In this interview, Thaddeus Rudd of one of the world's best respected indie labels, Mom+Pop Music about his career highlights, how someone looking to get involved in the music industry today should proceed, and what he anticipates for the future of the music business.
Guest post by Emily White of Music Industry Insights
midemblog: What are the best things about your job, and what have been your career highlights to date?
Thaddeus Rudd: I’m currently the co-owner and co-President of a well-resourced independent label, called Mom+Pop. We’re based in New York, employ 13 awesome staff and enjoy an amazing roster of artists. Some of our artists have achieved global success and released influential music, including Flume, Courtney Barnett, Lucius, Polica and Metric. Our newer signings, including Alina Baraz, Jai Wolf, Bayonne are making an impact on their first releases and we look forward to a great collective future.
Working as part of a team, including our dedicated managers, hard working publicists and booking agents, is the most rewarding thing. In today’s music business, the Label-Artist-Manager relationship needs to be a true partnership. We have so many resources and options when we work together to strategise our recording and touring work, and in every case where we’ve been fortunate enough to break a new artist to a wider audience, it’s been because the team has been locked in with a shared vision and approach, and of course great music.
It’s been a long road, over 8 years, to arrive at this place. Mom+Pop was founded by my partner, Michael Goldstone (Goldie), who himself has had an incredibly successful and well-documented A&R career (Pearl Jam! Rage Against the Machine, Tegan and Sara, Regina Spektor etc).
Before coming to join Goldie and eventually partner with him, my highlights were spending formative years at Virgin Records in LA, learning the ropes, in a great time for music and the industry. Later, I founded my own indie label venture in the heyday of late ‘90s indie rock, which was an important learning and proving ground in a very difficult climate, when the market was far less available to independent bands and small labels. I had the good fortune to work by day in radio promotion, with the then-leader, Jeff McClusky. Jeff is a force of nature, passionate about service, follow-through, and I absorbed the best aspects and mastered the nuts and bolts of how our radio process works in America. In my tenure as a manager, managing a small roster of acts globally, I experienced first hand the different European and Asian music markets, the opportunities and challenges of global releases and touring a rock band in 3 continents, as well as the importance of syncs and licensing in creating profile and economic for artists and labels.
> What advice would you give to people looking to start working in the music industry today?
This answer is perhaps slightly different today, in light of the first positive growth trends we’re now seeing in our business in some time. For many years, during which we as an industry reconnoitered our business approach and restructured our companies and were forced to reconsider the scale and efficiency of our work, I was unsure if going into music was as intuitive as when I was in college and trying to get in the business, lest I have to go get a ‘real’ job.
Now, I feel incredibly optimistic, not only because the streaming market is creating more opportunities, but because our culture is more connected with music on a day to day basis. Music – be it listened to on our phones through earbuds, in our cars plugged into the aux cable or bluetooth, or in our homes – is so easy to engage with. And, we’re not relegated to our CD or MP3 collections; the entirety of what’s been recorded is at our fingertips.
My advice is simple: get the best education you can, as you’ll need it the rest of your life. Find a way to put yourself in a position to work and spend time with the best people and the best organisations you can get access to, as an intern if necessary. If it requires working another job, create time in your life to work without tying that work to your compensation needs. The people you meet and learn from will lead you to your eventual successes, and the experience you can get from the best label/management company/agency/promoter that you can plant yourself at will be the education and experience you’ll need to grow into your eventual career. It’s a career which requires real life work experience.
I can’t underscore enough that if you approach your first couple jobs as “graduate school”, and go into them not for the money but for the quality of the work and people, you’ll put yourself in position to go as far as your professional ability, interpersonal skills and desire allow.
> What do you predict will be the key trends for music consumption and marketing in 2017?
Streaming will continue to scale, now that there are different platforms and pricing options available. I don’t have any strong opinions about the new “windowing” option, as I don’t think it’s relevant to our artists. We try to continue our business being platform- and format-agnostic. We love streaming for all the above reasons, and our artists continue to get better known and sell more tickets and grow globally, as their reach grows. We also love making vinyl and take great care in crafting LPs and associated products to sell directly to an artist’s (and our label’s) core fanbase. There’s still a wonderful connection when you can get a signed edition print along with an LP directly from an artist store or at the show, and that’s something we continue to honour.
That said, the DSPs have created an extraordinary listening experience. As a music fan first and foremost, I’m continually astounded that every album I at one time in my life flipped through in a bin at Tower Records, unable to pay the $14 for the CD, is now something I can listen to. I find myself going back to records from other eras and listening with the same curiosity as my 13 year old self.
Beyond that, for many in the USA, for example, the ease of use of Pandora is the right fit, and brings folks closer to a pay model. Amazon has a cool home speaker that our non-music biz friends seem to be putting in their kitchens, leading to more listening, which is a great thing.
> What is the one innovation that we should be the most excited about?
Streaming services integrating their platforms into car dashboards. Once your favourite playlists are as intuitive in your car radio dashboard, and you can seamlessly toggle between a radio station, your own playlists, curated playlists and perhaps DSP bespoke programming, we will be able to bring new music discovery into a traditionally more passive listening environment, the car, where we listen to more music.
> And what do you think are the biggest challenges facing the music industry this year?
Continuing to sign forward-thinking music and investing in meaningful artists. One of the upsides of the streaming market scaling is that new song releases have become news in and of themselves, on a global scale. A new song by our artist, Flume, can reach the entire listening world on a given Friday! However, one of the downsides of the streaming boom is the consumption of new music feels weighted toward the top; the largest global artists, tracks conceived featuring multiple brand name artists. Larger systems are drawn to the scale of these acts releasing a steady flow of new tracks, for good reason. Companies on our slightly smaller scale need to continue to find inspiring, innovative new artists who are able to shift culture at the same time we look to affect a larger scale of listening audience.
Artist manager Emily White is partner at Whitesmith Entertainment and co-founder of Dreamfuel. She also serves on the boards of CASH Music & Future of Music Coalition. She is a frequent contributor to midemblog and Midem speaker and moderator.