This is the Unstarving Musician podcast. I am your host Robonzo. This podcast features conversations with me, indie music artists and industry professionals. It’s all intended to help other indie music artists be better at marketing, business, the creative process and all the other things that empower us to do more of what we love. Make music.
Oh, I missed it. That’s all right. It’s fun trying. I need more practice, I guess. So my guest in this episode is Markus K. He’s a full time street performer, blues perfusionist and master looper. He does street concerts around the world, literally. He joins me for a conversation to talk about the collaboration app Trackd. He was in Denmark when we spoke. Seems super lucky. To me, what am I saying? I’m in paradise. Quarantine paradise.
Hey, I want to give, before we get started, I want to give a quick shout out to my friends at Hairy Rock Radio, the internet radio station that recently hosted me for an interview about my new song, which you may have heard a sneak preview of. If you haven’t contact me, I’ll send you one. And we talked about the podcast, some articles I’ve written for Forbes.com, including one that’s related to this episode today with Marcus K. Yeah, Hairy Rock Radio, the internet radio station that’s all about rock. They’re crazy, those guys. They stream 24/7. They stream heavy metal, punk rock, classic, hair bands, glam, indie alternative, local, thrash and even my song. They um… they want to feature local artists right alongside the well known guys, so you can check them out on Facebook at Hairy Rock Radio. And um, I got hooked up with that interview because of my friend and high school classmate Robert Knowles. We were just chatting it up on on the Facebook and he, I guess we were talking about my song or something, and he goes, “Did you know I’m an on air personality for Harry Rock Radio? I’m like, why no, I didn’t. Anyway, one thing led to another. But yeah, he and I went to high school together long ago. James Bowie High School in Arlington, Texas, and he’s, he plays music. He’s the lead guitarist in a band called Three Day Bender. He says he got lucky and got brought on board by Hairy Rock Radio. I think they’re the lucky ones. I’m lucky too. It was really nice that he did that, that he spent time or I should say allowed me to spend time talking to his listeners.
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So yeah, Markus K, my guest, he has worked in a wide range of studios, yet he can’t say enough nice things about Trackd, the collaboration and recording app. He’s published multiple singles, recording with Trackd, in fact. He started using Trackd in March of this year; he learned about it on the recommendation of a friend and then the outset of COVID began, which prompted him to dig in deep into the app. He is an artist in the true sense of the word, I think you’ll find out when you listen to this conversation and listen to some of his work. If you want to learn about street performing or busking you’ll enjoy this episode. And / or if you are fascinated like I am with Trackd and other online collaboration apps, I think you’ll enjoy this. Here is me and Markus K.
You have been using Trackd since, was it March this year?
Markus K 4:08
Yes, just as the lockdown period started in Spain and a friend of mine sent, just send me a link and said you have to look at this. And so I, actually then everything stopped, so I had some time and I dived into completely and for two, three months, I was working with the Trackd app pretty much every day recording new songs and writing new songs etc. So it was, it was just perfectly timed that I could dive into it that fully.
Very cool. You are the first full-time street performer I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. You know, you just barely beat being the very first in either case. So I, I recently spoke with an artist named Juno, who has done, has really achieved some things, touring with some big name artists. And she has she runs a big guitar school now call online YouTube called Juno’s Guitar Boot Camp, but she, during her touring, sort of stemming back to when she first started playing guitar. everywhere she went around the world, she was taking her guitar out to parks and public spaces and playing for people. So she has that kind of, because she has that love of drawing people that I’m sure that you do. I have to tell you that
Markus K 5:33
Oh, it’s a great experience, a beautiful experience,
I bet. And then the other thing I was wanting to say, I don’t know, just kind of out of my own amusement and is that, I didn’t know until like, I don’t know a couple years ago, that street performers were often or maybe even longer referred to as as buskers. Did I say that, right?
Markus K 5:55
Yes, buskers? Yes, called busking, and I didn’t know that for a while either. And people said, you should try busking, and I had no idea what they were talking about. So that’s why I’m now sometimes using street concerts. So my, my tagline is street concerts around the world. And that’s makes sense to all people from just about anywhere. So, to make it clearer,
I can totally appreciate that. And I have to agree 100% that was a good move.
