Thursday, 24 February 2011

Cross-blog Interview: Danny Ross Mixes Business & (Live Album) Pleasure

Ramblings within these digital walls rarely stray from the purely musical, long-winded enough as they already are in discussing the tunes alone. Today, though, I wanted to break into the business side a touch, with a dash of historical reflection - well, the last decade anyway - and take a peek at promoting music in this crazy digital world, up to which we willingly hook ourselves every day. 

Still here? All two of you? Great! 

The thing is, any music blogger worth their salt will have a strident opinion on where the music industry is heading. We exist on the very plane that is supposedly destroying all music - if you subscribe to the Pravda-esque, myopic evidence of the RIAA, at least - by encouraging the free digital spread of music. 

Rather than having to construct my own coherent arguments, however, I thought I'd pass the soapbox to H-T-A regular and fave Danny Ross, a singer-songwriter from Brooklyn who sees both the challenges and opportunities of the digital era. In another realm, I write over at Above The Static about web presence development and the best ways to gain visibility in an increasingly noisy online environment. Given the 'synergy' (haaa! there's your business angle folks...who calls bullshit bingo?) between the two topics, I posed Mr Ross some questions that would be applicable to both blogs. 

Here you have the abridged, music entertainment version, where as you can pop over here to Above The Static for the full interview. Catch Danny Ross at his Mercury Lounge headline show in NYC this weekend, Saturday at 11pm. As he points out, it's a live recording, so channel your Public Enemy and bring tha noize....

H-T-A: The music industry has changed fundamentally in the past decade, with artists both independent and on major labels expected to take on more of the promotional side than ever before. What’s your perspective on these changes and how have you had to adapt, if at all, to meet expectations?

Danny Ross: The changes in the industry have been simultaneously both great and awful. Great in that the gatekeepers have fallen, and now every artist has an equal opportunity to make their claim in the musical pantheon. 

Anyone these days can make a record at home and distribute their album all over the interwebs through CD Baby, Tunecore and BandCamp, and then market it all over Facebook. Artists today have amazing unprecedented access… which is the reason why it’s also terrible. More albums have been released in the last year than ever before in history. 

So how do you break through? First and foremost, having the best live show in town to accompany your great record. Make it obvious to the handful of folks in the crowd that they need to come back and bring their friends. The best PR is word of mouth...then second, developing a true personable relationship with your fans– through email, Facebook, or a high five after the show – showing a true appreciation for each and every one.

H-T-A: Your show at the Mercury Lounge in NYC this Saturday will be recorded for a live album. Why did you choose this format for your next release and can you share a few of your favorite live albums with our readers?

DR: Yes, we’re recording a live album with the nine piece band and horns this
Saturday February 26th 11pm @ Mercury Lounge (FB Event Page). If you’re in NYC, you should come!

Thing is, I spent a ton of money and time making the record One Way to be exactly the way I wanted. Which is what an artist should do. It was a hugely ambitious project based on my favorite artistic statements in popular music history and I assumed that effort would be enough to garner a large amount of attention on its own. But in the end it was ultimately a vanity project. 

Fact is that recorded music by unsigned independent artists A) cost a ton and will not make back a dime and that B) people generally don’t listen to it. That’s why I believe the live show has to be the first piece of the puzzle for new artists, and a live record is a way to capture that unique energy and release something people will be talking about.

But maybe I’m being too cynical…

You know, I have a pretty big music collection but I actually don’t own all that many live records. Would love to get some suggestions from your readers, but some favorites of mine include Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band‘s Live 1975-1985, Sam Cooke‘s Live at the Harlem Square Club 1963, Otis Redding‘s Live at the Whiskey a Go-Go, The Band‘s Rock of Ages, Bob Dylan‘s Bootleg Series 4: Live at Albert Hall 1966 and Wilco‘s Kicking Television.


H-T-A: What are the next steps for your musical career? How do you see new media playing a role?

DR: Because I’ve chosen a route that emphasizes word of mouth and personal conversations with fans, new media will become even more essential in my game plan over time.

As I expand from New York into Boston, Philadelphia, DC and beyond, I’ll be using Facebook to discover who I know in each city. I’ll then communicate with those folks about how to best turn out their friends and their friends’ friends. They can check out my entire last set on YouTube, listen to my whole album on Bandcamp and be ready for the gig.

Next thing you know, you have a packed house in Boston’s Middle East on a Sunday night in February. Then the only thing left to do is play the best live show in the history of rock music.


Thanks to Danny for taking the time to answer our questions and offer a valuable artist’s perspective. If you have thoughts on his approach – or indeed can recommend a great live album – pass it on through the comments or on Facebook.

If you want to prove to Mr Ross that he is indeed a fearful old cynic, you can purchase his music here.

1 comment:

Eliz said...

Thanks for the interview with Mr. Ross.

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