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Indie Touring and How To Build Your Team with The Suffers

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The New Music Business with Ari Herstand - Indie Touring and How To Build Your Team with The Suffers' Kam Franklin

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.
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Indie Touring and How To Build Your Team with The Suffers

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Joining us this week on the New Music Business is The Suffers’ lead singer Kam Franklin. The Houston-based soul band have performed nationally on The Late Show with David Letterman, The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel Live in addition to speaking with Ailsa Chang and Ari Shapiro on NPR’s All Things Considered, Brené Brown’s “Dare To Lead” Podcast, Samantha Brown’s “Places To Love”, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and National Geographic’s “Texas: Spirit and Soul” short film. Both Forbes and Vice have also featured Kam for her activism and business ventures that seek to create a more equitable and inclusive environment in the arts for black, queer, and femme artists working in all mediums and from all backgrounds.

05:44 Welcome
07:22 Breaking down The Suffers’ recent tour and state of the live music industry
20:43 How The Suffers maintain relationship with their fans
24:44 Addressing master and publishing deals in the “Yada Yada” music video
30:54 How a 10-piece band splits their royalties
38:08 Streaming algorithm and release strategies
44:01 Sync opportunity with Brené Brown’s podcast, Dare To Lead
45:51 Philosophy about bringing on team members and guiding forces throughout career
56:40 Final question

Edited and mixed by Maxton Hunter
Music by Brassroots District
Produced by the team at Ari’s Take

. . . . . . . . . .

Ari: Kam Franklin, welcome to the show!

Kam: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Ari: Definitely. So, um, I have to, I have to tell you a little story, uh, and then we’ll, we’ll really jump into everything else. But, um, so I was at South by this last year and I was at the, the recording Academy party, um, outside. And it was, um, I was, I was on my way out and I was, I was just about to leave. Um, I was at the Four Seasons in the backyard there, and, and then I was just like yanked to the stage by, uh, like what I was hearing, and I just like gravitated over there, um, because you had started playing and it’s, it’s like rare. I mean, South Bay is like, always has the history of discovery and everything like that. And we, we know that, but like, The sufferers was one of my favorite discoveries, the, my favorite discovery of South by this year. It was so much fun, and I, like, I caught that show. I stayed for the whole set. Um, and then I, it’s like one of those cases where when bands play so many times over, uh, the week that you can kind of maybe catch a couple more. And so then I caught the final show that you had, um, that weekend. And, uh, it was, uh, it was a great time. And, and so it was, um, yeah, it was, it was, um, it was a lot of fun to kind of like experience, you know, discovery again after of course, you know, =being like two years packed, you know, away and, and being away from live music and away from south by and all of that. Um, so that was a lot of fun for me.

Kam: Awesome. I love hearing that.

Ari: So I’m actually glad that we’re talking now because, uh, you just finished, uh, a solid run of shows, I guess, for the last few months or so. And yeah, , I, we, you know, we, I’ve been talking to a lot of people in the live music industry and, and, uh, booking agents and talent buyers and promoters, and it’s kind of a shit show right now across the industry. And I’m curious to hear your perspective and your take. Like, how did this tour go? How did these run shows go? How did the US shows go? How did the Europe shows go? All of it. Gimme the real sauce here.

