Today we’re talking with Kendall Schmidt, lead singer of Big Time Rush, who’s got a new project creating buzz: his band, Heffron Drive. With a debut single, “Parallel,” that just hit iTunes for pre-order, and two SXSW showcases, Heffron Drive has had a busy week. We were lucky enough to ask Kendall a few questions about why he chose the independent route for his new band, why he partners with TuneCore for distribution and publishing administration, and what other indie artists can do to grow their careers…
(By the way, catch Heffron Drive tomorrow night in Austin!)
Why was it important to get your music out with Heffron Drive independently instead of through a major label?
Big Time Rush was an incredible experience and still is, but I knew going into it that the music business has interesting quirks, and I definitely experienced that. I always thought that the artist should be reaping the benefits.
I wanted it to be more about the music. Sure, I could have gone to a record label and taken an advance, but I’d be at the mercy of the label again. It seemed to me that if I had the ability, it made sense for me to do it independently, especially now that there are teams like TuneCore who do exactly what a label does, minus all of the tricky business practices involved. I eventually want to help other artists because I know a lot of talented people get caught up in crazy deals. You start arguing about business when you should be worried about playing shows.
What are 3 tips you would give to an independent artist looking to grow his or her career?
#1. I think it’s important to know your music and really spend the time trying to find what’s going to make you different. I think about that a lot while writing Heffron Drive songs—my music is going to be diverse, but will have underlying themes tying it all together.
#2. It’s also important to have a team or someone who really believes in you and what you’re doing. You want to be around people who will spread the word about your music, people who will offer help and resources just because they want you to succeed. Having somebody in your corner is really important.
#3. Make connections. It’s important to go out and meet people, even beyond just spreading your music; it’s about spreading the word that you’re a good person, so be open and as friendly to people as you can be. I think if you’re up-and-coming, it’s really important to let your personality shine as well as your music.
Why did you decide to partner with TuneCore?
It makes sense. If I sign a deal with a record label, I owe somebody a whole bunch of money and then I’m at the label’s mercy since they own my masters. That really doesn’t make any sense because I wrote the songs—I should be able to own them. I dealt with labels the last four or five years, and it was full of amazing experiences, but also full of lessons.
It seems like the values of TuneCore really align with many of my own. Artists should focus on the music and not on all the complexities of the business—that totally takes away from the music.
Also, I can make decisions a lot quicker than I can when signed to a label. With a label, there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen and a lot of people are making all kinds of decisions about what they think is right. Sure, some of these people may have a lot of experience, but that’s not true with everyone. With TuneCore, decisions can be made faster and you don’t fall behind. If the fans want something specific, you can actually give it to them without having to ask for somebody’s permission.
What are your plans for getting the most out of SXSW?
I added an extra day of rehearsal because I wanted to make sure the actual performance is really great. We have the one big showcase and then the acoustic showcase—I hope some fans make it out to see the full set and really enjoy it!