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#Fangagement: Artists Crowdsourcing - Chris Robley Of CD Baby

Chris_robley_fangagementBy C. Vincent Plummer, co-founder and social strategist for Bedloo.com

I'm here today with Chris Robley. He's a producer, songwriter, father, and a published poet. By day, he works as the marketing coordinator for CD Baby and BookBaby, where he manages the DIY Musician Blog which sees over 100k unique visits per month... 

So let's take a look.

Introduction and Getting Connected to CD Baby

Vincent: First up, I want the quick and dirty. Who are you, and how did you get connected to CD Baby?

Chris: I am a musician, a song writer, a poet and a person. I guess my CD Baby story is kind of sideways progress tale. I currently do a lot of writing for them: copywriting, blogging and writing informational guides and all that sort of stuff.

I’ve ended up using my English degree sort of by accident, because when I graduated I went to school in Richmond, Virginia. I was in a band and graduated and we all wanted to move away from the East Coast because everyone in the band was from various places along the East Coast.

So we saved up a bunch of money and took a trip around the country for about two months. We were going to pick either Portland, Oregon or Austin, Texas. It was eighty-five and beautiful out in Oregon when we were there. It was one-fourteen in Austin and I had a really bad case of poison ivy or poison oak.

The car we were in had no air conditioning. So, anyway I made up my mind about that. We went to Oregon. I was in totally new coast, new town, new music scene for us.

We showed up in late September and the rain started and it fell for about six months. So we were in our basement a lot recording and practicing and trying to figure out how to gig. In the meantime I needed a job but I didn’t want to be tied down. I was selling Christmas trees and I was working as a bank teller and I took all these crappy jobs.

Meanwhile we put out a record and I looked online where I wanted to sell it and I saw CD Baby. I was like, “I never heard of it, that’s cool. Oh my God, they’re twenty blocks down the street from me.”

So, I went in there and it was like this kind of crazy paradise. It was this weird giant warehouse full of music. People were riding scooters around and there was like punk rock anarchists and cute little indie singer-songwriters and all kinds of types of people.

Vincent: Awesome.

Chris: Yeah, so anyway, I met the vice president and lo and beyond he’s a customer of the bank I worked at. So, I begged him for three years for a job. Finally one day he said, “Sure, there’s something open in customer service.”

Vincent: Is this during the time when Derek Sivers was there?

Chris: Yeah. I started there in 2005. So, I guess when I first found out about CD Baby would have been around 2002 maybe. But yeah, I started working in customer service then after a year I was managing customer service.

After another year I moved to a position they call editor which is basically just writing about some of our favorite music on the site. I ended up in marketing and I’ve been doing a lot of the blog management for them for the different Baby brands. There’s also BookBaby and HostBaby.

CD Baby Employees

Vincent: I know the main office is up in Portland, Oregon. But your whole team doesn’t reside there, correct? How does CD Baby feel about having employees work all over the country?

Chris: I’m actually one of those people that don’t live in Oregon anymore. So you’d have to ask them, but I moved a couple of years. I was in Oregon for about ten years and then a couple of years ago I moved to Portland, Maine.

I guess I am speaking for them but I think it’s worked pretty well. Everyone that’s around the country we check in often we have at least daily instant message chats, Skype meetings and frequent conference calls and all that kind of stuff.

Then about every three months I’ll go back there for just team cohesion stuff, hang out, eat some burritos. Usually when I go out there too I play my shows of my own because a lot of my own fans and my band, the people I make music with are all out there.

Vincent: Cool. About what percentage of the workforce do you think works remotely?

Chris: Not many. I think there’s more than a hundred employees now. I forget what the exact number is, but I’d say 95% of them are in Oregon in Portland.

CD Baby’s Independent Music Distribution

Vincent: So CD Baby is the world’s largest distributor of independent music. Tell us how that works and more importantly, why it works.

Chris: Yeah, I guess maybe they’ll say quick why, we provide artists with a number of ways to make money from their music and it’s all from a single account.

