Stealing Julie Moffitt, Part Two

“All You Need Is Love” is track 11 on Magical Mystery Tour, “Bohemian Rhapsody” is track 11 on A Night at the Opera, and “Nightswimming” is track 11 on Automatic for the People. While many artists use track 11’s to close down their albums, Paste Magazine has used track 11 on their sampler for issue 28 to help give a boost to Julie Moffitt’s career. Being featured on a national music magazine’s sampler isn’t the end all be all, it sets the stage for what looks like a very bright 2007 for Julie Moffitt. A bit of internet synchronicity occured over the last week or so. I am a regular listener to Coverville, and I made a suggestion for a Clash “cover story” with Matthew Ryan (I received a very nice message from MRyan for the effort) covering “Somebody Got Murdered” and Living Colour covering “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” Just days after that show was released, Brian who runs Coverville posted Julie Moffitt covering R.E.M. and mentioned he was trying to get an audio version of it to feature in a show. That show (290) was released this week. Check out both at Coverville. Continuing my email conversation with her, she talks about the Paste Magazine sampler, her plans for 2007, and the (now obvious) impact of the internet on the music industry.

MK: The Paste Sampler is a big step for anyone, what’s it like to be featured on a compilation with The Shins and Lucinda Williams?

Julie Moffitt: I was actually giddy when I picked up my copy of Paste at Borders. I opened up the plastic around the magazine, looked at my name on page 32, and showed it to the guy at the coffee counter (he wasn’t nearly as impressed as I wanted him to be, but what can you do).
The best part of it, aside from having my name associated with people whose music I’ve enjoyed and respected for a while now, is that it’s a solid reference – a little bit of weight behind me. There’s a kind of checklist of achievements in my head, guiding me up the path to where I want to be in this career, and “nationally distributed magazine” was on that list somewhere after “college radio” and “indie label.” Now I get to look ahead to things like “opening act on tour for Jonatha Brooke” and “song on Grey’s Anatomy.” (On a related note, if anyone knows Jonatha Brooke or Shonda Rhimes, feel free to burn a copy of my CD for them – I won’t mind.)

MK: Your EP (The Stolen EP) is amazing and leaves me wondering: when I can expect more?

Julie Moffitt: I’m wondering the same thing! 🙂 Honestly, I’m planning to have a new CD out this fall. It might be a live CD, depending on how planning goes – I’ve got a ton of new music that I really want to put out there, but I don’t want to rush through a studio recording if I can’t really make it kick more ass than the last album. So look for something new by September, and in the meantime, I’ve got videos going up on YouTube pretty regularly.

MK: How is your touring going? Do you expect to make any West Coast stops (I have a high percentage of readers on the West Coast)?

Julie Moffitt: Touring is going great. I tour the Midwest for the most part, just because it’s easier to drive to Minneapolis from Chicago than to Los Angeles, but I have a lot of friends out on the west coast and am planning to come out and do a tour again toward the end of this year or early next year. I’ll have new CDs and T-shirts by then. I’m happiest when I’m on the road, so the more I do it, the better.

MK: I read an article about a remix contest you were involved with, how did that get started? You found me and I found you on Myspace, what are your thoughts on how the internet has changed the way music is distributed and marketed? Do you feel like you have an advantage over a major label artist or do you think the internet has leveled the playing field?

Julie Moffitt: Hmm, loaded question…this subject comes up with relative frequency in the music community, and I’ve noticed that it can cause just as much tension as topics like religion and politics. I won’t pretend to be fully informed on every aspect of the music industry in relation to the Internet and indie marketing – even if I could somehow absorb every book on the subject overnight, I’d still have a ton to learn through experience and experimentation. But in the 2 years since I started recording my own albums and concentrating on succeeding in the industry, I have formed a few opinions.

The freedom that the Internet has given to indie artists is astounding. Imagine 20 years ago when there was no public Internet like there is today, when music was spread through radio and MTV and movie soundtracks. All of those things require a chain of approval, and that chain was most likely chock full of people who wanted to be paid (a lot) for giving the green light to a new artist.

Now, so many things are cheaper, easier, and possible to take care of on your own in an afternoon instead of hiring someone or waiting or spending wads of dough. Recording an album used to require a studio, a producer, an engineer, studio musicians, lots of money to pay for it all. That’s definitely still an option – or I could just go home tonight and record a few tracks on Garageband, mix them myself, and burn them to a CD. I could have a new album ready to go by my show next Friday. I won’t pretend to have the knowledge base to make it a fantastic album, but it’s possible.

Consider mailing lists. These things are integral to a small artist – posting flyers, putting listings in the paper, those things rarely bring in any kind of result. I’ve seen talented artists waste hundreds of dollars printing and posting beautiful promos for their next show all over town – and then playing for 5 people because they didn’t bother to contact the fans who had already heard and enjoyed them enough to come out again. An old mailing list would have involved collecting addresses, money spent on postcards or letters or flyers, stamps, envelopes, printing costs. Last night I clicked on “Chicago mailing list” in my Gmail account, spent a little time composing a quirky email about my show tonight, and sent it. Less than an hour of work, no money spent, and people have the information in their Inboxes instantly.

On the other hand – the Internet makes it possible for ANYONE to put their stuff out there, and it makes things very, very crowded. There are, at any given time, hundreds of thousands of musicians in this country, to say nothing of the world at large. And it feels like each and every one of us are out there on MySpace and YouTube and Epitunes and Sonicbids vying for the attention of the same audience. We’re reaching people directly, we’re having a more personal relationship with them, but we’re also spending hours a day on our computers at home or Starbucks doing it. Instead of focusing on the music and letting someone else handle the business, we’re doing it all solo and spreading ourselves thin in the process. Not all of us, of course, but a hefty majority of the “indie” artists I know are in the same boat as I am.

I do think that the Internet is an indispensable tool for musicians today, though, in spite of my doubts and frustrations with the process. Without MySpace, my shows would be about half as packed as they are now; there’s a touring dance teacher who would never have choreographed to one of my songs, and hundreds of teenage dancers who would never have performed to it; about a third of the shows that I play wouldn’t be happening, because I do about that much of my booking through MySpace. Without iTunes, there are people in Japan who wouldn’t have bought my album because they found it while browsing. And with the right support (a small record label with a little financial backing, a few friends or family members who will help with major projects, a PR girl who believes in me enough to do some promoting for free), the Internet is offering chances that would never have been possible before. The remix contest, for instance – can you imagine buying a Debbie Gibson CD in the late ’80s, taking it home, and putting the vocals for “Electric Youth” over your own beats and instrumental tracks? People in Sweden and Australia enjoyed my songs enough to spend hours creating their own versions of them. That kicks ass.

Well I want to thank Julie again for taking the time to answer my questions. The internet and technology do make many things easier to accomplish, but without the talent of singing, songwriting, and playing instruments that Julie has, even the latest technology would be obsolete. So in light of that, again check out the links below for more information on Julie’s great music. Also if you’re in the Chicago area, I’m listing her shows below, as well.

Julie Moffitt @ Myspace
Julie Moffitt @ Burst Records
Julie Moffitt on YouTube
Julie Moffitt on iTunes
Julie Moffitt on CD Baby

February 16 – Bird’s Nest Bar (Chicago)
February 24 – Chicago Street Pub – Breast Cancer Benefit
March 1 – Davenport’s Piano Bar (Chicago)
March 10 – Uncommon Ground (Chicago)
March 16 – UHL Battle of the Bands @ the Sears Centre (Hoffman Estates [suburb of Chicago])
For a complete list of her shows, visit her myspace page.
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