Markus K 6:26[So…] Also asking if you’re talking about busking. There’s a connotation for some people that’s close to begging, you know, and obviously, as a… as a serious artist, I like to stay away from that. There are many amazing buskers who are real artists on the streets, and so I hope to belong anywhere near that group rather than people who just do it for money. I don’t mean I live off of it. So the money is great, you know, to actually make money with it, but But my experience is as soon as you start thinking about the money, it doesn’t work, people don’t respond. And you have to do it for the love of music, and then that’s when it works.
That makes sense. And I don’t know if it’s just the nature of doing street concerts and doing them around the world, as you say, but you have been traveling continuously for a number of years. My understanding is that, is that common in the world that you’re in street performing? Or is it just kind of where you happen to fall among among your peers?
Markus K 7:31
It’s, it’s something that some some of my friends are buskers, and they do the same. Many buskers stay put. And I find when I meet them, that they get a bit jaded because they end up inevitably fighting with the law, for some reason, one reason or another, because you can imagine if even if you’re really good and the music is wonderful, if you’re playing in the same street a certain amount of time, somebody close by is going to get fed up because they want to choose what they listen to. And I totally understand that. So that’s one of the reasons why I like to move. It’s, it’s almost like hit and run, you know, I like to travel. I like meeting different people, making new connections. So we rarely stay in the same place for more than then, at the most a week really. It’s usually two or three days, unless it’s particularly interesting and we stay a bit longer.
And who’s we who do travel with?
Markus K 8:35
I travel with my partner. She’s from Spain, Marga Fernandez, and then she has been, we’ve been traveling together for nearly two years now. So she went to the states with me last year at the beginning of last year. And we’ve been the rest of the day has been mainly around Europe, but we also ended up in Istanbul and now we’re in Denmark. in Scandinavia,
I’ll be darn. Well that must be fun.
Markus K 9:03
Yeah, it’s a bit gray here actually. But this is between you and me.
Is it, do you mean like to sort of picture landscape wise or or weather or both?
Markus K 9:14
Both. I think climate has a very big influence on people. And so I’m sure that Panama is very colorful. So is most of Latin America I would think. If you go up north in Europe, the where the weather gets colder than I think the the temp, the temperature of the people changes, you know, so it’s a different mentality, different culture. And the colors fade. Strangely enough, when there’s a lot of sun, people use more colors it seems, and when there’s lack of sun, which is pretty much the case here because it’s very cloudy most of the time. There’s water all around. You’re in the middle of seeds. It’s a bunch of islands. So it’s cloudy a lot of the time. And so all the colors seem to be gray.
Markus K 10:11
You’d think you’d want to counteract and put something really colorful on, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.
Maybe they feel that would be a good clash too much. So going, [Maybe, yeah.] going back to your friend, recommending Trackd to you. Was that pure…? You know, I’m learning, as you can probably imagine, that with platforms like Trackd that there’s been a huge upsurge in adoption since the COVID crisis landed upon us. Was it purely coincidental for you that you learned about it? Or was there partly timing?
Markus K 10:45
Well, it just happened to work out great, but it was, you know, whatever. If you believe in chance, it was chance that it happened to be that time when my friend sent me a link. Originally, I looked at it Oh, that’s interesting. And then three days later, we were in lockdown. And I thought, Oh, yeah, that app. If that hadn’t happened, I might not have spent enough time to get on with it. But as soon as I started recording with it, I thought, whoa, this is amazing. Because the beauty is, you know, recording is tends to be… linked to paraphernalia, you got to set up something, even if you have a home studio, you got to have this and that and this and that, and it’s all going to be plugged in, etc. And then you start being creative. With my iPhone and the app, I just point the iPhone to whatever is doing what I want to do. So I can instantly record my ideas. And quite often the ideas then develop into a song. So actually a number of cases the first idea I recorded I used in the final version. So it’s it’s great for creativity. Because you don’t have to think about the type of mic, you don’t have to think about how you’re going to compress it. It has a very musical sound to it. And I later heard when I talked to the guys who developed it, that that’s their secret sauce, they, they found a way to find the characteristics of the phone that you’re using, and then create a flat EQ. So you’re actually getting what you’re hearing. It’s it’s quite stunning because I’ve, I’ve had problems with acoustic guitar, for instance, it’s it’s notoriously difficult because if you move the mic an inch, you get a very different sound. [Sure.] With this, the only thing I have to think about is how close up I want to sound. Sometimes I want a bit of room sound. Sometimes they want to be almost in the strings. And so then I just bring it closer, but I actually get on my phone. What I’m hearing And it’s it’s just delightful not to have to worry about how do you record it? You know, it’s always, always musical always works.
