How Are People Finding New Independent Music?

[Editors Note: This article was written by Rich Nardo.]


New music discovery is a highly personalized process. Fans of different genres tend to find music in different ways and, obviously, people of varying age and geographical demographics also tend to favor different manners of discovery. Unless you have a major label or an indie with a large budget putting out your music, it’s very difficult to cover all of your bases. Your best bet is to hone in on who is most likely to enjoy your music and focus heavily in the areas where that sort of fan is most likely to be searching for new tunes. That’s not to say, allocating some time and energy in other areas is not beneficial, but with limited resources it’s always best to be more focused on the areas where you will get the most bang for your buck.

Below are several sources people tend to tap into for music discovery:

Terrestrial Radio 

According to a 2017 Study by Larry S. Miller of the  NYU’s Steinhart Music Business Program, if your fans tends to be members of Generation Z (born after 1995), this is largely a waste of time. Due in large part to having grown up in an ‘on demand’ culture, the number of teens that tune in on their AM/FM dial dropped 50% between 2006 and 2016. As more and more new cars are coming equipped with streaming service integration (a projected 75% by 2020) and people are turning more towards “Smart Home” devices like Amazon Alexa in their households, this number is expected to decrease further unless Radio undergoes an extreme makeover.

Traditional radio campaigns tend to be very expensive and have high barriers of entry, so unless you’re an established pop star selling out arenas, putting any eggs in this basket is probably not worth the investment.

XM Radio 

Sirius XM is a weird sort of hybrid in this scenario. The barriers to entry are high (though not as high as their terrestrial counterparts), but there are a handful of bands that break nationally in large part due to XM every year. In particular, getting rotation on a station like AltNation, XMU, Octane or The Highway can really help kickstart a band. The biggest issue with XM is that, even if you find yourself in a DJ’s favor, you need to be able to show that your marketing campaign is firing on all cylinders before they’ll really jump behind a project.

If you’re at the stage in your career where your streaming numbers are high, press is coming in and you’re touring consistently at mid-sized venues, investing in a College & Specialty Radio campaign that builds towards pitching XM is worthwhile. If you’re not quite there yet, you may be better off investing more time in building your fan foundation and business model out first.

Social Media

Social Media is another unique situation, as it isn’t necessary a traditional “new music discovery” platform but is integral to success on most other platforms. Without a doubt, major streaming services, radio stations, press, venues and other industry types that can open doors for an up-and-coming artist pay attention to your social numbers. As we mentioned last month, Instagram has established innovative new ways for musicians to interact with fans and is leading the way in terms of music discovery via social media.

With Facebook’s recent algorithm shift away from business pages showing up in people’s feeds, it’s more difficult to reach people there. Still, allocating some budget to Facebook (and Instagram) advertising can help get your music in front of new ears in a highly efficient and cost effective way.

Music Blogs and Publications 

Press has always been a staple of new music discovery. The ‘gatekeepers of cool’ have been a primary resource for finding what’s coming next for decades, but we’re seeing a changing of the guards as of late. Press will always be important, but unless you’re being featured as part of a larger editorial piece, the reach of even the top outlets is starting to diminish. A few years ago, a big premiere on a press outlet like Noisey or The Fader could result in tens of thousands of plays. Today, it might only be a couple of hundred.

Most top-tier sites are altering the way they approach music coverage to respond to this fact, but I would not rely solely on getting a review in one of the most respected publications to really break you as an artist. In fact, I would wager to say that the value in press lays largely in getting quotes from tastemakers to help enhance other elements of your marketing campaign as opposed to new fan acquisition.

That being said, press is still very important and there are chances to grow your fanbase with a well run press campaign. This should be one of the first places you allocate money when it comes to music marketing.

Streaming Services, Pandora & YouTube

Not surprisingly, this is the big one. According to Variety, a recent poll of 12-24 year olds who find music discovery important, these were the three biggest resources for finding new music – YouTube (80%), Spotify (59%) and Pandora (53%). While doing something officially with any of these outlets might be hard, there are plenty of ways to still utilize their reach. Blogs, Brands and unofficial tastemakers are more approachable for streaming playlists and there are vlogs such as Suicide Sheep, Majestic Casual or MORindie that get hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of plays for their posts.

