Interview with an Artist: Mark Lipman

One of the hardest parts of being an artist, in any discipline, is trying to “make it,” and then of course,  finding time for your art especially if you have an additional career.   Recently I sat down with Mark Lipman, a local musician, who recently released his first Ep “Goodbye Copilot,” to discuss what it’s like producing, financing and releasing a CD as an independent musician in the digital age.

JS: First of all Mark, thank you for being here.
ML: Thank you for having me, Julia.

JS: You recently released your first album, “Goodbye Co-Pilot” which, in true indie spirit you wrote, produced, financed and marketed, and its been out for a little over a month now.
ML: Yes, June 24th was the release date.

JS: So its been just a little over a month. Now that you have had maybe five weeks or so to reflect on it, How does it feel to have seen this project come full circle?
ML: Well it’s interesting, because I think what happens with me sometimes is that I will only do something when there are absolutely no other options.  It’s like yea I would love to do that, but there are all these other things that I’m doing right now.  This was really amazing because my life did change once I made it.  It was like I had something that I could give to people and I could sell at shows.  It was a portfolio to show the possibility of what I can do in my career, and that’s really exciting to me because I want to keep recording.   I had toyed around with that for years and years and years, recording and trying to record.  I tried to record two different times before this over the past seven or eight years and neither of those worked but for different reasons.

JS: So, to look at the prehistory leading up to this, How long have you been performing?
ML: I started performing in college.  Which I consider Legit.

JS: Why wouldn’t it be legit?
ML: I don’t know, but I was performing at the coffee house on campus.  I did work there, so it was a little biased that I got to play there.  Performing there was really where I started, and that was around 2000.

JS: Have you always been interested in music, or been a musician?
ML: I had sort of played piano when I was a kid, for like nine years, then I quit.

JS: …as a lot of kids do.
ML: It was just not right for me.  However, I was always a singer.  My family sang, I loved singing.  I got into singing in middle school and then in high school.  In middle school I started journaling, as well, and thats when I started writing lyrics to songs.  But I didn’t have any way to perform them, because I didn’t have an accompaniment.  So, when I was 19 I started playing guitar and immediately started writing songs once I learned how to play chords, once I got it.  I was like alright, now this is going to happen and I’m going to start writing songs.

JS: Over the past 15 years you made a few previous attempts at recording, what made it feel like this time was “the time.”
ML: There was a couple of things.  I think with this go around, first of all I found a producer who I felt was, had the skill, to make the music the way I wanted it to sound.  To make my songs sound the way I wanted them to if I were to record them, because I heard an album he had produced.   That had never happened before. I have heard amazing albums of my friends that I absolutely loved, but I had this really really intense feeling of, I want my songs to sound that way.

JS: How important is that connection with the producer?
ML: It’s very important.  Because I’ve tried twice before that, and a lot of money goes into any attempt at recording.  It was also the right time because life kind of opened up for me.  I in a sense I lost my job.  I had really wanted to not go back into a job immediately and then because I was just trying to figure things out with my life, I wanted to do music I wanted to work part time, but none of that was in place.  So I didn’t have a job…  What happened was my car got totaled.  So, a month after I lost my job, my car gets totaled.  So I got money from that but I couldn’t buy a new car, because you can’t get loans when you’re on unemployment.  So I decided to put that money instead of towards an old car, that might not last, I thought a better investment was to put it into an album.  There was a moment when I realized that I wasn’t looking for a new job, because I couldn’t imagine going back into work right now, and I was missing something in my life, and that something was the feeling of being in a recording studio,  it was very specific.  It wasn’t even thinking about oh, releasing an album what’s that going to be like, oh pursuing music.  I just wanted to be in a studio.  So, the money came and that’s where I went.

JS: SO the stars and planets aligned and everything really just fell into to place.
ML: Yes.

JS: When you realized this was actually going to happen, was that a tremendous sigh of ML: relief or  were you thinking OH MY GOD what am I getting in to.
ML: There were definitely some competing voices, but yea I think the overall feeling was that I had something to look forward to, that this was happening, that I loved being in the studio, that I loved my producer, I loved the way it was sounding, I loved the people we were working with and it was like comeon, how could this not be something to keep doing?

