CIW Music: Evolution of the Artist

Tonight I attended a Chicago Ideas Week session titled, Music: Evolution of the Artist. It was MC-ed by Lin Brehmer of WXRT and featured some awesome folks from the music industry talking about their personal journeys and careers, as well as the changing industry today. The first guest was Michael Fitzpatrick from Fitz and the Tantrums, who talked about the importance of putting in the work and building up your credibility by touring.

Next up, music biz veteran Marc Geiger talked about the changes in the industry and how the music business is actually poised for tremendous growth as streaming technologies advance and grow in scale. As streaming continues to lessen the barrier to accessing music, he predicted that listening rates will continue to grow and translate into sizable revenue.

Then singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata and folk singer Ed Romanoff got on stage. They were hilarious. Ed explained that he became a musician so late in life because of, “the overwhelming demand for 48 year old folk singers.” But they both had such engaging stories. And I loved when Rachel advised us to, “Try things before you know how you’re going to pull them off.” And Ed half-warned that, “Writing songs is a risk because you’re going to find out something true.”

Last up was Mike Posner, who was absolutely adorable. While his parting words of wisdom were, “Don’t be a dick,” he was soft-spoken and funny and positive and thoughtful. In talking about how he started in the business, he talked about his good friend back in Detroit who helped him get a foot in the door – Big Sean! Who knew? And it was fun to see how he put together the insanely successful singer “Boyfriend” for Justin Bieber, from freestyling to a friend on guitar to working out the lyrics in the studio to creating a custom sound using his voice and some modern production technology.

Back real quick to Rachael Yamagata. What an amazing songwriter. I had never heard of her before but started listening to her music after seeing her speak and perform. I was captivated by “Elephants.” This song made me feel things. You must listen to it – but I warn you not to do it on a Thursday night, coming home alone with a bag of Chick-fil-a, after a long day. It may make you think about your decisions and examine your life and wonder about what could have been and maybe lose it a little. Theoretically speaking, of course.

“If the elephants have past lives

Yet are destined to always remember

It’s no wonder how they scream

Like you and I they must have some temper…

You are forcing me to remember

When all i want is to just forget you.

…If you have to take sides with the animals

Won’t you do it with one who is kind.”

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