Tags: activities, bad astronomer, children, concert, event, family, field day, geek, george hrab, Joseph Scrimshaw, Ken Plume, kids, Labor Day, marian-call, molly lewis, NASA, nerd, phil plait, rocket, rocketfest, science, science education, skeptic, skeptics, space camp, w00tstock
I am doing a very special thing this week. I have been excited about it for months. But I have not communicated my excitement to you guys yet.
ON LABOR DAY I AM GOING TO SPACE CAMP.
I am taking with me some of my favorite people: Molly Lewis, Ken Plume, Joseph Scrimshaw, Phil Plait, George Hrab. We are trucking over from Dragon*Con Monday morning. We are there going to present the live audience in Huntsville, AL with a variety show of terrifically geeky sciencey entertainment, and we will be streaming the show LIVE FROM SPACE CAMP TO YOU.
Here’s the why of this event. It’s a fundraiser for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Scholarship Foundation. That’s a fancy way of saying we’re raising money to send more kids to Space Camp. There will be stuff you can order, special goodies from Thinkgeek and Space Camp, and everyone who donates $10 or more online during the live stream will be entered to win a bigger prize from Thinkgeek. (Thank you Thinkgeek!) Of course you can just donate too, that’s an option anytime at http://spacecamp.com/rocketfest. But I hope that during this livestream we can flood the gates a little. I want to demonstrate to the folks at USS&RC that the internet is full of people who want to support them.
When I was young, I was totally the scholarship kid at horse camp. I begged and begged my parents, but they couldn’t afford it. When I finally got to take my swim test, saddle up for early morning trail rides, and take my first crack at archery, it was thanks to anonymous strangers who helped to provide scholarships. So there’s a big soft spot in me where summer camp is concerned. It’s not just camp, it’s a big deal for a kid. It’s CAMP.
And this is not just CAMP, it’s SPACE CAMP.
Science has been on my mind this year. I know, I’m a liberal arts nerd, I don’t have much right to step into the science nerd realm. [Insert rant about the overstated divide between “fuzzy” and “techie” and how early a girl is forced to choose.] But in light of Curiosity’s landing, our little Mars invasion — and in light of the shuttle’s last landing and Sally and Neil leaving us — I feel more and more urgency about science education.
No, not education, excitement. Science Excitement needs to become a national priority. We need a tiny bit of moon landing feeling back. A few of us experienced an incredible thrill as Curiosity landed. I want to know how to spread that feeling, to make it more universal and less niche. Because that sentiment is what would help to reorient the U.S. toward invention, discovery, research and development as a public prerogative.
I feel strongly about this (and I’m late to the game, I know, a lot of you have been fighting this fight for decades). And I don’t know how I can do anything to change national sentiment as an individual. But this seemed like a good little place for a singer-songwriter to start. So here I go.
On Labor Day I hope you’ll tune your computer to SpaceCamp.com at 2pm Central and watch our little show, have a look at Rocket Park, even if it’s just on in the background while you barbecue on the deck.
And if you are within driving distance of Huntsville, I’m talking to you Dragon*Con attendees, consider bringing the family out for the day — Space Camp is throwing a field day from 10am-5pm, complete with rocket launches and bubbles and science demos. The price of admission gets you our show and everything else in Rocket Park. How cool is that? Come sit on the lawn and have a picnic among rockets and be entertained. We definitely need a live audience, so bring the kids and come play. Make a pilgrimage to Space Camp! Especially if you’ve never been. You know you want to!
Last: please, tell everyone. Tell the whole internet. This is just a little tiny thing but let’s get some eyeballs on it. I’ve worked hard to pull it together and I really hope it will be half as beautiful as in my head. Point people to info at http://spacecamp.com/rocketfest, and RSVP or share the Facebook event here. If you can possibly blog about this or otherwise publicize it — DO. The official press release is below.
Stars and stars and stars to all of you — writing from Cincinatti at 3am between concerts —
P.S. If you are in Huntsville or Atlanta, and you could Minion for me and the other entertainers, we need two volunteers to come along and help out for the day. We can provide round-trip transport from Atlanta, and lunch. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in going to Space Camp to help. Sound/web/social media skills a plus, we’ll need some of that. Loving Space Camp a double plus.
LABOR DAY 2012
When: Monday, September 3, 2012, 9am – 5pm, entertainment at 2pm Central
Where: U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL, streaming live at http://spacecamp.com
What: Rocketfest, a fun filled day of music and family entertainment
On Monday, September 3, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center will host ROCKETFEST. With your paid admission to the Space Center on Labor Day, the whole family can enjoy a fun-filled day. There will be family activities on site like rocket launches, bubbles and science demonstrations; attendees can win prizes from Thinkgeek and enjoy a special concert and variety show in the park.
The entertainment lineup (2pm) will feature nationally renowned musicians George Hrab, Molly Lewis, and Marian Call, along with science and geek culture icons Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, Ken Plume and Joseph Scrimshaw. All entertainment will be exciting and family-friendly. The festival performance will be streamed LIVE on the web at http://spacecamp.com.
The event is a fundraiser for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center Scholarship Foundation. For more information or to donate, check out http://www.spacecamp.com/rocketfest.
The USSRC is home to Space Camp, Aviation Challenge, The Davidson Center for Space Exploration and world-class traveling exhibits. It is also the official visitor’s information center for NASA – Marshall Space Flight Center. To learn about all of the exciting programs and activities at the USSRC, go to www.rocketcenter.com. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate.
Press Contact: Tim D. Hall, email@example.com (256) 701-0916
Tags: art, artist, crowdfund, crowdfunding, crowdsource, crowdsourcing, diy, diy music, fundraising, kickstarter, marian-call, Music, tour, tour fundraiser
It’s the middle of the night in Juneau. My hair is still all curly from being in a wedding today. I have a lot of thank yous to say, and a lot of explaining to do.
