Interview: Luke Rathborne Discusses Running His Label, New Single, & More

Rathborne (aka Luke Rathborne) has been writing and recording music since he was 17. He packed up his things, migrated from Northern Maine to New York City, and wound up working under a famed Tin Pan Alley producer for a short period of time.

With an affinity for hip hop,  R&B as well as pioneers like the Velvet Underground (and everything between), Rathborne’s indie rock is tinged with influences of all sorts. He’s received critical praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, SPIN, Q Magazine, BBC 6 Music, The Guardian, and VICE, who explained Rathborne’s sound as “laid-back, confident new wave-meets-classic rock cut containing just the right amount of Nick Lowe and early R.E.M.

We’re proud to say that Rathborne has been using TuneCore for over five years to distribute his music. He’s got a true DIY mind state, which likely contributed to the start of his own label, True Believer. We talked to Luke about his influences, the state of the music industry, and his upcoming single, “Losing It“, which drops tomorrow on iTunes! He’s got plenty to say, and can serve as an educational figure of sorts for indie artists on the start of their own musical journeys:

Your music moves in and out of sounds, from proto-punk to indie pop. Who were some of your earliest influences? Who have you been digging more recently?

Luke RathborneI think in the beginning influences were coming from all over, which is pretty much how I embarked on my first record. I was 17 and played the majority of things myself, with help from a few friends. I can’t explain why but I’ve always had a bit of a restless feeling if I stay in one place too long.

Lately all I’ve listened to is R&B from early Prince, Sly & the Family Stone, to some of the newer trap pop coming out. I stumbled upon There’s A Riot Going On recently and have that and some other things on repeat.

Songs like, “Pale Blue Eyes” and, “Candy Says” were documents to me as a teenager that could tell you how to live your life and be more open.

Early influences were of course the Beatles and the 60’s stuff, always had a hankering for Van Morrison, and the kinda things you hear on the radio as a kid. The Velvet Underground set me in a different direction. Things will jump around from O.D.B. to the Cramps to Bruce Springsteen. It’s all music.

Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Future – that stuff pretty much knocks me out. There’s a vitality there in the trap stuff that’s gone from alternative music.

Tell us about the journey from Northern Maine to New York City. How did it live up to expectations?

Northern Maine, (near Jackman, ME) was somewhere I only lived in the summer and (occasionally) winter time. Where I’m from in Maine is more of a proper town than those areas. To be honest, it was so long ago that I moved to the city that I can barely remember the years of moving here as a teenager.

I think New York City let down my expectations in its propensity towards finance and fashion triumphing over art. Walking through a city block, it’s much more a triumph of money and capitalism than any kind of meaningful human triumph.

In terms of what I’ve found in relation to the industry here, many times a brand decides to devalue music and musicians, by exchanging cash behind closed doors on the backs of artists. We’re almost in a position to Re-value musicians and their time, like we’re transgressive and going back in time to a period of the business that is buried in history.

It’s something you’d expect to change, but there’s this attitude of, ‘If you don’t do it someone else will‘ directed at the musicians that can be difficult to walk away from, especially for people trying to create future opportunities.

I’m not any kind of authority on anything I can just tell you my own experience.

What kind of tips would offer to a young indie artist making a similar move early in their career?

You don’t really need to move anywhere these days. Focus on your art and what makes you happy, and find something that can pay the bills! I was just reading a theory that the Swedes became such powerful songwriters, (a large percentage of the Top 40 hits each year are written by Swedish folks), because they are so isolated from live performance and must focus completely on song.

Never underestimate where your journey might lead.

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You’ve worked with a Tin Pan Alley behind-the-scenes legend Joey Levine. How did that come about and what was the experience like?

Joey Levine is a cool guy. He produced my song, ‘Dog Years‘, years ago. Doing the track(s) together was pretty similar to working with other producers, though in retrospect I think Joey thinks in a big picture and is more old school; he’s looking to get the engineer to embolster the overall feel.

I was an assistant at his studio years ago and someone who worked there gave him my first record, After Dark. I never would have given it to him myself, not in my nature. I also recall it being written in the job application not to do that.

What inspired your decision to start your own label, True Believer? What was your experience in the world of indie labels prior to its launch?

I decided to start my own label because I realized I had a very unique way of doing things. It can be a lot of work but I enjoy engaging on that level and I find it can be interesting to be your own proprietor. Music is such a personal thing, I don’t know how many people out there know me better than myself.

