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Interview: YouTube Music Success, Terra Naomi
Update: Terra is performing at the London Live Earth concert (07/07/07) alongside artists such as Madonna, Beastie Boys, and Duran Duran. If this is not proof that a unique and well thought out online promotion plan can get you places, I don't know what is! Read our October '06 interview below to find out how Terra got to where she is today.
YouTube.com isn’t the only one celebrating success right now – so is one of their users, Terra Naomi. The L.A singer/songwriter drew a frenzy of new fans over recent months when she uploaded her music videos to YouTube and kicked off what might possibly be the Web’s first virtual tour. Yet don’t for a second think she owes her 1 million plus visitors to just a great concept. Her ability to weave a provoking lyric, classical trained voice, and the smarts to communicate with fans regularly by video is what really makes Terra a success.
I spoke with Terra to find out more about her music, how she came up with the idea for an online tour and what the industry reaction has been.
I really like the concept of a virtual tour on YouTube. How did you come up with the idea?
I was feeling sad about not going on tour this summer - I usually go on tour in the summer months - but it was too much of a hassle this year. I book everything myself, drive myself across the country, load my gear in and out, sell my merchandise - it's a huge ordeal and also very expensive with the high gas prices. So I decided to tour from my apartment instead. I figured I might reach the same number of people with nowhere near the amount of effort and money needed to tour.
The buzz you've created on YouTube is huge, even making their featured video section. I'm sure that's no easy task for a musician when most of the time the videos there are along the lines of lip-syncing disasters and teen diaries. Did you do any sort of promotion?
I did not promote the virtual summer tour at all. That was a beautiful accident. I was camping in the mountains of New Mexico when a friend called to tell me my video was featured and it took off from there.
What has the industry response been like as a result of your videos?
It's been interesting. There are a lot of people coming to me now, wanting to know more about me, my music, my story...some of them really seem to get my music and why it has taken off and want to help bring it to another level and those are the people I'm talking to.
The video for Say It's Possible has been viewed 700,000+ times which means you've opened yourself up to criticism from a lot of people in a very short amount of time. It's great when it's constructive, but how are you dealing with the comments that make it personal?
That was very hard for me at first. It was sudden and unexpected - I think when you go through the more traditional routes of this business you are more prepared for that. You don't read your own email. Your manager or publicist shields you from some of the ugliness, but this was just me at my computer and I read every comment at first.
There were thousands of people commenting on everything about me - from my music to my guitar playing to my lyrics to my nose. It was bizarre. The nasty ones were hard to read - but then I realized - I am a kind, well-adjusted person. If I see or hear something I don't like - music, art, etc - then I just move on. I would not take the time to write something nasty to someone I don't know. Anyone who does that has a serious problem and is most likely 12 years old sitting behind his/her computer with nothing better to do than try to bring someone down. That is sad and realizing that really put things into perspective for me.
Did you pen all of the songs on your new CD? How would you describe your songwriting process?
Yes - all but one, "bright sunny day," which I co-wrote with my producer. I have co-written about 4 songs in my life and that is one of them. My songwriting process varies - sometimes I wake up, sit down, write a song from beginning to end, no pauses - it just flows out. That is the most fun and sometimes it's a more laborious process. I'll hear a melody and then search for what the lyrics want to be. Sometimes it's a struggle but when I finish a song like that it's very rewarding.
How do you feel about songs from the CD popping up on file sharing networks already?
It's inevitable. I'm flattered. Hopefully more people will find out about my music and become fans and want to see me in concert.
You sang backing vocals on Neil Young's Living With War album. That must have really been quite an experience. What did you learn from Neil during the sessions?
It was amazing. That experience lit a fire in me. Made me want to reach people and light that same fire - help motivate them to do something positive. To take charge of the world we're living in and work towards positive change.
You made it clear that Something Good to Show You is not a protest against the Government, but rather a song about peace. Yet don't the two go hand-in-hand these days?
Yes they do - unfortunately our government is not exactly advocating peace. What I mean by that is that the song is a positive message of hope - of "look - we have something positive, something good to show you - you can take control of your life and help fix what we as humans on this earth have allowed to happen." It's not meant to be a hate song - a song that fills people with anger and hatred. Although that is a good motivator sometimes, I prefer to think that people will hear the song, feel pain at the situations brought up in the song, and then be filled with hope at their ability to help change things.
Do politics play a big part in your music?
Not really. Sometimes. After the Neil Young session I definitely felt a political spark ignite.
What can you tell us about somethinggoodtoshowyou.com?
It's going to be an amazing creative collaboration between people all over the world. We will most likely launch in October. You will have to see it to fully understand, but it's going to be great.
What's next for you?
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Terra!
You can check out Terra right now on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=terranaomi
Her new CD Virtually is available from her website, http://www.terranaomi.com
- Michael Meloni