Sunday, September 22, 2013

Why I Lead

People ask me from time to time if I look for talent. They ask if I ever approach artists who I find interesting and ask to work with them. They wonder if I make “back-end” deals with artists to make sure I get a piece of the action once they get going.

Eric with Pedro Simoes
And to each of these I answer, absolutely not. They look at me quizzically, wondering why in the wide world of sports would I ignore the way it’s been done in the music business for the past century? It’s lunacy! Don’t I know the way to make it big in music is to find a talent and ride it for all it’s worth?

Well, I’m sorry. That just doesn't appeal to me.

And this is the part where most readers drop off…oh well, he’s not going to help me get signed, make me a star, or become the next big thing. On to the next Google search!

For me, it’s about leading music artists and songwriters. It’s about helping them grow, walking through the development process together, and watching them blossom for years and years.

“Leaders are meant to help others become the people God created them to be. They are called to discover the hidden, encourage the uncertain, develop the untrained, and empower the powerless.” – John C. Maxwell

I have been and still am a songwriter (and sometimes artist). I know what it’s like to hope, pray, and dream of finding people to work with that will not just understand what I am trying to do, but happily assist me and want to see me succeed. And not just for the money, but for the joy of working towards quality.

The players, designers, and engineers I work with that have been doing this for 20 or more years are not just fans of quality, it’s all they know. And I LOVE being able to offer that to the people I lead. It’s one thing to listen and consult, it’s another to offer the kind of quality that you really can’t get anywhere else.

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren't used to an environment where excellence is expected.” - Steve Jobs 

People want quality. When they hear their song in their head it sounds like the radio, but that’s not always what they get when they go down the street to dude’s house with the cool setup in his basement. (And I know, I used to be dude in his basement!)

Instead the musicianship, creativity, and experience that the folks we have at our disposal help in the very leading I want to do. And it is why I don’t have to only work with the diamonds in the rough that just need a good demo and a hot 8x10 to get noticed. Anyone who has a song to sing or write is worthy in my book to get the absolute highest quality service and sound for their ministry.

“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” - John D. Rockefeller 

Friends, don’t be afraid of your mediocrity, God isn’t. It’s a starting point. You don’t start at the end result. You come with the talent you have, and grow it from there. And everyone starts at the beginning!

So, I’m kind of cool with my role. I feel like I have helped hundreds of artists start, grow, and find their own version of success, and I have found mine too.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” - John Quincy Adams 

Have a great week!

EC
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Eric Copeland is president of Creative Soul, a company that helps Christian artists develop and follow their creative dream. For more info, check out http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com. For more on Eric Copeland, his music and mission, check out http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How I Started My Next Life (And Became a Music Business Zombie)

I am a music industry zombie. I am one of the teeming masses of independent music people who have invaded the music industry and began turning them into people like me.

How I Became a Zombie

When I dreamed of how I would find my Next Life, I was working a regular corporate job and doing music on the side. I had been a professional musician for several decades by this point, but the thought of trying to support my family in music was scary and seemed impossible. The only people I knew that lived doing music full-time were just barely making it. I had a wife and kids to feed and mortgage to pay. The time for fooling around was back when I went on the road with that Holiday Inn lounge pop band in the 80's...but that's another story.

I had managed over a decade to successfully make some money and have fun with my music on the side, working out of my home studio, and maybe going out to local studios. During this time I met a producer who worked with artists regularly and seemed to live somewhat comfortably. I saw it was possible, but it took leaving my comfy corporate job to kick start me into music full-time.

Note: I am not condoning a lifestyle or career decision here, it's just what happened to me. Those were lean years at first. Lots of Ramen noodle eating and fretting about where mortgage would come from. But I managed to take a part-time music business producing artists and doing music arrangements and turn it into a full-time successful and now thriving 13-year-old business that is what you see today at CreativeSoulOnline.com

I had started going to music industry conferences around that time, especially those geared towards "independent artists". These were offered by the GMA on the Christian side, and other conferences on the secular side. In those days (mid to late 1990s) indies were viewed as complete wannabes. All the classes were "How to meet a producer" or "How to get signed" or "How to find a publisher". The idea of being a working, successful music person (or business) was not taken that very seriously at that time, as the only ones doing it successfully were in the Southern Gospel or Urban Gospel genre, or were die-hard singer-songwriters or rock bands that toured every blessed night! It was all about being discovered.

