Hello and welcome to another edition of the Haulix Blogger Spotlight. As you may have noticed, we are increasing the amount of content we post here on our blog, including the debut of several new columns. Our hope is that you will continue to join us as we explore the people working behind-the-scenes to bring the music industry to a screen near you every day, and would love to hear any suggestions you have for future features. If you have a recommendation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your idea.
We have written in the past that making a career in the music industry today often requires taking on multiple job titles. With that in mind, it is our pleasure to share with you a new interview with Absolutepunk contributor Jack Appleby.
Everyone has to start somewhere, and for Jack Appleby that place was Mind Equals Blown. You may recall his name being mentioned during our previous spotlight with MEB founder Drew Maroon, and the reason for that connection is the major role Appleby played in thrusting the site towards the forefront of digital music coverage. He and Maroon have developed a brand together that continues to grow and evolve daily, and it did not take long for others in the industry to notice his talent. We spoke with Appleby about his time with MEB, the decision to join Absolutepunk, and where he sees his own future in the industry headed. You can read our conversation below.
Jack Appleby is often found discussing new music, promoting the bands he manages, and generally being an amazing person on Twitter. If you want to read his writing, be sure to check out Absolutepunk and the pages of Mind Equal Blown. Jack recently joined the team at Siren Records, so head over to their Facebook and learn what they have planned for the remainder of 2013.
H: For those unaware, please state your name, the site you work for, and your role at said site:
JA: I’m Jack Appleby, and I’m over at AbsolutePunk. I organize exclusives, write reviews, cover shows, contribute to social media - a little bit of everything.
H: For lack of a better phrase, you’re a bit of a “Jack of all trades” when it comes to the music industry. When did you first know you wanted to work in music, and where did you first find work (unpaid efforts count too)?
JA: Haha, well - I still don’t have aspirations of making a career of music, but it’s certainly a field I enjoy participating in. I prefer music as a hobby, since it’s damn near impossible to make a good living in the industry. And my first of many unpaid (but completely worthwhile) efforts came via Mind Equals Blown.
H: When we interviewed Drew Maroon from Mind Equals Blown, he said the site really started to take off after you came on board. How did you come to work with Drew, and what can you tell us about the early days of MEB?
JA: Back in college, I was Editor-In-Chief of my university’s newspaper and wanted to apply my skills to music. On a whim, I Googled “music blogs” and came across MEB back in its .blogspot glory. I reached out to Drew, offering to help recruit and train a staff - we teamed up, and MindEqualsBlown.net was born.
Like every music site, MEB grew out of a passion for music and writing (and, you know - wanting to meet our favorite musicians and hear their music first). We wrote reviews, but took a focus on features and in-depth stories even in the early stages - every site had reviews, but no one was approaching happenings in the “scene” (or whatever it’s called) from a serious, journalistic approach. We also emphasized the editing process - all of our pieces ran through the same editing filter as the newspapers I’d worked on. Most reviews and editorials saw multiple edits from multiple editors before publishing, a rarity with most student-based music blogs. None of us were interested in news blurbs and the obvious hits they bring, so we focused on strong content.
H: You’re now a member of the AbsolutePunk staff. At what point did you make the switch, and what attracted you to the world of AbsolutePunk?
JA: As the Managing Editor at MEB, my role revolved around leadership, infrastructure, and editing - I loved running the site, but as I pursued a career in social media, my time for side-projects became increasingly limited. Around the same time my career pursuits became serious, Thomas Nassiff inquired whether I’d be interested in writing at AbsolutePunk, a site I’d always admired. AP.net’s emphasis on community and discussion always fascinated me, and the chance to focus on my own writing again was a huge appeal. It was incredibly tough leaving a site I’d helped create, but in the Fall of 2011, I moved over to AbsolutePunk.
H: Would you say your time at MEB helped prepare you for Absolutepunk? If so, how?
JA: Actually, MEB prepped me more for my career path. I graduated with an interest in business, tech, and social media, but no true “dream job” or specific path in mind. When I finally landed a meeting with Ayzenberg Group (a full-service advertising agency in Pasadena, CA), my time at MEB became the interview’s focus - turned out my content focus and promotional tactics on the site were enough to land me a social media gig. I’ve been at Ayzenberg for two years now, and absolutely love what I do - and I have MEB to thank for that.
H: Like many, you have earned little-to-nothing in return for your efforts at both of these sites. What motivates you to continue dedicating your time day in and day out?
JA: More than anything, I love having the ability to support musicians I believe in. Whether it’s premiering a new song, reviewing a record, or simply tweeting about a band, I love being able to contribute to the music. It seems so few bands know how to expose themselves to the world, and I’m happy to lend a hand in any way possible.
