What the Music Industry Can Teach Us About the Publishing One, Part 1

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:  

Julie Glover, Dawn Hobbie Sticklen, and Renee Schuls-Jacobson

Congrats, Ladies!

Meet TUGG.

L to R: Ben Rohde, Andy Hughes, Joe Gantzer, and Jake McLees

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.)

Meet Andy.

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

Leave a comment for your chance to win! 

Double your chance by tweeting this post with the hashtag #TUGGmusic.

Want more TUGG before then?

TUGG’s official website

TUGG on Facebook

TUGG on Twitter

What do you think?  Does the music industry offer us a comparison of what’s to come for publishing?

30 responses

  1. Cool. My husband is a commodity investor. Doesn’t add much in the way of hip to our lives, but it is a lot quieter.

    1. Lol. I believe it is quieter. Does he comment on the publishing world at all as a business man? I think we’re living in a very exciting time now.

  2. I love this post, Jess! It always makes me happy when people take different mediums or professions and relate them to writing. Also, the song made me happy and I completely dig your house…it reminds me of houses I’ve worked and played in during my years at the University of Missouri. 🙂

    Last, but not least, which guy is YOUR guy??!

    1. Well it’s so fascinating to me! Wait till Friday’s post on the use of social media cause that’s relevant to everyone!

      And MY guy is Joe. He plays guitar and keyboard in the band. I like him. 😀

  3. This was such a good idea for a post and so much fun! I loved the video …. but I didn’t see you in it. Were you? Your conversation with Andy was meaningful in so many ways. Indie artists share a belief and commitment to their craft no matter what the medium.
    By the way, I see you are reading King’s book on writing. It’s my favourite of all the resource books I’ve read and the one that was recommended at every workshop I attended. I’ll be interested to hear what you have to say about it.

    1. No, I was not in that video. I was in my room writing! LOL. See, I was being good.

      I knew you’d like this post, because you’ve commented and blogged about similar topics and the transition we’re seeing in these mediums. Fascinating times, right?!

  4. p.s. I recognized Joe from your travel pics. I’m off to visit Tugg’s other sites! Life at your place looks like a lot of fun!

    1. Awww, you’re welcome anytime, Patricia! You can tell me more about France and I’ll buy good cheeses and wine for us to dine over!

  5. Reblogged this on EditorEtc LLC and commented:
    I can relate…

  6. Shut the front door! I am so excited! Can’t wait to learn some new tunes! Excited. Best birthday week ever!

    1. Yah, Renee, you’ve been super lucky in the contest department lately! Definitely buy a lottery ticket!

  7. I love me some T.U.G.G.!!!!! They are as nice as they are awesome!!

    1. They really are! Thanks for sharing Jonah!

  8. Woot! Woot! I’m so stinking excited! Thanks, Jess – yet ONE MORE reason to love you and your fantastical blog! This post is just so great – I want to share a video by Carter Hulsey, who is from Joplin and just this past Saturday married a dear friend of mine (in what I’m sure was THE coolest wedding in Joplin in years). Check him out when you get a chance. And, thanks again – this has really been so much fun!

    1. Do you review a lot of live music for your job? What a cool gig! Pun intended!

      Congrats on the win, Dawn! You are awesome for sharing so many music ideas for my mix tape contest and I always appreciate the comment chats!

  9. Interesting interview, considering my (for a little while longer, anyway) job in the music industry. It is those same changes from a physical product to a digital one that leave me questioning this company’s long-term viability

    1. I’d love to pick your brain, Mark. What percentage of an agent’s job is actually face to face time with an artist or band? The power of technology and social media allows us to do so much more, and yet there’s a difference in how we’re doing it.

      I think it goes back to what Andy said about, ‘Is there someone out there who’s going to fight for you and do things for you just as much you would have, because you’re now paying them for what you used to do for free.’

      Self publishing has its pros and cons but truly has opened up a lot of doors for writers and musicians.

  10. “Sing less words and PLAY more.” Emphasis mine. I have a neurological condition, Jess. I am also Legally Blind or Bland… however, I can carry a tune, quite well, either vocally or on my KICKASS VIOLA, WHOSE NAME IS WOLF!!!

    But I need some direction and collaboration. This music is wonderful!

    1. I like PLAY more too! We all could use a little more of that. And how cool you have the gift of song. My 5th grade teacher told me I had impeccable diction. It was when I first got braces. Lol. Me and my mad skillz!

  11. Just found a new favorite quote, “sing less words and say more”.
    Thank you Jess for sharing this interview. Also your writing style is great!

    1. Thanks for checking out the interview! That is a great quote for inspiration!

  12. […] Hello and welcome back music lovers and readers!  We’re continuing our chat about the music industry and what we can learn from it in terms of the publishing field.  Missed out on Part 1?  No fear!  Click here! […]

  13. […] the Music Industry Can Teach Us About the Publishing World: Part 1 // Part 2 by Jess Witkins. Excellent, in-depth […]

  14. Great interview! I especially appreciate the part about how music companies (and publishers) are no longer devoting their attention to developing talent. They want the big sales right now. I honestly believe we’re going to a model where writers and musicians self-publish and promote and get picked up by big business when their sales are high enough and the load is heavy enough that it benefits both partners. Then again, plenty writers/bands may decide to keep going it alone!

    Love that music video and the song!

    1. Absolutely! I think after DFW Con, that was one of the big takeaway lessons for mainstream publishing.

  15. So. Cal meets Wisco… Love T.U.G.G!!!!

    1. Happy to hear! Stay tuned for more music; they’re recording now!

      1. This is revolutionary and about time anyway. I remember from my own Music History classes back from during the Jurassic Era that music-era-wise, we’re always behind the rest of the artists. Debussy and Ravel didn’t start kicking it until after Matisse and Renoir had made the scene, so the fact that indie musicians are making the move is about par for the course, coming after indie writers have provided and proven a pretty solid set of processes. Stop me if I start telling lame viola jokes; I used to do that to fend off boring Music Analysis courses. Lemme know if you need some string stuff. Can’t wait to hear the results! Hope everyone had a Happy Turkey-Lurkey!

  16. […] enter is comment or tweet one of the interview posts I did with the lead singer, Andrew Hughes.  Part 1 is about the changing music industry and Part 2 is about social media and the music business.  […]

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