Last week Benedict Roff-Marsh came to me with the brilliant idea to do an interview in conversation style comparing the similarities between music and book production. Something in depth and helpful to readers, that can have a home on both of our pages. I was absolutely elated at the idea! So, without further ado, please enjoy!
Benedict at Bandcamp
Image link: https://benedictroff-marsh.bandcamp.com/
Please meet Benedict Roff-Marsh. Benedict is a musician. He has made music for 30 years, always using synthesizers as his bandmates. Benedict also Blogs a lot about the process of being creative and how to get work past the barriers of fear into the light of the public.
Please meet Didi (MYSELF). Didi writes and self-publishes books like Search For Maylee, Aggravated Momentum, The Stix, and New Age Lamians as well as her own Blog about writing which has some distinct parallels to my own posts. Didi is also a columnist at The Conscious Talk Magazine, an online outlet for diverse intelligent readers.
AND NOW FOR THE INTERVIEW WE’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR
B: Hi Didi. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, especially seeing we have only known each other for about 12 seconds. Something I really love about the Internet (and writing) is that it can allow a person to present a lot about themselves in a controlled way. Conversations can be messy but typed material is only as messy as you let it be. How does it feel having a total stranger tap tapping on your chamber door?
D: Hello Benedict! I’m thrilled to have met you too. I couldn’t be any happier with this conversation and a chance to pick at your brain a bit. I’ve been spending some time on your site, and I have to say your vast knowledge of music is impressive!
To answer your question: This age of technology and having strangers tap tapping on my door both scares and excites me… in equal measures! It seems the more advanced we get, and the more knowledge is accessible at our fingertips, the smaller our world becomes. It makes us both powerful AND vulnerable at the same time. Honestly, this frightens me beyond measure for the future of my kids, and grandkids to come. That said, it’s also empowering to be able to influence, create, and grow in a community of like minded people from anywhere on the globe on any given day. That’s a beautiful thing.
Now, I have a question for you: It looks like you have been in the music business for many years. The Discography page on your site dates back as far as 1989 (I was four years old that year). Musicians are now technologically able to create, produce, and distribute their material from home just the same as authors are able to write, publish, and distribute their books. Do you feel that this is a positive or negative aspect for the majority of consumers, and why?
B: Now that is a curly one straight up. Two answers and depending on what day you get me either can be the dominant one:
- Technology has certainly lowered the cost of entry for being a composing & recording musician. In the last few years what can be done on a phone with free software exceeds what I could do with expensive Used gear back in the late 80’s! This is great as now really anyone has access to the tools they need to get their musical ideas out there to the whole world. You don’t even need a record company any more. Everyone has an equal ability to have a voice.
- I think it is currently a bit of a disaster area; or at least it has been for the last 20 years as now anyone can say or do what they want with no gatekeeper or curator to help keep standards high. Art is a big responsibility and being able to bang out all manner of garbage and call it self-expression like they just made “Hotel California” or “Stairway To Heaven” is not a positive thing for the nobility of expressing the human condition.
Thankfully I am starting to see that, while the mainstream record industry is stooping real low, there are some stirrings in the self-powered artist arena. So hopefully very soon I will be majoring with option #1.
I read a self-published book from a free eBooks site a while ago and rather enjoyed it. So, would I be right in assuming that what I say above is about right for books too?
D: First off, I’m glad you threw a reference to ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (I love that particular age of rock). Secondly, you’re absolutely right! The whole time I was reading your question, I was asking myself that exact same thing and comparing the similarities. Being a Self-published author, I read a LOT of Self-published books. I try to support fellow Indi’s as much as I can, and I also enjoy the chase in finding a diamond in the rough. But, that’s just it… There is so much to read and sort through due to the abundance and simplicity in the publishing process, as well as so many books being rough unpolished rubbage, it can be hard. I think this is why so many people only read traditionally published works. They’ve been turned off by a few Indi reads, and turned their backs. Traditional books have already been filtered, so they’re more likely to be trusted by the consumer.
Now, that said… I’ve also read quite a few traditional books that are equally as hard to get through. A lot of authors have an in after their first one accepted, and the rest of their work can easily get sloppy with repetition. This day and age in writing, has opened the doors so wide for bibliophiles that the standard of both Traditional and Self-published can be a bit of a double edged sword.
B: I write a lot about the stumbling blocks we face as musicians in getting our records finished and published. Because those means to create & publish are so available now, I wonder if aspiring wordsmiths really have essentially the same challenges us note wranglers do?
D: Yes, and no. There is so much to learn, I feel like even after years of dipping my toes in the water, I’m still learning something new on a regular basis. I also feel like once you’ve figured something out, everything advances and changes. Writing a manuscript is really only a start of the battle. It’s like the training and prep before going to war. Once you have the manuscript written, the real work begins. You’ve reached the battle destination, but haven’t exactly joined the fight. This is the point where you need to think tactically. There are so many options, so many potential roads to take, it can be overwhelming… and expensive if you let it.
At the end of the day, creating and publishing can most definitely be a struggle, but with enough persistence and dedication you’ll get there eventually. No matter which road you decided to take, the publishing job is finish-able.
In my opinion, it’s the marketing that truly takes the struggle cake. This is where the majority of new writers get hung up. They assume that because they’ve published a book, it’ll automatically be read by the masses. Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Getting your books out there can be hard work! You could have the greatest piece of literature known to mankind, yet if no one knows it exists then how will it ever be read? People spend very large sums of money on marketing, lots of which the outlets are scams and/or useless. They also spend a lot of time. Building a readership and author platform is double the time consumption of actually producing books. I could go on and on about marketing, but I’ll just stop here lol.
So, what about musicians? Is getting one’s music delivered to the ears of the masses as rocky of a trail as it is getting books in the hands of mass story lovers?
B: Short answer, yes. Very much so.
Putting your record on Bandcamp or YouTube is really easy (once you’ve done it once) but getting it heard, and more importantly generating paying fans, is soul destroying. I understand why people still wish for Mr Sony to arrive on their doorstep to take all the pain away. Sadly tho, I don’t think he’s coming.
In the meantime there are plenty of places that offer the nirvana of endless fans if you just Join Now and then Upgrade to the Pro plan. It’s rather clever but more often than not a total noose (a waste of cash & energy) as you can only develop fans organically. I see so many developing artists going in completely the wrong direction chasing stats in some web app instead of building what their natural talent is suited to.
Of course that just leaves them more frustrated, and less able to be helped. It is a sort of Dante’s “Inferno” out there. My Ma used to say that it was a sin not to use the talents that God gave us as He has a bigger plan that relies on each of us being the puzzle piece He intended. Once I swap God for Nature or Life I agree.
The problem we have right now with the internet, is that essentially everyone is posting something in hope people will listen but no one is listening because they are too busy posting their missive and trying to demand plays. This is all so me, me, me and leaves no space for conversation.
This circles me back to the way you grabbed onto Led Zeppelin & the Eagles as I truly worry that we aren’t getting those moments where an act can speak to and for the masses so powerfully. Will we ever see bands like that again? Will we ever see the like of H.G. Wells’ “War Of The Worlds” again?
You appear to have had some success getting nice feedback on your books. Can you try to help us understand what you did differently from those who get nowhere?