Please meet Didi Oviatt. Didi writes and self-publishes books like “Search For Maylee”, “Aggravated Momentum”, “The Stix”, and “New Age Lamians” as well as her own Blog about writing which has some distinct parallels to my own posts. Didi is also a columnist at The Conscious Talk Magazine, an online outlet for diverse intelligent readers. I felt that made for a great conversation about the sameness of creativity, no matter the medium.
B: Hi Didi. Thanks for agreeing to this interview, especially seeing we have only known each other for about 12 seconds. Something I really love about the Internet (and writing) is that it can allow a person to present a lot about themselves in a controlled way. Conversations can be messy but typed material is only as messy as you let it be. How does it feel having a total stranger tap tapping on your chamber door?
D: Hello Benedict! I’m thrilled to have met you too. I couldn’t be any happier with this conversation and a chance to pick at your brain a bit. I’ve been spending some time on your site, and I have to say your vast knowledge of music is impressive!
To answer your question: This age of technology and having strangers tap tapping on my door both scares and excites me… in equal measures! It seems the more advanced we get, and the more knowledge is accessible at our fingertips, the smaller our world becomes. It makes us both powerful AND vulnerable at the same time. Honestly, this frightens me beyond measure for the future of my kids, and grandkids to come. That said, it’s also empowering to be able to influence, create, and grow in a community of like-minded people from anywhere on the globe on any given day. That’s a beautiful thing.
Now, I have a question for you: It looks like you have been in the music business for many years. The Discography page on your site dates back as far as 1989 (I was four years old that year). Musicians are now technologically able to create, produce, and distribute their material from home just the same as authors are able to write, publish, and distribute their books. Do you feel that this is a positive or negative aspect for the majority of consumers, and why?
B: Now that is a curly one straight up. Two answers and depending on what day you get me either can be the dominant one:
- Technology has certainly lowered the cost of entry for being a composing & recording musician. In the last few years what can be done on a phone with free software exceeds what I could do with expensive Used gear back in the late 80’s! This is great as now really anyone has access to the tools they need to get their musical ideas out there to the whole world. You don’t even need a record company anymore. Everyone has an equal ability to have a voice.
- I think it is currently a bit of a disaster area, or at least it has been for the last 20 years as now anyone can say or do what they want with no gatekeeper or curator to help keep standards high. Art is a big responsibility and being able to bang out all manner of garbage and call it self-expression like they just made “Hotel California” or “Stairway To Heaven” is not a positive thing for the nobility of expressing the human condition.
Thankfully I am starting to see that, while the mainstream record industry is stooping real low, there are some stirrings in the self-powered artist arena. So hopefully very soon I will be majoring with option #1.
I read a self-published book from a free eBooks site a while ago and rather enjoyed it. So, would I be right in assuming that what I say above is about right for books too?
D: First off, I’m glad you threw a reference to ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Stairway To Heaven’ (I love that particular age of rock). Secondly, you’re absolutely right! The whole time I was reading your question, I was asking myself that exact same thing and comparing the similarities. Being a Self-published author, I read a LOT of Self-published books. I try to support fellow Indi’s as much as I can, and I also enjoy the chase in finding a diamond in the rough. But, that’s just it… There is so much to read and sort through due to the abundance and simplicity in the publishing process, as well as so many books being rough unpolished rubbage, it can be hard. I think this is why so many people only read traditionally published works. They’ve been turned off by a few Indi reads, and turned their backs. Traditional books have already been filtered, so they’re more likely to be trusted by the consumer.
Now, that said… I’ve also read quite a few traditional books that are equally as hard to get through. A lot of authors have an in after their first one accepted, and the rest of their work can easily get sloppy with repetition. This day and age in writing, has opened the doors so wide for bibliophiles that the standard of both Traditional and Self-published can be a bit of a double-edged sword.
B: I write a lot about the stumbling blocks we face as musicians in getting our records finished and published. Because those means to create & publish are so available now, I wonder if aspiring wordsmiths really have essentially the same challenges us note wranglers do?