But it all changed around the turn of the century when the CD re-buying frenzy began to wane. There are great books about this like "Appetite for Self-Destruction: The Spectacular Crash of the Record Industry in the Digital Age", or anything by Derek Sivers, whose company CDBaby helped change the entire industry (and spread the music industry zombie virus). Steve Jobs also helped with iTunes and the iPod, almost singlehandedly beginning the end of the CD, and with it the music industry's grip on sales.

By the mid-2000s it was obvious things were changing. Labels started downsizing, and everyone started looking for work.

I just kept doing the work I had always done, working with independent artists and helping them make great albums and find success. We were the tortoise that just kept on slow and steady (duh, zombies).

In 2004, I met a Grammy-winning engineer in Nashville who listened to what we were doing and said, "You need to bring your business to Nashville. It will change your world."

So I did. Up until then I had operated in Lexington, Kentucky, a nice sized town. But Nashville would present a new opportunity to work with the very best of the Christian genre. It would also be a great place to spread the virus.

Up until now, my particular virus had been constrained to the Bluegrass, but once we arrived in Nashville, the floodgates opened and artists started coming in droves to work with the very best in the Christian music world. Players, engineers, studios, and finally producers, who for years had been exclusively working with the major labels, were lining up to work for us. Every day someone new was (and still is) knocking on our door to offer their services. Why? They have been turned.

The music industry is like that fortified stronghold you see in zombie movies. A small contingent of folks stay inside, locked away from the growing hordes of the undead. But some zombies (like me) had found a way inside and were slowly turning those folks into people just like me – people looking to work and make a good living working for whoever needed our help.

So, here I am now in Nashville, one of the busier folks as others that had found success early in the old business model find that system no longer works in the real world.

I’m a music business zombie, but I’m a working music business zombie, in a world where there are more music zombies than music business people. And I think I’m okay with that.

Feel free to join me anytime you're ready to turn...

EC
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Eric Copeland is president of Creative Soul Companies, a thriving music consulting, production, and marketing business outside Nashville, TN. For more info on Eric check out http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Conversation with Music Producer Eric Copeland

From a recent interview with MACKIE, a Christian Entertainment News Magazine. 

MACKIE:  How Long have you been involved in the entertainment business?

EC:   Well, I used to go to dances my father played when I was a kid and watch his band. Also, I was in church choirs and marching bands that traveled extensively as a teen. But I have been doing gigs professionally (both live and studio) since I was 18. In my early 20s I lived in Chicago and worked in several bands and with vocalists, but it wasn’t until the early 1990s that I began to work seriously as a producer for artists. Since then it has been a steady build of our music production and artist development business now known as Creative Soul.

MACKIE:   When did you know that you wanted to be in this business and what was your motivation?

EC:   I was always creative, and just naturally made stuff, whether it was songs, stories, comics, drawings, or what have you. I don’t think I ever really knew what a “music producer” was until the 90s though when I met another producer who worked in the Christian music business, and I began to see that someone could do this for a living. Since I started seriously writing songs at 13, my goal was to become a working songwriter. I now realize that dream, inside of my production business for clients.

MACKIE:   Who has helped you along the way and inspired you the most?

EC:   The aforementioned producer helped and mentored me very much. I've had many great mentors here in Nashville too. I truly believe in the mentor/apprentice mode and mentor several young producers now myself. My parents were both musicians, and completely understood my passions and goals, so they were a great help. My wife of 23 years though has probably been my most faithful supporter though, as well as challenging me to keep things real and pay attention to my home life and family, and not just “the music business”.

MACKIE:   What are some of the highlights of your career so far?

EC:   Highlights continue daily. Since I work with independent artists, every project and ministry we assist is a highlight. We've seen countless lives touched and saved from the work we do for artists. To be honest, the ability to be here in this point in my life, making a good living in this work after 20 years while others are trying to find work is probably the greatest blessing. I also have been blessed to pursue personal projects recently that have done quite well.

MACKIE:   Have you received any special awards or achievements?

EC:   We have received a few awards here and there, including a national Telly, and many of our artists have received awards from various contests. But our greatest achievements are what we create every day. We consider each album that we finish, each ministry we help establish, and each creative artist we help grow our finest achievements.

