Everything Independent, a view from the inside

While at Jalopy, I also spoke with Mark Desmarais, 31, Kirby’s husband and “silent partner” who gives her some insight into the world of musicians. This is what he had to say about Everything Independent:

I’ve done music for a really long time as well. I’ve  been in bands, some touring, some not. From the aspect of the musician, a traveling musician, I have a little better insight into some things than she does. All I ever do is offer advice, I never make any decisions for her or with her. All i do is support her, I’m a silent partner per se, but it’s totally her business. It was her idea. She started doing this in 2003, 2004 when she was doing rock promotion down on the Lower East Side [she started doing this when she was 16].  She’s always been involved with bands and so it kind of stuck.

The business has evolved into different formsand into its latest shape which is basically a co-op of all the worthy connections that she’s made over the years. If you’re an artist who’s looking into something in particular she’ll tailor to your needs, as opposed to artists selling out their rights and royalties. Her artists still own their music and have control over it while getting the same support and expertise that they’d get from a major or even smaller indie level. They’re retaining everything they need.

So if you’re a band and you’ve already got someone doing your PR and you’ve got a recording studio but  you need entertainment law, she can set you up with that. You can pick and choose what you need because she’s got pretty much ever single aspect that a record label would offer. She never takes a percentage of your earnings. It’s a good platform for artists to step onto to get to the next level or to do business the way they want to do it and not having to go through a million contracts and lots of different people and end up pulling money after they record an album, that’s how the music industry was for the longest time. You’d get a big grant up front to record an album and the next thing you know you’re making pennies or less for every album sold.

What her business model is, you pay up front for what you need, she works to get you that, and she puts you in contact with, say, an entertainment lawyer, for a pretty reasonable rate, as opposed to signing away what you don’t have for a lot of stuff that you probably don’t need. So far it’s been a success. She’s not really in it to get incredibly famous or incredibly rich.

We both are avid music lovers, as you can tell by this venue. We live right around the corner so we come here as often as we can. It kind of sold us on the aptartment, actually, having this amazing little venue, tucked away in the armpit of Brooklyn (which is where the battery tunnel meets the BQE–Brooklyn Queens Expressway). We just love live music, and there’s something about it that you can’t beat, and there’s nothing that interests us more than going to hear or see or even creating live music. Kirby’s not too musically inclined, but she can still play a mean triangle, or even a mean set of tambourines.

What inspired her to start this?
Not to speak for her,but  in my opinion she’s always been around it. It’s just her passion–being involved in the music industry. There are two types of people in the music industry, there are the business savvy people and there are the musicians. The musicians are very talented but they’re always late, and the business savvy people are there to keep them on time and organized. (Not all musicians, but I know I am.) She’s the other half. She doesn’t need the publicity; she’s just absolutely content making them happy.

I would have to say that the quality of the radio music in the early 2000’s even to 2007, the stuff that was released and was crammed down everybody’s throat, was probably enough to make everybody say “what is going on with this industry? why are we being force fed this junk?” She just happened to come up with this idea based on other people’s business models and she tweaked it to make it really be what it is today. Nothing was going good in the music industry and change was on the horizon. Especially with this new media, with the internet and being able to hear artists on your phone. If you’re a booking agent for a club and you wanted to hear an artist, you can download it on the spot, which going back 10 years ago, you’d have to work as a band, and your team would have to work for you getting demos and press kits. So the industry’s gotten saturated and she’s using that as an advantage but she’s also putting everything on a level playing field. Although an artist might not have the recognition, their sound quality is the same or better, to what’s readily available to people traditionally. The way the major labels were running, how unfairly they built an industry that had nothing to do with talent.

How did she get the business to become sucessful?
By making every possible mistake that you can imagine. I don’t know how many times she’s been threatened by legal action, she’s always had her bases covered, but it doesn’t mean she hasn’t made mistakes.

By hanging around with musicians, and going to shows and promoting shows, that’s how you learn all this stuff. You’re either born to do something like this or you’re not, and she’s just one of those people that has been born to do something with live music.

Who is she working with?
Clearly she’s working with Lawrence and Leigh. She’s also working with a one-man-band from Australia, his name is Richard Perso. He’s going on tour from the 14th of May to the end of July, starting in the Northeast and heading all the way down south and then skipping over to LA and doing some shows there.

There’s this kick-ass band from Brooklyn called The Life and Times Of—they’re everything a rock-soul band should be. I can’t even explain how good their live show is, it’s one of those shows that you go to and you feel like, wow, you actually feel emotions watching that band play which is very, very good.

She’s working with a band called Heavy Water, and this really cool pop-punkish band out of California called The Greener the Better. They remind me of Blink 182 but in a good way. And another band that’s from Salt Lake City, Utah, called the Gorgeous Hussies. From what I understand, they’re really cool guys. They’re really business oriented, in a good way that they have made this career and they do it well and they somehow juggle that with all having families at the same time. If you’re going to be a musician and you can do that, that’s amazing. They are a pop-rock sort of band, comical in sense, solid music overall.

How possible is it to become a working musician?
One thing that holds everybody back is security. Everyone one has certain things that they can’t live without, creature comforts, I guess you could call them. Everyone has to pay their rent, or for their car, and some people aren’t willing to make the sacrifice in order to have music to become their career. They don’t want to take the risk of losing what they have already. We have this friend in the U.K., he doesn’t have much money, but he absolutely loves what he does and he plays roughly 260 shows a year and he is by far one of the happiest people I’ve ever seen in my life. I know other bands from where I’m from in Canada that are practically penniless, but are so happy. It’s possible if you’re willing to give up what you have.

But what about making a living, is that possible?
Absolutely. There are plenty of bands that do this, that have their tour schedule that brings in their money for the year. Of course, you’d have to get to a certain level; you’d have to have a steady sale of records either through a label or on your own that would justify the guarantees for the clubs. Bands rarely make money on CDs through distribution. They make money on their guarantees and their merch sales, but there are quite a few. You never hear them on the radio, you don’t see them on MTV, but there are definitely quite a few.

If you’re driving down the highway and you see an older-model van with a trailer on it, chances are it’s a band or a church group. And even if there’s a sign that it’s a church group, it’s probably still a band cause a lot of people do that not to get pulled over by the cops. There’s a whole subculture of people in vans that go from venue to venue to venue playing shows pretty much all year round and live to get to the next place. And it’s gotten more into the spot light in the recent years, the whole kind of bands-in-vans kinda thing. Some people couldn’t live any differently, other’s have dreams of rock stardom and dream of flying to every gig.

How has the Internet affected these small bands?
New forms of media have definitely helped the lesser known and underground bands. In a way, its gotten rid of the counter-culture. Because if the cool thing to be is being involved in the counter-culture then there really isn’t a counter culture anymore. It seems like the end of the line, and that’s where Kirby has tried to come in. She’s trying to be against the counter culture, but also be against the pop-culture and doing things the traditional way because she’s found a better way. The major label system was idiot proof, but I guess she just built a better idiot.

How did Everything Independent get its name?
She started in 2007 under the name Everything Independent. Everything Independent, it says it all in the name. You chose everything that you want independently. You don’t get thrown a package that you paid for that you don’t need. You chose everything separately. It’s also a little play on words because it caters to independent music.

About Samantha

Samantha Tilipman, 19. NYU double major in Journalism and Psychology.
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