Give us some background. Where are you from originally, where are you now, how did you get there?
I am originally from Caro, Michigan USA but moved to Seoul after graduating from a degree in music at Eastern Michigan University. I left the states to find a decent job and decided to take a chance in teaching English in South Korea. I have been living and writing, producing and performing music in Seoul, South Korea for the last eight years. I have been at the helm of ‘Silvercord’, my music recording project, for the last 11 years.
So what is the musical environment like in South Korea?
Forgive me for sounding negative, but the Korean music industry is worse than what Hollywood is. Everything is dictated and locked in by the big entertainment companies. Talented artists wanting to be in the spotlight in Korea must adhere to major entertainment companies’ guidelines in what kind of music to sing, how to dance, how to look. It’s completely cookie cutter and all about image. There is a very cool flip side to the mass media page and that’s the Korean indie music scene. Since Seoul is a huge city that’s packed in with tons of things to do and places to see, the indie scene here is very accessible. Many indie artists and bands both Korean and Non-Korean have chances to play live gigs at many small venues.
How are wages for independent artists playing shows there? Are artists taken seriously?
Wages for independent artists are not all that good. I guess one factor in this may be due to so many clubs being available to play at. The premier live venues often treat artists like they are doing a favor for the bands just by letting them play. In my previous rock band ‘Faded’, we tried to stay away from clubs like those and play at gigs that paid. A lot is up to how bands market themselves as well. If a band wants to make money, then they have to make it work themselves. Some of the more successful indie outfits in Korea work their PR into local magazines and buy ads to inform fans of cd release parties/ new albums for sale. These days all of the power lay in the hands of how far the indie artist wants to go to expose their talents to the audience they wish to reach.
Are there a lot of indie artists there?
Many! What is great is that there is such a variety of talented artists here and all of them know each other. It’s can be a networker’s dream here in Seoul.
What is your biggest problem with promoting your music, both locally and globally?
Well I think the biggest problem for me is the saturation of so many good artists out there. One doesn’t need to look hard to listen to good music these days. I think that’s a great thing, though this situation tends to put my musical needle among the haystack of countless great bands and artists. I am really sad as there was a great website in which artists could promote their music ( thesixtyone.com ) but sadly the guys in charge changed the website’s format and turned it into complete junk. (I can’t stress this enough as so many T61 artists agree strongly that their fan and friend connections have been severed due to the change)
What would you change about the music scene in South Korea?
I wish the big entertainment companies that seem to exclusively cater to boy/girl bands, dance acts and ‘ballad’ artists open their giant arms to the indie sound/scene as well. The mass media’s image of music is a bit bubble gum in nature. I wish that there could be more diversity in that aspect of the scene here but that’s the whole reason for the indie scene. Offer up what’s not served by big brother media!
What do you like about it?
I like little about the big industry music scene here in Korea. See above. The indie scene has always been a great way to exposure of new and creative music though.
Got any new projects to look out for?
I always am making new Silvercord music and doing colabs between artists here in Seoul as well with friends over the internet. There is an ambient collaboration I have done with ambient composer “Altus” that has just been released on the Earth Mantra Netlable. This album is under the creative commons license, so the album is free to download! One thing I am excited to tell you about is that I finally feel confident enough to start up my own online mixing/mastering service called “Black Swan Audio”. Though the website is still in development, I have been mixing for indie bands here in Seoul and some artists in the states and I can say that helping musicians shape their sound the way they want it to sound is just as fulfilling and exciting as making music. I am living my dream of being an engineer/mixer/producer for fellow indie bands. Without them and their trust, it wouldn’t be possible!
What Genre would you classify Silvercord as?
I am most attracted to “Ambient/Atmospheric” music mixed with “Dream Pop/Space Rock” with a bit o’ the electronic vibe thrown in. Music that emulates the state of dreams.
Can you tell us about your musical process?
The music I make comes from experimentation. I usually begin the process with the piano or guitar and flesh out the basic idea rattling around in my brain bit by bit. After there is some kind of basic backbone for the idea, next is finding a melody for the vocal line(if any). It’s fun piecing the puzzle parts of a song together. I enjoy the mystery of how a song can bring itself into existence through seeming nothingness.
