What Musicians Can Learn from Ray Kroc

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Do you know who Ray Kroc is? Do you know what McDonald is?

Ray Kroc is the business genius who bought the McDonalds franchise from the McDonalds brother and developed his empire from the systematic burger assembly line. Yet, they didn’t invent burgers so what is it about Ray Kroc and McDonald’s that made this burger joint so special? It was a simple system of duplication of business owners.

Once Ray Kroc owned the rights to McDonalds he began franchising other locations and training all the owners how It a while but once he was set up he created a system to serve the masses and he did. At first he was still in the small business category because he was having to go around training all the business owners in order for the training to be consistent. So, he created Hamburger University for new Franchise Owners to get consistent training independent of Kroc. Yet, once all the training was consistent and it started to go national, all the different meats and supplies had no consistency which hurt the brands equity. So, crafty Kroc partnered with Sysco to be the sole supplier for all McDonald’s products.  Today, McDonalds grew Sysco to massive proportions and McDonald’s has over 35,000 locations worldwide and the Kroc family now have Legacy money, money that will never go away, that will grow in perpetuity, and that is passed from generation to generation. Below is a chart which shows Kroc’s franchise model.

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So what can we learn from Ray Kroc as musicians? It is very simple. It doesn’t matter whether offering burgers or music Ray Kroc taught the world how to make a big business which can truly free you from your 9 to 5. It is our job in our music careers to utilize these big business concepts of systematization, duplication through business owners, partnerships with a larger supplier, and the value of consistent training. Systematization creates profitability and quick growth. Partnerships and duplication from mentoring others results in multiplication of your efforts. Many hands make easy work.

Understand that as a musician in the 21st Century you must where all hats and in reality you are trying to build a big business with over 500 employees from your music. Understand that the first people you are privately franchising your career to is your band members, producers, managers, and initial fans. These are the advocates that will help you build a network of people enjoying your music and your story. The more systematic way you can find to mentor these people in growing your organization the quicker the idea of your music can manifest into cash. Think of the biggest in the industry right now, Drake (singer who raps), Taylor Swift (Pop Singer with a hint of country), Lady Gaga (Lil Monster Revolution), and Iggy Azalea (Very Fancy); all of the largest artists and bands built an entire big business and brand around their music. They found a need they were satisfying with their story and then everything about their marketing, crew, product lines, all center around that concept and through duplication they created an organization that can run independently. Do you think Dr Dre wakes up in hot sweats wondering if the new Yelawolf song is going to hit numbers? NO! Dr Dre has duplicated himself through other artists, producers, business owners, and product lines so that he makes Legacy money, money that you make in your sleep, money that you can pass down to your kids, and money that can give you the freedom to just live out your dreams in music. Looking forward to feedback, Much love music fam! FREEDOM!

Why I live the Music Industry Life Jon-K Poet

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My name is Jon Kowalsky, I am the founder and HBO Youth Poet who know performs as Jon-K Poet. During the summer I was 17 I spent 3 weeks in Austin, Texas and it changed the trajectory of my life from being an Engineer. In Austin, I saw the joy and culture and family and beauty that can flower around a city which nurtures art, music, and entertainment. I met a lot of music entrepreneurs who were living the dream and had true holistic success because they had control of time and money. My place in the music industry was forever crystalized on July 4th, 2007.

My roommate and I in Austin went to the Unity Tour with Matisyahu and 311. I was a huge fan of Matisyahu and although I knew his music was incredible I was nervous whether or not my conservative Christian roommate would be able to receive and enjoy the music from this Hasidic Jew. That night, I will never forget my friend and I both singing the lyrics to “King Without A Crown” together. I remember being amazed at how hardline in his beliefs he could be if you spoke to him and yet music gave him the ability to elevate above the words singing praise to Adonai because music is able to communicate love regardless of race, religion, creed, or sexual preference. I saw that that night in Austin. From then on I knew I wanted nothing more in life than to be a successful Music Entrepreneur.

On the way home, I was still thinking about independence and music and changing the world when literally 100’s of Fireworks all started going off in the distance in all directions; every firework like the burst of hope music provides in a world which can sometimes seem so dark. Music has the power to be transcendent: it makes you bigger than yourself, it allows you to transcend your current circumstances, it allows you to give hope and help people you may never meet or be alive to see how you’ve helped, and gives some eternal life by transcending time and space to become true Legends who live forever in their art.  That is why I do the music industry.

Stay tuned for our big announcement this month.

