We’re back with another installation of our latest series, TuneCore Tuesdays, which aims to highlight artists and other music professionals who are writing, recording, and hustling on their own terms. By showcasing creatives doing it their way all over the globe, TuneCore Tuesdays aims to empower and inspire our diverse community of artists.
This week we’re talking to LA-based duo The Palms. Check out their video and be sure to learn more about their journey!
Oftentimes in music, the best known releases and public profile of bands and artists stem from old beginnings. Johnny Zambetti and Ben Rothbard already had a band, Terraplane Sun. They put out a couple of EPs, generated a buzz, and even saw their songs licensed in some high profile TV shows, films and ads. After their record label deal fell through, Johnny and Ben were disillusioned and without direction, but their shared interest in creating music “without barriers or inhibitions” led them to their next project. They started The Palms, feeling wiser and more experienced on this go-around.
“We like to say we came out of that whole experience with a masters degree in music business,” Johnny says. “Because we saw behind the curtain and what it actually entailed. It was a whole new era when it came to releasing and making music. We were just sort of on the cusp of that in 2014.”
“Timing-wise, it was crazy,” Ben recalled. “Spotify had kinda just started to pop, someone bought us out, and we would have been stuck in this label situation, contracts with streaming companies…it would have ended anyways, unless we became the Killers.”
The two musicians benefit from their experience playing together in their former group, but without the support of those other musicians, Johnny and Ben were on their own and making their own skill sets work together. They refer to the result of their time working and writing together as dealing with ‘two halves of the same brain’.
“Ben was a solo singer/songwriter, playing acoustic, doing a bluesy kind of thing,” Johnny said. “I came in having toured with a lot of bands and being sort of a hired gun, so I had to be super musical when it comes to music directing and different instrumentation.”
“It was weird because it was kind of effortless from the beginning. Even though we come from kind of different worlds, we both come from a very similar music world. When we’ve gone into the studio, I can’t recall too many times when there’s been a struggle,” Ben concurs.
When someone used Submithub to send their songs to blogs, they landed a high profile placement on HypeMachine, allowing them to build some new buzz. They credit their ‘luck’ in being well-received by the editors at Spotify, and as Spotify was becoming more popular, the Palms were able to amass an even wider fan base from the platform.
But even with their supposed luck, Johnny says, “I’m still confident that the cream rises, so just keep trying to write the best music. People know how to find good music – fans these days are the smartest fans to ever exist. Keep writing and be as authentic as possible – don’t chase a sound.”
Reflecting on their previous band, the team that was built around them, and subsequently the revenue breakdown among everyone involved, The Palms is a project that allows the duo to really earn more and build a sustainable career. They acknowledge the timing of their endeavor once again in parallel with the rising popularity of streaming platforms, but understand the benefits of keeping it independent and keeping the team small:
“The playing field is just being leveled,” Ben says. “It seems silly to give up this big chunk of what you bring in, because you don’t really make a living. We’re doing it – we’re not wealthy by any means, but it blows our minds what we’ve been able to accomplish on our own.”
The two musicians take this independent mentality seriously, knowing that hard work pays off. They are in the studio five days a week, creating their own videos, coordinating photo shoots, and sourcing merch materials.
“So TuneCore has been incredible for us,” Johnny says. “It’s the idea that all the barriers for entering the music industry are gone, where distribution was a huge barrier and labels controlled.”
“TuneCore showed us it’s possible to do this on our own. Prior generations, this is not something that was possible. You got signed, you went to radio, and you either blew up or you didn’t,” Ben concludes.