MACKIE:   Do you have any special events, shows/gigs coming up?

EC:   We are working on a very special project called “We Are Creative Soul” that features 15 of our artists and is a celebration of what we do here in Nashville. We are co-producing it  with legendary producer Phil Naish (Steve Curtis Chapman, Point of Grace), and it is a very big project with a bunch of new music. It will be a audio, video, and graphic project and should be completed in the next few months. We’re really looking forward to it.

MACKIE:   Where do you see yourself in the next 5 or 10 years?

EC:   I would imagine I will be close to where I am now, still serving artists and growing ministries. However, I also know that moving into higher realms of creating is my personal goal. New personal projects, books, and developing ideas has always been my passion. Creative Soul is running more smoothly, and I could see one day handing the reins to someone to continue this work and putting my entire focus on new creative projects. But I love teaching, coaching, and leading, so that will likely be part of the next life also.

MACKIE:   What would you like your legacy to be?

EC:   I think we have already been instrumental in leading the new industry of independent Christian artists, helping establish a new music business order. No longer is the only way to be a working, worldwide ministry  to get “signed” to a label deal. Artists can follow God’s lead and get started, and make a very high end project and promote it to the world, and that is what we help people do.

MACKIE:   Do you have other interests?

EC:   I also write fiction, and am an avid sports fan, especially basketball. I play, watch, write about, think about and crave basketball. Love the NBA, but get it honestly since I was born and raised in the hotbed of college basketball, Lexington, Kentucky, home of the Kentucky Wildcats. I also love to read, play PS3, and watch entirely too much TV.

MACKIE:   Any special words of encouragement or advice for our readers?

EC:   No matter what your dream is, no matter what the longings of your creative soul, work tirelessly to achieve them. Spend time working on your creative talents, no matter what anyone says or does to discourage you. God gave us these gifts to use for His glory, and we have a responsibility to use them in that way.

If you can’t do it yourself, find someone to mentor you, to talk to, and to guide you. Talk with your pastor, your creative friends, or come talk to us. But go after it. You probably already feel the Holy Spirit telling you, leading you, and prodding you to do this. It’s not about fame or fortune, but doing God’s work through the talents He has given you.

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For more on Eric Copeland, see his personal website at EricCopelandMusic.com or his Christian music production and artist development site CreativeSoulOnline.com

MACKIE, Christian Entertainment News Magazine is a division of Taylor Bear Productions, a DOLERN Media company.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Good News, Bad News, Interesting News

I was surprised to learn a recent music brand of mine had apparently made more money than I spent on it.

So, that's the good news. Yay...

The bad news is that it took a year and a half to get to this point. The return was through product sales, downloads, royalties, and live appearances and sales.

The interesting news is that in research from CDBaby (which also collects all monies from iTunes, Amazon, etc), digital sales (meaning downloads) made up almost 60% of the sales. Meaning for the first time, I made more selling downloads online than I did selling CDs.

Now, I do not count this as the death knell of CD sales (see this blog...), but it does show that download sales are not a little thing we do along with our physical product sales anymore. (Although adding in live CD sales at shows, CDs still win out as the main money maker. Live is still where CDs are king).

So, if you are wondering how specifically I accomplished making back the money I spent, the first answer is: I didn't spend alot. I was lucky to trade out most of the costs of making these products. I did spring for one moderately successful radio promotion, but after judging the first return from royalties, that will not come close to paying for itself. The single made the top 30 of Billboard, and got decent spins, but not hit status (top 10).

While I haven't done an enormous amount of marketing, I did pay for a Facebook Ad that grew the Facebook page into the thousands (over 5.000 now). I'm not exactly how many of those people bought the CD, or even follow the page.

I also have been doing Jango.com and marketing to those listeners every month. I can add those folks to my email list if they give me their email address. Jango is very cool! Plus it's just nice to know people are listening and liking.

I have also been very careful to put up a free download at Reverbnation each month and grow my email list that way.

Now, I will also say with no modesty or braggadocio that the music brand is very good, and very well done on all fronts. It sounds amazing, was mixed by a Grammy-winning engineer, played by the top session players in Nashville, and the photos and design are top notch. So quality-wise, like I preach alot, it stands up to the competition of the industry.