D: Yes, and no. There is so much to learn, I feel like even after years of dipping my toes in the water, I’m still learning something new on a regular basis. I also feel like once you’ve figured something out, everything advances and changes. Writing a manuscript is really only a start of the battle. It’s like the training and prep before going to war. Once you have the manuscript written, the real work begins. You’ve reached the battle destination, but haven’t exactly joined the fight. This is the point where you need to think tactically. There are so many options, so many potential roads to take, it can be overwhelming… and expensive if you let it.
At the end of the day, creating and publishing can most definitely be a struggle, but with enough persistence and dedication, you’ll get there eventually. No matter which road you decided to take, the publishing job is finishable.
In my opinion, it’s the marketing that truly takes the struggle cake. This is where the majority of new writers get hung up. They assume that because they’ve published a book, it’ll automatically be read by the masses. Sadly, this just isn’t the case. Getting your books out there can be hard work! You could have the greatest piece of literature known to mankind, yet if no one knows it exists then how will it ever be read? People spend very large sums of money on marketing, lots of which the outlets are scams and/or useless. They also spend a lot of time. Building a readership and author platform is double the time consumption of actually producing books. I could go on and on about marketing, but I’ll just stop here lol.
So, what about musicians? Is getting one’s music delivered to the ears of the masses as rocky of a trail as it is getting books in the hands of mass story lovers?
B: Short answer, yes. Very much so.
Putting your record on Bandcamp or YouTube is really easy (once you’ve done it once) but getting it heard, and more importantly generating paying fans, is soul destroying. I understand why people still wish for Mr. Sony to arrive on their doorstep to take all the pain away. Sadly tho, I don’t think he’s coming.
In the meantime, there are plenty of places that offer the nirvana of endless fans if you just Join Now and then Upgrade to the Pro plan. It’s rather clever but more often than not a total noose (a waste of cash & energy) as you can only develop fans organically. I see so many developing artists going in completely the wrong direction chasing stats in some web app instead of building what their natural talent is suited to.
Of course, that just leaves them more frustrated, and less able to be helped. It is a sort of Dante’s “Inferno” out there. My Ma used to say that it was a sin not to use the talents that God gave us as He has a bigger plan that relies on each of us being the puzzle piece He intended. Once I swap God for Nature or Life I agree.
The problem we have right now with the internet is that essentially everyone is posting something in hope people will listen but no one is listening because they are too busy posting their missive and trying to demand plays. This is all so me, me, me and leaves no space for conversation.
This circles me back to the way you grabbed onto Led Zeppelin & the Eagles as I truly worry that we aren’t getting those moments where an act can speak to and for the masses so powerfully. Will we ever see bands like that again? Will we ever see the like of H.G. Wells’ “War Of The Worlds” again?
You appear to have had some success getting nice feedback on your books. Can you try to help us understand what you did differently from those who get nowhere?
D: To be honest, this conversation is blowing me away with the similarities between music and literature production/distribution. I never would have guessed that two completely different worlds could be so alike. I wish I could offer a straightforward answer to this questions, but yet again my thinker seems to be peeling back layer after layer of complexities.
I feel like there are so many artists with the same potential of greatness as Zeppelin, Cash and even Skynyrd out there just waiting to be discovered. The problem is digging themselves out of the masses. Clearly, quality mixed in equal portions with originality is a must for success. Period! No matter what route one climbs to get to the top, they absolutely must have a product worth reading/listening to!
But, what next? Once one’s work of art is master crafted, what can be done that’s different, that stands out? My main approach has been finding balance between all options available. Building my own platform in the blogging community as well as social media is a big step. I personally strive for honest and real communication. I don’t see other authors as competition, I see them as peers to work hand in hand with and to learn from.
