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Touring Virtually: A New Way for Artists to Reach Their Fans (and Get Paid)

04/26/2015 10:55 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2015

My kids ask me why I like to work so much, and I tell them it's because I love what I do. I tell stories -- whether it's through music, video, a live event, or the written word -- and it's exactly what I always dreamed of doing.

The one thing I like best about my work is when I send it out into the world, and it comes back with even more amazing stories of how it moved people's hearts. So I create more. I give a lot of it away for free (and thanks to many great streaming apps and platforms, I can reach a lot of people globally).

How do I get paid then? How does any musician or artist get paid these days?

For me, it's always been live events. When I was signed with a record label and sold millions of albums, I only got a small percentage of the sales, so concerts were really where my pay came from. But even though it might not seem like it, concerts and performing, as exciting as they are, are hard work.

Recently, I got off the road after touring for 13 years with my husband (our tour manager and my producing partner), our three children and a small crew of musicians. I needed a break, and wanted time to indulge in little things like lazy Saturdays and pajama days. Plus, touring got more and more expensive as my music and our shows grew.

Touring is far too cost-prohibitive for many artists to afford these days, so we look for ways to make a living at home. Those who are also songwriters try to get publishing deals or land a song placement. Others teach and mentor. I like to produce shows/events and perform, which puts me right back where I started -- on the road.

That's why I was so excited to meet James Wasem of Gigee.me. I wanted to know the story behind his passion for building online communities and support systems for "next generation touring."

On my way to interview him for Waking Up in America, I feel a bit nervous, like one would be when meeting a rock star. James started out dreaming of being a pilot, spent years on the road as a drummer, and now creates amazing live streaming communities to support artists -- so to me, he is a "rock star."

When I arrive, I leap over the chords and stands of our set to give him a "nice-to-meet-you" hug and feel like I've known him for years. He is a nice, kind, ripping smart and handsome guy. But above all there is a sense of deep, steady calm radiating from him, even when we talk about stuff he is passionate about -- like the music industry today.

James and his wife live in Montana, where he grew up. He talks about his childhood dream of becoming a pilot, and how he used to trace a fighter jet on his snare drum with a magic marker. "I didn't want to forget my dreams, I was like 12 years old," he says with a smile.

He got a full Air Force ROTC scholarship and was all set to achieve his dream, but after only one semester decided something wasn't right.

"In the back of my mind and in my heart I was being pulled in this music direction. [I] was like it is totally irrational, it doesn't make sense. I've got a full scholarship, I know what I'm gonna do twenty years from now."

He chose to leave school and the stability of his prospective career, but felt assured in his decision: "On the inside there was this peace somewhere there. I wasn't sure what it was all about but I knew there was something that I needed to really push through and follow."

He lived a life on the road as a drummer, and learned to appreciate how hard and demanding touring could be. Recognizing how on top of that, independent musicians are expected to be business savvy in order to succeed, James and his friend David Boone decided to create Gigee.me, an online streaming website where artists could connect with their fans and be supported by the people who love them and want them to succeed.

We talk about his passion to build communities, how music is a great connective force, and about the importance of a personal engagement between artists and their fans. Towards the end, he introduces me to a beautiful song by Boone, with whom he has been playing for many years.

"'Taillights' is about experiencing the fullness of life and not worrying about your social status, your economic status, your trials and travails from yesterday. It's living now. It's living with what you have and living a full life with that."

I smile as I think that of course it's available for free on YouTube. But if we want to hear the band play it LIVE -- and have a chance to support, chat and interact with them -- we'll have to catch them on Gigee.me.

I drive away thinking that James' dream of becoming a pilot really did come true, in a way -- he is helping artists soar and achieve heights it would have taken us much longer to reach on our own, if we even could at all.

And one thing he said, I'm holding onto for good -- my memento from James, the rock star:

"[You've got to be] jumping off of cliffs and just making these decisions that get you out of your comfort zone ... But you've got to follow that peace, you know."

James Wasem is author of "Great Church Sound" and co-founder and operations director of Gigee.me, an online broadcasting platform.

DISCLOSURE: I have no material relationship to any brand or person mentioned in this post.