For folk and alt-country fans, Brandi Carlile isn’t a stranger but a friend who has made music more than just an entertainment source, but a comforting oasis. She may not have the name recognition of other female vocal powerhouses like Adele, Katy Perry, or Christina Aguilara but Carlile’s yodel-styled voice has more majesty than pop radio deserves. Perhaps that’s why her ardent followers have been so enriched in the latest release The Firewatchers Daughter.
Here’s what indie music fans know, and fellow songwriters/artists should pay attention to: Brandi is well aware of the power of strong storytelling, and she knows where to showcase this magic.
Her latest album was released in early March 2015 and was prefaced by a performance on Conan and public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion. Here’s where it’s worth paying attention musicians. Carlile has been a successful recording artist for 10 years, her debut album released by Warner Bros in 2005. Since then she’s come full circle and gone the indie road, now on ATO Records. Conan O’Brien’s TBS talk show has an audience base of young professionals in the 30s and 40s. Music fans who know of her and those who don’t but who caught her performance are likely to do some looking up on her new album and past releases. They’re likely to buy that music too.
The feature on A Prairie Home Companion is more telling though. The media age for that program is not the 30s and 40s crowd. On the contrary, this radio stalwart has been around for quite a while, making the majority of its audience in their 50s and 60s. What benefit is that for a musician in her 30s with a growing audience? Why play a radio show with such an older demographic, doesn’t that go against progress?
Not at all. A Prairie Home Companion is arguably one of the most popular radio shows on public radio, produced not on NPR but on a smaller network of programs (American Public Media). Unlike NPR’s All Songs Considered which regularly cover trends in indie music, new releases and emerging bands, the show created by Garrison Keillor regularly features folk, country, singer-songwriter, jazz, and western acts. Brandi Carlile is and has been a perfect fit for the program. Plus, older audiences do something younger audiences can’t seem to get a hold of: they support the music they love with their dollars.
At the end of the February 28th radio program airing, and subsequent repeats on carrier stations across the country, Brandi set up nicely to have her new album sell very well. She also kicked off a nationwide tour which is already starting to sell out. Musicians take note: your target audience may not have a specific age, and those who are most likely to support your art may not be hipsters in their teens and twenties. What works for those who know how to reach their real fans is worth taking into account, maybe even mimicking if possible.
Oh, and make it worth your while to check out The Firewatcher’s Daughter. The simple recording setup that made this album is a great story by itself. Get it here.