THANK YOU to all of you folks who contributed to my crazy Kickstarter. You are mighty when you pull together! Just look what you’ve done, it’s incredible! And by that I mean barely credible! I mean, I knew you would fund my asking amount, but I did NOT anticipate becoming a poster girl for Kickstarteriness. More on that in a second. I’m busy trying to keep up with your messages to me and get the survey stragglers in the database and get necklaces mailed out. But first —
THANK YOU to the people who forged the Kickstarter and who are even now working on making and fulfilling the rewards. Thank you Chris Cushman who made the armor — Valette who shot the photos — Adam Levermore who designed the graphics — Patrick who made the website and shot the video — Katie who helped build the back-of-house infrastructure (there’s TONS of it) — Annie who will soon have handmade over 150 necklaces — Dammit Liz who is even now helping to book shows in Europe.
If you missed the excitement — I’m sorry you did, because it was terribly exciting. In short, I decided to fund a Europe tour, because my European fans have been patiently waiting for a tour which I could not afford. I conjured rewards and a sort of game to try to fairly determine where in Europe I would book shows. Then I asked for $11,111 with some stretch goals reaching up to about $18k, at which point my tour would be funded to several countries.
We raised the first $11,111 within about 3 hours of my first announcement. Holy hand grenades, Batman!
I was shocked. I knew we would raise the funds, but I don’t think anyone who has been tracking me closely would have anticipated the speed — or the fact that, for the first couple days, the average pledge was around $79 (the Kickstarter overall average is $25, and while I love my fans, I know they aren’t all rich, so I was blown away by the level of support per person.)
I set some stretch goals, because we blew past the $20k mark within the first two days, if I remember correctly. I caught a lucky snapshot on my phone of this moment:
Things slowed down awhile in the middle of the fundraiser, but toward the end Patrick told me I should offer cover songs for higher levels. I decided to choose songs that were classics to me, songs from my musico-cultural desert island list, like the Muppets and TMBG and Tom Lehrer and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (I wanted to be Julie Andrews when I was little). The internet responded that yes, they wanted those cover songs, and they funded us all the way from $40k to $50k, and then up to $60k, where I threw up my hands and decided to just lie prone on the floor in surprise for awhile.
Now I am happier and wiser and very very very very very busy girl. I have used up my all caps quota for the year several times over. Now I’m just piled high in more work than anyone can manage; if you’re still waiting on something, sorry, working on it. Fulfilling rewards is no small task, and I have laid out for myself a nearly impossible amount of recording by the end of the year. But in my family we have a saying: “That’s impossible. Let’s do it.”
Guys. Guys. We did it. Thank you!
In the middle of the work, though, I thought I should take a minute to talk about the whole experience, because I am getting asked lots and lots and lots of things about Kickstarter, and I’ve gotten letters of all kinds, from very nice and admiring to sort of slimy and advertisey to very mean (only one of those though). And I get asked tons of questions about the music business in general that I wish I could answer better. So without any particular order or editing, because it’s 1am, here are some of my thoughts.
- I am being asked quite a lot about what I did to make the Kickstarter go boom like that. I have a lot of specific techniques and ideas (most covered below), but seriously, the biggest thing is do your art. Do it a lot. Make the art good. Make it good enough to turn heads. Then make it better. Nothing else comes before that. Because if you’re asking other people to put up money for it, it needs to be really good, and there’s a lot of really good art out there right now (yay!). I’m not trying to say my art is so amazing, I’m just saying that the REAL first step of my fundraiser was studying and performing music intensively for 20 years. And that was hard, and it mostly didn’t earn me anything, and it still doesn’t earn me much more than a secretarial job. But that’s where it starts, not with a smart fundraising strategy or clever video.
- The second biggest thing is to know your audience. Duh, you’re saying, and I’m like, that’s so nineties of you to say Duh. But here’s what I mean: know in advance how much you can fundraise, and how fast, and who is likely to fund it. I knew the amount I proposed was a doable amount, because I fundraise sort of quietly in the background all the time, little poster sales and things, and I have an auction once a year. After fundraising slowly for my album Something Fierce, I had a very clear idea what a reasonable minimum would be. I can’t tell you how painful it is to see Kickstarters for bands asking for $50,000 for their first ever album — with stretch goals already listed for $100,000, which is just embarrassing when their funding is stalling out at $10k. Where will the money come from and how much will it really be? If you don’t know this in advance, wait. Do some other experiments first. Test the water. You might have a lot of fans or followers, but that doesn’t translate to money. How and what people purchase is something you really only find out by selling them your things. No model works but your own, don’t use other people’s numbers. We all sell differently and we all sell something unique in this market.
- When I say know your audience, I mean something else too, something more important: love your audience. Respect your audience. I spend time with my fans more days than I don’t. I’m definitely not perfect with them (there is just never enough TIME, guys) but I like them. I like you. And I like spending time with you, and I just wish there was more time to spend. I kind of want the same things my fans want; I get excited by what excites them, so putting together a silly website gamey thing they might enjoy was fun for me. I can’t tell you how many hours I puzzled over the Rulebook and the Coins and the FAQ’s and the ridiculous minutiae, because I knew some nerd out there would care as much as I do. When I was coming up with the rewards, I just asked my Twitter stream: what do you want from me out of a Kickstarter? What are other people doing, what have you liked, what bores you, what’s meaningless? And I got exactly the answers I needed, within minutes. (Here’s what’s meaningless, according to the survey: movie credits. I kinda have to agree. The glamour went out of that ages ago since every person I know has been part of a movie recently. I don’t need a movie credit, guys. I need a cookie.)
- Now that I’ve typed it a bunch, I kinda dislike the word “fans.” It seems weird to me. Beyoncé has fans. I have ………um………my people. The people who live in my phone and sometimes materialize at concerts, and then I sleep on their floor and meet their pet tarantula or hedgehog or what have you. I really really like and respect them, and I am convinced their time and money is precious, and it’s awesome when they spend some on me. They have so many other options. If you don’t like and respect your fans, if they’re not the folks you want to be hanging out with, well, bummer. (I get sad when I see artists who sort of secretly scorn the people who support them, because that means they secretly scorn people who like what they do. I hope they try making different stuff or marketing it different ways.)
