Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tommy Byrnes on Recording and The Business of Music

Tommy Byrnes is an independent musician with a love of traditional Irish music, the owner of a music services/recording company, and a speaker at the 2010 IMC! We asked him a few questions about recording, how to make money while staying true to your music, and what he's learned from his own path. In return, he gave us some invaluable advice...

1) You give consultations in the "business of music". This is sometimes a tough concept and even tougher to implement. What are a few brief recommendations you have for artists trying to fit business into their music?

If you want to get paid for your music you have to accept the fact that your music career is your job and smart business strategies are essential. First and foremost, any artist or band should treat their music careers as a small business. It really is a lot like opening up a shoe store or any other business. Sound business is sound business regardless of the field or industry. Many artists don’t pay enough attention to this philosophy. “I’m a musician not an accountant. I just want to make music!” In today’s independent music environment, that rationale can be very self-defeating.

2) What steps can artists take to allow themselves to focus on their music while still having ample opportunities to get their music out to the public?

Creating a good strategy for your career is the best thing you can do. If you spend most of your time running around willy-nilly without a business and career plan there will not be much time left for the music.

I think an artist should have a six month, 1 year, 2 year and 5 year plan for their career. Be honest and realistic with your goals.

It is imperative for today’s independent artists to realize that in order to be successful (whatever that term means for you personally-nobody else can or should define that for you) you have to have a plan and the tenacity and fortitude to implement it.

3) What challenges and advantages can recording pose for Indie artists?

The challenges are pretty much the same as they have always been. Money is the first issue. How do you raise money to pay for either going into a commercial studio or building your own?

I have been involved in the home studio movement since 1980 when I built my first studio. Today’s technology has made it possible for nearly anyone to set up a personal recording rig. The big caveat to this: understanding the learning curve that’s involved with having your own recording setup. It takes a long time to learn the software involved as well as how to record.

4) What should artists do to ensure that their recording experience is as positive as possible?

Be prepared! Know your parts and be well rehearsed. That alone will save time, money and aggravation.

Also, if you choose to use a commercial studio find an engineer or producer that you feel good about working with. Music is a highly personal thing and working with the right people behind the glass as well as in front of it goes a long way. Most importantly, and this holds true for everything, have fun!! Recording can be stressful to be sure, but it’s also a hill of fun.

5) You picked up and moved to Ireland and played in pubs and on the street in order to learn traditional music - a courageous move. What advice would you give to musicians turning toward new styles?

Great question! Be true to yourself and true to the music. Never be afraid to learn. Ever. Seek out those in that style who really know what they’re doing and devour everything they can teach you.

I knew I would never learn such a complex and subtle form of music as traditional Irish dance music in music school where I was headed after high school. I figured the only way to really become proficient was to skip school, go right to the source and learn from the great players in Ireland.

Do the same thing with your music. Get it from the source if at all possible, whatever and wherever that may be. Also, check your ego and be humble. The people you want to learn from will be more apt to help you.

6) What are you teaching at the IMC this year that Indie artists can benefit from hearing?

I’m giving a workshop entitled Digital Recording and the Home Studio. I will be discussing the pluses and minuses of the home studio, what equipment is needed, and basic information about digital recording. This is the route an ever increasing number of independent musicians are taking.

7.) How do the purpose and goals of the IMC fit into your reasons for teaching, as someone who is both a musician and someone who teaches, counsels, and records musicians? What is your motivation for teaching at the IMC?

I have been enthusiastically independent for my entire career. I played in a working band for over a decade but in recent years I have devoted more time to studio work and teaching because of the complications touring and gigging can impart on family life. I have a 3 1/2 year old daughter, a 19 year old son in college and the most wonderful, supportive and understanding wife any musician could ever hope for. Being away from them is tough.

I don’t want anyone else in charge of my career which is why I have always been a disciple of the independent music movement-and it is a movement! At least this way, if things go south I have no one to blame but my dumbass self!!

But mostly, I am a very big believer in the adage “give something back”. I have been very blessed and lucky in my life. I feel very strongly that I should share the stuff I’ve learned over the years with other musicians, engineers and producers in the same way so many have shared with me and taught me through the years.

I would also like to say what Noel Ramos does with IMC and the philosophy behind it should be applauded. He is a real champion of the indie artist and I am honored and very grateful to be involved in any way with the IMC.