And it sounds like you had some recording experience, either home recording or or otherwise prior to [Yes.] discovering Trackd. Kind of gives you a rough perspective.
Markus K 13:17
I’ve worked in good studios, and I’ve done a lot of my own recordings. And so yes, it’s and the problem with studios, as always, of course, the challenge is, unless you’re a big star, you’re thinking of how much it costs to be there. So if you’ve got a studio that’s even it’s very simple studio, you want to pay the 20 or 30 or, or more per hour. So you you have to book, you you’re saying okay, well, four or five hours are going to do it and you’re starting off straightaway looking at the clock, which can sometimes spur you on to do great things, but most of the time it makes it ups the stress so it’s not good for Relax creativity, in my opinion, my experience.
Yeah, yeah, I think that’s a universal thing unless you have an enormous budget and even so, you know, people are people are often, there… I would say probably very rare that somebody is not at least thinking a little bit. Somebody in the rooms not thinking about budget.
Markus K 14:19
Yes, somebody who’s their is gonna have to have a look at it. And I think it was the Beatles who first of all got carte blanche in Abbey Road, and they could do whatever they liked. But that was the first time in history I think that happened, that somebody wasn’t measuring everything that was happening. So yeah, it’s it’s a very privileged position if you’ve if you’ve got that in a good studio.
Yeah, absolutely. And, yes, I see that you have published music that you’ve recorded using Trackd. Had you published recordings before? Um, I believe you had, but I didn’t have a lot of time…
Yes, I’ve got… it’s equivalent of nine blues fusion albums. And before that I did a whole bunch of other not particularly blues or oriented albums. But those are the blues fusion albums I’ve done, and um… and I’m just starting to put them in the, the digital domain. I had one of my albums Patreon files on there. And now I’m starting to put some of the other albums on. I’ve actually got four earlier albums on. The problem is with the name. It was with my band Giles, and somebody else claimed the name on Spotify. So I’m trying to figure that out so I can actually do something with them. [Oh yeah, yeah.] But yeah, there are five albums and a whole bunch of new recordings and most of them are actually recorded with Trackd.
Yeah. Are you are you more actively publishing now than you did before Trackd?
Markus K 15:55
Yes, that was the immediate result because I was recording, and then I did a collaboration with the guy from South Africa, which turned out really good at some, it’s in my Spotify list actually. And, and then he wanted to put it on Spotify. And I hadn’t thought about Spotify to be honest. And, and so then I had to register with Spotify to claim my half of the rights of, essentially was my recording and his vocal. And so that’s then I was then in with the distributor. And then I realized, you know, this is very easy to do. And I paid for his DistroKid. I paid for a whole year and I could publish as many songs as I wanted. And I realized I had a whole bunch of songs I wanted to get out there, and that Spotify is a way to get to a new audience. You know, the people who use Spotify are not looking for pictures of cute kittens. They’re looking to listen to music with their headphones on or whatever, they’re not looking at pictures, they’re just only interested in the music and what it does to them and whether they like it or not. So it’s a it’s a very pure audience. And within that you can target people who are likely to hear my music and Spotify does that in their algorithms. So I quickly came to realize that this was a great way for me to find more people who are gonna like my music. And that’s always interesting to me.
Yes, yeah. Yeah. And it was the South African. You mentioned also user on track.
Markus K 17:43
Yes, he that’s how we met up. Let’s go. So I put the I had an idea with a chorus. And I put that on Trackd, and there’s a community within Trackd, where you can do that and people can then offer collaborations and. And so I sent it to him to see whether he wanted to do it because he’s got like a raw bluesy type of voice that he showed on a on an earlier thing he did on one of my recordings. So I thought it might work and it came out really great. So yeah, we met by via Trackd,, I met quite a few people actually via Trackd, attract that I really like what they’re doing. And I’ve collaborated with, so it’s another bonus to the app.
