Intimacy of Distance by Jordan Reyne

oSSJ#8-jordanA-szTraveling Roots

Mum says I started playing music in my cot. I used to wake her up in the middle of the night banging things together and singing kid show songs at the top of my lungs.

My music career began with The New Zealand Arts Council, who assist innovative musicians. Luckily, I’ve had four projects funded. First, “The Ironman,” used found sound as musical instruments— machines as tones and rhythms—along with more traditional ones. The most recent project aimed at raising New Zealand’s history awareness by setting pioneer stories into music.

To support myself during these projects, I worked as a software engineer (doing embedded systems programming). Soon, I realized that it is a career job. And I choose music! So I quit full-time computer work in 2002, and did web development part time for a few years.

My goal was to decrease my part time hours until they were zero, and then just do music. But even with a plan, reality is more like going through a maze. There are walls all the time—bookers who don’t understand your style, labels that won’t take the risk of anything non-commercial, people not wanting to know you unless you’re already very famous. My goal stays the same, but my plans get revised every 5 minutes!

Getting booked and finding management takes persevering. I kept playing. The crowds grew. Then I started getting offers. Around four or five years back, while living in Hamburg (Germany), I started living from music alone.

Now, living in the UK, overheads are much more expensive. Though a struggle financially, there more opportunities—particularly as a key aspect of my music is storytelling, often about English / Welsh families. I grew up in New Zealand and my roots are actually Welsh—coming from a long line of Bleanavon coal miners.

I love techy stuff. You to get solve rough, tricky problems. That said, I still get flummoxed in SL. I cant multi-task to save myself! Being an end-user can be more confusing than building things! 

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Enterprising Musicians

Competing offline requires a huge amount of capital, which restricts access. The following a musician gets online can translate into offline because it gets around many problems caused by gatekeepers. Online, anyone can play at anytime. Listeners are won one-by-one, creating a fairly level playing field. So indie music is on the rise.

Virtual reality gives indie musicians new opportunities, though each may be poorly paid. ALL options must be tried! The downside is working twelve to eighteen hour days, just to pay the rent. But doing what you love makes it worth it.

Most fans have an ethic to support the musicians they love. So they buy a LOT of records. One in four of my CD orders online come from a SL person. But artists can’t survive on only one income stream.

The small audience size for a concert in-world puts off impatient record companies. But indie musicians are patient. We know the power of incremental successes, the value of solid building, from the bottom up.

I know my SL fans a lot more deeply than my real life ones. People outside often think that because we are physically located in different places, that the relationship CAN’T be intimate. To understand this requires changing preconceptions about what constitutes intimacy. The metaverse has a very grass-roots way of doing things. It can throw old terms out.

In-world musicians are NOT in competition. Who only owns one CD? Or only likes one band? The richer the scene becomes, the greater the variety and ideas for everyone. This is why I love the net. There are new paths forward, if patient and determined.

The SL crowds are genuine music lovers, and are not genre-ist. They are open to new styles and experimental sounds. In real life, luckily, there are some very cool booking agents who are in it for the love. Though they may be hard to find, I’m tenacious.

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Digging Deep

After life changing events, I pull myself together through music. I have written a few albums to explore other viewpoints. It is therapeutic, possibly cathartic too. And I get records out of it.

I’m not one to sing the praises of hard times. I would give them back in a flash if I could. But everyone has a path, and hard times shift that path, for better or worse. We like to look on the bright side, and find meaning from it, or we will go crazy. But sometimes there is value in saying there is no grand plan, and no inherent meaning. You then can make your own meaning by deciding what is valuable.

When people say that “things happen for a reason,” they trot out clichés about negative events making you stronger, or helping you grow. Human beings like to underpin everything with reasons. But it doesn’t mean those reasons are true. Some people just get hit by a falling piano, and there is no reason at all for it. The ways you metabolize your own stories are the ways you make sense of them to move forward.

We all seek sense in a universe without much of it. How people do this is rich and fascinating. I channel these questions and feelings into the music. This is why I like writing songs about other peoples’ stories. —Jordan Reyne, musician and author

(Please see Jordan’s article, “Virtual Vantage” in the SL version of SSJ#8 where she gives advice about in-world performing.)

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