JOURNALISM What It Takes To Interview Your Idols
CROWD FUNDING Will It Bring Your Project To Life?
Google Authorship • Film School: Is It Worth It? • Imagine Dragons
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Staff Ellen Eldridge...........................................................Editor in Chief Danielle Boise............................................................. Music Editor Victor Schwartzman................................................ Poetry Editor Leah Bishop....................................................... Chief Copy Editor Kayla Rowe.....................................................................Copy Editor David Feltman...............................Asst. Editor, Film Columnist Michael Bradley...................Graphic Designer, Photographer
Contributors to this issue Amanda Dixon, Ellen Eldridge, Russell Eldridge, Jenna Hughes , Amy McCorkle
In This Issue FEATURES Film School: Is It Worth the Price?..............................................4 Google Authorship and Branding Makers...............................8 Staying Alive in Music / Gus G.................................................. 10 Transforming Your Blog to Film................................................ 14 What It Takes to Interview Your Idols: Metal Mark............. 16 Can Crowd Funding Bring Your Project to Life?.................. 20
REVIEWS Imagine Dragons - Live Review................................................ 22
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On The Cover Photo of Firewind/Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Gus G. provided by the artist.
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Ellen Eldridge Editor in Chief
Welcoming Major9 Marketing as the umbrella over TAM
For nearly eight years I’ve been building Target Audience Magazine and its staff from the mission of a resource for artists. I’ve realized that many artists, musicians, writers and other members of the creative entrepreneurship class just don’t want to think about the ins and outs of business. What better way to stifle inspiration that by strapping to it rules about business plans and measurable goals!
Well, born from a love of psychology I groomed a passion for people that extends to helping them achieve their dreams. I realize how lofty that sounds, and focusing my mission for this magazine has proven tricky.
By establishing Major9 Marketing I pour the concrete into the foundation of the business I’ve been building all these years and offer services relating to those makers who want to concentrate on the art of making. Just because I love thinking about how to reach the perfect fan base and grow a business where an entrepreneur can succeed doing what he or she loves doing.
Revolution: some see the word love spelled backwards, but I see re-evolution, as in how we change the world daily. We whip out works of art as fast as butterflies beat their wings. We should enjoy the process of re-creating the world daily. Hopefully, Target Audience Magazine will provide actionable advice and Major9 Marketing will provide strategy and marketing services for musicians and all in the creative class.
Is an expensive film school degree worth the cost for your independent film when you could otherwise do it yourself? By David Feltman, film columnist
fter he felt he had learned enough, Kevin Smith dropped out of film school to write “Clerks,” the movie that launched his career. But on his Q&A session, “Too Fat for 40,” Smith tells of being berated by Bruce Willis on the set of “Cop Out” because he didn’t know the different camera lens sizes. According to Smith, Willis said, “You’re a fucking director, man! You have two jobs, knowing the lenses is one of them.” Smith, who was 40 years old at the time and working on his ninth feature film, could only communicate to his cinematographer the lens he wanted by spreading his hands to indicate the width of the shot. Something he would have learned about in film school.
forest. Filmmaking is a massively collaborative process, and film school can be just the place to get the scope and focus you need to find your niche.
Though many do-it-yourself and higher-learning success stories exist in the film industry, the question aspiring filmmakers should ask themselves is: “Will the crippling debt that comes with a degree be any more valuable than the knowledge I could have earned on my own? Is it worth it to go to film school?”
“Start a casting service or an equipment rental house or a post-production house. Make-up, wardrobe, electricians, grips, gaffers, set construction are all things that one could do and there’s so much more,” Schwartz said.
The short answer is yes. Film school offers a lot valuable and essential learning opportunities, but it isn’t the only or even the most important step toward a filmmaking career.
Dazed and Confused: Figuring Out Where to Start Sometimes the most basic lessons are the most valuable, and sometimes the lesson can be so basic that you’d never consider it on your own. You may feel passionate about movies and feel certain that you want a career making movies, but have you ever asked yourself in what capacity? Do you want to direct? Do you want to write? Do you want to be behind the camera? Grip? Gaffer? Set designer? There are so many different jobs in the film industry that you may not see the trees for the 4
“A career in the film industry could mean a vast variety of things,” University of Alabama Professor Adam Schwartz said. “When people generally think about a filmmaking career, they think of the key positions: director, producer, cinematographer, but there are so many different jobs one could have and still have a career in the industry.” Figuring out a need to fill in your local area can lead to a career in the film industry, he said.
Exposure to these aspects of filmmaking also gives you the opportunity to soak up a lot of information, becoming as well-rounded as possible. It may be impossible to become a jack-of-all-trades, but a makeup artist who’s knowledgeable about lighting design would be invaluable in a pinch. “Learn to write your own scripts and how to use as much equipment as you can,” Mark Lewis, a film school graduate and director of two feature films, said. He said that the less dependent you have to be on other people, the more productive you can become. “Even if you have a full crew, you’ll want that knowledge in case a cameraman or an editor flakes on you,” he said. “I know a filmmaker who had to shut down a project when his cameraman quit, instead of being able to step right in and fill the gap.”
