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« The 1-2-3 Music Store | Main | “Where have all the musical geniuses gone?” »
Tuesday
Jul282009

A Lesson In Building Community (Or A Love Letter To Rob Gordon & What Are Records?)

I am in Colorado this week taking some time to reflect on the whirlwind that has been my life for the past two years. I lived here for seven years and founded Ariel Publicity here. And lost of great memories have come flooding back.

I have been spending time with Rob Gordon – my first boss at the only record label I ever worked at What Are Records? What I learned at What Are Records? has set me up for a successful career in the new music business and that is because of Rob’s genius around building community.

I have taken so much of what I learned from Rob and incorporated it into my business and my book Music Success in Nine Weeks and I want to share what I earned in this piece.

Rob Gordon had an uncanny knack for understanding it before many in the record business caught on and I continue to operate Ariel Publicity & Cyber PR campaigns based on his teachings. What I learned from What Are Records? is understand the value of community and connectivity and harness it to grow.

What Rob knew was: Observing and staying in constant contact with a rabid fan base, and nurturing them was the ultimate way to earn money in the music business.

Here’s what Rob Gordon did:

Harness Energy and Enthusiasm

Way before the Internet was used daily in the business Rob found a bound called The Samples and saw a phenomenon that was in the process of happening. Every show they played was packed with college students, screaming along to every song from coast to coast, the word was spreading and the crowds were growing each show. The incredible part was The Samples had been dropped from their major label deal. Rob signed them and started recording their new album and at the same time negotiated their major label album back so he could re-release it on his label.

Go Team
Rob assembled a team of young ambitious employees who were dying to make a mark in the music industry (myself included), and he showed us exactly how to build a record label. We all worked in one big room so we could each hear what every single dept at the label did.

Think About The Flow Of Money
Rob put his own distribution channels in place. A tracking system was used that he built from scratch. We mailed the albums directly to the stores and tracked the sales, cutting out the need a distribution company, and directing the profits back to the band and the label. This, at the time, was completely unheard of.

Keeping Us All in Community
We moved our offices from New York City to The Samples hometown, Boulder. CO. This put us in direct community with the band, who stopped by the offices when they were off the road and hung out with us socially. This move also put us in community with many of the core fans, promoters, managers and team who were spreading the gospel of The Sample from the band’s home base. It was not unusual to drive around town and hear The Samples blasting from car windows, frat houses and in bars and restaurants. It was an exciting reminder of our mission.

Communicating with Fans
Through physical mailing lists, postcards, letters, and catalogs and we began to communicate with fans in a ways that artists rarely utilized. In this day and age we can use E Newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and MySpace to talk to thousands of fans at once but back then it was rare.

Build The Funnel - Continually Put Out Products to Satisfy the Fans

We gave the fans what they wanted. Rob Gordon understood from the very, very early time when people were only selling records that it was about having a product funnel. The Samples not only sold CDs and tapes. They also sold T-shirts, hats, hoodies, sweatshirts, CD carrying cases and VHS videos of the band having a blast on the road in their wonderful movie Ten Wheels. We had great products and they sold well both at shows and through the catalogs.

Keep Them Ignited and Excited
Rob Gordon also learned that if you could keep a fan base ignited and excited that they would come back and continue to buy more. He listened to the fans, and he put out exactly what it was they wanted. In every album, there was a pamphlet that allowed artists to write back to the record label and request whatever it is that they wanted to have.

Sharing & Rewarding Those That Help
After a year with What Are Records I got a job opportunity that was too good to pass up. On my last day, Rob Gordon did something that I could not believe. He gave me the label’s entire press database of writers, and journalists, and he said since you helped to build this, I’m giving it to you as a gift. It was this database that helped me build my company and later it became the backbone of Ariel Publicity.

Rob understood that sharing information would be the only way that we could all succeed. Years later I traded databases with Rob again so we could both benefit and I now share as much information as I can through my newsletter http://www.soundadviceezine.com

So, Rob, as I mark my 13th year as the owner of my music PR firm, I thank you for being the ultimate teacher. And thank you for showing us that the future of the music business has to be based on community, sharing and open source information.

 

I know that many artists and music buiness peeps who read this blog incorporate many of these principles into their daily lives…. As always I want to hear about it

Reader Comments (3)

This was a really good read. Nothing to add, just thanks.

July 29 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

I enjoyed this. Of course, this isn't the sort of article that could be critically analyzed. My last industry job was a nightmare compared to the way you talk about yours. It's good to see someone doing something they really enjoy.

July 29 | Unregistered CommenterJared

I have known Rob for almost two decades and I can say that he is an energy-filled person who always has creative, on-the-cutting-edge ideas. I love just being in his energy field - it's like walking on air. He connects and brings you along no matter where you are. Plus, I think his wife, Rebecca, is just as awesome. What a team they make!!!!!

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