You just log in once, create an account and we’ll take care of monetizing music in a number of ways which include making music available on all the major download and streaming platforms like iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Amazon and all those places. Also warehouse CDs and vinyl and we’ll handle oral fulfillment for sales that are generated directly from artist websites and Facebook pages.

Also have a number of millions of customers that come to cdbaby.com which is our retail site. So, all those sales we process, we also make people’s music available for purchase in about fifteen thousand record stores around the world through our partnership with Alliance, which is a big one stop distributor.

More recently we’ve gotten into Sync Licensing, so we get your music into a catalogue of pre-cleared tracks that are available to music supervisors and content creators.

We will help you monetize your music on YouTube. Not just in your own official channel, on your own official videos but anywhere that your songs are used on YouTube, we’ll help collect the ad revenue for you.

Then our most recent product that we launched is called CD Baby Pro. That includes all the stuff I already mentioned as well as worldwide publishing royalty collection.

We’ll register you as a songwriter with either ASCAP or BMI and register all your songs as well with collection agencies around the world so that they make sure you’re getting paid everything you are owed.

I’m going down the laundry list of the things we do but I think basically we’re doing all that from a very simple account, very simple approach, friendly, we’re all musicians. So, it’s a situation where you can call us on the phone and, yeah of course we want to talk to you about your CD Baby account and stuff like that, but we’re happy to talk about your latest gig or whatever.

We want to hear how you’re doing and we get it. So us trying to solve these problems and remove barriers that exist for any musician, it’s coming from a place where we’re basically doing it for ourselves as well.

Competitive Advantage

Vincent: Talk to me about competitive advantage. What’s the badge that CD Baby wears proudly on its chest and says, “We are the best option to do blank in the industry and this is why.”

Chris: I’m probably evading, not evading your question, but simplifying it. I was just thinking we’re basically the best place to come and make money from your music because we’re able to do it in so many different ways.

But in terms of just a direct competitive advantage if we’re talking about other digital distributors, the obvious thing is we have no annual fees.

So, basically there’s a one-time setup fee. We take nine percent of your sales and we’re only making money when you do. So, you don’t have to worry about every single year for the rest of your life having to cough up fifty bucks or whatever it may be in ten years like when your album might not be selling as well it does when it first comes out.

So basically there’s just that assurance that it’s always going to be up for sale as long as there’s such a thing as an internet. It actually is important.

Vincent: Right, I actually wrote a piece on this and why I actually switched to CD Baby from TuneCore. It had to do exactly with that. I had six records out, three of them from the band that I was in. It kind of started to slip into the long tail.

I started to notice I was just like, “Man, I’m paying this annual upgrade fee every year.” So that time six albums was roughly three hundred bucks.

Chris: Yeah, it adds up too. The more music you release, exactly it…

Vincent: Yeah.

Chris: It’s kind of a bummer when you to cough it up upfront just to keep your music up for sale.

Trends in Digital Distribution

Vincent: So what are the most interesting trends that you guys have noticed as far as digital distribution?

Chris: As far as trends and when I started it was just after Derek, the founder of the company, had basically partnered with iTunes to deliver music to them. I believe when I started there they were just starting to send their first batch of music deliveries.

By like maybe 2006, it had exploded to the point where there were a hundred different download stores and we were partnered with them all and they were competing. Over the years that’s definitely been concentrated and contracted to a handful of really important players. I suppose that’s no secret either.

But it was interesting to watch as players fell off. But along with that contraction has been obviously a shift in how people prefer to even consume music. We’re noticing a bit of a download sales are leveling off.

But as that happens, it’s been offset by like a huge growth in streaming revenue from Spotify and Rdio and all those kinds of places. So much so that it surprises me how big a part of our monthly payout to artists Spotify has become.

Vincent: Really? With such a small percentage, I mean because I remember I think it was one one hundredth of a cent per stream or something like that. It still holds up the value with that many streams?

Chris: Well, see I feel like I’m doing a lot of Spotify, not apology, but I’m doing a lot of convincing. Whenever I write about this people write and they’re doubtful. I get it too because as an artist I look at my own royalty statements from them and I’m like, “Oh great I have enough to buy an ice-cream cone after a thousand or whatever it is people listen to my music.”

