This past week I spoke with Kirby Desmarais, founder of Everything Independent (and her husband–see next entry) at Jalopy, in Carroll Gardens. We sat inside the venue/cafe/bar/instrument repair shop beside the stage lined with red velvet curtains and small red twinkly lights.The front of the space functions as a woodworking station, with guitars (both electric and acustic), banjos, violins, and fiddles lining the wall. Opposite the repair station sits an antique red cash register and a matching red espresso machine. To the sounds jazz coming from the speakers and the buzz of steaming milk echoing from the machine we talk about her company, built for a crumbling music industry. Kirby, 24, has been in the music industry, booking bands on the Lower East Side since she was 16. With years of experience, she focused on a problem and took the lead on making a change.
What is Everything Indepdent?
Everything Independent is an Industry Service Provider which covers all aspects of the Music Business.
We customize affordable and realistic music career packages to suit each artist’s particular needs. These packages can grow and change over time as the artist’s career progresses. All of the necessary elements needed to succeed within the music business are available within the Ei network including management, publicity, legal advice, and music production. What separates Ei from traditional record labels and management firms is that our artists retain complete ownership and control over every aspect of their career. Additionally, we NEVER take a percentage or “points” from our artists. We simply guide, advise, and open many doors within a complex and ever changing industry. We work for you!
Here’s what Kirby had to say:
How did Everything Independent start?
It grew on its own. I had a bunch of companies that came to me and said, “if you refer your artists to me I’ll give you a discount.” And I was like, “wait, don’t even give me a percentage, just drop if down for my artists and I’ll send you all of my business.” And it just kind of grew into a company. It wasn’t a concept and then a company; it was a company and then a concept.
Why did you decide to create this innovative model?
There are a lot of artists out there that don’t fit into the major model or the indie model, there are so many artists, I want to give these people an opportunity. It’s about reaching out to the artist and making it affordable for them and giving them a middle road.
There needs to be another route, there needs to be another model. The industry is falling apart and there’s a reason for that. It’s not good. The labels take advantage of the artists and they shouldn’t be like that. There is the independent label and there should be a route where the artists can pay for what they want.
Can artists still be full-time musicians and make a living?
Totally. You’re not going to make money off of CDs. That’s not the way to make money. People download, they burn, the way to make money is to give your music away for free and then sell everything else about you. There are a lot of creative ways. REM, they were the first to give their music away. They recorded their album and on their website they put up a download option where people could download the album for free or give them a donation. They ended up making more money through donations than if they had gone through a label and sold in the traditional market.
What do you think of sites like Fundable and Kickstarter?
Kickstarter is great. I’ve been promoting it for the past two years and I have two of my artists who use it. One of them [The Life and Times] started campaigning and funded the recording of this whole album from it. The Gorgeous Hussies will be using it to fund their tour. But The Life and Times made a lot of money off of it—they needed $2,500 and they made $4,200. So they’re going back into the studio to finish recording in the first week of May.
It really works, that’s the way. You give the music away. You’re recording the album but what they’re really selling is a preview of the album, free show entries, private parties.
What would they be selling?
You create a career off yourself. You make money off of shows, off of tour, merchandise. You can’t copy a t-shirt. Create events around yourself.
How long should a band give themselves to make it?
7 to 10 years. That’s the average for a band to be able to make a living. Bands don’t like to hear that, but that’s the reality. They get jaded before that and so they don’t end up succeeding.
There are always changes with the lineups. It’s going to happen if it happens after two months or if it’s a continual thing. You’re not going to find a band who’s the same as from the time they’ve started. They’re going to go through name changes, people switches, everything.
What’s the most important thing to do?
Plan. Sit down, write goals for yourself, and plan. Take it step by step, a lot of people don’t do that. When new artists approach me, my first question is, “What are your five year goals?” and most of them don’t have an answer. How do you know where you’re going? A lot of people look at music as a different kind of profession, but it’s like any kind of business. You have to plan. And you have to know your business. I make sure that my artists stay educated. I’m constantly sending out e-mails, articles, or blogs about what’s going on in the industry. I recently had an artist that I was working with, that was on a label that was going under, who didn’t even know. It’s the only industry that I feel like people think that they don’t need to know their business. Music is only half of the business.
Photo courtesy of Everything Independent’s website.