!!! (showtime to be announced)

SAN DIEGO, CA: July 19, 2013: Gam3rCon Rooftop Party (time TBD; it’s in the evening, and yes, you can attend both this show and SDCC)

IRVINE, CA: August 17, 2013: OC Mini Maker Faire

NEW YORK, NY: October 10-13, 2013: New York Comic Con (showtime to be announced)

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: of course I’m writing about Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, like everyone else

 - by Nicole

Money earned last week: $564.86 (with another $385 in unpaid client income… pay up, me hearties)

Money earned in February 2013: $1,247.95

Money left to earn in 2013 to hit my goal of $25,000: $19,811.46

How I feel about that: Over 20% earned in the first two months? ROCK ON

Next show: ConDor in San Diego this Friday, then a gallery show in Vancouver next Tuesday

What I need to be working on this week: dear heavens it’s almost over

Behind on: everything


“People would yell at me from their passing cars: GET A JOB!

And I’d be like… this is my job.

But it hurt because it made me fear that I was somehow doing something unjoblike, unfair, and shameful.”

That, of course, is from Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk, The Art of Asking.

I took a lot of notes while watching that talk. They sorted out into three main points:

1. Unjoblike, unfair, and shameful

So every day I wake up and I do my cacophony of things and I feel guilty that they are working.

And I feel guilty about the parts that are not working. (Someday I should write about this for you; I know pretty well at this point which parts of my business are working and which aren’t.)

And generally I feel like my life has become unjoblike, unfair, and shameful.

The decision to stand on a milk crate and say “this is my job” requires a radical redefinition of “job,” one that I am only coming to understand myself now that I have started to do it.

I coincidentally got to hear Amanda Palmer speak again this Tuesday, at a Women of Letters event in Los Angeles, in which eight women spoke about their lives and loves and fears and work, and the whole thing was interesting but the work part was so supremely interesting because none of these women had what you would call traditional careers; they had each decided at some point to climb on their own milk crates and say “this is my job.”

I still feel like what I am doing is shameful. I think it’s because it allows me a number of privileges that not everyone else gets. It’s also because these kinds of careers are perpetually transient; you flow between gigs, literally, and become a musician and an actor and a copywriter and a consultant and whatever the next month brings, and we live in a culture where the opposite of stability is shame.

Where the goal isn’t to keep moving but to “settle down.” Not to keep the story going but to get to the point we recognize as the “happily ever after,” as fast as possible.

Except you don’t get to live in the ending forever, and even the most secure jobs and homes can be taken away, and finding out who you are and climbing up on your milk crate and then figuring out how to connect with people is as fucking stable as it gets.

And my one-person band Hello, The Future! is likely to be wildly different three years from now, if it still exists.

But that doesn’t mean that what I’m doing today is unjoblike, unfair, or shameful.

2. I see you

Conventions are exhausting.

I try to connect with everyone who comes to my show or to my merch booth.

Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I catch someone while I’m in a hurry or between things and I only pretend. If you look someone in the eyes and smile and listen to them, it’s a very close simulacrum.

And sometimes I get righteously angry with people who call me a fake geek girl or people who get pushy or demanding with me and my stuff. But to be fair, they’re not trying to connect with me either.

But one of my goals at conventions is to try and connect with everyone who comes to my show or stops by the booth.

And I have been told, by a number of people, that this is why they buy my CDs even though nobody buys CDs anymore and I still can’t really play guitar.

3. The art of asking

It does amaze me that our new internet and interconnected culture is at the point where you can get nearly everything you ask for, whether it’s Kickstarter funding or crowdsourced instructions on how to add dry ice to cocktails.

But you’ve got to really ask.

As soon as someone says nervously “… so I can pay my rent, amirite?” it’s begging.

Over a year ago I was invited to give a talk at IdeaWave about the art of independent musicianry (I didn’t get to give the talk because weather grounded me in DC) but I wrote as part of my speech:

Nobody likes a starving artist.

People like generous artists.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past three years of doing this, it’s don’t self-deprecate, don’t beg, and don’t make jokes about paying your rent.

Your rent is your responsibility. Asking people to support your work is an entirely different thing.

And it’s really as simple as “give and you get back,” or “support me and I support you,” except it’s not quite that simple because of all the business stuff that gets tacked on; merch and fulfillment and shipping and taxes and customs and yes, rent.

What I say to people when they ask me about quitting their jobs to follow their dreams is “don’t be stupid about it,” which I’m realizing right now essentially means figure out how to climb up on your milk crate without begging people for rent money, because everyone in the entire world is worried about how to make rent and so why are you special? Take on part-time work, shift your career as necessary, but know who you are, know how to connect, and give as much as you can.