But particularly for artists that are getting a lot of hype and buzz it’s doing really good stuff for them and so much so that it is surprising revenue for us.

I’m hoping also like as adoption of Spotify goes up that those payouts will increase as well in terms of the per play payouts.

But I guess another thing that is really surprising to me too is, or at least it’s surprising from the point where we started in 2004 with iTunes, is that YouTube is a huge player in this niche now too.

People for a long time just looked at them as a video site but now they’re a number 1 music discovery tool for lots of folks. They are the number one preferred music listening platforms for younger listeners.

So, there’s been this like fragmentation from digital distribution being purely concerned with download sales to download and streaming. Now it’s download streaming and YouTube revenue are all equally important.

Just to talk about CD Baby for a second, we’ve paid out one point two million dollars in sync revenue to artists. Most of that is actually from YouTube ad revenue. Some of our artists are making tens of thousands of dollars from YouTube.

A lot of that is not even the videos that those fans are creating themselves. Its user generated content that makes use of the artist song. But it could be something like a family video that uses their song. Or it could be a fan that’s making a video for you. They type out your lyrics or whatever.

But it’s surprising that a lot of these artists that are doing super well have tons of fans that are helping them in a way. So, it’s not even really about your own official videos. It’s like music distribution in a way it’s getting socialized.

It’s more about what your fans can do with your music as opposed to how you can convince people to pay you directly for your music, if that makes any sense.

Vincent: Yeah. Unpack that a little bit as far as the YouTube thing. So basically, I mean because I’ve noticed this before when I’ve done covers, like I enter in Elliott Smith, Between the Bars.

Then YouTube recognizes that that is a song that is owned by whatever label. Then they can put some sort of ad revenue in front of that and then that goes to the sync. Is that what you’re getting at here?

Chris: Yeah, so the example you used where it’s a cover song would be a little bit different from what we’re doing. But it’s kind of the same concept. But essentially what you’ll be doing if you covered an Elliot Smith’s song, I’m assuming that YouTube is flagging it based on that metadata you either put his name or the song title or whatever.

So the label and the publishers of his music can have YouTube serve open ad and ad revenue that’s generated from that video gets paid to them.

The way CD Baby does it; actually artists can’t monetize cover songs through our program. So, it’s just for original content that you own, the copyright to the song recording as well.

YouTube will sonically fingerprint that music and then they’re scanning their whole YouTube universe database for similar audio files. If it’s a match then yeah, then the ad will get served up and in that family wedding video and the person who owns the song will get paid through CD Baby.

You’re not going to get paid a boat load money for one ad that’s clicked. But the more videos you have or more accurately the more videos that are out there that use your music, the more revenue you’re going to be making. Over in the long haul, years and years of YouTube, that stuff really adds up.

Pre-rolls

Vincent: So, it’s also with pre-roll as well, right? If I use a Macklemore song for like my skateboarding video that I make at the park and it gets a million views. Is it also attaching pre-rolls to that?

Chris: You mean pre-roll like a video ad or something like that?

Vincent: Yeah, like a video ad in front of it or something like that that it’s not based on clicks but it’s based on the pre-roll which you’re definitely going to see some sort of an ad?

Chris: Yeah, with our program it could be any of those. It could be just a banner ad that pops up on the video itself or a pre-roll.

In that case the artist will get paid, I believe it’s if you watch the entire thing or if the little ad happens to be more than fifteen seconds. Then if you watch up to fifteen seconds you get paid for it.

Product Roadmap

Vincent: Now it’s no secret that streaming services are becoming the dominant force of how people are listening to music. Recommendations on these platforms for discovery are super important. What I mean by that is like if you like this artist, then you’ll like this artist.

One of the things that I’ve struggled with and why I don’t understand why middlemen like CD Baby, TuneCore etcetera don’t offer solution to tag yourself with names of certain artists.

Do you ever see that becoming part of the product roadmap? If not is it because the secret to that is that labels hold the keys for that part of the kingdom?

