It isn’t DIY

10/15/2012 at 9:18 am | Posted in Music | 10 Comments
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I leave for my first Europe tour (as a singer-songwriter) in a matter of hours. I cannot believe it.  It still stuns me when I come up with a crazy idea and somehow it works and then here I am doing it.  There is one million more work before me, for the plane I suppose, but I’ll call it quits now and sleep.  It’s just mountains beyond mountains.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Boston and Reykjavik and Amsterdam.

But before I collapse, I just stumbled on this little poem-ish treatise I wrote last year in a late-night fever dream for the digital liner notes of Something Fierce (which comes out on November 13th, 2012). I never posted these thoughts here on the blog, and I very much need to.  Because fresh off an incredible exhilarating singalong all-request concert at Tommy Doyle’s, bound for a bigger scarier tour than I’ve attempted before, these are the thoughts pounding in my head, begging to be let out at 5am:

Photos by Brian Adams, http://baphotos.com

A lot of people refer to my music, and to the music of other such unsigned new media upstarts, as D.I.Y.  …Do It Yourself.
And there’s comfort in that description — it’s a security blanket — it explains the haphazard website, the production and logistics flaws, the little transparent studio mistakes, the off notes.
But D.I.Y. is a misnomer. I have never been more reliant on people than I am today.  When the audience buys directly from the artist, we are as interconnected as we can possibly be.
I have never been so acutely aware that I could not do this myself.
Every person who decides to listen, to buy, to attend, to say good or bad things about the art to their friends — my career is all tied up in them, for better and for worse.
Mostly for better in my case because I want to learn to live in gratitude.

It’s not as if listeners own artists — it’s just that we’re entangled now.  [We can’t help it.]
The once-formidable middle men are reduced to mere 1’s and 0’s, and we are no longer insulated from our interdependence.

SO we need a term for our new reliance, our new leaning on each other.
Some clever acronym or sound bite.

I don’t know how to name it, but I know we need to.
Because this is not D.I.Y.; it’s quite the opposite.

It’s a barn-raising and a fire brigade and a potluck with extra desserts.
This is not art by committee,
This is art through community.

I don’t have unmitigated good feelings about the artist relying completely on the audience like I do.  It can be exhausting, and it has the potential to water down the art. Really the fact is that doing art for a living is hard, and it has always been hard for some reason, and it probably always will be.  And this is the new landscape and the modern challenge.

But let’s not frame it as a question of independence, of “indie”-ness (not in the “social media musician” sphere anyway).  The questions now are about how to cope with our interdependence — how to still make arresting, interesting art when our all-important audience might react badly — how to ask for funds when everyone else we ever knew is also asking for funds — how to find genuine honest community, even as the word “community” is losing its meaning through corporate buzzword overuse.  These are the issues I’m confronting as I make art and as I consume it.

I love the new frontier.  I love the future of music.  I loved the crowd at my concert tonight more than words can say, and I felt very free during the show.  But it’s not a solo sprint and it never was.  It’s truly a barn-raising, complete with splinters and strong personalities and barnyard smells.  Going it alone is not the new world.  Learning how we work together is.

Return of the Something Fierce, or, November 13th 2012

09/26/2012 at 6:57 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations | 11 Comments
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November 13th, 2012 #somethingfierce

This blog is for those of you who are already fans of mine, as we’ll go behind the scenes a bit:

Gather ’round, O Best Beloved, because I have something very important to tell you.  This is kind big news in the Marian Callisphere, and it involves both a game and a party.

So!  Last October I self-published a double album called Something Fierce. I worked on it for years, and I’m proud of it and it’s awesome.  And because it’s sort of my magnum opus to date, I decided to push it out of the nest.

We’re gonna try for some bigger press now thru November.  You guys have said for years: “Get on All Songs Considered Marian!  Get on World Cafe!  Get on Mountain Stage!  Get in Paste and Spin!”  This is how we try, and you are all the gatekeeper and the keymaster.

Something Fierce has a new global RELEASE DATE.*

November 13th, 2012 #somethingfierce

And you’re invited.  We’ve already put out two singles.  Here’s where you come in, O Most Beloved.

You guys ask me all the time how we can get to NPR-Paste-etc.  We now have a way.  And it really ALOTALOT depends on you.  I’ve told the press that you, the fans, are super engaged, and now I need you to prove me truthy and not lieful.**  When a music publication, big or small, posts about an artist, how do we tell them we want more of this artist in the press?

FEEDBACK.

