Spotlight Iowa City: UI student serenades onto iTunes


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Michael Reed thrives in front of an audience.

“I really enjoy the performance aspect of music,” he said with a toothy grin. “I love the idea of performing for other people. It’s my drug.”

Reed is no stranger to the stage. Despite being only a freshman, the shaggy-haired singer-songwriter has performed at numerous venues around Iowa City, including the Mill and Blue Moose Tap House.

Reed has also played at several county fairs, live on KMCH radio (which serves northeastern Iowa), and countless coffeehouses. His favorite experience so far was performing at the Iowa State Fair last summer in front of an audience of thousands.

“Michael is not only a good singer … but [he’s] always very enthusiastic,” friend and UI student Madeline Schmitt said.

This enthusiasm for music was ingrained in Reed fairly early — music runs in his family, he explained. His brother played the guitar, his dad started a church singing group, and his extended family members are all music aficionados to some degree.

“They are all talented. I’m the only one obnoxious enough to sing [at family gatherings],” Reed said and laughed.

His unaffected mannerisms, gregarious attitude, and easygoing charm make Reed seem, at least initially, like a laid-back songster, not very different from the rest of the guitar-strumming college boys singing for amusement. However, the native of Winthrop, Iowa, takes his music seriously.

Reed keeps his MySpace music page updated and spends hours actively searching for venues. Most impressively, he released a CD — Since I Met You — on iTunes earlier this month.

“My dream is to perform professionally,” the open major said. “I don’t know if that will happen … it seems definitely more possible.”

Technology advancements have altered the way people access music, and Reed believes these changes have helped his career.

His songs are uploaded onto MySpace, where they can be broadcast and shared. The Internet has made it easier to search out shows and venues. A website even handled the release of his album.

According to Hip Hop Press, a music industry aggregate website, the digital revolution in the music industry has led to the creation of digital distribution companies such as TuneCore and Interscope Digital Distribution. For a flat fee, they will act as distributors to iTunes, eMusic, Rhapsody, and many other major download and streaming sites.

“No fancy press kits — a link to your MySpace page will do,” Reed said, to sum up the changes for this generation’s entertainers.

More than technological aids, Lauren Fischer, a floormate in Currier, credits Reed’s dedication for his success so far.

“Michael can work with anybody and anything,” Fischer, 18, said. “He’s super driven and passionate about what he does.”

Reed manages to mix humor and fun with the hard work. Many people in his dorm recognize “The Foot Song,” Reed’s upbeat melodic tribute to feet, dealing with bunions, blisters, calluses, “and all that other stuff.”

He also likes improvisation. During the fall semester, Reed often sat outside Panchero’s from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. entertaining the downtown crowd for tips, making up songs about people as they walked past.

Reed is also known to sit in the hallway outside his room with his guitar, serenading the night janitors.

“They seem to enjoy it OK,” he said, smiling.

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