I got the chance to preview the brand new OurTracks website this week and let me tell you it’s going to be awesome. Brad got the opportunity to interview Larry (lmofle), who is a business partner at OurTracks to find out just what they have to offer.
So why OurTracks.com? What was the inspiration?
For myself personally, something I had often needed was single songs. The reason being I am a member over at www.countrytabs.com and I often get requests for songs to tab. Well, if you get me the lyrics and I can locate the mp3’s, I can get a song tabbed for you. The only way to do this without purchasing the entire CD was the various peer-peer networks. This led to a little more thinking as to why do people use Kazaa and it dawned on me that the reason they do is you CANNOT purchase a single. Not at the store, not online, etc – well, this was also around the time ITunes came out but they are only interested in the Big 5 labels and that was not the music I listened to. From there, a discussion came up at Countrytabs and Scott Plumbtree (President Of OurTracks, LLC) brought up the question that was burning in my mind for the last few months – How hard would it be to create an online digital distribution point for independent artists? So we threw ideas back and forth and realized it was not as difficult as it seemed. Scott has a friend who is a recording engineer for Moraine records (Kevin Welch, Kieran Kane) and we ran the idea past him and he loved it. He spoke to his company’s president who also loved it. That was how we got started. All of us involved are with computers in some way so technology was not a scary thing for us. From there, the idea just snowballed and I recruited Lance Thurman who is our Marketing guru and recently has been tour Manager for Jarrod Birmingham Band. Scott recruited Jeff Weaver as our web guy, Adam Liddell as our graphics guy and Jake Harcourt as Business Operations. My role is Business Development.
What kind of services do you plan to offer?
Initially our focus is on selling singles and full albums of artists we sign up. But, as the business development guy and in talks with Scott, we came up with all sorts of ways to bring revenue to the site and eventually to the artist. We have had discussions with several live recording venues where we are working out a way to do live recordings and then offer them for sale at our site (with the artist’s consent). People like to have something that no one does and this fills that void. Further discussions led to doing Out of Print albums. I am good friends with the South Austin Jug Band and have followed them for over 3 years. Around the time OurTracks was born, they ran out of CD’s and weren’t planning on making anymore. We realized we only needed 1 copy from the artists and then all of their fans could get the old stuff too! I also was passing this idea around to the artists I know (I go to open mic at Tavern In The Gruene in New Braunfels as often as I can) and was talking to Sam Sanchez who had recently come out of Rivertrain. He said the idea was great and when they got back into the studio, he wanted to pre-release CD’s thru us which I thought was a fantastic marketing idea. These are our major services but we are constantly looking at new ways to bring in revenue for the artist and OurTracks.
Do you think ourtracks.com will fill a void currently out there for independent artists in Texas?
We do – while there are other sites that do the same thing as OurTracks in offering digital delivery of music, we wanted to differentiate ourselves with our musical offerings. Underrepresented artists in genres like Americana, Texas Country, Red Dirt music (the music we love) was the perfect fit. So we are a niche at this time but what got me thinking more and more was about all these guys who have a CD for sale and are busting their ass daily to do what they love and try to make a living at it. No label means no marketing and you have to be your own PR person. That can be a lot to take on for anyone. It was during this time I took a look around at the guys I enjoy listening to – Jackson Parten, Roger Wilko, JR Castro, Sterling Finlay, Zach Whitney and so on. We saw that they needed a place for their music as well and in that respect, we are going to be filling a void.
How has artist response been to your idea?
Absolutely fantastic!!!! In fact, this is where some of the irony comes in…every single artist I talk to is ecstatic but those that are well known are also harder to get signed up (and rightfully so) because you have management to go through and some see us as “another way to take money from my guy” which is definitely not the case. As a matter of fact, I was at the Jackson Parten benefit and Houston Marchman was there. I went and gave my 2-minute spiel and he looked at me and said, “I was online JUST yesterday looking for someone like you!” Another night, after open mic, Jason Boland, Stoney Larue, Bleu Edmondson, Ryan Bingham, and Foscoe Jones were all out on the back patio. Sam took me out there and introduced me and we were all BS’ing and I brought up OurTracks. They all loved it! This made me confident that we were really onto something! Whether I am talking to Mando Saenz or Peter Dawson all the way up to Slaid Cleaves and Reckless Kelly – all of them recognize the potential…but, again, it is the layers of management you have to go through that makes it challenging.
What will the costs be for fans wanting to download the tunes?
The costs are $1 for a single…none of this .99 cent crap because I don’t think consumers are idiots like some of these marketing people do. We all know that .99 cents is a dollar – so just say it. Not to mention it is a lot easier figuring out artist percentages when the number is whole instead of decimals. With albums we let the artist tell us what price they want to sell it for. We suggest $10 but we would allow anywhere from $5 to $15…that is their decision. Some are $10, some are $12 and the beauty of it is that if an artist decides he wants to change his price, they can email us and we can make that change on the fly and immediately. We haven’t completely decided on the live CD’s yet (they aren’t available yet but when they are, we have been thinking about pricing those in the $5-$8 range as I recall).
