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I’m at this weird point in my music “career” where doing it all myself is getting hard to maintain. I’m naturally cagey about involving anyone else in my stuff but it’s probably time to delegate some of the things I’m not good at (booking, promotion, talking to other human beings).

I’ve been attending workshops put on by Live 88.5, a local radio station, and it’s been helpful – mostly in that it’s shown me what I don’t want.

Not to bag on the panelists because it was very informative and they’re all successful, but I felt like a big dumb outsider. Things I heard: “What the fuck is a twitter”, “I get my son to show me how to work Facebook”. The preferred strategy was generally:

  • Tour endlessly
  • Lose money/go into debt
  • Chase radio play
  • Wait for it to eventually become profitable

This obviously can work and that’s cool, though the scale seems impractical to me.

I’m not unique in having put together a modest fanbase and income from music, and that strategy feels like a tremendous step backwards. And for what? All I can think of is the promise of fame, but sustainability’s always been more attractive to me.

Last night I asked a long rambling question focusing on the Internet, but I think the larger question is: where do I find people who can help me grow from where I am, not re-start my career in some traditional way?

Posted on - May 14, 2009 [at] 12:05 pm by Brad
Tagged in - , ,

25 Comments on this post

ken on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 12:44 pm

The music biz as I see it is all based on one thing. People will only help you once you don’t need their help. Booking agents wont sign you until you are already successfully touring. Record labels wont sign you until you are already selling records. Sometimes people take chances on acts they believe in, but that seems rare these days.

On the other hand, you can usually hire people to do this kind of work. You are just paying them a fee not based on your success as an artist.

Jesse Dangerously on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 12:46 pm

First of all I want to mention that your site is looking AMAZING. Did you do all this yourself?

Oh except ack don’t make it play without me asking it to! Heart attack!

But yeah I am one million percent sympatico with you on this post – I never feel like industry panels are addressed to me. I mean, I definitely want to

HEY it started playing again after I stopped it! And again! HEY!

Okay, computer muted.

I definitely want to tour endlessly because I LOVE touring. It’s the only way I can think of to prove to people that I’m at all amazing instead of just alright. But radio play is hard, and I feel like I’m pre-disqualified from most of it by being (a) rap and (b) not normal rap and possibly (c) kinda scrappy sounding. Also who listens to the radio? Maybe not people who will ever give a crap about me? I charted fairly well last summer according to Earshot! but nobody’s buying Verba Volant.

Do you think you’re going to get someone to take care of those things for you? I’m always thinking about it, but… it seems like the eager artist manager is an endangered species, and the few remaining have their plates full? Does it seem that way to you, too?

Joel Plaskett’s manager told me just to do it all myself when I got a chance to talk to her as she drove me out into the Nova Scotian wilderness. That was not the advice I was looking for, Joel Plaskett’s extremely kind manager!!

Gary on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 12:53 pm

“where do I find people who can help me grow from where I am, not re-start my career in some traditional way?”

Well the problem is that you’re on the leading edge of this stuff. So finding people who are more advanced on your path is going to be difficult.

state shirt on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 1:22 pm

I’m struggling with some of the same questions. You could hire a company to help with press/booking/radio etc but there is a high likelihood they’re going to do it the same old way it’s been done for years. There are thousands of other bands doing it this same way and you’d have to shell out a ton of money to cut through the din.

I’m also pretty horrible at booking shows and obtaining press coverage. I’d like to find someone to help me that isn’t stuck in the old, tired “music biz” way of doing things. Maybe someone that has no music industry experience at all would have a fresh new way to look at promoting art.

JB on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 3:00 pm

I think one of the things you have to ask yourself when you’re looking for people to help you move on from where you are is– what’s in it for them?

You can either pay them a fee for their time or pay them a portion of your proceeds. But what proceeds? If you’re not going to have some big payday that makes it worth their while all at once, then you’re talking startup work and you might be the only person willing to work startup hours for’s amazing Music 2.0 app.

Andrew on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Ask joco.

You rock dude.

atkuku on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 5:45 pm

You, Josh Woodward, Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm are my favorite artists working today. I honestly can’t figure out how you guys are able to make it, but am very happy you are doing what you’re doing. I’ve bought t-shirts and mp3 downloads and concert tickets from you guys and hope you’re able to continue with the music. Your stuff is great.

Glenn Case on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 8:42 pm

Gary already typed out exactly what I wanted to express. People like you are pioneers in what many would refer to as the music business 2.0

If you haven’t already read it, I HIGHLY recommend checking out Andrew Dubber’s “The 20 Things You Must Know About Music Online”. It’s a free e-book. I still need to finish reading it myself, but what I HAVE read is freaking fascinating. For reals.


Glenn Case

scottandrew on Taking care of business
May 14, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Brad, every time I think I’ve finally stopped thinking about this crap, I come across a post like this and whooeee my brain explodes. Why must you disturb my Zen-like non-attachment?

I think we (DIY, record-at-home interwebs musicians) are all in the same boat. There’s definitely a ceiling on how much we can do ourselves without leaving the house or picking up the phone. And unfortunately I have doubts that methodology alone can generate enough value to attract booking agents, PR persons, etc.

