PaperDoll: A homecoming in Harlem
The band PaperDoll will be playing a free, all-ages show at The Shrine NYC.
Story by Atom Fellows
In a world no longer dominated by the record industry, a musical act needs to not only write great songs and put on an unforgettable live show, but also be their own label, marketing firm, booking agent and management company.
They need to maintain an active web presence by consistently uploading videos, updating their Facebook status, Tweeting about anything and everything, constantly interacting with fans as well as finding new routes into emerging markets and most importantly, trying to get paid.
The one thing that hasn't changed, however, is the luck factor.
No matter how much blood, sweat, and tears are invested, it counts for nothing without that break.
And for the band PaperDoll, that break came when someone from the entertainment committee at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai contacted the band to ask if the they wanted to represent their country and play at the USA Pavilion.
During the performance, something seemed to click between the band and the audience.
As PaperDoll's singer Teresa Lee noted, "People really caught on to us. It helps that I'm Chinese-American. People felt it was like a homecoming for me. [The World Expo] brought us back two months later."
Capitalizing on the new market, the band released an English/Chinese CD through the Tianjin-based label, Loft Records, and in 2011, toured for a third time through major cities in China.
Lee and fellow founding member, guitarist Patrick Moloney, met at the C-note on the Lower East Side during an open mic night in 2006 shortly after they had each moved to New York City.
After securing a solid rhythm section, the band went to work on their 2008 debut release, Ballad Nerd Pop, a mutant pop offspring of Gwen Stefani and Shirley Manson.
The opening track from the album, "If Nothing Happened" quickly took on a life of its own, first appearing in a Vicks Dayquil commercial, then a segment on The Today Show, and after their introduction at the World Expo, a Nike commercial in China.
These licensing deals, once thought of as "selling out" in the old record industry world, are now, as Lee puts it, "how acts get exposure and make money. We have to work really hard at what we do, but that takes money and I don't apologize for [having our song in those] commercials because it's gotten us a lot of great fans, to China three times and tours around the United States and Ireland."
But what about playing in New York?
The irony is that even though musicians the world over have swarmed to the city in pursuit of stardom, for the past few decades, New York hasn't been the mecca for discovery it once was.
While it still is a conducive environment to finding creative partners, the bottom line is you have to leave the city to play the city.
"We've probably played more times in California than we have in [New York]," said Moloney.
Yet with everything garnered through their exposure with collective tours, high profile shows, videos, and commercials, the time seemed right to start focusing on the city where it all started.
And their show at The Shrine NYC in Harlem feels like a new beginning for a band that is ready for the next level.
"We've been trying to play in Harlem for months in a place that was free and all ages. That's the big draw, to want to play The Shrine," Lee said.
So, maybe it wasn't luck at all.
More likely the smart choices and determination, including investing in a well-produced studio recording that could lead to potential licensing deals and soundtrack placement, which, in turn, could lead to a new fanbase in a emerging market.
In the meantime, the band is excited about the show.
As Lee said, "I love the space, the energy and the neighborhood."
For more information, please visit www.paperdollband.com
PaperDoll will be playing The Shrine NYC at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell at 134th Street on Fri., August 31st at 9 p.m.
The show is free and for all ages.