- Two things I’ve had to tell a lot of different people, in a friendly fashion, trying not to hurt their feelings: 1) If your music doesn’t turn the heads of strangers on the street, don’t have a fundraiser yet. 2) If you can’t immediately list 10 specific subgroups that describe your demographic, if you don’t know who your fans are — then you shouldn’t have a big fundraiser yet. You should make/meet more fans. Or have a tiny discreet fundraiser appropriate to your audience base right now, and use the thing you make as a stepping stone.
- Make a spreadsheet. Patrick forced me to make a spreadsheet, and I spent as much time fussing with and fretting over it as I did on the rest of the Kickstarter. Why? Because when you look at your chunk of money, and you deduct 10% for Kickstarter/Amazon and then 15% for taxes, and then you really add up the cost of fulfillment, you might be earning only $2-3 at your reward level that seems to profitable. The thing most people forget in their spreadsheet is worth looking at if you’re gonna kick some start, it’s on the second NUMBER SMASH page of my public budget. I calculated what each reward level would cost me, and then I wondered how many people would go for higher-return vs. lower-return rewards. What would people buy the most of? If everyone went for necklaces & USB drives, could I still actually afford to do my trip? I worked through a couple different scenarios to get a good estimate of what rewards would cost me — and how much I would need to ask for to wind up with $7,000 to make it to Europe & back (the answer is about $11,000, so $4000 would go into fees & fulfillment). The extra math saved me much grief. I frequently see bands offering physical CD’s or vinyl at reward amounts that ensure they will be losing money. Please do the extra math and give folks the physical CD for $25 instead of $15 if you’re raising funds for anything besides just duplication.
- Be prepared for both failure and success. I had a solid plan if funding wasn’t going well. I was prepared to pound pavement if the pledges were not coming in, and I knew exactly what pavement to pound and how to pound it. Turns out I didn’t have to. But success brought its own problems — I had to completely redesign my website and Kickstarter page on the first day when we funded so quickly. I had to come up with more rewards at certain levels. Local jewelry suppliers ran out of the silver we needed to finish the necklaces. Fulfillment got to be a huge job, much bigger than we thought, not to mention the pure administrative effort involved (thank you Katie!). So plan ahead. I thought I was overthinking absurdly, with all my FAQ’s and blathering, but it turns out it was very good I thought through all the questions carefully just in case of success.
- For heaven’s sakes, don’t list tons of stretch goals until it appears you will certainly fund ahead of schedule. Chickens, counting, hatching.
- I have a rude question. Does anyone want you to make the thing you want to make? Are people clamoring for it? Because — this is an important distinction — there is art you make because other people want you to make it, and there is art you make because you must make it. The latter is more pure, in some ways, personal and vulnerable and sometimes revolutionary (and occasionally both sorts align). But you only want to crowdfund something people want and need and get super excited about. Before you start *any project,* ask a ton of people whether they want it, or what they want. Don’t ask your friends, ask strangers and fans. Would they pay for it? Do they really want it to exist? If they’re not responding, that means it doesn’t compel them. I’m not saying don’t make it. I’m saying fund that thing in another way. Get a grant. Invest in it yourself. Produce a more popular in-demand thing to fund the Art You Must Make That Nobody Demands. Don’t let the crowd decide the fate of that kind of art — it’s too personal and it doesn’t need thousands of voices in on the process anyway, people who feel like stakeholders.
- Don’t do a Kickstarter thing just to raise some extra money. People can tell and it’s weird. Do it when you have a project you really really care about. Kickstarters, like Hansel, are so hot right now. And for good reason — what a great model! You won’t believe me, but I wrote those two sentences without initially seeing any connection between them. But the thing is, everyone’s got a Kickstarter or Indiegogo cause lately. They’re like belly buttons. I get requests to retweet them every day (sorry, I mostly can’t, the volume of requests is absurd). So let’s pretend you are only allowed to do one Kickstarter for the next two years, just one. What will it be about? Why is it bigger and more special than your everyday business? (Because your normal business should be able to fund itself — you shouldn’t need a Kickstarter to just do your job.) A Kickstarter is fast and big and dramatic and public, moreso than the mellower kinds of fundraising that go on all year. So don’t do one just to do one. Do one when you have a real project or a real vision that moves you. If it moves you, if it’s exceptional and exciting for you, it will be for other people too.
- Since you asked or assumed: I am not rich now. I don’t know if you saw Amanda Palmer’s blog entry re. “where did all that money go,” but my budget looks very similar; the business itself eats the money. I put a big chunk of money towards debt, I replaced some failing equipment, and the rest is all getting folded back into touring and business expenses and fulfilling the promises I made. After sweating over the budget quite a lot, I realized there was no tropical vacation in it for me, and not even really a shopping trip. I might get crazy and spring for a doctor and dentist visit, but that’s about it. Upgrading my infrastructure and doing a ton of recording and touring and being a little less in debt will be my reward. (And for someone who love love loves her business, that’s a huge reward.)
I guess what I’m really wanting to say to you is this. The groundwork for a successful fundraiser is not having the right strategy or the right gimmick or the perfect combination of currently popular things (Ooh! Zombies and steampunk and rhythm gymnastics! A hit!). It’s about knowing yourself and knowing the people you’re connecting with. To thine own self be true. Know what you want, know what your supporters want, and make them align.
I hope I didn’t say anything wrong but I’m too fall-asleepy to discuss anymore. So I’ma add links, publish, sleep, and spend tomorrow working on getting all you survey stragglers into the Kickstarter fulfillment spreadsheet I made, and fulfilling your rewards, and booking Europe. Then I’m gonna disappear into the Alaskan wild for a couple nights to do something that’s not Kickstarter.
Next up: I play Juneau on 8/17-18, I tour the Midwest thru the end of August and then go to Dragon*Con, then I play at SPACE CAMP on Labor Day, then Auburn, then I’m desperately seeking a concert in Nashville, then playing DC and the Northeast U.S./CAN including 3 shows with Molly Lewis & the Doubleclicks, then I go to Europe, then Anchorage, then home for the winter to sleep for months.
Love you all. G’night!
Tags: armor, fashion, illustration, marian-call, photography, portrait, wearable art
HAPPY KICKSTARTER EVE!