Kam: The real, real sauce gets me in trouble sometimes, and it’s why you’re in times. Like, I know, and in times like these, I’m like, Damn, will it fuck up my bag to tell the truth? Um, more than it already has sometimes give me the truth, but it’s, it’s a mixed bag. Okay. I will say yes, yes. in a lot of places, it is a shit show. Mm-hmm. , it’s not a shit show everywhere. Okay. Not a shit show everywhere. Um, there are a lot of people being overworked. Hmm. There are a lot of people being underpaid. There are some people being paid and not doing the work. Hmm. Uh, , I, I just came off of two and a half months of touring in a year where we were one of the first bands to come back and really tour independently. And I’ve seen everything from, Hey, your show is being canceled because there weren’t enough tickets sold. Mm-hmm. to. Hey. Yeah. The ticket sales are low. Only to find out that the ticket link actually went on sale three days before we got there. Oh my God. Uh oh. Yeah. And the fans were the ones to tell us this, and so that was, Whoa. Yeah. You, you I never thought I would see a promoter get yelled at, uh, by fans and not by like, . It. It was, it was, it was a long tour. Um, there were also some slam dunks in some new markets, uh, that we weren’t, we weren’t planning on at all. Um, and shout out to Portsmith, New Hampshire. Um, Amazing. I know, right. But, uh, , there were other places where. We’d never been there before that, you know, we were just like, Look, we know we’re gonna take a loss on this Europe mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And we know we’re gonna have to like fight to get back into this market when it is time. Yeah. Um, but I will say it was worth every dollar lost to get back over there. Having not been over there, especially as an NIE in almost five years, I think a little over five years. And it’s frustrating to hear about independent music because what really is considered independent nowadays. Mm-hmm. , you know, does it, are you independent if you have a licensing deal with the major? Mm-hmm. , are you independent? If you have a licensing deal with anybody? Mm-hmm. , are you independent If you’re getting help, Like what, what really determines that? And I know that’s not really what the conversation is, but I think No, it definitely is. I think that it has to be asked at the same time because. if you’re not asking those questions, it’s like ignoring the middle class. And if you don’t look at those mid-tier artists that can barely come back to work right now. Yeah. Even though it’s just as necessary to their mental health and livelihood to play live as it is to, you know, the folks that play every week or the folks that play every night, or the folks that are only on the grandest of stages. Um, a lot of people are not gonna survive this. And I think what we’re all being told in terms of oversaturation is really, really one-sided thinking. Hmm. If, like, I really do think it’s one-sided thinking. I do think that yes, we’re in terms of traditional touring. We can’t think the way that we once did. It’s, there’s very few bands that are out here doing, um, you know, first ti time ever tours and selling out rooms or groups that don’t have, uh, you know, hits out right now, be that online or on actual radio filling rooms. It’s mm-hmm. , I feel like all of the traditional rules do not matter, but at the same time, there are some people out here absolutely crushing it. Yeah. Um, and is it because they have money? Not necessarily. Cuz there are some folks that have the biggest budgets out there that aren’t doing that great. That are seeing rooms, uh, not get filled up. And I don’t think that now is the time that we’re gonna really see the analysis or data that we truly wanna see because all that we have to compare it to is, One year that’s not even finished. Mm-hmm. back on. Mm-hmm. . Um, and a lot of people are honoring contracts from 2019. Right. So in terms of like , in terms of like whether your record came out or you had a good year, it doesn’t really matter. Yeah, it doesn’t really matter cuz like all the things that would be traditional are not to play and some of those contracts haven’t expired and some of those artists can’t fulfill them or some of those bands don’t exist anymore. Or some of those artists are not able to tour in the capacity in which they once were or Sure. Some of them are so big that, sorry baby, you just got bought out by X Corporation that needs them more right now. Yeah. And so you’re seeing with all of those things happening, you’re seeing a lot of forced industry shift where a lot of people that used to run shit, I’ll be shocked if they’re running the same shit that they. This time, two years from now,

Ari: I, Yeah, no, absolutely. I’m, I’m curious, um, because yes, we have been hearing a lot about Oversaturation. Um, as you know, Pollstar came out with some numbers, um, like last month saying, you know, 2022. If you look at the macro scale and the macro numbers, best year on record, believe it or not, you know, and it’s like the, the highest revenue generated across the industry. Uh, ticket sales have gone up, et cetera, et cetera. But those are like the superstars and that’s what’s generating kinda those macro numbers. And then when I talked to more of these mid-level indie artists, the touring artists, even the clubs I like, we had, I saw you played the Brooklyn Bowl. We had Paul Bocker, who’s the talent buyer of the Brooklyn Bowl. And on the show, and you know, across the board, they’re just like, it’s, what’s so crazy is like, okay, yes, there’s the oversaturation. Everybody gets back on the road at the same time. And so fans now have to decide like, , Where, where are they gonna spend their money and what shows they’re gonna go to.