Chris: Well, I don’t know who the ultimate key holder is on that issue. But I can say we actually do collect that information at the starting point. So when you sign up an account with CD Baby, you show what’s your song type, what’s your artist name, all that kind of stuff. Also we ask you for a three similar artist names that you sound like.

So, we’re collecting that data but it’s an issue of when we deliver music and the metadata to our partner retailers and streaming platforms, you have to do basically separately formatted delivery for each company.

They’re asking for very specific set of metadata and we obviously have to meet their request to send the music. A couple of them do take that sounds like information but most of them don’t.

I honestly don’t know why that is except that they just maybe don’t have a place to display in their stores easily so they just would rather not have it. But I know it’s an issue and I wish it’s something that the whole industry would look at and value a little bit more.

Because it seems like if you could find music based on searches about the players in the band, or who engineered the album, or like if I wanted to search every album on iTunes that Brian Eno produced or something. It would be great to have all those credits listed in the metadata somewhere.

So, it’s important to me. I don’t know why it’s not important to more people except maybe just to say that they’re probably making enough money that the pressure is not there.

Vincent: Right. It’s the kind of thing that I’ve thought about for years. For example, I might make a song that’s an Elliot Smith song or I might put out a record that’s somewhat in the right zip code of Elliott Smith, right?

I thought well, it’s way more important for me to be able to say, this particular record similar to Elliott Smith, or Postal Service, or something like that than it is to try to do that on Twitter.

But it’s the same kind of thing because people aren’t following that Elliott Smith hashtag, or they’re not following the Postal Service hashtag as much as they would in the actual store when they’re looking to consume or try to setup a channel that sounds like an Elliott Smith channel. Do you know what I mean?

Chris: Right, yeah exactly. I totally understand the logic because we do that at CD Baby again, like I said, we take that information upfront. But then it also informs our own search on cdbaby.com.

So you could type in Elliott Smith and artists that have said they sound like Elliott Smith are likely to come up in that search result. Yeah, I’m with you on that one. I wish more retailers took it.

Teaming up with PledgeMusic and Disc Makers

Vincent: You guys recently just teamed up with PledgeMusic and Disc Makers. Tell me what that’s going to mean for indie artists working at CD Baby.

Chris: Yeah, actually this deal that’s been announced between PledgeMusic, Disc Makers and CD Baby. To be honest we’re still working out some of what that will mean. But what I can say is that PledgeMusic at this point is going to be running the manufacturing at least in the U.S. through Disc Makers.

Then as part of that package it will include access to CD Baby’s digital distribution services as well. That's about all the details I can share at this point.

Vincent: Got it. Okay, cool.

Chris: Yeah, I’m excited because I think PledgeMusic is amazing.

Vincent: Yeah. I was fortunate to be able to interview Benji. I think that whole concept of what he’s doing is the future after all these digital trends shake out. I feel like it’s going to have to go back towards this curated direct to fan situation because it’s just going to be so noisy.

I definitely think that there’s going to always be a place for passive listening once music kind of reaches kind of a certain level of scale but for the independent artist, I don’t see any other way around it now, it being that noisy.

Chris: Yeah but we give up three hundred new albums a day.

Vincent: Wow.

Chris: It’s a lot of noise and a lot of music.

Marketing music as an artist

Vincent: Now I know you’re a marketing guy but you’re also an artist. Did you find that these two things came hand in hand for you or was learning to sell your music something that you had to figure out?

Chris: Definitely figure out they were, yeah, the furthest thing from hand in hand. I think I probably suffered from the same thing that lots of artists do where you think you’re creating music in this pure world that’s untouched by whatever, marketplace concerns or whatever.

I was vehemently against thinking about anything like that until once we were in Oregon there were three of us in the band and we had this kind of de facto band manager who had a lot of experience in marketing and PR.

She was really like dragging me kicking and screaming to the place where I finally saw the light. One night we were sitting down and she and her husband got out these charts and Venn Diagrams and all stuff, I’m like “Oh my God.”

