Finally, It's About Music Dot Com!
By Chris Burnett, MusicDish.com
is an exciting new company named, ItsAboutMusic.com, that
is making a tangible difference for independently distributed music
of all genres. The success of this company gives hope to those who
still believe in the viability of using today's technology to distribute
good music - regardless of label affiliations. You could also see
this as vindication for those legions that have been actively involved
in relevant aspects of the Online Music Distribution scene over
the last five years or so.
The fact has been well documented by now that significant
voids existed within the area of credible online distribution platforms
- that also allow independent artist participation. This is inherently
due to so many of those less than positive recent developments in
online music where indie artist opportunities are concerned.
The concept and operation of ItsAboutMusic.com
seems so logical that you will probably wonder why no other company
thought of it too. Yes, artist and fans of independent music, there
finally seems to be an OMD company whose brain trust has qualified
experience in the field and also seems to be in it for all of the
Visions and Solutions
The music community at ItsAboutMusic.com is handpicked
for reasons of quality and mutual musical appeal to the fans. With
that standard in mind, they accept only the best artists they can
find to participate in their venture and web site. The E-Label is
based in Pennsylvania USA and there is a relatively nominal fee
for artists once accepted on the label.
The credo is simple: to introduce the world to the
best new music rendered by the best artists. ItsAboutMusic.com
is among the first E-Labels of its kind, that is, an imprint that
exists and thrives exclusively online. Founded three years ago by
Dean Sciarra, music journalist, editor of the FM Radio trade
publication - Walrus, artist manager, and head of the independent
record company - 7Records; ItsAboutMusic.Com boasts a growing roster
of exceptional independent artists from a myriad of genres including
Pop, Rock, AAA, Americana, Alternative Rock, Classic Rock, Celtic,
Blues, World, Folk, and Jazz.
Dean Sciarra provides smart answers to the hard questions
artists, consumers, and music industry pundits are raising about
the future of music as an art form and a commercially viable product.
By addressing such topics as: the need for artists to define a niche
market, the fallout from strict radio formats, new artists making
inroads via online marketing campaigns, customer feedback, music
patronage programs, new trends in the college market, the future
of brick and mortar, and the mounting confusion over listening format,
Dean Sciarra and ItsAboutMusic.com are practicing the future of
music marketing, promotion, and album sales today.
Artists on this E-label are included in all marketing
services that the company offers, such as the creation of a graphic
interface at his site that will offer streaming and paid downloads
of the artists' catalog. Other perks include free digital distribution
via Rhapsody and EMusic.com among others, and inclusion in free
CD compilations. ItsAboutMusic.Com
provides a marketing advantage that translates into income for the
This strategy and practice has garnered positive results
for current label artists. For example, the group "Grey Eye Glances"
receives more than 4,000 streaming plays per day. Independent artist,
Kati Mac has garnered over half a million plays with an $8,000 profit
"Few from the business side of the music industry
operate from a place of total commitment to their artists. Dean
Sciarra is one of those rare and few. As an artist on his roster,
I know him to be truly heartfelt and impassioned in working endlessly
for the success of those that he represents. As an Independent Artist,
my gratitude is for the myriad of his efforts," states Charlie Elgart,
who offers one among many positive artist testimonials regarding
a relationship with ItsAboutMusic.com.
Great Music Is Forever
Fast-forward to today and we find Dean as the President
and Music Marketing Manager of ItsAboutMusic.com. His E-Label has
a roster of more than 75 exceptional independent artists. Dean's
goal today isn't much different from what it was more than 25 years
ago - find great artists and tell the world about them.
Many have participated and watched as Online Music
Distribution companies came and went over the years. Part of the
advantage of being an independent recording artist is that you are
not encumbered by the individual debts and associated expenses that
are common to major label contracts. Independent artists also generally
remain so for artistic and creative freedom, in as much as to earn
the rightful profit from their artistic endeavors. The challenge
to date has been how to make both of those dynamics work in reality
for the artists, while still making such an arrangement equally
profitable for online distributors and labels.
Submitting Your Music
If you are an artist or band, and believe your work
would be compatible with the other artists on this E-Label, then
welcomes your inquiry. The company asks that all potential artists
read and become familiar with its list of services as well.
