I live with a musician. And over the years, Joe and I have had several conversations about the similarities in progression of the music industry with the publishing one. It wasn’t all that long ago that the buzz topic was programs like Napster and then i-Tunes changing the face of music. Instant download isn’t only for e-books. Audiences can buy a single song versus the whole album, and now many writers are letting readers download free chapters for a taste of their books.
To discuss the matter further, I hounded my boyfriend’s band’s lead singer to share his take on the music industry and the similarities it has to the publishing one. We had such a good time discussing the industries we work in, I had to split the interview into 2 parts. Tune in Friday for Part 2.
And a quick announcement to say the winners of my Mix Tape Blog Swap Music Giveaway are:
TUGG, apart from being four of the grooviest guys I know, is an original Wisconsin reggae band. Our state may be known for snowstorms, cheese curds, and “Midwest Nice” attitudes, but these boys can still jam their original reggae – ska style tunes on topics of summer, friendship, and love. Here’s their latest music video! (fun fact: It was filmed in my house.)
Andy Hughes is the lead singer and writer for TUGG. And I’ve gotta say, he’s a writer I respect. He takes what he does seriously and exemplifies the hard work that goes into it. He is one of the most humble people I know, and never takes his own talent for granted. It was an absolute pleasure conducting this interview with him. Now see for yourselves:
How many years have you been playing music professionally?
In terms of getting paid to perform music I have been doing it since I was about 17/18, so just more than 13 years.
How have you seen the music industry change over those years?
The biggest and most noticeable change is one that I think anyone my age could identify with and that is the shift from “physical” to “digital”. When I first started booking shows I had to actually send a “Press Packet” which would contain a demo CD, a printed and bound band bio, stickers and anything else that looked professional. When we did early tours we would print out directions and then put them in a binder. I can remember how amazing it was when we got our first navigation device in the van. Now, whomever is driving is just using the navigation on their own cell phone. Napster was just hitting when TUGG started in 2001 so in the early years selling our music digitally was not an option but we knew that it was going to be the way, so to speak. Nowadays, we have 1 site on our website: www.tuggmusic.com/about that serves the same purpose that those packets used to. In those days I would have to send out around 100-200 of those physical packets which probably weighed close to 2 lbs to schedule a 2-3 month tour. It’s pretty crazy to think that now when we are booking or once we’ve booked a show we send the promoter 1 link that has everything they need on 1 web page ready for them to download.
In what ways do you try to practice your craft?
I am a writer so that is what I am constantly doing. There’s no real format that I stick to when I write. I tend to leave little notebooks, pieces of paper, backs of bills around with words, ideas, characters, etc. Music and songwriting have always been a vehicle for me to express my words. I am also constantly playing my guitar and trying to write songs. With songwriting I have a mixed approached and a few different types of processes but they both involve trying to shape music around words that I have written. The band itself also practices between 4-5 hrs a week on top of the shows that we play.
Yah, I’m aware of that, it happens in my basement! Who are your music idols?
The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Tupac, Tim Armstrong, Bob Marley and the Wailers, Jimmy Cliff, The Specials, Nirvana, The Misfits, Operation Ivy, Sublime, Toots and the Maytals, Jeff Buckley, Desmond Dekker, “Scratch” Lee Perry, The Doors.……..to name just a few!
As writers, we hope for book reviews and blurbs from our favorite authors. Their advice and approval drives us to keep writing. What musicians/bands have you worked with that have best exemplified support in the music industry? What advice has been the most valuable?
Working with Brad from The Ziggens has formed one of those relationships in which there’s a lot of respect and you could say that I look for his approval from time to time on music or decisions I’m making (especially at the time that we were recording with him). Some of the best advice I received from Brad was to, “sing less words and say more”, which is easier said than done. Josh Heinrichs is another person that we all really respect and has really supported us by bringing us into his hometown and putting us in front of his fans…opening his home to us. Josh and his wife Kaytee are some of the nicest people in the world and have welcomed us into their lives and home more than once. Receiving a “good job”, or “awesome set” from Josh means a heck of a lot!
Sing less words and say more.
In the last 10 years, the publishing industry has radically changed. E-book sales and self publishing are a valuable option for writers. Similarly, the music industry has changed from programs like Napster to I-Tunes. And almost everyone has a portable device like an ipod or their phone allowing them to be plugged in all the time. What changes have you, as a musician, made to stay in touch with the evolving music industry?
We’ve been lucky enough to really grow up in this new digitally charged Music industry. Napster is the reason I was able to find bands and have immediate access to their music so I was taught or self-learned from that moment to make sure that I as an artist was plugged into the digital landscape and stay current with the changes that are constantly shifting. I think some of the biggest game changers have been iTunes, Facebook, and YouTube. Facebook is literally an online community and it’s readily set up to help you as an artist connect with people that want to associate with you and be your “friend”. The idea of getting “likes” for your band is one of the first things you’ll notice people will say when talking about a band. YouTube has been one of those unique platforms in which the truly “unknown” can become overnight sensations. To a certain degree it’s the last real frontier for discovering the unknowns without being a person that is out in clubs and dive bars scouring for undiscovered talent. We’ve just always made sure we’ve stayed current on technology. We make sure that it works for us, because not everything does and the feeling that you have to do everything is overwhelming. We’re putting QR codes on all of our stuff (posters, stickers, flyers) that people can scan for 10 free songs, we’ve had a lot of success with our Music Videos on YouTube, and we always try and make sure we make as big a splash as possible when we release music. We always go for those big release days on iTunes because we know how important that can be.
We make sure that it works for us, because not everything does and the feeling that you have to do everything is overwhelming.
And yet, it remains a dream for many writers to be traditionally published. There is still a stigma that a large publishing firm carries more authentication and respect to the work than that of a self published writer. What are your thoughts on the various options musicians have for record deals now?
I think it is more difficult and far less romantic for bands to get “signed” or be offered “recording contracts” now. The day and age of Artist Development is gone. The big record companies are seeking the bands/performers that can give them the fastest turn around. If you look at shows like American Idol and The Voice I think it really captures where the Mainstream Music Industry is today. The big recording companies want people that can go live on a major network TV station 1 night and by the next morning can have a Top 10 song on iTunes. They’re not looking for bands that they intend to spend time and money developing into strong touring/performing/recording acts which is really what most bands need to go to that next level. To me, what it gives you is a very fleeting limelight where there is not much staying power. I think that in all industries we want the authentication of the most known and formal entities. However, for the music industry now I think bands like us realize that you have to take your own driver’s seat until there comes along a person or company that you really feel will do all aspects of driving your figurative bus better than you, because remember, you’re now paying someone else to do what you used to do for free.
You have to take your own driver’s seat until there comes along a person or company that you really feel will do all aspects of driving your figurative bus better than you, because remember, you’re now paying someone else to do what you used to do for free.
Thank you, Andy, for sharing your thoughts on the music industry with us!
Tune in this Friday for Part 2! And partake in the fabulous giveaway of TUGG’s cd, Come Sunrise!
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What do you think? Does the music industry offer us a comparison of what’s to come for publishing?