And working with my favorite musicians never loses its luster. I’ve managed to tone down the starstruck effect, but make no mistake - I’m still giddy when I meet a musician I’ve admired for the first time. Over the last year, I’ve interviewed musical idols, helped guide new bands, sat in the studio while favorites as they record - I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.
H: Beyond writing, you also recently added another gig to your list of titles. Care to share that role and how it came to be?
JA: Gladly! I’m ecstatic to say I’ve joined the Siren Records team. You likely know the label for Peace’d Out (Vinnie Caruana, Steve Choi of RX Bandits) and their vinyl offerings.
About a year ago, I worked publicity with Donny and James on Silver Snakes’ debut album, one of the early Siren releases. We’d run into each other on occasion and chat music, vinyl, all the things - until one day, they asked me if I’d like to come aboard. It was a pretty easy yes - I’m excited to work with these guys and continue developing the label.
H: Working at a label is a dream shared by many aspiring music industry professionals. If you had to choose, would you continue writing or spearhead label life full time?
JA: I think I’ve struck a healthy balance - I doubt I’d be happy exclusively committing to one role. I love having the ability to work with any band I please on the writing side, and I enjoy having weight and influence on the label side - they give different satisfaction. And again, music’s just a hobby, though one I’m heavily invested in - having the chance to dabble in everything is important to me.
H: Fortunately, you get to do both as long as you’d like, and each offers its own opportunities to expose new talent. Where do you go when you’re seeking out new music?
JA: Friends, the AP.net community, and band buddies are my go-to’s - none of us are shy about passing along new music. If I’m hungry for new stuff, I tend to scour Twitter to see what the rest of the AbsolutePunk staff is playing. I never use algorithm-based sources like Pandora - I’d rather focus on Spotify and Rdio’s “Related Artists” sections, where I’ve found some surprisingly great new bands. I’m lucky enough to have an inbox full of music as well, so there’s always something to check out.
H: Speaking of music discovery, what advice can you offer young artists hoping to stand out in your inbox?
JA: Please do yourself a favor, bands - include a “Recommended If You Like” in your email. And that doesn’t mean say you’re just like Brand New - give honest comparisons that are specific enough to be associated with your sound, yet relevant enough that most writers would know them. It doesn’t trivialize your music - it gives writers a reason to open your email instead of the other hundreds we receive. What’s more, it allows writers to pass music to the appropriate colleague; I’m not a big pop-punk or metal guy, but if you include a RIYL, I know who I can send the music to, even without listening.
Also, offer a stream in your email. Writers don’t have enough hard drive space to download every album sent our way, so send an online stream, with all of your band’s information (name, location, social media links, etc). Or, be smart and send us both a stream link and download link in the same email - give us the opportunity to explore your music however’s best for us.
And please, if you send me a download, have the iTunes info attached to the tracks already. I can’t tell you how much time I’ve lost editing song names and track listing to make an album play as intended.
And no caps. Don’t send me email in all caps. I’ll fight you.
H: When it comes to receiving music for review and feature consideration, which services do you prefer and why?
JA: Thanks to leak culture, it’s become increasingly difficult for publicists to send advances of albums, making it near impossible to publish reviews before or around a record’s release. Anything that makes a publicist more comfortable sending me music early works for me, and Haulix’s watermarking and secure online player seem to do the trick. Sound quality is incredibly important as well - nothing’s more frustrating than receiving an advance in 128 kbps. Whenever possible, I’ll try to get my hands on the WAV files, though 320 kbps is certainly acceptable and deliverable through Haulix. But more than anything, it’s the multiple methods of listening that wins me over. I operate off of several computers, and love analyzing music in my car - having both stream and download options is a huge win.
H: If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
JA: I’d definitely encourage music fans to rethink how they support their favorite bands. While I’ve got my own theories as to why no one can make a dime in this industry, I’m always baffled by how little music fans contribute to their supposed passion. If a band releases a record you love, go buy it - then go to their show - then buy a shirt - then show your friends - then tweet about it - then do whatever’s next. So many people are happy being passive listeners when it takes such a small effort to help the cause. Seriously, just tweeting about a band accomplishes more than you realize - you could be introducing a band to their next biggest fan.
H: You tweet a lot about having big plans for the future. Before we let you go, can you tell us a bit about what you have planned in the months ahead?
JA: Lots of exciting things happening at Siren Records, though not much I can share at the moment. We’ll definitely have some Peace’d Out news soon, including info about their first full-length. There’s a few projects taking shape that’ll blow your mind, but those will reveal themselves in the next few months - plus, vinyl, vinyl, vinyl.
I’m also managing Culprit, who’s releasing their sophomore EP on August 20 via Easy Killer Records, so make sure you watch for that.
And there’s always new things brewing at AbsolutePunk - it’s sounding like the mythical new design may come sooner than later, but you’ll have to talk to Jason Tate for details. Some damn good music coming this fall as well, so hopefully lots more features, song premieres, and reviews.