With over 78 million monthly listeners, Pandora is still the largest music streaming service in the world. Their advertising campaigns are relatively affordable and can help boost your ranking in their algorithm in a way that makes a genuine difference. As Amazon, Google and Apple all evolve their streaming services in 2018, the possibilities are only multiplying for a savvy artist who stays up to date on the world of streaming.

The Good Ol’ Fashioned Way 

The above listed outlets are all extremely important, but nothing will aid a new artist as much as good ol’ fashioned performances. Music fans are fickle these days and tend to fall out of love with songs quickly as they move on to the next big thing. Only the intimate connection of winning a fan over in a live setting can really imprint an artist enough on a group of fans to really make that adoration stick.

If you plan on building a sustainable career as a musician, get really good live and make the effort to meet fans at your shows. Those encounters and memories of your performance are what will build a long-term fanbase that evolves with you from release to release.

Rich Nardo is a freelance writer and editor, and is the Director of Public Relations and Creative at NGAGE.

Interview: The Riverside Sticks Together Like Family

Often times bands and artists fit the image of their genre perfectly without even trying. Banjos, mandolins, upright bass, farmers market jam sessions, camping – all of these evoke thoughts of warm, comforting folk music, and that’s exactly what Santa Barbara’s The Riverside specialize in.

A five-piece indie outfit that has undergone some line-up changes, The Riverside are locked in and enjoying the momentum of their late-June 2016 release Homestead. With five albums released, bandleader Jake Jeanson talked to us about the state of folk, why house shows have been a success for the group, and how The Riverside is treated very much like a family (of course it doesn’t hurt that his wife, Lorien, plays mandolin!) Be sure to check out Homestead and learn more about the group’s happenings below:

Folk has experienced a wonderful resurgence in recent years– what do you attribute to the renewed interest among indie fans?

Jake Jeanson: I think folk has always been the secret love in the roots of a lot of peoples hearts. I think the sound that comes from this sort of music tends to connect people with each other in ways that gives a sort of nostalgia or feelings of genuineness, which is awesome.

It reminds you of where you’ve been, and makes you think of where you are going.

How does The Riverside set out to distinguish yourselves among other folk acts?

I think the one thing we do well is love each other like family and hold each other accountable; not only to band things like honest songwriting and performing, but to life outside of the band.

We know the family- group feel that emanates from our band isn’t necessarily our “own” thing that no other bands don’t have, but we really think its been something notable that continues to shape us.

the riverside_2

You all finalized your lineup just last year – how would you explain the way the five band members finally ‘clicked’?

Band members over the years have always “clicked” and gotten along. In fact, there isn’t an ounce of bad blood between old and new. People were part of the band for the season that life allowed them, and when that time came to a close, we all had an understanding.

However, it is very, very exciting to have people who can consistently be there, to create and grow our music. Everyone in the band right now has always had the dream of being in a full-time group, so its extremely satisfying for everyone in the band to know that we are all on the same page in life.

How would you say that The Riverside evolved in terms of songwriting and instrumentation since 2013?

Through course of five albums now we’ve learned a lot about songwriting. There’s always the struggle when songwriting to cheese out lyrics or to write about the thing that’s easiest or that “fits”.

One of the big things that we’ve focused on more than anything is growing our songwriting integrity to never settle and to keep writing on ideas and stories that mean something to us. Not to say that every song needs a serious nature; we believe that there is always room for light hearted songs as well, because sometimes, that’s just what you need to play or listen to!

What led the group to take advantage of alternative performance opportunities like house shows and farmers markets?

To us, music is community and about connecting with people. If we can brighten someones day or sympathize with peoples harder life circumstances with our music, than that to us, is living the dream. Busking in markets and playing in a natural setting also makes you better performers and tighter as a band like nothing else can. So we have the opporunity to do both these things, we go for it.

