Chasing the wired life

I’m a geek. Always on the computer, always checking the phone. I spend way too much time on both. Everywhere you look, the musicians are wired up. It’s what it takes to get the job done, right? What a weird way to do business.

“Oh yeah, you’ve gotta have a website! People need to be able to find you online.” That used to be the big thing. You didn’t need to build the next Amazon, but you needed something, just something, so that when someone threw your name in a search engine, they found you online and could get in touch with you. I was down with that. I put together a basic website a few years ago, mostly pictures, a bio, and a couple of other pages. Nothing fancy.

Then I was trying to figure out how to make me the leading “Tom Holtz” on the web. Turns out I can’t even be the leading Tom Holtz in suburban Maryland on the web. The real-life version of Sam Neill’s character in “Jurassic Park” is Dr. Tom Holtz, a paleontologist at the University of Maryland, who has written dozens of books and has the unstoppable street cred of being a real dinosaur expert. No amount of loading keywords or SEO was going to help. Heck, if you searched on “Tom Holtz tuba,” I was lucky to be at number 3 or 4 on the results page. Fabulous.

Now look where we are. The scene is totally messing with me.

There are currently two e-mail addresses feeding regularly into my Inbox, two phone numbers getting text messages, a separate set of messages being kept and exchanged on Facebook, voicemail on the mobile phone and on the home phone… Seriously, I can’t keep track of it all. Details get lost, or are hidden in plain sight, and I’m left swinging in the breeze because I can’t remember which form of communication I’m supposed to search to find that bit of information I need to book or play a gig. Did that guy leave a message at home, and I called him on the cell, or did he leave a message on my cell? The email with the dress for tomorrow’s gig, I can’t find it on my phone… maybe that was a Facebook message, or no, he texted me last week. No, that was details for the sound check next week. Better email that to myself so I remember to put it in the calendar when I get a chance.

Yeah, I’m going to pass on Twitter. I can’t handle what I’ve got already.

I never intended to use Facebook to book gigs. I don’t even use Facebook for anything other than my own casual amusement, and the occasional reconnecting with old friends. All of a sudden, it’s the main line of communication for a few people I work for in DC and Baltimore. I think I was the last one on the text message train, and I learned some cats take a week to answer an e-mail, yet they’ll respond to a text at 2am without delay. I still don’t have a texting plan on my phone bill, but now I have to use them. Then there’s this website, which is much more fun as a blog than a big photo album. There are nights I would love to just sit and write, but by the time I’m done sorting through emails, texts, Facebook posts, messages… I’m ready to unplug and play the horn.

This is the dirty little secret of your expanding digital presence: This takes time and work. You need to answer all the e-mail. I’m not good at that. I’ve not only lost e-mails, but I’ve lost track of e-mail addresses that I had told people I would check… and it’s cost me business. Some folks who text everything assume I check my phone  every time a text arrives. If I don’t respond right away, as they always do, they might read something into that. I think twice about everything I share on Facebook. I didn’t use to, but now that people who hire are on there and checking it out, I’d be a moron not to stop, think, and be cautious. Every time I post something on this blog, I guarantee there will be more than one draft, and I’m going to type more than 140 characters.

And I still hit e-mail and Facebook a few times a day, and I try to keep the phone in sight or in a pocket as often as I can. I apologize when I use it around others, although most everyone pulls the phone out now and again around others anyway. It’s become part of the way our business is done.

I got six new e-mails while I finished these last three paragraphs.