I have been making a living from music in the widest sense for many years. I gave guitar lessons, made jingle productions & wrote editorial articles for music magazines and made my living in this way in the earlier days. In the meantime, to bring home the bacon I worked as a live & studio musician and music producer while nowadays I primarily write textbooks and publish my works as an independent music publisher. During these many years of my professional music independency there were quite a number of co-operations and also publications with other artists, publishing houses and labels. I also wrote, composed, arranged and produced songs for various artists and contributed to many different music productions as producer and / or arranger. Today I am largely a self-marketing musician.
While in the past my musical work took place in the background, I am now breaking completely new ground as an artist performing my own songs! Thanks to all the people who encouraged me to take the step!
The common thread running through all the years of my creative work as a musician & as an author is and remains my strong passion for composing and writing songs. Since the sound of the language is of an immense importance to me (I was strongly influenced by English & American music in my younger days), I am singing in the English language even if I have to face the challenge as a lyricist every now and then. But this way it sounds best to my ears…:-)
1.) What made you want to get into the music business in the first place? Did anyone influence you to do music? If so, who? Influences? Role Models?
I started learning guitar at the age of 13 and being only 14 years old I had my first paid gig. Since my first contact with a guitar it had started to be a big passion for me. Later on I studied guitar and also taught myself other instruments when I was in my early twenties and since then I have been subsisting on musical jobs around music. For many years I did LIVE gigs with band projects, gave guitar lessons, wrote music for radio jingles, placed music in films, worked as a composer, arranger, music producer, sound engineer & studio musician for others. Under my artist name I have just changed my role being a lead singer – which is totally new to me! My first influences had been British bands & artists like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Queen, The Who, Cream / Eric Clapton, Joe Cocker, etc. and later on American bands such as Jimi Hendrix, Toto, Mother’s Finest, Aretha Franklin, Miles Davis, Vah Halen, Lenny Kravitz, Nickelback etc. Before I listened more to fantastic guitar players like Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Lukather, Scot Henderson etc. and with the time I opened my ears more for great singers like Joe Cocker, Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, Paul Rodgers and many others. I listen and play a big variety of styles but as Jo Oliver I do what I love most: a mixture between Rock & Soul or Rock, Soul, Funk & Pop mixed together, starting to create an own “Jo Oliver Sound”.
2.) Unfortunately the music industry is full of talented individuals who just don’t get any recognition for their talent and/or work. What do you plan to do to make sure you stand out and get noticed?
Just doing “my thing”! I am working on an album that should be released at the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019. In this time period I am going to release two more singles and try to promote them on the radio stations. My first single “Shine On (You)”, dedicated to my fiancée, had been put on many radio playlists already and I am confident to go on and even can spread the airplay abilities. The next single “Testify” is a song I wrote many years ago and the lyrics are by SUPERTRAMP cofounder Richard Palmer-James who wrote lyrics for many successful international Rock & Pop acts. Some more music videos will be also produced and promoting them on blogs and magazines should help too. You can say, that I am a real full blood musician and I do believe that people sooner or later will recognize it and the quality of my songwriting.
3.) Would you rather be on a major label or would you rather stay independent? Why or why not?
In my musical career I had been working with many partners, record companies & publishers and know that working as an independent artist will give me the most freedom to transform my musical ideas in the way I want it and it sounds right to my ears. For example, I am planning to set up a LIVE band for my project and really want to play live. But for many major labels it means just to “fake” playing real instruments on stage while the music in fact is coming from the computer. The majors often ask for an equal sound like in the studio production, which is almost impossible considering productions with 80 tracks and more, except you engage a band with 20/30 musicians that nobody is able to pay.
4.) Do you think that the traditional music industry model as we know it is dead? Why or why not?
It’s not dead, but nothing is like 20 years ago… some artists / bands tend to underestimate what record companies are doing. With their financial power, experience in promotion & advertising and all these contacts built up for many years, they still are the main “promotion machine” for “big careers. But they take more and more influences on the artist and grab into the artists pockets with advanced participations on the artists products. So as an artist you need to ask yourself what is most important for yourself? What are the right conditions for being creative and fulfilling your musical dreams? The music industry can discharge an artist in a lot of ways. But I prefer working together with small labels or my own label to feel really comfortable with. I still love the music more than the “big money.”
