I’m discovering a whole new dimension of discovery. I don’t need much inducement to follow a lead on Bandcamp or Instagram. I have a lot of respect for what I find there. I keep becoming more convinced that music merchandise is the where the most exciting industrial design is. And that merchandise can precede the music as well as providing a tangible way to support musicians beyond buying the music.
While bringing my Sydney Opera House book to life my mind is racing too fast to listen to much music. I don’t listen to music casually. It draws me in and I find that I concentrate on it too carefully, which is not a bad thing, obviously, under less crazed circumstances. I ration my listening and at the moment it’s Los Angeles singer/songwriter Terra Naomi, who I was alerted to through a Bandcamp email, I think. She has a clear, strong voice and a mood of equanimity. I’m only working through her catalogue at a track or two a day, and at the moment I’m stuck on her version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. I didn’t need to know anything about her in order to respond to the music, but as I find out more, through her calm and intelligent emails, I become more and more impressed by her steadfastness and clarity of purpose.
Looking through the credits I noted that Kelly Hogan sang backup on one of the songs. And something clicked into place for me … I remembered how much I enjoyed seeing Kelly Hogan sing with Neko Case at the Sydney Opera House, and both of them singing with Jakob Dylan on his Women and Country album. The world around Terra Naomi’s music expanded a little, I had a stronger frame of reference that had nothing to with record labels and marketing and reviews.
Today she sent an email describing her decision to place her songs on Spotify, the Catch-22 of discovery. She’s urging us to listen to her song on Spotify, to make it popular. “The new music discovery happens largely through curation, i.e. songs added to playlists curated by private individuals or internal curators. And the way to get on these playlists — people need to know about the song in order to like it, but people need to like it in order to be noticed by the people who have the power to give the song a chance to be heard by people who might like it … SO what I’m saying is, for artists like me, who are new or emerging or jumping back into all of this after an extended time away from it, Spotify and the other digital platforms are extremely important.”
And she describes in the most concise way I’ve ever read what it takes for independent musicians to place their music in our paths for us to discover, tending an email list, social media, and what it takes to keep the music in print in many formats. I’m as drawn to her visual sensibility as her music. I’d buy any amount of merchandise to meaningfully assist the creation of her music. A brief fragment of a b&w video for her new song, “Nothing to Hide” that’s released in a couple of days, is something I can imagine as stills in a notebook, as a hybrid publication / notebook (with some kind of flat, matte black cover to the book, 3D printed).