Thanks again to Tommy for his excellent advice for sharing his experiences with us! You can find him with his music at and with his Massachusetts based company Sovereignty Music Services, which offers a wide range of services to musicians across the country. Again, just a little taste of the benefits of the 2010 Independent Music Conference!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More insights coming soon!

Interviews are coming up with industry experts, musicians, and IMC contributors Bill and Kay Pere, Anthony Reeves, and Tommy Byrnes! They give out (for free!) great information, advice, and a little sneak peek into what you'll learn at the IMC!

We're going to keep the interviews coming, to flesh out the varying professional and frankly human viewpoints that make the IMC a conference that real people can benefit from.

Who would YOU like to hear a little insight from?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Facebook Feedback!

Hi everyone! We'd love your comments both here and on Facebook! Here is our link, please join the conversation!

See you in November!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Independent Music Conference Q&A with Noel Ramos!

Independent Music Conference 2010

To give a little taste of what is to come, Laurena Marrone Campos of Grit PR asked Noel Ramos, Executive Director of the Independence Music Conference, a few questions about independent music and what makes the IMC different and beneficial for you.

Laurena: Give us a brief history of the IMC, please.

Noel: I spent years working with other music conferences, and I found a large number of problems with them. Most notable was the “showcase for us and you might get signed” hype that many of them used to entice musicians to pay $25 to $40 as a “showcase application fee.” In truth, no act ever got signed after playing one gig at one music conference. Over the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of bands have “showcased,” so if their claims were true, there should have been tens of thousands of signings as a result of all those conference “showcases.”

The baloney used to cajole artists into submitting an “application” created an ethos in the music industry like no other profession. Do Teachers, Doctors, Lawyers etc. attend their annual conferences with no other goal in mind than to party, hang out in bars and completely avoid the actual workshops? No, those professionals attend their annual gatherings to learn, network and advance their respective disciplines. I founded the Independent Music Conference as a true professional industry conference for the new independent music market, which I have been heavily involved in since the earliest days of its creation.

The IMC’s Mission Statement reads as follows…

The Independent Music Conference seeks first and foremost to help independent musicians achieve their goals as entrepreneurial business owners through the presentation of educational seminars, workshops, panel discussions, mentor sessions networking opportunities, performance instruction, evaluation and critique, and live performances. Secondarily, the IMC seeks to positively affect the entire music conference industry, which for too long, has not presented true professional conferences to the music industry in keeping with standards set by other professions. The IMC seeks to alter the erroneous perceptions of conferences as “festivals,” “gigs,” and “concerts.” The main purposes of any worthwhile industry conference should focus on education and networking. At the Independent Music Conference, musicians are treated like any other professional business person, and by setting a higher standard for music conferences in general, the IMC helps encourage and promote the profession of music to the benefit of all.

Laurena: What do you feel are the top 3 things that set IMC apart from other music conferences?

Noel: 1.) No “showcases,” “showcase application fees” or “selections.” We charge an extremely low registration fee, that’s it. There are no other fees to attend, learn and perform at the IMC. All registrants are encouraged to perform and slots are filled on a first-come first served basis. There is no arbitrary, unrealistic “selection” process. Artists are not promised an audience of “industry people” and no wild claims are made about the performance aspect of the event. Our focus is where it should be, on the education and networking.

2.) Our fee is the lowest, and our conference is the most fully packed with workshops, panels, seminars, mentor sessions, performance instruction and critique, networking opportunities and more. The IMC costs as little as $35 for four full days and nights of intensive education. For the last seven years and 11 events The IMC has consistently attracted over 100 of the most experienced, accessible and knowledgeable industry instructors in the independent music business.

3.) Our track record of credibility. Since 2003 The IMC has persevered using the very same indie methodologies that we teach. For 7 years and more than 11 events The IMC has overcome the same obstacles our attendees face, survived, grown, and expanded into cities all over the country. What we offer is clearly worthwhile, and needed by the serious, professional independent musicians who attend. Most conferences see less than 10% of their registrants actually attending the workshops, but at the IMC we consistently see between 75% – 90%! The core values driving the IMC are, honesty, integrity, courage, commitment, dedication, motivation, inspiration, and perspiration. We strive to educate by example, and remain flexible and adaptive, always seeking to be cutting edge, and present information, contacts, resources and services which are aimed at the future, but rooted in reality.

Laurena: Historically, where have most of the musicians who attend come from (mostly the NE or all over, etc)? Any international participants?