Kam: I mean, that particular night, it was us at Brooklyn Bowl. Mm-hmm. or Nathaniel I think, who was at Radio City, Nathaniel Rat. And we share Yeah. And we share a lot of the fans with the night sweats. Yeah. Even though we’re on different, you know, spectrums or whatever and Yep. I’m, I always feel responsible for my own numbers. I feel like it would be very easy because at the end of the day, there’s millions of people in New York City. There’s hundreds of thousands of people and that doesn’t necessarily mean like, Oh, we’re all going for the same, you know, listeners cuz mm-hmm their fans go one way once you get through their catalog. And ours go a completely other way. And that’s a beautiful thing about music. But I like, again, I feel like oversaturation is just one small part of it, I think. folks are so tired. And also, um, oversaturation is, I, I, I feel like a, a bitch ass word when you don’t have access to your fans the way that she once did. And I think that search engine optimization, and I think that a lot of the algorithms and lack of access to your own fans without paying, like, I think it’s kind of fucked up that once upon a time, and this is from a, you know, not even. Midsize at this point, we were just getting started. We would have access to maybe, I don’t know, a couple thousand people at one time would see our stuff. Mm-hmm. , and this was like when we were first getting started and then right before covid, couple hundred people, if we would go active. Now, we’re lucky if a couple doesn’t see it, but if we’re asked to spend some money, Oh, you might get, you might get interaction with a couple thousand. Mm-hmm. You spend this much, you might see this, you know, and Right. It got to a point where, especially during Covid, where I felt like I was in a constant battle with social media and with this kind of stuff, but when we came back out on the road, I realized it was far more valuable. And I give this to any artist that’s about to go out or waiting to go out. Sure. It is in your best in. To say fuck that to social media. Mm. And text your friends. Actually send an email to these people that you haven’t seen in years. Mm-hmm. , uh, let you know, send a message to them. Uh, they probably miss you just as much as you miss them, especially the artists that have toured for years and have whole ass lives in these other places, you know? Yeah. Um, it’s so much more powerful to just get that little, and I know it sounds a little extra, but I think there’s real power in that DIY aspect of going around any algorithm and going back to basic communication and reaching out and like full on human connection where, you know, it wasn’t necessarily an ad, but I told every single one of my band mates. if it’s one promoter per venue mm-hmm. that maybe, maybe has enough money for an assistant that might also be the bartender, that might also be the accountant, that might also be the door. Who fucking knows. It doesn’t matter. However, the club is functioning, we have to trust that they’re gonna do what they can to the best of their ability. And we have to work as if something on their end is gonna fuck up that night. Right? Mm. And so that means that the least that we can do is post to flyer about our own show. The least that we can do is record a real for every single city. Do we want to? Absolutely not. But, but there are ways, there are ways that that stuff can be scheduled and post when it needs to without us ever getting online and interacting. Mm-hmm. And I understand why so many artists don’t wanna get on, and I understand why so many people that work on the branding and advertising and, and labels whatever management side. Say, it absolutely needs to happen because it is a part of the job Now, sure, it is a part of the job now and it sucks, but it is what it is. However, that doesn’t mean that it gets in the complete way of creation. That means that, okay, maybe on Mondays and Thursdays you do this, and then the rest of your week is dedicated to this stuff. Mm-hmm. Right? Mm-hmm. . Um, and it doesn’t have to take up any more of your week if you do all of your cities and all of your, your assignments in one day. And after doing that, we would see the, the increase happen, like the basic stuff from doing our social media the way that we’re supposed to. Right? Right. Um, and I’d say real basic as in like we’d maybe see the needle jump for each one, maybe two ticket sales, maybe five if we’re lucky, taking the time to actually reach out to people, taking the time to send out an email blast on our things that we own. Reaching out to people on Patreon. Um, Going back to our now damn near dead Facebook accounts. Right. To actually go and like, be like, Hey, I know you don’t necessarily see my my music algorithm anymore, but let me bring this over here. Because as a human being, it’s actually somehow more powerful than this account that I have that has, I don’t know, 10,000 times more followers on it. Right, Right. But I feel like when it comes to true, just authentic art, when it comes to something interesting, something truly fun that people know that they wanna be at, it sounds ridiculous, but I feel like you can always get around an algorithm. I feel like you can always get around oversaturation. Mm-hmm. , I feel like you, it’s, I feel like you can always get around all that shit because I’ve, I’ve built a large chunk of my career doing that. Yeah. Uh, is it always the easy way to do things? Absolutely not. And it’s really hard, and it should not be like this. But. It’s kind of low key. It happens when the people that don’t make music are in charge of a lot of it.

Ari: The Absolutely. There’s so much there and so many gems. Um, and I wanna, I’ve been, I’ve been taking notes cuz I want to touch on a lot of the things that you just mentioned, but, um, the big thing like getting around the algorithm and making sure that you have this direct access to fans, and I appreciate that you, you know, brought up how you go to maybe some of the more non-traditional avenues. Any way that you possibly can get to your fans, and that’s what, uh, you know, it takes to make sure that they’re gonna come out. Uh, you mentioned email and text messaging. I mean, that seems to be kind of one of the more tried and true methods as social media platforms come and go, arise and fall, or the algorithms, you know, reward you and then squash and punish you. And like, you know, like you said, you, they’ll, they’ll open the floodgates and then they’ll restrict access unless you pay. Um, how have you maintained, you know, with the suffers, especially now for 10 years or so that you’ve been touring, um, how have you maintained that access and that relat. To your fans, Has it been through text and email? And if so, like how have you been building that up? Is it just through all the social platforms and you just try to find ways to get to them? Is has there been like a strategy around that? It’s definitely been through everything.

Kam: Okay. I think it all started with the initial Patreon that we did to, uh, launch our first album. Yeah. And still having that email, that original email list that got us started. Right. And then from there touring, it went from like an initial couple hundred folks to a couple thousand and it’s just been growing over the years from that. We always try to have, Excuse me, we always should have something that people can easily join the list from the merge table or on the website or any of our social media links. It always links back to it because at the end of the day, That’s the only way that I, I feel like they’re truly gonna hear directly from us is like from the stuff that we control. And, you know, over the last, especially the last year in some of the podcasts that I’ve done with other, um, people in the industry, especially on the executive side and retired executive side. Sure. Um, it’s usually that same response where it’s always been about the content that we own as creators and, you know, leaning on companies like Meta and Instagram kind of make me feel the same way that I feel about leaning on Spotify and on Sure. All these other places where it’s like, I feel , I feel many ways about it. And it would be different if we all got the same access as creators. Right. But we truly, but we truly don’t and we never have. Mm-hmm. and, uh, It’s, it’s a frustrating conversation that I’ve had with many artists, um, cuz sometimes you sound like a real hater when someone’s having their moment and, uh, for some reason you decide that it equity must be the conversation at that time. Right. And sometimes it’s hard to take a pause when you’re in your moment of success to think about, uh, the inclusivity and, and just weight of what others have to deal with and how you could be using your platform to bring them in a bit higher. Right? And, um, When I talked about the consequences of talking about just anything. Mm-hmm. , I mean, I’ve dealt with consequences from talking about things like basic, uh, pay and equity at the festivals. Mm-hmm. and I thought that that was obvious shit. Mm-hmm. it wasn’t, you know, and even now it’s hear about these people posting their tick salaries and all of that. Mm-hmm. and. But you won’t see that with no festival lineup. Right. But you bet you won’t.