How has the way you connect with fans (before, during and after) been impacted by these types of shows?

House shows and markets are amazing because it takes you off the stage. When people are in a natural setting there isn’t any pressure. It’s just people playing music and having a good time connecting with each other. We realize that nothing we say is any more important that what someone else has to say and feel, so if people want to listen in and spent time with us, we count it as an honor.

the riverside_1

Your Patreon account mentioned camping during tours. Is this something you all do?

Oh yes, being a smaller independent band is kind of crazy at times. Camping is super affordable, bonding, and just all around fun to be in nature. We have tents and camping gear in our van for whenever we don’t have a friends house to stay at. People are so kind on the road, a lot of the time you’ll get offers from people to host your band for the night! It’s the kindest gesture ever!

What other creative twists have you put on the way you hit the road?

Our new album, Homestead, we home-made and hand-stamped our art to our CD sleeves, so that way, we can bring coloring supplies so people can color their own album. We thought that would be a fun thing for people to be able to do!

What can fans look forward to enjoying about the most recent release, Homestead?

Homestead portrays a sweet old-time sound about remembering the good ol’ days with those you love, and workin’ through the hard ones. It’s an album that has sort of sound that harkins back to our self-titled first album, which we love.

This is your fifth release using TuneCore! How have you used not only TuneCore, but also other artist-friendly services to build your musical career so far?

TuneCore has been great to us. It connects you to all the places where people may want to listen to your music. We’ve been working really hard touring and reaching out to people, so being on all of these sites that TuneCore connects us with has really been key to helping us grow and continue to be able to run the band!

Interview: 18th & Addison – Pop Punk Power Duo Discuss New Album, Label, & More

18th & Addison are two-piece pop-punk group based in Toms River, NJ. Made up of Kait DiBenedetto and Tom Kunzman (they play live with a drummer and bassist), the duo met after leading respective musical careers and combined their talents for writing punchy, emotional and energetic rock cuts during a time where the genre is undergoing a revival in the indie limelight.

Kait and Tom joined TuneCore for our first-ever TUneCore Live: Brooklyn event last August, and we got the chance to catch up with them to talk about their new album Makeshift Monster, (dropping tomorrow, July 15th), their beginnings as a group and what it takes to start and maintain your own label:

Coming from the pop and punk backgrounds, what kind of influences did you two share right out of the gate? How did you learn from each other in this regard?

Kait: Regardless of my pop background, I was still very much into punk, pop punk, and all that stuff as well, but I think the first band that initially brought the two of us together musically was Mest. We got together to record a cover of one of our favorite songs by them and realized really early on we worked well together and brought the best out in each other musically. Besides that, once Tom and I started hanging out more, he really got me more into The Clash, the Rolling Stones, The Replacements, Rancid. Just a bunch of stuff I always respected but never listened to too much and now I love it

Tom: When I was younger I was kinda stuck in my ways. I hated pop music for a long time. At this point though, I’ve grown to love and respect the production of pop music from the 80’s and 90’s that I ignored as a kid because all I cared about was Green Day, Blink-182 and whoever they listened to (laughs). I love punk rock more than anything, but I’ve learned, from writing with Kait that it’s okay to have the high energy and “f*ck you” attitude of punk rock with a good pop melody and beautiful harmonies that really get stuck in your head.

That’s pretty much all I was doing in my old band anyway just without realizing where it was all coming from. I guess I was just a really ignorant kid or something but now, I get the biggest kick out of writing the heaviest song ever (to me) and throwing in this poppy chorus with all these harmonies and soaring guitars and synths like we do on Makeshift Monster. There’s a song on there called ‘Knives’ that will make you wanna punch somebody then pick them up to sing along immediately after. It’s exciting.

Describe the initial collaborative process between the two of you. Was there instant songwriting chemistry?

Kait: There was definitely instant chemistry, at least in my opinion. When we really started taking 18th & Addison more serious and began the songwriting process together, we wrote separately more often than we do now, but we’d still bring the ideas of those songs to each other for the other to add onto.

