It’s Been a While…

Hi friends… I know it’s been a while since we last updated this site, so I just wanted to throw up a quick little post to let you know what’s been happening on our end. (Actually, one of our website visitors wrote in to ask what was up, so we figured we’d answer their question here.)

The answer is: Our crew has been busy recording a new album! I was sought out by a new hip-hop artist to collaborate on some background vocals, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I enlisted the rest of our crew here at AYF to help. The experience has been amazing so far…

You may not have known this, but we are all very passionate about music here. (As if you couldn’t tell by the blog posts we’ve written so far.) However, this site is not limited to just music, so if you have a question about anything at all please don’t hesitate to ask it. We want to familiarize all of our readers with the answers to their most pressing questions on any topic. And with the election around the corner, there are many topics available so ask away! But I digress…

All of our writers and editors here at Are You Familiar are either musicians or have worked in the industry in some capacity, either as marketers, sound experts, studio builders – you name it. Music is our passion, and we’re excited to be able to work together on this album. The reason I was sought out is because this particular artist happened to come across one of my tweets where I was promoting a YouTube video I had recorded, and he thought I had the perfect voice to track some vocals on one of his records. Well, one song turned into 12, and he’s decided to feature my vocals on his entire album!

I’ve always been told I had the perfect voice for doing R&B-style music. Actually, I’ve gotten a lot of my inspiration from Lupe Fiasco’s artist, Sarah Green. (Doesn’t hurt that we have the same name!) Check her out in this YouTube video:

We are all super stoked for this album to come out, and everyone here at AYF has been super busy playing some sort of role in making it all happen. We’re very close to its release and will let you know as the date approaches.

The music is in post-production right now, which has freed us all up to write more, so we’re back at it, updating the site. And we have a backlog of unanswered questions to address here in the coming months, so stay tuned!

How To Use YouTube To Build Your Online Presence

YouTube is a necessary evil. Whether you’re a business owner, a blogger or and independent musician looking to strike it rich, the platform is a crucial part of your online marketing strategy.

Why? Well, for a few reasons:

1. Video is the wave of the future for online marketing. YouTube provides you with a free place to host your videos. You can upload them to your channel within seconds and embed the links on your blog or website easily. It’s much easier to use YouTube than it is to host your videos on your own website, and it uses much less space.

2. YouTube videos are easy to find. Type in a search for just about anything in Google, and if a YouTube video exists for it, you’ll likely find it on the first or second page of the search results. If you’re marketing yourself and not using YouTube, you’re missing out on tons of potential traffic.

3. YouTube is how many people listen to music these days. As much as it sucks, the reality is that most people don’t want to pay for music anymore, unless they really, really like your work and want to support you financially. So, the first thing you should concentrate on as an independent musician is creating avenues for your work to be found. Once you’re known, then you can start demanding funds for your art. But until people know who you are, they’re not very likely to want to support you.

If you’re an independent artist looking to make it big in the music industry, you should integrate YouTube into your online marketing strategy as quickly as possible. Here are a few tips to help you get noticed on this popular video-hosting platform:

1. Start by doing cover songs to build a following. I know it sucks. Trust me, I’m an independent musician myself, and I hate doing cover songs. Especially popular ones. But covering popular music is the fastest way to get noticed on YouTube. Pick a few that you can stomach and crank out your own original version. Doing an original take will almost always make it better, at least to the types of fans you want to attract.

2. Next, throw a few original songs into the mix. Doing cover songs will get your channel noticed by lots of people, and once those people have subscribed to your videos, you can start cranking out some original tunes. If you put your own spin on the cover songs, it’s likely the people who decided to follow you like your style, so they’re liable to enjoy your original music as well.

3. Share, share, share! Share your YouTube videos on all of your social networks, including Facebook and twitter, and if you have a blog, embed the videos there as well and use the blogging platform to write additional keyword-rich content. This will increase the chances of your videos, blog and social media pages being found when people search Google for the keywords related to your content.

4. Be relevant. Connect with your audience. If you do a video of an original song, write a few paragraphs on what the song means and why it’s important to you. Or talk for a few seconds before your video performance to provide context around your lyrics. The more effort you make to engage with your audience, the more they’ll enjoy watching your videos.

5. Publish videos regularly. This isn’t a one-and-done deal. If you want to be found and continue to get noticed, especially by your followers, then don’t disappoint them. Keep publishing videos. Even if it’s once a month, that’s better than nothing. Plus, the more often you publish, the more content will be indexed by search engines, and the more likely it is that you’ll get found by more people. As the saying goes, “Content is King.”

It might seem like common sense, but you’ll be surprised as how few independent artists, bloggers and business owners actually implement these tips. If YouTube is not yet a part of your digital marketing efforts, then I suggest you head over there now, create an account, and upload your first video. You’ll be glad you did!

R.I.P Music Industry

Word around the block is that the music industry is dead and if it is so I say… good riddance! The day of going into your local music store to cop the new release from your favorite artist is now over. When music went digital, access to it became very easy. All you had to do was hit some buttons, download some software and enjoy free music. I personally am not really for illegally downloading music but I do believe it was necessary to change the state of the music industry.