How has running your own label impacted the way you view the music industry of today? How have services like TuneCore assisted in the development of True Believer?

Straight and simple TuneCore – and I apologize to those not in the ‘industry’ who read this – does NOT take a percentage of what you make. It’s a one-time payment and you own your masters. ALL of it.

In the past, ‘larger entities’ and distributors have made me offers sometimes eclipsing up to 20% of what you make, (and occasionally more if there’s a label involved), in exchange for providing their ‘services’.  As an individual representing myself, it’s easy to get lost in the fold and not be able to challenge these folks for not making good on their initial promises.

Often times, what you’re left with is that their services can boil down to something completely identical to what TuneCore offers, except then they have a piece of what you make.

There’s a huge attitude coarsing through the veins of the entertainment complex to make artists that you think, ‘might do something‘ offers with incentives towards signing their distro/record/agency deal. Those can be different things, sometimes cash, or some other kind of exposure.

It is the unfortunate truth that in so many cases, these incentives are not met and it’s a kind of ‘camping’ by the organization on an artist’s rights in the hopes that they could ride a train of the artist’s personal work and profits – in the unlikelihood that they are able to catapult themselves on their own accord. 

In a sense, it boils down to a white lie. Set a large enough trap as a distributor/agent/label/publisher and you’re bound to get someone that sticks.

Keep in mind: this isn’t malicious. It would be pointless to be. It’s just the way it goes.

In so many ways, I wanted to philosophically get away from those principles. In the music business many times someone shows you one hand they’ll play but they don’t have the intention of actually playing it. TuneCore, in this case, lets you bypass even being at the poker table, cause it’s a long wait at that poker table, and nobody ever makes a bet.

You’ve racked up over three million streams through True Believer so far. What were your initial feelings toward the shift into music streaming?

That’s true! Can you believe it!? I can’t. Streaming is unavoidable. The royalty rates will change. They’ll have to. I was the kid on Napster, Soulseek, whatever. I would download all the music I could because I loved it.

When you think about it, that’s three times the population of the state I came from, Maine. 

I don’t think it’s possible my grandma listened three million times.

What do you say to artists who might be disenfranchised as a result of this newer method of consuming independent music?

Stay disenfranchised. Always. There is a war going on between the people making the thing, (yourself), and the people selling the thing, (the music business.) 

Don’t let yourself or what you’re doing be undervalued. Be courageous and believe in what you’re doing. 

Don’t put yourself in a perilous position and take care of yourself; watch out for the fakes. Have FUN.

Tell us about your single, ‘Losing It‘. What are you going for instrumentally, and what kind of story are you hoping to tell?

‘Losing It’ was a song inspired by that Paisley Park kind of feeling. I love the way the electronics and other pieces just kind of drift over each other, and especially the bridge with the tiny tinkling keys! I used a tiny Casio to play those.

The story kind of ties in with the upcoming new album as a kind of aimless drifter, losing his cool.

What plans do you have for 2016 in terms of new music and taking your label to the next level?

2016 I hope to get off my ass and kick this thing into high gear! Here we come world! There’s more than a few surprises on the slate for the label, you’ll just have to stay tuned.

Interview: DJ & Producer Ryan Farish

We’re fortunate that artists of all genres – from gospel to hip hop and blues to indie rock – choose TuneCore when they want to sell and get their music streamed online. The origins and popularization of the house music genre dates back over three decades ago, but anyone with a set of ears knows how much it (and its sub genres) has exploded over the past five years. Many DJs and producers have been able to gain a name for themselves quickly, but there are plenty who have been on their grind far longer.

Ryan Farish falls into the latter of those two. An electronic artist, producer and DJ, Ryan boasts multiple Top Ten Billboard charting albums, a co-writing/production credit on a GRAMMY-nominated song, and a growing number of song placements licensed for TV shows, films and commercials. With a combined 60+ million YouTube views and his critically acclaimed recent album, Spectrum, (released earlier this year via TuneCore), Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions about his background, influences, the industry, and the electronic/house genre.

What were some of your first introductions to dance and electronic music?

Ryan Farish: I first fell in love with electronic music in 2000 when I was introduced to it on a website called My first early influences were ATB, Paul van Dyk, Enigma and BT.

How old were you when you began producing? What drove you to embark on a career in music?