â€œI think it could be a deciding factor when competing with other people for a job.â€?
Funny Games: Honing Your Craft
The Paper Chase: Sometimes School is Easier
Hunter S. Thompson once typed copies of “The Great Gatsby” and “A Farewell to Arms” in their entirety just to see what it was like to write those words. It was a simple exercise for the famed journalist; an attempt to crawl inside the heads of two of his heroes.
Hayden Bryars, an independent filmmaker and a sophomore taking online courses at Full Sail University, said that though he hasn’t yet “gotten into the meat” of his program, his education has touched on simple industry concepts that every filmmaker needs to know, both professional as well as artistic. “It saves you the embarrassment of making these small mistakes when it comes time to be involved with a production,” Bryars said.
However, when indie director Gus Van Sant wanted to perform a similar exercise with Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” the undertaking required a $60 million budget and several years of convincing the executives at Universal Studios. Playing and experimenting is a crucial part of the learning process, especially in a creative medium. But given the complexity and collaborative nature of the filmmaking process, such opportunities are extremely limited outside of the confines of a classroom. Film school offers a safe place for the storyteller to practice, fail, and as a result, grow, while learning necessary technical skills, Schwartz said. “Ultimately, if you want a career in something like directing, editing, cinematography, then you have to do it,” he said. “You want to be a director, then direct. That’s the only way.” Film school provides you with opportunities to take on different production roles, but a filmmaker could still raise money, put a crew together and do it on his or her own, Schwartz said, adding that film school makes the practicing part of the learning process easier.
The Social Network: It’s All Who You Know Making a movie absolutely requires people skills. You have to be able to negotiate, take criticism, compromise, delegate and surround yourself with reliable coworkers. Developing a deep bench of contacts is a must to get a production off the ground, and film school offers a great chance to start networking. “There’s a kind of ‘brand loyalty’ that comes with going through a film program, even if you didn’t go through together,” Schwartz said. You can use the knowledge of where someone went to film school as an advantage with potential contacts, he said. “At the University of Alabama, we keep up with our alums and have networks out in Los Angeles and New York that we’re able to hook our students up with if they move out there,” Schwartz said. “Film school also offers you the opportunity to do internships for course credit, which absolutely provide you with networking contacts. Master classes, guest lectures, workshops are also great opportunities to meet and talk to folks.”
As a married man and a father of two, Bryars takes a pragmatic approach to pursuing his dream career. And a degree is definitely part of his approach. “Taking off to Atlanta for every production assistant posting is unrealistic,” he said, but the security of a degree provides stability for his family. “A young student with only him or herself to take care of can and should be more aggressive with PA or intern opportunities,” he said. “But keep in mind, while working on a set, the professionals you’re trying to learn from are trying to make a production. They can’t always stop what they are doing to show you the ropes.” Involvement in a film is an obvious benefit to going to school. “Spike Lee said ‘don’t go to film school, just go make movies,’ but Spike has a degree from NYU, so…ya know,” Bryars said.
If…: Finding Alternatives Though expensive, film school can provide incredibly useful lessons and experiences that you may not find elsewhere. But access to those experiences certainly doesn’t prohibit you from pursuing a film career the way, say, not going to medical school would prohibit you from becoming a doctor. Finding a job in the film industry is more about what you know more than how you learned it. Starting a career in film requires taking advantage of every opportunity. Director Eli Roth graduated from New York University and took every job he could on a set: PA, assistant editor, assistant to the director and even filling in as an extra when needed. After graduating, it took seven years of generally unpaid work before he got a chance to direct a film. “No one is going to care that you have a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree,” Schwartz said. “They’re just going to care about who you know and what relevant experience you’ve had.” Film school—as with just about any kind of formal education—is what you make of it. If you choose to coast by and do the bare minimum it takes to get the film degree, you’re going to find that you’ve wasted your time and have a worthless degree, Schwartz said.
Hayden Bryars In their book “Writing Movies for Fun and Profit,” Thomas Lennon and Robert Garant state the first step to getting a job is to move to Los Angeles to be where the work is. With significant film and television productions popping up in New York, New Orleans, Atlanta and Chicago, alternatives to L.A. exist. If film school isn’t an option, then working on a set in some capacity is a must. In fact, working on a set as a PA is pretty essential even if you do have a degree because it provides the sort of hands on learning that is absolutely essential. “Can you learn what you would learn as an intern on a film set in film school? Most likely not, because film schools generally aren’t designed to emulate the largescale production nature of a Hollywood set,” Schwartz said. When you work on a film set as an intern, you get a firsthand look at how things run, he said, and Schwartz would compare internship versus film school to the different ways one can learn a foreign language. “You can go to school and study the language and practice in the controlled, meticulously-paced classroom environment or you can live in the country for months and learn the language by immersing yourself,” he said. “Both are extremely valuable experiences and certainly not mutually exclusive.”