5.) How do you think the internet and social media affected the music industry and how musicians are able to market themselves?
The internet affected all of us and the biggest problem for everybody in the music biz (both artist and label/publisher) is that the value of music had been shot down somehow. So many people are copying music for free and do not think much about how much effort is stuck into a music production. People are consuming more music than ever but there is still only some cents that will arrive to the artists and their partners nowadays. But big companies outside the music biz are earning millions of dollars because through their lines and sites music is being offered. So many companies that don’t even deal with music make a lot of money with it because on their platforms music is up and downloaded or exchanged. Also illegal copies are still a real big problem and the consumers` lack of consciousness that on the other end is someone, spending all his/her time for the music and needs to live on something. As a producer for example, I made this experience already more than 10 years ago: 5 or 6 weeks before the release of an album, which I produced for another project, you could download the whole album on a website in Rumania. Even if we had a major industry partner for the distribution of that album in this case, we sold only a couple of hundred records. For my production work it meant that I gained less money than the money I spent to rent my own studio, one of the journalists (who got a copy of the CD before the release) must have uploaded the music to an illegal platform. But how could you find out who was that black sheep? People don’t think about what they are doing or (even worse!) they don’t care about it because they just think about themselves. If somebody is a real fan of a musician or band, he always should buy the product officially. I for myself do it the same way with the music I love! Apart from these negative aspects, the internet is offering a variety of great possibilities to promote an artist. But it’s not like many people think “just upload a song on YoutTbe and you will get famous.” It’s really hard work doing the promotion behind the scenes and telling the others about your music. Many artists are not ready to work steady and hard on their own promotion – but this is absolutely necessary to gain at least a little success – meaning others will notice your music!
6.) What is the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in life and has that had any effect on your path to becoming a musician?
I grew up in a small town in the south of Germany, where it had been easy getting attention in the local music scene. People know you and request you for band projects and also finding guitar students had been very easy. But getting my feet in the music scene from Berlin (where I live now the last 25 years) had been a really hard step for me. To be honest I had to sell a lot of equipment for building a financial bridge to survive. And after I got into the music scene it had been hard sometimes when one becomes ill. One day I became seriously ill and had to cancel a lot of engagements: Musicians are freelancers – not getting paid, if they are sick! But I never regretted being a musician and the last years I built up my own label and publishing “Tunesday Records” (www.tunesdayrecords.eu / www.tunesdayrecords.de).
7.) Artists who try to make music for the general public and make more money are usually seen as “sellouts.” Do you see it that way? Why or why not? If so, what do you plan to do to make sure you make music that is true to your brand and make a good living at the same time without having to “sell out”?
Because every human being is different and has a different taste I don’t consider it that way. Because on the other end each kind of music must find listeners who like the music they hear. There are musicians that try to get into the “mainstream” but it sucks. And others are doing their own stuff and suddenly they sell millions of copies. I am thinking about bands like “Nirvana” – coming from the “underground” and suddenly they being “hip”. I do not want to “judge” the music of others. I just want to do my music. If only some hundred people like it – that’s fine, if millions will like my music – it’s fine too. I love writing songs and I love “real music” with real instruments, which is not very modern at this time. But this is what I like to share with my audience: Catchy, but well written songs with a good hookline, a strong groove, interesting guitar- and basslines, some cool Rock, Soul and Funk elements and a lot of choir – I really love choir vocals!
8.) When you do music, what would you like your listeners to get out of your music?
If you reach your audience in that way, that someone who is listening to your music really will forget all his worries and thoughts for a moment feeling attracted by your song, that’s already great! If a funk-soul groove makes people dance – it’s fantastic too and if you can touch the hearts of your listeners with a cool ballad it’s already an epic moment. But it’s also fine, if somebody likes a riff, a hook or a guitar lick in your music or simply the sound, the atmosphere. Music is operating on different levels (groove, melody, harmonies, sound, atmosphere etc.), so you can reach people on all these different layers. If all these various layers are affecting somebody at the same time – that’s the best! One of the many reasons I love live music is because you never know what happens and there might be these “magic moments” which is hard to explain to somebody who was not there at the gig.
Artist Website: www.jooliver.net
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Jo Oliver in JJKane’s All New Music Show: