Most artists find completing one album a daunting task, so when we heard that the independent musician Mark Marshall was not only going to release four albums over the course of the next year, but also a documentary film, as well as launch a subscription-based social media experience around the creation of said albums, we had to discover if there was a method to his apparent madness.  Mark graciously accepted our email interview request and has given MusicIsMyDayJob a behind-the-scenes look at how and why he is doing this, as well as the challenges it presents to him as an independent artist.

Mark Marshall
This is the first in our three-part interview series with Mark, focusing on where the idea came from and why he has chosen to release his music in this manner.  Check back tomorrow to learn how he is making it all happen.  Friday we will examine the ways that he is using social media to both promote and shape the final outcome.


Q: For those who are not familiar with it, can you sum up the Four for 4 project in a one or two sentences?
A: Well, there’s the marketing language: “One Man… One Year… Four albums… and You.” which does sum it up pretty nicely… but in essence, I’m making four albums over the course of one year, and sharing the experience online with a group of people who have chosen to join me and support me in it.

Q: The genesis of this project was a blog post you wrote encouraging people who say they support artists to show that they are sincere by actually using services that generate revenue for musicians. Explain a little how you went from that general concept to determining the details of the project.
A:
Madness really.  No, really.  I should preface all of this by saying that I have a deep abiding love for recorded music.  It grabbed me when I was four years old, and never let go.  I could easily describe 20 or 30 times in my life where putting an album on took me into an experience that in one way or another, at the moment or over the course of time, changed my life.

As such, recorded music means SO very much to me. Not only as an artist, but primarily as a listener.  I’ll give you just one example.  On a New Year’s Eve in the Bronx, I was taken to a party – I was all of 11 or 12 – and the guy throwing the party had a massive quad stereo & turntable.  Well, I’m there with all these people in their twenties, feeling a little small – when this little swell came out of the speakers.. this zen swell from outer space that just grew and grew… it then quieted, took a little breath, and these four notes rang out that just shook me.  It was the opening to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” album.  And this was probably the 20th time in my life that this kind of thing had happened.

And in every instance – someone sat in a room and WROTE that album or song – maybe for MONTHS.  And after the fact, one or more people went into a room or rooms and joyfully / agonizingly spent hour upon hour upon day upon day being the vessel for this amazing creation.  As listeners, I believe that we have a responsibility to recognize and acknowledge that. In essence – it has become WAY too easy to hit “play” without recognizing what went into the art that we get from the play button.

So – present day – I found a bunch of “creative freedom” advocates online – who, I’m sorry, seemed in reality to be nothing more than “I want it and don’t want to have to pay anything” advocates… I understand where they are coming from – they are accustomed to an environment where music is plentiful, and at little or no cost to them at all.  But I’m reasonably sure that this breeds a level of apathy for all but those who feel most touched by music.  But there the “advocates” were, making a stink about DRM and ISP intrusions and the like – and I agree with much of what they were rallying against… but they were cloaking themselves in the guise of being for artistic freedom.  And I was sitting here thinking “how are you really advocating for an artist?”

…the commonly-held thinking is to point fingers at the “industry” – which is an easy misnomer to apply now, because one can paint it as the “big bad companies” – but in truth, in this day and age, the “industry” is also people like me – who record and self-distribute…

And anywhere you go online where filesharing is discussed – go look at the comments section of any article – you’ll find dozens if not hundreds of comments like “Screw the industry… I just hooked up my 500 gig drive, and I’m going to town, man.”  When the commonly-held thinking is to point fingers at the “industry” – which is an easy misnomer to apply now, because one can paint it as the “big bad companies” – but in truth, in this day and age, the “industry” is also people like me – who record and self-distribute.  We’re NOT the RIAA.  We’re NOT out there filing lawsuits.  But our stuff is being fileshared.  It’s happened to me, and it’s happening to others. But there’s no one out there legitimately advocating for the artists here – I’ve had die-hard music longtimers say to me “you can’t fight filesharing – it’s not even worth having the argument.”

Great – so there I am with this giant quandary in my head – thinking “God – where does a recording artist go now?”  We are an endangered species, if you’re talking about actually ever making a living just recording music.

And yet…

I was born to write and record.  I was fortunate to spend a little time in recording studios when I was a kid, ’cause my Dad was a session singer.  I was infected – am still infected, and glad to be.  So here I am – knowing why I was put here.  And knowing I’m going to do it again.  And again… as long as I’m breathing.

So here I was, writing this blog post, and this germ came to me – make the process public.  Make the very thing I love to do, and was born to do – public.  Make that the product instead of just trying to sell a CD.

Now back to my point about madness – it might be more clearly defined as flow – or congruence of events – or the sum total of experiences that converged at this particular moment… but sitting here at this keyboard, the idea just came to me – and I followed it.  Over the next three weeks, it consumed me, which is why I describe it as madness.  From conception through launch was less than two months – which is just crazy.  But I spent anywhere from 8 to 16 hours a day for days on end building the project… I couldn’t stop.  Like Richard Dreyfuss in “Close Encounters”… I was just possessed.

Q: Many people are saying the album as a consumer product is dead, yet here you are releasing four of them in a year. Would you share some of your thoughts on the viability of releasing albums and why you chose to do albums over one-off downloads or other types of collections?
A: Well, we all know the impact of a single song.  But for those of us who love the experience of a collection of music carefully cultivated by an artist or band, there is nothing like it. From an artist’s perspective – I can tell you that I spent hours on my last album, just determining song order, and how they flowed together, how the fades worked, how many seconds between one track and another, etc.  It sounds small, but it can easily double the impact of any particular song.  I could give you literally dozens of examples, but the easiest way to describe it – for those who actually listen to and love albums – notice how when a song ends, you know how the next one is going to begin, and you anticipate it!  For me as an artist – it’s not unlike being a museum curator… placing works in a way that is complimentary to each work, while creating another larger work – the compilation itself.

But the deeper part of this is that many who write do so out of personal experience.  Sometimes, that experience isn’t in just a single song – but a series of songs, that can, and often do tell a story. Or just plain take you for a ride.

And from the viability perspective – one could easily make the argument that making indie film is dead, and that one should be focusing on making sitcoms, because that’s where the quick revenue is – hence, “viability”.  But, like an indie filmmaker, I’m not doing this to be commercial.  Yes, I’m hoping to hell that the end result will be brilliant, lead to other work, etc. etc. – but I can’t make viability my impetus for doing it in the first place.  So it’s not a primary goal – singles OR albums.

And, by the way, speaking of indie filmmaking – I should say that I am simultaneously making a documentary of the whole year.  Like I don’t already have enough to do…

…to be continued…

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You can learn more about Mark Marshall and his Four for 4 Project here.  You can also find him on Twitter.

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Comments? Thoughts? Suggestions? Share in the comments below or via Twitter.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for details on how Mark is making this all happen, including technical info and more.

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