Man With a Movie Camera: The DIY Career Though many ways to make a career in the movie business exist, the first step is always the same. Ask established or aspiring filmmakers how they got started on their career path and you’ll always get the same answer: I picked up a camera, got some friends together and started making movies.
“I think the best way to learn filmmaking is to get a camera and start making films,” Lewis said. Equipment is much more accessible to people, so while Lewis said that education is never a bad thing, he qualified his statement by saying that it does come down to money, and asked, “What’s the best and most productive way to spend your money? With the amount of money it would take for a four-year education, you can make a series of films on your own.” Student or novice filmmakers can ask for feedback via YouTube or Vimeo. “The way social media is now, if you do something of quality the word will get out,” Lewis said. Picking up a camera and making films is the best way to start, Lewis said, but a film school education is incredibly valuable if you can shoulder the debt. Education gives you the fundamentals and provides a space for you to create on your own with resources you might not otherwise have access to. Film school is definitely not a golden ticket to a Hollywood dream job, but it opens doors you wouldn’t expect. Networking at film school may give you the opportunity to start working on commercials or music videos if not on an actual movie set. If you’re passionate about making movies, but cannot afford film school, the expense shouldn’t hold you back. Though he wouldn’t say he thought film school was necessary, Bryars said, “I think it could be a deciding factor when competing with other people for a job.” He said that the industry is at a point where people with a “Basic Homemaker DSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera)” think they’re filmmakers. “If you’re able to go to school, it certainly separates you from possible pretenders,” Bryars said.
Google Authorship and Branding For Makers by Amanda Dixon
Branding is now vital to standing out among your competitors and thanks to Google Authorship, building your own brand has become much easier.
hrough Google Authorship, any content you create can be linked to your Google+ profile page. Once set up, the program allows your name and your photo of choice to appear beside your article in search results, providing individual authors and bloggers with the chance to shine and giving readers peace of mind in knowing who produced the information that they found on a website. “It will give you the visibility but it also gives you credibility,” says Shannon Hernandez, an online marketing strategist and radio disc jockey in Phoenix. Google Authorship not only connects content creators and content viewers, but it also enhances the experience of Google search for everyone by placing an emphasis on quality. Most recently, Google has cut down on the number of items that can appear in its search results and authorship users have somehow been split into three categories. While one group receives all of the benefits of authorship, a second group of people has content with photos missing and a third group does not receive 8
any individual recognition even if they have established authorship. Overall, however, authors who regularly offer valuable information are more likely to be ranked higher in results than those who do not, so that others can benefit from the wisdom of reliable sources. Plus, according to Catalyst, a search marketing agency, using Google Authorship increases click-through rates on a site by 150 percent. “All things being equal, people are more likely to click on a listing if the author’s face appears next to it,” says Andy Crestodina the principal, strategic director of the website design company, Orbit Media. “So it’s something that all bloggers and marketers should consider. As with anything Google Authorship is not fool-proof. Some people who question its usefulness suggest that none of its advantages are guaranteed. Kevin Rowe, a freelance search marketing manager and owner Rowe Digital, says that Google Authorship has helped him improve his click-through rates and has brought him recognition, but points out that it is not a key component of search engine optimization. “If the post doesn’t rank, it doesn’t matter that you set up Authorship,” Crestodina says. “So you need to research keywords carefully [and] gauge the competition of the other sites that rank for that phrase. Authorship is just a few links, but search engine optimization is a never ending cycle of research, writing, networking, pitching and publishing!”
Many variables including how many Google+ circles you have and your rank on other social media sites determine how popular your content will be in search results. After setting up Google Authorship, Crestodina says that you can monitor your place in search by going into Google Webmaster Tools and signing in using the information that you use to access your Google+ profile. Once you click on “labs” and then “author stats,” you should be able to view data on anything you have published online. Those with Google+ profiles also have the option of adding Google Authorship to individual posts or a whole webpage. “It depends on your branding and how you position yourself in the marketplace,” says Rowe. “If you’re a freelancer and it’s your name, then I think using Google Authorship on the entire site makes sense.”
it’s important to remember that you have to constantly engage with others on Google+ and other social sites. Joining communities and Google Hangout events are just two ways to interact more with others. “A lot of people have difficulties in communicating on Google+, Facebook and Twitter because they think it’s just a big platform for them to get their bullhorn and shout out, here check out what I’m doing,” says Hernandez. “You have to create connections because those connections drive traffic back to your cause and your content. You’re sharing probably 80 percent of the time in Google+ other people’s content, and when the time comes that you need to share your content, they will notice that there’s a trust factor behind your content.”