Yeah, cool. I spoke to another Trackd user just a little while ago, Rachel Herndon. She knows of you [Yes.]. I didn’t know if you knew her not but yeah…
Markus K 18:40
She’s very prolific. She records a lot and and she’s great. She’s doing what the apps for you know, she, every day she will do something with the app. And that’s that’s what it’s about. Really? Yeah, that’s cool.
Yeah, but she she really likes your work. So she spoke, [Likewise.] and she she um, was very complimentary of the social aspect of it, you know, so that you can discover discovery aspect of it, so you guys can find each other.
Markus K 19:08
Yes, yes. Yeah she uses it more than me actually, because I’m kind of a bit more picky. But I’ve been trying to get my musician friends on Trackd,. And the problem at the moment is that Trackd is only available for iPhone and working on a new version, which will also have an Android version. And then I’m hoping that, you know, some of my very favorite favorite musicians will come on board and then I can get them involved in the things I’m producing, producing with Trackd. At the moment is still a matter of usually of, you know, going to see them with my app and then recording it there.
Yeah, yeah, that’s funny. Well, in, you know, I was telling Rachel that I, myself got into recording Earlier this year, and I’m a first and foremost a drummer, an acoustic drummer, so you know I’ve got the kind of big, classically big setup. I could never just like gallivant around the around the globe with very easiy, but I… You know, I have a pretty good network of musicians. And so when I recently wrote a song I had a guy who’s very particular guy and was interested in see if he’d actually do the guitar work for it. And another guy was hoping to do bass, the the guitar players it turns out to so you know, producer engineer and multi instrumentalist, but um, you know, I just, it’s kind of amusing that, you know, not too long after I started recording, I discover the, you know, collaboration apps that are in this school and others that are in the space and all very fascinating, and I’m looking forward to trying them all yet at the same time. I’m doing it in a very traditional manner, but definitely are some limitations. Well, I mean, even you, you just mentioned one with the iPhone only at the moment. But there’s some limitations because for me, I have to have people who have the means to record at home. Although I had never thought of just, you know, I’ll have to experiment with this as this on a future song, I should just ask someone that I know, I’d like to play but doesn’t have the means the traditional means to record to just try recording their part on Trackd and see if we can work it out. That’d be fun.
Markus K 21:31
Yeah, cuz i was i was with a friend in Holland just recently and he has a studio set up. And he’s got the most amazing setup and everything and I was going around his music room with my app, recording everything on my app, and he was amazed at the sound I was getting. So you know, the app… You, with a studio set up you have more control, but then the problem is that you really need to know what you’re doing? You know, the, the best engineers are specialists in what kind of mic you use on what kind of snare and what kind of angle to get, what kind of effect etc. Whereas with the app, you know, you just play and if you like it, you keep it. And and if you, if it’s to compressed, you put it a bit further away. And that’s about it. You know, it stays with the creativity. That’s the thing I really love about it.
Yeah, indeed. And sounds great for that. I wanted to get your take on, it sounds like it’s been a non issue, but I’m still interested in what you have to say about the way it works in terms of song ownership and splits, creating splits. How do you feel about the way it works when you’re used when you’re starting out on tract and and yeah?
Markus K 22:53
I think there’s no problem with it. It’s it’s down to people’s honesty. And obviously within the community, the general idea is, okay, well, if somebody plays on your track, you have to honor that. It doesn’t play really until you send it to a distributor. So, and then I’m using DistroKid, and then you can decide what the split is. So for instance, if you’ve created the whole song and you’ve done everything, you’ve written it, you’ve played everything and you’ve got the vocal and you want somebody to play a bit of a solo on it. I would say, then you don’t need to give them 50%. You know, because otherwise if you have a whole band playing, you end up with like 500% or something if you get to 50%. So it’s up to you to agree with whoever you work with. Whether you pay them a session fee, whether you ask them to do you a favor and just do it for the fun of it. Or whether you offer them a percentage of whatever you get from the digital domain. And keeping in mind that for most people, the digital domain is not going to make you rich anyway so it’s more like a thing of, you know, keeping it nice and honoring the people in and crediting them for what they’ve done.