Since the artist roster is selective, the final step
is to send an email to the company with artist bio information and
a link to the location where your music can be listened to online.
Again there is a nominal fee, once accepted. Artists may initiate
the preliminary process in the submissions procedure by sending
an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, you can send a press kit and CD of your music
Attn: Dean Sciarra
275 Mill Lane
Phoenixville, PA 19460
Interview With ItsAboutMusic.com
Your company seems to have found a viable niche
in the Online Music Distribution Market Place. How were you able
to bring all of these diverse aspects of OMD under one synergetic
Sciarra] My history in the business has everything to do with
what I do today. Every single aspect of what I've done has somehow
all become my day to day. As a rock journalist in the late 70's,
my vantage point was not to tell music fans about the new Robert
Palmer album (back in 1976) as much as the new Jess Roden album
that was released at the very same time, on the very same label.
Palmer was good - no question. Jess was better but he never got
the push Island Records gave to Palmer. In other words, I always
championed the talented underdog.
My opinion of music always seemed to matter to readers
because I would never badmouth music I didn't like. I saw no point
in it. I tried to turn people on - not off. I always looked for
the best music I could find and to let people know about it. My
position as a rock critic brought me into the music industry as
an insider when I met George Meier, the publisher of the AOR FM
Radio trade publication called "Walrus." George had worked tirelessly
to make "Walrus" the bible of the radio business. Since he never
took advertising, he could speak the truth in his reviews about
every album ever released by all labels.
Eventually, he gave that job to me and made me the
editor of the magazine. My opinions were always accurate and hindsight
has proven that fact. But this position was a turning point for
me since I had to, in essence, "badmouth" some music because I had
to review everything. I was not afraid to tell radio programmers
across the country that I felt let down by one of my favorite bands,
Fleetwood Mac, when they released "Tusk." I certainly loved some
songs on that LP but in my mind, Lindsay Buckingham had strayed
too far too soon from the genius he had shown on the two previous
releases. I'll never forget that review because it marked my transition
from "the music lover" to "the music critic."
Eventually, I got a little bored with talking about
music that everyone else made, so I got involved in artist management.
I wanted to turn my opinion into a crusade to get artists signed
to major labels and prove what I already knew, that I had the best
ears in the music business. Little did I know the long and winding
road that lay ahead.
During the 80's, I worked with a number of artists.
The best was Tommy Keene. We released his first (of many brilliant
albums) independently because the labels just didn't get it. What
else is new? Tommy went on to be signed by Geffen and released his
most ambitious album called "Songs from the Film" but he didn't
catch on. To this day, after a dozen releases on various labels,
Tommy is still not a household word but has delivered some of the
best music you'd ever want to hear. The Tommy Keene experience was
one that would repeat itself.
In the 90's, I found a few artists I believed would
change the world. A little known band from Philadelphia called Peter's
Cathedral and a well received band called Huffamoose. Both of these
bands were unbelievably cool so I decided to start my own label.
I produced and released the first albums by both of them and began
my meteoric rise to the top - or so I thought. I was very successful
with both bands but personalities and impatience got in the way
and after a few years, the bubble burst and all I could think about
was getting out of the music business. I really tried to get it
out of my blood but I couldn't.
Then came the Internet. My wife will attest to the
fact that in 1996 I told her that someday, we would be able to download
all the music we ever wanted onto our hard drives and make CDs for
ourselves. Of course, my original vision included downloading the
artwork so that we could make "real" copies of the music CDs. I
am in the process of accomplishing that at my site to this day.
So after a mere 30 years in the business of music,
all of the trials and tribulations that I have suffered in the name
of great music have come to pass leaving me with my initial "mission
from God" still intact. All I really do is collect all the best
recording artists I can find and try to tell the world about them
through any means I can. Whether it's digital distribution, film
and TV placement, CD sales, management (yes, I now manage two artists
- Andy Pratt and a new band from Harrisburg, PA called bravetheday)
or compiling CD samplers for national distribution in an effort
to shine some light on the good artists, everything I do today,
I learned a long time ago. And that has allowed me to get some visibility
online simply due to the high quality of the music I represent.
Your personal background in the music industry
and marketing undoubtedly are an advantage to your success where
others seemingly have failed. What sets your operation apart in
this regard in tangible terms for your artists?
[Dean Sciarra] I get so tired of hearing music
that simply gets in the way of great artists who are trying so hard
to be heard. There's only so much room in the world for music. We
have an overabundance of it today. Too many people think they are
good enough. They just aren't. But with all of their effort, they
make it more difficult for the ones who are since people get inundated
with inferior music and wind up getting turned off to the process.
I sift through the bad until I find the good. What set's ItsAboutMusic.com
apart is the quality. Great music will always survive. My secret
weapon is not a secret to anyone who has visited my site. It's the
music. Any success I see comes directly from that. It's not a marketing
innovation as much as it is consistent quality.
You offer artists the total distribution package.
You cover promotion at MP3 sites, distribution of manufactured CDs
at places like CDBaby.com, and even have the ability to place your
artists' music on the major digital download sites like EMusic.com,
Rhapsody, and iTunes. How successful have these initiatives been
for your artists?
[Dean Sciarra] I started the process of digital
distribution for my artists about a year ago unless you count placing
songs at MP3.com, which started for me in 1999. In the last year
we all thought that we would never see the "download" business make
enough to keep us going. The came iTunes' advertising and all of
a sudden the world woke up. In the 3rd quarter of this year we received
169,000 downloads at EMusic.com alone. Of course, we have to spend
money to make money so I always promote the sites where the music
As for the future of downloads, my site will transform
over the next few months into a stand-alone digital download site.
Eventually we will not even offer CDs for sale. What's the point?
We all live on our computers and that's where we get our music.
CDRs will never go away as a place to store our music, until we
all have iPods, that is. Nothing happens in a day. This is just
the beginning of the digital revolution. We'll know how true that
is ten years from now. But if we don't lay the ground work today,
we'll have nothing in ten years. The artists of ItsAboutMusic.com
can look forward to always being on the cutting edge of digital
distribution. And they all know they have someone who will be prepared
to go the extra mile for them. This is a very exciting era and the
future looks great for the first time in a long time.
A major area for any recording artist is the opportunity
for publishing royalties and music licensing opportunities. You
guarantee song publishing through some of the world's best publishers.
How do your artist clients take advantage of their option of having
their individual works submitted by ItsAboutMusic.com to Cherry
Lane Music Publishing and SoundtrackExpress.com for film & TV placement?
[Dean Sciarra] The option you speak of only
applies to Cherry Lane Music since the artist makes the decision
to sign the deal - or not. Contracts with Cherry Lane are open to
all my artists. Inclusion of their music at SoundtrackExpress.com
and SongCatalog.com is automatic. I also have started my own relationships
with music supervisors in the song placement arena in order to get
more visibility for my artists.
Cherry Lane is the number one independent music publisher
in the world. They work hard to get placements in TV and film and
even in other areas of publishing. Their contract is fair but not
all artists want to sign the deal, thinking that their music is
worth more to them if they continue to own all of the publishing.
Cherry Lane asks for a portion of the publishing. My response to
any artist who has no "monetary value" attached to their catalog
of music is that until they have placed a few songs into films and
TV, there will be no value associated to their catalog. It's simple
math. We just cut a deal through Cherry Lane with a Canadian TV
company to use ItsAboutMusic.com
artists in all of their productions. The artists whose music has
been selected for that project are not sorry they signed any deals
as they deposit the checks in the bank.
You had thought about providing brick and mortar
distribution for all artists on the roster but the way things look
today, it doesn't seem a promising opportunity. With CD stores closing
and the open stores selling less independent music, do you ever
foresee a point of going in this direction in terms of distribution?
Sciarra] It's not just getting music in stores that I gave up
on. CDs sell when the artist is exposed to the public. They have
to tour, get airplay, distribution into stores and get press on
massive levels in order to sell CDs. That's just too expensive today
- with no guarantee they will make any money. The guards at the
gate are still there. They used to be at the major labels, deciding
which bands got signed. Today they are at the radio stations, record
distributors, record stores and in the press. Who cares what they
think! The only opinions that matter are those of the people who
buy the music, live with the music, tell their friends about the
music, have their lives impacted by the music.