As long as you concentrate on uploading quality content on a consistent basis, Google Authorship can be a great resource for branding and self-promotion. Still,
Staying Alive With the changes in the industry, can our idols advise us on our music careers? by Russell Eldridge
When establishing your career in music, hold tight to the idea that when doing anything you have to love it. Just because anyone can record and publish music doesn’t mean everyone should. Taking the time to engage with fans one on one and “build your own empire,” as Gus G. says is the surest way to lasting as a working musician.
usicians and even fans look to those who have survived long careers in the industry for hope and inspiration, but the changing topography of music business leaves many questioning whether their idols can give advice for those just starting out. Even the idea of
idols varies widely among segmented genres and fans of niche music styles. For some, it may be a no brainer to answer the question, “Who is Gus G.?” The world is so saturated with easily accessible music that most people don’t even know the bands they are listening to. As a guitar teacher, one of the ways I keep up with what’s popular in music is through the songs my students ask to learn. I don’t think any of my students know who Gus G is, but in his defense, a lot of them don’t even know who Ozzy is either. A few of them recognize “Crazy Train” and more can recognize “Iron Man,” (probably because of the “Iron Man” movie), but even bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Nirvana are considered classic rock to these young guitarists; I wonder if Ozzy has fallen into the oldies category. Since the role of most famous rock star changes so quickly it can be hard to see where one stands. Gus G. says his standard for success is creating something of which he is proud. Taking pride in his music makes him happy, he says, but he recognizes the business side of the music industry, where people often measure success by gold or platinum records.
Further, Gus G. says he doesn’t think a lack of a gold record devalues an artist. “Music is not a competition,” he says. “If you’re proud and happy with the music you make, and some people out there understand it and are touched by it, then THAT’S success.”
“Don’t wait for the industry to knock on your door,” Gus G. says. “That’ll never happen.” Instead, he says to “go out there and play by playing club after club and town after town,” taking the time to engage and connect with one fan at a time.
Musical fans differ in attitude depending on where they live or what country they are from. For example, during the ‘90s Yngwie Malmsteen had quite a dry spell. Some of his albums were no longer being released in the United States, but his career was thriving in other countries. One could speculate on the reasons, but with YouTube and social media outlets, the barriers are down for bands all over the world to promote all kinds of music; the popular music on the radio is less of a hurdle. The fact that nearly everyone can record music and video straight from a smartphone means that standing out to label executives is more difficult, but the over-saturated market also shifted the way labels work. The trend is toward independence in all things, and this holds true for all artists as well as musicians; the trick now is marketing.
“Build your own empire,” he says. “Don’t wait on others to do it for you.”
Gus G. says he thinks America is a tougher market for European artists in part because of its size, which makes sense because unless you’re well known enough to pack large venues, your expenses can quickly exceed your profits from gigs (even if you sell merch). “You might do OK in places like New York or L.A., but then you go to the Midwest, for example, and maybe nobody has heard of you,” he says. Even a hit record doesn’t guarantee longevity in the music industry because in the fast-moving American market, a hit record makes you a “flavor of the month,” Gus G. says, which doesn’t necessarily give you a loyal fan base. He admits that the appearance of loyal fans in Europe may just be his perception, and that every artist must have his or her strong and weak markets. Gus G is an example of the coveted rock star dream. He arrived in the United States at 18, and he recorded a demo with some friends in a project he called Firewind in 1988, Afterward, he played in Night Rage, Dream Evil, Mystic Prophecy and Arch Enemy. By 2009 he was playing with Ozzy Osbourne. When it comes to inspiring generations of guitar players, who wouldn’t want to earn the attention of respected musicians like Ozzy?
Set to release his first solo album, I Am The Fire, Gus G. says he is most proud of his better than ever playing and songwriting. “I tried to take my songwriting to a whole new level and try different things,” he says. He handles guitar, bass and keyboard duties, showcasing a long list of highly skilled instrumentalist peers as well as several remarkable vocalists. The roster of friends and guests helping bring Gus G.’s vision to fruition include drummers Jeff Friedl (A Perfect Circle, Puscifer, Devo) and Daniel Erlandsson (Arch Enemy), bassists David Ellefson (Megadeth), Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, David Lee Roth) and Marty O’Brien (Tommy Lee, We Are The Fallen) and vocalists Mats Levén (Candlemass, ex. Yngwie Malmsteen/ Therion), Blake Allison (Devour The Day), Michael Starr (Steel Panther). Alexia Rodriguez (Eyes Set To Kill), Tom S. Englund (Evergrey), Jacob Bunton (Adler) and Jeff Scott Soto (TSO, ex Journey). Fans who know Gus G. because of his work with Ozzy will relate to I Am The Fire, Gus G. says, because he’s included much of his “classic rock roots” and the collaborations give the record a fresh feel. He’s practiced the “demanding and technical” instrumentals to be ready for live performing and says they’re “no biggie by now.” Gus G is currently on tour co-headlining with Marty Friedman on the “Guitar Universe 2014 Tour.” If you’re out in the Midwest, make some noise so that Gus G. knows you’re out there!
An Interview With Gus G. 1. How do you define success? When you have created something you’re really proud of and it makes you happy. Of course there is the business success side of it too. People might think that a gold or a platinum record is a certain proof of success and to some extend it is. However, I don’t think that devaluates other artists who create music and don’t have a gold record on their wall. Music is not a competition. If you’re proud and happy with the music you make and some other people out there understand it and are touched by it, then THAT’s success.