Ari: Yeah. Yeah. Um, you mentioned, um, ownership and, you know, you, I, I loved the, um, . I, I loved the yada yada music video and how it’s kind of, you know, the song especially. And then I saw the video. Uh, but you know, the song is, is a big, um, not, not so subtle, uh, fuck you to kind of, uh, the industry and, you know, the movers and shakers and all of that. And then the video where I love, it’s like this, this, uh, saloon. Style where, uh, you know, the, uh, you’re being trying to be pressured into sign this horrible contract. And, and it even like puts in there like signing away your masters and your publishing and, uh, and then you pop into the, the room as miss DIY style, which I love that. Um, and then you have the good fucking lawyer. Like everyone’s got their titles and then they come in and in the end you sign a licensing deal. Uh, and then the label guy who’s on his way out kind of comes around and comes back in and then more gems are put on the table after you, you guys agree to a licensing deal. I wanna know how much of that has been kind of part of your journey through the industry. Where were you presented a deal where you sign away your masters in your publishing? Did you negotiate to the licensing or is this kind of more, um, kind of something that you are, were dreaming about? Or, or how much of this is based on your, your career.

Kam: Oh, man. So the story that I definitely wrote, mm-hmm. , um, thankfully is not my career. Okay. Thankfully, I didn’t have to deal with, um, signing anything over or having anything be that dark. Uh, I’ve always been pretty no nonsense. And so, uh, when that kind of stuff comes near me, it’s, I, I usually am surrounded by really good fucking lawyers, good. And people that, that really care about, uh, me and my trajectory and my career and mm-hmm. , um, There was nothing like this visually that I could remember in a music video growing up. Mm-hmm. , all I could think was, Man, if you have no interest in reading any of these music industry books that I recommend, um, for whatever reason mm-hmm. maybe I can send you this music video that’s less than four minutes and it can give you like four things to at least avoid . You know, I remember when we were first learning about, uh, contracts. I went to Texas Southern for a little bit and they had just launched their music business program and, uh, one of the professors I had was, you know, if you’re just trying to figure it out, and you’re learning all the words that can be in a contract, learn the word perpetuity. Hmm. Right. If you see that, just go ahead and just. Throw the pen away and go get a help. Go get some help, go get some behind, Just like, great professor. Yeah. He’s like, But even before you even grab the pen, you should have somebody there that understands every word and can talk through it with you. And for when the first, when the suppers first started, um, it was in terms of paperwork. Mm-hmm. a bit of a headache For sure. With 10 people. Right. And we don’t have a traditional, uh, layout when it comes to how we get paid and how we, you know, every band’s different and has whatever their agreement says. But we first started, it was like a 10 way even split with everything we did. And so I think it made everything a lot easier and we didn’t really have to do any overthinking when it came to a lot of stuff. Um, but since that first started, and we’ve. Uh, departures and had to bring in new members. It’s meant a lot of education with our old catalog versus what we do now. Sure. Uh, because we bring in a lot of, uh, writers, all of that. , even though we’re all constantly learning internally how it all works mm-hmm. and how to do a better job of it with every deal, be it independently with, uh, a lot of the only deals that we have ever had have been licensing deals. Okay. Uh, our first album, uh, we own independently outright the original 10 members. And then, um, our second album was a licensing deal with Shawnee, and our current album is a licensing deal with Missing Peace. Mm-hmm. , uh, who also serves as our publicity firm. And, you know, that was a whole other Yeah. Journey in the industry and like, what, you know, and I was like, I didn’t even know that that could be a thing. But like, as I was working on this story with the director, you know, there were certain things that I was so insistent on. I wanted it to be a memory in your mind. So like I told him I wanted the contract to be so long, it reminds you of a CVS receipt . And so like, it was, it was just, yeah, those, those kind of things. But like, it can be that overwhelming when you’re about to sign something off like this. And I try to explain a young artist when they’re coming in that like, you’re all special and the only reason that anyone’s ever trying to sign a deal with you is because you have the capability to do something. You know, so, so special and so great. And you know, you have to treat your art as such. And there’s no, there is absolutely no shade in people that go the major label route or go to get publishing deals. Like there’s st there’s real stability that can come from that and there is a lot of risk that can come from that, but, I don’t think there’s a wrong way or a right way. I think at the end of the day, it’s all about education and protection and mm-hmm. , you know, if somebody watches this video and you know, they’re like, all right, and, you know, they get a little scared, but it encourages them to go and get a, a better attorney. Yes. Before they sign up with somebody, you know? Then our job was done. Our little bit of music education, ha, you know, has occurred and that’s really what we wanted to do.