Markus K 24:23
Sure. And do you have any feature requests or a feature wish list for Trackd?
Markus K 24:35
The app I love as it is, and I have the option to then export the individual tracks of the of the recording I’ve done and then sometimes I tweak it or edited in a program on my laptop. So it it totally works as it is. The new version has bells and whistles. It’s got editing facilities. And hopefully, very soon it’ll have the Android; the Android version will help a lot in terms of getting more people on the available, you know, then I can I can ask more people who I already know, are going to do great things to collaborate, and hopefully they’ll be happy to, to get the app and open it and try it.
Yeah, that makes sense.
Markus K 25:26
Yeah. And we’re within… Yeah, and I can’t really we were talking about other things actually. With the guys from Trackd. They’re also doing a, they’re relaunching their label. It’s the Trident label of the Trident studios and I don’t know whether you know about them. It’s actually a very famous studio historically, where things like Killer Queen by Queen was recorded. America, Horse with no Name was recorded there James Taylor recorded a song there, and there’s like a long list of really special songs, David Bowie’s three songs of David Bowie’s, including Space Oddity was recorded in their studio. So they’re relaunching the studio and the label. And we’re talking about possibly releasing one of my songs while the label.
Oh, that’ll be nice.
Markus K 26:22
Yeah, that’ll be very exciting.
Markus K 26:24
Yeah. Exciting just to be considered, Right?
Markus K 26:27
Exactly. Yeah, definitely. And be I’d be hugely honored and I’m hoping to meet them. Maybe at the end of the summer. I’m hoping to go into to the UK, do some busking there and hopefully meet up with them because they’re really nice guys anyway, so yeah.
Have you tried any other platforms that are better like this?
Markus K 26:46
I haven’t actually. I looked at things on the computer in the past, and it wasn’t a thing of you could use use your phone with it. So I didn’t even know that existed. I know you can record a voice message on your phone. And I record ideas like that. But then to be able to do other tracks, and then bounce them and keep going. I didn’t actually know that was available on the app. And I was, I was very impressed with the amount of functionality that you could have on that small little screen and how well it works.
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing.
Markus K 27:26
So I haven’t tried other apps. And and because this works for me. So you know, it’s like trying to get used to another platform. I’m happy when something works, and I’ll stick with it. And I’ll keep going. I’ve no idea how the others how good the others are. And I don’t even know their names. Have you worked at other platforms like that?
Well, I’m discovering them because of this is all part of a writing project. And so the thing I’m finding is they all have different approaches. For the most part, the ones that I have spent time with. So, for instance, one of the companies the other companies I spoke with is SoundStorming. And they they don’t, I don’t think they have this sort of studio quality thing baked into their app, but what they have, they really focus on in fartis, excuse me, that almost came out as fartist, artist and artist and fan engagement so the collaboration, collaborations occur between both artists and and fans and you know, they’ve had some like Trackd they’ve had some pros come in and and check it out as well. [Yeah.] And they’re super focused on what they believe is going to be a trend in the future where artists are able to give their fans a little more and, and do so on a more regular basis, while enabling them to stay creative and even be more creative than they would otherwise. And then…
Markus K 29:07
That’s an interesting idea. I presume that you could do that with Trackd as well. But I haven’t seen a particular focus with that. So
Yeah, I think it’s just a matter of focus. [Yeah.] I think it’s sort of sounds like Trackd is really focusing on, definitely, you know, they have a social aspect of it as well, But yeah, it’s from you know, especially from talking with you, they’re really focused on giving you a certain quality of recording from the get go. So it’s kind of unique. And then one that it’s not even a mobile app, but Kompoz with with the K and Z. They’ve been around for over 10 years. And they basically are like, if you have the means to record and upload, then they have a kind of a project sharing ecosystem. Looks like what you have there.