And then, once you have done that, ask.


That’s all for this week, team. See you at ConDor.

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: Once Again, I Worry About What I Am Doing

 - by Nicole

Money earned last week: $332.86 plus another $291 in unpaid client income

Shows played last week: none

Album recording sessions last week: YES

Upcoming shows: VERY YES, read this roundup

Homestar Runner: still relevant

Apartment status: unlivable (plumbers are literally tearing the walls apart as I type)

Have laptop: will travel


I would be way more worried about that apartment thing if it weren’t for the fact that I will be spending most of March on the road.

This week isn’t that much different than last week, status-wise. I am still in love with Giant Robot Album and so completely bowled over by The Long Holidays and Sunburst Recording.

Work with good people, team. It’s the best thing you can do.

I am preparing for what I think will be eight shows in March (two are still TBD), in five different cities. Then I have the first chunk of April to get Giant Robot Album out the door. I will be on the East Coast for the end of April, and by then will know more about summer conventions and travel.

It is very interesting because I’ve been talking to people lately who say “dang, you really have your stuff together” when I also feel like I don’t, at all, have my stuff together.

I mean, I do for the moment. I do for this month, and next month, and probably May.

But I don’t know if I’ll have my stuff together for September.

The thing is that past experiences predict that I will; I’m agile and flexible and have been able to navigate music, merch, distribution, recording, promotion and an insane amount of freelance client work (at least 2,000 words per day on hair care, essentially).

So I shouldn’t worry.

But I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. For something to happen that I can’t handle.

I suppose like we all do.


I’m also thinking about balance a lot lately. Writing 2,000 words per day means I’m not writing a lot of songs right now. Going to conventions is a fantastic way to make $1,000 in a weekend, but it generally costs about $800 to get there and back. I took a full day off last Sunday and my next scheduled day off isn’t until Monday, March 11.

Also about balance in setlists and things. What to play at Consonance and whether I should play Believe or The Woman Who Loved Reality or Questionable Content Girl because that one line always, always gets a laugh.

I feel like every month I go through a new period of independent musicianry evolution and a huge part of my job is just to figure out how to be what I am becoming.

And that is sometimes unnerving.

And this is why I write you these essays, team.

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Hello, The Future! upcoming shows in March

 - by Nicole

Hello, The Future! shows in March

I don’t like typing things twice, so here are all my tweets about upcoming March shows. You should come to ALL OF THEM. 😉

Storified by Nicole· Wed, Feb 27 2013 10:42:46

Time to do some show promotion. Do you know where I’m playing in the next month? DO YOU?Nicole
This weekend, @adamsounds, @friday_tea and I will all be at Consonance, along with other awesome folks. Milpitas, CA. http://ow.ly/i6ye1Nicole
The following weekend (Mar 8-10) I’ll be at ConDor with Allison Lonsdale, Eben Brooks and other hep cats. San Diego. http://ow.ly/i6yBANicole
ConDor is held at what may be my favorite ridiculous hotel ever, the Town and Country in San Diego. We should meet up & tour the statuary.Nicole
ConDor is also hosting a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies ball. Remember: the costume for Zombie Mr. Darcy is SHIRTLESS.Nicole
Following ConDor, I will immediately be flying to Vancouver because reasons. There is likely to be a show on Tues Mar 12. Watch this space.Nicole
Then on March 16 I am back in Los Angeles playing my monthly residency at Bar Pico. I have heard this might be a Sea Monkey Meetup. YES PLSNicole
On the weekend of March 23, I will NOT be at PAX East. However, @loganheftel and I are planning something fun in Los Angeles. Stay tuned.Nicole
(We’re almost done, team. Just three more shows in March.)Nicole
We end with three shows in Seattle: @soulfoodtribe on Mar 27, @NorWesCon on Mar 29, and @waywardcoffee on Mar 30.Nicole
I will also be doing a gob of panels at @NorWesCon, including one where I talk about the Bechdel Test without mentioning any men’s names.Nicole
Also: if you want to see my show at @waywardcoffee and also make it to @vixyandtony and @Molly23 at @norwescon: PM me, subject “PARTY CAR.”Nicole

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This Week in Independent Musicianry: Rockage and THE CRUISE

 - by Nicole

Stats time!

Money earned since our last check-in on February 5: $679

Shows played since Feb 5: Two: one at Rockage and one in the On-Air Club at JoCo Cruise Crazy

Next show: Consonance in Milpitas (near San Francisco); the con runs Mar 1-3 and my show’s Sat Mar 2 at 1 p.m.

What I need to be working on this week: songwriting, Giant Robot Album, getting well so I can sing, client work, ordering more of all my products plus the two new shirts because I am, once again, almost out of merch


I’ve posted a few pictures from Rockage and THE CRUISE, but there are so many more that people sent to me which I haven’t yet posted (and probably won’t post, because I don’t really want to oversaturate y’all with my visage).

People told me my Rockage show, including keynote speech, was “funny as hell.”

Other people told me my cruise show was the best show I’ve ever played, which I think is true. It now takes over from the previous “best show I’ve ever played,” Shiny Happy Holidays.

(The Rockage show wasn’t bad. It was what I would now consider an “average” show for me. Which does in fact mean “funny as hell.”)

All of these things sound humblebraggy, but you know me. I’m as delighted and surprised as you are, every week, that this is working out.


What am I worried about this week?

Gaaah everything.

Except the album. I’m not worried about the album. It’s started walking and talking and proceeding at all the appropriate stages of development, and I’m now at the point where I can step away from it for a while and let all of the other amazing talented people (The Long Holidays, Sunburst Recording) do their thing.

Okay, so what am I worried about this week?

Definitely the products. Ordering more merch puts a burden on my cashflow. It’s frontloading the expenses with the assumption that I’ll earn them back. Also the administrata involved with all the merch. I’m worried that I won’t be able to do it all. Even though I’m pretty good at doing every task that comes in front of me, when I have to.

What else?

I’m worried about the balance between music work and other client work. I have a new song for you (technically two new songs) that I want to record and give to you RIGHT NOW because that’s what happens when you write a new song, you want everyone to hear it IMMEDIATELY, and I know that with the client work I’ve got ahead of me that might not happen.

(Because I am also nursing a terrible cold, and need to get well. I need to focus on getting well.)

What else?

I’m worried (as I am every day) that I’ll have to stop doing this. That something will happen to spoil everything. That I’ll have done the math wrong and I don’t actually have enough money to do the things I need to do.

Or that I won’t have enough money in the future.

Part of the problem is that I read sites like Jezebel and Gawker as my mental refreshers between work bursts, and they are so full of so many commenters who lost their dreams and their jobs and their savings and are so, so full of hate.

I am worried that I will be as lonely and as angry, in the future, as these internet commenters seem to be.

Okay, this is why I write you these essays, team.


Let’s play “what do we know?”

(Yes, Mathnet is always and perpetually relevant.)

We know that I know what I’m doing when I perform for people, and that my shows are getting consistently better.

We know that I have a stack of shows coming up, including as always the ones I can’t announce yet.

We are pretty sure the album is going to be amazing. I’ve sent a few unmastered tracks out to people. The feedback can be summed up as “ZOMG.”

We know, like I said at the JoCo Cruise Quitting Panel, that I have enough music income combined with client income to keep me going (for now). And that I have no problem with getting money from multiple sources because I am a business and I need resources to run my business.

But what else do we know?

That the album is going to be different from my other albums. That it is going to be better, and that I’m going to have to figure out what to do with it after it’s done. I’m going to have to figure out whether it can become a show that I play at conventions, or whether it should be a different kind of show, and if so then where do I play it and how do I publicize it and all of that.

If Giant Robot Album really represents growth, which I think it will, then I also have to figure out how to grow.

Although, to borrow a metaphor, evolution tends to work out growth on its own.


I loved Rockage and I loved THE CRUISE.

And it was such an amazing thing to spend a week in the company of so many friends.

And now it is time to get back to work.

So there you go. 🙂

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Hello, The Future Shows!

 - by Nicole

Here’s a list of the shows I’m playing through the end of April. Seattle fans, take note! I have THREE SHOWS in Seattle in March.

If you live in New Jersey or a neighboring state, and you would like to host me either at a house concert or a coffeeshop or some other venue, let me know. I’d love to book some additional shows on the East Coast in April.


SAN JOSE, CA: February 8-10, 2013: Rockage 2.0 as the KEYNOTE SPEAKER (so cool so cool)

THE OCEAN: February 10-17, 2013: JoCoCruiseCrazy 3 performance with Glen Raphael

MILPITAS, CA: March 1-3, 2013: Consonance (showtime to be announced)

SAN DIEGO, CA: March 8-10, 2013: ConDor 2013 (I’ll be in the Friday night show on March 8, time TBA)

LOS ANGELES, CA: March 16, 2013, 8:30 p.m.: Giant Robots, Music, and Beer at Bar Pico (with Clark Chimp and Sacred Pools)

THE INTERNET: March 19, 2013, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT: Google Hangout show on Ruthless Diastema

SEATTLE, WA: March 27, 2013, 7:00 p.m.: Soulfood Books

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

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

SOMERSET, NJ: April 26-28, 2013: Divine Decadence (showtime to be announced)

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