I began producing music professionally at the age of 24, but I had been recording music with tape decks and an old Korg 01/w keyboard for many years before that. I can remember writing my first song when I was 10.

You’ve been making music during a span of rapid change within the industry. How do you feel your genre was impacted by changes that took place during the mid-2000’s as an independent artist?

It’s been all uphill for electronic music. With all the technology and stores like iTunes, Beatport, Amazon Music, and then the rise of social media, it has allowed other genres besides just pop, rock, and mainstream music to be accessible to the world; and that has really allowed some great music and genres, as well as the sub genres of all kinds of music, to have a chance to be heard.

Tell us how the advancement of YouTube has affected your growth as an artist.

It has had a tremendous impact. Fans are able to share, and collaborate in a sense with their favorite artists, and this has been a wonderful experience for the music to reach as many people as possible. I am constantly blown away by the quality of the fan videos that are made for my songs, and these videos made by the fans play a huge role in helping spread the music.

What do you consider to be some advantages that young producers have in 2015 that may not have been available to you when you got started?

The technology and recording tools in the box, the computer, have come a long way, in terms of the sound quality of the software available such as soft synths, plugins and samplers, and more powerful computers which have become more affordable. With hard work, self education, and the heart for the music, there really is no limit to what you can create today, right at home.

Conversely, what are some of the challenges facing artists looking to break in 2015?

There is just so much music out there. This is why I am always encouraging up and coming artists and producers about the importance of creating your own unique sound.

How has a service like TuneCore played a role in your musical journey thus far?

TuneCore has been very valuable, for several reasons. TuneCore has allowed us to select which stores to send the releases to. Also, the user panel is very easy to navigate, and since we are a label with a lot of releases, it makes things simple for our office to calculate and distribute royalties.

As a multi-instrumentalist, what are some of your musical influences outside of the electronic genre?

The Pat Metheny Group, Coldplay, U2, and Empire of the Sun.

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Tell us about what you were going for on Spectrum. How has it differed from past releases?

With Spectrum, I really came from a place of just creating for the sake of creating. Fearlessly pursuing the sounds, and emotions I felt and wanted to feel in the music. I think when we pursue music and art with this kind of authenticity; we are really able to tap into the full spectrum of who we are as artists. This is where the title for the album came from, and I believe this principle works in a similar way across many areas of our lives.

You’ve got some serious experience under your belt at this point. What major lessons have you learned when it comes to marketing a record like Spectrum that a younger Ryan Farish could have benefited from?

It’s really important to have a unified vision for an album, and a sound. It’s easy to explore many directions sonically, but it takes discipline to put together a solid musical vision. There is no substitute for this, and it’s really important starting out that you identify what you connect with the most musically, discover what you can contribute to music as a whole, not try to copy others, and try to stay focused on all that.

Got any advice for young producers who are in the midst of releasing their first album, EP or single?

Release it… and move on to the next. Your tenth song is most likely going to be better than your first song, so keep writing. I’ve worked in the studio for many years, with a lot of talented writers, artists and producers, and we have a saying, onto the next, when we finish a track.

I can remember back in 2008, after winning a Dove Award, and I celebrated with one of my co-writers of that song for about two hours, then we said… ‘Onto the next.’

Music is an ever evolving expression of life, which is why it’s so important to move onto the next track, the next idea… the next release. Keep moving, keep dreaming, and keep living the music. Being an artist isn’t something you do, it’s something you have to decide and commit to being, and live the music every day.

Artist Management Series: Adina Friedman

As we continue to plow through the month of July, we’re thrilled to offer the third installment in our “Artist Management Interview Series”, this week featuring Atom Factory‘s own Adina Friedman.

Adina comes to the plate with prior experience working for Atlantic Records, Warner Music, and the Artist Organization. On top of that, she has assisted in the management of April Smith, The Dig, Madi Diaz, and pop sensation Meghan Trainor. For the past few years, though, Friedman has focused her attention to the day-to-day management of the phenomenal talent (and TuneCore Artist) Lindsey Stirling.

We got the chance to chat with Adina about her experience as an artist manager, Atom Factory, working with a successful independent artist and more:

How did you begin as an artist manager? What is your method of choosing the artists you work with?