2. What differences do you see between the business of music in America and the business of music in Europe? Is it easier for you to sell music in one country more than another? I think America is a tougher market for European artists. It’s a huge country and you might do OK in big places like New York or LA, but then you go to the Midwest, for example and maybe nobody has heard of you. Touring wise, it costs a lot to get there in order to play and the conditions aren’t the best, unless you’re packing large venues. Also, it seems to me that the American market moves much faster, if you got a hit record, you’re a “flavor of the month”. But that doesn’t necessarily give you a loyal fanbase. In Europe the fans tend to stay with the artists they love for years and years. Perhaps that varies from genre to genre, I guess every artist has their stronger and weaker markets.
3. How can a musician do more than just “wait to be discovered”? Get out there and play. It’s simple as that. Don’t wait for the industry to knock on your door, that’ll never happen. You have to create the opportunities for yourself and you can only achieve that by playing club after club and town after town, and gaining one fan at a time. Build your own empire, don’t wait on others to do it for you.
4. What are you most proud of on your first solo album, I Am the Fire? How do you think fans who know your work with Ozzy will react to this record? I’m proud of the whole thing. My playing is better than ever, and I tried to take my songwriting to a new level and try out different things. I think there are some great collaborations that make the whole album sound fresh. This is a record where people who know me from Ozzy will relate to. There’s a lot of my classic Rock roots in this album.
5. What’s the most challenging song for you to play? I had to practice my new instrumentals on my solo record a bit, in order to present them live. They’re a bit demanding and technical, but it’s no biggie by now.
Letters to Daniel by Amy McCorkle
A blog started out of gratitude inspires a documentary: a writer’s journey into filmmaking and networking for indie artist help
hake Pam Turner and all good things come from her. That’s how I’m getting my documentary film made for no out of pocket costs. Of course, I’m still working on marketing and distribution, but “Letters to Daniel” will premier at Imaginarium, a creative writing convention set to take place in September in Louisville, where filmmakers can have films considered for a $10 entry fee. I’m hoping the independent fixture will help me come up with the back-end for my distribution for “Letters to Daniel.” See, I started the Letters to Daniel blog in 2013 to show gratitude to all of my heroes, especially the blog’s namesake, Daniel Craig. A funny thing happened along the way: it began to morph. My blog became my memoirs in a series of letters to my favorite actor, who I considered a silent witness of sorts. Craig struck me as the sort of actor who actively avoided social media of any type, but every now and I again I thanked him through the blog. As the blog morphed, my writing became confessional. Readers with bipolar disorder or those who were struggling with other issues that I touched upon in the blog, started to contact me. They started telling me how they felt the blog was helping them. So, I collected the first group of letters, and asked my best friend, Missy Goodman, who is also my screenwriting, directing and production partner of nearly 20 years, and Tim, a fellow struggling artist, to write introductions. I requested Lea Schizas, the publisher who gave me my big break, to write a few words as well. I
then self-published the collected “Letters to Daniel,” which went on to hit No. 2 on the Amazon Best Seller’s List. I kept writing the blog, as it seemed to become something bigger than it initially started out to be. Now it features links to publishers who’ve helped me, like Bertena Varney’s blog, as well as a few others who have been instrumental in the blog’s formation. It has become a full-scale site, and when the documentary is finished I’m going to place it on the second page of the site as well as on Hulu. How did I fund the front part of the film without taking a dime out of my pocket? It all had to do with my books and the authors I met along the way. First tip of the hat: Pamela Turner. I met her when she came into audition
for a film that didn’t get off the ground. She eventually became our DP on a film that, because of divas on the set, could not be edited. Our friendship grew from there. She is a talented and award winning, author, blogger and screenwriter in her own right. She introduced me to Stephen Zimmer and Fandom Fest. For three years the festival gave back and most importantly introduced me to Varney and Frank Hall. Hall was a con fixture, an independent bookstore owner and at the time the owner of Hydra Publications. He picked Varney and me up at the same time, and, in February of last year, I did Concave. I shared a table with her, and over time we became friends. I had trouble raising money, but excelled at finding unique distribution for “Letters to Daniel” the film, including online through local sites like National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Louisville and the Louisville chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. “Letters to Daniel” the memoir is currently being reviewed by the National Chapter of NAMI, and when the documentary is ready they are going to review it as well. Also, at independent booksellers like Karen’s Book Barn and HalfPrice Booksellers. All the while impressing a fixture on the independent arts scene in Louisville who was connected through Tim Druck.
Varney, who had worked as an administrator at National College told me to call them and ask for Bill Gray, who then promptly donated the camera, the hard drive for footage space, two crew people, lighting and a wireless microphone. Did I mention Varney and I sat next to each other at that first Fandom Fest, where we sweated to near death in the sweltering July heat because the AC had gone out in the hotel? That goes back to Zimmer getting me in on panels, which goes back to the moment Turner walked into that audition hall and didn’t get the part but decided to be Goodman’s and my friend anyway. Now “Letters to Daniel” has not only been selected to screen at Imaginarium but also the documentary’s going to premiere as a highlighted event. Zimmer is putting on this writer’s con/film festival. He has always been helpful in my con going experiences and I would have never made the connection with him had it not been for Turner and her bravery to come audition in front of Goodman and me.