But then something about that night I was like, “Oh you know I really do want people to hear my music. I’m not totally just doing this for me. I want to have an audience so if there are not even concessions if there’s just considerations I can make about how to draw people into that.”

Something about it was very revelatory for me but it’s totally common sense and simple if you’re already predisposed to thinking like that. But anyway it was definitely a slow joining of the two for me.

Vincent: What are three of the most essential things that successful artists do to grow with the public? Do you think these things translate into making money?

Chris: I think it helps if you’re the kind of person who is excited to engage with your fan base obviously.

But one example of that that really sticks out of my mind is Macklemore for the past couple of years has had huge success but at CD Baby he’s been working with us for years and years.

I think it was probably at least five, maybe six years ago, a friend of mine who works at CD Baby who’d been actually playing some shows with Macklemore because he’s also a kind of northwest hip-hop guy said, “You need to watch out for this dude.” I’m like, “Oh well, why?”

He said, “Well, he’s great first of all, but he is totally just one hundred percent dedicated to what he’s doing. Every single show afterwards he’s out there signing autographs and taking pictures with fans.” He was even doing this up kind of too that mid-level place where he was playing two thousand seat places.

He’d be talking to hundreds of people a night. It didn’t seem to wear on him. He didn’t have any rock star airs. He just likes to meet the people that were excited about his music. I think that’s one big thing. Obviously in his case it turned into money.

Another thing I was thinking was, if you can be really strategic about the things you put your energy into in a way where they have sort of double the impact I guess you could say.

One example of that would be a friend of mine he’s in the band called Weinland. They put out this thing called Weinmark, which was Makers Mark Infused Coffee. It didn’t really have anything to do with their music but they love Makers Mark and they love coffee so they did this co-branded product.

All of a sudden they had an extra merch. item at their booth, something to talk about on stage and even when they’re at the booth, so they can all strike up a conversation about Makers Mark and coffee.

But most importantly is they get all of that kind of double or triple press coverage from all three of those entities, blogging and sharing on social media and all that stuff.

I think there are lesser ways you can get out to. Like go back to Macklemore, I know at Bumbershoot a couple of years ago he was handing out fliers for a show that was happening later that week. While all these people are waiting in line, he’s going and he’s meeting people and he’s handing them a flier.

But in five of those fliers were golden tickets. He was doing this Willy Wonka thing, giving out tickets to his show which also drew in press from Bumbershoot and just people that wanted to blog about kind of strange things. So, he was getting all this extra coverage for one effort.

I can always steal in the go to piece of advice which would be, be persistent. I think it’s actually incredibly important and not just necessarily like over the long haul of your career but even within particular campaigns to keep at it long enough so you can let it grow.

I know that a lot of those bands kind of habitually put out cover songs on YouTube like Common and there are a few others. The ones that have been successful have all said like persistence was key.

Because after the first maybe few weeks or months they weren’t seeing very encouraging traffic stats. The views were not what they were hoping and they all kind of came close to saying well this is a waste of our time. But they stuck with it and then at some point, there’s this critical mass and it becomes, wildly successful.

I think that’s probably the case for a lot of things whether its streaming concerts from your basement, or you’re doing video blogs, or just maybe writing a new song every week. You stick with it and you condition your audience to a point where it becomes a habit, I think people; I don’t know how to say this. It’s like something has to become habitual before they even know they want it. So, I think persistence helps with that too.

Marketing Tips

Vincent: Do you have any secret tips? I mean being a marketing guy, being a music guy; do you have anything that you’ve noticed that works the best for you?

Chris: I don’t know if it’s much of a secret and I also should say that having moved and in some ways regionally I’m sort of starting from ground zero in terms of building a fan base in Maine where I’m at now.

I had a baby a couple of years ago too, so I haven’t been doing nearly as much music making and marketing as I was when I was in Oregon. But I’ll do the usual stuff, the Facebook, Twitter and all that, and then have sort of average results I guess.

Then whenever I send out an email, suddenly I get all these responses from folks. A lot of them are in Oregon and they don’t hear from me as much. But it’s the email that gets them engaged and we are suddenly were in communication.

