Stefan Lessard is the bass player and a founding member of the Dave Matthews Band. He’s also taking courses at Berkleemusic.com. I caught up with Stefan when DMB played at the Comcast Center outside of Boston. The interview below is part of a larger piece, which we’ll be putting out soon.

Mike King: You’ve been playing with the Dave Matthews Band for 20 years. How did you go from playing small clubs in Virginia to this?

Stefan Lessard: This band, for a while, took every single gig that we were offered. We played every party, every rooftop party, every fraternity; we never said no, we just played everything. I think the most that we played was three gigs in one day and each one of those where about two and a half hours long. So we just worked ourselves silly for four years and when things started growing, we got on the Horde tour. And back when we started, taping was huge. We let people tape our shows and those tapes started getting everywhere and after a few years, we thought, “well, we should probably release a professional sounding live album for our first record.” So we did and we threw a few studio numbers on there but it was mostly just a live show and people loved it because all they had of us was these crappy sounding mix tapes. So finally there was this quality representation of who we were and what we did. It just really grew from there and it was a steady increase. After our first studio record, it really shot up to some sort of success.

Our business model was a lot different back then from most bands at that time, too. For a lot of bands, who are just struggling to play and keep afloat, a record company comes to them and says “We like you guys. We think we can make something out of you. Here’s X amount of dollars upfront and when you are done, we’ll give you X amount more and we’ll give you this amount for tour and give you this percent of merchandise.” What the bands didn’t realize is that the record company was pretty much taking control of the full aspect of things, like the merchandise and the booking and the touring and everything. Once you are theirs, everything went through record companies.

We had such a machine already happening by the time the record companies all got hip to who we were, that they were like, “Well, what do we do with this band? They’re already kind of doing it.” RCA was the first company that came out and saw what we did and said, “This is great! They have their touring and merch down, all we have to do is help them make a great studio record.” They signed us with that sort of freedom and we’ve had a lot of freedom from the start and only have been given more freedom throughout the years. It’s helped us not have to repay so much. It’s really helped us look at the future and move forward.

MK: Was Coran [Coran Capshaw, DMB Manager; founder of Red Light Management; co-founder of ATO Records] helping you set up your infrastructure at the beginning stage?

SL: Well, we were incorporated as a band, which was another thing that a lot of bands did not do, where the lead singer kind of owned the whole thing or the guitar player or whatever, but we came together, and incorporated. The merchandise thing…we just made t-shirts one day and just started selling the t-shirts and people loved them so we just kept doing that. Coran came around because he ran a club that we played at, and we started playing there every Tuesday and he became pretty interested in what we were doing because he saw that there was a lot of momentum. So when he came into it, there was already a lot of momentum, but he definitely helped sculpt the business model that we have used throughout our career. He’s a pretty powerful force when it comes to the business side of the music.

MK: I know you are active on Twitter and Facebook. Can you talk about how you are engaging your fans online?

SL: Our band has always tried to be at the forefront of cutting edge technology when it came to the fan site. When we first started, a fan site was more or less just a mailing list where you would sign a piece of paper and send it to a P.O. box and then maybe you got a t-shirt or a couple stickers or something. There wasn’t really too much incentive to be a fan member. So we created an online fan site and it just took off and that kind of became the model for every band after that.

I have started thinking about a solo record. It’s one of those things, in the history of music, most people that do that, their solo record isn’t something that carries because everyone sees it as project from the bass player for the Dave Matthews Band. So I decided that I would start a website – a platform that I could express myself, so people could see me outside of being the Dave Matthews Band bass player. So it worked and for a little while, people were signing up and talking and I would do little blogs on stuff. MySpace came up and it completely obliterated my whole concept because my concept was MySpace. All of the sudden, I signed up for an account to MySpace and I had 400 more people becoming my friends on Myspace than on my own site. I sort of left my site to the side and I went to MySpace and then from there, I went to Facebook and then from there, I went to Twitter. Next thing I know, I had a voice with the fans. Now it’s gotten to the point where I have to be really careful about what I say because people can take it one way or the other. Sometimes I like that because I don’t mind a little bit of controversy, other times, I want to go out there and squash the rumors. There are a lot of people pretending to be us online. If I find out I’ll go straight to the source, ask BT [Boyd Tinsley, violinist for DMB] if he had a Twitter account and he’d say, “what’s Twitter?” and I was like “Alright guys, FAKE! Don’t talk to him! He’s pretending to be BT”. I think I gained a sort of trust inside the community. Now its just fun and it’s a promotional thing for me. If something happens like the Grand Canyon Adventure [Stefan co-wrote the original music for Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk], I can just start talking about it. I’m taking courses at Berkleemusic, and fans love hearing about the homework I’m doing. I’ve been posting about homework and I think people are starting to think I’m crazy because it’s 4 in the morning and I’m like “still working!” and they’re like “When do you sleep?” It’s been a lot of fun for me and I think the fans enjoy it, so it is something that I’ll keep doing.

Don Passman is an entertainment lawyer who has represented some musical titans, including R.E.M.,Tom Waits, Tina Turner, Quincy Jones, Green Day, Bonnie Raitt and many more. He’s also an author who has written one of the most thorough and practical guides to understanding the music industry. All You Need To Know About The Music Business is now in its 7th edition, and I had the good fortune of connecting with Don to discuss his thoughts on 360 deals, direct to fan options, file sharing, and the current state of the music business.

Congratulations on your revised and updated book! What do you see as being the most significant changes in the record business since the book first came out twenty years ago?

Well, there’s no more vinyl…[laughs]. In the record biz the changes have been profound. The record companies have gone from being incredibly powerful players to still powerful, but not nearly as much as they were. The biggest change is of course piracy, which devastated record company revenue. The record business has gone through such a hard period because it is difficult to compete with free. The record companies have been blamed for being asleep at the switch. They could have probably done more than they really did–although there wasn’t much anybody could do even with a rear view in the mirror.

Speaking of revenue, the 360 deals are certainly a way for labels to engage in other revenue streams, but are 360 deals a good option for artists? Is that something that an artist should be interested in if they are going to be signing to a label?

Whether they are interested in it or not, if they’re going to sign with a major or even an independent, they will have to make one of these deals as none of these companies will sign them without it. The labels are essentially trying to position themselves as branding companies, and are saying that they are not just a record company; i.e. we’re people that are investing in your career, we’re going to help you build your brand, and when you get benefits from that brand we should share in them.

This seems like a contradiction to me. The majors have downsized over the past few years, they have fewer resources, yet they are promising more with the 360 deals. Can they deliver?

No. In fact, they quit making promises a while ago. They started out by saying they would give you more attention, that they would give you a better record deal if you gave them 360 rights. They wanted the 360 rights to hedge their bet. That’s all gone. Now it’s just a record deal that looks pretty much like a stand-alone.

Are you saying that if you provide a label with the rights to merchandising, touring, or publishing there is no guarantee they will provide any marketing support to help increase these sources of revenue?

Correct. There are two kinds of 360 rights, active and passive. Some of the labels are actually taking the merchandising rights to manufacture and exploit, some the publishing rights, and others are just taking a part of income–meaning that you make your own deals for a piece of the pie. In the situations where they have a merchandising company, they are of course going to give you those services. They’ll do the manufacturing, the distribution, and the marketing. If they have a passive interest, however, they’re not really going to do anything.

That sounds like a pretty tough deal for artists. In the past, the only possible option was to work with a major label to get worldwide distribution, marketing support, tour support and more. Do you think that now is a good time for artists to be working with independent labels, which might be less constrained by the concept of multiple rights deals?

Well, the independent labels have gotten just as aggressive as the majors in terms of 360 rights. So you don’t actually get much comfort by going to an indie label. You may make a better deal, but they are still going to want the 360 rights as well.

Do you think it would make sense for a developing artist to switch their focus away from labels and instead try to market and sell themselves with the help of partners like an indie PR firm, a low-cost online distributor, or another artist service-based company?

It depends on what kind of artist you are. Nobody that is mainstream and wants to sell a multi- million release has done it yet without a label behind. That may change. But that is where we are today, Nov. 2nd. If you are an indie artist that has a niche market and a cult following, and you are content to stay there, then you can do just fine without a label. You can sell directly to your fans, you will know who they are, and you will have control of your marketing database. Anywhere in between, the answer is a little bit trickier. You’re better off economically on a per unit basis doing it yourself, because you can make so much more if you keep the 360 rights. But the question is: Will you sell enough going through a label to make up the difference? This is of course unknowable. It is easy to sign up on MySpace, use Tunecore, or have someone distribute your music digitally (or even do physical distribution). The problem is everyone can do that too. There’s no barrier to entry, and there are four million bands in MySpace. How do you break through the noise? That is essentially what record companies help you do.

France is adopting the so-called ‘three-strikes’ law, where Internet users could face a suspension of their services for sharing files. Britain might go the same way. Do you think that this is an effective way to fight file sharing?

It is certainly better than what we have right now. Presently, there is no consequence to infringers, really—there have been consequences for a few people here and there, but for the most part file sharing is rampant. So, I’m in favor of anything that makes piracy more difficult. But I also think it has to be coupled with something that people actually want, which we haven’t done a good job of providing yet. And by the way, that is not completely the industry’s fault. A lot of it is technological. There are limits to what [the record companies] can deliver today.

Do you think that technology will develop to the point where piracy might stop being an issue? I am thinking of the new Spotify model, where the idea is for premium users to pay a subscription to effectively have “anytime, anywhere” music with the inclusion of a smartphone app. It seems to me that offering a legal and more convenient option for fans to get music might be a better route than cutting off their Internet service.

Yes, if we offer something people really want. In that case, I think we can ‘conscript’ the pirates. There will always be piracy. Every business, from grocery stores to anybody else has some kind of theft. But it is minimal. In music, it is rampant. If we come up with something that is easy to use and readily accessible and cross-platform, I think we’ll have something that people will really want and should be able to monetize. It could be very good for new bands, because people who would never buy at a record store may now be willing to pay for music.

As traditional CD sales drop, are new income sources—such as video streaming services and the like—showing promise as alternatives to recorded music sales?

Well, none of that means much now. The revenues from videos are relatively modest when spread out, at least on an ad-supported model, because videos haven’t worked very well. It is hard to tie advertisers to a specific video and the advertisers are not willing to pay much for it anyway. This may change, but at the moment such revenue has not amounted to much. The same applies to cell phones. In the future, more things will be possible, but as yet there are relatively few options.

After years of contention, rights holders and commercial webcasters have agreed on pricing terms for online music streams; the prices will stay in place until at least 2014. In the updated edition of your book, you refer to the Copyright Royalty Board and this recent agreement. How does this change the playing field for consumers and artists?

It doesn’t change anything for consumers and artists. It really has to do with an alternative break in the statutory rate for webcasters, who were complaining that it was so expensive they couldn’t do it. So they came up with a private settlement, affordable to most, that makes the cost a bit less. So I think it would help consumers in the sense that there would hopefully be more services available that would cheaper. But otherwise, it’s not a direct impact.

In the new edition of your book, you also talk about P&D and ‘upstream’ deals. Could you discuss some of the options independent labels have if they chose to join forces with major distributors and labels?

A P&D deal works fine except that it is very risky and you are taking the risk of the manufacturing and the returns coming back. It can be expensive, but when it works you make far more per record. The upstream deals are deals that kick-in after a certain critical mass [of sales] is reached. Then, you no longer have a P&D deal, but a profit sharing deal. You are not taking any financial risk, and the major label takes over the cost of marketing, promotion, and so forth. Again, you make less, but presumably they take it to another level. Some of these deals have worked pretty well, but a lot of them haven’t, so it is not clear where the advantage lies. You may be better off or not. Just keep the P&D deal, and if it really works then your label will have more leverage to go out and make a better arrangement with the distributor.

At what point should an independent label think about a P&D deal? What should they have going before they even consider a P&D?

Product… [laughs]. You can make a P&D deal at any time. You just need to know that you are taking a pretty big risk with it. Maybe that’s all you can get, because nobody will give you any money, so they’ll only press and distribute the records. But that’s probably the deal you will end up having to make to get things going at the beginning, when you have no kind of track record or buzz.

Tom Friedman, author and foreign-affairs columnist for the New York Times, doesn’t write much about music. But his piece “The New Untouchables” is a column well worth reading for those looking for a way forward in the music business. It may sound obvious, but the truth is that many of the fundamental techniques used for success in the “non-music” business world are the same techniques that can be applied to folks looking for success in the “music” business world.

Check this out, from Friedman’s piece:

A Washington lawyer friend recently told me about layoffs at his firm. I asked him who was getting axed. He said it was interesting: lawyers who were used to just showing up and having work handed to them were the first to go because with the bursting of the credit bubble, that flow of work just isn’t there. But those who have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work were being retained. They are the new untouchables.

Those who are waiting for this recession to end so someone can again hand them work could have a long wait. Those with the imagination to make themselves untouchables — to invent smarter ways to do old jobs, energy-saving ways to provide new services, new ways to attract old customers or new ways to combine existing technologies — will thrive.

It’s not hard to see the connection between lawyers and musicians, here, is it? Imagining new opportunities, new ways to recruit work, and inventing smarter ways to do old jobs is a great plan off attack for business folks AND musicians.

Bruce Houghton from Hypebot initiated a great discussion on his blog a few weeks back about his ideas that “there have always been skills beyond just making music that, if not required, certainly made success more likely.” It’s an opinion that I share, too.

I definitely would not frame any musician in the “untouchable” camp (brands are only as good as the trust their fans have in them), but generating leverage by doing as much as you can yourself (with the help of a good team, if possible), analyzing data to do it smarter, and figuring out ways to creatively attract new fans is great advice for any musician interested in building a more sustainable career.

Interesting report released this week by Will Page, chief economist at PRS for Music, the UK’s performance rights organization. The entire report can downloaded here, but the details, in a nutshell:

* The value of the recorded music biz fell 6%
* The value of the live music industry in the UK increased 13%
* Licensing revenues from labels increased 7%
* Other publishing revenues increased 7%
* Digital music grew by almost 50% in 2008, with physical declining by roughly 10%

“Ultimately we’re going from a market which lots of revenue came from one very big source,” said Will Page, “to one where we’re generating many different sources of revenue, some will be big some will be small – but they will all matter more going forward.”

Not all the information is rosy for developing artists. As highlighted by Glenn Peoples from Billboard, in both digital sales and live music, there is a growing income disparity. “This growing inequality between heritage acts and the rest of the pack mirrors a separate trend identified in digital music,” wrote PRS, “where more choice led to a widening gap between the hits and niches.” Popular, older artists are demanding higher ticket prices. The growth of secondary ticketing services – their revenue is included in the study – has fueled the growth in ticket prices. But mid-tier artists, those who cannot raise prices seemingly at will, are a cause for “real concern.” The same can be said for sponsorship and advertising dollars, which often are titled in favor of the most popular artists. In effect, advertising agencies now act as a gatekeeper that benefits the select few who pass through.

I’ve been disappointed by the Grammy awards the past couple years, but last night was probably the best Grammy award performances I have seen in a while. I thought Paul McCartney; MIA, Jay-Z, T.I., Kanye West and Lil Wayne; Plant and Krauss; and the tribute at the end for Bo Diddley were all great. But my favorite performance of the night was Radiohead. Check them out with the USC marching band:

This band never fails to impress me.

**UPDATE: Dumb move to remove this video from YouTube, NARAS. The best content you have had for years and you make sure no one can see it, share it, and get excited about next years show. I suggest you take a good look at your online marketing plans – it’s not all about control anymore. Very disappointing.

Some really interesting comments in the NYT article this afternoon on Atlantic Records statement that their digital sales are surpassing their CD sales. What really struck me was how Atlantic is going about increasing their digital sales. Good quote here:

“I think we’ve figured it out,” said Julie Greenwald, president of Atlantic Records. “It used to be that you could connect five dots and sell a million records. Now there are 20 dots you can connect to sell a million records.”

I really think the same can be said for developing artists. A common thread in my course (as well as the other business courses that we’re teaching here online) is that diversifying your revenue streams and engaging in niche marketing is a big part of making it work for musicians these days. Check out what Atlantic is doing:

Replacing compact disc sales are small bits of revenue from many sources: Atlantic Records’ digital sales include ring tones, ringbacks, satellite radio, iTunes sales and subscription services. At the same time, record labels — Atlantic included — are spending less money to market artists. In the pre-Internet days, said Ms. Greenwald, “we were so flush, we did everything in the name of promotion.” Among the cutbacks are less spending to produce videos and to support publicity tours when a new album is released.

The same principles can be (must be) applied to developing artists. Get your music out to Pandora (who accept indie submissions), start selling ringtones, start selling merch off of your own site, use TuneCore or CD Baby to get your music up on iTunes. Be aggressive with your outreach, and targeted with your outlets.

This past Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property met to discuss the proposed Performance Rights Act. Like many things related to the record business, it’s a contentious issue. Depending on where you stand, the Performance Rights Act is either: A) long overdue, the artists have been getting screwed for years, or B) another instance of the RIAA (the trade organization that represents the major labels) scrambling to pull in income from anywhere they can, and in this case they are biting the hand that has fed them for years.

There’s a ton of information (and mis-information) out there, and it’s confusing. Here’s a condensed version of what’s going on, as I see it.

Background
Broadcasters in the U.S. have traditionally only paid royalties on the public performance of a composition to the appropriate performance rights organization (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC). This money is then paid to the writers of the compositions. Unlike most other western nations, broadcasters in the U.S. have never compensated the artists themselves for any public performances. The same holds true for bars, restaurants, and retail stores. For the past 80 years, the record industry and the broadcasters have lived in harmony. The record industry worked the broadcasters, songs were played on the radio, records were sold, and everyone made money.

Players
On the side of radio is the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters), represented by spokesperson Dennis Wharton. Mr. Wharton is trying to build momentum for his cause by referring to the group he represents as “America’s hometown broadcasters,” which is not the first phrase that comes to mind when I think of Clear Channel, a massive radio conglomerate and NAB member. Two members of congress, Reps. Gene Green and Mike Conaway (both from Texas, the corporate headquarters of Clear Channel) have also introduced an anti-royalties bill called the Local Radio Freedom Act, which has been gaining support in Congress.

Those in favor of the royalty include the MusicFIRST Coalition, who was represented last week by Frank Sinatra’s daughter and recording artist, Nancy Sinatra. Marybeth Peters, the Register of Copyrights, also supports the bill, as does the RIAA (who incidentally back MusicFIRST). Sound Exchange, who has close ties to the RIAA, apparently will be responsible for collecting these new royalties, similar to their current role in collecting digital performance royalties.

Details
As submitted by Rep. Howard Berman of CA, the Performance Rights Act will:
(1) grant performers of sound recordings equal rights to compensation from terrestrial broadcasters;
(2) establish a flat annual fee in lieu of payment of royalties for individual terrestrial broadcast stations with gross revenues of less than $1.25 million and for non-commercial, public broadcast stations;
(3) grant an exemption from royalty payments for broadcasts of religious services and for incidental uses of musical sound recordings; and
(4) grant terrestrial broadcast stations that make limited feature uses of sound recordings a per program license option.
(5) provides that nothing in this Act shall adversely affect the public performance rights or royalties payable to songwriters or copyright owners of musical works.

Arguments
The artist’s (and the RIAA’s) point of view is simple: the old ways of doing things no longer work in the new music economy. The artists have made significant money for the songwriters (and broadcasters) of radio hits, but have received nothing from the airplay of their music. A performance right in sound recordings has been imposed on digital services since 1995, including the controversial royalty on Internet radio. It is unfair that U.S. terrestrial radio gets a free ride when all the other radio platforms, as well as international broadcasters, are required to pay the artists for public performances.

The NAB contends that terrestrial radio has always been a partner for the artists, responsible for millions of dollars in record sales. Commonwealth Broadcasting President/CEO Steve Newberry, speaking on behalf of the NAB on Wednesday, thinks that “…local radio provides to the recording industry what no other music platform can: Pure music promotion. Radio is free, radio is pervasive, and no one is harming record label sales by stealing music from over-the-air radio.” He went on to mention that if the bill passes “…the value of this extraordinary promotion, and all of the financial benefits that come from it, will be harmed. Ultimately, less music will be played, less exposure will be provided for artists — particularly new artists — and music sales will suffer.” The NAB also believes that the blame for dropping revenues in music is misdirected, and that the real problem for artists is restrictive recording contracts.

My Opinion
The NAB and the RIAA (the jury is still out for me on Sound Exchange, who have a heavy RIAA affiliation) are not organizations that have the artist’s best interest in mind. Their job is to represent the best interest of their member companies. And although the NAB is framing this as a battle between the “local broadcasters” and the RIAA (taking advantage of the RIAA’s terrible PR problem), this issue affects artists at every stage of their career, signed and independent. Although income is falling, the broadcasters are still making money (radio revenues came in at about $20 billion in 2007, according to ICBS Broadcast Holdings President/COO Charles Warfield, who testified on behalf of the NAB) based on the content these artists produce, and to say the artists should not be compensated for this is the embodiment of the old-school record business.

For me, the real question is if terrestrial commercial radio is still effective at selling music. Fewer and fewer people are tuning in to the large commercial stations that make up a large part of the membership of the NAB, and the play lists at commercial radio are so tight that the number of artists that commercial radio “breaks,” in terms of converting radio play to mechanical royalty sales, is miniscule. While I think non-commercial radio (in particular college radio and NPR) and some commercial Triple A stations are good promotional options for independent artists (radio play helps to get folks to shows where they can buy merch, it provides some legitimacy for a press campaign, and also could work to help a licensing pitch, for example), I’m not convinced that radio works to move records anymore at such a significant rate that it pays for itself. Promoting to radio is expensive, even to non-com radio (see my earlier post on this), and of course there is no guarantee you’ll get spins anyway.

Lastly, terrestrial radio is no longer in the position to say that the promotion they wield is far superior to these other non-terrestrial radio outlets that do pay a performance royalty, in particular for developing artists. I think there needs to be parity between all forms of radio: satellite, online, and terrestrial. I’m confident that non-terrestrial radio will continue to gain market share over the coming years, and I think it’s likely that terrestrial radio will continue to lose listeners, too.

My only major concern with the Performance Rights Act (other than reservations about Sound Exchange and possible collection issues) is the effect it might have on the small non-commercial terrestrial stations that work to promote local artists. The bill does stipulate that these smaller stations will pay a smaller annual flat fee of $5,000, but profit margins are so razor-thin at non-commercial radio, that even this could cause a problem.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Hot on the heels of Starbucks warning on Wednesday that they expect their earnings to drop to 15 cents a share (down from 19 cents a year ago) in the fiscal second quarter, Starbucks announced Thursday that they were ceding all management responsibilities for its music label, Hear Music, to its partner, Concord Music Group. Starbucks, which cut about 600 positions in February, is clearly looking for more ways to reduce costs.

“As part of our ongoing transformation, we are committed to examining all aspects of our business that are not directly related to our core,” said Howard Schultz, chairman, president and ceo in a press release here. “We have had numerous successes in music and books including eight GRAMMY® Awards and three No.1 books on the New York Times bestseller list. However, now is the appropriate time to restructure our Entertainment business to better align our efforts with our overall business strategies.”

Hear Music, founded in 1990, was purchased by the Starbucks in 1999. In 2007, the company partnered with Concord to release Paul McCartney’s Memory Almost Full, record, his first non-major label recording. Hear Music has also released music by Dave Matthews Band, Joni Mitchell, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel, and Wilco.

I’m a fan of alternate retail and distribution outlets, and completely targeted niche-marketing campaigns. But I tend to agree with Mr. Schultz in that perhaps managing Hear Music has interfered with Starbucks core market, and the resulting changes are designed to refocus what they’re good at: selling high priced coffee. The fact is that Starbucks/Hear have done some great things for developing artists (including being an instrumental partner in breaking Antigone Rising, whose members are current Berkleemusic students!), but the sales from Starbucks were marginal at best. The New York Times reported last month that on average each Starbucks location sells only two CDs per day!

SXSW Interviews

Apr 19 2008

Myself and Dave Franz interviewed some folks when we were at the SXSW music conference last month. Take a look at the two-part video interview here

Record Store Day

Apr 17 2008

You are probably already aware of this already, but if not, you might be interested in checking out the activities surrounding this Saturday’s Record Store Day. Details are here.

Some cool events happening nationally, including Bjork’s screening of her new 3-D video “Wanderlust” (complete with 3-D glasses!) at a number of indie stores:

I go in depth into brick and mortal retail in lesson 4 of my Music Marketing 201 course. I’m all about the Future of Music, and I know it might seem counter intuitive to discuss a marketing segment that is clearly struggling on whole, but I think to discount physical independent retail (I’m not talking about the big box retailers here), even if it is not necessarily a growth segment of the industry, is a mistake. There are some amazing independent retailers that can be tremendous partners for developing artists. Josh Madell at Other Music in NYC, Eric Levin at Criminal Records in Atlanta, Mike Dreese at Newbury Comics in Boston, John Kunz at Waterloo in Austin and many other forward-thinking music retail owners still play a big part in “breaking” artists. They are community focused, Internet savvy, and have an infrastructure in place to promote new music. A successful musician needs to have their marketing campaign firing on all cylinders. I still believe that a physical retail campaign, even if it is accomplished through consignment, should certainly be considered as part of the big picture for touring artists that can draw outside of their hometown.

record store