How did I fund the front part of the film without taking a dime out of my pocket? It all had to do with my books and the authors I met along the way.
Brand yourself as a music journalist by ‘finding the human behind the hero’ Metal Mark says By Ellen Eldridge
Music journalism attracts fans as well as traditional writers, but the combination of passion for music and a desire to work incredibly hard for the career is something that many simply don’t appreciate. “Metal Mark” McPheeters is one of few music journalists to successfully carve a niche for himself and move from Atlanta to New York City, interviewing his idols along the way. He updated concert calendars for AtLMetal.com in 2008 with Jeremy Fox, who helped create one of the first websites for Target Audience Magazine. McPheeters wrote reviews for TAM for about a year before he decided to focus exclusively on metal by contributing to SkullsNBones.com, a metal website where he continues to interview and write about metal acts worth mentioning. “I got on Twitter when a lot of people didn’t,” he says. “I wanted to follow musicians.” McPheeters says he knew social media was an essential part of music journalism. He used the “metal” tags and followed the bands he liked. “I don’t take many things in my life seriously. My family and my interviews are what I take seriously,” McPheeters says.
He runs SkullsNBones.com virtually by himself and, though Sam Roon also posts content, the majority of interviews and articles belong to McPheeters. “I have like 4000 posts,” he says. “This is such a huge part of me.” Of course, McPheeters doesn’t do it all alone; in Atlanta he worked with respected photographer Shawn Evans, who was named in Creative Loafing’s 2012 Best Of Atlanta and who still contributes to SNB. For the New York City shows, McPheeters works with Max R. Sequeira, who does videography and photography. “He’s my New York Shawn Evans,” McPheeters says. Creating original content with a personal twist is what matters most to McPheeters. With so much competition in the industry, he wants to stand out as someone who does his job well so he takes pride in not republishing press releases. “I really despise when people copy and paste press releases,” he says. “It’s not you. It’s not personal.” He says he keeps the essentials details of a press release in tact, but adds something personal to make it his own. McPheeters believes that, as with anything else in life, if you don’t have a true love for what you do and a passion to keep doing it, you will burn out and fail or quit. “You have to love it; you have to have drive,” he says.
“It’s a lot more work and a lot more time-consuming than people realize,” McPheeters says. “You have to have a passion for it or you’ll be found out.” He does his research, watches interviews with the people he plans to interview and thinks of ways to ask interesting questions that will allow the fans to see their metal gods as human beings.
wasn’t news based at the time, Lekberg saw some of McPheeters’ interviews and invited him to contribute. McPheeters started out as a musician inspired by Jason Newsted, who played bass for Metallica. As the bassist in a local band called Everbleeding, he opened before Unearth and Dillinger Escape Plan. While playing in his own band, McPheeters had the “eye-opening experience that these bands don’t make money,” he says, and he started to pull away. “I’ll always be involved with music, no mater what, but my niche isn’t on stage,” McPheeters says. In 2010, McPheeters took a job in New York City building websites, a skill he taught himself after experiencing moderate success with a Metallica fan website he created while in 7th grade. “That kind of got me hooked on it,” McPheeters says about building and creating websites.
Visit Mark’s website at SkullsandBones.com!
In addition to working a regular day job Monday through Friday from 9-5, McPheeters bar backs at Duff’s Alcohol Abuse Center, a place he refers to as “the best bar ever.”
“Keep the bands first always,” he says. His first interviewed Tim Williams of Bloodsimple, and other early interviews included Chimaira and Prime Mover. “You can see your gods as human beings,” he says.
His paying gigs don’t keep him from his passion for metal, and he wakes up every morning at 5 a.m. to spend two hours scheduling content to publish across social media while he works his day job, where he says he isn’t permitted to check SkullsNbones.com.
Finding his niche set McPheeters on the path to branding himself, even more than his nickname, “Metal Mark.”
“My boss is a metalhead so he knew who I was, and offered me the job with the agreement that I wouldn’t check my site during the day,” McPheeters says. “But that makes the music exciting again in a way, where I get to catch back up after a few hours.”