Growing up as a teen in the late 90’s and early 2000’s I remember hearing stories of famous artists, who I envisioned to be living in the lap of luxury, suing their record companies, because though these artists were selling millions of albums, they were still broke. It is no secret that record companies take advantage of artists and seek to control their art to make sure that it doesn’t push the status quo too much. These record companies do a great job of manipulating young artists who want to be able to make a living sharing their art with the world. They fail to tell these artists that once they sign that contract they are now owned by the label. Sure, they will wine and dine you, spend money to revamp your image and make you feel like an A list celebrity but the truth is, that money is really more like a loan.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song “Jimmy Iovine” comes to mind when Macklemore speaks of being in the co-founder of Interscope Records office being pitched a record deal. The song ends with Macklemore telling Jimmy Iovine, “I appreciate the offer, thought that this is what I wanted. Rather be a starving artist than succeed at getting fucked.”

So, here we are in the digital age which makes sharing your music with the world as fast as a click of a button. New artists hitting the scene are more than willing to release their music for free or even do the ‘pay what you want’ method. While this is understandable for new artists to do this, it can also be dangerous to the cause. Since the release of iTunes, Spotify or any other streaming service, we can now see the devaluing of music. With this current atmosphere, which reduces a song’s value to 99 cents, you really have to appreciate the efforts of Wu-Tang Clan who released a 128-minute, 31-song album entitled “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” and only produced one copy. The plan was to take that single copy to art galleries across the globe and charge visitors a price to listen to the album in its entirety. The Wu-Tang Clan stated that the idea behind this is to restore value to the art of music. Apparently it is working, as they claim they have been offered 5 million dollars for the very rare record.

So, where do we go from here? I’m not sure what direction it is going or where we want it to be, but I do know the old model failed and the present model is no good. I’ve heard ideas of subscription-based platforms that would allow the artists to keep the majority of their earnings and make a residual income and these ideas give me hope. But can value in music be re-instilled into the minds of a generation that has been filled to the top with radio’s flavor-of-the-month style that trances you with songs that contain empty lyrics and hypnotic beats that leave the listener always wanting more? Well, one thing that is for certain is that the music industry as we knew it is dead and hopefully we are headed towards something better — something that puts more value on music as an art and more cash in the creator’s pocket. So raise a glass and join with me in saying R.I.P. music industry!

How To Experience Live Music in the Queen City


As mentioned in our first post, this blog was developed out of a desire to boost the local talent in Charlotte, NC. So we’re going to kick things off with our own review of the queen city’s music scene.

Quite frankly, it sucks.

Not the talent. Just the show of support for the talent. There are a ton of gifted musicians here, and most of my favorites either fizzle out and give up or move to a bigger, more music-friendly city like L.A. or New York.

There are some great venues here, but trying to get booked is like pulling teeth. I should know, I’ve been there.

But this post is not about my struggle as an aspiring musician in Charlotte. It’s more about how to get the best out of the live music scene as an audience member. If you’re planning to attend a live show, whether you’re going to a small, intimate venue like The Evening Muse to see one of our talented locals, or you’re heading to the Time Warner Cable Arena to see your favorite indie rock band perform, here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your experience.

1. Treat yourself to the VIP experience. If you’re attending a concert in the queen city, there’s no reason to feel like anything less than royalty.

Invest in awesome seats. Go out to eat beforehand. Arrive early enough to tailgate. And make sure you have plenty of cash on hand for drinks.

2. Know the music you’re going to hear.

Let’s face it: concerts are way more fun when you can sing along.

Yes, you’re probably going to hear some music you don’t recognize. (Independent artists are notorious for releasing new material at live shows.) But you’ll have a better time if you’re familiar with most of the music.

If you get invited to go to see a band you’ve never heard before, take some time to listen to their records as much as possible before the show.

3. Don’t drink and drive! Well, duh… but still, we thought this was worth mentioning… and repeating. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and have a few too many while you’re listening to your favorite band or singer-songwriter. But if you end up consuming alcohol, it’s best to arrange a ride home.

If you rent a Charlotte party bus or limo to take you there and back, you’ll be set. Not to mention, it’s the perfect place for a little pregame before the show starts. And if you’re not into the opening band, you can spend a little extra time enjoying a few beverages in the comfort of a luxury vehicle.

4. If you like the artist, buy their music! Again, duh. But seriously. Support independent musicians. The more money you spend on tickets and merch, the bigger their cut. And since most independent musicians are “starving artists” these days, they need all the support they can get.

A concert in the queen city should be nothing short of amazing. And the more we invest in our local music scene, the better it will be. Next time you go to a live show, make the most of your experience!

Welcome To Our New Blog

Welcome, and thanks for visiting.

This site is for musicians and music lovers who are into discovering new and independent music. If unfamiliar records are your thing, then you’ve come to the right place.

We’ll be updating this blog on the regular with bands, singer-songwriters and original musicians that we dig. The only criteria — it’s gotta be unfamiliar.

We use that word pretty loosely around here though, since what’s familiar to one person might not be familiar to another. Please don’t get all bent out of shape if we reference a band or musician you’ve already heard about or who’s popular on your side of the tracks. We love music, so if it sounds good and it’s on an independent label, it’s likely to get featured here at some point.

If there’s a band or musician that you’d like us to review, please leave a comment below with a name and link to their website or Facebook page. We’ll check it out, and if we dig it, there’s a good chance we’ll review it here. But don’t get your panties in a wad if we decide not to… ;)

Located in Charlotte, NC, we started this blog out of a desire to boost our local music scene. So you’ll see a lot of local bands reviewed on here, but don’t worry — we like music that comes from anywhere — so you’ll see plenty of non-local musicians here too.

In addition to music reviews, we’ll also post content related to live shows, songwriting, the music biz, how to get discovered on YouTube, and the like. Pretty much, if it has anything to do with music, you’re likely to see it here.

Thanks for listening!

Signed — Are You Familiar?