Sunday, April 28, 2013

Zoe Keating

Zoë Keating is a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, creating intricate, haunting and compelling music. Zoë is known for both her use of technology - which she uses to sample her cello onstage - and for her DIY ethic which has resulted in the sale of over 60,000 copies of her self-released albums and a devoted social media following.


Born in Canada and classically trained from the age of eight, Zoë obtained a liberal arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College and then spent her 20's working in software while moonlighting as a cellist in rock bands. She eventually combined the cello and the computer, developing her signature style of live-layered music while improvising for late night crowds at her Francisco warehouse. In 2003 Zoë quit her comfortable tech job to focus on her layered cello music. She made the choice to release her music online without a label, believing that her listeners were out there and she just needed to find them.

 Performance of "Lost", ABC Radio National, Sydney, June 2012

Zoë's grassroots, label-less approach has garnered her much public attention and press. She speaks regularly on artist-empowerment, sustainable careers and the concept of artist-as-entrepreneur, has been profiled on NPR's All Things Considered, named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and awarded a performing arts grant from the Creative Capital Foundation. She serves on the boards of the San Francisco chapter of the Recording Academy, the Magik Magik Orchestra and CASH Music, a nonprofit organization that builds open source digital tools for musicians and labels. For the last two years, Zoë has been slowly touring North America, young child in tow, to support her latest album, Into the Trees, which spent 49 weeks on the Billboard classical charts, peaking at #7. She is working on a third album.

Into The Trees cover art

Zoë has performed and recorded with a wide range of artists, including Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, Tears for Fears, DJ Shadow, John Vanderslice, Rasputina, Pomplamoose and Paolo Nutini. She has collaborated and performed with WNYC's Radiolab and is also known for her work in film and dance. Commissions include music for the San Francisco MOMA and soundtracks for the films Ghost Bird, The Devil's Chair and Frozen Angels. Her music has been used by countless entities, including the BBC, ITV, PBS, NPR, CBS, NBC, Intel, IBM, Apple, Patagonia, Specialized Bikes, the Alonzo King Lines Ballet, Alvin Ailey Dance, Parsons Dance and San Francisco's ODC, and was recently in the Broadway play "Wit" starring Cynthia Nixon. Her cello playing can be heard on Mark Isham's scores The Conspirator, Warrior and The Secret Life of Bees.

Zoë makes an effort to reach audiences wherever they are, performing on radio, television and webcasts, outdoors in the desert, in churches and concert halls, at universities, museums, technology conferences, airports, public spaces, executive brainstorming sessions, house concerts, bars and rock clubs across around the world.She is also extremely fond of pancakes and likes to say yes to crazy things...

Strings Magazine: June 2010 By Rory Williams 
Quote: ‘I like performing at the craziest events—those things that were always the most unusual have benefited me the most.’ Having a Web presence is no longer a cute way to stay connected to fans. It has become the way a musician can feed, clothe, and shelter herself. Case in point: the “happily unsigned and independent” avant cellist Zoe Keating. “I bought my house with iTunes,” she told an audience last December at the SF MusicTech Summit.

The conference in San Francisco brought together artists and established Web developers from Twitter, Google, and Facebook, as well as other independents and start-ups, to not only gauge the online music experience, but to shape its future. At a time when the major music labels bemoan what’s become of the industry, this conference was brimming with optimism. “This is why I love technology conferences,” Keating says. “At other music conferences, they’re holding onto the crumbs of the past. “I say, ‘Get out of your music ghetto.’” At the conference, Keating—tall, fair, and hip with pink dreadlocks—sat on a panel that discussed how musicians can achieve online popularity. Her self-produced One Cello x 16: Natoma has spent time on iTunes as both No. 1 on the classical chart and No. 2 on the electronica chart. Counting nearly 1.3 million followers on Twitter, Keating hasn’t just earned her seat on the panel, she’s leading the techie congregation. Her Web popularity has led to interviews with National Public Radio, the San Francisco Chronicle, Wired magazine, and NBC, and opened up a wealth of collaborative opportunities with leading artists, including electronic-music icon Imogen Heap.

Uploaded on May 4, 2009

In short, Keating is what every independent string player needs to be—digitally enterprising. “As an independent musician, you have to do as much as possible in as many spheres as possible,” Keating says. [...] At night, Keating performed in alternative-venue spaces—her favorite being a warehouse—plugging in and experimenting with different looping techniques. She also played for rock cello trio Rasputina, which she found online through the Internet Cello Society. Then Heap, after hearing Keating’s music on MySpace and ordering a CD, hired Keating as the opening act and accompanist during Heap’s international tour, which has since turned into five tours.
“For string players, we’re in a really great position,” Keating says. “Rock ’n’ roll and pop acts want string artists with them. String players can cover a lot of musical ground. You can add so much—a richness to the solo performer like [Heap]. It’s a rewarding thing to be doing because if you’ve been classically trained, it’s not hard to figure out.” A few “strategically free” gigs, which didn’t offer money, also have paid off for Keating: the oddball concert in the desert that was picked up by NPR for a feature story, for instance, or a tech conference that included executives along with developers. “People at a tech conference may have never seen a live performance,” Keating says. “Corporate gigs [such as banquets] are pretty lucrative. And those people are going to be exposed to you because of that conference, and they’re going to able to picture you in their environment.” That was certainly the case in December, when the San Francisco tech panel ended—Keating found herself surrounded by members of the audience and swamped with offers. 

Zoe Keating’s Do’s and Don’ts for the Digitally Enterprising Musician

Do: Get personal on your website and cloud accounts. Keating’s younger fans love when she divulges personal information. “They want to buy my records five times just to support me because of that.” Do: Think beyond traditional gigs. Keating has made it a point to play at technology conferences. She doesn’t know who featured her on Twitter and iTunes, but it’s possible they watched her perform at one those events. “I’ve become the tech cellist” she says. Do: Take control of your publicity. “It’s important for me to always be authentic. It’s me on those websites. If I were to use my Twitter account just to publicize things, it wouldn’t be authentic.” Don’t: Have the inaccessible rock-star attitude in person or on the Internet. After Keating’s concerts, she mixes it up with fans offstage and online. “You’re there to play a concert, but the meet-and-greet is a part of the event.”
From, originally published 2010-06-01