Noel: We have always drawn a significant number of attendees from great distances! Since its inception the IMC has been a truly national conference, with attendees traveling from all over the United States, and from as far away as Canada, Australia, Iceland, Japan and Europe.

Laurena: Social Media has really exploded over the past year. How will the IMC help to educate musicians as to how to keep up with it all?

Noel: In the 90s, I founded the very first email discussion group for independent music on the web. Since the late 80s I’ve been a trailblazer for the independent music market, and as an early adopter, I used the internet to promote and advance the industry, helping it grow from a handful of artists and businesses into a multi-billion dollar, global industry. The IMC has always been on the cutting edge of the internet and new technologies. We have long been teaching the techniques, tactics, tips and methods for utilizing social networking sites as well as all other effective technologies that indies can use to their advantage. We help our attendees zero in on what works and what will only distract. In an age of media overload, sometimes less is more, and effectiveness is always key. Each IMC features a number of panels, workshops and mentor sessions specifically geared toward helping our attendees stay focused and make sense of it all.

Laurena: What can an unsigned indie artist expect to take away from the Conference?

Noel: Well we don’t feel that “getting signed” was ever a truly viable business model. Therefore we don’t invite “unsigned” artists, we invite independent entrepreneurs, who may or may not wish to sign a contract with a company that might serve as their “record label” dependent on any number of factors. So I’d say that’s one of the most important take-aways right there… we help them define their business goals, and implement a plan to achieve them. None of our attendees are “UN” anything! They are “IN,” as in independent, and even if they choose to enter into various contractual relationships to advance their career, they will still remain; INdependent, IN charge, IN control, INspired and INvincible!

Laurena: What made you decide against paid “showcases”? About how many artists will be performing and at how many venues?

Noel: I detailed most of my reasons in my answer to question no.1, but let me add that I call it the “S-word” because to me it’s become much like a curse word that represents all that was wrong with the music conference industry. Over the years, “showcases” have been at the root of all the dissatisfaction, unrealistic expectations, missed opportunities and in many cases blatant scams that have plagued the events that SHOULD have been professional industry gatherings, not an excuse to exploit the musicians.
At IMC2010, we expect to have well over 100 performances. We currently have 5 stages confirmed. Other venues may confirm their involvement, which will increase our capacity for more shows. I’d like to have as many as 150 performances occurring over 4 nights at the hotel itself and throughout Northampton.

Laurena: How do the sponsors interact with the participants, what is their role?

Noel: Sponsors are the life-blood of the IMC, more so than any other conference, because in the independent music industry, we all wear many hats, so our sponsors are also instructors, staff members, volunteers, Mentors, Panelists, performers and more. The IMC has been extremely fortunate to have the support of a large number of key industry people who have been with us since the very beginning. Their contributions of time, money, goods and services, experience, knowledge, skill, networking and most importantly BELIEF and SUPPORT are what make each IMC as effective and successful as they have been.

Laurena: What should a musician do to make the most out of the conference?

Noel: I wrote an entire Primer on the subject, entitled appropriately, “How to Get the Most Out of Attending a Music Conference” and I invite musicians to download it for free:

Laurena: What types of industry representatives take part in the conference?

Noel: Each IMC has featured a large number of industry attendees, more than most conferences, even those that are much larger and more expensive. Sometimes as many as 125 independent music industry people converge on the IMC, to teach, network, Mentor, instruct, critique, demonstrate their products and services, and contribute to the conference in many ways. They come from every corner of the market: Managers, Booking Agents, Venue Owners, Authors, Publicists, Media People, Recording Studio owners, Performance Coaches, Producers, Lawyers, Financial Experts, Technology Gurus, Internet pioneers, indie label owners, successful musicians, music organization owners, industry icons and famous performers and so many more…

Laurena: Are there any artists we may be familiar with scheduled to perform?

Noel: That’s a topic we discuss actually! What is the new definition of “success?” Does an artist have to be “famous” in order to succeed? If “we” don’t recognize their name, does that mean they are not famous, or successful, or… HAPPY? There are many artists scheduled to perform who are famous… to their fans, and in the new independent music market, that is more valid than you might imagine.

Laurena: Tell us how to register and if there’s a limit on the number of registrations.

Noel: No limit!, click the REGISTER link.

We’ll post more news here as we move towards the Conference! If you like what you’ve heard, head on over and check out the agenda.