Then it gradually turned into to us collaborating more on songs/ideas and writing more collectively which is why I think throughout the few years we’ve been a band, the songs have progressively gotten better. We learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses as songwriters and fed off of each other to each get better in different areas

Tom: Yeah, and we were writing A LOT. We could’ve put out a full length record right out the gate if we wanted to, but that wouldn’t have been a smart idea for a new and independent band in 2016 but the chemistry was there real early on. The writing process always changes, but over time, it’s gotten more and more collaborative which has proven to only make our music stronger which I think has made our live show even better and more fun as well.

How did you parlay your respective experiences in bands when it came to getting 18th & Addison off the ground? 

Kait: For me, I think the biggest thing I took from my past experiences is to wanting to be more involved. Right now I love being an independent band putting in the work and getting the pay off in the end. In the past, a lot of what I experienced were amazing opportunities but I didn’t have to put in as much work to get to the point where I was because I had a team of people doing it for me. Learning the in’s and outs of promotion and starting over from scratch is something I really took seriously from the start of this band and something I take a lot of pride in now considering we’re seeing a lot of our hard work pay off. It’s much more rewarding.

Tom: Pretty much the same for me. I got screwed over so many times. I was literally robbed by one of my drummers several times while on tour. I was literally left on my own the day of shows to play acoustically by myself which I had never done at that point in time. The list is endless! Anyway, I toughed it out because I felt stuck since I had a contract with a heavily involved investor who I was terrified to let down. Not that he would have sued me if the band broke up or anything, but because I had so much admiration and respect for him and his family for taking such a big chance on my band. I’m not one to ask for favors. Neither is Kait.

I’m thankful for those moments though nowadays and have no hard feelings because it really toughened me up. I took every idea that those guys ignored, or turned down for whatever dumb reason, and I put it all into 18th & Addison. Kait was feeling the same way and equally as excited to really grab the wolf by its ears and take it all on just the two of us and so far, so good! It’s liberating.


What kind of tips can you offer to an indie artist who might be stepping away from a project to pursue another in terms of marketing and engaging new/old fans?

Kait: I think consistency is the key. A lot of people want the results right away or want to ride the coattails of old projects but don’t want to put the work that’s needed to start over. Social media is one of the best outlets to continue the communication between old fans, and a great way to connect with new ones so having a good online social presence goes a long way. But again, if you’re not consistent, it doesn’t matter.

Tom: Exactly. We’re definitely stuck in the age of instant gratification which Kait and I never subscribed to. Yes, let those fans of your last band know you’re doing something brand new, but don’t count on all of them follow along. Like Kait said, that consistency in 2016 is vital. My last band was terrible at that. We were so slow moving and we really hurt ourselves that way. It honestly killed the band and its drive, but 18th & Addison is a whole different animal!

Set goals for your new project that will catapult you to a new level, and do whatever it takes to achieve those goals. It might flop, it might not but that’s how you learn. Any band or creative endeavor is like a relationship. Plan for the future so you have something to look forward to and keep you in and if the passion and love is there, it’ll all work out.

Pop-punk has had a resurgence recently – I attributed some of it to former fans (like myself) finding a new value in the style and writing later in life.  What do you think?

Kait: Tom and I say this all the time but “pop-punk” never really went away. I think more recently bands of that genre are trying too hard to be too much like each other and it gets boring. A perfect example is putting on any pop-punk playlist on Spotify, it’s hard to identify any difference between some of the bands. No one has their own identity anymore and it’s nice when there’s a new band here and there that surprises you and gives you a little more faith in the genre again. But in my opinion, that’s few and far between these days

Tom: I’ve always paid attention to it so for me, it never went away. I also agree with Kait though. Sometimes, I can’t even tell it’s a different band with some of the newer ones in the “scene”. It’s like any genre though in my opinion. It goes through the motions and sometimes it’s popular, sometimes it’s not. One wave of it is great, the next isn’t so great, but I’d rather see young kids support a new, working band who can introduce them to older bands who started it all. As for the older crowd who grew up with it then stopped caring, I’m happy to see they’re starting to come back around as well even though it’s not this massive thing.