Your plan for paying the artists is unique. Describe how the artists will be involved in OurTracks.com
This was Scott’s baby here! And a very ingenious move, I might add. We are paying the artists back based upon total revenue earned by that artist per month. That is coupled with a sliding scale of payout. An example would be that if an artist sells $250/mo or less, we will pay them back at 50%…on the top end if they are bringing in $5000/mo, we will pay back at 70% which is higher than ITunes pays out and there are steps in between those 2 percentages. To me, this gives the artist some control. Not happy with getting 50% payout? Help promote our site and in essence promote yourself and you can get a higher payout. The revenue includes all sales, no matter where it comes from (single, album, live recording). As we continue to come up with different revenue streams, be it merchandise or special compilation CD’s, there will be an ultimate dollar amount and it is that dollar amount that we will calculate the percentage of payout.
Who are some of the undiscovered acts, some of your favorites, that you hope to promote?
Before I answer that, let me say that the talent pool that I have run across is absolutely amazing! Going to open mics, trying to get my songs heard has shown me the depth of this talent so it is not always the songs and bands you hear on the radio that are the “best”. There are a lot around no one has heard of. But since you are forcing me to choose, I would say Jackson Parten, JR Castro, Cast Iron Filter, Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash, Dale Watson, the McKay Brothers are a few I would mention in the same breath – and believe me when I say that is not all of them. One of Scott’s favorite bands is Travis Linville and the Burtschi Brothers…I would have never heard of them had it not been for Scott to introduce me to them and THAT is where Ourtracks can help. We believe people would not mind paying $1 to “test drive” an artist’s song, even if they haven’t heard of them (we also have 30 seconds preview clips for all the songs) but would they be willing to pay $17.99 for one song? Doubtful. Not to mention, our site intends to be very community oriented (we pattern our community after Galleywinter because it is a successful site with a loyal fan base) and really bring home the music to the consumer. It’s not enough that you can buy the best music going today, we want you to enjoy it with us and tell others what they are missing out on!
If it is successful, any interest in expanding to include other forms of music from other regions/genres?
Absolutely! That has always been the idea from the beginning. Underground Heavy Metal is huge! That is a whole ‘nother animal in it of itself. Basically, it is independents we want – eventually, once we start getting some label interest, we will be able branch out. Let’s face it – if you look at most Indie labels, they aren’t pigeonholed into a specific genre. They have rock, metal, country, rockabilly, jazz, etc artists on their label. If we are able to convince them to come aboard with us, I think that is where you will start seeing this expansion.
OurTracks.com seems as if its prices will be relatively cheaper than others in the marketplace. This should make it an attractive option to many of the fans. Did you set the prices to compete with other online music outlets in mind or to make it more affordable for the fans and profitable for the artists?
We didn’t do this on purpose, necessarily. We saw ITunes was .99 and so we felt a dollar was fair. For those that have never looked into this, the credit card companies are a HUGE cost on a per transaction basis so we had to make sure we would be profitable at every level so we could stay in business and continue to promote Independents. My personal belief is people tend to get greedy and they forget why they started in the first place. We started this idea for the music we loved. Sure, we hope to make some money but not at the expense of “stealing” from the artists. It is economics that drive a lot of the pricing structure and if, for example, we found we were not able to “pay the bills” to stay open, we may have to do make some changes in the future but I guarantee it will not be because we just want more money. It would be because we want to be around for thelong run!
What are your goals for OurTracks.com?
Wow – we have so many but the primary goal is to be more of a partner to the bands and artists as opposed to someone else taking a piece of the pie. Let’s face it, major labels get back 100% of their costs and 92% to 96% of the artists money (based upon royalty payouts of mechanical sales). Does it seem fair that the people who didn’t even come up with the idea get the majority of the money? Not to us. We will help promote these guys as best we can, we will take suggestions from them so it is a mutually beneficial relationship, we will do all we can so that they succeed. Our success is hinged on their success so it is a symbiotic relationship. One thing I always tell these artists is that ITunes and Napster (and CD Baby, etc) could care less how your latest album does – you won’t see those guys at any of your shows, clapping, having a beer. But you will see me and you will see Scott and the rest of the OurTracks team. There is an intimacy that we can share that no one else will be able to provide. I firmly believe that we are in the midst of a revolution…a revolution against Clear Channel, a revolution against corporate empires that tell me what is
good and someday, people are going to turn off those stations and turn to find something else. The acceptance of digital content on the Internet is gaining more fans and listeners as each day goes by. I want to see OurTracks “fly under the radar” for as long as we can, signing artists and building a huge base of talent. At some point, we want to be the de facto standard of digital delivery for our kind of music. We also recognize there is competition out there but, as I stated earlier, we are fans, songwriters and musicians trying to help other fans, songwriters and
Now go visit OurTracks.com right now!