Archive for the ‘ work ’ Category

a new week, a new job

GuitarToday is a big day! After four years studying music business at Belmont, and eight years working at record labels, I have left the music industry.

It’s bittersweet. I came to Nashville to work in music, and I had a great time. I learned a lot, got to work with some fantastic people, met some cool artists, went to some awesome shows, was part of the birth of the digital music industry, and traveled to some of my favorite cities.

But life changes, and priorities do with it.

For the last several years I’ve had the opportunity to be on the front lines of an online startup my good friend Brian founded with his brother, Mark. As the company has grown, so has my role with them, and we’re at a point now where I am finally able to join the team full time.

What does this mean? Well, I get to work from home, for one – amazing, especially considering Eli is just two months old now! It also means I’ll be handling marketing for the company, helping us grow our brand and find new clients. It also means I have a ton of work to do. It also means I need to learn a thing or two about marketing.

Last week was a nice ending to my music days. Went out to eat with my friends and then they gave me a guitar signed by everyone in the company. Pretty awesome, and I’m glad to know I have friends that will last beyond the 9-5 framework of corporate life.

So, here’s to new beginnings and to hoping we don’t see a repeat of the 90’s dot-com bubble bust.

what a swell season

I forget sometimes how fortunate I am to have the job I have, and to do what I do in the music industry. Most of the time it’s all emails and meetings and conference calls with sales reps. Boring stuff.

But then there are days like yesterday.

Two years ago a small independent film called Once burst out of Dublin, Ireland starring Glen Hansard (lead singer of Irish rock band The Frames) and his musical collaborator Markéta Irglová. Shot on a shoestring budget (only $160,000), the film featured the pair as struggling musicians and included original music written and performed by Hansard and Irglova. It was a simple but beautiful story that went on to earn $20 million worldwide and earned Hansard and Irglova an Academy Award, a Grammy nomination, and international stardom. The two musicians now tour and perform as a duo called The Swell Season.

This week I was in California for a music presentation with one of our accounts. We do these a couple times a year featuring artists from all across the Warner label family, and it’s a cool opportunity for me to see a lot of various artists perform in one setting. The most exciting part for me – The Swell Season was on the docket to play the showcase. I have been looking forward to this for two months!

And so the time finally came yesterday. About midway through the showcase I selected for myself a spot right at the foot of the stage. A label guy got up in front of us and went through the story about Glen and Markéta and the movie – everything I just told you. And then, the words I had been waiting for, “Please welcome The Swell Season!” And then he gestures behind us! I hear music. We all turn around to see Glen, strumming on his guitar, and Marketa both standing at the back of the room side by side – no mic, no lights – as they launch into one of their trademark songs. And so begins the most incredible, intimate, unassuming, amazing acoustic performances I have ever seen in my life.

After a couple songs Glen explained how he believes stages separate an artist from the audience and creates a line of divison that shouldn’t be there, and that when he can he likes to play right in amongst the audience so that there can be a true connection. The set was necessarily short and direct, and simply amazing. They closed with their Grammy nominated song “Falling Slowly” which I captured below. There’s a lot of ambient noise, and there are plenty of better live recordings on YouTube, but this one is mine and I like it a lot:

After the set I wandered outside the club, pretending to be checking my email on my phone, but knowing Glen and Marketa had to catch a plane that evening. In general I don’t care too much about meeting artists, but there are a few that I have always wanted to meet. And so as Glen and Marketa were walking out the door I did my best to nonchalantly thank them for playing and told them how much I enjoy their music without coming across like a total goob. I’m sure I didn’t accomplish that, but they were kind enough to humor me with a little conversation and a picture before getting in their car and jetting off.

Yesterday was without a doubt one of my Top 5 music related experiences of all time. Hard to capture in words and really poor-quality video, but it was great and was a good reminder of why I work in music.

If you haven’t before, check out the soundtrack from Once. Keep your eyes open for the new album from The Swell Season releasing October 27th.

new york, new york: this space is NOT for rent

This week Jeremy and I went up to New York for a digital music conference, as well as meetings with accounts and the guys we work with at Warner, our parent company. I’ve been to New York before, but only once, and only for a brief period of time. I never really had the chance to experience the city before, but this week I did!

* * *

One of the things that stuck out to me about New York is that they have PERFECTED the art of not wasting space. They are space “efficientists”. Vacancy is a scare resource, and they use every square inch of it. Buildings are squeezed together impressively tight. If a road curves or angles, the building architecture curves and angles with it to make the most of all the real estate. Sidewalks are a good 15 inches narrower in New York than any other city to grant more internal square footage.

