Breaking Through

Breaking Through

With today's technology, singer-songwriters no longer need to wait to be "discovered"

By Susan Sterling

Twenty years ago, Jason Spooner’s musical career might well have gone like this:

The Portland, Maine, based singer-songwriter would have written his songs at home and performed them in local clubs for local audiences. He would have sold his CDs at gigs and at a few area music shops, all the while hoping for his big break—being discovered by a major label.

How times—and technology—have changed.

Yes, Spooner ’95 writes his own songs. But he performs them with his band in venues from Maine to California, records them digitally for CD and downloads, maintains an elaborate Web site and MySpace page, and uses the Web for promotion and marketing.

Spooner’s fans check his tour schedule at his Web site,, and hear and download his music on his MySpace Web page, where they can also post a message, read his blog, subscribe to his newsletter, shoot him an e-mail.

While working towards a Ph.D. in art history, Carolyn Currie ’85 realized she had no desire to be an academic. Her husband and her mother encouraged her to focus on singing. “You’re wasting your time. You should be doing music,” she recalls her mother saying.

Technology—from iTunes to YouTube, downloads to digital video—has changed the way artists like Spooner reach their audiences. For Spooner and other independent artists, technology has kicked open doors—and changed their very notion of success.

How does he feel about the transformation of the music industry?

“Totally jazzed,” Spooner said.

Like Spooner, singer-songwriter, Carolyn Altshuler Currie ’85 also finds her dreams redefined by new technologies. Also based in southern Maine, Currie performs solo, singing and accompanying herself on guitar, and was picked as an up-and-coming performer by Performing Songwriter, a national  magazine. Currie is about to release her fourth CD, Waves of Silence, with Nashville-based High Horse Records, which describes itself as “a new digital download label for independent artists, with marketing and distribution for the electronic age.”

In addition to touring to back the new CD, Currie also does her own marketing and promotion through her Web site (

“Independent artists really can do it now,” she said.

For singer-songwriters like Spooner and Currie, “making it” no longer requires being channeled through MTV and Top 40 radio, but instead involves reaching larger audiences through their own marketing efforts.

And it’s working.

With his trio, Spooner, a bluesy, jazz-flavored folk-rocker, has become a fixture on the festival circuit. The Portland Phoenix named him Maine Singer-Songwriter of 2008—just one among his many song-writing awards. Four of the songs from his latest CD, The Flame You Follow, are in rotation nationally at Starbucks, and he and his band recently opened for singer Brandi Carlile.

Would he sign with a major label if one came knocking? Sure, but only if they shared his vision for his music, he says.

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  • On December 18, 2008, Patrick Doyle '97 wrote:
    Nice article. I did a radio show at Colby in 1996 and hosted Jason. A couple years ago we caught up again and I hosted him on my radio show here in Connecticut. It's great to see these artists are able to work it out for themselves. You can hear a recording of the Jason Spooner Trio on my show at