Free the Music and the Rest Will FollowBy Trevor Dye
An interview with one of the most recognizable characters in digital broadcasting, and dual perspectives on the topic of free music.
After one listen, it’s hard not to be charmed by the carefree nature of Jerry Bumpskey, host of Bumpskey’s World of Independent Music. It could be the Jerry Garcia looks, or the ‘I don’t take myself too seriously” attitude, but what most likely gravitates listeners to the show is the digital-jockey’s overflowing passion for music. “(The purpose of the show is) to keep quality music alive, promote the artists making that music, and put together an entertaining way of presenting it.” Eight years and counting, the show has built an impressive listenership, “I have found the longer I do it the more people come back to see if I’m still there.” He continues, “That has become one of the major promotions of our show. How long will they continue to do this?” With his innovative approach to a multi-platform broadcasting and an heir apparent in Bumpskey’s “Lennon look-a-like” son, the show could have some serious longevity.
So where can you find Bumpskey? The more appropriate question is where can’t you find it, as he jokingly adds, “People are lazy and I am trying to make it so they don’t have to work very hard to get something that they should be listening to.” The show has been available in podcast format on Bumpskey.com long before everyone bought an iPod and began to understand the functionality of a podcast. Just as the case with Internet Radio, the medium in which Bumpskey’s show got its start. Ever the foreword thinker, Bumpskey is already intimately involved with the burgeoning trend of social media, “I have also been trying to create an Independent Music community for some time now and whenever I see a good tool that can help our show move in that direction I try to support it…I love finding new sites like MusicWorld3D.com and the Musicians Playground to try and present what I am doing to a new audience.” Quietly, Jerry is becoming one of the most innovative minds in digital broadcasting.
With the recent controversy over Internet Radio Royalty Rates, I asked Bumpskey about the financial implications of his show, “I have a release I use for the show where it says that by The Bumpskey Showpromoting the band that is payment for using the music. All the bands I contact for the show sign the release. I have done over 2000 shows since I started broadcasting and I have yet to find anyone who has done an internet show on a consistent basis like me.” And he is right, there aren’t many like him, but he does gladly give back to the artists, “We also pay royalties to BMI, ASCAP…” He also mentioned SoundExchange, but added that those dollars never actually trickle down to the bands they play.
With such bureaucracy in the digital era, bands have difficult task of making music while still turning a profit. Certainly, touring bands are at a distinct advantage but some musicians have day jobs, mortgages, children, and so forth. One such musician, a talented folk singer/songwriter named Marco Mahler, recently decided to, metaphorically speaking, swim with the current. The Portland based Mahler explains, “Since I just released my debut album I’m mostly looking at it from the stand point of someone starting out…when it comes to marketing a debut album you would want to create that critical mass as quickly and inexpensively as possible.” To do so, Mahler is offering his entire album for free download on his site, “Having your album as a free download could be really supportive of getting the word-of mouth thing going and reaching that critical mass sooner.” In a world that revolves around money, some may question this, but Mahler – in a tone befitting his laid back demeanor – replies, “The downloads don’t cost me anything. You can’t look at it as a lost sale. It’s a listener and someone who potentially will grow loyal to your label / band / musician and you’ll make your money back in the future one way or another.” Quite the optimistic outlook, and with his level of talent I find it hard to disagree.
Nevertheless, this is Mahler’s first foray into being a professional musician, so I decided to ask the music veteran Bumpskey his thoughts on musicians giving away their most coveted asset for free. “If the bands has other ways of generating money then I think it is great but a band does need to eat and should be compensated for all their hard work. I wouldn’t ask a doctor I liked to operate for free on me nor would he do it.” Replies Bumpskey.
Given his free download policy, Mahler is an advocate of being a PodSafe musician. He’s also a big fan of digital resources like Bumpskey (which he previously appeared on for an on-air chat with Jerry). “They’re like matchmakers. Establishing new connections between the musicians and listeners. Why would I want to charge them for helping me?” He continues with a bit of admiration creeping into his tone, “And most of them can’t even cover their own expenses, let alone make the time they invest into it pay off. Most of them are in it for the love of music anyhow, not the money.”
So if you’re wondering about the future of music, think about what you just read, because that’s it. A harmonious social exchange between artist and broadcaster – made possibly by the Internet, made real by mutual admiration.
For more, including streaming video of the man himself, check out Bumpskey.com
To get Marco Mahler’s entire album for FREE, go to MarcoMahler.com