Need Space from Cyberspace

I need space. Three words you never want to hear in a relationship.

That is how I am feeling with the internet, email and social media. Technology. Relationships of all sorts are about balance. Prioritizing. How do you maintain balance and keep technology from running amuck and taking over your life? No, really. That is a question.

I use technology daily for work. The expectation that I be super-glued to my phone, email, camera, social media and computer is implicit yet real. I couldn’t do my job without technology. In fact, I wouldn’t have a job in communications without it! At least eight hours of my day are spent on my three computers, one Apple and one PC and a MacBookPro and on my two cell phones, one Android and one iPhone. That’s a whole lot of screen-time.

As a musician, I use social media and technology to promote my songs and connect with my audience. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify, YouTube… and more! On average, I would guess that I spend at least an hour a day just updating various social media.

Today I updated my YouTube channel/playlist and graphics. I still need to do more work on the individual tags for each video. It’s a lot of work.

It Often, like today, I use Photoshop to create new graphics, banners and icons to upload to the different websites and social media I use to get my music and message out there. As I think about it, I am genuinely surprised at how much time and effort it takes to stay current. Last week I devoted my attention to becoming a verified Spotify artist and updating my page graphics once the goal was achieved!

Every other month or so I create a new music video in iMovie. Even the simplest video takes me a whole evening to complete. As for social media, researching interesting post content – even though I program it a week ahead – takes nearly a full work-day!

Being an independent artist is a very time-consuming job.

Without realizing it an hour or two or five has gone by without speaking to a person or connecting with anything other than my keyboard and monitor. None of this activity includes writing songs, practicing music or performing and connecting with people.

Then there’s the “personal” social media. I don’t typically do a lot of posting, but should I really be doing ANY given the amount of time I already spend on a device, online?

During my “down” time  is when I really notice the malaise. I’m supposed to be a relating to my family and friends. I don’t bring my device to the dinner table (house rule), but I can’t say that I feel 100% present, regardless. Ever. I swear I can feel my iPhone vibrating, humming away on the credenza, calling to me to check email. Check Facebook. Post a photo on Instagram.

Rinse and repeat.

Let’s face it. Social media is designed to be habit-forming. Design-thinking perhaps well-intended and gone awry? I read that people suffering from depression check their email more often than most (gulp, I check mine a lot). So is this technology solving a problem or reinforcing one? So how do we break a bad habit? One day a time.

I am passionately grateful for the existence of social media and technology. Always and forever in awe of the design-thinkers who knew what we wanted (when we didn’t) and thought of how to solve our problems and create brilliant solutions.

It’s me. Not you. I need some space.

Music Xray

If you could see deeper into music, like through a music x-ray machine, what would it look like? Not just the sound waves. What if you could gauge the potential success of a song?

This weekend I taught a Songwriting Masterclass with my old, dear friend, Tina Shafer who created the New York Songwriter Circle 25 years ago! She has helped launch the careers of artists including Avril Lavigne, Vanessa Carlton, Gavin Degraw and Norah Jones among others. A successful singer/songwriter in her own right, Tina has also had songwriting cuts with Celine Dion and other heavy hitters in the music industry.

She and I have been friends for about as long as the NY Songwriter Circle has existed and I even had the honor of helping judge the Circle’s Songwriting Contest two years in a row. It was an exhausting process! Tina is accustomed to receiving heaps of song submissions from artists hoping to perform at the Circle’s monthly Monday night showcases at the Bitter End. I, on the other hand, can’t fathom how she does it!

As judges for the songwriting contest, we each had to listen to about 50 songs or more a day for about a month. Doesn’t sound like much? Imagine having to sit through god knows how many extended guitar intros hoping that a great song lies just beyond only to find that it’s a song about cats sung by a tone-deaf, basement dweller.

Even though a friend and brilliant programmer/web designer had developed an exquisitely intricate website that allowed us to listen and rank songs using various criteria, I kept thinking “there must be a better way to weed out the best songs in multiple genres. But how?

Our Masterclass is always a deeply creative, inspiring time for students and teachers alike. Sunday was no exception as our brave artists bared their souls and songs to all of us. It was a very supportive and talented group! As always, we try to bring in an industry professional to discuss the OTHER part of music. The business.

Yesterday, Tina and I were very excited to have CEO Mike McCready join us as a guest speaker to talk about his company, musicxray.com. Using innovative technology, which he explained in mathematical terms I can’t possibly comprehend or retain, he has created a website that helps do that grunt work for music industry pros. It’s nothing short of tech magic. I have submitted numerous songs to the site and, while I’m not always thrilled with the rankings, I always find them fair and accurate. It has also helped me develop relationships with other industry pros with whom I would never have otherwise connected.

“Music Xray is not what it appears to be. It is a data analytics company whose primary mission is to identify high-potential songs and talent. On the surface, Music Xray appears to be a run-of-mill, pay-to-submit website providing a service to help musicians reach decision-makers. That’s a by-product. When an artist puts a song through our system, we provide them with a score that tells them the probability of their song getting a deal via our platform.”

I believe Mike originally started his company to help A&R at record labels in their task of sorting through the masses of submissions they receive as well as to help them identify potential “hit” songs. His site has, however, evolved into a massive online music community and, personally, I hope it continues as it has been extremely helpful!

Tina and I were thrilled to have Mike address our students. Although he is clearly brilliant, he was humble, helpful and generous with his time and answers. Mike McCready is a musician, an innovator, an inspiration and a design thinker to boot.

Now if someone could just create a website that helps me write a hit song!!!