“I’m already watching the project evolve…” (The Mark Marshall Interview, Part III)by Jared on Apr 24, 2009 • 04:00 No Comments
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.
This is the final entry in our three-part interview series with Mark, examining the ways that he is using social media to both promote and shape the final outcome. You can visit yesterday’s post on how he is funding and creating the back-end to do all of this, and you can learn more about the genesis of the project by clicking here.
Q: What have you found are the most effective ways to spread the word about the Four for 4 project? Are you using any traditional advertising, or is the focus on past fans and social media?
A: A little of all. The beauty of a project like this is the grace of time… I’m already watching the project evolve as new members come on board, new podcasts pick up on it, websites and blogs (not unlike this one)… in some ways, it’s a very organic process, knowing that it isn’t all about a single release date… more like a release year! And with every mention, new folks find the project and come on board. But I have done a bunch of Facebook work, MySpace, Reverbnation, various webvertising in some markets, and now that the project has some meat to it, working on local media as well. To date, past fans, including and especially podcasters, have been just phenomenal. Big shout out here to Dave Lee from the Bugcast, Skys and everyone from Indie Showcase and Awesomeradio.net, Wahya from Pheonixradio.net and Steve from the Dalecast…all diehard supporters, and I am incredibly thankful for them. There are more on the way…thanks to them in advance.
Q: This takes you from being a solitary musician to an active tribe leader (in social media terms)–how comfortable are you with that new role?
A: Very – and in ways you wouldn’t necessarily think of. The very nature of what I do is solitary to a point, in terms of the fact that I write, record and perform all the stuff myself… even though on this project, I am, for the first time, involving other musicians to a small degree. Having this “tribe” along adds an impetus that was previously just a hope in traditional music distribution – you write and record an album, and then hope someone wants to listen to it. In this case, there are already people listening – which is a wonderful gift. Bear in mind what I said about being a listener… I still cherish that experience, and hope to hell that what I create will provide someone else with that in the end. But I signed up for that role in creating the project to begin with, so yeah – I’m very comfortable with it.
Q: What are you doing to actively build the community that is developing as the project progresses? How involved are you with the comments and discussions on the website, and how do you find time to create music with these added responsibilities?
A: Well, obviously I have duties to promote the project, by its very nature. And this naturally builds the community. But I think the most authentic thing I can do to build the community is to be myself and keep creating – in every form I can. This includes video and written commentaries, as well as interacting with those who choose to leave comments on the site. And one of the neat parts is – I’m constantly exploring neat things to add to the site, to make it a better experience for the members – which makes the site better. As for finding the time to make the music – well, it’s my primary responsibility here, and having the project here is a constant tap on the shoulder… “psst… get back in the studio!”
Q: As many of us know, writing one song can be challenging, let alone writing four albums worth of music. Where are you finding inspiration and time to compose so much music?
A: Well, instrumentally speaking – I can write ’til the cows come home. It just flows out of me. Now from a lyrical and melodic perspective, that’s a lot tougher – ’cause it’s difficult for me to write about something I don’t care about. But one more beautiful facet of this project is that it pulls this stuff out of me. It makes me constantly turn my attention to it – so I find myself looking at things through a writer’s eye more than I would otherwise, just because the project is here.
That having been said – talk to me at the end of the project, and I’ll let you know how much of it felt like pulling teeth. :)
Q:How comfortable are you with the idea of giving people such an intimate look into your creative process?
A: That would depend on the song, really. In some cases, the track feels so solid to me that after hearing it a number of times, even in its’ roughest form I’m reasonably sure that people who share my sensibilities about music will get it. So discomfort doesn’t apply there. In other cases, I state it right up front – “Hey – I dredged up this old song, which I kinda like – so I recorded a scratch version… whaddya think? Should I run with it?”
And look… the premise of the project is, for all intents and purposes, that a member is treated to the unvarnished. So I have to be comfortable with providing that. And, if you think about it – there’s a level of kindness folks are showing by supporting the project in the first place – which makes me more comfortable with letting it all hang out.
Q: Do you see the community shaping any of the music? For example, if you post a work-in-progress and people have specific suggestions, would you incorporate those? If they were to respond less-than-favorably to a given track, would you scrap it and move onto another?
A: Two separate aspects – the first I just addressed with asking folks about whether or not to use a particular song. But also – and this goes for life as well – one has to consider the source. I placed some tracks from my “New Eye” album on sites like garageband, where folks get to review your tracks. I can’t tell you the number of times I got comments like “great track, but the guitar has to be louder.” – where there was not one hint of guitar on it at all. Another great example – there’s a track on that album called “Something to Believe”, which has an extended intro of almost 2 minutes before the vocal starts. I can’t begin to tell you the number of people who were highly offended by that opening. Me personally? I love it. And though I did make a “radio edit” version with a shortened intro – I have gotten the most wonderful comments back from people who LOVE that intro. So, in the end – I’ll listen to anyone’s opinion, but in the end, I’ve got to be able to not just live with, but love what I produce. So every instance is different.
But I will say this – I value the opinions of the project’s members. So there isn’t a single opinion there that I won’t take very seriously.
Q: In one sense, the community members are your investors–how do you balance your responsibility to them with your artistic integrity?
A: Well, what they’re investing in to begin with is my process. It’s a healthy form of investment, in that they aren’t taking a dividend from future sales or anything – they are paying for an experience, and the finished product. So in the end, what they’re investing in IS my artistic integrity. The way I balance it is by being true to myself, communicating with them as much as I can, and making the best music I can, too.
Q: When May 1st 2010 arrives and you are looking back at the last year, how will you determine that this has been a success?
A: I’ll have survived! Seriously – I’ll have a bunch of great music done. I’ll have made some wonderful friends – which has already started to happen. I’ll have made a bit more of a name for myself, which will be really important for when I announce the next project – where I complete six albums in six weeks, while simultaneously running for public office. HA! Seriously, though… in the end, what I really love is to make music. If this project puts me closer to that, I’m blessed.
But most importantly? One night, someone will put on a pair of headphones… they’ll put on one of the albums, and they’ll have an experience that will enrich them in some way… the way that so many pieces of music have done for me in my life. If I can achieve that, well… there’s not much more I can ask.
Q: Any final words of wisdom for those who are considering something even remotely similar to this?
A: Well – I suspect that I’d be WAY better equipped to answer this after the project is done. But at this juncture, I’d say… first and foremost – be yourself. Be prepared to share it all. Accept it all. Fall in love with the process all over again. And if you’re not in love with it all, go do something else.
And stick with it. Don’t rush through it. Some of the most magical stuff I’ve ever written took months of writing, re-writing, recording, listening, rewriting and re-recording. Go listen to Elizabeth Gilbert from the TED conference about freeing yourself in the creative process. I’m JUST starting to use that, but it’s a revolutionary way of approaching your art – and incredibly self-humane.
Lastly, and most importantly – there isn’t one aspect of this that you can’t consider art. If you approach it all as art, it will all be that much more beautiful – not just the finished product, but the journey to it – which is art in and of itself.
We hope that you’ve found this series useful. Please share any comments, thoughts or suggestions of other people you would like us to interview in the comments below or via Twitter.
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