St. Louis: Dance the Vote

Dance to Vote Campaign Kickoff Photo Courtesy of Ciara Carnes
Dance to Vote Campaign Kickoff Photo Courtesy of Ciara Carnes

The arts are transformative. They challenge us, force us to question and drive us to act. In the midst of social and political tumult, they offer direction and display the power of human creativity.

In the midst of a tense election year, we may feel tempted to dismiss the value of our participation altogether. Our voices may seem inadequate in the face of the vitriol and injustice we witness. Rather than succumbing to feelings of powerlessness, several local artistic troupes have united to spur St. Louisans to action.

Photo courtesy of Ashleyliane Dance Company

Ashley liane Dance Company performing at Week One Dance to Vote Campaign courtesy of Ciara Carnes

St. Louis is full of socially aware creatives who consistently challenge the status quo: That Uppity Theater Company has a history of speaking out on important political issues. Among many other projects, they have partnered with other local artists to remind us of the need for registration and participation.

Spearheaded by Artistic Director Joan Lipkin, That Uppity Theater Company has collaborated with local choreographers and dancers from Ashleyliane Dance Company, Karlovsky and Company Dance, Beyond Measure Dance Theater and the Afrokuumba Dancers and Inversion Dance Theater to bring “Dance the Vote” to St. Louis. Her previous work has drawn attention to underrepresented people groups and social issues. This synthesis of artistic mediums centers on one goal: an informed and active community.

“We are utilizing performance to call attention to a significant political and social issue,” says Lipkin. They emphasize the importance of voting and voter registration. Featured pieces will remind audience members of both the privilege and responsibility of democracy and the long road toward equal voting opportunity.

“Dance the Vote” features original performances from local dancers, poets, and activists. The kick-off performances will be hosted at Vintage Vinyl in the Delmar Loop. Performances take from 2-5pm and will occur multiple times within the three-hour time slot every Sunday and Saturday until November 8,2016 . Voter registration poll information will also be available to all in attendance.

Future performances will be announced weekly to the public and will also occur in conjunction with First Fridays at Grand Center. Come to experience a powerful intersection of art and life with “Dance the Vote.” For more information on how you can experience and join this life changing campaign please follow @ThatUppityTheatreCompany.

6 Social Media Platforms to Help Musicians Can Stay Connected

In todays music industry social media is the best way to communicate directly with fans, and with the new millenuals  it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. There are tons of different platforms and apps out there to explore in staying connected with fans and promoting music.

Though it may be a lot to connect with all of them when first starting but, its key  that you understand some of the more popular ones and the value they have for promoting your music and connecting you with the people who support it. Here are six social media platforms that provide great exposure for music and ways to best take advantage of them.

  1. Facebook

Facebook is one of the largest social networks currently and are used by a large range of demographics. Although it is great to have a personal page I highly suggest creating  a fan page as a central location to stay connected with supporters. With over 1.65 billion active users, you must take advantage of this large network. Start by creating a fan page, add links and social media widgets to your music  content, create performance events, and start posting interactive statuses.

On Facebook, people love looking through photos, sharing posts they like, and discovering great new artists and brands. So every post and interaction counts. There are also many resources such as  Hootsuite that’ll help manage and  schedule out your content.


  1. Twitter

Twitter has been around for quite a while now. A few simple tips to building your brand : after setting up you Twitter page start following relevant users in a social circle that can help advance your career. For example, other musicians, labels, fellow music fans, journalists, music blogsites, and big industry influencers), Tweet about current trending topics, engage other users, and share content that encourages retweets.

Who Uses Twitter / by Ciara Carnes
Who Uses Twitter / by Ciara Carnes

To assist in gaining more shares be sure to @mention any individuals or companies mentioned in your posts, and try including “please RT” at the beginning of your posts; studies show this generates as many as four times more retweets!

  1. Instagram

 Instagram has quickly risen to become one of the most relevant social media tools for artists simply by being a vehicle for photos and videos . Use this app to capture engaging still images and intimate video footage of you living the musician life while also showing a personal side of the day-to-day grind.

Make sure to utilize  hashtags in your content well, too, as that’s one of the best parts of the app that allows for new fan discovery and increased likes, comments, and follows. Instagram also seamlessly allows you to connect your other social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr, which makes for easy and consistent content sharing.

  1. Snapchat

Though Snapchat is fairly new, it has now grown to over 400 million “snaps” a day, with 77 percent of college students using the app daily. In a nutshell, Snapchat is a messaging app where the messages delete after a certain period of time. Users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them in a direct message to a list of friends that can view them for anywhere between 1-10 seconds before they disappear forever. Or users can create a story by posting a photos and or videos that will stay in your story for 24hours.

