BUNKS aka Joshua Smotherman

Joshua Smotherman, a musician and one of the men behind popular musician’s website Middle Tennessee Music, has been a colleague of mine for years now, and I can’t say enough good things about him. Not only has he been a huge help to my artists as well as hundreds, possibly thousands of others; he does his work with humility and class. Needless to say, I was happy to hear that he recently co-authored a new music marketing book with C Bret Campbell entitled “Getting Your Music Heard Online“. If you’ve ever read the articles on Midtnmusic.com before, you’ll know that they are some of the most practical and easy-to-follow instructions available to independent musicians, and any artist interested in the vital nuances of everything from approaching bloggers to mastering social media should pick up a copy. I had a chance to ask Joshua a few questions and he dishes out some wisdom below.

You can buy the new book here.

1. Joshua, first off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started with what has become quite a popular independent music destination website, Midtnmusic.com, and what you do for musicians there? 

This answer could get really long but I will try and stick to the main points.

We are just some DIY musicians trying to help other DIY musicians figure out how to create sustainable livings with our passions for creating music.

  • The original idea for Middle Tennessee Music came from my childhood friend Joshua Grosch.
  • The core of MTM includes Mr. Grosch, C Bret Cambpell, and myself but we are actively looking for new people to work with to help grow our vision. We also moderate the Google+ community, Music Professionals of G+.
  • Grosch and myself were in a drama group as teenagers, began pursuing music in our late teens, and eventually became Hip Hop duo BUNKS. We began using the Internet to release and promote music in 1999.
  • C Bret Campbell had a small barn he had converted into a recording studio. After my Dad asked Bret to teach me guitar, I discovered Bret was an audio engineering mastermind and the only guy in Hillsboro, TN that knew anything about DAWs, VSTs, and making music for the digital era. You could say Bret set our young, creative souls free.
  • Things like kids, college, and life began happening. I moved to Murfreesboro in 2002 so distance became an issue but we used technology to keep the movement…. moving.
  • While still in college (after moving to Florida then Louisiana then back to Tennessee over a 9 month period), I started Middle Tennessee Hip Hop as a social networking site on Ning.com. That was 2007. By 2008, I was converting the site into a blog without membership.
  • I worked in the campus library so I spent countless hours consuming the works of Bob Baker, Ariel Hyatt, Derek Sivers, Brian Clark, Chris Brogan, and other content creators who focus on helping others learn about marketing, PR, and using social media properly.
  • I graduated MTSU in 2009 with degrees in Music Business and Anthropology. An internship I had with an indie publishing company on Music Row in Nashville turned into a job.
  • In August 2010, I quit that job to work from home as a freelance consultant and website designer for a group of small business owners in the Brentwood area.
  • In May of 2011, on a whim after a FB chat with Bret, I built and launched version 1 of MTM in a matter of 3 or 4 hours. We immediately began digging for content, contacting the bands we featured, and using their excitement and sharing of our articles to get ourselves out there.

One thing led to another and now here we are.

A lot of the informative articles we publish typically come from questions we have been asked by others or from experiences we have had using technology to turn our passion for creating music into a sustainable living.

As far as what we do for musicians… our main mission is to help those on the DIY path better understand the Internet and how to use it to promote music, find fans, and build a tribe.

We have worked with entrepreneurs in the music industry, health industry, business/life coaching industry, as well as a bed and breakfast but our passion lies with helping others {musicians} like us “figure out the Internet”.

MTMGuideToDIYOnlineMusicPromotionCover2. Your new book is called “Getting Your Music Heard Online”, and it’s made up of a compilation of articles originally published on Midtnmusic.com. I found the book to be uniquely clear and practical in it’s instructions and advice. What do you hope independent musicians take from the book? 

Insight that hopefully leads to clarity.

I’ve wasted a lot of time learning, making mistakes, researching, trying again, making more mistakes, etc. Reading books from writers like yourself, Bob Baker and Ariel Hyatt really helped me take my online presentation of my music to the next level and I simply want to pay it forward by helping others just like me.

3. What are the 3 top things you’d recommend artists start doing now? 

1. Make the best music you possibly can with all the resources you have at your disposal. Not having money is not an excuse. I’ve been broke and making music for 15 years. I turn 32 next month and I’m just now receiving my first record contract to sign (possibly).

2. Get out and play shows, network with local acts, and use the Web to network with not local acts. Small tours can be built off gig swaps…  If you want to get paid on the back end make sure you are a member of a performing rights organization. BMI and ASCAP allow you to report shows when you perform and pay you performance royalties.

3. Learn how to properly present yourself to higher ups in the industry, get a website, get on social media, and start blogging.

4. When artists send their music for your consideration, what are the biggest mistakes they typically make? 

  • No information or not enough, just a link to a song or video.
  • “The hottest new artist out of Timbuktu….” – *delete*
  • Go listen to my new song, like my page, and I’ll return the favor OR the more clever…
  • I love your blog (knowing they have never looked at anything but the contact page), I was hoping to get featured blah blah blah…

Middle Tennessee Music5. How is an artist to break through in 2014’s musical climate? 

You have to be producing the best music you possibly can. Technology has created an over-saturation of people trying to live out their music dreams who believe the Web can make it happen.

There is a lot of blah blah music being pushed out by “great” publicists.

If you throw Facebook Ads, Google Ads, Twitter Ads, etc on top of this, all you need to be heard online is money. All you need to get 10,000 video plays is go pay someone selling views that knows how to make them count without getting caught by YouTube.

With this said, music fans know the real from the fake and the artist who will endure and persevere through the smoke and mirrors are the ones putting 1000% of themselves into the music first.

As a wise man I recently met once said… we need more “music with depth”.

6. You’re an accomplished musician yourself. Can you tell us a bit about how you speak from experience? 

I entered the online world in 1995. By 2000 I had already started releasing music and was involved in message boards and forums which provided the communities I could share with. Unlike the majority of artists online today, I have the vivid experience of a world that existed pre-social media.

I was promoting music online before Zuckerberg even graduated high school…

I think that speaks for itself but back to my music. I have been writing, producing, and recording consistently since 1999. I performed my first show in 2003 – 2004 but BUNKS was not performing on a regular basis until 2007 when we released Generica (our first album distributed digitally via iTunes, etc).

Next week I leave on my 2nd self-funded, self-booked tour across the Western side of the States. My first was in August of 2013. Like I said earlier, its 2014 – I’ve been pursuing music as a “career” for almost 15 years and I’m just now looking at my first contract to sign with an indie label.

I live what I write about on MTM and elsewhere. That’s the takeaway from these statements.

Also, the only ones who fail are the ones who quit trying.

7. What can we expect from you and C Bret Campbell at Midtnmusic.com in 2014?

Now that we have proven ourselves as a source of info for musicians trying to learn more about online promotion, we are interested in becoming a site for fans to discover indie music. This year we want music fans spending more and more time on our site discovering the 800+ [and growing] bands, artists, songwriters, and musicians we have interviewed and reviewed over the past few years.

Since I am getting more touring experience under my belt, my 2014 articles will focus on how we are finding venues, booking shows, funding it, and other related topics.


Joshua Smotherman short bio: Known as the fertile father of 3, Joshua is a music blogger, songwriter, and a WordPress junkie. Since 1999, he has been writing and performing as BUNKS. Middle Tennessee Music is his way of giving back to the independent music community. He currently acts as website manager and online marketing consultant for bands, indie labels, and small businesses.


Music Marketing