Adina Friedman: I kind of fell into it by default. I was working at Warner Music in New York when I began working with an artist I became musically obsessed with, April Smith. I began helping out and it led to a management role. I quickly realized it was something I really wanted to do. I got a great opportunity to work for John Legend’s team at the Artist Organization, so I left the label side of things.

Moving from the label system to a company like Atom Factory, how has the way a manager/artist relationship begins changed in the last 5-10 years?

Especially with artists like Lindsey, it’s so involved. Since she doesn’t have a label, it really means we’re the manager, the label – pretty much everything. It’s a very close relationship and we put trust in each other. You really have to possess the ability to look at things from all different levels – especially if artists don’t have a label. I had the background of working at a label, how they operate, and the different things they look for in setting up a release. I think managers today have to know a lot more than they did years ago when they had the labels to rely on in terms of marketing and overseeing a release.

What are a couple of the key lessons have you learned as an artist manager over the years?

I honestly think I learn something new everyday. The industry continues to transform and the reliance on digital and social becomes increasingly apparent. There’s no plan that fits every artist – you have to cater to them individually. I think with Lindsey, she’s breaking new grounds everyday and there was no path that was pre-written for her.

In terms of the first year of an artist/manager relationship, what kind of role does a manager play in overall business development?

When we first started managing Lindsey, she only had digital distribution (via TuneCore). We had to find the right team members across the board; including people with the right relationships in place to say, get her music into a Target or a Best Buy. We wanted to retain her digital rights, which is why it was so great with TuneCore. It’s also important to find the right publicist and marketing team. – even down to finding the right directors and producers for videos.

Being such a ‘digital artist’, the most surprising thing was how she translated in the physical world. We weren’t sure how she was going to do in record stores, but we quickly learned her fans want to have their hands on physical items, too.

In your experiences, what are some of the biggest misconceptions of an artist manager’s role(s)?

That they’re going to create every opportunity that the artist gets. I think Lindsey is a tried and true sample of creating her own opportunities instead of waiting for someone else to come along. I think a manager should help create opportunities, but it’s about working hand-in-hand, and when both parties create opportunities together, the manager is able to take it further.

Similarly, how would you pitch the main responsibilities overall to a potential new client?

I think in some ways managers are like a marriage. You need to take the time and find the right fit, while also jumping on the right opportunities before they’re gone. It’s the all about finding the right balance; you need to get to know the person – and artists want to know what you can offer and what experience and services you can bring to the table.

We have a big team at Atom Factory, and we can let them know the services we offer, and take the time to learn about their goals as an artist and how we can help them achieve them. Hopefully both sides align there and you come to the conclusion that it’s a good fit for both.

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When managing an artist who is without the resources of a label, tell us about how you go about assembling a team to help move their music forward.

I think it’s really important to put the right team in place. When an artist doesn’t have a label, there are a lot of pros and cons. In the case with Lindsey, we can get the right people on each facet of a release, but on the flip side the artist has to pay for it. We have a pretty diverse roster and can leverage opportunities and relationships for other artists. One thing labels do really well is they have a lot more funding and are a much bigger machine. That’s the kind of leverage that creates opportunity, with radio especially, for example.

How important, in the case of an artist like Lindsey, is remaining ‘independent’ in 2015?

Honestly, I think part of what makes Lindsey so great is that she’s independent and I don’t know how she’d do if thrown into the label system. I’ve heard great feedback from so many of our partners that we’re able to react so much quicker because there’s not a long approval chain for every little decision. Also, she’s a constant content creator. She’s churning out content every single day, so if she had to deal with the restraints of a major label, it’s not like you can just release a video whenever you want. You’d have to go through the approval, funding, sign offs – I feel like you’d lose part of what makes Lindsey so great as an artist.

When it comes to being presented with a label deal for an artist in 2015, what factors do the artist/manager team have to take into consideration?

I think you have to look at what the label is going to bring, what their strengths are, and if it’s a good fit. If you’re an artist, sometimes it’s completely the right way to go, and for other artists, sometimes it’s really not. You really have to understand the value proposition and make sure you’re getting the right offer. It’s almost as important as the relationship with the manager – you’re giving them rights to your music, the work that you created, and putting your trust in them, so you have to feel good that it’s the right relationship and you believe in what the label is offering you.

How important is music publishing when it comes to maximizing the revenue from an artist’s catalog? What role does the manager play when it comes to staying on top of royalties?