JS: Getting into the studio and getting everything recorded is one thing, but on the other end finishing everything up and getting it out into the world is something else.  I know you did a crowdfunding campaign, I followed it a bit on Facebook and Social media.  When did you realize you needed to additionally fund this project?
ML: Oh, that’s a good question.  Ok, well it came down to not having a job.  I was trying to get my life together, I didn’t want to go back into a broken system for me, which would have been working full time at some job that would have taken up all of my energy and that would have have nothing left for the creative juices to flow.  So, I was looking for part-time and it wasn’t coming but at the same time I was just continuing with my album and I just ran out of money.  I did have help from my parents, because they were really invested in it and they hadn’t helped me before put money towards any album, not that I can remember, but this was a big project and they were excited about it as well, so that was nice and Nate, my partner, was also helping me out.  I felt before I started the album that my plan was to have a campaign.  I have a lot of friends who had done campaigns, I didn’t know exactly how to do them, I was a little nervous about it.   I didn’t know how much to ask for yadda, yadda, yadda…. it was a learning process

JS: So let’s talk about that process.  What was that learning curve like for you?
ML: The last time I had tried to make a album I had toyed with doing a Kickstarter campaign.  So I had set it up and I didn’t go through with it, so it never got started, it was never launched.  So I knew in a sense but it was Indiegogo,  it was a little different and it had been a couple years since then, so everything was different on social media.   I did have help.  One of the people who helped me with it is a social media consultant who is the mother of a friend of mine.  So my friend offered her moms expertise as a gift.   So that was extremely helpful just to keep me on track with it.

JS: So would you say you were comfortable, uncomfortable or uninterested in social media before you started this?
ML: I was really uncomfortable and uninterested before that.  I think what I realized was that in order for anything to happen I had to get the word out there.  In order for anyone to donate, they had to see that there was a campaign.  So it just became, alright i’m just going to do it, i’m not working so i’m going to put my energy into this, i’m going to make sure that this actually happens, it’s sort of one of the necessary steps in order to complete this project.  It took some getting used to, I didn’t like spending that much time on social media but I did kind of get used to it and learned.

JS: Would you say you feel like it was a very successful crowdfunding campaign?
ML: I think I could have done it differently.  But I think it was successful because I did raise money.

JS: What would you have done differently?
ML: I probably would have asked for a lot less. Friends were like oh you should just ask for this amount, you should ask for that amount, don’t sell yourself short.  These were people who had done their own campaigns.  But in the end I could have looked at it a little more realistically.  In the end I think with all of the people who were helping me I didn’t actually need as much as I asked for.  I was like I’m going to make all of it back, that was my thought process.  I was like well, I want this to be 100% crowdfunded and it just wasn’t quite realistic.

JS: Would you say you got to 50% of your goal?
ML: It was less than 50% so it was around 40% of the goal.  It certainly helped and I think what I realized was that I asked for a little too much.  There is also with Indiegogo, and Paypal, they took more money if you didn’t reach your goal.  So if you make it lower then there’s a better chance that you will actually get more anyways.

JS: Now you went with IndieGogo, not Kickstarter.  What made you go with one over the other.
ML: That’s a good question.  I can’t quite remember although I know why I didn’t choose Pledge.  I had tried to do Pledge originally, but when I signed up they had a minimum for your your fan base, in terms of your email list.   They didn’t tell me that, but they asked me how big is your email list? How many people do you have on it? I gave them an answer and then I eventually heard back from them and they denied my request to have a campaign because it wasn’t big enough.  I think they may be getting more selective because of that, but I don’t think they took into consideration that a lot of my fan base is on Facebook.  So, it doubles when you look at the people I am reaching on Facebook versus the people I am reaching via email.  It doesn’t really make sense to me but … what are you going to do!?

