Today marks the beginning of our Music Insight Series and we're so glad you're here!!!
If you're an indie musician, chances are you've wondered about music business people... and what it's like behind the scenes at places like record labels, radio stations & production houses with name recognition. What do they think about the music industry today?
Through this series, we'll be learning all we can to bring you insight that is helpful, relevant and maybe even entertaining. We encourage you to let us know if there are specific people or places you want to learn more about through this series since we're doing this for you!
For our first post, we're featuring Jeff Rimmer, an experienced CEO of a music tech startup, iHeartMedia Radio personality & former Myspace musician. He has industry experience on both sides, as an artist and a music-business guru.
W. How did you get into the music industry?
J. Honestly, I just kind of decided I wanted to be in it. I started in college radio and then got into professional broadcast radio. I used to bring people up to the studios and record them on the side, and that was the introductory phase of production and engineering. I was always a musician, so I fell in love with that aspect of it. I kept pushing and pushing until I had enough people and started defining myself in the industry. I think that's all it takes... once you say you're in the industry, you're in it.
W. You said you were a musician?
J. I always played guitar, I always dabbled on the drums to relieve energy, then started progressing. I sang for years... we had bands in high school and I would be the lead singer... we just didn't realize the reason our band sucked was because I was the lead singer, so I stopped doing that. But then I got into digital music, keyboards and piano and electronic type stuff as well, and just started playing around.
W. What's the most embarrassing song you ever wrote?
J. There was a song called "I love mullets" and my friend Matt & I performed this song at a camp some time... I think it went like, "I love mullets from my head to my toe. I love mullets and the way that they grow." It was the most embarrassing song, but it probably could be a classic. I also have this song called "Koogallama" which you can find on Spotify, Youtube and everything else. It's pretty embarrassing. If you find it on Youtube, it's also embarrassing because of the music video attached to it... yeah, you're welcome.
W. When you think about the music industry, what do you love the most about it?
J. I think it's the way I feel when I'm around music and being a part of music. It's a connection and a desire and a passion and it's always there. And no matter if I'm doing something related to music or not, I have that need and that itch to be doing it again... almost like a drug in that sense. It's such a positive drug.
W. How has music allowed you to connect with people?
J. I started a music group program years ago called ShoreHaven Productions where I'd bring in inner-city kids, homeless kids from adults in domestic violence shelters, and foster care kids. I taught them how to read, record, write music, promote themselves, how to package it and do the whole industry side of it. And that was cool because I, to this day, keep in touch with them and they now have kids of their own.
W. What are your thoughts about name dropping?
J. You know, I think there's a time and a place for it. I guess the way I feel about it in an intimate level, if you're just talking one-on-one with someone in the industry and you're using it for a resourceful purpose, like "hey I worked on this project with this person," to help make something better. But to go around all day name dropping, it's kind of annoying. I don't know, I think "refrain from it."
W. You were a DJ at iHeartMedia - can you tell us more about your day-to-day?
J. Basically your day is pretty unpredictable. I would spend time prepping for my show, scouring the internet and magazines (some of this time was way back - showing my age), then in between doing this there was always commercials and voice over work to be done for clients, promotions and PSAs. There would be meetings with the promotions team, programming team, sales team. Lots of collaboration. And then at times you would have live remotes where you would broadcast live on-location somewhere. And the really cool times were when you went to every event that ever existed - all the concerts (you go backstage and hang), broadway events, Disney on ice, circus, etc etc. Lots of perks for sure.
W. What's something about working in radio that might surprise people?
J. I'm not sure if this is surprising or not but - if you are looking to make "baller status" money - do not be a Radio DJ. Again, this is why the perks are there because it offsets living off of ramen noodles for every meal.
W. As you've been on the biz side, how have you discovered indie musicians?
J. Social media has been helpful for sure. It's easy to find and search for artists anywhere nowadays. Obviously, blogs are helpful as well. However, I still prefer word of mouth. I think this has become the problem nowadays. There is way too much noise out there, it's hard to find good music in all the clutter. That's why I had created BEATGASM - to help listeners find the good talent quickly. I think this notion is still super important and definitely has room to grow.
W. Where has music taken you, geographically?
J. All over the US, probably 50 or 60 different cities. South America, the Carribbean, Europe, I've traveled for various different music projects and whatnot. Quite a few places. One of the Europe trips I had, I stopped in this city called Bruges, in Belgium... it was a Sunday, kind of a layover day before we had to get to somewhere else. It's the greatest city I've ever been to in my life. The town is vibrant, there's live music. It's basically a town that's surrounded by a mote and you get into the city, and it's the smells of chocolate and waffles and then music everywhere, and everyone's just partying all day long on the street. It's just this crazy experience I never knew existed in this town. Music-related directly, I'd have to say it had to be some time in Amsterdam. We did a lot with the dance association and talked about our platform, and the scene there is really cool as well.
W. Tell us about a time music helped you chase a dream you had.
J. The better question is "how many times?" ...I would say "daily ." The last one is the company I created, BEATGASM. This project, I'd been thinking about it for years and really wanted to do something to work with independent artists that surrounds music, and the opportunity presented itself and I was able to chase my dreams and do it daily, and it was amazing
W. Why do you love indie music?
J. Because it's better than what's on the radio, honestly. For every Taylor Swift, there's a thousand artists that are just as good, if not better. I've worked in radio for top 40 stations where it gets so boring hearing the same songs over and over. I feel like mainstream music is very restricted and with indie music you get to explore music on such a different level. You get to hear creative things that aren't technically allowed yet with mainstream music, so the opportunity there is huge for exposure of different sounds.
W. What role do you think branding and marketing play in all of that?
J. Honestly, I think it's the most important element besides the sound itself. Obviously you need to not suck, you've gotta have the music (you can't create Mullet songs and put that out there branded and hope it works, unless you're Adam Sandler). But I think branding and marketing are the key. Defining that brand of your music and of you as an artist is what separates you from all the other artists that are out there, and in order to do that, you have to define that and figure out a marketing approach. To me, it's the most important element considering you find your sound and the voice you have, pun intended.
W. What are some music brands that inspire you?
J. There's one called The Marketing Mixtape... honestly it did inspire me. It's super inspiring to hear the goal is help indie artists know where to go. Any time you talk to artists when they come out of the studio have no idea where to go and what to do, or really have a lot of desire to do it. Inspiration, motivation and the know-how itself. The company I had, Beatgasm, was inspiring to me personally. We got to do a lot of cool things. I really think it was disruptive and will continue to be disruptive on another level in the future. And then another one I really think is cool, and it's been cool for years, it just gets a bad rep, is Myspace. Back in the day when I was working with artists in the label and studio environment, Myspace was all you had. That's why Myspace was shut down, because it's all those artists who went around spamming everybody with their music. The new Myspace - the design and connection element of it - has done a really good job of helping artists connect with other artists and with bands. A lot of artists don't want to use it anymore but I'm still a fan.
W. Do you think Myspace will come back around?
J. Probably not, hopefully not. They tried, Justin Timberlake bought into it years ago. They made a beautiful site, but because they didn't change the name it kind of just died.
W. What was your username on Myspace or AIM?
J. It's the same as I have for Instagram and everything else. It's BigFatFigTree. I came up with that name in 1996 at a public library. I was getting online, and I was cool and wanted an email account. I signed onto Hotmail and they were like "come up with a handle" and I was like "what the hell is a handle? What are you talking about?" So I was eating some fig newtons, at the time - you're not supposed to eat in a library, but I was a hungry kid - and so I put "firstname.lastname@example.org." Somebody had email@example.com in 1996. So I was like, "What about fig tree?" Somebody had that. So then I tried "Big fig tree" - how did somebody have it in 1996?! So I had to throw in the word "fat" which at the time I wasn't, but I grew into that. So I made BigFatFigTree and have used it for everything because I figure nobody will ever have it.
W. What are some free tools or blogs you would recommend for every artist?
J. With blogs, I love this blog - This Song Is Sick. They feature so many artists on a daily basis and got a user base of millions and millions of people following. And there's another called Noon Pacific, and every Tuesday this guy basically releases a playlist at Noon Pacific Time of songs that he likes, and then he sends it out by email and posts it on the website. Tools for booking and trying to get gigs, I've always been a fan of Sonic Bids. BandsInTown is cool for promoting the gigs you already have. Social Media, I prefer Instagram over any of the other ones. I'm super visual and I feel like you can really release your pictures and video and cool content to create marketing campaigns through Instagram more so. I'm also still a fan of TuneCore to get your music out there.
W. What do you think about hashtags?
J. I think hashtags are cool. My wife gets creative with it. I'm the guy with 50 words and a hashtag... like 1 hashtag. But I get the value of it. At BEATGASM we were creating a hash tagging system and I saw the value... they're important for people.
W. What's your advice for an artist looking to break into the industry?
J. Look at yourself and your music as a business first and foremost, and write out a business plan for your music and your artistry and yourself as an artist. Look at the competition, figure out what separates you - how are you going to reach users? And just see how you can stand out because you're going to get lost in the clutter, no matter how good you are. There are a lot of resources out there. But if you can't commit to your music as a business, I don't think you'll ever be able to make it so you have to get that serious with it.
W. What do you think it means to "make it" in music?
J. For me, it means you can do what you love to do in the music industry full-time. Whether it's making music, recording music, working for a firm that helps musicians... if you're doing that full-time, and that's your life, then you've made it. That's success for me... it's that simple.