I think with someone like Lindsey, it was really important to at least have a publishing administration deal because of her large international base. If you don’t have someone collecting that, you could be leaving money on the table. I feel it’s important to retain that publishing as long as you can and if you’re going give it up, it should be for an important reason – whether it be for an advance for a record, or you believe this publisher can get you the syncs or co-writes you need – it’s all about starting this relationship at the right time and getting the value out of it that you should be.

Have you been able to identify the differences between a company the size of Atom Factory can make on an artist’s career versus other types of management companies?

I think its somewhere in between – we’re small enough to give artists the attention they need but we’re big enough to offer unique services that not every management company is able to offer; especially in terms of digital, creative, and touring services. I think Atom Factory has been really smart about growing the company and taking on artists that we have the resources to manage.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years as an artist manager?

I definitely want to continue to grow as a manager and take on more clients. It’s all about finding the right artists at the right time for now.

Interview: Music Supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas Talks Sync Licensing

When it comes to the music industry, one of its most complicated and often confused components is publishing and licensing. Mechanical royalties, neighboring rights, performance rights organizations – for independent artists, it can seem like one big gray area!

While TuneCore Music Publishing Administration is here to help you collect worldwide royalties and answer questions, we know that one of the most tantalizing aspects of publishing is landing synchronization licenses – or in other words, getting your music placed in movies, television shows, ads, and video games. The notion of ‘selling out’ has become a relatively antiquated term for artists who want to get heard and make money.

Each month, we catch our readers up on our pitching efforts and license placements for TuneCore Artists/songwriters, but to give you closer look into the world of ‘synch’ licenses, we interviewed accomplished music supervisor Amanda Krieg Thomas (Format Entertainment). Amanda works with directors, producers and artists on a daily basis and has coordinated/supervised music on projects like Pitch Perfect 1 & 2 (Universal), Fake Off (TruTV), Grace Stirs Up Success (American Girl/Mattel), The Other Woman (Fox), and Beyond The Lights (BET), and has placed TuneCore Artists’ music. Enjoy and take notes, TuneCore Artists!

What led you to pursuing a career as a music supervisor? 

Amanda Thomas: I kind of fell into it – I moved out to L.A. to pursue writing and producing, film, TV, etc. I took a job assisting the music attorney at Lionsgate with the idea that if I learned this part of filmmaking, it’d lead to other things. I did that for over a year, working with contracts and legal, and I’m so grateful to have gotten that nuts-and-bolts knowledge. I was about to leave music because I realized I didn’t want to do just the legal side, and I didn’t know if I could work on the creative side, you know, I loved music, but I wasn’t a ‘musical savant’ or anything. That’s when I got the opportunity to work assisting the Head of Film Music.

I remember we were working on a search for a movie, we were pitching all sorts of stuff, and the director had lots of ideas. I remember being in her office and her saying, “These are funny, but what would the character really listen to in this moment?” And it just clicked for me – this idea of character and story, and telling that story with music. I had studied theater and film, and I worked on a lot of musicals, so storytelling with music really resonated with me. That’s when I decided that this is what I wanted to do.

What kinds of relationships have been vital to build on both the music business side and film/TV/advertising side?

Pretty much ‘all of the above.’ I’m the type of person who says ‘yes,’ especially when it comes to meeting people. It’s made my life easier to be friends with people sending and pitching me music – it’s always saved my life. The publishers, people at labels – the joy of collaborating with people I like and respect is a big part of why I want to stay in this career field. There’s a strong sense of community.

But on the other side, the key relationships are definitely the people who are making content – films, TV shows – it’s really those people who hire me. Overall, you never know what is the relationship that’s going to get you the furthest and pay off. Be friends with everyone, and be grateful, because you never know where that amazing opportunity is going to come from.

Given your well-rounded resume of television and film, has there been a project that stands out as your favorite?

For me, there are projects that I was proud to be apart for slightly different reasons. Pitch Perfect 2 is a project I was a member of the music team for. The Pitch Perfect films are probably the biggest projects I’ve been involved in. They really valued everyone’s ideas and it was a very collaborative environment.

Also recently premiered is a TV show I worked on for 7 weeks in Georgia called “Fake Off” (TruTV). It was totally out of my comfort zone and also a combination of my weird skill sets: it was basically performance, illusion, theater and storytelling. I oversaw the creation of the tracks the teams performed to, which were largely combinations of existing instrumentals from production music libraries, crafted together into cohesive, 90-second, performance pieces. It was an amazing experience and I got to work with really cool people.

