Reaching a global audience, by Deke Sharon
Since the beginning of recorded history until the advent of recording, music was local, as sound waves could only travel as far as the breeze would carry them. Recordings and radio waves allowed music to travel through space and time, but recording and distribution was an expensive process, and there were only a limited number of radio stations. Only those with a record deal or invitation to perform on a broadcast were able to have their music heard elsewhere.
We live in a brave new musical world in which the effective cost of recording and distribution are so low as to be negligible in most cases. Billboard charting albums are recorded on laptops using digital recording technology that allows for endless number of tracks and takes, and if anything isn’t perfect, notes and rhythms can be nudged and pitched into place. As for distribution, iTunes and YouTube have taken the place of physical recordings, allowing anyone to upload their music at no cost, where it can be seen and heard by anyone on the globe with access to the internet.
The a cappella community in particular has benefitted greatly from these advances. Straight No Chaser were discovered by Atlantic Records after a video of theirs went viral, now they’re international recording and touring stars with two gold records and a fan base most rock bands could only dream about. Collegiate a cappella ensembles now release recordings that are of a quality unimaginable only a decade ago, with fans worldwide eagerly awaiting their newest album and videos. Pentatonix has used technology especially well, graduating from simple iPhone videos to award-winning music videos; they’ve had such success that they have more subscribers on YouTube than Beyonce. Other groups, such as Home Free, have found an audience where one never existed, being the first a cappella country band.
The benefits have reached traditional choral music as well. Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choirs have seen tremendous success online, catapulting him to celebrity status (who was the last choral composer to have that kind of popular recognition?). The PS22 chorus has several viral videos and a significant following, having inspired middle school music teachers around the globe. From gospel choirs to barbershop quartets, the internet is full of vocal harmony, and the results have been a boon to educators who are seeing increased enrollment, and to students who are finding inspiration.
Reading this, you may think “well, what about me and my chorus? How do we benefit?” You can use the internet initially to:
* Find new ideas for your group, from repertoire to look and staging
* Listen to different performances of songs you will be performing, to help hone your vision for your performance
* Use great online performances to excite your singers
* Use less effective performances as an opportunity to learn and critique
…and once your group is performing to your standards
* Capture concert video and upload to the internet for archival purposes
* Take live audio recordings and make them available for sale online (companies like loudr.com can handle clearance)
* Consider making a simple, fun “behind the scenes” video of rehearsals to attract more members
* Create a vlog (video log) of any tours, so your families and fans back home can keep up with you daily
Finally, when you have the right song that sounds great and captures the essence of your group, consider spending some money and making a professional video. The money that in times past you might have put in to making an album is better spent on video nowadays, as it’s a more immediate, compelling record of your group’s creativity and craft. Recordings only present part of your group’s character and charisma, as an audience needs to see singers’ faces to be fully transformed by vocal harmony.
The international scope of our current digital musical landscape need not be daunting. The world’s great choral music has never been closer at hand, for you and your singers. Listen, learn, and in time add your own voices to the rich tapestry of singing online. The benefits to listeners and viewers worldwide – now and in future generations – are greater than ever before. The increase in number of singers, recordings and videos has an impact, as the world over time, slowly but surely, is becoming a more harmonious place.
Deke Sharon is considered “the father of contemporary a cappella.” For more please visit: http://www.dekesharon.com
Richard Valk says
I agree wholeheartedly with Deke but please don’t forget the minefield of legal issues you might get into when publishing your videos without having secured the proper licenses! Most coirs have covered the license for live performances but not for sharing them online which are different.