If I whatever had some new poem published or maybe whatever it is, they respond and they’re super excited. I think don’t neglect your email list would be the simple nutshell piece of advice from that.

Vincent: Yeah, emails for life.

Chris: Yeah.

Vincent: I mean I still know people that are using AOL, Hotmail accounts.

Chris: Oh yeah.

Vincent: Wow.

Chris: This is no secret either but Facebook is making it more and more difficult for people to engage with their audiences without paying at least.

Vincent: Right.

Chris: Who knows, I don’t see Twitter doing anything like that but they could. Any of these platforms could. So email is crucial to focus all your efforts.

Vincent: It’s crucial.

Chris: Yeah, lots of your efforts.

Making a Positive Impression

Vincent: In recent blog post you said that artists needed to, “make a positive impression or an emotional appeal” to their fans. Can you tell me three ways that an artist or a band can do this right or three ways it could go terribly wrong?

Chris: Sure. I guess to make an impression or an appeal you’d have to have some bit of self-knowledge. I think the starting point there is to know your own story and to craft a way to tell it well.

Hopefully in a way that it enhances the audience’s reception of your music instead of maybe having a story that’s SO above and beyond the music that it includes in the music. The story I always think of is Mary Gauthier, do you know her? She’s a songwriter.

She’s an incredible songwriter but she also has this really, I’d say great, but it’s great for marketing, not so great to live, but orphan, kind of punk rock misfit living in the conservative south, struggling with sexual identity, substance abuse issues and all that stuff.

Then at thirty-five she learns guitar and writes her first song and then has crazy people covering her music and really high profile artists. She’s winning a bunch of awards. But, for her it’s more than just like this hard struggle kind of rock and roll story because it’s so infused into what she does.

Her honesty with her audience and how it informs the songs and how the songs inform the story, it’s just this total honest package of this is me, this is my life. She does it I don’t know how, just sort of unmentionable or mysterious quality about it. But she does that really well.

In terms of what not to do, maybe without mentioning particular names, there are so many bands that fall into just clichés. One example would be like when you’re putting together your crowd funding campaign and you say in your video like, “This is where you come in.”

Everyone does it. It becomes meaningless. So just find a way to appeal to your audience.

I saw this other band, they were making video blogs. They were not using actual human lingo. They started speaking in marketing speak to their fans. I was like, “Oh God.” So like just saying, “This show we really want to add value and blah blah blah and add value and blah blah blah.” Just stop it.

You’re losing everyone. No one gives a shit about this marketing talk. It’s great that you’re considering it.

I think, have enough respect for your audience, to talk to them like their friends, or if not friends at least just people you respect or appreciate.

Then the other thing that happens in all sorts of ways whether it’s just constant Twitter posts or emailing your fan base too often about a particular thing, you come across as desperate especially I noticed probably the most in crowd funding campaigns.

But there’s really a difference between asking for floatation device and some help other than like I think of the metaphor of going with a lifeboat and shipping it over in an attempt to get some help.

But like just have some common sense about the amount of time and the intensity with which you’re engaging your audience to because eventually they’ll just tune you out.

Vincent: Yeah, interesting. It makes me think about that quote I think I’ve seen somewhere. I don’t know where I’ve seen it, probably some Pinterest, something on Pinterest. It seems like one of those pop cliché things.

But it just really kind of resonated with me with what you were talking about which is like, Own your own story before somebody else owns it for you.” I’m thinking about that girl that you were talking about that was thirty-five.

Chris: Yeah, it’s like whenever I talk about that particular kind of putting together your story, I use her as an example because it is such a memorable, dramatic story. I know that that puts a lot of artists in that place where like, I just grew up and had a fine life.

I didn’t have anything like that. I’m one of those people too like I don’t have any great hurdles to overcome besides just having been born.

But I think even for those people there’s a way of crafting the little bits of drama you have or just maybe using humor, or self-deprecation, or even your previous achievements that will be of interest. It doesn’t always have to be some high drama.

Vincent: Yeah. So, make friends with writers, people. Make friends with writers because I know it’s one of these things that artists really struggle with. They struggle with talking about themselves.

For me, like my way of doing that is with lyrics and crafting my clever little hidden messages and secret messages to the world that you’d have to decode three or four different ways. But the reality of it is people are too busy to decode all that stuff. You know what I mean?

Chris: That alone is interesting enough to be part of your story is that you communicate with your fan base through these little enigmas that are buried in your song.

That intrigues me if that can be part of the story.

Final Advice

Vincent: Do you have any final advice you have to offer either artists or aspiring industry folks? Like what’s your number one soapbox issue?

Chris: I guess my big soapbox issue would be, it drives me nuts when bands are emulating other bands that are currently successful. Like right now we’re in the age of Mumford & Sons where a few years ago they had a bunch of hits. Now every single band that has a hit has like four on the floor kicked on and gang vocals and stuff.

The industry will either find other bands that are out there that sound like them already which God bless them, I wish them success. But then also like, it puts pressure on other bands to mold their sound.

I have a good friend who is working with kind of an A&R thing and they were wanting her to really Mumford & Sons up her sound. It bums me out so much. So basically, don’t be a slave to fashion because fashions get stale.

Then on a more positive note maybe I’d say just in terms of generally guarding your attitude about your music like to put everything into the projects you’re involved in, you put all your heart, creativity into it. But also have a realization that a lot of those efforts are going to fail if you’re judging them by other people’s standards and that's okay.

Like my first band album I put out when I moved to Portland was kind of an embarrassing flop. It was pretty much panned by critics. It sold pretty much nothing. Of course I was wounded by it but I also learned from it.

I read some of the bad reviews and I was like, “You know what, they’re kind of right.” So my next five records, I can’t brag about sales at all but they were all pretty much critically successful. I did well in that way. They helped me build my band and they helped me get better.

So, basically yeah if your band breaks up, that’s sad, but you can join another band. Maybe you didn’t end up on the cover of your city’s like local arts paper, but the band that did might be broken up in five years and by then you could be on Lettermen.

There’s just like no way to predict what’s going to lead to success. So if you just keep at it. I guard against saying stay positive because I think that’s impossible to stay positive all the time and probably stupid.

But if you at least stay somewhat kind of philosophical about it, I think having a love for your music making over many years is a wise way to approach your career as opposed to just being so focused on what’s going to happen in the next three to six months. Future plans

Vincent: What are your plans for the future? Do you have anything that you’d like to plug right now?

Chris: Yeah, sure. Since I moved I’ve been concentrating a lot on writing poetry. I’ve had a number of poems accepted in publications that I really respect. The big one that I just had recently is Poetry Magazine which is the big, it’s an establishment. So that was exciting.

I’m going to be working on a manuscript of poems and try and get a book published hopefully in the next couple of years.

On the music side of things, I’ve got an album and an EP that are both recorded and mixed. I’m trying to figure out what to do with them at this point, sharing them with a couple of labels and seeing if we can partner on anything there.

But chances are I’ll put it out myself and hopefully work with a publicist and get back into my music making mode. I’m really excited about the albums of course as everyone is.

Vincent: Awesome, man.

Chris: Yeah, so it’s cool to have poetry and music as a flip back and forth rather than getting burned out on any one, I can just shift gears.

Vincent: Right. Having just had a baby, I’m sure you’re writing about different kinds of things now, huh?

Chris: Yeah, very different. I’m more, particularly in music I’d say it’s becoming more informed by autobiographical events I guess you could say. Like I used to write very character driven kind of fiction sort of lyrics and I still do some of that.

But the music is becoming far more personal and raw and vulnerable which I think is exciting for me. From the few people who’ve heard the unreleased stuff, they’re picking up on that and are excited about it.

Vincent: Awesome. Well, hey man, this is great. I really appreciate your time.

Chris: Oh cool. Thanks so much. This was a lot of fun.

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Thank you guys so much for tuning in. We'd love to hear your feedback. I'm @cvpmusic on twitter or hit us up @bedloo. 

You can find Chris on Twitter at @chrisrobley. Don't forget to use #fangagement.

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