Bitchin' Entertainment


Interview With David Hooper

David Hooper Interview - August 27, 2003
by Theresa Yarbrough

BE: Who is David Hooper, the man behind Kathode Ray Music and Did you have prior music industry experience before the organization of these companies?

DH: I grew up around the music business. Did my first session (on a Barney-type album) when I was 7-8 years old, played guitar, etc.

Not a lot of people can relate to this, but in Nashville, music business is what we do. We don't have film studios, Broadway, famous museums, etc.

Played and managed bands in high school, went to get a Commercial Music degree from University of Memphis, and started Kathode Ray Music while I was still in school. We did radio and street promotion, but that later evolved into consulting, 2NMC, books, etc.

BE: Your company motto is, "We make a living helping bands make a living...". That's an honest statement but just how do you gauge your success in helping bands?

DH: The musicians we work with would have to judge their success. For some, they just want to make a living, which is pretty easy. Others want to get major deals, tour the world, be on MTV, or who knows what else. That stuff is a little harder to make happen because it requires more things to come together.

BE: Another catch phrase on your site is, "How I Make $100,000 a year in the Music Business (Without a Record Label, Manager, or Booking Agent)." A lot of folks are going to get excited when they read that but they're also going to ask, "what artists are making this kind of money without a label, manager, or agent"? And your answer is?

DH: "How I Make $100,000 a year..." is actually a book I wrote with a musician doing just that.

Who is making that kind of money? Lots of people. It's not just coming via an electronic bank deposit though. This stuff takes work and we show step by step how to do it in the book. It is definitely work though and anybody who wants to do that well with their music is going to have to put in some hours. None of our methods are "get rich quick" stuff.

BE: There's so many online companies making the same claim in different words and phrases.How do you feel that Kathode Ray Music is different?

DH: We're the real music business online. This isn't stuff like those sites (which are all out of business now) which claim to get your music heard. We're a marketing company and we show you how to get your music SOLD. We're not promising our "connections" or anything like that; we're showing you how to make your own.

I am the real deal and do a lot of stuff offline. Anybody who has seen me speak in person or come to our conference (2NMC) will tell you that.

I think the big thing that separates us is that we don't sell dreams. This isn't easy. We don't say that. We CAN show you how to make it happen though.

BE: Some people view Indie as a genre, some view the term as meaning a DIY ( do it yourself ) artist, and some as an unsigned or local artist. What exactly is an Indie artist?

DH: It means different things to different people. If you mean "independent," that would mean to me that it's somebody with 100% control over their career and not under contract with the major label machine...not that that is bad. Major labels are great for some bands.

BE: As a society, we're used to associating success in the music business to the major labels. In reality, an artist can become very successful without that today. But what really defines success for an artist?

DH: Again, success is different for different people. For me, it's being in control and calling the shots. Some people would say it's being on MTV or playing to 80,000 person arenas. Some people just love the fact that they can play at all.

I think all of these are great answers. I can't tell people what success is.

BE: I've had a lot of guys tell me they picked up a guitar solely for the girls. We're all familiar with the stories of beautiful women, wild parties, and jello baths for rock stars. If that is, in fact, the dream for Johnny guitar player, can it be acheived on an indie level? Can you actually attain "rock star" status without a major record label?

DH: "Rock Star" is an attitude that is in your head.

You can go down to the local bar and pick up women without a guitar. I know a lot of people who do that and think they're rock stars, so I'd say the answer to your question is yes.

And some rock stars don't play music at all...

BE: We're both members of an industry message board where we discuss daily, the goings-on with the majors. The bloodbaths, the lay-offs, the mergers, rosters being cut, sales down, and of course illegal file sharing all seem to indicate that the music industry, as we know it, is in trouble. So I have to ask, "can indies save the music industry"?

DH: I think there was a time when indies really could have done a lot of change with things in a big way...things like Napster,, etc. That didn't really happen though.

But, indies really have changed the business. Saved it? Maybe so.

You can record your own CD with a computer and put it out with a burner. How much? Maybe $500 or even less. That is really, really cool. I hope nobody takes it for granted that every high school garage band has a demo these days.

BE: At one time a major could boast of having a hit knowing the company had just lost millions. For an independent, would the focus shift toward that bottom line? Isn't it true that at the end of the day an indie would be required to ask, "did we make money"?

DH: I think it's on the bottom line any time you have a company. Bills must be paid. Major labels just get away with things a little better because they have ways of cooking the books, writing things off, financing things, etc.

BE: How critical are joint ventures with the majors for incorporating stategies to generate more income in areas of merchandising, and live concerts?

DH: I don't think they're critical unless you're looking to take things to a major label level. Plenty of indies are doing well on their own, entirely outside of the major label system.

BE: Bands today are paying enormous amounts of money for a coveted slot at festivals such as Ozzfest, Hordes, Lollapalooza and Warped. Are these slots seen as important events in breaking an Indie Artist?

DH: I don't think they're important, at least as far as being REQUIRED. They can certainly help if a band is ready for it though. And by ready, I mean has everything else in place.

I could get up and open for U2, but it wouldn't do me any good because I have not played guitar in a year, can't really sing, and am not ready for something like that. Most bands aren't either. They need manufacturing, distribution, and a lot more to really take advantage of something like Ozzfest.

BE: Artists and labels see radio as an expensive gamble that can't be shunned if you want to gain more exposure. Alan Beck simply decided to do it himself by creating and syndicating his own radio show prominently featuring ITP artists. However, not every artist or label can do that; what's the alternative?

DH: Street promotion and guerrilla marketing. You can't beat word of mouth.

When was the last time you bought something SOLELY because you heard it on the radio?

When was the last time you bought something because you heard about it from a friend?

BE: Let's talk about something you've got going on called the Nashville New Music Conference or 2NMC. There's so many conferences going on around the country, what prompted you to establish a new one?

DH: This is our third year, so I don't know that we're new anymore, but we are newer than a lot of the conferences out there.

I started 2NMC because I didn't think anybody was really doing a conference with indies in mind. SXSW is great for people like me, but indies need good marketing info. 2NMC isn't about getting signed; we're about showing bands and musicians how to sell records and make money in music. After that, everything will come into place.

BE: What can an artist benefit by attending music showcases and conferences?

DH: If you come to 2NMC, you're going to walk away with the knowledge to make a lot of money in music without the help of a major label or radio. You'll also get instantly hooked up with people who are doing the same thing and you can help each other out. Connections...

BE: I'm sure the deadline for artist submission is passed for the 2003 event but what can an artist do now to prepare for next year?

DH: The best thing to do is get out there and let people know you exist. If somebody on the selection committee has heard of you and knows you are working hard, they'll let you in.

BE: When and where is N2MC 2003?

DH: September 10-14th at the Doubletree in downtown Nashville. Click here for complete details

BE: David, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak to our readers. Your contribution to the Indie world is much appreciated.

DH: Thanks for the opportunity!! Hope to see you at 2NMC.