While pursuing careers in everything from film production, video editing, secondary school teaching, s.o.m.a., and commercial radio, Justin Wayne stumbled upon the exciting new medium of podcasting. He now hosts and produces the very popular Justin Wayne Show, a podcast that seeks out the best independent music worldwide and introduces their picks to their listeners. I really respect shows like this that are very open to unsigned artists, but also maintain quality control to gain the trust of their listener-base. Justin is a wealth of knowledge and I was excited to pick his brain in this exclusive interview, asking questions that are most relevant to independent artists and bands.
Justin Wayne, please tell us about The Justin Wayne Show; what its origins were and how it benefits independent artists.
It all began as a joke that my brother made, and I started a little travel and music blog about five years ago. With a bit of experience in podcasting at a previous job, I started asking unsigned artists if I could add their tunes to a weekly podcast, and it’s grown from there over the last four years. We are now active members in the Association of Music Podcasting and have stuck to our guns only playing unsigned and independent artists. We do as much as we can to provide a professional, high quality show with a mix of genres of independent music and I believe that we’ve found an audience who expects a well-researched show with new music for them to consider purchasing and downloading from the artists.
How can independent artists properly send their music to podcasts and music blogs? There is a lot of conflicting information out there, and most musicians know there is a good chance their email won’t get read in the first place.
That’s a good question and I agree – there is a lot of conflicting information out there. From my own perspective it comes down to one thing: creating relationships. The artists who I am most willing to play on my show aren’t necessarily the ones with great tunes – although you’ve got to have those as well – but the ones who are personable, have a story, and are willing to help promote the show on their end.
I think artists forget that they bring a little virtual crowd of people with them wherever their music is played, but the people need to know when it’s being played and where to go. So: be personal the emails that you send out to shows AND let them know that you’re going to help promote the show when you appear. It’s attractive to us pod/broadcasters and more fun at the end of the day.
Please share your thoughts on the controversial issue of free file sharing and its effects on independent artists.
This isn’t a new issue. Cassettes in the 70s and 80s made the record companies worried as well because people were sharing music. Sharing music is the key word there, and usually this is what “free file sharing” is – people passing your music around and talking about it. If they’re not buying the album, then they’ve got that $10 to spend on something else.
Give them something else to spend that money on. Topspin Media provides a popular direct-to-fan platform for artists and their best selling point is $17. That’s way better that $0.99 that is lost when someone downloads the song. The value of a track starts at $0, so it’s the artists’ job now to find a way to add value to it somehow.
Is the music industry evolving or collapsing? Does it matter?
There will always be music makers and music listeners, so my answer would be that the music industry is evolving – perhaps like a phoenix, but there you go. There are more people listening to more music than ever before, and there’s more music available than ever before so in my opinion the music industry is booming with opportunity. However, the “big money music” players as it were are reworking their business models to cope with the new and fast-changing landscape of it and I believe that independent musicians are in the most flexible place to move with the times.
I could make a little list for you:
- BCC emails to tons of people. Don’t do this, ever. Start a mailing list, be personal.
- Sending out bad quality demos to radio – make sure you have excellent material before sending it out. Even if you have to cut back the recordings to acoustic guitar and singing, have an excellent product before you send out to radio.
- Don’t get mad at podcasters for not getting back to you right away – many of us are hobbyists or part-timers who are doing this for the love of independent music. We’re on your side – we all need to stick together.
- Don’t quit. If you want to do this, it IS possible. Make great music, then take an online marketing course or develop your own website blog. Those skills will take you far in this independent music business.
What inspires you to specifically assist independent musicians the way you do? Do you constantly find new gems?
Not constantly, no. I respond to each artist or PR company who personally submits to try and guide them through some of the mistakes I shared above. I also encourage them to send stuff again later if I didn’t accept it for airplay the first time and give them constructive feedback. When I do find gems I do get very excited, especially the ones whom I’ve told to send better quality stuff back later on. What I love best about this is seeing these artists grow over time.
Sure, the market is saturated and I would love to say that it’s easy to get through to an audience but it’s not. So many bands come, go, release, disappear… I believe that the key in the industry right now is consistency. That’s what your audience is looking for, so give it to them. Keep in constant contact with your fans, give them regular updates and opportunities to see, hear, and buy from you and include them in what you do. Find your fans and give them what they want – ask them what that is!
What do you look for in artists you choose to promote?
I try to find artists where we can work together. The musicians provide the music and I provide a place for an audience to come and listen. I think that any free-form radio show like this needs a partnership between each artist like any gig – all the artists bring a few people to expose to the other bands. It can be quite fun in the chat room getting bands talking. I also like interesting music and bands that have a story. If a band has a story it’s much easier to find something to say about them on the air and people remember those stories. Musicians are storytellers – they can use that skill in their marketing.
Very few people seem to understand the music industry. Can you leave us with some advice for anyone looking to follow their dreams and make music their career?
Unless you end up getting your foot in the door somehow, you’re not going to get signed on a major label unless you’ve got at least 10,000 fans and have a solid social presence on the net. At this point, unless you’re a band with a lot of costs, you should be able to sustain yourselves.
Basically a major label is a band who may (or many not) be willing to invest in you. They’re smart about this, and give you about 10% of the profit which also has to pay for your production costs. The math has never added up for me, nor many who have been in the music industry. There’s a book by Jacob Slichter, the drummer of Semisonic, called “So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star” which I highly recommend. I also recommend finding someone internet and business savvy to work with your band instead, create your own record label, and do your best on your own. If nothing else, it’ll get you noticed by a major at some stage.
Lastly, please give us the scoop on how we can tune in to the Justin Wayne Show.
We’ve been doing live broadcasts completely independent of any station directly from the site at http://thejustinwayneshow.com and it looks like we’re going to be expanding in the near future. We’re live every Monday at 12pm PST, 3pm EST, 8pm GMT and always podcasted the following Wednesday. Two-hours of independent music each week including rock, pop, acoustic, indie, live features and free downloads. Artists can submit directly to http://thejustinwayneshow.com/submitmusic and we also have a very active account on MusicXray.