I mean comments, mostly, and referring to articles in other articles.  Say you’re a little music blog, and you post a song by an unknown artist every day, and mostly you get a few hundred hits, but suddenly hordes of people visit & comment on & share an artist’s page for a day.  How would you think about that post and that artist?  You’d think you struck gold.  And what would other music bloggers think?  That they’d better not miss the bandwagon and be late.  And what will big media outlets think when that artist crosses their desk and they’re deciding who to review?

Let’s make them think it.  Let’s DO THIS!

I am going Adventure Questing in Europe next month, but wherever you are in the world, I invite you to go Adventure Questing with me.  No money required; these are riddles and puzzles to solve, small tasks to complete, a little Golden Fleece journey for you that will hopefully create a little buzz.

November 13th, 2012 #somethingfierce

  • is when my album drops again. This just became a list, poof.
  • Starting November 1st, I will be issuing you one task per day for 13 days on Twitter and at MarianCallAdventureQuest.com.***
  • Your task might be to post a comment on an article in haiku, or to draw a doodle of a lyric and post it hashtagged on Twitter, or to write a comment where each word starts with the letters of the last word in the before you (remember our limerick contest guys? Peter Sagal announced the results).  They will be small internet tasks, little 2-minute treasure chests and dungeon crawls, and will involve lots of Us Guys rewarding media outlets that feature the record.****
  • If you complete every Adventure Quest task by November 13th and send me screencaps by email, you will be entered to win some sincerely excellent and very real prizes, digital and physical, with shipping anywhere in the world.
  • Yes, you can do them all on the last day if you want, Procrastinatey McJones.  It doesn’t matter if you’re right on the nose with your dates.  Just finish before midnight on the 13th Hawaii time to be part of the crew.

November 13th, 2012 #somethingfierce

Is the date sticking for you yet?  I will spend my morning in Amsterdam and my afternoon/evening in Dublin, and guys, we are going to HAVE A PARRTY!  By which I mean GOOGLE HANGOUT AND TWITTER PARTY!  I’d like to invite you to have brunch with me in Amsterdam, then pub fare and Guinness or Killian’s or Harper with me in Dublin, no matter what your time zone.  When I’m not flying, I will be online several times through the day talking with you guys, answering any and every question, doing goofy things on camera, potentially drinking a little too much, and celebrating this awesome record that ate several years of my life.  I will try to get some special guests to join our Hangout and say hi, I will draw prize winners, and I will definitely sing for you in public places which will probably be embarrassing.

You guys, American Songwriter has already agreed to feature the album on their site all day on NOVEMBER 13TH, and so has AOL/Spinner.  OMG OMG OMG.  We released two singles to the media to promote, and for some reason “Dear Mister Darcy” is taking off at over 3000 downloads; we can’t even figure out why.  We will get more media on the hook if we can only deliver the audience.  With building momentum World Cafe and Paste and NPR might be someday be within reach. THIS IS BIG.

But only you can make it happen.  So join me Adventure Questing if you wish!  For all those times you guys have told me to get on NPR, now you have the power to Make It So!

November 13th, 2012 #somethingfierce

Do you want to do something now?  Here are further action items if you want them.  But only if you want them.  I don’t expect this sort of involvement, I’m grateful for you guys beyond belief;  but I do want to focus those of you who have asked to help.

  • Go download a track here and leave a comment: http://madmackerel.org/2012/09/11/marian-call-readies-something-fierce-for-release/. They’re free on purpose.  If you already have the music, send the track to a friend — surprise them.  Send the link to this article to a local radio station or DJ.
  • Here are some articles that need some love. Comment or share real quick, and I dare you to do it in Subtle Haiku (no line breaks, but a clear haiku structure that other readers will recognize): post 1 post 2 post 3 post 4. Tweet me links or send me screencaps if you want to show off your handiwork!
  • If you have a blog, write a teeny review of your favorite song or concert experience.  Include a link to the blog above, or some other blog, since that really helps.  If you don’t know what to say, just post lyrics and then tell a nice story that seems tangentially related, like this.
  • If you posted a blog about me ages ago, circulate the link one more time now, or post a follow-up, gloating that you were in on the ground floor of something awesome.  Tell everyone you were right.
  • Comment on iTunes or Amazon or listen on Spotify, which shows up on Facebook. (Note that my preferred listening/purchase link to actually benefit me is Bandcamp.)
  • If you are allowed to play music where you work, spin the album a couple times before November 13th. Tell people you are cool enough to have gotten this record before the global release because you’re that hip to new music.  You don’t need it with you, you can just listen online. (Don’t annoy anyone please.)
  • Pester your local DJ — most can play the music from the web now, so bother them with the link and say the album’s coming out soon.  And hey, pester your local weekly paper’s music reviewer, and your local NPR affiliate too, along with the national tastemaker stations (KUT, KEXP, KCRW, WGBH, WBUR, WHYY, WNYC and more).  If you need a press release for singles 1 and 2 or a bio, we have them.
  • I could use a little web help November 1st-14th, because obviously I will be running around Europe when I need to be posting stuff and answering questions.  If you’re interested, e-mail admin@mariancall.com with the subject line “Adventure Quest-keteer.”