Then again, do you really need these yet? As of today, I see you have almost 60 Eventful demands in Seattle, 120 if everyone brings one friend. What’s keeping you from jetting out here and doing a split bill with Frontalot? That’s gotta be way better than begging strangers to come to some random gig in the middle of nowhere, and you could in fact do it yourselves.

But that’s just me riffing. Forget the “professionals,” maybe what you need is to sit down with friends and beer every few weeks and riff on ideas on what you could do next. That and find someone who’s really good at making phone calls.

Catching The Waves on Taking care of business
May 15, 2009 at 3:55 am

You could simply copy Jonathan Coulton’s career arc and release a live concert DVD. Failing that, email the major music magazines, radio & TV stations and tell them about your cumulative download figure at Jamendo: numbers are the only thing to which they pay attention. 40,000 downloads and nearly 400,000 listens are the type of statistics that might open doors for you.

Have you thought about offering one of your albums for free to a music magazine as a cover giveaway? (Editors love truly free freebies.) Get the CD of IDKWID glued to the cover of a mag that has a decent circulation and you might increase sales of Out Of It.

Work out how to make your one-man-show interesting and keep touring. Easier said than done, I know.

Investigate internet TV channels.

Record another album(!) so that greasy little free music blogs can further publicise them via the power of bad grammar and rampant egotism. We both know who I’m talking about. ;)

Good luck.

boolean on Taking care of business
May 15, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I hear ringtones are the .wav of the future.

but seriously, I think you’re onto something with this open source music thing. I think your key to success is growing that over time. And by that, I mean keep doing what you’re doing. Make more music and find new and creative ways to put that out to people.

Maybe you need a bradsucks internet radio station for you and your friends. Are you your own label yet? Finding like-minded musicians to help promote and support might be another way to sustain this thing, though maybe that’s more businessey than you’re interested in.

Jugglenaut on Taking care of business
May 15, 2009 at 3:37 pm

One idea that just kind of hit me now is that instead of focusing on what you can do for yourself, maybe try looking at things that can work for the community. For instance, I found out about your music through Jonathan Coulton. If he hadn’t mentioned your newest album on his site, I would have never found out about your music and fell in love. And looking at my past music finding experience, I have found that in some cases, I have started listening to bands because they are on record labels that have other bands I listen to (Asian Man Records being the biggest example).

So wouldn’t it make sense to build up a large community of musicians who are having the same problems? Not only would all the ideas start to bounce around, but it would be a great way to share listeners. I’ve reached a point in my life that I’ll go out of my way to \give a listen to a DIY musician if I hear word of him/her from another DIY musician. And I think a lot of other people would think the same way. It seems like DIY musicians have created a DIY listener.

Plus there’s other benefits of a community. It can be used to arrange tours to split costs, do split records/collaborations, and whatever else can be thought of. Of course, a community takes work and needs someone to lead, but like others have said, you’re part of the head of this music 2.0 movement, so there’s not that many other musicians out there to take charge at this point.

Eric on Taking care of business
May 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm

>> (where do I find people…)
to simply answer your question: here.
(or at least start here)

>> “time to delegate some of the things I’m not
>> good at (booking, promotion, talking to other
>> human beings).”
you have the proverbial long tail of contributors here.

having said that, I am not fully understanding where you are feeling strained. What is it that you want to do, that you are unable to or would find easier if, you had some additional help?

throw out some examples.

Y. Gagarin on Taking care of business
May 18, 2009 at 12:25 pm

If you lived in Holland i would help you anytime with bookings and management things…

But the things mentioned above are really interesting.. Is it really that easy to give away your album with a magazine? I would aim for compilation albums and such..

In my own band I am still in a phase where we have to get together some decent recordings, because without decent recordings you can’t get any gigs or into band competitions…

Dcnblues on Taking care of business
May 20, 2009 at 4:55 pm

This is blog essay by a webcomic artist, with 5 pages of comments on this topic:
I have some comments on the last page. Basically, I think your ‘tip link’ is the way to go, but you need to take it a little farther. I see little java applets that let your fans see how many more fans there are (total unique web hits, downloads, etc). And how much money you would get if all of them gave you a 50 cent tip for the downloads. A dollar. And let them know you only get 20% of the money from a T-shirt. 96% of the money from a paypal tip. People pay $10 every week to go see shitty movies. 50 cents is nothing. Educate them (especially on how most studio contract artists get about 6-10 cents on the dollar of album sales), and empower them by giving them options to bypass the evil corporations. I get a rush giving you a direct tip that totally bypassed those scumbags. You need to help others feel the same rush.

Dcnblues on Taking care of business
May 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm

The other thing that’s becoming clearer to me is that webcomics have something musicians need to emulate: regular returning customers. Maybe you tweet updates on when the next song is due out. But the business model isn’t hurt by having fans who return to the web page regularly. Posting recordings of live shows? Even just blogging about being a DIY musician. You’re cutting edge, and good at wearing a number of hats. Share what you’ve learned. The more you’re a source, the more web hits. Do look into advertising.

Scott Gentzen on Taking care of business
May 20, 2009 at 9:48 pm

I don’t want anyone to take this as a negative post but it really isn’t. I love Brad’s music and I really respect him as an artist. But…

I’m not sure I see anything that unique about Brad’s situation though.

Yeah, he has some great interesting ideas on how to monetize his music, from the way his web store works to “Gimme Some Money” but when it comes down to it, the rest of the story above isn’t unique. His presentation’s a little different but for this stuff, he’s no different than any other singer/songwrhter.

He’s an artist that’s looking for a way to take what he’s doing to the next level and he needs some help doing that.

I don’t have the answer to the question. I don’t have a music career. I don’t have a song on Rock Band. There’s a lot of things Brad could do. A lot of it has been done before and could work for him too. He could come up with some interesting ways to delegate some of it out. There’s a lot of neat ideas on the CDBaby DIY podcast, FWIW.

matt-the-twat on Taking care of business
May 24, 2009 at 10:36 am

Site is looking gorgeous, that’s gotta help any potential development in your career.
I would’ve thought making your own professional youtube channel and releasing some shit there (blogs, music videos, live performances) might help. Just a small tip from me :)

Matt on Taking care of business
May 26, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers”. One answer, perhaps the only one, is simply work like a dog with an incredible focus to the exclusion of pretty much everything else (no matter what enterprise or skill we are talking about). Combine it with some luck and demographics (your leading edge on the web marketing thing is advantageous). I don’t think any “new model” or technology changes that; it’s the way Gates and Jobs and Google made it, not to mention the Beatles, etc. etc. Have you put in 10,000 hours yet? If not, you’re not there.

The other answer might be to recruit an aging, mediocre bass player. :)

Y. Gagarin on Taking care of business
May 27, 2009 at 4:23 am

Or “The Tipping Point” by the same author, very interesting read..

and another answer could be to recruit an 18 year old mediocre bass player ;)

Dcnblues on Taking care of business
May 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

As I think about this, IMHO, you have two really valuable commodities: great music, and a ton of knowledge about being a one-man band. I think you should consider (you may not want to) sharing all the stuff you’ve learned, and continue to learn. Every Guitar Center across the land is filled with kids who want to do what you do. Blogging is great, but consider starting to twitter as a supplement. Look at Questionable Content: a webcomic, but it’s also a source for info and reviews of cool indie bands. The website has tapped into that market, and gets hundreds of thousands of unique hits a day. That feeds internet adds. Now, there’s an easy new micropayment system for twitter ( Get people interested in you, your music tastes and knowledge, and let them keep tipping you out of gratitude. My 2 cents…

lafemmenikita_29 on Taking care of business
June 2, 2009 at 12:19 am

or, you could go to local businesses and just pitch your music to them… You don’t have to pay them to listen, and once you begin to gain hype… People will ask you before you ask them. Just a thought.

Chris Hartzog on Taking care of business
June 2, 2009 at 11:47 am

Hey Brad,

Again another “wow” ….for what you have already been able to accomplish, plus the example you are offering for other music-entrepreneurs out there, including me, on how to be successful in an unorthodox way. Even this blog thread is helpful to see everyone’s perspectives. I somehow randomly came across Jonathan Coulton, but through him found you and now I see I need to check out Josh Woodward for more Music 2.0 inspiration.

I sensed immediately that Music 2.0 was the perfect format for me given that I can’t make the commitments the old music industry demands since I am a full time special needs caregiver/parent making travel difficult plus holding down a full time “job”. So being able to record and perform as my schedule permits and be able to reach a world wide audience from my garage studio is incredible. (sorry about the run-on sentence all you English majors.)

Given that so much of my life has been focused on the issues of autism (my daughter) and Alzheimer’s/dementia (my mom) and care-giving my special music “niche” that I seem to be carving out is “music for caregivers”. After only a year of doing this I have been finding there is an interest out there and enough other people in similar situations that is just might make it viable and hopefully will provide me a spot on the long tail too.


Bill on Taking care of business
June 13, 2009 at 6:49 pm

1) Don’t Stop
2) Keep creating
3) Get viral with your appearances, surprise sit ins are good
4) Who does play besides you when people build a station around your music? Contact them, see if they want to be friends.
5) More cowbell ofcourse
6) Music Festivals, just do them (somehow seems related to 5 no?)
7) dial-a-song (re-TMBG)

Being discovered isn’t about being discovered by agents anymore, you need to be discovered by more future fans. (Long tail is fine for the seller, you need the fat head as the producer.)

A one man band has it harder at this stage, bands like the New Pornographers get to leverage the popularity of all the artists solo works into a big following for the band, and new fans for the solo projects too.

po, -b

Shanti Braford on Taking care of business
June 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm

hey Brad – congrats on all of your interweb success!

I found you via an Ableton Live search or something along those lines, though I’ve definitely come across your stuff before through other searches / whatnot.

Keep on rockin it dude.

I’m going to be releasing all of my “sources” as well, just like you. Currently I’ve got 320k mp3s, FLAC, etc.

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