Musings in Cb: Online Music Distribution (Is Anyone Really Listening?)
Part 9 of 12: Interview with George Kahn
Artist: George Kahn
Location: Culver City, CA
Primary Website URL: www.mp3.com/georgekahn
Primary OMD site URL: www.cdbaby.com/gkahn
[Chris Burnett] How long have you been utilizing the Web for Online Music Distribution?
George Kahn Since May 1999
[Chris Burnett] What goals do you have with regard to utilizing the Web for Online Music Distribution?
George Kahn 1) Get my music heard by people without having to suck up to the record industry
2) share my creativity with other people as well as other musicians
3) earn money from cd sales, downloads, listens, muzak-type library services
[Chris Burnett] How successful have you been utilizing the Web for Online Music Distribution? How do you measure success?
George Kahn I have had over 160,000 downloads or listens over the last 3 years from my site. I have sold CDs in Great Britain, Japan, South Africa and throughout the United States. I have gotten gigs from people finding me on the internet. I consider this a success. I pay for my web site service fee every month from money generated from that site. I consider this a success.
[Chris Burnett] How have you adapted to the ever-changing environment while utilizing the Web for Online Music Distribution?
George Kahn I try to stay on top of things by reading what is going on, and constantly updating and networking from my web site. I also try to just stay with the biggest players (mp3.com, CDBABY.com), as I think they will have the most chance of survival, and so I won't have to keep bopping from one place to another. I keep it simple, and don't spread myself too thin. I invest "sweat equity" (in other words, time on the internet), as opposed to spending money buying ads or chart positions.
[Chris Burnett] How important has the Online Artist Community, your fellow musicians, been to your efforts while utilizing the Web for Online Music Distribution?
George Kahn Totally necessary. It has been the support of people like you, and Phil Traynor, and Derek Sivers and Damian Hager that have made it work. Like any business, it is who you know and how you network with them.
[Chris Burnett] How much time, on average, per day do you spend promoting your sites?
George Kahn I used to spend an hour or two a day, five days a week. Now I only do it about an hour every two days (about 4 hours a week total.)
[Chris Burnett] If you listen to other unsigned artists work online, why and how often do you do so?
George Kahn Yeah, I will poke around MP3.com sometimes, looking for new stuff. I actually check out almost every song that someone emails me to listen to.
[Chris Burnett] What is your favorite company among those currently available to unsigned artists on the Web for Online Music Distribution?
George Kahn MP3.com for listens, CDBABY.com for sales
[Chris Burnett] Why is the company above your favorite?
George Kahn MP3.com has the largest community, by far, so there is a lot of energy there. CDBABY has the best and simplest system for selling CDs and getting paid, and has great management - people that seem really dedicated to independent music.
[Chris Burnett] Do you actively participate in musician community message boards? If so, why and what benefits do you believe that you have received from such interactions with other online musicians?
George Kahn NO. I do participate in making and listening to stations on MP3.com, which I have found to be a great way to network and expand my listeners.
[Chris Burnett] 2-Part Essay Question: Based upon your proven experience as an online artist; what, if any, potential do you believe remains in the use of OMD sites for unsigned musicians? And finally, how do you plan to use OMD?
George Kahn I guess this again comes down to how you measure success, and what do you expect to get? The POTENTIAL of OMD is just beginning. I still believe that record stores as we know them are dinosaurs, and most music in the near future will be at least HEARD FIRST digitally, and that will (hopefully) lead to sales. It worked fine for EMINEM, Green Day, and others. The phrasing of the question makes it seem like a leading question: are you asking if OMD will help an "unsigned musician" get a record deal? probably not, as the record companies don't seem to give much credence to online activity so far.
But this leads to a deeper discussion. Most any intelligent musician with a record deal will tell you that a record company is just like a bank - they "loan" you money to create and promote your product, and then they collect the money back - with interest - as the sales come in. If there is anything left, sometimes the musician will be lucky enough to see some dough in the end.
Now having observed that, I don't want to be the musician, I WANT TO BE THE BANK! So I don't expect or want OMD to change me from an "unsigned" to a "signed" musician. I am already signed, to my own record company and publishing company.
Oh, by the way, Chris, I am glad your interview didn't directly talk about "gaming" the internet for music promotion. That is a REALLY tough area to approach. When you think about it, all entertainment promotion is "gaming", whether it is payola to the radio stations, or getting Jennifer Lopez on 5 magazine covers the same month, or EMINEMS record company getting lots of free publicity by announcing that they are releasing the album a week early to combat "internet piracy". Soundscan has cleaned up some of the "gaming" of the numbers that appear in Billboard, but I bet people are still manipulating that system too - it is human nature to find a way to "beat the system" when a system is created. The key to the success of almost any business is marketing, and music is no different. We are all trying to find a cost effective, direct way to get to our target market. I am not supporting illegal methods, I am really just saying that (like political contributions) it is often the people with the most money that get the most notice. That is the way it is, I guess.