They say the only place to build is up, and New Yorkers do this well. Of course they have the skyscrapers, but anything and everything can be put on top of another building. Watertowers, and playgrounds, and basketball courts are launched upwards, and the buildings themselves are additions to the decades-old foundations, creating a continuous inseparable concrete / metal mass running the length Long Island.

There are 305 million people living in the United States. 150 million of those people live in New York City, and 100 million of them are cab drivers.

As we were heading out of town in our taxi we drove by a house in Queens that had a short little wrought iron fence outlining a tiny yard the size of a Fiat. In it were piled a trampoline, a bicycle, a push lawn-mower, a swing set, a toy tractor, and a jungle-gym.

There was a little seven year old boy playing in the backyard… actually he was just looking out the living room window smiling, imagining what it would be like if he had room to play in the backyard.

Sometimes there is an architectural oversight and a property owner is left with the smallest piece of vacant land after his building is erected. In this case the city immediately claims eminent domain, paves it, and lays down a set of solid yellow lines to convert it into a parking space.

Actually, this rarely happens as there are only 7 parking spaces in New York City. 2 are in lower Manhattan, 3 on the Upper West Side, 1 in Greenwich Village, and 1 is a park-and-ride up in the Bronx.

If by some act of the Almighty you are blessed with finding one of these spots, it will take an equally supernatural force to lift and place your car into a space the size of a twin-bed.

It’s impossible to park under your own power, though some have tried, resulting in over 700 million deserted cars strung up and down the streets of the city. Their owners just got up and walked away. The cost of the car was less than the cost of time spent trying to maneuver into a spot.

That’s actually how Hertz Car Rental got it’s start. A couple guys from Jersey moved in, threw up some big yellow signs on street corners and started renting out deserted cars to travelers for 70 bucks a pop.

And that’s why everyone started taking taxis in the first place… they couldn’t find a spot to park their rental, so they just gave up and hailed a ride into the city.

what’s the word

OK, so I’m two and a half weeks into the new job at Word Records, and it’s been going well! Everyone I work with is great, it’s fun to work in a slightly larger team of people, and I’m looking forward to really digging into a lot of the new accounts and artists I have headed my way.

The commute downtown isn’t near as bad as I thought it would be, and so far the drive has been enjoyable. Music Row is surprisingly quiet – sign of the times, probably, and unfortunately – but it makes for uncrowded streets and isn’t anything like trying to navigate Maryland Way in Brentwood at noon-hour.

The first couple weeks has been a bit overwhelming though. There are a lot of expectations throughout the company (regarding what needs to happen with digital sales), and my head is trying to get adjusted to a new catalog, a new distribution process, and an entirely new set of relationships. But I’ve had some small accomplishments. I spent a good portion of last week crafting the official Word digital & mobile retail strategy. I’m quite happy with it and will give me some guidance as to what I need to focus on over the next year.

And that, my friends, is the word.

why i quit my job and got a new one

Assuming there’s an outside chance that one of my few diligent readers hasn’t heard yet, a couple weeks ago I resigned my position with EMI and accepted a new job with Word Entertainment as their Director of Digital Sales & Marketing.

This is a good thing! (People always ask me that… I tell them I switched jobs and they give me that, ‘oh, really?’ as though my dog died or something). So I have to sound excited when I say it, because I am excited!

Anyways, after nearly 5 years at EMI, switching companies is a big deal – it was an incredibly hard decision to make, and didn’t come easily. I have a ton of great friends at EMI, and not working with them everyday is going to be sad. EMI had become home, just like highschool had become home, and then college. Additionally, I really respect a lot of people at EMI – they have great and supportive leadership, and from the top down some brilliant minds that I have learned a lot from. But now it’s onto something new.

So, why did I leave? There are a few reasons…

  • At Word I’ll be working for a record label instead of a distribution company. This means instead of working nearly 250 releases in a year, it will be more like 20 – if that. Ideally this means that I’ll have the opportunity to create a closer relationship with the artists I work with, and dig deeper into each release – spending the time on each one that they deserve.
  • At Word I’ll be working with all digital download, streaming, and mobile accounts. Previously I had 95% of my focus on iTunes, which was necessary, primarily because of the amount of titles I had running through the system. Ideally now I’ll be able to dig a little deeper with each one – there’s some cool new accounts doing some great things, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to spend some time with them.
  • Word has a different perspective on approaching digital music and internet marketing. Not to say that Word has the ‘right’ way, and EMI the ‘wrong’ – it’s just different and I need that fresh perspective. Like I said, I’ll be working within the label, and they’re putting a lot of focus on 360 degree artist deals, direct-to-consumer commerce, and fully integrated internet marketing teams. I’m looking forward to being part of a bigger team, and in a position to have more open discussion with radio, A&R, and so forth.