Sam Roon and Jason Lekberg helped to create SkullsNBones.com with the mission “to be the singular authority for all things related to and affecting heavy music and culture,” McPheeters says. Though the website
The past four or five years, McPheeters has spent the majority of his time consuming metal. “I’ve been able to find a happy medium of enjoying personal time lately,” he says acknowledging that he has recently found time
to date, but “it’s still my whole life,” he says of his passion for promoting metal. “You can get hooked on it,” he says. His main focus is “to get fans to buy records,” he says, “and really help the bands.” When a fan buys a shirt from a band like Skeletonwitch that makes his year, he says. Prepping for interviews isn’t much of a process for McPheeters because he spends his life consuming metal. “I read and study metal; I know what I’ll ask, but I never want to bring a clipboard to an interview,” he says. The ideal interview to McPheeters involves telling jokes and showing fans the human behind the hero. “I know many of them personally now,” McPheeters says about the members of well-known bands. “Zakk Wylde was one of the coolest guys,” but to drive the point home, he clarifies that even when he started out as a more timid interviewer, he maintained the sense that he was there to help the artist. “No one cares what you’re saying,” McPheeters says of the interviewer. “I try to focus on them and have fun, which is what fans want to see. Ninety percent of interviewers ask the same shit.” Though he describes not feeling star-struck since his early interviews with people like Max Cavalera (Soulfly, Sepultura), McPheeters feels like if he were to interview Metallica he would “cry like a little bitch,” he says. “If James Hetfield was mean to me, I’d probably kill myself,” he says almost too seriously. When he awaited confirmation to interview Jason Newsted, McPheeters says he “was praying to the metal gods” and felt amazed by the opportunity not only to interview the man who inspired his own bass playing but also to meet him in his hotel room. “I was shaking in the elevator,” McPheeters says. “That was the guy who made me pick up my bass.”
For people who want to work as a music journalist or get a chance to interview an idol, McPheeters suggests doing “something to set yourself apart,” he says, “so that you’re not just echoing what everyone else is saying.” Some of the coolest people in the world are in metal bands, McPheeters says, and you should never be cocky or arrogant around them. “Metal people are picky,” McPheeters says. “Don’t expect to be a millionaire” writing about and interviewing your favorite bands. “I have three jobs. I don’t feel like I should be making more money than the bands.” Additional advice McPheeters offers from experience involves not showing up wasted to an interview, and not showing up late. “You have to realize you’re not the only one doing this.” The competition, especially in New York City, will keep enough pressure on anyone, and McPheeters sounds excited when he talks about how his opportunities in NYC far exceed what he had in Atlanta. “When I saw Opeth in NYC in 2010, my mind was blown by how passionate the fans were,” he says. The feeling of packed shows and “endless opportunities” led McPheeters to move from Atlanta to Brooklyn, where he continues to interview local acts and bands that have been around for awhile but still don’t get the attention they deserve, he says. Some of the bands he says he hopes to see more recognition for include Unearth, Ex Mortus and Diamond Plate, a 3-piece thrash outfit that just released its second record. Find all of Metal Mark McPheeter’s interviews along with stunning concert photography and news at SkullsNBones. com
When the door to Newsted’s hotel room opened, Newsted casually invited him to “chill,” and McPheeters says he stuttered. “We hung out about 20 minutes then did the interview and hung out another 20 minutes,” McPheeters says.
Is Crowd-funding the Secret to Artistic Entrepreneurship? by Ellen Eldridge
“Before I did Kickstarter I did a lot of research on similar projects,” Jasko says. “I spent at least three weeks researching Kickstarter to apply knowledge to my project.” Launching a project after weeks or even months of preparation stresses artists Jasko says. “The second you hit that launch button, everything changes,” she says. “You become extremely emotional.” Programs like Kickstarter and GoFundMe take the spirit of independent art and run with it, in what seems like the perfect solution for bands, authors and all entrepreneurs with great ideas but no money. Robyn Jasko’s “Homesweet Homegrown” Kickstarter Campaign
upporting an artist’s fundraising campaign means buying it before it’s out (and sometimes before it’s created) for fans, but for entrepreneurs, a clear mission, an established, dedicated fan base as well as careful thought and research are all needed for successful crowd-funding. According to CNNMoney in Dec. 2012, an incredible 84 percent of the top 50 most-funded projects missed their target delivery dates, so fans investing in projects need to anticipate disappointment or properly vet an artist before investing in his or her project. Robyn Jasko first funded a successful project by 356 percent in April 2012 to take her book “Homesweet Homegrown” on tour, and in May 2013 she funded another project by 6,285 percent to grow and bottle fully organic, non-GMO hot sauces using heirloom ingredients that she plants, grows, harvests and bottles. She says the most important contributions to her success involved research, setting reasonable and attainable goals. 20
The fact is that even with a great idea, a talented artist has to connect and engage with its fan base to reap rewards. Paul Durham’s band, Black Lab, released Your Body Above Me on Geffen Records in 1998 before the label fizzled out as the music industry changed dramatically. Durham says he took his cue from the success of Amanda Palmer, a musician who was one of only eight to deliver her project on time according to CNNMoney, when he decided to invest $50,000 dollars in recording an album, and asked his fans to fund the costs involved with mixing, mastering, manufacturing and marketing the release. “A lot of people are doing things they haven’t done before and they hit obstacles,” Durham says, and he admits that he is less likely to back a project of musicians trying to fund recording than investing in finishing a completed album. “Going into the studio is a more risky investment,” he says.
