Just a few weeks ago, I went to Annapolis to spend a weekend with my cousins. As I love Annapolis so much, the weekend turned into a long weekend and then it quickly turned into a short week. My two night visit turned into a five night visit because I always hate leaving! One of the things that I love the most about Annapolis (especially during the summer!) is that there is never a shortage of wonderful live music
One night, my cousins and I went out for dinner to celebrate my younger cousin’s birthday. As soon as we were seated, I saw the musician’s card on our table. It was the size of a postcard and it had the musician’s contact information, song samples and a QR code. For those of you who do not know, a QR code is a “Quick Response code.” It looks like a barcode and, with a QR code reader on your smartphone, you can scan them to read encoded information such as text, a URL or other data. I was VERY excited to see the QR code and I immediately scanned it. The text revealed was the musician’s cell phone number. His cell phone number? Why would he do that? You see, Shawn Owen wanted his audience to TEXT him requests! How wonderful is that?! Within minutes, my cousins and I were texting song requests to Shawn and within minutes after that, Shawn was singing the songs we wanted to hear.
During his break, I ran up to him and explained that I had never seen a QR code used this way before and that I thought that it was very innovative for the music industry. I was impressed and I asked Shawn if I could interview him for my blog. When I returned to New Jersey, we connected again and I am happy to share the interview with you!
Q: Tell me a little bit about your music background.
Well, I had my first performance when I was in 4th grade singing a solo for my elementary school Christmas play and have been hooked on performing ever since. I was in school band all through my scholastic career, playing trumpet and percussion. I toyed in bands all through middle and high school, as well as countless hours in my bedroom learning to play any instrument I could get my hands on. That took me through piano, trumpet, coronet, voice, percussion, flutes, fiddle, mandolin and guitar, which is by far my strongest and favorite. Once I graduated high school, I formed a ska/punk band called Stolen Element with some friends. We toured small bars and house parties up and down the east coast for the next 8 years, releasing 2 studio albums, countless live bootlegs and making thousands of friends. Once the band began to break up, I moved to Annapolis, MD where I now call home. I play here in the Annapolis, DC, and Baltimore area about 5 nights a week now. I’m recording a 5 song acoustic EP of original songs now and plan to reenter with a full band in September to begin our full length record.
Q: How would you describe your music style? Do you have a preferred genre?
I would describe my style as chill beachy reggae vibed music. One of my fans gave me the best description I’ve ever heard for a musician. I think I’m getting the quote right,”You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting in the dentist chair? And he’s about to start drilling away at your mouth and all that anxiety is on the front of your mind? And then he puts the nitrous mask on, you take a deep breath and all that stuff goes away? You just lay back, smile and relax? That’s the feeling Shawn’s music gives you.” I always loved the description. Thanks, Josh! I truly love all kinds of music, everything from classical to hip-hop but I’d have to say reggae is my favorite, punk rock being a very close second. I guess that’s my Yin and Yang.
Q: Do you have favorite types of venues or audiences?
I love playing full band shows with staging, lighting, lots of people crowding the front, lots of energy, etc. Those are my favorite shows to go see for sure. The high that creates I haven’t been able to simulate. I might have tried a few times. I think my favorite to play are small intimate groups, dimly lit lounges, maybe even just chilling around a campfire with some other people singing hippie jams. I love the closeness and togetherness that music creates and those shows I feel it most.
Q: When I saw the card about you and your music on the table at Rockfish, the first thing I noticed was the QR code on it. Talk to me about that. How did you decide to incorporate that into your audience’s listening experience?
I had an idea to create a text message request deal where people could see what songs I play and request them with their phones without having to leave their seat. I had seen QR codes in airports and malls but didn’t really know much about them. One of my friends who owns his own real estate business had been using them for his email blasts and suggested them for what I was trying. I did a little research and saw the versatility that they offer and it was just a no-brainer that kind of fell into my lap. Not a genius moment on my part, just right place at the right time I guess.
Q: Since Facebook became so huge, I have all but forgotten about MySpace. I do realize, though, that some musicians still use it to build their brands. How do you feel about the platform?
I’m basically of the same thought. We used MySpace a ton with my old band when MySpace was in its beginnings and prime. But it seems like more people are spending their time on Facebook so that’s where I focused my attention. I still use MySpace and have a profile page there but more as a collection net to bring people into the FB world and to my site. I always liked the layout of MySpace better for musicians. There is a lot more flexibility with creating unique pages, posting songs, videos, show dates, etc. But I think the average user is drawn to FB’s and Twitter’s formats more.
Q: What do you hope to achieve by using social media in your branding?
Branding is really important with social media. For a lot of artists, that is our only outlet to our fans. We all can’t get on TV or tour around the world but everyone can create a Facebook page and share themselves with people from everywhere. For me social media is just a means to an end, introducing more and more people to my music and connecting with them on that level. Music has always been about the connection for me and that’s what I try to use social media to do. Would be nice to make a million dollars while I’m at it, too…
I was really glad that Shawn described his style as “chill beachy reggae vibed music” because that is the exact feeling that I got while listening to him play. I definitely would not consider myself a music buff but I know chill beachy reggae when I hear it!
I hope that Shawn’s innovation and energy can give other musicians in my audience some food for thought. Shawn, I hope that you continue to use social media to brand your music and build your following. I also hope that you see that million dollars somewhere down the road!