Any volunteer work that you feel like doing, I will equip you for.  Any questions you have, I will answer.  A few answers from the asterisks above are below.

I owe all of this to you guys, and that’s why I work so hard and run so fast.  I want to do my best for you, and I want to do the most for you.  I am excited to see all of you I can see in the Northeast of the US, the Southeast of Canada, and Europe.  And I’m super super super excited to raise a Guinness to all of you on — what date?

NOVEMBER 13TH 2012!!!

#somethingfierce

Image

*********

*Why release your album again? This is very normal for indie albums actually, in part because media outlets have almost no interest in reviewing an artist unless a Big Album Release is coming up.  So I have an awesome publicist, and they’re trying to get some media attention, so the Big Album Release is coming up!

**We are pitching me to media outlets as a social media musician with an engaged fanbase. So woe is me if my fanbase stays silent when Paste finally gives me an article. We have to prove that my press releases are true!  Mostly I don’t post articles about me (it’s rude) but for the next little while I’ll need to, and I’ll be hoping and wishing you guys will show them you’re listening.

***That site is not ready yet. Sorry. I was getting this site ready. November 13th.

****I promised you once, after my first Shortys encounter, and I’d like to reaffirm my promise:  I will never ever ask you to “vote for me” in any sort of internet competition. I have some dignity at least.

Rocketfest!!!

08/28/2012 at 4:43 pm | Posted in 1904, General Nerdery, How to this-or-that, Just for Fun, News & Explanations | Leave a comment
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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.

How to watch: tune in to http://spacecamp.com on Monday Sept. 3rd at 2pm Central.  Facebook event here (share it!).

by Len Peralta

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 —

Marian

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 marian@mariancall.com 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.

++++++++++++++

ROCKETFEST
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, timh@spacecamp.com  (256) 701-0916

Kicking the Start, or, stuff I keep wanting to say

08/12/2012 at 11:13 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 7 Comments
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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 photosAdam Levermore who designed the graphicsPatrick who made the website and shot the videoKatie 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:

Booyah.

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!

Happy Kickstarter Eve! Photos by Valette you’re unlikely to forget

06/29/2012 at 10:47 pm | Posted in General Nerdery, Just for Fun, Stories from Alaska | 4 Comments
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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!

http://studiovalette.com

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.

Geek Girl Con! And why it matters to me.

10/07/2011 at 1:18 am | Posted in General Nerdery, News & Explanations | 25 Comments
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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.

Something Fierce is here!

10/01/2011 at 9:08 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations | 12 Comments
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IT’S HERE IT’S HERE!

Batten your hatches.  This is simple.  I’ll try to use small words.

Listen to the album for free:  http://mariancall.com or http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/album/something-fierce

Buy the CD cuz if you buy the CD you get a complimentary immediate digital download: http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/album/something-fierce

Buy just the digital:  http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/album/something-fierce

View the really fun music video collaboration with Awkward Embraces:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRxNUvbygLA

Read all the lyrics: http://marianmarginalia.wordpress.com/something-fierce-lyrics-and-liner-notes/

View the liner notes the way they ought to be, with tons of extra photos by Brian Adams:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/mariancall/sets/72157627571585902/show/
(Protip:  select “slideshow”)

Embed a player on a website:
<iframe width=”400″ height=”100″ style=”position: relative; display: block; width: 400px; height: 100px;” src=”http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/v=2/album=530393067/size=venti/bgcol=FFFFFF/linkcol=702333/&#8221; allowtransparency=”true” frameborder=”0″><a href=”http://mariancall.bandcamp.com/album/something-fierce”>Something Fierce by Marian Call</a></iframe>

Tell your friends on Twitter: post about @mariancall, hashtag #somethingfierce

Tell your friends on Facebook:  http://facebook.com/mariancallmusic

Tell your friends on G+:  http://plus.tl/mariancall

Have a question for Marian about the album, anonymous or otherwise:  http://formspring.me/mariancall

Need help with anything:  mcminion42@gmail.com

I hope you like it!  *nervousface* *also thankfulface*

I’m off to revise the entire interwebs about me now.  ‘Bye.

Something Fierce this way comes

09/03/2011 at 12:13 pm | Posted in How to this-or-that, Music, News & Explanations | 10 Comments
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**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

  1. Good Morning Moon
  2. The Avocado Song
  3. Highway Five
  4. Dear Mister Darcy
  5. All New (Heart Shut Tight)
  6. Temporal Dominoes
  7. Press or Say Three (your call is important to us)
  8. Ina Flew the Coop
  9. Free Bird

Something Fierce, vol. II:  from Alaska

  1. Whistle While You Wait
  2. Early Is as Early Does
  3. I Wish I Were a Real Alaskan Girl
  4. The Underground (One Bird at a Time)
  5. Coffee by Numbers (Faon’s Song)
  6. Equinox
  7. E.S.B.
  8. Perilous Road
  9. Aurora Borealis
  10. Anchorage

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.

One Song Left.

06/18/2011 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Stories from Alaska | Comments Off on One Song Left.
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It’s 3am, I have a headache from HTML and ProTools, and I leave on a jet plane Sunday to start my traveling again (DC!  NYC!  Philly!  Cambridge!  Look Lively!).  Glory Moses I’m tired.  Feels like I just got done with the last tour, even though I’ve mostly been home for six months.

But I’m thankful.  I’m sitting here thinking how much a collection of friends and strangers online has come to mean to me — lots of individuals, but the whole community too.  I’m about to finish a project you guys have helped see me through, some of you for more than two years.  Some of you gave money, tons of you gave encouragement, thousands have come to shows now.  I’m sorta blown away.  I am really thankful to you.  And I take my responsibility to you very seriously.  I’m happy to come see some of you again, I wish I could see you all.

(Sorry, sleep-deprived headachey Marian = sappy serious 3am blog post I may regret.  Feel free to skip and return when I’m wittier & more amusing (and that’s a sincere, not a sarcastic invitation).)

I’m finding this album tough to finish — it’s called Something Fierce, and release announcements and pre-sales are imminent.  I mean, it’s hard to finish for the usual reason: the total amount of “Stuff Marian Takes On” over “Time Marian Actually Has” always winds up with a remainder, at the moment probably about 7/5.  But it’s also hard to finish because it’s just…big.  I feel the weight of how much people have helped me with this and invested in it.  I wonder how it will be received.  I know I’ll get some of my first proper critiques.  I know some people will like other versions of things better.  And I know I’ll always be vaguely amazed that it’s not sitting on my shoulders anymore like a big cat, the way it has been since early 2009.  It’s heavy but it’s also kept me grounded.

Let’s go back in time a bit, since few of you are clear on the chronology:  I launched this album project with a fundraiser in early 2009 when I had just separated from my husband of 6 years and I was in Seattle, far from Alaska, alone with no car or home or income.  It was quite a shock landing there.  After sitting on the curb for a month wondering what to do, announcing Something Fierce was my first step forward.  It was a thing to walk toward so I could get up, get moving, and either become an artist or give it up and go be a secretary or waitress.  A lot of you guys took care of me back then, as I launched into about a year of having nowhere to live and no income except what I earned singing for my supper and fundraising for the record.  And all that help is hard for an independent lady to stomach.  But I tell you what, for every time you have ever tipped a street or bar or online musician, dear reader, I am thankful.  For every dime you’ve launched into a kickstarter project, I owe you one.

I bought a car with no money in Seattle — not sure why they let me have it — and I drove and drove until I got back to Alaska.  I had never driven long distance before, I had always been driven around by others.  But for the first time I was behind the wheel.  When I made it back to Anchorage I started laying groundwork for the record, and I began laying down audio in November 2009.

It’s 2011 now, and I’ve recorded with nearly thirty people in New York, LA, Seattle, Texas, and Anchorage, with a hiatus to play all fifty states + 5 provinces.  And in the end I don’t know whether all that will be worth it for the audio that comes out.  But it will be worth it for the meaning.  The process means a lot to me.  The people mean a lot to me.  For example, the project was missing a few folks who came to be part of my music community after the bulk of the recording was done.  But I got a few chances this spring to record pickups, and I jumped on the chance to get Bryan Ray, Brandon Cockburn, Errol Bressler, Aaron Benolkin, and Nick Petumenos in the studio.  And I’m so happy I did, because now their voices (drums, guitars, bass, pedal steel, engineering) are on the record.  It feels more complete with them than if I’d released it sooner.  When I hear a song recorded in five different cities, all these musicians I love are in the same space for a second.  And that’s more home than anywhere I’ve been since 2009.