JS: So, your campaign comes to a close, and then you’re getting ready to actually release your CD.  Now along with producing the music and running the campaign, you also do the cover art.  Tell me a little bit about the cover.
ML: Well, i’m a very inter-modal person so I’ve always done art, i’ve always done visual arts and I was thinking it kind of made sense to have me do the artwork and then I got into it a little more.  What I ended up doing was creating five images, one for each song, and then I made them into postcards, they became merch and all that stuff, so yea… it actually helped me to get in touch with the songs a little more.

JS: So you released the album and had the CD release party.  What have you heard from people who listened to your album since then?
ML: People have given me a lot of good feedback.  They like telling me their favourite song.  it’s been nice to have that.  One of the things I did was the perks for donating to the campaign so I started mailing off all of those once I got the CD’s and then people started getting the CD’s and people started posting on FB “oh look what I got” and that was just really cool to see that actually out there, in the hands of people I love or people who are just excited to hear it.  I think that was probably one of the coolest things post release was seeing people get the perks.… and then seeing it on social media.

JS: Would you do this again?
ML: Yes.

JS: Just like that?
ML: Yep.  I think it is like anything a learning curve.  I think this time around I did learn a lot.  I learned that I can do it.   I think that in the future, order of operations might be different and having my ducks in a row might be easier and also having more help on the marketing side.  I’ve had help and I’ve loved the help that I had, and I did have a lot of time so I did a lot of the marketing myself but in the future I don’t want to have a lot of time so I have to do that.

JS: But don’t you think that was an important step for you?
ML: It was SO important… and next time I’ill know more every step of the way what the process is like, so if someone is helping me I will have a better understanding of what they’re doing.

(Cover of Zero 7 song “Destiny” Club Passim 6/24/15
Mark Lipman (vocals, rhythm guitar) Reid Angwin (lead guitar), Sean McLaughlin (bass), Mike Levesque (drums)

JS: For other people who are interested in doing something like this what advice would you offer?
ML: I would say don’t give up on wanting to do something that is really important to you.  Because I didn’t, I tried a couple of times and then it would sort of would hit me that maybe it wasn’t going to happen and I was maybe in denial that I was depressed about it.  So just be really aware that if you want to do something just keep trying.

JS: Because this didn’t happen overnight for you, this was a long decade and a half process right?
ML: Yea it was long, and that’s o.k.  I had other friends who were doing this process and they were just like “i’m going to make a record, i’m going to make a record” and I was like HOW!? Are you doing this?

JS: Do you find you get frustrated when you heard people say that?
ML: I did, I did get frustrated because I had tried for so long.  But, I think it was my own process that I had to get through.  The other thing is, that this really meant so much to me and I really had such good connections.  The producer, I just love him, his name is Sean McLaughlin of 37 Foot Productions and I don’t know… I feel like maybe because I waited I got such a great experience out of this, maybe it wouldn’t have been so good if I had done it earlier.  Maybe I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate all the work and the outcome.  It also helps to be where I am and to have gone through that because now I get a sense that I want to make this a priority in my life and there is no reason why that has to be on the bottom of my list,or put it last.  It has inspired me to think about what I want to do with my music and where I want to go with it, I made this album so “Goodbye Copilot” and hello whatever is next!

JS: So where can we find the album?
ML: You can find the album on band camp.com.  That’s probably if you’re going to get it online, I would suggest buying it there for selfish reasons because it goes straight to my Paypal (HA!). The thing is I don’t understand how the other ones work, because they’re not self explanatory.  So it’s on CD Baby, it’s on iTunes it’s on Amazon, and you can also stream it.   Really I just wanted to get this album out there.  It’s my first album it’s an EP I just want it to fly, I want to get it out there.  The next one I’ll do it differently.

JS: Do you have any shows coming up?
ML: Not at the moment.  I’ve been really busy, trying to get a job…  But I’m open to do any house concerts so you can also find me on Facebook and you can email me at marklipmanmusic@gmail.com

JS: So, I think that about wraps it up and once again, thank you for your time.
ML: Thank you, Julia.

You can connect with Mark and his music on Facebookband camp.comCD Baby and Amazon.