Frankly, I think all brand campaigns are a hazy mystery to why some things sell, and why others don't. All I know is I followed this strategy: Make a great product, make sure as many people knew about it and how to buy it, and keep working it.

I could work it more and have more success, but the first goal is to make back what you spent on it, and we are there.

Thought you might like to see the results and how it happened.

EC
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Eric Copeland is a music producer, and sometimes, yes Virginia, a music artist in his own right. His contemporary jazz music brand Player A released an EP "On the Side", and a full national CD called "Our Own Devices" in 2011 to rave reviews and apparently some success. Find out more at http://www.PlayerAJazz.com or http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Ones God Brings Me

Often times my wife inspires great blog ideas. She doesn't do it on purpose, and generally would prefer not to be the named culprit of any epiphany I have. But it happens...

And it happened today.

We watched a recent movie with Steve Martin and Jack Black where they were bird watching (sorry, "birding"). And today while we were out in the front yard, we heard a bird call and were watching it. I remarked how I could see the fun in trying to go to certain places to see birds like in the movie. 

She just shook her head and said, "Nah, I'm happy just to see the ones God brings me."

That made me think of how God brings artists and songwriters to me. As you may or may not know, besides these blogs (macro and micro), I don't do alot of "reaching out" to folks for business. I have always just put my site up, made sure people can find it, and then just waited to see who God would bring for me to work with.

It's much more fun than trying to snare artists into recording by some contest or approaching them in some way about working together. Most all my contacts come from people who found us online (search engine, social, or blogs), or were referred to us, or heard what we had done for others.

I think this is a much more honest way to work with people, especially in the kind of work we are doing. It's important that what we do is God-aligned, and spirit led. This means that I won't be right for every artist, and vice-versa. That makes growing the business hard, and I often wonder why I can't work for everyone. 

But God has the master plan, and has told me to quit trying to "fix" it and just go with HIS flow. That's a tough one to obey, because we often feel we have these talents and abilities He gave us and we could do so much...but He sometimes has to gently hold us back and remind us that His time is perfect.

My way of obeying that is to put the word out there for folks to find, and see if it feels right to them. If they feel that Creative Soul is right for them and their ministries, then we can start down roads together.

So that's why I don't go "birding" for artists, and never will. I prefer to stay right here in my own yard, and wait to see the ones God brings me.

Hope you have a great week!

EC
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Eric Copeland is not an avid birdwatcher, and does not support the Bird Watchers of America Guild or any such group. He does play Angry Birds however, gets birdies often in Tiger Woods golf, and likes "Fly Like an Eagle" by Steve Miller Band. 

To find out more about Eric Copeland and his company Creative Soul, please go to http://www.CreativeSoulOnline.com

Monday, May 14, 2012

What If There's Another Way?

And I'm not saying there is...but what if there was a different way to do this art/music/creative thing wedo.

Not a contest. Not a lottery. Not a showcase. Nothing you win by luck, skill, or chance.

But a new way, that's really the old way.

What if you were offered a chance to build your music life the way you want it, with a company you trust, a quality product that is incredible, and a promotional plan that is feasible and actually workable.

If you had that, and had to pay for it to get it, would you take it? If you owned everything afterward?

We're entering a new phase in the music world. Pretty soon, someone is going to figure this out and the music "industry" will change from only the 'special, lucky few' artists, to the every artist. Because there is an audience for every artist.

There's too much out there for there to be a new Rolling Stones. So everyone will have to be small and niche. The labels are going to get smart eventually like they did with online. They WILL come around.

When they see this other way, this way of working with everyone, there will be room for plenty at the table, and not just the winners.

We'll all win.

Have no idea what I'm talking about. Leave a comment and let's discuss.

EC
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Eric Copeland is a forward thinker and yeah, maybe wishful dreamer. But he's been working steadily for 12 years with artists and songwriters outside the crumbling walls...For more info about Eric check out http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Writing What You HAVE to Write

Sometimes there is no reason behind a song you write.

I don't mean there's nothing behind the lyrics or the inspiration for the song, I just mean it may never be a song that is meant for any kind of recognition, fame, or even sharing.

That may sound strange, but sometimes I think we all put too much expectations on the songs we write, paintings we paint, blogs we blog, or anything we create. We do it and wonder, "I can't wait to see what THIS does!"