Fingertips Q&A: Theresa Andersson

Theresa Andersson answers five questions about the state of music in the digital age.

Sweden-born, New Orleans-based musician Theresa Andersson first turned heads in 2008, when her kitchen-made video for the song “Na Na Na” inadvertently became a YouTube sensation. She had made the video to help potential venues understand the nature of her one-woman-band live performances. In the process, she made the use of electronic effects (in this case, loop pedals) look unusually charming.

Andersson was featured here in January for her song “What Comes Next,” at that point an advance track from her album Street Parade. The album, full of similarly alluring musical concoctions, is being released this week on NOLA’s Basin Street Records. And yet, Andersson, embracing the realities of the 21st-century music scene, sees recorded music as secondary to live performance, which is where, as she says, she makes the real connection with the listener.

The Fingertips Q&A, for the uninitiated, is a recurring feature. More than 30 artists to date have participated. The Q&A’s sole intent is to allow actual, workaday 21st-century musicians a forum for discussing the state of music in the digital age. So-called experts and futurists have far too loudly dominated this discussion for too long.

Theresa Andersson

Q: Let’s cut to the chase: how do you as a musician cope with the apparent fact that not everybody seems to want to pay for digital music? Do you think recorded music is destined to be free, as some of the pundits insist?

A: It used to not matter so much at shows because people would still want to buy a physical copy of the CD. On my most recent tour to Sweden I noticed a drop in sales which was disconcerting. I can see that the fan or consumer is redistributing their funds—i.e., spending less on CDs and putting more towards a ticket price. My answer to this is to develop my live show more to make it a must-have experience…something that can’t be downloaded.

Q: What do you think of the idea that music is destined for the “cloud”?

A: What’s next? Is “the cloud” going to control what we listen to? No, I might be old fashioned here, but I like to have physical contact with my own collection. Not everything is about efficiency.

Q: How has your life as a musician been affected–or not–by the existence of music blogs? Do you miss old-style music criticism, or do you welcome the non-professional music fan into the mix?

A: The more the merrier. There’s such a thick forest of information out there that is so difficult to cut through. And every little bit of press hopefully helps reaching someone!

Q: One obvious thing the digital age has introduced is the ease of two-way communication between artist and fan. Does this feel like a benefit or a distraction, or a little of both?

A: I like it. In fact, I utilized this in the making of my new record Street Parade. One of the Kickstarter perks was to be able to listen in on the recording sessions via a webstream and later have a chat session. It was fun to get the fan input.

Q: There is clearly way more music available for people to listen to these days than there ever used to be. How do you as a musician cope with the reality of an over-saturated market, to put it both economically and bluntly?

A: For me, this allowed me to be heard. I am thinking of my YouTube video “Na Na Na” that has now been seen by close to 2 million people. This sparked an interest that gave me a good start. A lot of the work after that has been the direct contact with the fan—i.e., the live show. I really believe that this is where I truly make the connection with the listener.

Photo credit: Shervin Lainez

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