Ari: How do you, uh, what have you learned over the years, um, in how you split everything up with the members of the sufferers? I mean, that’s, that’s fascinating to me. I didn’t realize that you did a 10 way even split from the beginning. I could imagine, uh, on, in some ways that could be easier, but in some ways, as you alluded to, it can be more complicated as members come and go, especially when it comes to publishing. I was looking at some of the credits. I don’t know how accurate they are on Spotify, but like, Just the sufferers were kind of listed as co-writers on some of these, and I was, I, I’m curious to hear how it works now and what you’ve learned over the years when it comes to splitting up mass royalties, publishing, um, you know, who’s, who’s shouldering the costs that go into this, uh, you know, live show revenue, all of that.

Kam: Well, that’s a much longer conversation than what we have for today. Sure. But I can, I can go with, you know, the first question which goes into just like the basic writing, right? Sure. Um, it can be, you know, financially nonsensical to someone that is used to being paid a certain way. Mm-hmm. , and it can also be very financially beneficial to a co-writer coming in to work with us, because at the end of the day, prior to 2020, The way that we made most of our money was through live shows. Sure. It really doesn’t matter who we were making music with or who was getting the bigger cut. Cuz at the end of the day, if you get a million dollar sync and you only got 10% of that ain’t that bad, is it? Right. Right. And so that’s never really been the Oh, we’re, It has no Live shows have been where it’s at for a while, but um, with this last album, this was probably the most creative, uh, split album we’ve ever had. There’s certain songs where, you know, the collaboration with Diane Warren, that’s a 100% Diane Warren song, you know Sure. We’re not gonna get that. However, it still brings a insane amount of people that know that she just doesn’t give songs out like that. Like she wrote those for me, um, to our fan base. Right. And so, To me, I’m like, Okay, whatever. But then I start listening to other artists whose business is not mine to share, um, who have had similar deals. And sometimes it makes sense that way. Right? But we have other songs where like you might see, for example, take me to the Good Times. You’ll see, uh, Steep, Maria, Maria and Maa Maria and myself, and when we first wrote that demo at their house mm-hmm. um, that song was a three-way split, right? Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . I take it home. Stephen Maria still get a bigger chunk than I now get. Mm. Because of a former investment that I made with my business partners in this band. Okay. However, , even though I don’t make the same amount of money as Steven Maria, because I’m bringing it back home to this project. Mm-hmm. , the song gets expanded upon by my band members. Mm-hmm. and then, you know, it ends up getting the Brene Brown sink and all this other stuff that it ends up doing. I’m just like, Huh, okay, let me keep going. Because while the sufferers has been, uh, the project to get me to where I’m at right now, my main focus has been becoming a writer, not only for myself, for other people, uh, producing for myself and other people. Mm-hmm. , it’s been doing these types of collaborations and showing that while I don’t live in a traditional industry city, I can keep up with the best of them in any of these cities, which I now can show, especially off of this last album’s collaborator list. Definitely. Uh, but when it comes down to the splits, it really now just depends on the song. You know, if we go back to a song that no longer has a, a band member in it that was in the band at the time, they get a different split than they once did, depending on who wrote the song. Right. Okay. This is the only project that I have that’s like this and Sure. Um, again, I say it because I think it’s important for people to know that your band agreement, or your business agreement you have with your collaborators is whatever you want it to be. Yeah. And while some people would probably be like, Oh man, I don’t know if I’d do that financially, it has saved so many heartaches. It has saved so many just headaches that could have easily shown up had we not been in set up the way that we are. Sure. And it’s also protected us just as, as people and as friends. Mm-hmm. and, um, even though, you know, shoot. Uh, half of the band that we started with is no longer in this band. Sure. Uh, it’s still a good place and I think it’s because we did take that time, uh, to protect ourselves. So, you know, now as I go into these other journeys and working with other folks and, you know, I see, oh, you know, I’m, I’m making more money when I do songs with this person or this person or whatever, I’m not gonna be able to tour with them. I’m not gonna be able to do what I wanna do with them. And I, I believe that multiple revenue streams is definitely where it’s at in terms of overall sustainability for us as artists going into the next, uh, generation of everything. Not just depending on touring or depending on sink and licensing. Cuz that to me is just like going to the casino. Right. But if you go to the casino, there’s nothing wrong going to the casino, but it’s like, , if you show up with way more money, you got more chances to win a lot of money. A lot more money as well, right? Sure. And so that’s how I look at it. If I’m writing at the pace at which I’m writing mm-hmm. , um, I’m trying to just lead by my own example and the example is some of my friends that are out here doing it much better, probably with a bit more funding. But, uh, just in terms of overall output of the projects, I’m just like, Look, if I can release it, I need to be releasing it because that seems to be where the overall return that I wanna see, uh, is. And I don’t know what the world, the, the future of traditional releases. Yeah. And I, I’m trying to care. I really am, I’m really trying to care. But when you have folks, what’s his name? I really, ugh, the Spotify ceo Daniel who goes on, uh, Daniel Eck. Yeah. Who goes on about, uh, How we’re gonna have to release two to three times more. Yeah. Uh, to see the same return, even though the fans don’t have that money supposedly to go to the tours as it is. I’m like, yeah, okay. And also it’s like, where is the funding that I come from to create and finish Yeah. These other two to three releases, so.

