|Chris Standring Interviewed by Melanie Maxwell - July 2008|
1. What prompted you to self-release "Love & Paragraphs"?
Three things. First, record labels are in terrible trouble and are going away. There are only a few left that survive selling this music and none of them are in profit. Certainly a record label with office staff are doomed to go under. So the question I had to ask was this: Do I want to be signed to a label that may not be here next year? The answer was no!
Secondly, I have watched how labels work and what they have done to market my albums over the years and I learned well. Buying CDs from a label for $8.00 each and then selling them at gigs for next to no profit (minus promoter commission which can be up to 25%) just didn't excite me.
Finally, because of my internet experience I figured I might be a good candidate to try to blaze a new trail. So I put Ultimate Vibe Records on the map.
2. How does being on your own label affect your ability to get booked for gigs?
I don't think it makes any difference provided you are positioned to compete with existing labels. It is an expensive project if you want to do it right. I certainly think that promoters would not take an artist seriously if he or she released their own CD and sold 10 copies to their MySpace fans. But with radio success and national distribution, and marketing dollars well spent, just like the labels do, one should be taken seriously. But you bat in the league you are comfortable playing in.
3. Does the current economic and music industry climate affect your creativity or what you choose to put out on your new projects?
Strangely no. Especially now I have my own label, I am free to make the CD I want to make as I don't have an A&R guy breathing down my neck, but I do need to make sure I have a single that radio wants to play IF I am going to spend my own money marketing it to radio. But that is all kind of a crap shoot anyway. You write a song and get lucky. I don't see why the rest of the album can't be as deep as I want it to be however.
4. How many CDs do you have to sell in order to make a profit?
For this CD I think I need to sell 4,000 - somewhere around there.
5. What percentage of your sales are generated from: music retailers, online or sold onsite at concerts and festivals?
I may not have the right stats for this yet as I don't have my first report. But I can say that still a majority of national US sales seem to be from retail stores. This is odd to me as I never see folks in those stores when I go in. Probably about 25% are online sales and a small percent are from shows, depending of course how many shows an artist does. Certainly my shows right now are useful to boost soundscan.
6. What innovative endeavors have you found most effective in today's declining music sales market to promote yourself and generate more sales?
I personally have had an internet network for the last 8 years or so. Specifically selling 2 guitar CD rom courses (www.playjazzguitar.com and www.guitarmadesimple.com) and also another site where I offer information to artists trying to break into the business. (www.aandronline.com) - Because all these sites are run by myself, I am able to introduce my own CDs to those folks who opt into the network. All this is completely automated but I now have a growing database of customers, all of whom at some point get introduced to my music via 'autoresponders'. This has been an incredible asset to my recording artist career as I can piggy back off these other sites.
The reason this works is that selling an artist's CDs online is horrifically difficult because unless you are very famous, no one is really searching for you. On the other hand, everyone is on the internet searching for information. The information I can sell to people is music education and as a result of finding me, they eventually trust me and success becomes a conversion game.
7. What role does the Internet play in promoting and selling your music?
Extremely important now. Very soon all the retail stores will probably go away. When they do, artists will be faced with either delivering pizzas or studying internet marketing! I have been preaching the latter for a number of years now. But sadly it may take the demise of retail stores to wake every artist up. In a way it will be interesting because at that time, we will all know that there is now only one basket to put our eggs.
8. Where do you see your career as a recording artist heading within the next two-five years?
Not sure. Interesting question. I certainly think the goal posts have shrunk for everyone but I'll continue making records until I stop enjoying the process. Because after all, that's all it is, a process. I'd like to see things continue to grow and I really don't mind how much time that takes. As long as I can stay ahead of the curve and do live shows and record CDs, I might just be very content. Musically I may not be so content, but then that is simply up to me to make one or two changes along the way. That's always healthy I think.
9. How is the best way for people to hear your new music?
I have set up my personal website (www.chrisstandring.com) so one can hear my latest music as soon as they get to the site. So I would recommend that folks come meet me over there.
10. How has radio airplay affected your record sales; with your single sitting at #2 on the R&R charts, where are you on Billboard?
This is always unquantifiable but I'm sure it has affected sales positively but one can never put a number on it. I debuted on Billboard at #7 when the CD came out but now we are around #30 I think. It fluctuates. I just bought a Barnes & Noble end cap program for July & August. Maybe things will impact. And a new single will come out soon. This record is really just getting started I think. And lots of live shows to promote too.