You played one of our TuneCore Live events in Brooklyn last year and tore it up! What steps do you take to continually improve your live performances?

Tom: Thank you! We don’t really overthink the live show honestly. We just practice as much as we can and have a blast with our live band mates and try to think of things to add to the songs to get the crowds involved. Especially for people who have never seen or heard us before. We want everyone singing along and having fun. That’s why we started doing this as kids and that’s what I love to see a band do at shows. It’s just always a blast and we try to just be in the moment the whole time.

Kait: Yeah, we consistently practice even when we don’t have to just to stay fresh. We like to play out our actual set list all the way through at least three or four times just so we can work out all the kinks but in the same token, we make sure we still have fun with it. The energy of the crowd plays a HUGE role in the vibe of our live performance and it’s something we really feed off of so we make sure we get them involved as much as we can.

The first single off Makeshift Monster, “War”, deals with aging and the risk of losing your passion. Is this something you think a lot of independent artists go through?

Kait: I don’t think it’s something independent artists go through as much as I think it’s something literally EVERYONE goes through at one point or another. Sometimes you unintentionally lose sight of what’s important and you let what holds you back consume you and it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether it’s a passion you let go of, or anxiety holding you back in anyway, it’s something that we all experience and sometimes it’s nice to know you’re not the only one going through it.

Tom: Definitely. It’s something everyone goes through at all ages. I think that’s just life and I don’t know if it ever really changes. Everyone’s different. Times get tough whether we like it or not and some people run from their dreams in hopes for security because their parents raised them to think that they need to. The world we live in is tricky, but you can’t let ignorant people who have never truly followed a passion in their lives tell you how to live yours or what you need to be doing by a certain age.

That’s really where this new record is based. It’s a brutally honest album and ‘War’ is just the tip of the iceberg, but I overcame it because I love this shit and I know I can do it for the rest of my life so long as I’m not an idiot about it. Anyone can do it for any passion they have. Just need to commit yourself and enjoy the ride.  

What other themes and topics do you cover on the new album?

Kait: We definitely cover a lot of ground on this album. We write a lot about self-doubt, personal demons we’ve each had to deal with in our past, and also society and all the inhumanity that surrounds us. There’s a song on there that we wrote after we went through a hard time and our relationship was tested a little bit so there’s definitely a song for every emotion.

Tom: Definitely something for everyone and every emotion but it somehow became really cohesive at the same time. Unintentionally though. I think ‘Disaster by Design’ is the only real left turn on the record in terms of lyrical content, but it still fits the album. We were just being honest as usual, and this is what came out of the both of us because that’s what was going on in our lives at that time. We do try and write it in a way that people can take it and make it their own though.

What urged you to start your own label? What kind of partners – beyond TuneCore – have you found helpful in this venture?

Tom: Like I mentioned earlier, it was just the determination to be self-sufficient and not have to rely on anybody but ourselves. We know how we want to be perceived, we know how we want to promote our music, and we know where we want to go better than anybody else. Period.

You guys have been amazing in distributing our music digitally. We’ve loved working with you since the beginning. We get to pick our release dates, host pre-orders, decide how much we sell our music for so our fans can afford it easily and of course being added to the showcase was amazing! We had so much fun.

As for other partners, we hired a very hard working and extremely supportive manager/publicist who we’ve been with since we got the ball rolling in 2015 and put out our first release. He’s the man. There’s also our good friend and beyond driven videographer/photographer, Jarred Weskrna. His work is awesome and we just recently teamed up with a booking agency (Ashley Talent International) so we’re starting to work with them this summer! Then there’s obviously Skywire Studios where we recorded the album and our engineer, Charlie Berezansky also tracked drums for every song.

Kait: I couldn’t agree more. We like to be in control of what we do, what we write, the decisions we make regarding our music, how we present ourselves and everything else in between and these days, the only way to do that is to do it yourself.

