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article imageOp-Ed: Indie music artist finds her audience one fan at a time Special

By Jacki Viles     Feb 11, 2012 in Entertainment
Brooklyn - You would think that these days, technology would make it easy for everyone with talent to be a star. With a video recorder at your fingertips, you can create a variety of film shorts and upload them to your favorite Internet sites in the blink of an eye.
Authors have been self publishing ebooks and print copies for sale for many years now. Musical talent has an enormous stage on the Internet and are able to produce their own music to promote themselves worldwide.
Having an outlet to share your creativity is food for the soul. But most artists are starving artists nonetheless.
The path to creative notoriety has never been easy. It’s as tough as ever to be an independent artist. It still comes down to luck. Be at the right place at the right time. Now, everyone on the planet with a cell phone is your competition. Just look through the offerings on YouTube. How do you stand out? How do you market yourself? Once you find your voice, how do others find you?
I found Passione. Or, Passione found me. I’m not sure, really. I was in New York City for a long weekend. My daughter and I were shopping in the old neighborhood. Downtown Brooklyn has always been my favorite. It’s not the same as it was when I lived there. Not as seedy. The revitalization of Manhattan into some quasi Disneyesque tourist trap over the past 20 years has made its way across the Brooklyn Bridge. High priced condos, Barney’s and big box retailers have replaced many of the mom and pop shops. It still has just the right amount of character. And...the right amount of characters still live there.
This day, I was going into a store and wondering what we were going to do for lunch when I ran into Passione Johnson. She wasn’t just another street vendor. She wasn’t homeless. But yet there she was trying to sell me a CD of her music. I told her I’d catch up to her as soon as I got out of the store. And sure enough, there she was when my daughter and I came out.
We spoke for a while and I liked her instantly. The girl has game. That’s for sure. She is a product of the neighborhood. So am I. I’ve been away from Brooklyn for a long time now. But I carry it with me. I bought her CD for $10. It didn’t matter if she was any good. I liked her drive and her guts. That’s worth $10 all day. When we went back to the hotel, I popped in her CD, ‘The Storm’. My daughter is a bigger rap fan than I. But as I listened my first thought was, ‘Hmmm. She really has something.’ She’s writing and producing music with multiple influences. Not all rap. Not standard hip hop. Sometimes she’s reflective and she is always to the point. She has a vision.
I kept in touch with her and we grabbed breakfast last month while I was in town. She recently produced her first music video. When I saw it for the first time on YouTube, I was taken by the quality of the production and hoped that things were looking up for her. As we sat in the iconic Junior's Restaurant and she told me her story, she looked discouraged. She told me how she did that video with no money. I was stunned. I thought perhaps she found funding. It has a beautiful flow and a very professional feel to it. Sometimes as she spoke, she was in tears. It’s not that she is hitting the streets and creating her sound the hard way. She’s doing it the only way she knows how. And she is hoping that someone out there is listening.
Jacki Viles- I saw your video on YouTube. I am so proud of you! What do you want people to know about you?
Passione Johnson- My name is Passione and I’m a Hip-Rock artist from Brooklyn New York. I call it Hip-Rock because of the rock elements that can be found in some of the Hip-Hop based tracks. My inspiration to pursue music came from my neighborhood. Originally from Bedford-Stuyvesant; like some of the greats such as Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G, and Big Daddy Kane. I was heavily influenced by their sound.
JV- How long have you been writing music?
PJ- I began writing corny raps in junior high school. I began to grow and get better with time and dedication. During my first trip to Atlanta I met an artist by the name of Lil Jamal. He had a record deal with Dallas Austin who was a huge music producer at that time. We had a connection instantly and he showed me the part of music that I couldn't see in Brooklyn. I met artists from everywhere and different genres. I also found a way to connect with music that was totally out of the box for me at that time coming from Brooklyn. That time in my life opened my mind to all forms of creative thinking. It also played a big part in how I approach songs.
JV- So you’ve taken your music on the road too!
PJ- After my time in Atlanta I decided to explore America with my music. My buddy ‘Problem’ and I packed up our CD's and hit the road state to state selling our music hand to hand and out of the trunk. We ended up in the weirdest places but it was a blast. We did L.A., Las Vegas, Miami, St. Louis, Indy, and a couple of other places. Spending time in those places allowed me to connect with the people. That connection created a lane for all people to connect with me through music. Music is life and every song needs a life of its own, a pulse. My music is that pulse, that heartbeat. So many layers and emotions like people. I'm not just a rapper. I wear many hats when creating every body of work.
I sell my music in the hot sun, freezing snow, and pouring rain to keep my dream alive to whoever, wherever. I write the lyrics/hooks, finance the project, A&R the projects among other things. I've found my voice but my timing sucks.
JV- Never at the right place at the right time. It has to be the biggest challenge. I met you selling CDs on Fulton Street. I’ve seen pictures of you on Facebook outside Madison Square Garden, at a Giants game, South Beach… Literally everywhere. Isn’t it dangerous? Aren’t you afraid?
PJ- I was on the road for about five years and I can't say that I felt like I was in danger. I do a good job of staying out of trouble.
Independent artist sites are all over the internet. More often than not they ask you to waive your rights to your music or your name. The playing field is enormous. For every talented artist there are 500 more out there. And there are perhaps 500 more out there that have nothing to offer and are taking up space.
The music business has always been somewhat predatory in nature. It is, after all an industry created in hype and chance. Even artists that can get a contract with a record producer AND make a commercially successful album usually end up owing big money to the companies that made them a success. There is no shortage of horror stories. Even seasoned, well known artists have had their share of contract disputes. After 7 years ‘The Artist Formerly Known As Prince’ changed his name back to ‘Prince’ only after his contract expired with Warner Bros.
Knowing that success is a double-edged sword, the artist known as Passione Johnson is still hoping for a chance. She has a voice and a vision and believes in herself. I believe in her too!
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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