Join us in starting the weekend early with our weekly roundup of music videos from TuneCore Artists. Come on, wouldn’t you rather check these out than work? We thought so.
TuneCore Artist Ron Pope has seen incredible success since grabbing the steering wheel and leaving his major label in favor of independence. He’s had over 1.5 million digital downloads of his TuneCore-distributed songs, and tickets to his live shows are going quickly (case in point: his upcoming show at New York City’s Irving Plaza sold out well in advance). We were lucky enough to speak with Pope about where he started, where he sees himself now in the music industry, and how TuneCore is a part of his team…
Let’s start out with a general question – How did you get started in music?
I’ve always made music; I was that obnoxious kid at the front of the school choir when I seven. I didn’t really consider the idea that I might be able to be a professional musician until I got to college. While at NYU, I joined a songwriting circle, and the other writers in that group really encouraged me to go for it.
You were signed to a major label and are now an independent artist. Can you tell us a little about your experiences with each?
My experience with a major label was almost universally negative, so I don’t have much to say about it. I think that major labels absolutely can do incredible things for people, but when I was signed, I didn’t get any assistance from the label. You sign with a big label to get access to major media; I didn’t get that, so I asked to be released. The benefit of being an independent artist is that there’s no buffer between me and my fans. If it seems like the fans are ready for another album or another tour, then that’s what I go out and do. I don’t have to ask anyone for money or permission because there are no executives taking all the money I bring in and dictating my next move. That’s a really nice situation to be in.
How did your new single “Lick My Wounds” come about?
I was in Mexico and part of the hook popped into my head. I couldn’t figure out what to do next, so I came back to New York and sat down with Kyle McCammon (who is the Musical Director in my touring band and one of my new album’s co-producers) and we hashed the rest of it out. For about a month, it was just this hook that I couldn’t get out of my head. I figured that was a good sign.
Is this a preview of what’s to come on your next album?
My new record is a concept album, and the concept is incredibly straight forward. It follows two people through a relationship, from the first moment they see each other all the way through the last moment. ‘Lick My Wounds’ captures their very first meeting; it’s the first track on the album.
What kind of team do you think an artist needs to be successful? Has your team evolved over the years?
I think it depends on the artist. In the modern music industry, it’s important to create something substantial on your own before you go looking for help, so that’s always my advice to people starting out. You need to make some noise on your own before seeking out a manager, trying to get a deal, hiring a publicist, etc. My team has evolved substantially over the years to accommodate the changes in my business.
Where do you see independent artists in the current music industry model?
I imagine myself at the moment as a part of the emerging middle class in the music industry. Twenty years ago, there were the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots.’ You either had a major label deal, with money to record in a big studio, access to producers, worldwide distribution, a substantial budget to promote your album and tour, access to major media, etc, or you were struggling on your own, trying to get your music to a place where you could get a deal so that you could have access to those things. The spot where I exist within the music industry feels very new; I’d imagine that as time goes on, there will be more artists like me, who make waves on their own without any intervention from the conventional music industry machine.
Where do think the music industry is headed?
If I was smart enough to figure that out, I wouldn’t be working in the music industry. Seriously though, I’d say this; all I know for sure is that the music industry is changing. We’re in a state of constant flux; so the future of the music industry is change. Artists and companies who are prepared to evolve will survive, and others will disappear.
You’ve been a TuneCore Artist since 2008. Thanks for being part of the community! Can you talk about how TuneCore is part of your team?
Without TuneCore, my project wouldn’t exist in the way it does now. TuneCore allowed me to distribute my music all over the world while I was still developing a fan base. As small pockets of fans developed in different areas of the world, those fans were able to access my music, purchase it, and support my project. Also, by connecting me with platforms like Spotify, where people have shared and streamed my music tens of millions of times, TuneCore has helped with my growth in a variety of countries.
How actively do you manage your TuneCore account? For example, do you use the daily iTunes trend reports to gauge the results of marketing efforts or help plan your tours?
I check TuneCore a great deal and my team utilizes the information provided for all sorts of things.
Switching gears to touring…how do you book gigs in other cities/countries?
I have a U.S. booking agent and an agent who books me outside of the U.S.
How have you grown your audiences? (Especially interested in how you’ve grown them abroad)
I’ve released a great deal of music since 2004; hundreds of songs plus many albums and EPs. I think part of what has helped with the growth of my audience is that I have a lot of content and it is of a consistent quality. If a new fan found me today and he was super engaged with the music, he could listen to new recordings for something like fifteen hours. Beyond that, I’ve been touring pretty aggressively for a number of years. Each time we visit a city, we put on the best show we can, and when we return, the audience has grown, as a rule. With the live show, I’d say it’s important to distinguish yourself from everyone else. There are a lot of people who are doing something like what you do, so how are you going to convince people that it’s better to watch you than that other guy?
Do you connect with other musicians on the road? If so, what have you learned from them?
It’s tough to connect with other musicians while you’re touring, because there’s constant motion involved in the process. At festivals, it’s always fun to be around a bunch of friends (new and old) to catch up and get to see each other’s sets. In Germany, backstage at a festival, I bumped into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in ages; that was a blast. I try to pick up little things from every good show I see. At festivals, I think everyone is a little more on point than usual, because they know other musicians are there watching them. The biggest thing I’ve learned on the road is to try not to sweat the small stuff. High strung people go crazy on tour; you never meet a touring musician who’s in his sixties and is high strung. You need to go with the flow out there, because stuff is going to go wrong every day.
You’ve seen incredible (and well deserved) success as an independent artist. What are the top 3 tips you’d give an independent artist looking to grow his/her career?
1. Do something good. Start by creating the best music you can or the rest of your efforts are wasted.
2. Be willing to accept constructive criticism. Find people you trust who are willing to tell you when you suck or when you’ve done something good, and then listen to them.
3. Work hard, every day. If you’ve made this your job, treat it like a job. If it isn’t your job yet but you’d like it to be, treat it like a job and hopefully it’ll happen for you. There’s always going to be someone who’s younger, better looking, a better singer, a better writer, a better player, etc etc etc, but there’s no one who has the intrinsic ability to work harder than you. Make up for whatever you lack with extra hustle.
To wrap things up… We’re excited to be part of your Irving Plaza show on August 10th! What can fans expect?
This show is very different from my usual sets. I’ll play some songs all by myself (which I hardly ever do), then, I’m playing with The District (the other band I’m in) for a while to premier some new tunes we wrote together. We haven’t played together in over three years, so that will be very special. Next, I’ll be playing with my touring band, and finally, we’ll all play together with some special guests. It’s going to be a big night and I’m incredibly excited.
More @ RonPopeMusic.com
Download “Lick My Wounds” from iTunes
Follow Ron Pope on Twitter
Become a Fan on Facebook
By Mikey Wax
Hey TuneCore friends – My name is Mikey Wax, and I’m a singer/songwriter from Long Island, NY. I’ve released two full length albums, and have been successfully touring for the past few years. After releasing my first album at the end of ’08, I built a small but promising fan base through word-of-mouth on social media sites. From that, I was able to sign with a small booking agency at the time who got me on a couple tours, but the relationship wasn’t right and soon parted ways. That’s when I was forced to think outside-the-box and find other ways to gain more fans. It turns out that losing my agent was actually one of the best things for moving my career forward, as it was then that I came up with the idea of booking house concerts…
What is a house concert?
House concerts are intimate concerts between an artist and fan in the comfort of the fan’s home. They are an amazing way to develop lifelong fans, work on your live show, and sell your cds/merchandise.
Start for Free
The way I began doing house concerts was by telling my fan base I would come perform in their home for free if they could guarantee a minimum of 25 guests attending. 25 is a solid number because the living room usually feels packed, and it’s also not too difficult for the fan to gather that many people with a few weeks notice. “Play for free?” My system was to connect house show to house show as long as I could get from A to B on one tank of gas. Because the shows were free, the number of submissions were very high, even though my fan base wasn’t huge by any means. I was able to book a cross-country 60+ date house concert tour, often combining two shows in one day for those that lived close or in the same city.
The power of house concerts is the intimacy and “once in a lifetime” vibe they have. After a house concert, usually all guests in attendance will want to walk away with a CD or merchandise to remember the special nature of this type of concert. I was selling 2x or 3x as much merch at house concerts for 25 people than I would at a club venue of 100 people. And I didn’t have to promote once from my end to get those 25 people out—it’s all on the host. I found that by keeping my expenses low by playing shows only within a tank of gas from the previous house, the tour was very profitable from merch alone, even though I was playing for free. Create as much merch as possible–CDs, t-shirts, posters, sunglasses, beer koozies, whatever.
Executing a House Concert
Your fans will be so happy to have you in their home, they will often cook you dinner, bake you a cake, and occasionally ask you if you need a place to stay for the night. Eat all the home cooked food you’d like, but I’ve found it’s not in my best interest to overstay my welcome. What makes a house show so cool is your fans have a limited time of just you to themselves. It’s usually best to arrive an hour or half-hour before the show, perform an hour acoustic set, and stay for about an hour after your show to meet everyone, take photos, and sell your merchandise. Then, it’s best to leave everyone wanting more, which is what will get them out to your next venue show when you come back!
Asking for Money Down the Line
When you’ve reached a point where you feel comfortable charging fans for private shows, it can get a little tricky. Without an agent, I was the one directly booking the shows and asking for money. One of the most difficult/uncomfortable conversations for an artist to have with a fan is asking them for money since we’re so appreciative to have their support in the first place! Honesty is the best policy. The road over weeks can get expensive between gas, food, lodging, the occasional parking ticket. Tell your fans that as much as you’d like to play for free, there are expenses that need to be covered in addition to your time.
With house concerts, I always tend to lean on the low side because the merch sales are usually so strong, that just asking each guest to contribute $10-15 (25 guests = $250 – $400 per show) is a number that most people are comfortable with. Of course, you might have some fans willing to pay upward of $500+ for a private show, especially if they’re booking it far in advance, or if the location is a little farther than usual. Capitalize on any of those situations, but on average $250 is not overwhelmingly expensive, but still goes a long way when matched with a few hundred dollars in merch sales. Book 2-5 houses in the same city over the course of a couple days and your tour will be very profitable. You will need to charge more for repeat hosts since you may not have new merch to sell them and they already purchased everything previously.
At house concerts, it’s easy to leave each show with email addresses for all 25 of the guests. The following day, it’s a good idea to send an email to the entire group thanking them for coming and making you feel at home. Talk about any special/funny moments from the night, and that you plan to return again soon. Also, remind them to tag you in any pictures, etc on Facebook so the rest of your fans can see what you’re up to and how house concerts work.
That’s all! Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions. Contact info is below.
[Editor's note: Make sure your music's available online for all your new fans to buy once they hear you perform!]
Stuffed from all the July 4th BBQs? Put your feet up on the couch and check out a few music videos from TuneCore Artists…
We’ve got some exciting TuneCore Japan news: Major Japanese group World Order just released their new single “Imperialism” through TuneCore Japan. The digital release is available worldwide on iTunes, Amazon MP3, music.jp and Oricon Music Store.
Fronted by ex-martial arts fighter Genki Sudo, World Order is a Japanese dance and music ensemble whose mission is to inspire others to reflect on contemporary society, working styles, global culture, and images of modern Japan.
Fans can check out the single in World Order’s “Imperialism” music video (below), which shows seven suit-clad men dancing “hypnotically and robotically” to Genki Sudo’s original music, with shots of U.S. landmarks like the Capitol Building and Union Station in the background.
It’s the first day of summer and we’re kicking it off with some videos from TuneCore Artists. Enjoy!