So that’s the brief run down. My last day with EMI was October 8th, and I don’t start with Word until November 3rd (which means I’ve been enjoying the most amazing fall break ever). This is my last week on my own, which I am doing my best to dedicate towards completely refreshing myself. I’ve been reading some good books, enjoying some good coffee, taking some nice trips, and trying to refrain from anything that reminds me too much of corporate gobbledigook.

solution process

Solution 1: Have a process.

Solution 2: If there is no process, claim you are building a process.

Solution 3: If the process isn’t working, claim you are solutioning a process.

my music business

So my friend Jessi asked me the other day if I could answer a few questions about the music biz and artist management to help her out with a college project she’s doing. There are certainly more qualified people out there to answer these questions, but I appreciate that she asked and so I’m happy to share my thoughts, not only with her, but you as well… enjoy:

* * * * * *

Jessi: What is your background (education and experience)?

Me: I went to college at Belmont University and graduated with a double-major in Music Business and Business Management. I did two internships while in college. The first was with a small artist management company called CommonRock Entertainment who was, at the time, working with The Normals, Bleach, and Sanctus Real. The second internship was with the EMI Christian Music Group, working in their mainstream radio promotions department. And finally, once I graduated, I did one more internship with Creative Trust Entertainment – a larger scale management company who was, again at the time, working with Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day, and Warren Barfield.

Jessie: How did you get your start in the Music Business?
Me: I moved to Nashville under the pretenses that I was a good musician and could write good songs. Neither were true. As such, I dropped the idea of spending a life recording and performing and instead took up an interest in the various business aspects of music. Artist management immediately appealed to me, and over time marketing, brand development, and web marketing became of interest as well. Ultimately my internships led to a job at EMI Christian Music Group, and I have been there since working in digital sales & marketing.

Jessi: Which artists have you worked with in the past and who do you work with now?
Me: Artist management has always been more of a passion for me than it has been a job, and as a result I have always been a part-time manager on the side in addition to my work with EMI. I have primarily worked with Beau Bristow (, an independent Nashville based pop/rock artist, over the past four years.

Jessi: Describe a typical day’s activities
Me: The great and fascinating thing about working in the independent music scene is that every day is different, and it is this way because every day is a fight just to keep the artist moving forward. There are so many artists – both on major labels and independently – vying for the attention of an audience. The independent manager’s constant struggle is to help the artist connect with people continuously, on a limited budget, and help grow an audience base, whether this is through performances, online awareness, publicity, partnerships, or any other number of opportunities.

If the artist is currently recording, most activities focus on publicity, like overseeing the design of the artist’s website, creating press packages, and connecting with media outlets to prepare for the launch of the new record. If the artist is on tour, activities center around keeping the artist moving on the road – advancing shows, pitching to venues, drafting contracts. The independent artist generally does not have their own booking agent, so the manager usually fills this role, which includes a lot of email and phone correspondence, and attending conferences to connect with buyers and venue owners.

The manager is ultimately the whatever-needs-to-be-done guy – whether its as a travel agent, web manager, publicist, roadie, booking agent, graphic designer, producer, merch guy, and sometimes most importantly, counselor.

Jessi: How do you view the future (technology and business models) in this industry?
Me: Technology, for better or worse, is everything in the future of our industry, and unfortunately we’ve been ignoring that fact for far too long. There are a ton of people evangelizing about what the “new model” is going to be for the music industry, and frankly, I don’t believe there will be one “new model”.

We’re going to see a ton of different models emerge over the next several years, and a lot of it is going to be propelled by what is going on in the independent music scene, because these artists are in the best position to react to market changes and provide their customer with what is being demanded. We’re going to see a hybrid of customers – some will want their music immediately through a digital format, and others will want to hold that physical copy of the album in their hands. Labels will need to efficiently provide opportunities for both.

As time goes on there will be a lot of different experiments carried out – some will work, and some will fail miserably: There will be artists who offer their music for free, or at a price to be determined by the consumer. There will be artists who offer subscriptions to their content for a set annual fee, and over the course of a year the customer gets all sorts of things like new albums, artwork, and show tickets. Some artists will begin to offer their new music in a serial-type manner, releasing EPs every few months instead of a new album every couple years. Labels will experiment with so-called 360° deals where they will be the wholesale provider for not only albums, but books, T-shirts, posters, and other swag as well.

I think the bottom line is that the new model will be experimentation as labels and artists struggle to cope with a new consumer base that believes music should be ubiquitous and free. Some will embrace that mindset, and others will fight it… the most successful will likely land somewhere in the middle, and at the end of the day, I have always felt that the most critical component of selling music is that the artist must have a relationship with the consumer. Music at it’s core is an emotional experience, and when the quality is high enough and a bond exists between the artist and listener, people will pay for it.

back from visiting the fruit company

Well I got back from San Francisco last night having spent three days out there. It was a really good trip, all in all.

Wednesday I flew out, and we had an all day EMI showcase at a venue just outside of downtown. Got to see Tristan Prettyman perform which was fun – have always liked her. Thursday was spent all day in meetings, which all went well.

Can I just say… the drive from Cupertino, CA to Pleasanton is one of the prettiest I have ever been on… 40 miles of rolling hills and green meadows and red roofed houses. It looks like Tuscany, or what I imagine Tuscany would look like, having never been there.

I got to take some time to stroll around downtown San Francisco on Thursday night… walked all around the port area, saw some really cool architecture. Met a couple seagulls.

San Franciscan’s are officially the gutsiest drivers on earth. First of all, it’s an old city, so the streets are really narrow. Second, the whole thing is build on the side of a cliff, so it’s 60 degree hills everywhere you go. Third, 80% of the roads are one way streets, so you really have to know what you’re doing to get where you’re going. I finally came to the conclusion that in order to accomplish anything in terms of driving in the city, you basically just have to forget every rule and law you’ve ever learned about driving, and just commit yourself to a giant free-for-all. Otherwise, you just get stuck trapped between a trolley car, 5 taxi cabs, and 700 pedestrians. It’s definitely winner take all out there.

So, a good trip – glad to be home though.

random monday update

I’m just going to tell you right now this will be a boring post. If you want to be really bored, keep on reading:

I go to San Francisco this week for a sales meeting with a fruit company. That should be interesting.

Gotta give props to Flash for the great recommendation on the band Stateless… really liking this self-titled album. It’s an interesting blend of Brit-rock, electronic trip-hop, and ambient soundscapes. There are elements of Radiohead, Massive Attack, and a hint of Sigur Ros throughout… all good influences.

While I’m talking about Flash, head on over to his blog to answer his question of the week about embryonic stem cell research. I don’t know what my answer is yet.

Twitter is interesting. I find this strange compulsion to broadcast my rageful inner thoughts on the thing, and somehow at the last second find the willpower to not press ‘send’.

I’ve heard of people having internet addictions. I wonder if I’m coming down with one.

Prison Break is over for this season. I really thought they were going to end it this time around, but looks like we will have another season. I like the show a lot, though the beginning of this their third season was a little far fetched. Oh well, just a TV show right?

Something walloped our house in the middle of the night two nights ago. Like really hard… I thought there would be a dent in the side of the house. There wasn’t.

George Bush Sr. “endorses John McCain” today. Goodie.

I agree with Tim that the Knight Rider movie Sunday night was an absolute travesty. I gotta admit that I was really looking forward to it, and also gotta admit that I couldn’t stand more than about 8 minutes of that horrendous show.

Tim also says piano playing is for stupid heads… yeah, I’m just gonna let that one sit.

the levels of success

My co-worker Jon and I work in digital music, which on the surface seems somewhat glorious what with the greatness of iTunes and all. But underneath it’s really pretty chaotic, frantic, and in the words of many, the wild wild west of the music industry. The operational level especially involves a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo and general all around ridiculousness that few people outside of ourselves actually understand.

Given that we live in this constant state of confusion, with brief moments of glory, and the ever present threat of epic disaster, Jon and I developed a tongue-in-cheek “system” by which we denote our current status of success / failure on whatever project we’re currently working on, which we dubbed the “Levels Of Success Chart”.

We’re particularly fond of the downward spiralic progression from Situation to Fiasco, and I’m proud to say that we’ve actually emerged relatively unscathed from weeks of deep and utter Pandemic. We have yet to achieve anything above a Meta-Solution, but oh, it’s coming.

Sometimes the word “problem” just isn’t enough… This will end up in a management book someday. Enjoy…

I know we’re not the only ones living neck deep in the idiocy of the corporate world, so in the event that you might find this chart helpful, I’ve provided a link to a downloadable PDF version of the chart here.

Myself, I’ve got mine printed off and held up on the wall of my office with my Michael Scott magnet that I bought at Target for $.99.