Ari: Right. And, and that, I mean, just to give us context for people that, uh, are, aren’t familiar with, with what he said. Um, you know, he was saying, and this came out a few years ago, it was basically like you. Can’t be, uh, releasing music once every three years like you once could. And um, you know, there was a lot of pushback, rightfully so, from artists saying like, Who are you tech guy to tell me how to make my art? And I think what was, you know, maybe misconstrued is, is it’s that and, and how, like you said, release strategy has evolved and it continues to evolve. Um, you know, I’m not a Dan elect or Spotify defender, but to give context to it all, I think it’s, um, he wasn’t saying, This is how you need to make your art. It was, if you wanna play our game, Which you don’t have to, Let’s put that out for the record. You don’t have to play the Spotify game, but if you wanna play the Spotify game, what our algorithms will reward you for is if you put out releases frequently. Now, uh, the releases don’t have to be a full album. Like he, I don’t believe he was saying you have to, you have to release a full 10 song album every other month. That’s, that’s insane. Uh, that’s not just not feasible. It’s now we’ve gotten into this release, um, uh, cycle where, you know, you’re, what’s encouraged is putting out a song, a single. Every four to six weeks or something like that. Artists are continuing to create in the way that makes sense to them, which is like, absolutely, let’s go into the studio for a couple months. Let’s make a record for, you know, a year or something, and then, uh, we’ll tour on it and, and do that. And that just feels more natural to artists. But the Spotify game, they’ve given the manual and the blueprint and they’re like, If you wanna win it, Spotify, one song every six weeks is the way to win at Spotify. And with that release str, you know, schedule. So it is, you know, it’s hard to chase that algorithm, like mm-hmm. you’ve talked about at the beginning, because like, you know, now with TikTok it’s like, you know, and, and the way that Instagram has evolved and Facebook and all of it, it’s kind of like, are we going to chase. Continue to chase or are we going to lead? Absolutely. That is like the real question, like artists have always led historically, that is why people gravitate towards artists is because artists are leaders. And I think too many artists are getting caught up in this, um, chaos of social media, of uh, the tech giants of just the influences of the algorithm. And we, artists are losing track of what is important and why they’re doing what they’re doing. And I think at the end of the day, you know, if you’re staying true to yourself and you are leading in the way that makes sense deeply to you, it’s gonna work out and fans are going to gravitate towards you and you’re gonna have lifelong fans. And it’s like the difference between. Uh, an artist like you who has a sustainable, long lasting career with die hard fans that will be with you for the rest of your life. And the flash in the pan moments, the people that are chasing TikTok trends are chasing this trend or chasing that algorithm or something like that. And I think it’s an important check that a lot of artists need to get once in a while to remember, Oh, we don’t have to play that game. We don’t have to do the TikTok dance, or the TikTok trend, or whatever the thing is that’s hot this week that’s gonna come and go. And there are people who wanna do that and that’s fine. God bless ’em. But like for artists that wanna lead and look, you know, five, 10 years in the future, not five, 10 minutes in the future, that’s the strategy that I think needs to be maintained.

Kam: Yeah, no, I completely agree with you. And yeah, the Spotify algorithm bus, just . Yeah. I mean they, again, if I, I, I could go on all day. If, if the platform, if the platform Yeah. Were equal around the board I’d, I’ve had, I would have different feelings about it. Yeah. Um, and I’ve had people be like, What do you mean? I’m like, I have multiple projects that I work within, and when I open one account on Spotify artists, I see a whole different world of things. Yeah. Versus my account on another. And I have friends that have, you know, tens, millions more listeners than me. Mm-hmm. and, you know, you go open theirs and it’s like,

Ari: Yeah. Anyway. Yeah, No, no. And I, I had, uh, Sam from Spotify on the show and I, you know, I pressed him on it and I asked him like, are major label artists getting preference and priority? And he kinda skirt around it and resources and all of that. And, you know, and I’m like, Do they get guaranteed inclusion in the official editorial playlist? And, you know, he is like, Well, no they don’t. I’m just like, All right, well the data says otherwise, but that’s fine. Like, it, it’s, you know, I have my friends who are on major labels and, and it’s, you know, it’s, it’s awfully curious that all their releases do get a lot of love and a lot of my indie friends release. Don’t, and it’s just kind of, you know, now the new numbers, there’s a hundred thousand songs uploaded a day to Spotify . So it’s kind of like, yeah, there is a discrepancy there.

Kam: If you keep on releasing every six weeks, you’ll catch our algorithm .

Ari: Right. Exactly. It is, it is a rat race for sure. . Um, I wanna, I’m curious about, you know, this, this, uh, sync that you had with Brene Brown on her podcast. Um, on Spotify. On Spotify, right? Yeah. Her, her, that’s right. Her podcast is exclusive to Spotify now. Um, how did that come to be? Do you have a sync agent? Was that through your, your, you know, that was through Brene J she’s just a fan. .