Rockin’ Out with PepperDome and Chatting About What Works For Them

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PepperDome interview – with John, Eric and Vattel

What is the name of your band and how many members do you have?

John: The name of the band is PepperDome and currently there are three members of the band, a drummer that does vocals, a bassist that does vocals and a guitarist that does vocals.

Where are you from?

We are based out of Mebane, NC.

In what genre would you classify yourselves?

Basically we’re a hard rock band, but we’ve got versions of progressive, punk, indie, and alternative influences that come through.

Has it evolved over time or was there a certain sound that you liked and had initially when you started?

It evolved, I guess, because Vattel has a jazz background, Eric is little bit more of a heavy metal guy. I’m a little all over the map, I listen to everything and anything, but I think that’s what makes the music what it is.

What is the collaboration process?

Eric: We kind of tried a couple of different writing styles but right now seems like the one we’re most comfortable with is we’re working on a batch of 3 songs, that is Vattelbrings in something that he’s written and we’ll basically explore that and then I’ll bring in something, we’ll explore that and John will also bring in something.  We’re definitely all involved in writing, but it usually starts with one of us having a core idea, whether it be a riff, a drum beat,  or a metal beat, and we work off that.

Do you ever find it difficult having equal collaboration and contribution?

Vattel, bass player: This situation is one of the most open ones I’ve been in.  Each of us have an idea and if we all band our heads together and make it grow. We all invest in each other’s ideas.  It’s not like I’m more protective of my idea than I would be of John’s idea, or Eric’s idea or PepperDome’s idea. It doesn’t matter who brought in the idea, we’re all more concerned about the end result of what a song is going to be and wanting it to reach its full potential.

John: Basically we have a high level of respect for each other so we understand that as we’re working, if a song or something is not working correctly that we can step up and say wait a minute, something’s wrong here, we have to do something and we will sit down and reevaluate what we’re doing.   Moreso than just saying it’s wrong and there’d be a big battle.  It’s all about the music and what we want to do and again, the end result is the most important part.

Have you toured outside of your area?

For the past year we have been playing shows and touring around probably within an hour and a half radius of where we are based.  Just a few weeks ago we did have the opportunity to head to Tennessee and play in Knoxville and Nashville, but after this album is finished we plan on broadening our horizons and moving out much further–maybe making short weekend tours and try to get out further than the radius we’ve done so far.

How do go about organizing your tours?

Eric: John did most of the legwork regarding the electronic press kits that we send the venues. We’ll e-mail them, send them a press kit.  We’ll have a song and then a lot of press on websites, Facebook, Myspace, Reverbnation. They can review from there and decide if we fit their club or venue or not.  And we’ve also had other bands ask us to play with them.  A lot of networking seems to be very important around this area so that helps a lot too.

You mentioned sending EPKs. What do you include in your press kit?

We have the typical one sheet with the history of the band, we have a couple of pictures, some song samples, a video sample, and there’s actually some interviews and a couple of reviews.

How do you develop your songs?

Vattel: We’ve tried a few different approaches.  We’ve tried starting with a riff or some sort of message idea or scheme or Lego, to put blocks together to create a structure.  Normally we go with what works and get a feel for the lyric and sort of slap that together and bang our heads together to come to some accord regarding what the lyrics are trying to express with our instruments.

What’s the best piece of advice your band has been giving since you started playing together?

We’ve been told to keep writing music, keep experiencing playing together and keep moving forward and really try to meet.  Of course practice makes perfect so the more experience you have with each other, the more you feel how each other plays, the more it makes for better conditions and a better band overall.

What inspires your music?

There’s basically two main themes that are in there–a social awareness of the world around you that could be anywhere from just experiencing life all the way up to some song with a political intent to it or a political message and there’s also other songs that are about self-exploration and how to live to be yourself and don’t worry what other people think of you and to have the strength and power to go beyond whatever restrictions are put on you by society.

If you had a megaphone that you could let everyone listen to one message, what would it be for Pepperdome?

I would say just for people to wake up, understand the world they live in and to be themselves.

Do you have any new releases coming up?

Yes, we are currently working on an album as we speak, almost literally.  We are almost done with what we’re calling the first draft of music.  We’re going to have a full length record by the first of next year, so we’re in the process of putting it together.

And that’s your debut album?

It’s actually the fourth CD in the mix.

How do the songs differ from other CDs?

Vattel: The previous three CDs were written by John himself but he played all the instruments.  This will be the first CD that Eric and I will be participating in the writing of the music so it will be more of a band record than a solo project, I guess you would say.

