Alliteration aside, Wendy Woo has been one of the most recognizable singer/songwriters to call Colorado her home. Her family moved here when she was a child; her parents were founding faculty members at Naropa University. Before it was en vogue, Woo was a DIY career musician—she released eight albums on her own label and is a business case for self-management. Here, she talks about doing it on her own terms, why Colorado’s a great music market and her love of top 40 music.
French Davis: You’ve carved yourself out a steady career as a DIY musician, tell me about when you decided to make the leap and commit 100 percent to that direction.
Wendy Woo: I never really decided to be a DIY musician. I just did it myself. I wrote my own music, I recorded my own albums. I booked my own shows and did my own promotions. I started my own label, WooMusic, Inc. as a vehicle for my music. Over the years, record stores and record labels have gone the way of the dinosaur. Musicians, instead of waiting for the big break of a record contract, just started doing it themselves. …I’m my own label and I call the shots.
FD: How has the explosion of technology in the last decade helped your career?
WW: Fifteen years ago, we used to pile into a van and drive around to play venues all over the country. Now, you can reach a potential audience of hundreds of millions of people within a few days without having to leave the comfort of your own home. …I remember we used to cut and paste our posters together. We used to print out labels, design homemade post cards, purchase stamps and then make an assembly line of roommates and parents to put out a 1,000 person mailing of upcoming shows and events. Now, with one mouse click, I send out to more than 3,000 fans my schedule every week and it immediately updates to my Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.
FD: How has it hindered your career?
WW: Over saturation and more competition in the market. One drawback is the piracy. Today, technology allows an intellectual property thief to mass produce and distribute with no noticeable degradation of the product. This has spawned a mindset that music, or literature, or movies should not cost anything and that the theft of these things is really a victimless crime.
FD: Why have you chosen to stay based in Colorado, considering the relatively small/unknown music scene (as much as that might be a misconception)?
WW: That is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about the Colorado scene. I’ve watched artists move to LA or Nashville only to continue to come back here to gig because they can get paid. In LA, you don’t get paid to gig. You have to rent a venue yourself, do your own show and, ideally, sell enough tickets to cover your costs. My family is here and all of my friends and I think it is a great place to raise a family. Also, my fan base is here. I have a very loyal and committed fan base. Even though it is a small scene, it is very supportive. A $10 or $15 CD is a very small investment a fan can make toward you and your project to show support and to get something valuable for their investment.
FD: Who are you listening to on your iPod these days?
WW: Kind of embarassing but I mostly listen to NPR. I listen to Pandora and on my Pandora account I have John Mayer, Matchbox 20, Kings of Leon. I love top 40 mostly to see what is interesting to the pop culture of today.