When Alt Altman, a.k.a. Digits, had the chance to participate in the Dawson City’s Songwriter in Residence program in February, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I knew someone who had already done it and they said to absolutely do it,”
says Altman. “I heard lots of good things about Dawson. It seemed like a once in a lifetime chance.”
Since 2006, the Dawson City Music Festival has operated a residence program with the support of the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture. Each year, the program brings one songwriter to Dawson City for a month-long stay where the artist receives living and studio space at the historic Macaulay House.
While in Dawson, Altman had been developing new material, sharing his skills and hosting music production classes for youth.
Altman is an electronic pop musician. While there are many styles of electronic music, he describes his sound as gloomy.
“There is no happy Digits,” he says with a smile. “Just moody.”
He chose the name Digits because it seemed suitable for electronic music.
“I liked the name and you can understand it in many languages,” he says.
Born and raised in Toronto, Altman is currently living in Berlin after six months in London. Although he says he’s not leaving Canada behind, there is more opportunity to play electronic music in Europe.
“There are more clubs and festivals, and everything is closer together,” he says. “This is the first year that I’m actually making a living as a musician.”
Altman goes on stage with two synthesizers, a laptop for a backbeat, a pedal to layer the keyboards, and a vocal mike. During the last six months, he’s added in another vocal mic for looping harmonies.
Altman records and releases his own music. In April 2012, Digits released a 12-song mix-tape of original material called Death and Desire. It instantly found an audience.
The Where Do You Belong EP was then released in July under an experimental distribution model: a free download link was given to anybody that e-mailed Digits evidence of purchasing music from any other musician in the past two months.
“Music shouldn’t be a commodity, and I think it’s silly to claim that we should hold on to an old model where people must pay a precise amount corresponding exactly to each song they listen to or download,” says Altman.
People should be buying at least some recordings to support the industry in general, he says, but he doesn’t want to prevent anyone from listening to his music by charging for every song.
Yet, despite offering his music free, fans are still willing to pay for his albums.
“People are choosing to support me,” he says. “They know there are no labels involved and that all the profits go directly to the musician. It makes for a deeper connection between me and the fans.”
Here in Dawson he found the creative atmosphere in town inspiring. In the month he was here, he connected with the group Ark Analogue and wrote and recorded a song that will be featured on 7-inch vinyl.
“This is just the beginning,” he says. “I’ll be back someday.”
Alt Altman also plays in the band Bad Passion and blogs about Canadian electronicmusic at Silent Shout. For concert schedules and more information, please visit his website at www.DigitsMusic.com.