In celebration, I’m thrilled to unveil the complete set of photos I shot with +Valette Keller for the Kickstarter: http://www.flickr.com/photos/valette/sets/72157630338274326/show/. Click through for the whole slideshow, it’s amazing!
This is an amazing wearable art piece from the Anchorage fashion show “Object: Runway,” designed by Anchorage armorer & smithy Chris Cushman of Penguinarms (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Penguin-Arms/172408626146626). It won third place overall in the wearable art show! And made me scareder than I’ve been in a long time as I walked up and down the catwalk with no backstrap securing the halter top. But hey, it’s for art!
Chris made the gorgeous steel rose and the jewelry too, both of which will be making an appearance in my fundraiser.
Yes, these will be available during the upcoming fundraiser in some form.
KICKSTARTER EVE HOORAY
To be sure you don’t miss the Kickstarter details, get on the e-mail list here: http://mariancall.fanbridge.com.
P.S. Thanks to all the many first- and second-wave feminists who worked so hard to ensure that I could do a project like this and just find it a fun and empowering art project, a tribute to classic high fantasy. It’s not a commentary on anything, it’s just for fun. You are welcome to think about it whatever you like, but creeper comments are subject to deletion so they can stay in your head. I really enjoyed doing a project like this with a very normal-sized healthy girl body instead of a wasp waist.
Tags: bandcamp, digital music distribution, experimental, free music, illegal downloading, Music, music distribution, piracy, scholarship, unemployed
(Obligatory artist marketing message: you should buy some copies of my album for the holidays, by the way, or for future all-purpose gifts, or for yourself! At Bandcamp.com you get an instant DRM-free download even if you order the physical CD, at Amazon.com you can get super saver shipping. Plus it’s on iTunes and CDBaby and other places. Help an indie artist out and DO IT!)
And now that my album’s released I’m confronting this problem that I think a lot of artists face. Other artists might not know they face it, but since I talk with my fans all day on social media I’m acutely aware of it. Here’s how it goes:
ACT I SCENE I
Longtime Devoted Fan: OMG MARIAN I LOVE YOUR NEW ALBUM! It’s everything you promised!
Marian: Here, buy a copy! I made it for you since you’ve been so supportive and friendly and awesome!
L.D.F.: Um…..well….I am gonna do that FIRST THING when I get a job again. Or pay off my ridiculous health care costs. Or get my kids shoes that don’t hurt their feet. Or I’ll beg for it for a gift. Because…. [L.D.F. switches to private message or e-mail] …..I kind of really can’t afford it right now. Or anytime soon. At this time my money is for food, not music.
Marian: But……but I made it for you. Take it for free! You’ve always been there for me!
Chorus of the Ghosts of Indie Musicians: But isn’t that devaluing your art? Not to mention contributing to this awful Race To The Bottom that will undermine our economy and bankrupt hardworking artists? Where will this end? With all of us giving up our dreams and becoming insurance adjusters? Shaaaaame ooooon yoooooou.
Credit Card Company + Hospital, in unison: Hey, Marian? About these monthly bills —
L.D.F.: They’re right! Your music is worth money and I support you! So I refuse to download it like a piratey pirate! Also I’m gonna go cry into my ramen now.
Marian: Me too. Into my ramen though, not yours.
EXEUNT L.D.F., Chorus, Bill Collectors. Marian is left alone; she crosses DSC. Lighting cue: follow spot.
Marian: [heavy sigh] If only I could give away my music to folks who are out of work or strapped for cash – without contributing to the problematic modern mindset that art for free is OK!
ENTER Donors’ Circle, fast & awkward, Kramer-style, wearing superhero costume. D.C. Leaps into follow spot with a flourish.
Donors’ Circle: I’m here to help with that!
It’s a fact that a lot of people I love are struggling financially right now. And asking them to buy my music feels kinda crass. But withholding music from people I love also feels yucky. I have been there, and I needed music then more than ever to get through it. Some of the most important albums of my life that helped me survive is stuff I ripped from friends when I had nothing BUT music.
SO! On the recommendation of a brilliant member of the Donors’ Circle, I thought I would try something a little different. Below you’ll find an application for a sort of scholarship program — I’m calling it the Pseudo-Scholarship Fund, since I’m not sure what the legal ramifications of actually calling it a scholarship might be. This program means you can get a legit digital copy of the album for free if you can’t afford it — but an anonymous donor will be paying for it. SO! Free to you, but still paid for, and therefore not without value.
Does this make sense?
I hope it works, at least for a few of you. We’ll run it through December 31st, 2011, and if there’s more interest, possibly longer. We’ll need two groups of people: folks who want to get/give the album but can’t afford it, and folks who want to fund the project. [Note, April 2013 : it’s still running! Just be sure to email us if you fill out a form!]
If you apply, you’ll get the music & liner notes at no cost to you, but I will ask you for something — I’ll ask you to join the mailing list, tell someone about the album, leave a review, or come to a concert. And I’ll try to make it really easy to do that.
*Note: you are welcome to apply and give the album as a gift. I know some of you said you would give the album as a holiday or birthday gift, but you can’t afford to buy it (or buy an extra copy). And you’re too honorable to rip & burn it for free — you blessed few — so here, this is your chance. Get the download code, write it on a paper heart, put it in a little origami box made out of brown bags and gold stars, and give it to someone for a holiday/birthday/specialness present. (Ooh, and use googly eyes. You can never have enough gold stars and googly eyes on a present. It’s all about presentation, and good presentation can be cheap.)
I’m into solutions and this seems like a solution. Thank you, Donors’ Circle, for coming up with this one. And thanks to you who are funding it, either one album or dozens – this is the coolest thing ever.
DETAILS AND STUFF:
If you’re interested in applying for an album, to keep or to give away, just fill out the Pseudo-Scholarship Fund form below — you can also find it at this link here. You should hear from us within 2-3 business days to either give you your download code & congratulations, or to let you know you’re on a waiting list. [Update from April 2013: send us an email if you apply at firstname.lastname@example.org, so we know you have entered your info!]
If you’re interested in funding an album for someone like L.D.F., you can send money via Paypal to email@example.com and make a note that it’s for the Psuedo-Scholarship Fund. $15 pays for one album; you can send that amount right now if you want by clicking here. Or send an e-mail if you want to pay by some other method than Paypal, I’m more than happy to arrange that. We’ll be in touch within two or three business days to confirm we’ve applied the money where it’s supposed to go, and to express our thanks.
Acceptance of applicants will be at our discretion, but if you apply (and you’re not rude and you answer all the questions) you’ll probably be accepted, and if you’re accepted and there are funds in the account, you’ll be sent a digital download of the album, which includes a PDF of the gorgeous liner notes. And we’ll add you to the Marian Call e-mail list, and possibly ask you to share/review the album or do some other small thing like that to pay it forward.
Let us know if you encounter any hitches (the most common involves our messages to you going to a spam filter). Questions & observations can go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to it!
Tags: geek girl, geek girl con, marian-call, Music
I never would have called myself a geek as a kid. I was just a girl who spent every waking hour reading and exploring computers and drawing and learning and buried deep in the land of imagination. I was just a girl who spent every recess in the library or the counselor’s office, who was socially awkward around people, who fantasized about being a robot or an alien to explain my differences from my peers. I watched TNG every week with my Dad and wrote Star Wars spinoff stories. But I would have been deeply confused if anyone had described me as a geek.
Because boys got to be geeks and nerds. Thirteen-year-old me knew this from movies, adults, my peers, and especially from cartoons, ads, and shows on TV. Boys got to have comic books and LEGO and play D&D and video games and wield plastic lightsabers. And the truly geeky boys got beat up and ostracized and mocked for it (like my little brother), so they formed small outgroups proudly identifying more and more deeply with the activities they enjoyed. Me, I admired those groups from afar – and retreated deep into books, drawing, writing, the land of imagination, where I could write my own adventures.
I quickly learned not to bring up the things I loved, or how much I loved them, around other girls. I definitely learned how uncool it was to like my homework and my teachers and computers. I grew practiced at hiding my talents in spelling and math, hiding my love for tests, so as to have any friends. (It’s still damn near impossible for me to say out loud, “I went to Stanford,” because it’s alienating. (But I can tell you, because you’re the Internet.)) So childhood was a wonderful but solitary journey. I have no complaints about this — I don’t see it as a serious problem — it was just my formative experience. A lot of people nurtured me and my interests, especially my family and certain teachers, and for them I will always be grateful. But this part of my childhood defines me, it’s my central narrative: hiding my books and my drawings and my test scores. That was me. And I wouldn’t change that.
Fast forward to 2006. I came to Myspace (a little late). And as I filled out my “interests,” as an adult, with no peer group watching and no pressure to edit myself, I found that the list looked very, very geeky indeed. And when I started meeting my very first few online friends — through Nathan Fillion’s Myspace page, of all places — I was surprised. Surprised out of my shoes. SO MANY OTHER GIRLS LIKED THE STUFF I LIKE. Including old friends of mine with whom I had played Barbies when I would have rather built pirate ships. We had been hiding from each other when we were young. And here we were, all exposed by social media. And I learned just how many other girls had also secretly been having an experience like me growing up. I learned how many other girls are embarrassed by their academic accomplishments and love of sci-fi.
I cannot tell you how amazing it feels to find you belong to a community when you thought you were alone.
By joining the “geek” community I have met female friends who enjoy what I enjoy, and who had childhood experiences like mine. I’ve also met plenty of awesome women who were unafraid to be themselves all along, who boast about their accomplishments and their nerdiness, and I admire the heck out of them. Geek girls are nothing new, but our openness about it is. Lightsaber battles are not just for the boys anymore. And I’m so happy to finally be able to join in the fun as an adult.
These days, geek girls are finding one another and showing up at conventions and comic shops, faster and more vocally than the boys were prepared for, I think. And it’s a good thing. But it’s tough. In a way we’re invading a safe space that once belonged to boys who, at least in their youth, were most comfortable away from those bizarre female aliens. And I know what it’s like to have a safe space, and to have that space invaded by people who make me uncomfortable (not because they’re evil, but because I’m socially awkward around them, and I’m suddenly a little less free to be myself, bound by awkwardness). So I can empathize with the confusion of this new world for the boys and the suspicions that accompany it. I’m not surprised this demographic change comes with its rubs and scrapes.
And honestly, certain parts of geek culture are slow to catch up to the fact that we’re here — women have suddenly altered the makeup of the audience, but women are only beginning to become a significant percentage of content creators. So there are lurches and bumps and internet flame wars along the way to learning to live in a larger community, a community that was a male-dominated outgroup and is now much larger and more diverse than existing social constructs are prepared to grapple with.
GeekGirlCon this weekend in Seattle aspires to be a positive, open, fun celebration, inclusive and accessible to all types (men welcome! kids under 10 free!). I look forward to seeing how it goes. I have reservations, but I have a lot more hopes. I especially hope it empowers people to be who they are and like what they like — perhaps some young girl like me who feels she’s alone in loving school work and Star Trek will learn there’s a larger community she can grow into. Perhaps some young boy might learn it’s OK to invite that cool tomboyish girl to his D&D table even if he feels pressure not to. Perhaps we can empower younger folks to reach across the gender divide and find pride in who they are.
The practical stuff: GeekGirlCon passes are very accessible, starting at $20 if you pick them up in person at local businesses. The con will address some serious issues, like cattiness and sexiness and gender in comics and gaming — but most of the panels and topics are just the same geeky fun you find at any convention. It’ll feature amazing guests like Jane Espenson, Bonnie Burton, Amy Berg, and Chase Masterson. And me! I’m on a Sunday panel about creating community.
And I’m playing in the awesome kickoff event! It’s open to all, not just con attendees! YOU SHOULD COME! I recommend tickets in advance as we’re close to sold out/standing room. BUT IT WILL ROCK.
Seattle, WA // Fri. 10.07.11 – Geek Girl CONcert with Molly Lewis & the Doubleclicks
Tickets now on sale! Molly Lewis out of Seattle, and The Doubleclicks out of Portland. This very special concert will be held at the Great Hall in Green Lake at 8pm – it’s an all ages show and younger folks are more than welcome. Tickets $10-15, reduced for students and GeekGirlCon pass holders. Facebook event here.
I have lots of thoughts about the various geek/gender battles that have broken out on the web lately, but mostly, I see all of it as a sign that we’re undergoing the birth pangs of creating a better community. I want real discourse, healthy discussion, some education and hard listening, and that’s damned difficult to come by (especially on the internet). But it’s beginning to happen. We’re learning to play together. It’s better than it was, not as good as it will be. For my part, I want to stay positive and I want to hear some of the opinions that are difficult for people to voice. I want to hear personal stories more than diatribes that generalize about gender. There’s a lot of gunk we have to just get out of our systems (and out in the open) to make this community work, and let’s face it, it’ll probably be rocky. I see myself as a peacemaker and an artist generally. So I’m reluctant to get too deeply involved in controversies, myself.**
Because mostly? I just want to have fun. I want to get back to geeking out about awesome stuff. And I want a safe community to geek out in. That’s possible. We can make it happen.
**Odds on the comments/response to this post winding up in controversy are entertainingly high. I will be taking bets as to the topics that will inflame people about a relatively non-inflammatory personal narrative.
Tags: alaska, album, anchorage, avocado song, bandcamp, buy album, cd, from alaska, marian-call, Music, musician, new album, order, pre-order, singer, singer-songwriter, something fierce
**Update: the autographed CD’s are now sold out, but you can still pre-order the CD — it’ll come shrink-wrapped and all ready for you to get signed at a show sometime!**
IT’S HERE IT’S HERE IT’S HERE! AFTER TWO AND A HALF YEARS SOMETHING FIERCE IS HERE!
I’ve been yelling about this a lot so I’ll try to calm down, quit spinning, and give you all the details. And I’ll briefly stop saying thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you. (Though I can never ever be grateful enough for your patience and support. I’m gonna make like an NPR station during pledge week pretty soon and compulsively send you all tote bags out of gratitude.)
The record will drop on OCTOBER FIRST TWO THOUSAND ELEVEN! According to Google, October first is also Julie Andrews’ birthday, the anniversary of the creation of Mensa, and the Texarkana Egg Fest. An auspicious day. The record will be available to download on that day, from anywhere in the world, through Bandcamp.com. Physical CD’s will start shipping that week, so you should receive them shortly after that. If you pre-order the album, digital or physical, you’ll get an e-mail the moment it’s released with the entire record as a download all ready to go!
Wanna know how it sounds? The tracks “Anchorage” and “Good Morning Moon” have already been released as singles, and I’ve posted some samples of a few more on Soundcloud for your listening enjoyment. And I’ve written a few vulnerable artsy thoughts about the record, too. I hope you like it so much!
Here is how you can pre-order Something Fierce. And you should, so that I can afford to print it for you.
Digital pre-orders! For you modern types.
If you pre-order your fabulous digital double-album through Bandcamp, you’ll get a little bit of music now — if you like — and on the first of October you’ll automatically receive your tracks and shiny digital album art to download! So go ahead and pick it up now. Price is about $15.00 or whatever you feel beyond that. If you have any issues at all, e-mail me or Katie at mcminion42*at*gmail.com. Thank you!
CD pre-orders! For you who need something to
play frisbee hold.
I’ll be signing 500 copies of the physical CD for you early birds! So if you order now, your album/s will come autographed (no dedications, sorry. Bring it to me at a show and I’ll sign it to you). If you buy the CD, you’ll also get the album as a download that will be delivered on October 1st — so however long the postal service takes to your corner of the world, you can still join the CD release party that day!
The double disc costs $25 autographed, a little less ($20) if you want to wait until the release and get a not-autographed copy. I’m absorbing a little of the cost of international S&H because I really want to keep overseas shipping affordable for my friends across borders!
I’m a CD person still — I buy physical discs and play full albums in my car and in my house. But I know there’s an environmental cost, and I’d like to minimize that where I can. So this is a carbon-neutral run of CD’s, or as close as we can get to it — they’re printed with soy ink on post-consumer recycled materials; the trays are made of recycled water bottles, and carbon credits are purchased to offset manufacturing and shipping.
**Donors’ Circle Members: remember that you’re entitled to two free copies of the record if you like! There are other goodies for you as well. Be sure to fill out the form I sent you in order to receive your benefits. But if you want to order more copies, these links above are for you. Any questions, just e-mail me or Katie at mcminion42*at*gmail.com!
And thank you thank you thank you thank you for your order. I fantasize about this all going very smoothly. (But it never seems to go completely perfect. So if you have any issues along the way, just let me know, mcminion42*at*gmail.com, and we’ll do our very best to get it sorted.)
Bounce bounce bounce bounce bounce.
If you want to know more about the record itself, here are some details. Something Fierce is a double album with two parts — vol. I: Good Luck With That and vol. II: from Alaska.
I announced the album and formed the Donors’ Circle in March 2009, and I began writing songs and booking musicians for the project around that time. Recording began in November 2009 and has continued up to last week — at intervals between touring — we did studio work in Seattle, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Austin, and Anchorage. About thirty people made noises for the record, and over a hundred fans helped to fund it. I did all the editing myself before, during, and after the 49>50 Tour, and this spring I even added some songs written on that journey.
Here’s a track list so you can see if your favorite song from the live shows is on Something Fierce (track order not necessarily finalized):
Something Fierce, vol. I: Good Luck With That
- Good Morning Moon
- The Avocado Song
- Highway Five
- Dear Mister Darcy
- All New (Heart Shut Tight)
- Temporal Dominoes
- Press or Say Three (your call is important to us)
- Ina Flew the Coop
- Free Bird
Something Fierce, vol. II: from Alaska
- Whistle While You Wait
- Early Is as Early Does
- I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl
- The Underground (One Bird at a Time)
- Coffee by Numbers (Faon’s Song)
- Perilous Road
- Aurora Borealis
Things I’d love for you to know about this record:
- Some lines and songs are in fact inspired by friends on Twitter and Facebook. Usually they know if/when they’re to thank.
- I consumed enough fruit snacks while editing this record to feed a crowded day care center for a month.
- For this record my mother played the turkey baster, my sister banged on her cello all over like a drum, my brother clicked a mechanical pencil and played his trumpet valves with his nose, my stepdad played the harp and jaw harp, Brian Adams shot his Hasselblad, and I played goat toenails and shook my dead cat’s ashes in a tin.
- You can perhaps hear a number of musical and lyrical compressions honoring Zelda, Dr. Horrible, Elizabeth Bennett, and a number of other fictional characters.
- I dare you to figure out which songs I wrote before, during, and after my divorce. You’ll probably be wrong. But there’s a lot more relationship stuff in this album than I’ve previously included, and it’s more vulnerable than what I’ve written in the past. I take a lot of musical/stylistic risks and I hope they pay off and move someone.
- One of the songs sounds like it’s about a breakup or an unhealthy relationship, but it’s actually an ode to a beer I fell completely in love with on first taste.
- There are really a lot more drums and a lot more noisy hollering of the sort I do on tour.
- The typewriter and rainstick can be heard on about half of the tracks, though they’re subtler than in the past.
- Several members of the Donors’ Circle sang and whistled along with the chorus of “Good Morning Moon” from their homes all over the world, and their voices are part of the record.
- Some songs and characters and scenarios were completely fictional, as in “Dear Mister Darcy,” until they came true to the letter. Spooky.
The physical product will be very pretty, I think. The two discs will come in a carbon-neutral matte digipak, and it will include a 16-page book with all the lyrics and gorgeous photos by my friend Brian Adams and illustrations by my amazing Mom, Karen Luke Fildes. My favorite part: no UPC code on the outside of the artwork. When the disc is sold retail (very very seldom), we’ll put the barcode on a sticker outside the shrink wrap — so once you open your music it will be simply that, music, with the UPC business hidden away in an inside corner with the credits and copyright information where you’ll hardly see it. Fans funded this project, and fans are mostly buying it straight from me, so the economic scope of this project is a little too simple to merit interfering with the artwork by adding a barcode to the outside. Somehow that feels right to me.
Here are some of my thoughts on the record from a little earlier this year. It’s a little different than what’s come before. The vocals sound a lot more like what you might hear at a live show, because I’ve done hundreds of live shows since I last went into the studio. Something Fierce is truly my own voice, and the voices of my community (including you guys!). And it represents a lot of growth musically and personally since Got to Fly, my last full-length album. It’s less overtly nerdy (remember Got to Fly was a commission about Firefly and BSG) and yet still laced with geekiness throughout. I hope hope hope hope hope that you like it. I hope it makes you feel something once in a while. I hope it’s art worth loving for a few of you, and worth enjoying for the rest of you.
Okay Marian, quit talking and get some rest.
P.S. If you think you’re going to like this, tell the world to get on board. http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/album/something-fierce is the link to share around the web.
Watch out Bay Area, here I come!!! It will be a bit of a whirlwind, so brace yourselves. No matter what part of the bay you live in, I’m doing my best to get to you!
And people: if you’ve never been to a house concert, you really must try it. I find folks are reluctant to RSVP and go to a stranger’s house, but here’s the thing — they’re a GREAT experience. You’ll never forget a house concert, it’s far better than a show at 80% of the venues I play. And if you’re not into talking to strangers, just bring a book or your smartphone and sit quietly in a corner — no one will bother you, and you’ll have the musical experience of a lifetime.
Even if you’re not a house concert person though there are plenty of shows. Come out! Tell a friend! The lineup:
San Francisco, CA // Thurs. 09.01.11 – House Concert
House Concert, open to the public, please contact eujean2 *at* yahoo.com to RSVP and receive the address. All ages, free, $10-15 recommended donation.
Saratoga, CA // Fri. 09.02.11 – Blue Rock Shoot
A set in an all ages show at cute and funky café Blue Rock Shoot. 8pm, free to all ages, $5-10 recommended artist donation. 14523 Big Basin, Saratoga, CA.
Redwood City, CA // Sat. 09.03.11 – Little India Restaurant – Browncoat lunch meetup
This is an informal appearance more than a concert, a hangout with amazing food and fun people. Music will happen if it’s requested to be sure! But lunch and a chat and Q&A are the order of the day. Little India Restaurant, 917 Main Street, Redwood City CA.
San Mateo, CA // Sat. 09.03.11 – Space Cowboy Ball
Marian performs at the annual Space Cowboy Ball in San Mateo. Dancing and general merriment are guaranteed. Tickets are $15 in advance by August 28 and $20 at the door. For more information, see http://peers.org/space.html. San Mateo Masonic Lodge, 100 N. Ellsworth Ave., San Mateo, CA.
Oakland, CA // Sun. 09.04.11 – Afternoon House Concert
Afternoon House Concert (and jam session! Bring an instrument!), open to the public, please contact thealawson *at* gmail.com to RSVP and receive the address. All ages, free, $10-15 recommended donation.
Santa Rosa, CA // Mon. 09.05.11 – Afternoon House Concert
Labor Day afternoon House Concert in Santa Rosa, open to the public, please contact ms_lorelei*at*hotmail.com to RSVP and receive the address. All ages, free, $10-15 recommended donation.
San Rafael, CA // Wed. 09.07.11 – Artworks Downtown
The fabulous arts center Artworks Downtown hosts Marian in the courtyard at a family-friendly concert. 7-9pm, free to all ages, $5-10 recommended artist donation. 1337 Fourth Street (corner of of Fourth and D Streets, San Rafael, CA.
Yes you want to!!!!
Here, I made you some cookies. You looked like you needed one.
THERE IS NEW MUSIC FROM ME! TODAY!
Here I am on a record called Mink Car Cover and it’s now on sale! http://minkcarcover.bandcamp.com/album/mink-car-cover
If you are a fan of They Might Be Giants I hope you know their great album Mink Car. It’s canon for me and my family. I was thrilled to be invited to record a cover of the song “Hovering Sombrero” (with extra accordion) for this officially approved album cover project. All proceeds go to the FDNY Foundation. You can read more at http://minkcarcover.com/ and see all the other amazing artists involved!
The story goes like this: ten years ago They Might Be Giants happened to have an album slated for release on September 11th, 2001. As you know, they didn’t have quite the release they were planning on. This is a fundraising project surrounding the tenth anniversary of 9/11, celebrating the music in a positive spirit. And it’s aimed at supporting the FDNY Foundation, the official not-for-profit foundation of the Fire Department of New York. Money goes to support and train emergency responders. (I repeat: this is a fundraising project; nobody benefits financially from this except the FDNY Foundation.)
I had to record this track while I was on the road. It was quite the endeavour. I snagged the guitar (courtesy of Scott Barkan), scratch vocals, percussion, banjo and accordion parts in Seattle in my brother’s sewing room. My brother is a tailor, and also a completely awesome artistic partner in crime. (More photos here!)
I sent the track to my Dad in Austin. He played me some pianos and sent them back to me. I intercepted them in San Diego, edited the whole piece together during San Diego Comic Con in my hotel room And then — foreseeing no chance to get into a studio anytime soon — I recorded the final vocals in the closet with some coats, after a signing at the California Browncoats booth and just before I had to check out of the room and go sing a concert in hall 32A-B. (It was dark in that closet. It took me a few takes to remember that I had a music stand light in my luggage so I could quit bumping into the closet rail in the dark. Every take of the vocals began and ended with the sound of the closet door opening and closing.)
I uploaded the session to my engineer, Bryan Ray (in Austin) from the home of some artists I was meeting for the first time in Pasadena. He worked on it while I disappeared into the Sierra mountains for a couple days, and we met up to do the final mix on the track when I came to Texas to play some shows. We submitted just hours before the deadline. Now you know how a song gets put together while I’m touring: without sleep.
Mink Car happens to be one of my favorite Giants albums ever. Now that the final product is here I’m VERY excited. Also appearing on the album are MC Frontalot, Molly Lewis, The Doubleclicks, Mike Lombardo, Ryan North, Devo Spice, Hank Green, and lots more awesome folks who feel (like me) that Giants albums are to be revered a little more than your average record.
It also felt right to me to do this, because sometimes the best response to a big bad world is to make art. Sometimes it’s the only response, actually. So I hope you’ll give the album (or my track) a listen or a download at http://minkcarcover.bandcamp.com/album/mink-car-cover.
Hey Geeks! I am live streaming a concert tonight! Provided we get the audio sounding good! Which we hope and think it will! Yay last-second trips to radio shack. Make humble sacrifices to the tech spirits; I am.
Here are all the details of how stuff works!!!
- Watch the live stream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/marian-call-live-from-thinkgeek-hq starting a little after 7pm EDT.
- Want an awesome incredible poster from tonight’s show, drawn by John Tyler Christopher? You can order them tonight only at http://mariancall.com starting at about 7pm EDT! The first 100 will be signed by me, but everyone who orders will get one — we will print as many as you guys order. But only tonight!! Sales close about midnight EDT. All proceeds go to keep Art of Akira, and the artist behind it, thriving. Keeping art alive is up to us, and it’s the best. International friends: you can order too! If your shipping is lots extra you might have to work out an extra little invoice, but you’ll be contacted individually. Order just like normal!
- There are lots of prizes, both for folks here in person and listening/watching online. The rules are below for folks who want to win stuff from @thinkgeek!!!
- If you are enjoying the show from a distance, especially the whole show, please tip so Marian can keep making music! Or buy some lovely songs. Or come to a show in Arlington, Annapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Cambridge, Portland, or Seattle! And more cities coming soon.
HERE ARE RULES AND PRIZES FOR YOUS! From the Thinkgeek monkeys.
ARE YOU PHYSICALLY HERE?
Four ways to win if you’re at the show tonight!
1. Tweet with the hashtags #TGMarianAkira AND #meatspace (in the same tweet!) by 8:30pm ET and be entered to win (by random drawing) a $50 ThinkGeek gift certificate. Must be present at the concert in person to win!
2. Submit a t-shirt idea in the brainstorm box by 8:30pm ET and randomly win a $50 ThinkGeek gift certificate. Must be present to win!
3. One random ticket purchase-r who is here tonight will win these items at the end of the show:
Zombie Shooting Gallery, Magic d20 of Destiny, Fawkes and Codex Highland Sextasy Poster, Lights and Sounds Delorean, and an Atari Pixel Logo Beer Stein
4. One person who tweets #TGMarianAkira AND #frakabanjo AND #meatspeace (in the same tweet!) by the end of the show, about 10pm ET, will win a #frakabanjo stainless steel engraved dog tag. Only 10 exist in the ‘verse! Must still be present to win.
THESE PRIZES ARE FOR TEH INTERNET.
Three ways to win if you’re not here IRL!
1. Tweet with hashtag #TGMarianAkira AND #internetz (in the same tweet!) by 8:30pm ET and randomly win:
LEGO Hoth Wampa Set, Canned Unicorn Meat, My First Bacon, and a #frakabanjo stainless steel engraved dog tag. Must still be viewing to confirm via Twitter that you accept your prizes, so stick around until 8:30!**
2. Marian will announce the rules of the second challenge via the webstream during the first half of the show. Enter our challenge as broadcasted on Ustream and randomly win at the end of the show:
Enterprise Pizza Cutter, Bazinga Lunchbox, Critical Hit LED d20 Die, and a #frakabanjo stainless steel engraved dog tag. Winner will be announced at the end of the show, about 10pm ET, so stick around! You must still be viewing to confirm via Twitter that you accept your prizes or we’ll pass them along to someone else.**
3. One person who tweets #TGMarianAkira AND #frakabanjo by the end of the show will win a #frakabanjo stainless steel engraved dog tag. Winner will be announced at the end of the show, about 10pm ET, so stick around! You must still be viewing to confirm via Twitter that you accept your prizes or we’ll pass them along to someone else.**
**When we choose our online hashtag winners, we’ll need to confirm within 10 minutes that you are still viewing and that you want to claim your prize, or else we need to pass it along to someone else. So be watching your stream around 8:30pm and again at the end of the show if you’re interested in prizey stuff!