Aside from value and/or ‘buzz’ factor, what are some of the benefits of placing music by unsigned or independent artists?

Budget is certainly big. I’m still building relationships so I still work on plenty of low-budget projects. Personally, the feeling when you find an amazing new artist and the excitement when presenting to a director is great. While it’s obviously fun to place an artist I love, I don’t start with that.

I start with what the director’s priorities are – so it’s refreshing when directors are excited about lesser-known music, from a creative standpoint. Some directors get really jazzed about the unknown artists or songs no one has heard of, but some just want what they know and like.

What are some of the most common mistakes you see independent artists make when they want to approach or pitch to a music supervisor?

That could be a whole other article! First thing I’ll say is you’re always going to be better served having someone else pitch your music with those relationships in place. Focus your energy not on cold calling/email music supervisors and studio executives; focus your energy on researching the right opportunities and people who can get your music where it needs to be. It’s so much more effective to find the right team and partnerships.

It’s not a ‘common mistake,’ but I would say be open to low-budget projects. I know it’s tough because you don’t want to give music away for free (really you shouldn’t have to, again another article) – it’s a personal decision – just make sure to evaluate the big picture. Is that music supervisor working on a lot of projects? Is the long-term relationship worth it? Personally, if I’m dealing with an artist directly, I’ll remember if someone does me a solid, and I’ll call them again.

One mistake is that people get pushy and ask for a lot of feedback or follow up every week. Those are two things that make me cringe. In terms of feedback, I’m listening to it for the most part basing it on what I need at that point, so I don’t have time nor do I feel qualified to provide that. Also, research is appreciated. At least be aware of what a supervisor has worked on. You’re being polite and showing that you’ve done your homework.

How do you discover new music on your own time?

I always feel so backed-up in what I get sent, that even when I get artists and albums that come through that make me say, “Oh my God I wanna listen to that!” – it still takes plenty of time to get there. I have a lot of friends in PR or music journalism, so I tend to listen to them a lot in terms of keeping my eyes out. They’re the ones who can predict whose going to break. I love having them in my life. They’re the ones who are plugged in on who people will be talking about. Twitter also comes in handy for this; when I see an artist name pop up again and again I pay closer attention. I also discover openers I haven’t heard of and try to get to shows early when I can. It’s those fun, unexpected, discoveries that make this job exciting.

Interview: Michael Christmas Talks Indie Hip Hop

Boston born and bred MC Michael Christmas (aka Michael Lindsey) has been making a lot of noise since the February 2014 release of his debut mixtape Is This Art? (via TuneCore). From blog love via staples like The Fader, Complex and XXL to sharing the stage with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Action Bronson, things have been moving fast for the curly-haird self-deprecating rhymer. With deep-cut references to the Dave Chapelle Show and Arrested Development and a never-ending search for tacos, Is This Art? dabbles in light-hearted humor as Christmas faces the realities of being ‘broke and young’ while sharing slices of his story growing up in the neighborhood of Roxbury.

Additional 2015 singles like “A.D.H.D.” and “F**k Wit Me” (via TuneCore) have proven that Michael Christmas shows no signs of letting up this year. He’s working on a new project and took some time to chat with us about his rhyming style, finding his lane and repping a city not known for its hip hop stars:

First off, congrats on the success of 2014 and Is This Art? Tell us a bit about how you jumped into hip hop as a middle school-er.

Michael Christmas: I started in 7th grade through my after-school program. They had a “club” where you could learn to make beats and write raps. I recorded my first song there and immediately fell in love with rapping. I think that’s why I did so bad in school, I’d just write when I was supposed to be doing work.

You’re an artist who can flow and write without taking himself too seriously. Why do you think self-deprecation and a sense of humor have earned you fans the way it has?

I think it’s because we all go through these things and feel these things. It makes you feel like you’re not alone when someone brings up a problem that you’ve been through. That’s why stand-up comedians get so much love, they bring a lighter side to everyday struggles that you can relate to.

What kind of indie marketing and promotional efforts went into making the release of Is This Art? successful?

Honestly we just knew we needed to make a great project. We released two videos for it and a lot of hints using Instagram pictures of me over great art pieces, and then we dropped it. It was a fun roll-out and it did really well for my first tape.

What business or marketing lessons did you learn along the way?