We LOVE working hard knowing we got ourselves there. It’s also a great way to be involved in music outside of our own. We love collaborating and finding new music and figuring out new ways to make music that is refreshing so starting our own label is something we felt would help us do that long term. And all the people Tom mentioned are a HUGE part of why we’ve been able to be so successful thus far.

For an independent artist who might be interested in setting up their own label, what are some pitfalls to avoid or underrated advice you could’ve used?

Kait: I would avoid listening to people who try to put their two cents in who have no idea what they’re talking about. They THINK they do but they haven’t put in half the work to know or understand. Being able to identify the people who are really supportive and the people who say they are for the sake of getting something out of it is something you learn to be really cautious of. We’ve had our fair share of people doubt us or make comments about what we do but as far as we’re concerned, it only adds fuel to the fire for us to want to keep building this more and more.  

Tom: I agree. That’s a big part of it. The doubters are always people who have no f**king clue how much work and dedication goes into being your own boss. We never really felt like we’ve come across anything we couldn’t handle, to be honest. It just takes a lot of discipline which is tough for some musicians.

Just be smart and willing to learn as you grow. If you’re a member of a PRO, I suggest reading their newsletters daily and be up to date on the business side of things so you can really stay on top of the new ways to get the music heard. Also, always keep your music first. Without the music, the business doesn’t exist, so don’t forget what’s most important. Pitfalls and failures will happen but that’s what success consists of. Learn from your mistakes. Don’t run from them.

New Music Friday: April 15th, 2016

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

Lil Boat
Lil Yachty

Hip Hop/Rap

Silent Speaking

Alternative, Rock

cruel youth
Diamond Days
Cruel Youth

Alternative, Pop

Road Less Traveled

Boyce Avenue

Singer/Songwriter, Alternative

c faye
Sweet Little Messages

Charlie Faye & The Fayettes

Pop, R&B/Soul

evans blue
Letters From The Dead
Evans Blue

Rock, Alternative

chase goehring
Jaded EP
Chase Goehring

Singer/Songwriter, Alternative

smoke season
Ouroboros EP

Smoke Season
Alternative, Electronic

Checkpoint Charlie (Naguchi / Bono Remix)
Ghost Against Ghost

Alternative, Electronic

lacy cav
Savin’ Pennies, Payin’ Dues
Lacy Cavalier

Country, Singer/Songwriter

When You Go


david borne
Break My Heart
David Borné


Interview: Ghost Against Ghost's Christopher Bono

Ghost Against Ghost is the brainchild of New York City-based composer/songwriter/producer Christopher Bono. He began performing his ambient, electronic wall-of-sound compositions around the city with multimedia components in 2008.

Recently Bono released Ghost Against Ghost’s EP Unarm, and it began receiving critical acclaim from outlets like Stereogum and Ghettoblaster Magazine this year, and was kind enough to answer some questions about his mystifying music and creation processes:

This project came about from a concept album you envisioned in a dream back in 2008. Explain how you approached this and what it took to stay on track.

Christopher Bono: It’s been a long, long road with several unexpected detours. I originally began Ghost Against Ghost back in ’07-’08, and wrote a bunch of material for a surreal socio-political concept album, a concept that did come in a dream.

We performed some shows in NYC, which I believe people enjoyed, but I took a sabbatical from performing to try to realize a neo-prog meets epic-classical style I imagined, but had no idea how to execute technically. This led me to years of studying different music and production styles and techniques, three classical albums under my own name, and then finally the decision, several years later, to return to Ghost Against Ghost.

Now, writing and production has been done on three full length Ghost Against Ghost concept albums, all with a different theme and character. The first to be released (still love LP, June 2016), strangely enough, is the most recent to be written. In essence, I’m working backwards from here towards the origins of the idea.

What did you find to be the most difficult part of producing and arranging a concept album?

