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DIY 'Til I Die: Mark Woodbridge
DIY 'Til I Die: Mark Woodbridge 02/06/12 at 11:45 PM by Christian Wagner " Do It Yourself" - it's a term thrown around a lot in today's scene. Bands that practice and preach this mentality wear it as a badge of honor. The only question, what does DIY truly mean? What does it mean to fully embrace the DIY ethos? In this feature, we will be speaking with people in the industry that run the spectrum of what it means to be DIY and their advice to people wanting to learn more about the entire process. This can range from booking your first tours, setting up a press kit, or recording on a budget. The topics are nearly endless.
This guest blog is brought to us by Mark Woodbridge, A&R at Radium Records and has been in a slew of touring and signed bands.
Guest Blog From Mark WoodbridgeTo keep it as short and simple as I can, I have lived by the ideals of DIY since I started playing music. I played in bands such as Dear Whoever, Driver Side Impact, Victory In Numbers and currently Speak Easy. Some bands had money behind them, others not. Either way the work ethic put forward from any of those projects were as strong as the next, if anything being in a signed band you had to work even harder (as expectations grow). After everything I have learned, I have been blessed with an opportunity to work with my record label Radium. Since day one of this project, the ideals of DIY have been with me every step of the way.
Radium began officially in May of 2011 as a startup label. Founder and CEO Mark Mehwald, and his wife Kerry (CFO) started the label with first signing Vanilla Ice, and we recently released his latest album WTF (Wisdom, Tenacity and Focus). We also just signed Cleveland's own Blackout Superstar, and released the album "Whiskey Weekend". Our President, Nick DeTomaso, is focused on physical/visual operations as well as A&R. I am the Vice President and A&R for Radium, based out of the northeast and northwest regions of the country, with the focus of rock/metal/pop acts (based on my connections in those markets). Steve (DOK) Richmond is also Vice President and A&R, based out of Texas, with the focus of hip-hop/rap/pop (based on his connections in those markets). Brandon Bishop is our Vice President of Production. His studio is located in LA. These are just titles, as a company we are all equally involved in every project we take on, and the decisions that are made. Our mission statement is "At our core, Radium is more than a record label. It's an organization dedicated to empowering ourselves and our partners, from small independent artists to international household names. By utilizing the latest technology and resources, we are able to promote and distribute digital media, merchandise and more, internationally. Remove the boundaries of the old industry models. We are Radium".
Doing it yourself is the only way you can fully trust and believe in what it is you are projecting. It is so true that you get out what you put into it. The biggest risk any band can take is either signing to management or signing to a record label. In most cases, the outcome is failure. A reason for that is a band will then abandon their work ethic and just expect everyone else to pick up their slack, as if "they've done enough". Another reason for a lack of success from the other end is not the quality of the band, or their style of music, it is the lack of developing new ways to deal with the music industries pitfalls and shortcomings. A label or manager could compromise the artist's music or put them on tour that wrongfully projects who they are based on who they tour with. I know now, from having a DIY mindset, when a project I am a part of needs to avoid or embrace any situation, itís about trusting yourself. I have made mistakes, but each mistake I have learned how to do things differently. Without a DIY work ethic, you may never reach the goals and dreams you chase after. I am not saying don't sign to a label or management. There are many amazing companies out there that can lift you further than DIY can take you. Just be mindful of who you are as an artist, know exactly what you are getting yourself into. As Radium is, it moves at its own pace, aggressive, but calculative. Most importantly, we give the artist creative control and allow them to still sit in the driver seat, with our full support. We look for the future of their career, not where they sit today. When starting a label (to those DIY'ers out there) it is so important to know who you are working with, and make sure you are all on the same page. Communication is key; and there are a million ways to do that now.
Here are a couple personal experiences where DIY benefited me. As a touring member of a band, the best way to do things yourself, if you have the resources to, is book as many in stores, radio interviews, blogger shout outs as you can on your own. Although it is tedious, the middle man (whether it be someone from your label or someone you hire like a publicist) usually shoots the media (letís say AP.net, Gunz Show, college radio, Hot Topics, etc.) an email detailing an event upcoming for the band. Based on their relationship with the site, they will get submitted or not. Itís very important to carry a positive reputation if you want to do these things yourself. To build that, simply networking is the best tool for that. I have contacted countless people in the industry who had absolutely no idea who I was or what I did, and developed a working relationship with them out of thin air. When you actually get a chance to meet someone who you may want to work with, do whatever you can to leave an imprint with them so they remember you. It may seem weird, but carry a business card with you at all times, they are cheap to make and people do hang on to them. Don't be afraid to ask for theirs, because at some point in their career they were in the same shoes as you! This is applicable for almost any position in the industry. If all else fails, book your own tours, design and print your own t shirts, and release your own albums on iTunes.
Instead of throwing out a bunch of websites that could help give you shortcuts to people who you feel you need to talk to, I feel it is much more important to explain how to be a part of the action; A great real life resource, that is totally worth your time if you are interested in working with a label or having a serious music project, is going to music conferences like CMJ (NYC). Not only will you learn SO much from going to panel meetings (Hour or so long meetings that educate you on anything from current smart ways to use social media to licensing and publishing outlets), there are countless showcases, mixers, places for you to meet the people who will widen your contact list. Even conferences like NAMM (CA) which is a great showcase for new technologies for musicians, recording studios, etc. is a GREAT place to meet people in the industry, and another place to keep your ear to the ground. There are countless other conferences you can go to, just wanted to name a couple that have inspired me.
As an A&R it has been a very exciting last year for me. Almost falling into the job title, I have been able to meet some incredible people and gained many new contacts that I never would have in a band. There was a lot for me to learn fast, and probably will always be learning about this position. I know that DIY will help me through any obstacles I face, and using my instincts.
Something that I would like to see more of that I feel is missing from the DIYers is a greater sense of community. I love to see people try to make a difference in othersí lives, whether it is the lyrics in the music they create, how they portray themselves onto others, or just using their celebrity to contribute to the good of others. I love to see when labels and people a part of them can help their community and show selflessness. It does happen; I just wish I could see more of that. Itís an industry of giving back, and shouldn't be as greedy as it has become.