For Audio Interviews click on the link below. The first two up are Stop Motion Poetry and Pistols Will Air
Up Close with Rob Jackson of RipStar - Uniting Thru Music
What got you into the music business?
My mom used to sing a lot when I was young. She liked Yes, Pink Floyd, and bands like the Rolling Stones. I remember once standing on a stage in an huge auditorium and imagining it full with roaring fans. I envisioned being in front of a lot of people.
I started out in music because it was a necessity to make more cash at first coupled with positive experiences I had running a grassroots annual event and volunteering in arts organizations. I noticed the events were successful at bringing people together. Gradually, the music events grew larger so I started doing them more often. Soon we pulled over 200 people a month, but after a while I realized I had put my own music on hold for 15 years promoting everyone else and it was time to produce my tracks. I wrote most of my songs when I was a teen. I have about 100 songs. Right now there over a dozen artists participating in the ongoing releases.
I remain in the music business because I feel the fire and it burns to get out. I like making people feel connected and I think I'm really tapping into something magical and I feel compelled to share it. The problem is most artist feel like that. It is up to fans to decide if we make the cut. A few of my songs are getting good ratings. Sometimes, Let it Grow, I'm Wating, Jupiter, Eyes, Like it Here, some of the film tracks. I have a feeling about 10 of the 100 are highly commerical and produced well enough to make it, but time will tell.
You use to promote live music right?
Yes, the Chieftain and Ireland’s 32 were home to RipStar shows originally, but we were hampered by complaining neighbors and that is where I learned the basics of sound engineering. I suffered a permanent injury to one of my ears- a sacrifice for rock-n-roll. Brendan, Ireland 32's owner committed suicide after losing his bar. It was tragic. The fourth venue to fail mainly due to politics after being in business many years in the City. I often have my own engineers, photographers, models, and tons of bands. We ended live music almost entirely in 2013, but now it is starting back -up, but more on a referral program to larger events and festivals, with the exception of my mostly private showcases in the venues and studios that sponsor us.
Now were focusing on releasing products so later we can sponsor live events and have greater controls over the situation. We have four studios on the east and west coast and some great bands helping this year. An article just ran at http://www.comingupmagazine.com our newest sponsor.
It sounds like a tough business?
For the bulk of the band business you either blow up or break up in the first year while fewer than 3% of all acts make it 5 years and only a handful go on making a living in music. In fact, most that do succeed past the local level, see their success in a span of 5 years and then it fades unless artists adapt into teaching and sound engineering or composing jobs. When you do live events you see artists at different levels in it for different reasons. All we can do is try to give them the best possible experience. Sponsors are really important as that allows us to lower event costs and pay the bands better. Getting sponsors and keeping them is not easy either.
Why did you start off with a label idea?
Initially, I wanted to publish my own songs, but then I met a disabled artist named Rainbow. He had some interesting music and art so I tried helping him record it on his four-track- which he later gave to me. I got hooked as a recording artist and just better over time (I think) .
How are audiences responding?
Thousands of people are visiting the list at http://www.ripstar.cfsites.org/ and millions of listeners have come across our international promotions campaign. People reading this can hear tracks off the 2007 compilation at www.reverbnation.com/label/ripstar We know it really boosts the moral of bands to get some radio play, but the bottom line for most acts to is selling product or getting retained for live shows. Platforms like Spotify, Pandora, Soundcloud have really changed the music business in my opinion. For consumers, I think it is a plus because you get more for less, but for artists it gets hard to make higher production quality music unless you happen to be wealthy or funded from the start. This is why the sponsorship model is critical these days.
Do you still work with bands?
Yes, I recently booked a punk band called Elegant Trash and a folk bluesy rock star Joshua Cook from SF Bay Area for a live performance in SF. Also, I am still recruiting bands to cover my tracks because I love to collaborate and share resources with other bands as they reinterpret the work. I was recently helping movement people set up fundraisers with larger acts. We have about 3 stages right now with keys to venues holding 150 to 10,000 people, but I'm not really here to serve the already famous. I picked serving the smaller acts a long time ago for a reason, because they are underserved and many of the bands are just as deserving as the well known bands that already got a break. I like helping the underdogs fight for their own opportunities and present them a geniune challenge for a foot in the industry.
Any words for those you served in the past?
I would really like to thank the community. I had a chance during this very upsetting recent skate accident to reflect on who I am and how I would like to improve RipStar. Now I'm investing again in the community and asking others around me to invest because we can only get better through intelligent investments in each other. The community invested in me and I'm continuing to build a stronger foundation to support other artists. I am still holding out with a conviction that more must and will be done to improve our legacy as a people on the earth. I've made mistakes along the way, but who hasn't.
What are the ten best things you think bands should do to thrive in the music business?
- Invest as much as you did in all your gear across a variety of promotions companies to see which one fits for you, but do a lot of research in advance. You can’t manage them if your unaware of what they could be doing for you!
- Don’t be afraid to compromise your sound to conform a little to make pop hits if that allows you to make more real expressive art later down the line.
- Don’t compromise on the recording quality- 9 out of 10 acts don’t produce high enough quality stuff to get real radio attention….quality is important.
- Don’t thin your crowd- ever and stay in venues you can fill unless you get good opps from larger bands to open or get hired for private parties. Find partner bands to tour with and open for and invest in that opportunity if you must it is much more fun to play in front of steady crowds and build your fan base, but make sure your crowd is truly crossover.
- Don’t be afraid to sign contracts, go get legal aid for artists. I’m a paralegal and there is nothing less attractive to me than a promising act that won’t sign stuff because they think all contracts are shady before they even read and understand it.
- Some personalities are better for fame than others…..ask yourself some serious questions about being a star and living that lifestyle, try talking with others who did it to see what advice they can share with you about maintaining yourself in the face of that road. No path is identical, but it helps if your vision matches your reality and if you make some practical milestones to ensure your on track and have a back-up plan at all times in your pocket. There is nothing like having to face a failure of to grand an idea later in life…..because you can’t buy back time.
- Be indie for as long as you can mange it and have trusted people running it, then if opportunity presents where a fair deal from a major is on the table take that. Demand a fair deal from a major, Prince did it- if you are liked by the public enough so can you.
- Play every show like it is to a stadium, one person can change your life….but if you learn anything from life it is that when your not driving your own life, devastation is around the corner. It comes for us all, so walk with appreciation.
- Study all hit songs from the ages on record, there are common elements in them musically, structurally, spiritually….model them, borrow from good teachers. Live presence is as important as song delivery.
- Focus on stage swaps and building fans, never burn bridges or under- estimate the power of even a single fan. This business is built on a cross between having talent, timing, persistence, and the demands of your listeners.....so be nice and stay real. If you make it give back to the fans maintain the connection to your roots. The road can be a lonely place, but also an opportunity to get to know yourself and those along the way. Avoid the temptations and stay focused on the music and the fans. Take care of yourself!