John: Which is bringing the music to a whole new level.  It’s allowed the music to expand to areas where it hasn’t gone before and hopefully that will grab some people’s attention.

What would you like to say to your fans?

John: Thank you. Keep coming out. We love the support.  We love to see you constantly and hope you bring all your friends.

Vattel: Like us on Facebook!

Anything else you’d like to share?

John: The only other thing we can say that hasn’t been covered already is we are actually looking for a fourth member.  We are currently looking to broaden our horizons and we are looking for a lead vocalist.

Listen to PepperDome’s music now at www.Studio120Music.com/PepperDome

And stay connected with PepperDome at http://www.pepperdomeband.com

The ‘Squeeze’ On Music Education

When I was in fifth grade I remember the best days were when we go to either art or music and we got to paint something or play instruments. Those were the moments that really stuck with me; not learning my grammar in English and not memorizing equations. Recently, Michael Blakeslee, the deputy director of the Music Education Conference (MENC) talked about school board’s making hard decisions like ”What if we don’t start band in the fifth grade? What if we wait until the seventh grade?” He goes on to explain that this national lack of music funding, “has a long-term impact on what goes on in schools with music at the undergraduate and graduate level, and our culture as a whole”

Program Manager at VH1’s Save The Music Foundation, Rob Davidson, explains that standardizes testing has had a “squeezing effect” on the funding for music, arts, physical ed, social studies and other subjects that are not tested. This truly touches upon the fear of standardized tests that we teach kids how to be good test takers as oppose to being creative thinkers. It is ironic that the end result we want is a competitive workforce and so we create these standardized tests to measure the progress and then cut funding for music and art programs to teach to the test even though music and arts education has proven to spur the innovative workforce we desire.

Blakeslee went on to conclude, “The current [Obama] administration has said some very nice things, but most actions have not been favorable to music education.” National cutbacks on music should inspire us to localized solution like www.Studio120Music.com to help music programs school to school, district to district, and state to state. But also think locally about how you could help music programs by holding fundraisers, directly donating, or just volunteering as an assistant.

Music Education Program With South Broward

South Broward High School

South Broward High is a Marine Science magnet school located in Hollywood, Florida. The student population is approximately 2,300 and is very ethnically diverse. In addition to marine science, the school has a diverse art program which includes drama, art, band, and music classes. The founder of the Studio, Jon Kowalsky, is an alumni from this high school and saw the great work that South Broward’s teacher’s and art programs provide for their students.

South Broward High School’s mission is to provide each student with a quality education, in a safe and secure environment, through personalization and a rigorous curriculum. To further this mission, the school has begun revamping their music program with new supplies and instruments. It is critical that this school is able to pay for the necessary supplies to effectively educate their students; and this is where the Studio comes in. From August 15th to November 15th a portion of all download and music subscription revenue will help this school get the necessary supplies for their music program. Simply by purchasing a song, album, or music subscription you are helping to educate the next generation of musicians.

Want to get your school involved with our Music Education Program? Simply, email the name of the school and a contact number so we can verify them for the program.

Get Your Music Heard on College Radio

            Last April, College Broadcasters organized a moment of silence in which over one-hundred colleges simultaneously shut-down their broadcast for a moment. The purpose of the silence was to bring awareness to the lack of university radio funding and the need to adapt to an ever-changing music discovery environment. Stations such as NYU’s WNYU have added their broadcasts to be online as well as on FM stations to expand their relevance. Despite the changing environment in the music industry, college radio remains an excellent promotion channel for the indie universe. The Music Director from WNYU explains that, “We’ve been credited with proliferating numerous bands into nationwide popularity, and with good reason: alternative radio has been, and continues to be, a crucial launching pad for independent artists. The service is inexpensive, if not free, and can serve as vital promotion for a new artist—the trick is getting the MD on your side.”

            Here are four crucial tips for getting your band’s music heard on college radio.

Physical Versions Are Better

I know we all thought digital killed the CD star, but the fact is that most DJ’s prefer to have physical copies in front of them to listen to the music directly. Also, the added benefit of submitting physical demos or albums is that it will enable that radio station to archive your band and your music so that future generations of the station will continue to play and promote your  music.

Know the Station

If your music fits into a particular genre the best thing to do is submit it into a specific program on the station. If you are familiar with the particular DJ from that program, submit to them directly. This is one of the most basic ideas of any communication; know your audience. Knowing your audience can get your music to relevant decision makers and DJ’s more quickly and give them more confidence that you understand the alternative radio submission process.

If You Don’t Have a Distributor Seek One Out

These promoters do more than assist in checking on the status of your submission, whose playing it, and its number of plays. An independent distributor will likely already have an in with the elusive music director you are trying to contact. This independent distributors prior relationship can increase your likelihood and frequency of plays of your song.

Be Persistant Without Being Annoying  

My final tidbit of advice is to be persistent with trying to get your music on without driving the music director crazy. This was general advice given to me by Bruno Del Granado (Ricky Martin’s manager) a few years back with anything in the music business; and it holds true for college radio as well. You need to understand that the university music directors are intensely busy and have lives of their own. Don’t send a million emails and 100 phone calls in two days, you may not get a response that quick, and you may end up irritating that director to the point that he wouldn’t play your music if you were the next Jimi Hendrix. You need to be persistent with your goal, and be patient with the response. I am currently trying to get rotation on WVUM for the band I am managing. So, I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to track down the music director and get them to respond to your emails. Remember, persistent yet patient. It’s a balance between sending enough contact to make sure your band doesn’t fall through the cracks of the MD’s busy day, and being patient enough to let them consider your music for airtime.

Using these steps can greatly increase the likelihood of your band getting airtime on college radio. Can’t wait to hear yall on the airwaves!

Four Fundamentals of Taking your Guitar on The Road

            Just like any instrument a band uses, it is critical to care of the guitars. For independent artists, it is particularly important to have personal guitar know-how because until you make it big you will likely not have the budget for a guitar tech.

To Thine Own Guitar Be True

As independent artists, if something goes wrong with your guitar on the road then it can be very difficult to scrounge up the time or money to get it properly fixed by a professional. For this reason, it is critical that you understand your guitar well and understand how it works. This will enable you do most fixes yourself.

Earnie Bailey, former guitar tech for the Foo Fighters and Nirvana recently gave the advice in an interview to, “Go out and get a cheap guitar and dismantle it, go at it with a chisel, just get a really good idea of how it’s constructed. Once you have that in the back of your mind, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with when problems pop up.” This is the old tried and true method of breaking it down to see how it works. Taking out the frets, digging into the electronics, and learning how all the parts come together can take a broken guitar into the “simple fix” department. Also there’s a wealth of knowledge in books and on the internet on the topic of guitar maintenance and repairs.

The other advice given by Bailey is that it helps to have, “. . .conversations with other people about repairs. It’s nice to know what they’re talking about when they describe ‘the inside lining of a trust rod cavity,’ you know.” Being knowledgeable about your guitar and having conversation with others about guitars is critical to keep your guitar in tip top shape.

Frankenstein’s Guitar

            Once you have this understanding of how all the components work in your guitar you can play mad scientist and fix your guitar by turning it into a Frankenstein Guitar. I like to think of the Frankenstein guitar as the various guitar parts that you put together to fix a guitar.

            Bailey went on to say, “If some repairs are really expensive, like if half the guitar is unusable, you save the other half and mix and match parts until you have a complete guitar again. . .  It looked like Kurt had a lot of guitars, but a good number of them were just the same ones recycled over and over from different components—just the same ones rebuilt and reconstituted.” Being able to resurrect your guitar can extend the life of a guitar and reduce the cost of repairs.

Its Electric, Boogie-oogie-oogie

            Having electrical issues with your equipment in the middle of the show can give the most seasoned musician heart palpitations. However, taking special care of your instrument and keeping in mind that it is an electrical piece of hardware can prevent these problems. Bailey commented that, “Whenever you get a band that sweats a lot, those electronics are prone to a short lifespan.” Also, electric hardware in general is not designed for the wear and tear of a crazy rock show. Being conscious of the moisture and the strain you put on cords and inputs can help to extend the life of your instrument.

Doing the Tuning

The best fixes can all be undone by forgetting to properly tune your guitar during sound checks. Bailey explains that, “Tuning issues are critical . . . There’s an art to winding strings, putting them on, stretching strings, and intonating a guitar to eliminate problems.” Tuning the guitar before and during every performance is crucial to maintain that optimal sound.

Following these fundamentals can help to maintain the quality of your guitar on the road. However, keep this disclaimer in mind, if you’re going to pull a Jimmy Hendrix and slam your guitar in the ground, drench it in lighter fluid, and then light it on fire these tips can only help you so much. Also, if you pull the Hendrix and you’re trying to reduce touring costs, wait until the last night of the tour to set it on fire. Just a suggestion.