Kam: Yeah, so she amazing. Uh, we’re friends with, uh, Gina Chavez and Carrie Rodriguez who do her. unlocking US music for her other podcast. Cool. The thing that’s on Apple. Mm-hmm. , um, who are, they’re both from Austin and Texas and she wanted to have another artist for her, uh, Dare to Lead podcast, and they both recommended sufferers and one thing led to another and she was in the dms, and I’m like, Oh, this is weird. And so, yeah, we do have someone on our team, um, who assists dramatically with our pub admin, her name is mm-hmm. , uh, Roxanne Oldham and is just amazing at what she does. Cool. Um, but I think. That world really does take a village. I don’t think it’s ever just one person. Every sink that the sufferers have ever gotten has come from different places. We’ve had some come directly from someone on the show wanting us to, uh, just have a song that they had heard somewhere on there, uh, to someone, you know, a friend of a friend or Yeah. Whatever. It’s, it, it never makes sense to me. I’m grateful every time it happens. Yeah. Um, and I wish, I wish everybody could experience that and I hope every artist does get to experience that.

Ari: Absolutely. Um, let’s talk about your team a little bit. Um, you, you mentioned you have a, a slightly non-traditional, um, relationship kind of with the, the label, well I guess call it a label or licensing, d PR company, all of that missing piece. Um, you know, you have mid citizen for management, uh, mid talent group for booking agency representation. Um, Talk to me about your philosophy about bringing on team members and maybe how you have settled on who you wanna work with.

Kam: They have to wanna be there . That, that’s good Baseline. That’s a, that’s a big one. I think something can really be said about when you have a team, team member that’s there for the money and not for the music. Uh, and from the way that they work for you, for the way that they show up. And we are very, very, very lucky to have the team that we do, uh, med citizens based in New Orleans, New Orleans. And so I just feel like there’s a lot less bullshit and a lot more kindness, uh, compared to what I see in a lot of other cities. Mm-hmm. in terms of who works for me. Um, Kindness really leads the way. Like we all work, we all work really hard, and I mean, not for everybody that’s in this industry. If we’re, if we’re constantly seeing one another at the next step as we continue in our careers, like put some respect on one another’s name and like really like throw that energy somewhere else or be a much more positive space. But, um, I feel as though everybody that works for me, you know, I learn from them all the time. Like it’s not a place where they can’t talk to me. It’s not a place where, um, People are made to feel some type of way or whatever about making mistakes or whatever. Like yeah, it gets real sometimes and like I will always be honest with them and share my opinions with them when I see something or when I feel something is like off. But at the same time, I trust every single person that works for me. Um, especially when they do go out of their way to give me, uh, the reality of whatever situation it is I’m dealing with. Be that the cruel existence that is touring as an independent musician right now, especially with a band this big, holy fuck. Yeah. Um, I don’t know. Also like the fact that, you know, hey, you know, our album’s doing really good in terms of the press cycles and what everything that’s going on, but we can only reach so much, you know, of an audience with what we have right now and what we have access to. And it’s like to go broke. Reaching my audience, man, fuck that. I’d rather. Put more time, focus, and dedication into building up an authentic one rather than buying one from Zuckerberg or any of these other motherfuckers that really don’t care about us.

Ari: Truth the truth, that’s great. I mean, that’s, um, kindness. I mean, and, and making sure that they’re, they’re there for the right reasons. I mean, that’s, that’s so huge and I think a lot of people might lose track of that when, quote unquote powerful people might approach them and they might just look at the roster and not look at the people. Um, you know, Is that, uh, with, with at least, um, I guess mid citizen based out of, um, New Orleans, Was this something that happened naturally? I know they have Tank in the bangs. I know that they, uh, work with, um, a big Frida, uh, both New Orleans based artists. Um, I know they have Loca Connie out of Philly, who’s another kind of road dogs. I’ve seen them over the last 10 years or so, um, around the country. Um, what was kind of, Did they, were they at a show? Was this just like a, a, how long have you been working with them?

Kam: Ooh, we started working with them at the end of 2018. Okay. And, uh, it was not, It wasn’t a show that they saw, it was like the very, very ending of a show, I guess it was. Mm-hmm. . Uh, so Meredith was, she was formally working as an agent at High Road Touring before she trans transferred over to the management world. But she was there to say goodbye, I guess, to a bunch of her coworkers. And we were at a music festival out in Sonoma that, um, AIT Brothers and Lake Street were headlining and mm-hmm. , uh, . It was a wine festival and at that point our, uh, closing music was big Frida’s ass everywhere, I think it was of almost certain and so Meredith walks in, she’s like, Who’s playing great Frida? And uh, we were like, Oh yeah, that’s our closing music. And then, um, the conversation just kind of went from there. And at that point we had been very actively looking for a new manager and. I’d had a , I call it a, uh, one of the worst weeks that I’ve ever had in my career. Uh, just in terms of seeing how bad the industry can be. Mm-hmm. when you’re vulnerable. And I went to Nashville to go and try to find the right manager, and it was just snake after snake after snake. And it was funny how when I wasn’t even looking for it, the universe was like, Oh, here’s this awesome person that is perfect for what you need right now. And, um, it’s really been such a really good partnership with them. And, um, you know, we’re very, very lucky to have both merited read everybody that’s at me, mid citizen working for us and yeah. Uh, representing us. And I mean, that, that’s the same for everybody on our team. We’ve been with Mint, um mm-hmm. just a little over a year, almost two years. Mm-hmm. and, you know, same thing. It’s, it’s nice. To just, um, and not saying anything negative about any of the people we’ve had on our teams before, cuz they’re all incredible people. I feel like anybody taking the chance to work in this industry, you’re all nuts. But at the same time, there’s something really, um, incredible to have like the selflessness to really, uh, go out there and represent another artist to, you know, the best of your capability and so, yeah. And not know what’s gonna happen, you know? And so, yeah. Um, Being at this stage of my career mm-hmm. , I’m very, very grateful to be here. And, um, again, just really lucky for the team that I are really lucky, really grateful for the team that I have and mm-hmm , uh, just look forward to continuing to grow with them. That’s great.

