Taryn DeCicco: DIY Indie Rock Promotion

Taryn DeCicco: DIY Indie Rock Promotion
Interview by Sue Basko

Taryn DeCicco is the new girl on the block -- a solo alternative rock act who has leapfrogged into the limelight through talent, hard work, and her own do-it-yourself very aggressive and organized music promotion. I've never seen anything quite like it. Taryn is everywhere! Here, she is going to share some of her secrets with all of us!

Are you on a musical mission? If so, what is it?
I am on more than one! The first is that music has saved my life and now I would like to contribute to it. Especially, in this time of confusion within the industry and for artists. I am happy to be engaged in the gestalt of music. In this time of crisis, learning about gaps in the industry & artistic community that need to be filled so that I can help, ( myself and others), bridge those gaps. Second, on a personal level, I am ready to take my experience & reach out and connect with others on a very deep personal level. I believe the role of the artist is to help others with their emotional life, and I find I am now able to undertake this important role. Lastly, another mission is to tap into my own personal power, removing the limitations & barriers I have arbitrarily placed there. Overcoming a lifelong stage fright is but one example of what I mean.

How would you describe your musical style?
Ostensibly, it is alternative indie rock, I call it lovingly “girlie grunge.” It is creative, passionate, moody & emotive music with lots of twists and turns, and melodic and tempo shifts. Many reviewers have remarked on a very unique and engaging style which is completely mine…I like that! I also feel blessed that I can cross many genres from hard rock to even blues/jazz occasionally, and reach listeners.

Is there a good place online where people can hear your music?
I am active online in most of the musical sites: Reverbnation, Myspace, YouTube, Facebook, and am just getting started on Grooveshark, PureVolume, Ilike, and a few others. It is quite time consuming.

Is there a good place online for people to contact you?
People can contact me wherever they are. I have sites on every social network and am active on them daily. Music wise, Reverbnation has all of my music, and Myspace has a few demos, but I am active and up to date with them as well, in terms of shows, press and the like.

Tell me some about your life and background. What has led up to where you are today?
I grew up on the East Coast and moved around lots as a child. I was and am quite shy and this was difficult & traumatic for me. I connected with music and animals by age 4 and have never looked back…they are the only two constants in an otherwise turbulent life. In order to have time and space to devote to my art, I decided to become a nutritionist and naturopath long before it was mainstream. I became an acupuncturist as well. Paradoxically, a lot of my own personal healing has taken place, while I have done that work. What I have learned is that if we all focused on fixing ourselves, our systems, and planet would be a lot healthier than they are!

You seem to do a really good job at marketing yourself and your music. Can you tell me about ReverbNation? What is it, what do they do, how do you use it? How much does it cost?
Thank you! I have learned a bit about that in the past 5 months!

The Business of Music is the business of finding listeners… and well, it is necessary to market in order to get people to listen, and it takes a lot of effort and a long time…fortunately there are some great tools online for indie artists.

I really like ReverbNation. It has everything an independent artist needs to start an online presence, and it is FREE. It also contains an application for Facebook called MyBand which is also FREE, so there is no excuse not to do it. It is an excellent tool to build your fan base and get noticed. They also chart artists. You can chart in one genre and it is based on your influence as an artist and on the web, and it is very good. When you have a good standing on Reverbnation, it is something that venues, radio stations and blogs and music critics and even labels pay attention to. There are also many opportunities to submit to showcases and industry events for even more exposure. I am just starting out, so I haven’t yet done that.

I notice you have a nice ReverbNation music link for your Facebook page. How does that work?
That is the MyBand Facebook App. It contains all your Reverbnation stats and show schedule and songs right on your band page of Facebook. I am a bit disappointed I had to get a separate page for my music on FB, it is not really that accessible to people at this point, but it is gradually gaining speed. I’ve only had it up a short time.

Which do you like, what do they do?
I mainly work with ReverbNation, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Facebook. I think they all have their great points. Reverbnation is a great marketing vehicle. So is MySpace if you use it properly , and it takes a long time to get results.

Facebook is a favorite place to connect. I like Twitter, but it is more limited musically, i.e. no players etc…although you can use links. You can network with others and I have enjoyed meeting great bands and musicians on there, so it has helped me a lot locally!

MySpace has pretty much been dead for musicians in the short time I have been on board, so not much opportunity there at present. But I suspect that will change down the road.

YouTube is a must for anyone who performs live so others can see your act live.

How about online radio? Rulus? What else? Tell me about radio opportunities.
There are SOOOO many. I am on so many it’s hard to list: Iradio104-LA, 103.1-LA, Live 365, radio UK, Clear Channel, Rukus is 24/7 indie, unsigned radio, Radio Rock CafĂ©, Indie-Lite, Indie Dial IMradio, and Westsidewill both local in Chicago, Houndstooth, LA, Women’s Radio, and Chicago Music Promotions, Fearless, MaxiMum Threshold. I have hit the ground running with online stations, college radio although my demographic is 24-45 really out of that college age group, and some local non commercial AM and FM stations and shows and also more and more overseas. I just got picked up in several countries: France, Italy, Canada, UK, and Russia. I think getting played is good, period, so if it’s available, I go for it.