Maintaining and developing a theme that weaves cohesively through the whole album, creating dynamic interest on a micro level and on a macro level. It’s relatively easy to write consistent music; it’s very hard to write consistent music that relates to itself from both a present moment and big picture perspective. Particularly in this soundbite era, where it feels the ‘concept’ album is lost upon most of the general public, it’s challenging to maintain focus on one single theme.

Of course, it’s much easier as a writer when that theme is close to your own heart and mind. I don’t claim to be successful at it, I just use the overall strategy to try and reach the end point.

How did you link up with fellow artists Anthony Molina and Thomas Pridgen, and how did they contribute to your vision from the start?

Anthony and I have been friends for some time and had worked together on a few different musical projects including the improvisational ensemble I founded, NOUS. As I began to write the material for the still love LP, I reached out to Anthony to see if he was interested in doing the pre-production and initial tracking with me. We worked together on the songs for a couple months, really got their base solid, and then did some initial tracking for the overall skeletal structure of the album.

On each of the Ghost Against Ghost albums, I’m approaching the instrumentation with a slightly different focus . On still love I wanted to experiment with live drums and dense layers of analogue synths along with moments of heavy, ambient guitars. I had not worked with live drums in awhile, so it was interesting to experiment with. I had spoken to Thomas in the past about working on a project together and he was interested, but I had imagined it being more of an experimental music thing for another project or a special live performance. Thomas was supposed to be on the road at the time touring, and literally the day I was writing emails to other drummers trying to find the right player for the record, Thomas texted me saying he was available. So we flew him out to [the record label] Our Silent Canvas’ upstate New York studio and recorded drums all day for three days. The results were amazing; the guy is insanely talented.

After the drums were tracked, and the initial skeleton was laid down, I took over the production to flush out the orchestration and arrangement on my own. That’s taken me… oh about 15 months!

christopher bono
Christopher Bono

Tell us about what it’s like to build a live set when you’re dealing with ambient music and multimedia.

Every project is so different; from having a large chamber orchestra play with live video and sample tracks, to having a group of musicians playing vertically in a spiral tower with dancers and electronics, every scenario has a distinct set of challenges.

For the upcoming tour of Ghost Against Ghost, we’ll be using 3-4 Ableton Live rigs, along with live instruments. The entire rig is quite complicated as it’s important for us to leave a high level of improvisation in the set. Aside from several instances of Ableton and on-stage controllers, mixers, and processors, we’ll be running things at will through several amplifiers onstage, as well as playing live guitars, synths, drums, and other things.

We’ll also be performing live to some amazing visuals. We’re currently working on two epic music videos with film maker Craig Murray, the first comes out this spring. Each of the videos is 16 minutes long, so they’re not your standard music videos but more like short films. Craig created hours of footage for these films which we plan to use live with a video artist who can improvise with them alongside the performances. We’re still working on the technical details of it all this spring. The ambient music portions of the set are easier to execute as they’re not as time dependent as the very precise rhythmic moments, of which there are many on this project. We’re still trying to determine how we can do what we dream of doing on a small indie budget, but we’ll figure something out.

How did people initially react to your performances, and how did it evolve?

The first performances with Ghost Against Ghost I think blew some people’s minds; they were loud and noisy with lots of lights and video on a very lo-fi level. These upcoming shows should be a little more refined, but hopefully still unpredictable and chaotic at times. This project is at it’s best when it oscillates between delicate beauty to apocalyptic noise within an 5-10 minute spectrum.

What kind of advice can you offer to indie artists who perform music that they worry may be difficult to translate live?

Honestly, I battle with my own doubting demons every day. The one thing I tell myself is to trust in the process, and although the ideal version of your dreams may not manifest, some version eventually will. Chances are this version will be pretty cool, and have its own unique merit you could not have foreseen. I have a hard time keeping it simple; it seems my brain likes to build more and more complex systems, so I’m working hard as I get older to write and organize from a more simplified standpoint.

If someone asked, I would recommend to not allow your own voice, or someone else’s, to tell you “it can not be done”, but at the same time use discernment, intelligence, and detachment to allow for an evolved and practical version to unfold.

