Zoe Keating On Subcultures, Social Media And Staying D.I.Y. [INTERVIEW]

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Hypebot readers know Zoe Keating for her outspoken views on Spotify. But her 1.3 million fans on Twitter are much more interested in the avant cellist's latest creations. Before Keating left for Midem and her role as artist ambassador, we traded emails that offer a look inside her d.i.y career.

In the beginning was d.i.y. a choice, or were labels interested?

When I first started out solo, I gigged around San Francisco and sent my demo to a range of labels and industry folks I knew how to find. I was so naive, I was so certain that everyone would be interested. Hah! What little feedback I received was along the lines of "interesting, but it doesn't have any market". It didn't bother me though, I just released my music on my own.

Would you consider signing with a label now?

I don't think a label has much to offer me unless it's a pure distribution deal. That doesn't mean I don't need help but I think the help I need is in specific areas that could come from fee-for-service companies. For example, If I'm going to grow I need to do some things I've never done before: like find a physical distributor, a publicist and maybe a project manager.

1.3 million Twitter followers is a very impressive number. How did you gather them?

I'm just going to refer you to Billboard for the story of how it happened: here.  

You share a some personal info about motherhood and travel in your tweets.  Where do you draw the line?

For better or worse, I've never been great at distinguishing my personal life from my work life. Nowadays it's hard for me not to talk about motherhood, because my little guy comes on tour with me and we are rarely separated. He spent a lot of his 1st year of life sleeping in my dressing room while I was onstage, so he inevitably featured in my tweets. That said, I expect his presence in my public life will diminish as he gets older because every day he becomes more and more his own person and won't need me physically so much.

I do have a few vague principles about sharing: to be natural, honest, tasteful and not to hurt or embarrass anyone. I don't tweet about family members without their approval. My husband for example, doesn't use social media and prefers to stay out of it. 

By the way, this trip to MIDEM is the 1st time I've ever been away from my son for more than a few hours..so no doubt that will be a prominent tweet-topic!

Do you find Twitter the best way to communicate with your fans or have you developed others?

Twitter is a quick, simple way to connect without a lot of pressure. You don't have to compose a thoughtful blog, just say what's on your mind or share something interesting. I found it a great way to let off steam when I was cooped-up mixing my album. I could tap into the Twitter-stream to see what's happening, maybe dive briefly into a conversation, and then go back to work. Now that I'm a mother, its a crucial way for me to stay connected without it intruding too much on my family life. I tweet mostly when my son is sleeping.  That said, Twitter is hit or miss, Facebook is growing and I love Tumblr. Every few years there is a new favorite way to connect, so I have no doubt this will all continue to change and evolve. 

You’re musical niche is seems very specific and yet your audience is quite broad. To what do you attribute that to? Would that have been possible pre-internet?

Its been noted many times before that the internet allows niches and subcultures to flourish, and I think I'm just a part of that trend. My music appeals to certain discerning and curious people and the internet helps us find each other.

Most likely the internet is entirely responsible for my career and my success has been directly linked to its trajectory. For example, I released my first album right when iTunes opened up to independents and signed up early to Myspace and then Twitter.

What are you favorite tools (tech, sites, etc.) for “managing” your d.i.y. career, as well as, for direct to fan interaction and sales?

I can't imagine how I ever got on without Google docs for collaborative projects and for managing paperwork and accounting on the road. I manage my travel itinerary with a service called Tripit and the iPad is undoubtably my Tour Manager. For direct2fan sales, I'm quite happy with Bandcamp because its so easy to use…although I'm hoping they continue to expand their offerings. I can't say enough good things about CASH Music and their open source tools like Tweet-for-a-track

What are our working on? What projects should we be watching out for?

I have another album in the works. I don't want to say it for certain but I'm going to TRY and release it in 2012.

VIDEO: Zoe Keating @ Midem – "Communicating with fans IS selling"

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