We give too much power to industry people who are
in the position to make decisions about music that will effect the
success of any given artist. Of course, some of those people are
cool enough to handle the job. Too many are not. I see no time in
the future when we will pursue brick & mortar distribution for an
individual artist. However, for the immediate future, record distribution
for certain products seems the way to go. Products like CD Samplers,
especially the new holiday CD from ItsAboutMusic.com, "It's
About Christmas" are prime examples. In this case, you just
have to get the CD in the face of the consumer. They're buying the
holiday itself - not just the artists or the songs. But once they
find out how cool the music is, they will investigate the individual
artists on their own.
What other initiatives are you considering to increase
the income potential for all of your artists?
[Dean Sciarra] I've begun asking my artists
to do what they do best - writing songs. And I have been lucky enough
to come up with some ideas that I would like them to write about
so that I can construct projects in which to include their songs.
We have a primary focus at the moment that has to do with some very
revolutionary concepts around kids' music. With all the music programs
in schools being removed from the curriculums, we have to pick up
the slack so as to offer something intelligent for kids to experience
that will develop their musical appreciation. We as musicians and
writers owe it to future generations, or else there will be less
good music for generations to come.
Will you tell us about your artist agreements and
terms regarding profit sharing? Also, is your relationship with
your artists, non-exclusive?
[Dean Sciarra] My agreement with my artists
is verbal. I will not ask any artist to sign any deals with my company.
If we can't trust each other then we shouldn't be working together.
If an artist wants to leave for any reason, they can. And they have
on occasion. Mostly due to signing record deals that didn't allow
them to continue with me. If I want to ask an artist to leave, I
can. And I have on occasion asked an artist to do so. Usually that
has more to do with them being too "high maintenance" and thinking
that I had become their manager.
I do what I do for all artists on the label. I select
no one above the others to be favored for anything. My verbal agreement
is not exclusive. If they sign another deal with someone else that
is exclusive, then we have to part company. As for profit sharing,
the sharing comes from their income, not mine. I take a 10% commission
from their earnings for which I am responsible. I try to make the
arrangement as easy as possible.
Having been around the indie artist community online
for a few years now, it seems that artists and customers often balk
at having to pay for such things as music related services. How
have you overcome this dynamic where your start-up fee is concerned?
[Dean Sciarra] In the beginning, artists just
saw that what I did for them was worth the small fee. I certainly
wasn't making enough from my commission to stay alive. And if I
couldn't sustain my efforts on their behalf, then what would be
the point of any of it? Some of my artists were making quite a bit
of money 3 or 4 years ago. Most weren't. But the effort I put into
their online presence warranted the expense of my fee. Today, the
fee is minuscule compared to the income I bring to my artists. I
never really did much with the fees other than investing it into
marketing on their behalf anyway. And that hasn't changed much to
this day. When an artist knows that they will make back a lot more
than the fee, they don't seem to have a problem with it.
Thanks for taking the time for this article and
interview. I'd like to let you have the last words. Are there any
closing thoughts that you would like to leave with our readers?
[Dean Sciarra] My last thoughts have to do
with my feelings about the music and the business associated with
it. My ideas about both have always been a little ahead of the curve.
Consequently, I never fit into this business. For many years I tried
to get a job at the major labels. I was given a position at A&M
Records in New York as the East Coast A&R rep through producer David
Kershenbaum only to have it taken away before I started because
David owed a favor to a friend who owned the Beverly Hills Hotel
and who needed a job for his son. I then had to deal with the guy
who took my job in my efforts to get bands signed. That was my fate.
I saw it early on.
I always had to be on my own. I always had to prove
myself. Nothing has changed in that regard. I offer this little
story to those who feel ignored and neglected. If you know in your
heart that you have a contribution to make, just make it. And don't
let anyone else stand in your way.
by the MusicDish
Network. Copyright © Tag
It 2003 - Republished with Permission. All Rights Reserved.