Sunday, January 24 was an historic day for Portland musicians! J-Fell Presents, Vortex Magazine, mogo Portland Music Festival, and Portland Radio Project hosted a free musicians’ marketing meetup (“meetup” is to “seminar” as “sellout rock show” is to “recital”) where the local music community joined to ask questions about social media marketing, where to invest marketing dollars, timing, venue cooperation and more. Portland Notes was there to get the scoop!
The expert panel consisted of music marketing mentors who volunteered their time and expertise to help musicians help themselves. Mike Walker of McMenamins Pubs, Breweries, and Historic Hotels, Ned Failing from Pickathon, Revolution Hall, and Mississippi Studios and Frank Rinaldi of the Doug Fir Lounge and The Bite of Oregon were very candid with their expectations and their willingness to cooperate with a band’s marketing efforts. Jason Fellman of J-Fell Presents, Harefest. and mogo Portland Music Festival offered his advice from a promoter’s viewpoint, stressing professionalism and straight-up good musicianship. In fact, the general message from all panelists was, “Be Brilliant!” – a motto we may hear often from attendees over the next few months.
Mike Burling from PDX Spotlight and Chris Young from Vortex Music Magazine both stressed the importance of creating content – building assets that can be shared with venues and the general public. This content can come in many forms. Once it is shared, it is a contagious and powerful force to propel a band’s image. Portland Notes spoke regarding content, communication, and cross-promotion. Audience members openly described their personal experiences – successes and failures.
So much was shared in the meeting, that it is impossible to cover all the topics in a short article. We’ve gathered two snippets of panelist instruction regarding social media, which was definitely a hot topic of the day. For more information, follow the PDX Musicians’ Marketing page on Facebook. These seminars will be happening at regular intervals, and will cover a variety of topics related to successfully marketing a band or solo project.
I was blessed last night to share some very vulnerable and intimate moments with local singer-songwriters in a special showcase at Crush Bar. Hosted by Maria Webster, the showcase featured original music by Michela Miller, Adam Goldthwaite, and Sarah Vitort. Having met Sarah once before, I had been impressed by her ability to share so openly while speaking with strangers, with a visible desire to help people learn from her past experiences. Her lovely spirit shines through even more in her musical performance.
Sarah is not afraid to share her weakness and vulnerability. Her stories, both in song and in the transitions between, draw the audience in – helping us to walk in her shoes for a night, hear her struggles, and share in the relief that comes from expressing her emotions so clearly. She strives to help her audience interpret painful situations in positive, yet realistic ways. Using clever humor and being willing to expose specific and extremely delicate details of her life, Sarah invites us to listen with our hearts and look at some of the negative experiences in life as opportunities to learn and grow.
This artist is always growing. With a “Wild Heart and a Gypsy Soul”, Sarah is in transition right now, in almost every way. What a great time to meet this inspiring woman! Following is an interview with Sarah Vitort, a few pictures, and a sample of her music. You can find Sarah on iTunes, Spotify, Reverbnation and YouTube.
You sang some new songs tonight, is there a new album coming? – The theme seems to be “things one can learn from all the stages of a relationship gone wrong.” Am I close?
I’ve been playing my newer songs because I’m going through a big rebrand, we are updating my music style (I used to be straight pop country. Now I’m less country and a little edgier, bluesier, darker but still mainstream), my look, even my name! We have started recording here and there, but nothing set in stone yet for the next album.
My first album, Wild Heart Gypsy Soul, was written during my first major transformation in my life. I quit my corporate job to travel solo in South America, and my life was never the same. So that album was all about breaking out of your shell and seeing the world with new eyes. It was very upbeat, bubbly, and mostly positive, but still real for who I was at the time.
With my new music, I’m really going deeper into the dark side. I have realized that one cannot simply be positive all the time, it’s unrealistic. Life is messy and we are messy. But if you get really honest with yourself, if you really look within and take the dark in stride, your light becomes that much stronger. Relationships do that for me. They force me to see myself in less flattering light, and I really do a lot of my best processing through other people. So this new music is more raw, more honest, and I hold nothing back. I want to show people it’s ok to be vulnerable and sensitive and there is no weakness in being truthful and authentic to who you are and how you feel in the moment. We live in a society where we are so afraid to feel, and I was a victim of that mentality for so long. So this is me breaking out of that.
The reason I ask is that you seem to be very honest about wanting to use your music to help people who may be walking along a path that you have already traveled. You have some experience and wisdom to share. Are people responding to your music? I know I could identify very closely with many of your songs.
Yes! The best thing about my career so far as been people’s responses to my music, so I love playing in intimate environments like house concerts so I can connect with my audience. It’s not uncommon to have people in tears at a show, I have discovered that I have a talent for really getting past the bullshit we surround ourselves with and going right for the heart. People really seem to relate to my music, I think my writing is very universal and that’s part of why pop music appeals to me so much, I can sneak a deeper message into a catchy song and reach so many more people.
Your music seems to have country and blues influences – any other styles that you love to listen to? Who are your musical heroes?
I grew up on classic pop and rock, and mainstream pop music. My dad works for a pop radio station, so I was deeply ingrained in pop music from day one. But my parents era of music was very prevalent too, that’s where the blues comes from. I love 70s music of all kinds, soul, funk, rock, all of it. I remember my dad listening to it on full blast outside in the summers doing yard work and cleaning the garage. It’s nostalgic for me and that era is so attractive to me for so many reasons.
I also love really sexy loungy stuff, Motown, soul, and big band, those are elements I’d like to bring more into my music as I continue to write. I also love any artist doing something a little wild, my new brand will allow me to show all sides of me, and I have many! My major influences now are ZZ ward and Zac Brown Band, other influences include Taylor Swift, Joni Mitchell, Katy Perry, the Eagles, Janis Joplin, Elle King, to name a few.
You mentioned writing songs with your sister when you were teenagers. I always love to hear that music has been a driving force in someone’s life since childhood. What’s the first song you remember singing for people? Either one you wrote, or one you “covered.”
When I was 4, I was incredibly shy. I barely said a word in preschool, I had decided early on that I preferred acting like a dog to acting like a human, and I really committed to that lifestyle ;). So my preschool teachers were shocked when one day, out of nowhere I raised my hand and asked if I could sing for the class. I sang “Somewhere Out There” from Fivel Goes West, a Capella, start to finish, then sat back down in silence. I wish someone would have filmed it.
You have an event coming up with Metts, Ryan & Collins – it seems like a very good choice by Jason Fellman to put you all together. Are you excited?
This is the most excited I’ve ever been for a show, and that is saying something because performing is like breathing to me. I love the Doug Fir, and I’ll be playing with a full band which allows me so much more expressive freedom onstage. And not to mention Redwood Son and Metts, Ryan & Collins are both incredibly badass bands, I’m honored to share the stage with them and I think the lineup couldn’t be more brilliant. Jason Fellman knows his stuff!
Where are you going from here? How can we find your music and your concert schedule?
The next big step is this rebrand, which will be rolling out over the next few months. We are also starting to work on recording demos of my new stuff and booking as many gigs as possible! I’m trying to do a house concert tour this summer, so I’m looking for hosts! Spotify and iTunes are the best places to listen to my music, I also have a few songs on ReverbNation. The best place to find my show schedule is my website, www.sarahvitortmusic.com, and I’m the most active on Facebook at Sarah Vitort Music, Instagram at @sarahvitort and on Snapchat: sbvitort.
Though I can deeply identify with the place Sarah speaks from right at this very moment, I am looking forward with great anticipation to seeing what she has planned next with her rebrand. Look for her to appear in an upcoming “Local Women in Music” series on Portland Notes.