Booking shows -- you also seem really good at getting yourself booked. What's your method?

I am new and have a minute local fan base at present, (although they are loyal) so it is stressful when venues want a big head count. If I know I can’t produce it I do not agree to do a show.
If I can book it, I always put on the best performance I can. The sets are fresh interesting and I put my total energy into it! I turn down a lot of ops because I know I will not produce the number of people the venue wants, even though the show itself might be great, but in the long run I think it is a better plan.

I, right now, prefer to do showcases so I do not have the responsibility of carrying the night! It is also a good way to network (sometimes) with other acts. I try to have a fan or friend video each show or at least a part and I upload them to YouTube, I think that helps in a number of ways to get your next show booked.

Also, frankly, with the internet there are ways to perform and build your fanbase without any stress with regard to venues…USTREAM for example.

Other places to play are bookstores, music stores, outdoors and even healthclubs and private clubs…sometimes you have to be creative.

Where do you see yourself headed?
I have no earthly idea! I do know that this is going with the flow for me, and I am trying to just let music happen, and to address my fears about that as they surface. For myself, I am just trying to live with integrity as an artist, and put out music worth listening to and shows worth attending.

Where would you like to be in one year?
Playing better venues with a huge amount of critical support, locally and globally and a firm fan base in downtown Chicago.

How about in 5 years?
Being successful in music and using what I learn to either start a label or design an artist development project geared towards helping other artists succeed.

What's a good tip you can share with other independent musicians?
Believe in yourself and your music, be professional, work very hard, do not be afraid to spend money. It is an investment in your art! Do Not consider marketing yourself a bad thing.

Let's talk male and female. I have been to places with line-ups of 4 or 5 bands and there is not a female among them. I think a lot of young men are rockist -- do you know this term? It means basically thinking that rock music is electric guitars, bass, drums, and done by males. What is your experience of this, if any?
Well, male ego is a problem especially to young female solo artists. I am always the only woman playing solo at any given venue and certainly the only solo woman in places like the Cubby Bear. Part of my mission is to help other women get past that intimidation and take their rightful places in rock music.

Most of the young men, I‘ve encountered in Chicago are really kind, respectful and complimentary. Many of them have come up to me after shows pointed at their band mates and said we could not never have done here what you have done!

Truthfully, my mother died in a cataclysmic way a couple of years ago and that has enabled me to get past my fears because it was the worst thing that could ever happen to me and well I now compare everything to that…

You seem pretty versatile -- guitar, keyboard, singing. How did you learn all this?
Thanks! Just years and years of compulsion and practice. I have played piano since early childhood, sung since kindergarten, and took up guitar in my early 20’s… written instrumentals since age 25.

I took piano lessons as a kid but I wasn’t always the most dedicated at practicing, ...I’m still not…I play constantly and can write at the drop of a hat but hate doing the same stuff over and over…it’s torture! Even in the studio, I am very motivated to try to get a song in one take and all the demos were done in one take…I studied voice very briefly and guitar very briefly.but learned the most by just playing and singing constantly.

I also love to do creative arrangements of classic and well known rock songs for example a piano vocal Soundgarden Cover. I find these projects sometimes even more creative than writing my own songs. Due to the studio and recording process, I have had to learn to be much more disciplined than I like to be…it is better for my art though.

What are 5 things you think would help you move forward in music as you would like?
#1 Finishing Conundrum my debut album to my 100% satisfaction…we are 95% done
#2 Sending it out to those who have asked to review it
#3 Just going for it with regard to sending it to major blogs and radio stations & labels!
#4 Believing in myself and my talent.
#5 Learning about production…not to do it but to have a more specific and concrete way of communicating with the engineer so the finished project reflects me 100% artistically.

If you are playing at a small, quiet place and someone is talking loudly and interrupting the show for others, what do you do?
It happened last weekend but it was a tiny baby that the parents left with…still it was a distraction and I made a joke about the baby not being a fan. For me, I will use humor to get a message across. I really do not like to be disrespected and it must be addressed. Although it is rare, a performer must be prepared to take charge in this instance.

Can you set up and run all your own equipment?
YES!!! When you begin doing shows it is so important to know how to make sure there are no or minimal technical problems for everyone’s benefit!

What is your favorite guitar?
I am a Fender girl….I have others, some quite expensive but only play the Fenders! I am a Yamaha keyboard lover too…no board gets the sound and action of a Piano like Yamaha does.

Who are your musical influences?
Soooo so many, but the majors are:
Pink Floyd
Led Zepplin
Pearl Jam
Patti Smith
Deathcab for Cutie
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Rikki Lee Jones
Lucinda Williams

If you could pose with a giraffe or a sports car, which is more you?
Definitely the Giraffe…Always and Forever More! ☺

Thank you, Taryn!

PHOTO CREDIT: Top photo by Kari Skaflen