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WRONG NOTES: a blog of ear reverence

Wrong Notes collects posts on music, art, culture and fun stuff. Also included: news about the Ear Reverends.

My so-called life as a music business of one

The Ear Reverends is not a business, but the more the Ear Reverends is happening, the more there's a lot of busy-ness around that.

I've been working on a really cool update to the Ear Reverends website, that's around adding a novel, homemade, music player. But, it's taking a while, in part because it's another "job" I am doing on top of everything else. This made me think about all of the "jobs" I am doing associated with this music.

To the degree all of this is happening through me alone, or through just a small group of people, maybe it's odd to say this is "music business." But, it's also maybe indicative of what it means to be a musician today, where one can choose DIY + creative freedom over the record company sharecropping arrangements common during the 20th century. But that DIY = do-it-yourself = things you spend a lot of time doing.

So, what follows is a sketch of these "busy-ness obligations" in which I am finding myself somewhat mired.

To set the stage: by day, I create websites for a living; by night I write and record new music. That's a pretty virtuous circle in itself, except it limits the amount of time I have to do music, and also doesn't really address the potential that other people might want to know this music. So, I build out from there.

My efforts have gone into creating HereJam, which I call a startup music label. It also encompasses HereJam recording studio. It's really associated with almost all of my music business: it touches on record engineering and production, it touches on artist and music project development, and it's music distribution, licensing, merchandising, marketing. It's a lot of stuff!

There's also the administrative tasks associated with copyrights and performing rights. The music gets registered with the US Copyright office (easier now that one can do it online), and I've also created Magnolia Harvest as a music publisher, affiliated with BMI (also easier via online registration).

So, all of this translates into these tasks (outside of the creative writing / recording part):

  • studio maintenance
  • asset management (e.g., sound files)
  • engineering and production (which is mostly creative for me, but project management comes into play—and I do work with outside mastering engineers, so scheduling is an issue, as well)
  • contracts (with other musicians, etc.)
  • cataloging (data about songs, tracks, copyright status, etc.)
  • copyright administration
  • performance rights administration (via Magnolia Harvest)
  • editorial (liner notes, etc.)
  • song and album art, layout and design
  • production file management (making mp3s, FLAC files, etc., and tagging them)
  • file distribution (getting the files online in the right place)
  • CD manufacturing (it's still part of the picture)
  • Book / art printing (part of our interest in novel formats)
  • CD distribution (currently via CD Baby, but takes some effort)
  • Postcard and marketing design
  • Postcard printing, and mailings
  • Merch design (t-shirts, stickers, buttons)
  • Managing inventory (CDs, books, prints, postcards, merch, etc.)
  • Emailings, blog posts and other communications to fans
  • "Fan mail" correspondence (can't complain about this!)
  • Updating canned artists sites on MySpace, Facebook, Soundcloud, etc.
  • Updating custom websites (for each artist, and for HereJam, and for Magnolia Harvest)

Because of the web and various ways these services can be outsourced to third-parties, in some sense, it's pretty easy to do all of this—even as an individual. And, it's possible this could even be pretty efficient if you're in a band where, say, the guitarist does the website and the drummer does the art and the bassist does the mailings (sorry bassists, but I know you always get the crap jobs), etc. Even better: your friends and fans step in and help with some of these tasks.

And, most importantly, if you've got this freedom to do this all yourself, you also have the freedom to not do a bunch of it. Don't care about performance rights? just skip them. Don't care to make merch? don't bother. Don't want a custom website? just use MySpace, etc.

But, for the Ear Reverends / HereJam / Magnolia Harvest, it's more like a startup where all these things are being done. And, the idea is that they'll eventually be in place enough to be a foundation, e.g., there was busy-ness that allowed Err or Man to happen, and now there's busy-ness that should allow the next Ear Reverends' album to happen AND the debut album from Equal Squeaky AND the reissue release of Slobot AND maybe even the debut from Elvis Shellfish and the Negative Mariachi (working with a Rock 'n Roll shellfish involves a whole other set of creative talent management tasks I won't even get into ;-).

So, I guess that all is a way of saying: stay tuned!


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. . . the new music player is very coming soon and such . . .