Something Fierce is not as funny or geeky as the last few things I’ve released.  Got to Fly was commissioned to be about geek stuff, and I like to release funny singles, but this record is just straight Marian, recalling my first record, Vanilla.  Marian happens to be a geek, so this art happens to be a geek’s experience of a long stretch of road.  But instead of fiction it’s fact;  it’s a couple years of couch-crashing, debt, penance, illness, insane travel, recession, divorce, and reinvention.  That’s not to say it’s dark.  But it’s not sunny.  It’s dappled light — with interesting clouds, the thick substantial ones that might and might not become weather.  Like “Anchorage,” if you’ve heard it.

Why say this now?  I have no idea.  3am headaches while working on your last song will do that to you I suppose.  And perhaps I feel a need to confess and disclaim as I finish.  Not because I think the product is unworthy, but because it’s honest, and honesty evokes a little confession and a little context, even when it’s not required.

I’m not sure what happens after this record is not on my shoulders anymore.  I don’t know where the compass will point exactly, this record has been my Polaris for so long — I might spin for a bit.  But mostly I don’t know how I could ever have enough days or words or songs to hug and thank all of you.  It would require more sustained gratitude and sincerity than I think most humans are capable of at my age.  I try, but I keep lapsing.

Perhaps the sheer number of you folks out there (you awesome amazing folks) is starting to frustrate my impulses for deeper connection; it’s hard as this group of fans changes from “y’all” to “all y’all. ” I find myself protesting often how deeply I feel for my online community, and I think that’s mostly because I don’t have the time anymore to pay you each as much attention as I feel is fair for all the investment you’ve put into me.  That imbalance bothers me, though it can’t be helped.  Anyway I’m so thankful to you, if you’re reading this, for getting me through the last two years and into the next one.  Even if you never paid a dime, your attention for a moment ultimately helped/helps to make this record I’m about to finish, and your attention is precious.  You didn’t have to spend it here.  I’m grateful.

Oh Marian, be quiet and get to work making a kickass record.  It’s 4am already, time’s a-wastin’.

(But seriously.  I hope you like it.)

M

Fundraiser 2011: Releasing Something Fierce!

04/12/2011 at 11:41 am | Posted in How to this-or-that, News & Explanations | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

**Update: fundraiser now closed.  Thank you so much for contributing!**

As of about 3am yesterday morning, I’ve finished one of two discs of Something Fierce, the new album that’s been in production for over a year and a half now.  Still more work to go, but I’m racing to the finish and want to release it VERY SOON.

When, you ask?  I’m so, so afraid that if I name a date before I have a master, I’ll jinx it.  But VERY SOON.  I’m planning so hard.

That means it’s time for the final push of fundraising to release the album.  Why fundraise? Read the highlighted bits of this blog from last year (scroll down) to answer that very good question.  What production expenses remain? Only a few, but they’re pricey ones — mixing and mastering, artwork, duplication, shipping, and the bare essentials of promotional materials.  Plus Marian’s survival on Spaghetti-O’s until the album comes out.

Fundraiser Stuff is going on sale Monday, April 18th, roughly midday AKST and the auction will close during that week, at staggered hours on 4/22.  I strive to think up the awesomest and strangest stuff to give you guys at Fundraiser Time.  Here’s what you can enjoy this year, in a wide price range, scroll down for more on each item:

  • Autographed personalized poster (for Something Fierce!) with the crowd favorite library photo by Brian Adams, $15 +S&H
  • Custom ultra-sassy jewelry by Bella Boutique’s @anniepants: #frakabanjo necklaces, dog tags, and actual banjos, $30 +S&H and up
  • A voicemail from Marian singing your favorite verses right to you, $25
  • T-shirts and tote bags, print to order at Skreened.com (these are actually available anytime)
  • On the Auction Block: 2 sets of framed handwritten lyrics, “Anchorage” and “Highway Five”
  • On the Auction Block: 3 cover songs.  Bid and tell Marian what you want her to record and release for you!
  • On the Auction Block: my beloved rainstick, which has played in all 50 states and most of Canada, with thanks to TSA for letting me keep it despite its appearances. Half the proceeds from this item go to flood relief in Australia. Why? See below.
  • Still room for a few folks on the Donors’ Circle, meaning you get tons of exclusive goodies when the album’s released

There are details and limited quantities and such on all these, so scroll down and read up on the item you want and please, pay attention to instructions so you don’t miss out or mess up.  Again, links to purchase/bid are below, on this exact same blog post.  You can always ask me specific questions via FB, e-mail, or Twitter.

If all that’s a little rich for your blood and you just want to support, or if you don’t care about getting stuffs, you can simply tip $5, tip $10, tip $25, tip $42 (the geek solidarity pledge!), pick up of my some tunes at Bandcamp, or give $200 or more to join the Donors’ Circle funding the new album.

And hey, if you got no money, that’s ok.  I have oft been there myself.  If you want to support without money, just talk about it, buzz about it, tweet or facebook or call Grandma about it.  I am so thankful for your support, and listening and talking about the music is the best possible gift.  Dollars come and just as quickly go.  Songs in other people’s lives, those stick around.  So don’t worry, I don’t calculate fan devotion in dollars. That would be stoopid.

But first!  The reason it’s worth buying this stuff, tipping, talking about the project, or joining the Donors’ Circle** — besides the fact I think it’s really cool stuff — VOILÀ!  Behold, for the first time in public:

That’s right.  These are first draft album covers.  Artwork not yet final, photos by the totally incredible Brian Adams, originally from Alaska, now living in Brooklyn.  This project features a lot of his work — the double disc will be as much an art project as a music project.  It will have all the lyrics inside.  It will be gorgeous to hold.  It will be made from post-consumer recycled materials and nearly carbon-neutral.  (Update: oh yeah, you’ve seen the Volume II cover on Bandcamp, but the Volume I cover was the big reveal, and is pretty much my favorite photo Brian & I have ever taken.)

As soon as I have a master in hand, I’ll begin pre-orders.  And yes, I will be taking a waiting list to print beautiful beautiful vinyl.  It’ll be exceedingly spendy, but if you want it, I’ll print it.  Anything for you.

(And yes, that is the O.E.D. over my head in my local public library.)

Personalized Autographed Posters

The poster to match the new album is out, with a much-celebrated photo by Brian Adams of Marian in the reading room of her local library (under the O.E.D.).  Only 10 available starting 4/18, so set an alarm; ships rolled, with any concert date or dedication you like handwritten on it.  Signature too, of course.  Click for larger photo // $15 + $7.95 S&H for those darned expensive tubes.  International shipping possible, order as you normally would and expect a small extra invoice to cover cost only.

Custom Jewelry by Annie Ciszak Pazar

I love the savvy, chic modern jewelry and other goodies that @bella_boutique sells here in Anchorage, and Bella’s owner @anniepants agreed to do some custom pieces for you guys!  The pendant necklaces below are made of sterling silver and real pearls on 18″ silver chains, and the dog tags are stainless steel on 22″ ball chains.  Each piece is hand stamped with a little extra sass because that’s how Annie rolls.

I also custom-ordered two copper & silver banjos for the auction — Annie’s never made banjos before, and unless some sterling-happy bluegrass band orders some more, she probably never will again!  Scroll down to the auction items to see the truly incredible silver & copper 5-string banjos.

The necklaces & dog tags for sale come in four varieties — pictures, specs, & shipping details are below.  Only 10 of each are available (first-come, first-serve).  Auction items at the bottom (2 #frakabanjos).  You can find more of Annie’s amazing work at http://anniepants.etsy.com or http://anniesartsandfollies.com.

  • #frakabanjo became my favorite curse word sometime in January 2010 when I couldn’t get my banjo, trumpets, and cellos to line up properly in ProTools.  It’s seen plenty of Twitter airplay since.  Pendant diameter is about the size of a quarter & solid sterling silver, chain is 18″.  $45 plus $5.95 S&H.
  • “anchorage” is spelled here with a lower case ‘a’ because though my song by that name is about my preferred city, it’s even more about the larger notion of anchorage — finding a harbor, dwelling awhile in some peace, hope, and protection.  Also, coffee and beer.  Pendant diameter is about the size of a quarter, & pearl is dark blue/turquoise. $48 plus $5.95 S&H.

  • “mc” is simple and understated, and can stand for anything you like (suggestions welcome).  The pearl is actually chartreuse, photo here makes it appear to be orange.  This silver pendant is smaller, a little bigger than a dime. $32 plus $5.95 S&H.
  • For those less inclined to silver & pearls, these stainless steel dog tags may do the trick.  Simple, durable & banjo-y on a ball chain. $30 plus $5.95 S&H.

