Blog entry

Dharmapalooza twoza

sunday i get up and scurry off to Naropa's Nalanda campus (that's where all the talks are being held). we begin again with meditation, and then i talk a bit about the changes at Dharma Pop. for the last year Dharma Pop was comprised of Vipassana, Rinzai, Shambhala, and Soto branches. Soto was the management branch, and handled all the details of running a record. soto was staffed by kismet smith, rob berg, jason digges, and chad phillips. they worked very very hard for long hours and no pay, and i am very moved and grateful for how generously they gave of themselves to the cause. recently jason, kismet, and chad have all decided to move on to other things. no one was fired, they've all chosen for their own reasons to do something else with their lives, and i respect and understand their wanting to do so. dharma pop will always hold a special place in its heart for them.

in conjunction with those changes, i am restructuring the label. this includes dissolving the soto branch, and technically the others as well. my plan involves changing dharma pop into a non-profit, and from here on out the commercial tasks such as promotion, radio, distribution, and everything else that was handles by soto will either be handled by me or people hired for specific tasks. this year i am planning to release an album nationally with Rykodisc as sole distributor, and this will involve hiring a commercial radio promoter and publicist. we'll be putting the CD in thousands of stores with listening stations, taking out ads in magazines, working to get national t.v. and radio play, as well as articles in the major publications. this will all run about $50,000 to jump start. the next priority is arranging this 50K in capital to move ahead.

while this will be our first major step into the national arena, it does not mean there will no longer be a punk monk community. i want the hundreds of punk monks from all over the world to continue to be a community for each other and the music, and my hope is we can continue to count on their inestimable power and love to get the word out there, help with promotion, and hold the context of our work in the Mystery. it doesn't mean we're ditching our grass roots, it means we're doing other things as well. a distinction i will make from here on out is between these two COMPLEMENTARY aspects of Dharma Pop, the punk monk / volunteer community, and the commercial / business side. i believe it will benefit the organization to have the nitty gritty work of radio, media, distribution, and larger business designated to professionals (3rd party companies, etc) on a case-by case basis. for instance, when we want to release a single to radio, we're going to hire the right radio promoter. when we're ready to augment that with a push for larger media exposure, we'll hire a publicist, and so on with retail, etc. in fact, to work correctly all of these must click at the same time, and finessing the delicate relations of the music business is incredibly challenging. in short, it requires mercenaries. we are going to hire mercinaries for these jobs, to insure (in as much as possible) that our move into larger things is successful and sustainable.

i'm not talking about selling a million records here. to date, i've sold just over 40,000 CDs in my careery (not counting Europe). what we'd like to see happen is selling 100,000 copies of a CD. not to long ago, it was a GOOD thing to sell 1, 2, or 300,000 copies of a CD in the music business. with the Wal-Mart syndrome running amok in the music business, we've seen the elimination (via buy-up and merger) of the mid-range of the industry. whether it be radio, print, retail, or other, there has been a widened divide between the indies (like me so far) and the majors (Garth Brooks). there is virtually zero artist development at this point, and to be on a major label and sell 100,000 (or in many cases even a million) is the kiss of death. there is no way for it to be profitable for the label. a few decades ago, a band like REM would release several albums, and slowly be developed into a major act. now, if the first single doesn't stick, a band is unceromoniously dropped, or worse, simply shelved and left to whither away under contract.

in our case, we've done the artist development for ourselves. i've released ten albums, been supported unbelievably by a fan base and community, and we have in fact "done it for ourselves." at this point we are ready to go national and have that to build upon and grow into an even larger community. and in our business model, selling 100,000 CDs can be incredibly profitable and sustainable, and we can do it all on our terms, with the music and ideals that are central. in fact the whole point of engaging all this is to engage the mainstream to whatever degree we are able, with the Mystery.

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