What is it that drove you to pursue a career in music, and what it is that drives you individually as a musician?
Music is a drug to me. It works on me in so many levels that I need a whole book to just awkwardly convey my feelings. Regarding the passion with music that I share with fellow humans, I feel it is less of a decision to pursue it and more of a surrendering to the gravity that constantly pulls at us. I don’t want to imagine my life without the existence of what is music.
What struggles have you faced with having your music heard and getting your name recognized by outside markets?
We live in an extremely interesting and revolutionary time in the history of music. I feel pretty blessed when it comes to being heard. I started recording right as computer/internet technology allowed people to upload their tunes on sites that the whole world could have access to. I was aware that musicians before this didn’t have it so lucky. They had to be both extremely talented and had to have been in the right place at the right time for their visions to be exposed via the controlled media. Today, I think one problem that creators of music face is that the bar is raised because EVERYONE has access to hear the music being heard. So much good music, and so little time puts the importance of marketing/promotion to a new level, when before a bit of promotion and the talent of the band could make bigger waves.
What kinds of things do you do to promote yourself?
To quote a friend and producer/artist mentor, “(Music)…is cheaper than therapy.” So first off, the music I create helps me to believe that I can have a spiritual connection in this world. I don’t mean to convey that my approach is egotistic, just a form of art I love to create that helps me survive and flourish if other people listen or not. With that said, I feel a bit lacking in the expertise of effective promotion. I do believe, though, that the best and oldest form of promotion is word of mouth. Music sites where I can get to know listeners as friends rather than just a marketing target are where I enjoy hanging out and promoting my music. (Like what thesixtyone.com USED to be (before they trashed their excellent system for complete garbage) where you had found me as well as some other friendly artists. I also am a part of the Earth Mantra net label ( http://www.earthmantra.com) where so many excellent ambient music artists release their music for free under the creative commons license.
Is there a predominant message you hope to get across in your songs?
I don’t think I have a single message to convey, but the lyrics and themes within the songs I write are mostly about my fascination with what lay beyond the death of mind and body.
What are your thoughts on the future of the music industry and where it’s going?
This is a very interesting topic. I believe with the massive changes in the medium of media format (i.e from CD/tapes/records to pure digital form; mp3), the ground that the music industry once stood firmly on has now been pulled from under. I believe that like it or not, things will change about music and the internet. Powers that be (or that are to be) will most likely attempt to control the way we sell and distribute music. Music licensing for tv/movies/other media, however, will probably operate in the same fashion.
Are you currently unsigned, and do you plan on staying independent?
I am indeed unsigned. I think if I had a chance to be signed and had a good contract, distribution, etc, I would jump at the chance to have my music represented by a decent label and distribution. Anything that would help me focus more on composing and producing is what I would love.
What are your reasons for being an independent artist?
Well, I guess why not be an independent artist? I have access to the same tools and knowledge that professional artists and producers have as well as resources to have my music heard all across the world. It is a revolutionary time for artists to have their art exposed.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
Tons of them…I think it would take about a month to write down all of the music that I hold dear to me. Ill be super brief and say…The Autumns (a dream pop band out of L.A.) M83, Sigur Ros, Slowdive, Hammock, Spiritualized, Altus (excellent indie ambient music artist based in Canada).
Do you ever feel that people will be missing out on your music because you are not signed to a major record label?
Hmm. I think having good promotion is vital to having a good fan base(along with that world of mouth thing, gigging….AND actually being GOOD; ). If an artist doesn’t have a label, that doesn’t mean they won’t have good sales. It really is about finding your niche in this giant haystack of great music in the world.
What would you say if I told you that there’s a new force in Independent Music that will give you all of the power of the Major Labels and more, while at the same time giving you complete control over all aspects of your musical career, and you will never have to sign a thing?
And you would have access to the world’s first ever audio component auction, where pieces of songs are sold off at auction prices to be repurposed in other songs. What kind of impact do you think that would have on your music?
We look forward to having you beta test! It’s called Beat-Play, and it is being tested internally right now. We’re scheduled to release beta hopefully by the end of May. Sign up a http://www.MusicWithoutLabels.com