Rising saxophonist Mike Casey is all about his online presence. His press releases are chalked up with social media metrics. “West End”, the first single off his upcoming album Stay Surprising, has already passed 50,000 streams across all platforms in less than a month since its release. His debut album, The Sound of Surprise: Live at The Side Door , crowdfunded 124% using PledgeMusic, has surpassed 500,000 streams worldwide since its February 2017 release. He’s got a verified Twitter account with over 9,000 followers and his Instagram counts a mind-blowing 16,000 fans (in comparison Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah has 17,700). He’s also the only jazz musician I know of using Patreon to collect donations from fans (if you’re curious and decide to join, here’s a 50% bonus on your first month’s earnings on us). All this without the backing of a label. In a world where a large number of musicians lack common business and promotional skills and don’t have the means to delegate marketing and social media to more competent hands, Casey is differentiating himself as a technically-savvy, marketing-oriented young online entrepreneur, and frankly I admire the man for it. He understands the big picture.
Mike Casey began attending the prestigious Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the Hartt School of Music (University of Hartford, CT ) in 2011. Shortly before graduating in 2015, Casey was one of 24 worldwide selected by Jason Moran to participate in the prestigious Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. He’s since then shared the stage with DJ Logic, Charles Tolliver, Brandee Younger, Benito Gonzalez, Zaccai Curtis, Tarus Mateen, Duane Eubanks, Nat Reeves and Marc Cary, whose project “The Harlem Sessions” features Casey as an original member.
For his upcoming album Stay Surprising, recorded live the same night as his debut, The Sound of Surprise: Live at The Side Door, Casey is experimenting with a new marketing strategy. The album is being released track by track from April through November with music videos for all seven songs on the album released in between the track premieres. This means Casey will be releasing new material every two weeks for seven months, a high bar for a fully independent artist with no label or manager.
Stay Surprising features Casey’s longtime trio of bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Corey Garcia. “Both have a big beat and sound, are great listeners, compose and arrange beautifully and love ‘walking the tightrope’ and taking chances,” says Casey of his bandmates.
One particularity of Casey’s journey is that he’s yet to hit the recording studio. “One of the musical concepts I love the most is the element of surprise,” says Casey of his focus on live recordings, adding, “we love to surprise our audiences and each other. We find that we create the best music when we reach beyond what we think we can do.” He continues, “I may stick to recording live albums and singles forever. In a time where everything is edited, overdubbed, spliced, and autotuned, capturing the raw, live experience is more important than ever.”
At least from an outside perspective, things seem to be going well for Casey. He often pops up in our newsfeed. He’s being featured in online publications right and left. And he’s even got a “Publicist & Marketing Assistant” which stays on top of every little detail. Casey represents a new model for independent artists. As cliche as it may be, he’s taking the road less traveled only to forge a new path through the briar and bramble like a navigator setting forth for a new undiscovered continent. Only time will tell if he brings back gold or pyrite.
You can stream Mike Casey’s new single, a cover of “Nature Boy”, off his new album Stay Surprising below. Pre-order the album on his official website.