New Media Pioneer
Todd (Racer) and John (Pope JTE) of The Ripple Effect
The best music you’re not listening to.™ Reviews of lost classics and obscure titles. Unheralded bands and songwriters. New bands deserving of greater attention. It’s all here, on The Ripple Effect. The Ripple Effect is a top 100 music site, dedicated to spreading the word on new, unheralded and lost classic artists. The Ripple Radio show puts our money where our mouth is, playing all the great music that’s going unheard.
Q: What has to be done in the technological sense to monetize music to a greater degree on the internet?
A: A great question and one that far greater minds than ours are trying to figure out. The answer of course is as multi-faceted as the problem. First and foremost, bands have to put out quality material. The days of filler songs stuffed in between two killer cuts on an album are long gone. With each song now having a downloadable monetary value, those filler songs are a waste of everyone’s time and energy. If the product is good, it still sells. iTunes numbers for top singles shows that people are willing to pay for music they feel to be of good value. So the problem to us isn’t how to get people to buy music on the internet, they already are, the problem is how to get them to buy more.
This becomes complicated on a couple of fronts. One, bands frequently give their music away to build a fanbase. This is a good strategy for new up-and-coming bands to get their music into the hands of listeners, but then it sets a precedent that music has no inherent value and should be free to access. Obviously, that isn’t a sustainable business model. The other problem, besides filesharing, is the ready access to free music on sites from AOL to YouTube. The consumer today has an infinite amount of resources to hear music. A far cry from when AM radio was the only choice.
So what’s the answer? We think that as people spend more and more time on the internet, the value of social networking sites will continue to gain in importance. Music social networking already exists, like Imeem or Last.fm, but these sites don’t allow real-time social networking to the extent that Facebook does. We think a model that uses music as a subscription service or business enhancement will be the answer. One new site, Jango, is a cross between an Internet radio station and social network. The business proposition is to license the ability to stream the music as an online radio station (as opposed to striking deals with individual recording companies), build a social network around that streaming music, and then sell targeted ads. This type of model may work. Get people gathered together, talking about the music, listening to streaming music of their common choice, actively engaging in social networking. We think this sort of model will gather more steam– using music as an enhancement to another business model, then paying for the music with subscription or ad revenue..
Q. Where do you see the next trend in social media? What else can be done in terms of having an online conversation? What is the next “What are you doing?” question?
A: As far as music social media, we’re going to stick with some version of the Jango model, building true social networking sites around music. Music is still something that excites people, builds passions, and stimulates conversations. But we don’t think that’s the real question. The real question is, “How can bands use social media to better build their fanbase and listening audience.”
With the advent of Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter (and whatever comes next) the relationship between band and fan has never been more important. Fans don’t want the aloof rock star, standing on a pedestal, handing down their next album from Mt. Sinai. They want –rather they demand– a personal interaction with the band. Random updates shot across a Twitter screen isn’t going to cut it anymore. The fans want a personal relationship, not a promo post. They want to feel that they are as important to the band as the band is to them. Any way a band can accomplish this, or work towards satisfying this mentality, is going to place them head and shoulders above the rest. At the Ripple Effect, we’re constantly trying to come up with new ways for bands to do just this, like promoting exclusive video content or exclusive giveaways.
Q. What inspired you to start broadcasting/blogging? It that still your source of motivation?
A: That’s an easy one –the music. For years, we’ve been addicted to digging through discount bins in record store’s CD and vinyl racks, searching, mining for that great unheard band. And we’d found tons of them. Hundreds. Bands that became our favorite artists, bands of unequaled talent. These bands weren’t in the cut out bin because they were horrible, they were there because no one had ever heard of them. The label failed them. The marketing machine failed them. And, in truth, it physically hurt us that no one else was hearing what we heard.
With that, we decided we had to tell the world about all this great, unheard music, and The Ripple Effect was born. Our mission statement says it all, “The Best Music You’re Not Listening to.” Reviews of lost classics, unheralded singer/songwriters, new bands deserving of greater attention. That’s The Ripple Effect.
Initially, The Ripple Effect started out as a blog, a site for us to rave about all the great music people should know about. We’re not hip and trendy, we’re honest. Within about a year, the site became so popular that we were ranked as one of the Top 100 Music sites. From there, it only seemed natural that we start broadcasting the music we were writing about and the Ripple Radio show was born on Blogtalkradio. Again, initially, our modest goal was to hang out, play some Ripple music, and describe to folks what we were hearing, but things started to grow and grow. Soon we started getting calls from bands wanting to be on the show, then guests like Marky Ramone, Fee Waybill, and Cy Curnin starting popping in. It’s been great fun. Now our radio shows are available as podcasts on our webpage and iTunes.
Having done this for two years now, we can safely say that we’re more motivated now than ever. Through the Ripple, every day, we continue to get submissions of great music that we’d never heard. Fantastic bands from around the world, all genre’s. With the prominence of the internet making it possible for any band to claim a piece of cyberspace, more than ever, it’s important for us to find those bands that really have something to offer and do everything we can to spread the word. Great music should never go unheard.
Q. What are some things bands can do to get your attention to be featured on your broadcast/blog? Do you ever cover a band that you are not particularly fond of musically?
A: There’s only one way to get out attention; play great music. It doesn’t matter what genre. We cover everything from Scandanavian Death Metal to acoustic singer/songwriter, African to Reggae and everything in between. The only common denominator is that the music moves us. That’s what music is supposed to do. If you want us to dance, then write something that makes it impossible for us to stay in our chairs. If you want us to feel your pain, then do it. Music is emotion.
On top of that, it really does help if the artist is friendly. We like personal letters and have taken extra time to review an album simply because the band was friendly, nice, or some times, a riot. Letters that make us laugh are always a plus. It also helps for bands to understand how busy we are with the Ripple. Artists can’t expect us to drop everything for their sake. We have at least a 6 week lead-in from the time a CD gets sent in until review, and only after it’s made the Ripple Effect can it be played on Ripple Radio. Someone who is pushy, rude, or pompous will probably find their CD continually dropping towards the bottom of the stack. In this business, like all others, it really does help to be nice.
Through the process of all the submissions and interaction with the artists, we’ve gone from being fans to friends with the bands. We’ve developed personal relationships with many artists as they’ve asked for our input on new material, development advice, etc. We come from a place of respect for the musician above anything else.
Having said that, we will never feature a band on the website or the radioshow that doesn’t satisfy these basic requirements. We’re not critics, we don’t review music. We’re music lovers and write/talk about the music we love. That’s one of the things that may set us apart from other sites, the passion we have for what we’re doing. Our goal is to spread the word on the music and the bands we like — make some ripples
Q. Will major labels ever be the gatekeepers again, or have they lost all of their power to the internet forever? Can they somehow return to prominence?
A: The impact of the internet can never be understated and it has definitely altered the playing field, but that doesn’t mean the majors have lost all their power. It’s true that the majors will probably never be the gatekeepers again, but they will always remain the star makers.
Any band can now record an album, sell copies, get thousands of Myspace or Youtube hits without major label support. In fact, small labels are great at being the gatekeepers. They can recognize talent, promote it, gain an audience, mold a band. But it still takes big money to make a star. Touring costs a bundle, and as music becomes exchanged more and more often for free, touring becomes where bands will make their money. Here’s the problem. With fewer people buying CD’s who pays for the tour? A small label can’t afford to spend $200,000 to put a hot new band out on tour when they’ll only sell $10,000 worth of CD’s. This is where the majors come in with their publicity machines and unlimited budgets. They can create the demand, they can fill the stadium, they can make the star.
In order to do this, majors are now requiring 360 degree contracts, where the label will get a percentage of every aspect of the band’s business, from CD sales, to tour revenue, to t-shirt sales. And this is fair, the label is providing a service and they deserve to get paid.
The biggest problem with the majors is the impersonal approach they take towards the music, the bands, and the fans. This is where small labels have the advantage. They have the ability to really form the relationships that can make a project a success.
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