Tell us about the impact that classical music wound up having on your musical journey.

A very big one starting in my mid-twenties. It’s a long story, but essentially the first Ghost Against Ghost record (again the third in line to complete) drove me into studying classical music. I imagined these epic soundscapes and arrangements, but I didn’t know how to technically achieve them although I heard what I was looking for in the music of Stravinsky, Debussy, Wagner, John Adams and tons of other people. This led to a five year period dedicated to studying classical music.

The more I got into it, the more I drifted further and further away from more popular music. At one point, I was even planning to go back to school for a masters and doctorate in composition. The study and world of classical music is so vast and rich with interesting detail and subtlety; it really is extraordinary. But there was a point where I woke up from this beautiful intellectual trance I was in and remembered my original vision, so I began the process of building a bridge back to the post-rock world from which I came.

Unarm has received critical praise from some super credible sources. What are you trying to express emotionally on this release?

It’s a song written to a damaged and lost soul, an old soul who for a long time has been on a destructive and dangerous path. The lyrics are written in second person perspectivefrom a person who loves this main character immensely. The lyrics are like a whispering into the heart of the lost soul, an inner, telepathic dialogue telling him to look within for his answers and not continue to seek outward gratification in order to fill the deep wells of sorrow he has inside.

What kind of inspiration went into the recording of Unarm? Do you actively practice Tonglen?

The still love LP, (from which the Unarm EP comes- yes, I know, confusing), is about a deeply difficult personal situation. As most artists do, I worked to transform the confusion and pain of this situation into a work of art. Unarm marks the moment in this narrative where the lyrics speak directly to the ‘villain’ of this tragic love story. Up to that point, I actually am singing and writing lyrics that are not from my viewpoint, but from that of the victim.

I’ve been interested in Buddhism for many years now and have practiced meditation pretty regularly for about 10 years. I’ve read about Tonglen and listened to teachings on it a few times. The whole visualization of it has always fascinated me, and I have tried it in my own life on several occasions. I do believe these practices have an incredible psychological power to recondition the neurological patterns in the mind to stop perceiving the world from such a selfish perspective, which is so habitual for so many of us.

How long have you been producing and engineering? What do you feel are some of the pros and cons of having your hand in all facets of a release in this sense?

I started experimenting with recording and engineering when I first got into music around 21 years old. I bought a BOSS multitrack recorder in my early 20s that I ‘produced’ my first album on, (which was never released). I then wrote a singer-songwriter record while living in Boston that I recorded with the producer, Zoux.

During this 8 month period I learned a lot about the studio process and approach, and after the album I began expanding my own studio and studying recording techniques, which I’ve continued to evolve over the last 11 years. Trying to produce my own material in my late twenties was very challenging, particularly wearing the subjective and objective hats of both artist and producer. I found over time though that I became better at managing the process; it mainly comes down to having faith in your self and not judging things too early.

The biggest difficulty with being in charge of so much is the amount of time it takes to finish a project. I wish I had the budgets to be able to hire a full on production team; however, it’s not in the cards at this time. So instead of it taking 2 months to finish a record, it ends up taking two years; but that’s ok, in the end it’s great to know you tried your best and were able to do your own work the way you wanted to.

New Music Friday: December 4, 2015

TuneCore Artists are releasing tons of new music every day. Each week we check out the new TuneCore releases and choose a few at random to feature on the blog.

Is your hit next?

68 and Douglas

Hip Hop/Rap, Christian/Gospel

emily estefan
F**k To Be
Emily Estefan


Give It Up

Alternative, Pop

Let’s Go

R&B/Soul, Pop

This Christmas
Jessie James Decker

Holiday, Country

Gunz N Roses
Montana of 300 & Talley of 300

Hip Hop/Rap

The Shape of Colour

Instrumental, Heavy Metal

I Need You
Angel Snow


Get Away

Pop, Electronic

Who We Might Become
Kirby Kaple


corey ao
The Christmas Song
Corey Ao Williams

Holiday, R&B/Soul

Black Hole
Alex Holmes