Snapchat is all about honest, fast content that feels personal. That’s what makes it such a great app for musicians, because it can be used as a marketing tool without making users feel like they’re being hit with obvious advertising. One study even showed that nearly half the users surveyed would open a snap from a brand they hadn’t heard of before, which is a great way to attract new fans.

  1. YouTube

This is a resource most musicians already take advantage of, so this point will be more about making sure you’re taking full advantage of all YouTube has to offer to artists and bands. Branding your channel well is very important, and consistently uploading interesting content is equally important for continued viewership and subscriber growth.

Musicians should consider uploading different types of content such as professional music videos, interviews, and behind-the-scenes rehearsals. YouTube annotations also hold heavy value, as they provide “call to action” options to viewers, which can be linked directly to music purchases, your website, etc. It’s also worth looking into YouTube’s Partner Program and learning how to start monetizing your content to the highest capacity possible.


Similar to the lip sync video app Dubsmash, is a creative tool that allows users to deliver an instant edited video experience. Users can not only make music videos with a variety of effects and lip sync voiceovers, but they can also take part in contests within the app, share to other social media sites, and are part of a full social network where they follow power users, musicians, and celebrities. It’s a free download with 60 million regular users and counting.

Shanti Das Talks the Importance of Networking


We all remember the prime eras of Hip Hop when artists like Outkast, TLC, Usher & even Lyfe Jennings were at the peak of their careers.  However, we must remember that the person behind the scenes is often times the most essential player responsible for the majority of these successes. As a formal re-introduction, and a prime example of the behind the scenes hard hitter who just makes things happen, Shanti Das,  has made her presence, as well as her purpose known since the birth of hip hop, not to mention with some of the legends who paved the way. Back in the 90s and the early 2000s, Shanti Das was the go to as far as entertainment marketing and promotions, in which she created campaigns in order to achieve more of a fan base and revenue in general for artists. In addition, Das created platforms for artists like “Atl Live on the Park” in which showcases cities favorite R & B artists on a live stage.

Due to her success, and upon her return to the industry, Shanti Das is now able to take a different approach, yet still influence the masses. In 2016, Das wrote and published the book “The 1,2,3s of Networking”. Even more recently, Das is the head of her own College Chatroom Tour in which she gives ensight on how to reach the urban youth culture, and sharing experiences and advice from her twenty plus years in the business. Even better, Das offers a 5 for 5 Student spotlight and shadowing opportunities at different colleges.

Among the various tips Das shares in her book, the 2 P’s hit home the most for me!

Perseverance:  “You got to be willing to stick it out. Things aren’t going to happen. You’re not going to get that job right when you want it. You might put in 100 resumes, so I tell the young generation, like intern. A lot of companies come back around that want hire people that worked for them previously. So you just got to hang in there. You got to be great at networking. You can’t be afraid of hearing no, because to me no means let me find another way around to the yes, and that’s being able to have perseverance and stick in their to you fulfill your dreams.”

 Professionalism: “Return your emails. Call people back. Be a woman of integrity. Be a man or woman of your word. Know how to carry yourself. You got a job to do, DO IT! You know you talked about hanging out with the artists.. like it’s cool to befriend these artists but you there to get a job done. Don’t worry about trying to be their best friend. You’re going to get burnt. These artist respect you, but they need you there to help them with their careers. They don’t need you there to be their homeboy. They got a crew for that.”

Positioning:  Show up with a purpose. When you go into a room don’t just get there and hang out. Don’t stay in the corner. You know walk around, network, move around. Don’t be afraid to work the room. Play your position. Don’t just go there to hang out!

There is so much truth and value to the advice Das gives not only just for women, but for anybody who does or is going to work in the entertainment industry.

Every Artist Needs a Karen Civil on Their Team

Every blogger wants to be Karen Civil. Why wouldn’t they want to be her? She is an influential new media princess and the head honcho of her own digital media marketing agency, Always Civil Enterprise, and the creator of Living Civil bracelets. And her empire doesn’t stop there. She launched her own clothing company Civil Clothing, already touted as one of the best urban wear brands on the market; and she founded a lifestyle property, Living Civil. Oh, and Karen Civil TV, in which she shares exclusive interviews with such rappers as Big Sean, Tyga, Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa should also be mentioned. With no doubt Civil is someone who every artidt should want to learn from.

Based in Los Angeles, the civil-living entrepreneur can minimize the existence and importance of a rapper by ignoring him (or her) on her website, or make him (or her) an overnight sensation by merely mentioning him or her on the website. She also manages the editorial staff at  Indeed, Karen Civil is that hands on.

In the late 2000s, most of the popular urban blogs had already been established. It seemed unlikely that there was place for any fresh faces. But either Karen Civil was not dissuaded by this, or thought she could bring something different to the blogging game. Where there’s will, there’s a civil way. She had interned with some of the biggest radio and music brands in New York, and had made more than a handful of connections with talent and shot-callers in the music world. When rapper Lil Wayne went to serve a jail term, Civil teamed up with web designer Karla Moy to create a website to help the star keep in touch with fans.