I think the best marketing lesson I’ve learned is to just be authentic and eventually you’ll gain the kind of following you deserve. A lot of young artists will market themselves in a very specific way to build a fan base as quick as possible, but end up losing their identity early on by doing so. We’ve just put out quality content that represents me being me and a pretty cool fan base has followed.

With the exception of MCs like Guru, Edo G & Mr LIF, Boston isn’t exactly known for churning out big names. How did growing up in Roxbury impact both your writing and career growth & development?

One thing I didn’t realize my music had until I moved west was an East Coast influence. I talk about buses, trains, cornerstores and things that they don’t have as much on the West Coast and don’t talk about.
Everyone knew my dad in Roxbury, too, so they’d always ask if I was his son or stop me and go, “You look just like your father.” So I always felt safe I guess. It was fun! More than anything being from Boston and getting out made me realize how much people want to see Boston win. Everywhere I go I meet people from there that are glad to see it’s moving forward.

What advice do you have for young MCs and producers trying to break in smaller markets like Boston?

Right now is a time in Boston where the younger artists are very motivated and excited. There’s a real energy at home. So my advice is to find other artists that are serious in the city, (and also good and motivated), and keep building relationships. That’s always been the issue: no unity – but I think we can do that now. This summer especially.

You’re a good example of an artist keeping it DIY and moving quickly. What kind of role has TuneCore played in developing a greater fan base?

TuneCore has been great because it’s allowed us to get my music to listeners who might not be all over blogs, Soundcloud, YouTube, etc., all without the help of a label. We’ve approached everything with an independent mindset and TuneCore gives us that reach we might have needed to sign a deal to have gotten otherwise.

It’s obviously been a pretty big year for you. How have you adjusted personally, going from releasing your first mixtape to touring nationally and receiving love from major music outlets?

I haven’t really adjusted at all – I’m just so happy to be doing all these crazy things and working on this next project so I don’t need to adjust (laughs). Always on my toes. Life is like an adventure/prime-time sitcom.


Interview: S3RL On Collecting Worldwide Royalties

S3RL (aka Jole Hughes) is a producer, DJ and musician based in Brisbane, Queensland who caters to a dedicated  base of house and rave music fans. Specializing in ‘UK hardcore’, a genre that evolved over the ’90s as house and techno music took on more complex layers, beats and breakdowns, S3RL has released and distributed dozens of singles via TuneCore since 2011. Around that time, he established EMFA Music, his own label, and beyond needing a distribution partner, S3RL was seeking publishing administration support as well.

Given his location, a widespread fan base, and the need to collect worldwide royalties from his songs, we’re psyched that S3RL calls TuneCore his publishing and distribution home! We got the chance to interview the busy producer and catch up on how publishing administration has been a vital part of his musical journey so far:

What made you curious about TuneCore’s Publishing Administration services initially?

S3RL: When I first established my label, I needed a distributor and after researching a few companies TuneCore came out on top by far. The publishing administration TuneCore offers is the best there is for what I’m looking for.

How were you collecting and managing your songwriter royalties before becoming a TuneCore Music Publishing Administration client?

I was doing it all manually myself. I had multiple labels to deal with and even more stores to keep track of.

Were there any surprising sources of revenue that you discovered upon entering into a publishing deal with TuneCore?

Well, most recently it would be YouTube.  I knew there would be a decent income from YouTube but no where near as much as it ended up being.

How important is the ability to collect royalties internationally to you?

Very important. My main fanbase is overseas so getting international coverage is vital.

What has been the most lucrative publishing revenue stream for you?

Overall it would be iTunes, then followed by Spotify.

How has the royalty collection contributed to the momentum or development of your musical career?

It has been a very important contribution. I’ve been able to focus more on aspects of music I would have normally had to put aside thanks to TuneCore taking care of the ‘paperwork’ side of things.

What kind of trends do you see when it comes to publishing among artists in the UK hardcore scene?

A lot of arists in my (relatively small) scene are trying to cover these aspects themselves. I have recomended TuneCore to a lot of them and they have all agreed it’s the way to go.

What’s an educational tidbit you’d share with independent artists who may be confused by music publishing?

I’m still confused about publishing myself so I’m probably the last person to ask when it comes to educating others about it. I’ve always seen it as the part of producing that ‘I don’t want to know about’ [laughs]. That’s another reason why I’m with TuneCore.