I support others in the same fashion as I’d like to be supported. I don’t just put my work out there and use some random sense of false entitlement in expecting people to read it because I’m me. That logic seems a little silly to me, naive and egotistical. If you want others to support you, then you need to support them too. Kind of like the, ‘it takes a good friend to have good friends’ approach. Personability is huge, and eventually, you’ll be noticed in the right places by the right people. Make a big enough splash in the right body of water, and you’ll attract the bigger fish.
I still have so much further to go, and so much more work ahead. Luckily for me… personal drive, consistency, and the dedication to continue learning is on my side. I’ve done something different with each book I’ve produced. Some experiences were positive and some were negative, but ultimately they’ve all be learning ones! In the words of Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.”
So, what about you? What have you done differently to stand out, and to think outside of the box in your mission to bring something worthy of a platinum record to the masses? What resources do you recommend to that artist out there with the potential of being the next GAGA, aside from wearing an outfit made of raw meat?
B: Well you just resoundingly smacked the wood holding device on the head!
Yes, it is shocking how many people feel they deserve accolades for just showing up. And only “just” in so many of those cases. I guess it is part of the silent revolution the world is going through where each individual now has the freedom to do what they will (and hopefully intend no harm). With Freedom comes Responsibility.
Because it is so easy to make a record it means that those records (or books) aren’t well conceived. Some goes go chugga, chugga, chugg and think they made music. Noise isn’t music, isn’t Art.
It isn’t Art so no one is really moved enough to engage – to be moved by it to buy, comment…
Responsibility is hard work, but without hard work, you can’t make anything outstanding. Steve Jobs of Apple fame worked super hard to make computers, iPods, iPhones, iPads etc magical devices to use and changed the world that way. Other providers put out devices that may have been technically better but Apple changed the world we live in as they did the hard work that engaged people in their feeling bone.
What have I done: oh geez that is a hard one, as for years I simply stopped really trying to market. I made my music and did what I could to make it better and better. Album finished I popped it on Bandcamp and my website and moved on to the next project. Interestingly I saw sales appear to be inversely proportional to what I perceived as the musical improvement of the project. Either I got lost in technical ecstasy or audiences didn’t key into more melodic work.
I decided many decades ago that I wasn’t fitting anyone’s definition of what I should be so I would strive to be as uniquely me as I could. The reasoning I had was that at least I would be happy with my records and maybe sometime in the future there would be a few other people who would get what I was doing and appreciate that.
Lately, I feel that there is a glimmer of an onrushing train. Maybe there are a few fans in the carriages as it is my take that there are people now actively searching for something that is real and genuinely human as opposed to the Lady Gargle/Trailer Swift prefab we have been spoon-fed for the last few decades.
Advice I have been pouring forth in my Tutorial section for years now is actually exactly what you said: make great Art, present it well, build connections with peers and be a decent person with everyone you deal with. Past that is not yours to control – yet oddly the less you try to control the more life seems to help out on your behalf.
As for resources, I think that so many have forgotten the greatest resource we have available which is other people. The Internet really siloed each of us as individuals. It let us be islands but the greats were always a team effort. There can be frustrations in working with others whereas the Digital Audio Workstation, Word Processor, YouTube etc. software is always under our total control. That feels great but also doesn’t push us to the extra leap of greatness that having someone else in the process can. This is why records had Producers and books had Editors. I think acts would be well served finding ways to either pay good people to take these roles or at least bounce things off each other to allow the challenges to be given and overcome. “Yeah that song has potential but…”
I think creators working together (as we currently are) is a great part of the way forward in the new post-Publisher landscape. Matter of fact my next article (in Draft form) is about exactly that.
D: Benedict, you’re an inspiration! I hope that more artists out there will strive to authenticity-of-self as you have, for all of our sakes. Same goes for books. I can’t wait to see the deserving and truly talented writers step up and stand out in originality! The cookie cutter stories out there are swarming, and everytime an excellent story that stands above the rest is presented it truly is a breath of fresh air!
Thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation with me! It’s been a pleasure!
B: Thank you to you too Didi. It is always nice to feel less alone, less siloed, in this world of creation in which we have found ourselves.
Places you can find Didi: