I first wrote about them in October 2012 on this blog, but the world now knows that a combination of strong, socially conscious messaging, a well-defined visual persona, an electrifying live show, and great music characterize the hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Amplified by impeccable marketing execution and excellent timing, they have become the poster child group for DIY indie artists around the world and put Seattle back on the map of music industry innovation.
Zach Quillen (@wexington), who began managing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis full time in 2012, was interviewed this past Saturday live and in person by Larry Mizell Jr. (@lar206), DJ from KEXP Seattle. This happened at Seattle’s EMP Museum at the Pacific Northwest Chapter of The Academy’s Songwriter’s Summit 2014. I was fortunate enough to be in the audience.
As both a marketer and an indie musician, I was fascinated to finally hear Quillen talk in person about the details of marketing The Heist. I’ve been waiting to meet Quillen for almost two years, and I wanted to hear straight from the source what his biggest challenges and most difficult decisions have been. I was not disappointed.
There Has Always Been A Plan
My key takeaway? There is a plan. There has always been a plan. It’s a plan you can trace back to the early 2000s, but the additon of Quillen brought music industry marketing expertise, experience and connections to the mix. The seemingly meteoric success of The Heist has been planned by Ben Haggerty, Ryan Lewis and Zach Quillen for years. Marketing for The Heist has been strategically thought out, considered, discussed, rehashed and then tactics executed boldly – with adaptations made on the fly as opportunities arose.
Most every morning I walk my dog. That’s where I do a lot of my thinking about my own music and social media, about music marketing and about what’s happening with music and technology in general. I thought you all might want to come along and hear what was on my mind this Friday morning.
The subject of today’s podcast is gear. What is the role of gear in your music career? Have you recently purchased some new gear and has it made a big difference in your recording or live performance?
In this 5 minute episode I talk about my own experience and also my observations from watching Stevie produce local bands. I didn’t admit it in the podcast, but I’m not immune to the siren song of gear. I’m like a kid in a candy shop at Guitar Center. In fact, I purchased the JamMan Looper/Sampler pictured above in October of last year. I haven’t yet figured out how to use it.
It often seems that musicians are more willing to purchase expensive musical gear than to spend the same amount of money on music lessons, professional performance coaching, song critiques, marketing, or legal services. In my mind, expensive gear is a social signal – but what it signals to others is not necessarily what I think many musicians believe it signals.
I’d love to hear your experience and your opinion on this issue in the comments section below. I’d also love your feedback on this format!
I recently made friends via Twitter with musician Eric John Kaiser, a native Parisian who now lives in Portland, Oregon. Like many who make a living full time from music, Eric is a busy person, juggling several different sources of income, as you will read below.
Eric has managed to successfully carve out a niche for himself in the Portland musical ecosystem playing “French music” several days a week. I thought it would be helpful for other musicians to read some of the smart and practical things he does to find, classify and promote his local and regional gigs. I also feel it is worth highlighting how Eric does business as a musician: he treats bookers and the other musicians he works with respectfully, fairly and professionally.
Question 1: Tell our readers a little about yourself: your music, where you are from, and how you ended up in Portland.
EJK: I’m a professional singer-songwriter originally from Paris, France, now based in Portland, Oregon, USA. After doing over 350 gigs in France and several records, in the summer of 2006, I followed a girl from Portland whom I met in Paris. Now I tour mainly on the West Coast, Idaho and Montana, in Louisiana and in Quebec and some parts of Canada. I also go back to France to tour once a year. I have released, at this point, three full length albums and three EPs. It’s been a great musical adventure so far.
Over time, I’ve learned that I needed to be flexible and be able to play solo gigs, as a duo with my accordion player or play with my full band.
You’ve probably heard people talk about how if you’re “serious about your music career” you should move to Nashville or LA.
I’ve been thinking lately, however, about what makes my hometown of Seattle such a great incubator for talented musicians.
It’s not just the recent blockbuster success of (multi-category) Grammy winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. A lot of really great music and music production has come out of Seattle over the years. From the Kingsmen and Bing Crosby to Jimi Hendrix, the Sonics, Quincy Jones, Heart, Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Queensryche, Mudhoney, Tingstad and Rumble, Sir Mix-A-Lot, Danny O’Keefe, Alice Stuart, and Kenny G all the way to current success stories like The Head and The Heart, Brandi Carlile, Blue Scholars, Shabbaz Palaces, Allen Stone, Kris Orlowski and Shelby Earl. (I’m not even counting Dave Matthews, although he does live here.)
Here are some of the special things about the Emerald City which make it a better environment than Nashville or LA in which to nurture a music career:
This past weekend I saw the Lego Movie. It’s a fun movie – more than just a 90 minute commercial, as FastCompany wrote, (really, I promise). Now, I rarely go to see movies, so it’s even rarer that I actually like one.
Will Ferrell has a great (non-animated) role, and Morgan Freeman shows off his considerable deadpan and off-the-wall comedic skills. Is there anything Morgan Freeman doesn’t narrate these days? If you’ve never heard him narrate his own life, I’ve embedded it below. It’s hilarious. But let’s get back to the movie.
I think in all honesty, the Lego Movie’s target audience is GenY parents and Baby Boomer grandparents more than children. I wouldn’t be surprised if the movie creates a boom in adult Lego construction. If you’ve read anything about Lego recently, though, they have been amazingly astute at marketing their products in the past ten years. They didn’t exactly need the movie to sell their products.
The movie is packed full of sly inside jokes and life lessons. I thought I would pluck just a few and write them down, trying not to spoil the movie for you, in case you haven’t seen it:
- Encourage creativity in yourself and others. Be patient. Like Vitruvius was with Emmet.
- Sometimes an empty mind can be the most fertile place for ideas to appear. Also, like Vitruvius said.
- Stay flexible so you can adapt to change on the ground. Keep moving forward even when you don’t know what’s going on. Like Emmet did.
- Sometimes a little anger accomplishes a lot. You don’t have to be happy all the time. Like Unikitty.
- Be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else just because you think it’s cool. You’ll attract the wrong kind of people. Like Wyld Style (AKA Lucy).
- Teamwork and collaboration can build things no individual can. Like Emmet showed the team.
- Sometimes the most mundane idea can save the day. Like the double-decker couch.
- Maybe someone who is standing in your way just needs a little encouragement and love. Like Mr. Business.
- Even the most ordinary creator is special. You just have to believe in yourself. Like the cat poster said.
- The prophecy is just made up. You make your own destiny. Like Morgan Freeman (AKA Vitruvius) said.
I think this is the shortest blog post I’ve written in quite a while. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for me, too…
Would love to hear your thoughts, comments, rebuttals – as always, please leave a comment below.