What kinds of programs and which artists are most likely to succeed with crowd funding? Durham says a lot of people buy Black Lab albums from iTunes and the band’s website, so he knew he had an established fan base as did Palmer. His experience with major labels allowed him to understand the timetable for mixing, manufacturing and distributing the new album, A Raven Has My Heart, so he knew he wouldn’t let fans down by not meeting target delivery dates. As a platform that reached 1 billion pledges in 2014, Kickstarter can help projects it approves of as well. “In the first campaign, they put us in a newsletter as a project and we hit $3,200 dollars that same day,” Jasko says. During her hot sauce project campaign, Jasko says her project met all the criteria for Kickstarter success including following guidelines and best practices (Kickstarter offers a “school” for artists to understand how best to create and promote projects). Though she had never spoken with anyone at Kickstarter, Jasko says her hot sauce project was boosted by Kickstarter’s decision to feature her project on its homepage. “The success was really launched by Kickstarter,” Jasko says, though her diligent research and forethought included strategies for reaching out to local bloggers and networks in the organic and homegrown food industry.
Secrets to success
Black Lab With a success rate of just under 44 percent, no entrepreneur should think crowd funding is an easy endeavor. While 10 percent of projects never receive a single pledge, 80 percent of those that reach 20 percent of their goal reach full funding. Durham says Kickstarter means making the best use of an existing network and fan base. “My network is in place,” he says. “For me, Kickstarter is a way to leverage your network.”
He told his fans that the funding of the new album is allor-nothing and that “the thing that will make a difference between success and failure is your help.” Other secrets to success that Jasko and Durham agree on include creating a concise message and great rewards. In the research phase, Jasko reached out to her network and sent review copies of “Homesweet Homegrown” to magazines and others in the industry, while Durham polled his hardcore fans. “Originally, I had three times as much text; I need to be more disciplined and make writing tight,” Durham says, adding that price point feedback also helped him hone his project. Stretch goals become crucial once the initial goal is met because reaching the goal means “some of the specialness of the situation goes out of the balloon,” Durham says. The new Black Lab album was successfully funded by 259 percent, and it included stretch goals of exclusive unreleased demos and an acoustic performance sent digitally for $30,000 and $35,000 respectively. At $50,000, backers who ordered a physical product earned the stretch goal of a laminated all-access pass to the 1998 tour. Durham says rewards like this often encourage backers of digital products to increase to a physical product tier. The final stretch goal reached for Black Lab’s A Raven Has My Heart is an 8-song U-stream concert where backers can make song requests. Clearly, success is quite possible for entrepreneurs with clear visions for their projects, especially those who have already invested in their projects financially and through doing research. Find yourself, define your mission and hit your target audience to reap the rewards from crowd funding.
LIVE REVIEWS Imagine Dragons Philips Arena
Review and Photography by Jenna Hughes
magine Dragons made a stop in Atlanta for the Into the Night Tour, the final chapter of the breakout album Night Visions on Wednesday, packing Philips Arena with devoted fans.
The Naked and Famous were fantastic openers, performing songs from the 2009 hit album Passive Me, Aggressive You including the hits “Girls Like You” and “Punching In A Dream.” The band, which formed in 2008 in New Zealand, has enjoyed a quick rise to fame in the past few years. “Hearts Like Ours,” from their newest release, 2013’s In Rolling Waves, is arguably the band’s best song to date and the crowd seemed to agree, singing along loudly. “Young Blood,” the band’s first breakout hit, closed the set and then it was on to Imagine Dragons. The band slowly trickled on stage to the opening chords of “Fallen,” and front man Dan Reynolds appeared to enormous cheer from the crowd. A natural showman, Reynolds picked up his drumsticks and proceeded to jam with the rest of the band during the song’s intro. There really is nothing else quite like seeing every single member of the band playing a different type of drum and it is that unique aspect that makes Imagine Dragons such a stellar live act. “Tiptoe” kept the set going as Reynolds strutted down the catwalk to get up close and personal with fans while they screamed the lyrics back to him. Massive radio hit “It’s Time” had the entire arena singing along so loudly that they nearly drowned out Reynolds entirely. New song, “Who We Are,” from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack came next, along with a surprise cover of Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Reynolds strained a bit on the high notes during that one, but the music was spot on and the crowd was loving it. Things slowed down a bit
Photo Credit for “30 Lives,” which Reynolds dedicated to a fan, a cancer survivor who told the band that their music helped him through his recovery. Many in the audience held up their cell phones with the flashlight on, creating a serene, twinkling environment during the song. “Demons” was another crowd pleaser and “On Top of the World” had everyone out of their seats dancing. Giant balloons filled with confetti descended over the audience during the song and Reynolds left the stage, strolling through the floor of the arena while high-fiving fans who rushed to meet him. “Radioactive,” the band’s biggest hit thus far, closed out the set with Reynolds giving it his all, banging the bass drum with ferocious intensity and ending with an impressive finale of drumming with the rest of the band. The crowd demanded an encore and the band returned to play “Nothing Left To Say” to end a great night of music in Atlanta.
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