Now, everybody has a record store in his pocket…
Interview with David Ross – writer, journalist and marketing expert
© Lilly Drumeva-O’Reilly
Early November 2013, I met with David Ross in his office in Nashville. He gave me his book “The Secrets of the Lust”, which I read on the plane on my way back to Bulgaria. David Ross is the founder of the music industry magazine “Music Raw”. He is also an expert in music marketing and many other things. Here is what he shared with me:
How is country music changing in the digital world?
New bridges are laid. They are not finished, but we are already walking on them.
Where is the bridge going?
On one side, when we started, it was the industry that produced and sold records. Records were everything. Objects were sent to record stores, cash registers were ringing. And now, everybody has a record store in his pocket. You can take your phone and download whatever you want. Streaming is coming on strong as well, but it is not a big source of revenue yet. When there were records, the industry was collecting dollars. Now, with the digital files, the industry collects dimes. And with streams it is pennies and fraction of pennies. This means that the industry has to find other revenue ways.
What are they?
Touring, merchandizing, endorsements, sponsorships…
What are the new marketing tools nowadays?
Mailing lists, access to fans. It is all about eyeballs and ears. Reach as a wide a group as possible. You can put your video on YouTube, but who will be watching? A bunch of friends? You can fall into obscurity. The worst problem is the short span of attention people have. Also, not everybody you reach is interested in what you do. That’s what social media is all about. To find out the 10% of a million people who might like to learn more about your product.
Do you recommend paid ads on Facebook?
Sure. But you have to very carefully detail who your audience is, to whom it should go to. The more you learn about your fans, the better.
What is the profile of the country music fan nowadays?
Well, the research shows that a large percentage is towards women in their forties. Most of the songs are about partying, beer, girls…
Yes, but I’m in that age group and these songs don’t appeal to me?
(Laughs) Well, you are a foreigner, an alien! No, the point is that songs about pretty women in bikinis is not going out of style any time soon. Whatever age group you are in. They are creating an aura. Life is a big party. This is the trend. Trends come and go in cycles. Florida Georgia Line became popular with these songs and everyone wants to be like them. Then it becomes too much. People start asking, what is this all about. And it goes back to basics. We have seen this in the 70s, 80s and 90s.
So, you are predicting that the trend of the party songs is going to disappear?
It’s going to slow down. It will become too close to pop and we’re gonna lose the interest in country music. There will be probably couple of good years out of it.
I’m waiting to see a woman in country music who speaks to me and my generation? Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood are too young.
Miranda (Lambert) is doing it a little bit. In our culture it is all about youth. Oh my God, in your 40s, you’re already gone (laughs). And in my age, it is “double already gone”. It’s just the way it is. The artists are getting younger and younger.
Why is country music not so popular outside the US?
It is popular in Australia and Canada, Great Britain and Ireland. The message in country music is the story – the storytelling in a song. If people in a country don’t speak English, it is hard to get it across. Pop music travels better, because it is mostly rhythm and dance.
You don’t sound as if you are a southerner?
No, I’m from Boston. I graduated from a business college and became a musician. After 10 years down the road I figured out that I’m not going to be a superstar. It’s a hard truth when it hits you. So, I tried finding other ways to stay involved in the music industry and became a writer and magazine editor.
Thanks David for a very interesting interview!