Civil had assisted Wayne in keeping his brand intact. Now, the Brooklyn-born, Elizabeth, New Jersey-raised gal wanted very much to bring her own venture to life. She knew one of the primary principles of starting a business: start with what you already know and have a passion for. She knew she loved music, especially hip-hop…and she had some contacts  Civil decided she wanted to build her own brand. There were several highly-trafficked hip-hop blogs, but none were helmed by a female. She turned on the ignition on and has been driving on the success highway ever since, landing on Black Enterprise’s Top Blogger list, and most recently being whisked by Dr. Dre to head the social media of his headphone brand Beats by Dre. When big conferences want an expert on their panels, Karen Civil is one of the first names that pop into their heads.

6 Key Things Every Independent Artist Should Focus On

major-key-alertBeing an independent artist is a whole lot of work. It can get really hectic at times, especially if they are not sure what to focus on first. Every day I see artists spending hours tweeting their music to random people and celebrities on twitter, or posting their video to Facebook a million times where only their few hundred friends can see it. In this business time is money, so it is imperative to spend it  wisely and come up with a way to spend less time with greater results. The goal for every artist should be  to make great music and get it heard by the masses. I’ve compiled a list of some of the main things every artist should focus on and questions artist should ask themselves while on the journey to breaking into the music industry.

1. The Art –  Is their enough have enough material for an album or mixtape? Does the artist  have a steady recording studio? Is the music mastered? Is the product marketable? These are all things that artist really need to think about and focus on before make any other moves. Without a quality product there is nothing to promote and showcase. Make sure the music is up to par before deciding to move onto the next agenda. Never jump the gun and get the best quality possible for the budget. Quality over quantity. One original single, fully mastered, with a very professional video is better than a whole mixtape full of ‘bars’ on industry beats. After creating a solid piece of work it is important to create promotional teaser to get people excited about the new project. Check out this short video teaser Atlanta rapper Miroj uses to promote his single Pimp Tight.

2. The Brand – Getting the music out there also involves creating and promoting a brand. What do others think of  aside from the music? According to Sean Combs  a artist creates a successful brand by cross promoting a music with a lifestyle. Putting forward a consistent public image everyone can associate them with. Producing a logo that properly represent the artist is a good start to building a noticeable identity.  Your Twitter avi, Facebook profile picture, logo, sound, image, personality, and beliefs are all a part of what makes up your brand. This will help with marketing and merchandising, and it will give fans a clear picture of the artist. The brand should be developed and genuine. This will make it easier to market. This past week I had the opportunity to record Atlanta rapper Kota Santez as he performed at #A3CSocialClub Open Mic.

This video that I recored serves as a way to promote his music as his brand(added logos and addition of website information). Also, through this video the artist personality shines through his stage presence. Content such as this gets people intrigued about your brand.

3.  Business/Marketing Plan – As an artist having a marketing plan is essential. This plan is blueprint to distributing the music and brand. Some of the questing that should be asked during this stage are: What video/song should be pushed first? Who is the target audience?What music blogs can post and support new releases? Is there a press release for your single/mixtape/EP? Is all of music copyrighted? Come up with a marketing plan for a current single, and also have a broader plan for the next steps over the next 6 months to a year.

4.  Budget – A budget is simply how much money is  put aside specifically for music or for a certain project that is being worked on. No one expects a indie artist budget to be enough for huge marketing campaigns like labels, but it does pay to invest in certain things like studio time, photo/video shoots,listening sessions, email blasts, major magazine placements, promotional packages from marketing companies and websites, also it cost to  post music on iTunesAmazon, etc.  In order for others to invest in you, you must be willing to invest in yourself.

5. Presentation – This is  one of the most important things to focus on throughout your music career. How much effort is put into looking as professional as possible? Presentation means everything from name, style, website, the quality of product (album cover ,artwork, music videos) to how to conduct oneself during interviews, what to say on social media. Always make sure that the artist presentation is  professional as possible.

6.  Proper Networking – Making valid connections is a crucial part of of a artist success. In the music industry it’s about who you know as well as what you know. When having a firm grip on a marketing plan, people see a a professional. It’s not about contacting every random person and trying to get everyone to listen to the music, it’s about being yourself so that others are genuinely interested in the brand as a whole. If people like the artist as a person, when they release music the audience will listen!  If the social interactions such as tweets/statuses/emails are interesting and can grab people’s attention, when music is posted people are more likely to  listen.

So there you have it – what every independent artist should focus on in their journey to break into the music inndustry. I will be going in more detail in future blogs, but hopefully this will help guide all up and coming artist in the right direction.