All shipping is domestic priority USPS — items normally ship only a few cents over the cost of materials & postage.  International shipping available for these items, overseas rates vary.  International friends place your order as usual, but expect to work out a small extra Paypal invoice to cover additional shipping costs, as per mutual agreement with mariancall*at*mac.com.

Voicemail by Marian

I will skype your voicemail and leave you a message with whatever snippet of an original song you like!  I’ll also record what I sing you and send it to you as an MP3 so you can do with the clean audio whatever you like.

Rules and stuff: first-come first-serve. / Be sure to specify what time zone you’re in and what piece of a song you want; don’t say “surprise me,” you should be a grown-up and choose something. / No, you don’t get my phone number. / If I catch you in person, we’ll talk for no more than about 5 minutes and I’m sure it will be lovely and I am friendly and love to talk to you.  Please don’t try to keep me on the phone forever though.

T-shirts and Tote Bags

(How very NPR of me.) The T-shirt store is open all the time, so this is nothing new.  But now’s a good time to snag one!  Have a look over at the Skreened.com Marian Call Store.  Shirts and bags and such are environmentally-friendly printing and sweatshop-free production and they’re print-to-order.  They have a very cool vintage faded look but should stand more washings than traditional silkscreen.  Choose your own merch, cut and color — be aware that designs will be subtle on darker fabrics offered.  I’m aware that not enough sizes are available at this time, sorry, hoping to remedy that with an additional store in the future!

#frakabanjos by Annie Ciszak Pazar

These are two separate auction items, handmade and therefore not quite identical to one another.  Update: auction now closed.  I love the savvy, chic modern jewelry and other goodies that @bella_boutique sells here in Anchorage, and Bella’s owner @anniepants agreed to do some really special custom work for the occasion!

These are my #frakabanjos.  Annie’s never made banjos before, and unless some sterling-happy bluegrass band orders some more, she probably never will again!  They’re made of sealed copper and sterling silver, and each 5-string banjo is about 3″ long on an 18″ sterling silver chain.  They’re handmade and stamped with a little sass because that’s how Annie rolls.  You can find more of her amazing work at http://anniepants.etsy.com or http://anniesartsandfollies.com.

#frakabanjo became my favorite curse word sometime in January 2010 when I couldn’t get her banjo, trumpets, and cellos to line up properly in ProTools for the song “Dear Mister Darcy,” from which the album title comes.  It’s seen plenty of Twitter airplay since.

$5.95 S&H, ships insured, USPS priority — international shipping available, increased charges apply.

Handwritten Framed Lyrics: “Anchorage” & “Highway Five”

These are two separate auction items.  Update: auction now closed.  Marian has nice handwriting, and she likes to write out her lyrics for fans.  Two songs will be available this time: “Anchorage” and “Highway Five,” both from Something Fierce, one of each.  The songs will be abridged so as to fit nicely on one page, but will definitely include hooks/choruses, and at the winner’s request, specific very important lines from those songs.  Dedication & signature included of course.  (Pictured below are a previous year’s lyrics, the finished product.)

$24.95 S&H, ships framed, insured, USPS priority — international shipping available, increased charges apply.

Cover Songs of Your Choosing

These are auction items.  There are three of them, closing at different times.  Update: auction now closed.

Three winners will each get to choose a song for Marian to cover and release online, as part of a 5-song EP of all cover songs to be released soon after Something Fierce. Here are the rules:

– Each winner will suggest three songs, all of reasonable length (less than 6 minutes), ratedPG-13 or milder, and within Marian’s character
– Marian will choose the one song from each winner that she thinks will work the best for her as an adaptation
– Songs will be recorded in April-May 2011, so allow 6 weeks for delivery
– Winners will get to preview the track before release, and will be shipped a physical copy of the EP (homeburned, signed, smooched, &c.)
– The fourth song on the EP will be voted on by fans after the fundraiser, no purchase necessary.  The fifth will be Marian’s choice at the end (to bring some cohesion to the set).
– The full EP will be released online to the winners and the Donors’ Circle immediately, and to the larger world approximately whenever Marian feels like it and has time after Something Fierce comes out.
– Disclaimers:  Bidders should note that this is not a dare, so please don’t suggest “Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart” just to bother Marian.  That’s unhelpful.  And please don’t ask for a song by a super-obscure artist you want to promote.  The ideal songs would be at least moderately well-known so that other listeners can enjoy the experience of a cover as well.  The production will also be very simple, so don’t suggest something that won’t work with just guitar or keyboard.  And don’t try to control the production.  Let Marian be Marian and you’ll get a good cover.

The Trusty Rainstick

This is an auction item.  Half of the proceeds go to Flood Relief in Australia (see below), half to the completion of the album.  To bid, visit Marian’s eBay page.

Once upon a time in 2008, boys and girls, the Browncoats of San Diego welcomed an insomniac Alaskan singer-nobody-ever-heard-of to their bonfire on the beach and presented her with a rainstick.  That was Marian’s first proper tour concert outside Alaska, and instead of keeping her rainstick for a tchotchke, she started playing it in her shows and on her albums, and she took it on tour.  And she got it signed by some medium-famous people, namely Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, & Nathan Fillion.  She shook it in every state and nearly all of Canada; it’s been wrested away from TSA’s clutches more than once, and it’s played shows of all sizes for all sorts over its three-year term.

So it’s time to retire the rainstick, which is an instrument with a shelf life — the beads and thorns inside break down so it’s getting quieter.  The signatures of famous people have nearly worn off from actual use.  And (this is true) on the last concert of the last night of the 49>50 Tour, in Honolulu HI, Marian emphasized the end of “Avocado Song” by swinging it over her head, and *SMACK!* it cracked on a low ceiling beam.  In March 2011 the rainstick played its last concert, on the beach in Orange County near the origin of its Marian Call story.  Now it wants to live with a collector who will love it and let it chill out for awhile, quit making all that rain.

The rainstick comes shipped lovingly as is, well worn, with the same yellow and orange yarn lovingly wound by Dwight Bragdon, the original rainstick provider.  The Nathan Fillion & Adam Baldwin signatures are still visible, and traces of the Alan Tudyk signature can be seen if you know where to look.  But it’s not a pristine object by any means.

Auction closed, sorry.  Thank you for raising $762.50 for Flood Relief in Queensland, AU!  If you wish to donate yourself, visit this site.

*************************

You are all awesome.  Any purchases you make during the fundraiser that add up to $200 or more will add you to the Donors’ Circle, and a purchase in the right amount if you’re already a member will bump you up to the next level &c.  If you suspect you should be in the circle or else bumped up a level and I haven’t taken care of it, just shoot me an e-mail and let me know.

*Why flood relief in Australia? The planet had more than its share of disasters in the last couple of months, and enough funds can hardly ever be raised to help everyone in need of help at this time.  I am moved by all of the urgent causes right now, but I find that by and large this one has been nearly forgotten, and I’m following the lead of the SoCal Browncoats in doing a very small bit to help a few people.
*Why only half? I am bothered by not giving it all, but at the same time I can’t afford to.  On Art And Charity:  As an artist, I really couldn’t afford to make a sizable donation like this at all except by selling something that I have that’s of value.  So really, it’s a donation from the buyer straight to the cause through me, and the hope is the buyer is making a donation they might not have otherwise made if they didn’t want to purchase something from me.  This is an age-old nonprofit fundraising strategy.  Artists don’t have money to give, so we sell stuff and give that money.  I’ve become a little distressed at the consistent pattern, though, of artists giving a substantial percentage of their work away entirely for free to raise money for nonprofits.  Charity auction season can impoverish artists.  And that’s shortsighted on the part of both artists and charities.  The original materials or time (or whatever added value there may be) that go into a work of art have a cost, and after a few massive donations of all that stuff with no compensation, we can’t even afford to make more art to sell, let alone to give away.  I think (I hope) it’s a more reasonable standard for artists to sell or auction things for charity and recover a fraction of the cost or value they put into creating something valuable so they’ll have a means to A) stay alive and B) create more to give to charities or nonprofits in the future.  I’m not taking a firm or severe stance here or trying to sell this point to others, just trying to start setting a precedent that works for me to raise funds for charity and at the same time keep eating and creating.  I try to do a charity fundraising project per month at least, and the more I do it, the more I learn the importance of sustainability for artists fond of nonprofit work — and for the nonprofits who are constantly asking artists for completely free stuff, with the assumption that it won’t cost us much to give it away in exchange for exposure (and often very little of that).
*But you didn’t make the rainstick. Now you’re being persnickety.  I know.  But hopefully I added value to it, and by doing so made a charitable donation possible, as well as a happy fan, as well as some funding for my new record.  The auction will tell how valuable it is.  Now go troll someone else, stupid troll inside my brain.  I haz good reasons for what I do!
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