Carolyn Malachi isn’t your average artist. The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter has garnered a large following of fans (her tribe, as she affectionately refers to them) with a sound that merges jazz, hip-hop, R&B and spoken word. But that’s not the only reason Malachi, the great-granddaughter of jazz pianist John Malachi, is in her own lane. It’s the fact that the Washington D.C. native enjoys and truly understands the worlds of technology and social media.
Always looking for innovative ways to market her music, Malachi is the first known recording artist to accept Bitcoin payments for her music, giving more people access to her most recent album, Gold, and her catalog of music—a win-win situation for both the songstress, fans and the digital currency company. Her tech and social-savvy ways have led to Flipboard recognition, placing her in its Creator Spotlight section, making her the first African American to be spotlighted by the social magazine platform. She has an Argo Tea partnership that gave customers access to stream Malachi’s entire album from their homepage, as well as a free song download to its patrons through their social media page. And she has a collaboration with social commerce platform Shopcade, which gave a fan the opportunity to style her for the music video “All Right,” a summer appearance on “The Daily Buzz” and a live performance.
We could go on and on about Malachi’s tech know-how and sure her 20.8K Twitter followers could co-sign, but we spoke with the artist to see how she’s used technology to further her brand, why Bitcoin is her new currency of choice and which items she considers her favorite tech tools.
MadameNoire: What peaked your interest in technology and STEM overall?
Carolyn Malachi: The technology at our fingertips enhances our lives. While we know this, we also know very little about how it works. I see STEM as a way of empowering each of us with the skill to engineer real-time solutions to real-time issues.
MN: The music industry has changed tremendously due to technology. Whereas some have chosen to work against the change, you’ve completely embraced it. Why is that?
CM: Consider the first printed sheet music. Think of vinyl records, cassettes, CDs, MP3s — each of these technological developments, while giving the music consumer greater access to the music they loved, also had an economic impact on the music creators. Embracing technology has kept me ahead of the curve. History says that technology will always be with the people. That is where I choose to be.
MN: One platform you seem to be quite fond of is Bitcoin. How have you used Bitcoin? What does it offer you as an entrepreneur and artist?
CM: I began accepting Bitcoin for music sales in October 2013. Because no bank or government regulates the cryptocurrency, I can sell my CDs to people who live in countries where traditional forms of payment are not accepted. When I see that songs like “Beautiful Dreamer” and “Free Your Mind” have reached people around the world, in physical CD format, I smile.
MN: What are your favorite tech tools/gadgets?
CM: Creative collaborations require frequent communication. WhatsApp meets my mobile messaging needs. I have many, domestic and abroad.
I have yet to meet a studio microphone that picks up the extreme lows and highs of my voice with the clarity and warmth of the Manley Reference Cardioid Microphone (the Aston Martin of studio mics). I need a live-performance mic with the same capability.
Coinbase is a digital wallet. I use it to accept Bitcoin for music sales.
MN: How has tech allowed you to take your brand to the next level?
CM: Well, a brand can only thrive if the real product is in top shape. Trying new tech, then adopting the tech that works for me, enhances my creative process. It reinforces the value of trial-and-error. Knowing what works is just as important as knowing what does not. That awareness keeps the music authentic.
MN: What’s next for you? Any announcements we should be on the lookout for?
CM: Absolutely! The NCAA invited me to sing the national anthem at the 2014 Women’s Final Four in Nashville. Playing college basketball at Shepherd University gave me the foundation for a successful music career. Still with me are the values I learned as a student athlete: teamwork, precision, endurance, and vision. It is nice to see things come full circle.
Based in New York City, Janel Martinez is a multimedia journalist who covers technology and entrepreneurship. She is the founder of “Ain’t I Latina?” an online destination geared toward Afro-Latinas. You can follow her up-to-the-minute musings on Twitter @janelmwrites.