An Indie Artist’s Plea to Look Past Algorithms and Curated Playlists

When the pandemic hit, Debórah Bond, like many artists, was caught off guard. “I believed I’d be juggling gigs and touring,” mentioned the impartial R&B/soul musician.

A full-time artist, Bond, 44, made a residing by a patchwork of vocal gigs — performing stay at weddings, bars and theaters, recording jingles, educating vocal classes and internet hosting occasions.

However the coronavirus pandemic discovered her burning by her financial savings and struggling to make ends meet in a tiny rental accent dwelling unit above the tree-lined storage of a house in Hyattsville, Maryland. Based on a 2020 report from the Rand Corp., artists had been extra possible than others to have misplaced their essential supply of earnings — music-related or not — because of the pandemic.

So with few different apparent choices, and the world at a standstill for the foreseeable future, she got down to write her first solo album within the small rental she fondly known as her “treehouse.”

However lower off from household, associates and different close by musicians, she devised a approach to deliver collectively out-of-work musicians from all over the world, individuals who felt simply as deserted and caught as she did. What resulted is a rare transnational album — “compass: I,” launched March 5 — that linked her with a far broader musical neighborhood and buoyed their collective spirits throughout a yr of isolation.

The brand new album is a pandemic-fueled collaboration of musicians reminiscent of Chelsey Inexperienced, PhD. a violinist and appearing chair of the strings division at Berklee Faculty of Music in Boston; two-time Grammy-nominated drummer Nate Smith in Nashville; and a percussionist from the British acid jazz band Incognito, who despatched in his recordings from London. “Everybody jumped on board from wherever they had been,” Bond mentioned. And most, she mentioned, “didn’t even stress me for cash. All of us needed to create.” She was even in a position to work with Gordon Chambers, a songwriter who has written for a number of artists from Beyoncé to Anita Baker and certain wouldn’t have been accessible to her or accessible pre-pandemic.

Within the small rental dwelling she calls her “treehouse,” Debórah Bond created a home-recording studio with mics, audio system, her MacBook ­­–– and the assistance of music engineers over video conferences. (David Hicks for KHN)

They had been up in opposition to the challenges of not only a pandemic, but additionally a music business that has come to rely closely on curated playlists like Apple Music’s “New Music” or “From Our Editors” to advertise new releases. Mainstream artists who’ve launched music through the pandemic have groups of business professionals guaranteeing their tunes find yourself on probably the most extremely trafficked playlists.

Some music-streaming platforms like Apple Music don’t enable third-party playlist curation. So, with out a direct connection to their editorial staff or companions, touchdown a spot on these lists isn’t possible. With out having the ability to carry out stay at golf equipment and occasions this previous yr, Bond says, some impartial artists could really feel monetary strain to focus much less on the standard of their music and extra on discovering methods to go viral on social media to tip the scales.

How does an impartial artist discover new listeners at a time when performing for a crowd isn’t allowed, they usually’re battling in opposition to greater than 50 million and 60 million songs already on Spotify and Apple Music, respectively?

Bond was not naïve about how the music world works, having been a performer for many years. She and her band, Third Logic, had been performing collectively since they had been of their early 20s, however as time handed and maturity — marriage, kids, elevated work obligations — set in, discovering the time to put in writing music collectively turned practically unattainable. They hadn’t launched a brand new album since “Madam Palindrome” in 2011. Time and distance from her bandmates meant that gigs had been few. So, in 2019, she determined to embark on a solo profession. Then covid hit.

At first, she despaired about how she would be capable to pay for issues like hire and meals with out the hope of recurring stay gigs. “The pandemic aid cash was actually useful,” she mentioned, as a result of impartial artists can typically go weeks with out making any cash even with out a international pandemic. Between her stimulus verify and unemployment, Bond budgeted $600 per week to stay on. She had reasonably priced medical insurance by Kaiser Permanente, “due to Obamacare,” she mentioned. She lower bills, caught to her finances and acquired modest funds from reserving a couple of covid-friendly, livestreamed occasions for Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Heart and the Music Heart at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland.

She was in a position to improvise a home-recording studio with mics, audio system, her MacBook and ProTools software program and the assistance of music engineering associates over video conferences. Bond writes tune lyrics and performs however doesn’t herself compose music. So, she put out a name to the musicians in her community and located a lot of them had been additionally at residence tinkering with new tunes and keen to share. Bond would “wait till late at evening, activate coloured bulbs, blast issues by my displays and write,” she mentioned.

After a tough draft of the album was accomplished in September, she and impartial producer Brandon Lane put out a broader name for assist for extra stay instrumentation. Their pleas circulated and produced a village of expertise, as musicians from everywhere in the world despatched the singer their high-quality residence recordings. “It confirmed me what number of musicians had been in the identical boat,” Bond mentioned.

“It confirmed me what number of musicians had been in the identical boat,” Bond says.(David Hicks for KHN)

Lane, who lived close by and have become a part of Bond’s pandemic bubble, would come to her residence studio — totally masked-up — as technical assist and to co-produce the album. The title “compass: I” displays an appreciation of the significance of trusting your personal inner compass, she defined. The challenge confirmed Bond “who has my again,” she mentioned, and that in a time of world disaster musicians — a lot of whom Bond considers associates — would come collectively to co-create along with her.

Bond, who describes herself as having an eclectic Bohemian model and devil-may-care perspective, mentioned she doesn’t need to change herself to jockey for a spot on the Billboard charts or playlists — even within the post-pandemic world.

The music business is notoriously youth-obsessed and male-dominated, she mentioned. The third annual report on the business, “Inclusion within the Recording Studio?” from professor Stacy Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative discovered that in evaluating gender throughout eight years of Grammy nominations for Report of the 12 months, Album of the 12 months, Track of the 12 months, Producer of the 12 months and Greatest New Artist, 21.7% — or about 1 in 5 artists — had been ladies.

“That is who the f*** I’m,” she mentioned. “I’m not 18, however I’m not ‘previous’ both.” She needs listeners to have the possibility to find numerous musical choices for feminine entertainers, at completely different ages, with completely different sounds and types to match. By dint of necessity, the pandemic opened new forms of doorways for performers like her — by which she hopes new forms of music will proceed to be heard.

“It’s a must to be sensible,” she mentioned. “It’s not arduous to search out new music.” Manually looking out streaming apps like SoundCloud and Spotify take no extra effort than scrolling by Instagram, she mentioned. Bond hopes that listeners will take a break from the algorithms that sneakily sway our musical pursuits towards these artists pushed to the highest of the charts and observe their very own compass.

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