Ari: Yeah. I, you know, I, I, I was down in New Orleans, um, for Nola Music Tech, uh, earlier this year and I saw Reid and big free to speak on a panel, and it was, uh, Reid who, who, uh, owns, um, Mid Citizen. And, uh, it, it was clear that he and the ethos around the company was very different from what I experienced at many management companies here in la. Um, and it was, there was an energy and a passion. And, uh, and, and a kindness like you mentioned, that it’s just, it’s, it’s rarer to see. Um, and I really appreciated seeing that. And then I spoke on a panel, uh, with, with Sean, uh, Montgomery of Mid Citizen too. And, and similar with her, and she was talking to me about kind of, uh, you know, what she was doing with Tank and the bangs and, and it was, it’s like, like you mentioned, I I think a lot of the industry, uh, gets in our bubbles, especially in la we, we feel like the whole universe revolves around just like what is in these hubs and lose track of that. There is industry, important industry not just, you know, artists that are, uh, everywhere. Um, that they can be forces of good and they can kind of teach. The others in the industry, uh, how it can be, and the relationships that you can form that can be more genuine. And, um, and, and just, I guess just, just, um, rooted in a, in a space that, uh, where the intentions are more pure, or at least they are, um, rooted in kindness. And that’s, that’s maybe something that, uh, a lot of people in the industry lose track of, just, just by the sheer nature of like, you know, um, what is ingrained in them early on. And when they’re rising through the ranks, or when they’re at the agencies or where the intentions are, are oftentimes solely financial based. And it can be cutthroat in a way. Is, uh, not healthy, uh, like emotionally, but also not healthy just for the business at large, just for the industry. I mean, we’re all connected and we’re all in this together. Um, and so it was refreshing to get out of LA and to see, uh, other companies that operate slightly differently. I love that. Yeah. I love that . Yeah. Um, so I mean, I guess just overall as, uh, who have been some of the guiding forces throughout, uh, your career, um, maybe in addition to some of the, uh, you know, team members that you’ve had, just that have, that have influenced you or guided you, um, in a way that kind of brought you to where you are now?

Kam: My family, I’m, I’m very lucky to have a supportive family. Um, none of them did music professionally, but you know, they’ve been very. Very supportive of me, my friends who, you know, they really keep me in check. And I think growing up in a city like Houston, it’s just is real, you know, . So when I leave, I go other places. Um, it took, you know, my first few weeks in LA it took me a long time to realize that, oh, maybe or see you later means no , not maybe, or that I’ll see you later. Um, but like mm-hmm. . At the same time, I feel the biggest influence has been my city and the people that have made it out of here and continue to show me, you know, what that looks like for me and where I can go from.

Ari: Amazing. Well, Cam, I, I really appreciate you being so candid and, um, and sharing, um, all of your perspective, your incredible perspective and your thoughts, uh, around the industry and being so transparent with everything, uh, not a lot of artists are. And, uh, that is, uh, why I, I, I know that the, I knew you were gonna go there, and that is why you’re, uh, you’re here and I really appreciate you doing that. I just tell the truth. I, you know, we need more of that. And so I, I really appreciate that. Um, I have one final question that I ask everyone who comes on the show, and, uh, that is, what does it mean to you to make it in the new music business, um, to make it in the new music business?

Kam: If we’re talking in terms of financial, you know, that means just having the bills on auto pay and going to target whenever I feel like it. Um, in terms of, I think my overall happiness. , it’s knowing that I constantly have to learn from this industry no matter what I think I know about it. Um, making it means that I’m still here and creating with younger artists and, uh, even creating with, you know, doesn’t matter what the age is. I’ve always been impressed, you know, by artists like Mavis or Herbie Hancock or Stevie Wonder, the ones that can come back and work with the younger artists and immerse themselves without like, you know, skipping a beat. I wanna have that type of career where it’s, you know, yes, there’s always a stage part of what I do, but there’s always that music creation part in the studio where I’m creating and I’m making the path easier for whoever comes next.

Ari: I love that. Kam Franklin, thank you so much. That was great.

Kam: Thank you. Have a good rest of your day.

About The Author

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Ari Herstand
Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based musician, the founder and CEO of Ari’s Take and the author of How to Make It in the New Music Business.

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