Markus K 29:59
Yeah, I’ve seen various platforms like that and and I nearly got into it and never really, you know, because you still have the problem then when you’re traveling all the time like me, I just, for me to be able to set up something to record. It usually means I don’t do it. So that’s why I love Trackd because I don’t have to do any of that, you know, I yeah, I open the app, and it’s there. So
Yeah it seems like there’s these different approaches are for different types of musicians. [Of course yeah.] That’s the if one of the fascinating things about it, and then there’s one I just realized, you know, as of today, because a former guest told me about it for, it’s based based out of Nashville and it’s for co writing, and it’s especially geared toward songwriters and you know, it great just like Trackd, it’s great for today, you know, given the craziness that we’re in involved in so yeah, there are several of them and others, you know, I didn’t even mention, you know, some cater to electronic music and beat makers and so all kinds.
Markus K 31:12
That’s happening more with the new version in Trackd. They’re gonna have looping and, and sampling and that kind of thing built into the system. So, and I’m not sure how I feel about it right now because I love the fact that I usually do everything with a looper and we’re tracked, I don’t use the looper because I can do multi tracking so easily. So I kind of liked that. So when the the looping comes into the app, I’ll probably use it, but right now I’m not even sure whether I want it
Yeah because because it gives you something different to do now.
Markus K 31:51
Yes, exactly. It pushes me to do things like like I was, we were in a tent for three months and I didn’t have a drum kit or anything, you know like that. So I wanted a drum sound on one of the songs I was doing. And I had a hand drum. And I specifically wanted something like a snare drum. But I didn’t have a snare drum. So I turned the hand drum upside down and put some coins in it and hit it. And my partner was holding the app while I was hitting it to the song. And it sounds great, you know, so you, you become more intuitive with getting the result you want emotionally with the tools you have lying around. So I ended up hitting everything for a couple of days just to see what noises it made and I ended up using a bit of the car and all sorts of things like that. So that was, that was part of the going back to the innocent way of music making that everyone starts off with I think you know before you get into the details, you and most kids start off hitting things and, and seeing what noises they can make. And I was going back to that, and… delightful to get to do that, again.
Isn’t that fascinating too, because you have such a great piece of technology, but yet, you’re kind of able to step into environments and situations where you’re really getting to the root of things.
Markus K 33:34
Yes, to the back to the basics of the fun of making music. That’s fascinating. That’s, you know, like there’s a WhatsApp group and, and there’s lots of people getting excited about it, and I’ve used this and I’ve never done that before. And you know, it’s all about that or like children playing around with with toys.
That’s great. Well, Markus, I really appreciate you taking time to talk to me today. It’s been informative. A great pleasure to make your acquaintance to. [Likewise.] I hope that yeah, I hope that I can someday check you out. But you certainly have a lot of neat videos I’ll put in the show notes and keep on, keep on creating man. You’re doing great job.
Markus K 34:14
Great. Thank you very much. I hope you enjoy your songwriting and your playing and, and maybe we can do something together at some point. I’d love to hear what you do.
Oh that would be nice. We’ll stay in touch
Markus K 34:26
And have fun in Panama. I bet the sun’s shining.
It’s a little cloudy right now, but we get it pretty regularly. All right, man. Cheers.
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Did you know you can help other independent artists find this podcast by subscribing on Apple podcast or wherever you are listening to your podcast these days. It really does help, so I hope you will consider it. The Unstarving Musician podcast is made possible through the support and generosity of listeners like you. One of the easiest ways to support the podcast if you’re a musician is to join the starving musician community which you can do at you guessed it on UnstarvingMusician.com. In joining the community and get tips and insights you can use in your music journey that comes not only from me and my years of experience, but also from the hundreds of other musicians that I see. too as part of the Unstarving Musician project and podcast, plus, you’ll get a free copy of my Unstarving Musician’s Guide to Getting Paid Gigs ebook, the official version. And that’s all for free just for being part of the community. You can learn about other ways of offering support by visiting the Unstarving Musician crowd sponsor page at UnstarvingMusician.com/CrowdSponsor. And if you have feedback, please go to UnstarvingMusician.com to get all my contact info, you can text me call me email me leave a voice message right there on that page, just go down to the bottom of the page and you’ll find everything you need to know I really would love to hear any of your comments, suggestions, questions, whatever you’ve got. And you can find links to just about everything talked about in this episode at UnstarvingMusician.com/Podcast. All right, I’m peacing out. Thank you for listening and sharing with your musician friends and fellow indie music, fans. Peace, gratitude and a whole lot of love.