I was having coffee and catch-up with manager and publicist extraordinaire Patrice Fehlen a few months ago and we started talking about my “In Defense of 1,000 True Fans” series on MusicThinkTank. She mentioned something that I think makes an interesting angle:
Jerry Joseph (who she manages) already has a fanbase of 1,000 true fans who sustain and support him. So his challenge is not to “get” to 1,000 fans but to keep them actively engaged and inspired to stay in his fan family as he continues to release albums and tour. I asked him how he does that and he generously dished the details.
Before we dive in: Jerry Joseph is an artist who in my humble opinion needs no introduction. In case you don’t know who he is (and you should, he is fantastic) here’s a brief overview:
Jerry got his start in music in the 80’s leading reggae/rock band Little Women (Boulder, Co), which ruled the Rocky Mountain circuit throughout the 80’s and broke up in ‘93. Joseph continued to record before an oft-publicized drug addiction temporarily sidelined his career. The process of getting clean took Joseph to New York, Montana, Salt Lake City, where the Jackmormons were formed in 1996, and eventually to Portland. “Mouthful of Copper” was the second release from Jerry Joseph & The Jackmormons on Terminus Records and follows the critically acclaimed Conscious Contact (2002). The Jackmormons have released four other albums as well.
A prolific writer, Jerry has collaborated with Vic Chesnutt, Pete Droge and Dave Schools (Widespread Panic, J. Mascis and the Fog), as well as producers Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin) and John Keane (R.E.M., 10,000 Maniacs). He has also shared the stage with the likes of Neil Young, The Flaming Lips, DJ Logic, Curt Kirkwood and David Lindley.
Jerry Joseph is constantly touring. If it isn’t solo, it is with his rock band The Jackmormons or one his side projects, including The Stockholm Syndrome. Regardless of the configuration, it is always about the songs.
His new CD Civility, is a collaboration with Wally Ingram and is available now for pre-order here.
(Full disclosure: back when I was a traditional publicist I had the honor of publicizing one of my favorite albums “Mouthful of Copper.”)
Ariel Hyatt: Do you believe that 1,000 true fans is a theory that can work?
Jerry Joseph: Not sure what a true fan is. Concept of a fan is a fickle thing.
AH: I know that you know that every time you release a CD you sell a guaranteed 1,000 copies (which makes you the perfect candidate a 1,000 true fans interview btw) How do you structure your releases so that these 1,000 sales will be profitable?
JJ: The 1,000 mark takes the full year to hit. We generally sell 400 or 500 immediately and the rest within a year from road sales. We don’t have physical distribution so it is all via website, digital or road sales. We borrowed a chunk of money to start the label [Cosmo Sex School Records], which at this point only releases my projects. We try to release a new album each year and use the profits to pay a chunk of our loan back with each release. The rest of the money we make goes toward covering the costs of manufacturing, recording, reissues and the website. We put all our profits back into the label to keep it growing.
AH: Can you give us a breakdown percentage wise of the following:
A. CD sales? 3%* put back into Cosmo Sex School Record Label
B. Live shows? 70%
C. Merchandise? 7%* put back into Cosmo Sex School Record Label
D. Other? Publishing: 20%
AH: If possible can you share the amount of money you have grossed in the last 12 months, broken down by months correlating with market, and promotional, and touring efforts?
JJ: I actually don’t know that. The last 12 months were not a standard year for me; I had a baby and had some other personal things going on. The quandary of being a musician is proving to the IRS that you made nothing and proving to your landlord that you made $100,000. Both are equally true.
AH: How many die hard fans, fans that will buy everything and anything from you, would you imagine that you have?
JJ: 500 diehards. With a career like mine, every release is so different, a Jackmormons album to an acoustic release from a Stockholm album, so each campaign is record specific.
AH: What is your marketing / PR strategy as you release a new album?
JJ: We rely heavily on journalists who are already fans and press in tour markets since touring is really the bulk of my income.
AH: How long did it take you to build up this many fans? And how do you stay connected to them?
JJ: I’ve been doing this my entire life and many of my fans have been there from early on. I’ve come reluctantly to Facebook and Twitter. It doesn’t feel natural to constantly update people on what I’m doing and I have a tendency toward cynicism and contrariness which I wasn’t sure would come across well but have found that the more controversial I am, the more people respond. We also host a New Year’s Eve multi day party every year that fans fly in from all over to come to. We’ve created a close-knit community.
AH: Did you have a strategy with long-term and short-term goals in place to get to 1,000 true fans or for any future looking aspects of your music career? If so, can you share these goals? I
JJ: didn’t have a goal to get the 1000 true fans directly but I guess that was helped indirectly through trying to create a structure to continue to be able to release music frequently. My goal is to make enough money to continue to be able to put out new product, music and merchandise. I own most of my back catalog and would like to release re-issues of all titles, finance new musical projects and expand my merch.
AH: Have you ever made money from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook? Can you please tell us exactly how and correlate them?
JJ: Nothing beyond getting people out to live shows.
AH: What are your next steps to continue to help yourself move forward in your own career?
JJ: Find financing for more expensive recordings, put back catalog on vinyl, concentrate on clothing part of label, get imprint picked up in other markets/regions.
AH: If you could give a band or artist any type of advice on how to start in social media, what would you advise them to do?
JJ: Read, “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman and figure out how to apply it to your career. Get a team of people and create a profit share to motivate them.
AH: If you had $500 to spend on marketing and promotion, how would you spend that money?
JJ: I’d invest it in developing a new market/region. I’d find someone in France or Australia and pay him or her to try to get something started for me there. Whether that is a publicist, a promoter or just a fan, I’m not sure.
AH: Is there anything else you would like to say about 1,000 true fans? Don’t take them for granted, keep them engaged. Look at them as a liquid source, so you constantly need to be bringing people into the fold and thinking about how to do that. Social networking sites are great for that.
AH: On a scale of 1 to 10, would you say you share a lot (a 10) or are you guarded in what you exposure on social media sites about yourself and your personal life?
JJ: I’m very guarded about my personal life; I’d say a 1 or 2. In terms of my politics and ideas, I am closer to a 9 or 10. The more real I am in those areas, the more response I seem to get.
AH: What would you say to a fellow musician, that thinks that Twitter is just sharing “eating a tuna sandwich” and is stupid?
JJ: For every moron that tweets something like that, there is someone who is tweeting about a war they are witnessing. If you have a boring life, you’ll have boring tweets. You are being handed a weapon, you can stick it in your mouth or point it at something that matters.
Come Hang with Jerry: