by Fabio Martinelli

Ron Pope rocks Life in Music
Photo credit: Nicole Mago

Ron Pope is one of the brightest examples of a musician who managed to leverage the technology revolution to the maximum extent.

“Ron is a musical Renaissance Man, writing, composing, recording, producing, managing, and igniting his own career. He’s stood at a crossroads where so many musicians find themselves — at the intersection of record label and independence. In an ever-evolving industry filled with rejection and compromise, Ron has plotted a new course for his music to reach loyal listeners, taking the industry-road-less-traveled in exchange for the ultimate payback, a league of devoted fans the world over.” (MTV Bio)

Ron wrote an article on Billboard in 2014, when everybody was attacking streaming services for “not paying artists enough” (Taylor Swift had famously withdrawn her full catalogue from Spotify under such claim). He brought facts where emotions were running free, and helped many understand that the situation was far from black and white, and that real value could be created with these new tools, if approached in the right way. His op-ed should be required reading for anyone approaching the music industry.

I recently used Ron’s example in a recent presentation I gave by quoting the Billboard piece (see the slide below – if interested in the broader theme of where the music industry is heading and how musicians can handle change, here you can find instructions to download the full presentation).Life in Music


Beyond the (quite amazing) numbers, Ron so clearly explains a few key concepts:

  • How to be successful at marketing without the financial muscle of a major label or a big publisher;
  • How to keep the cash you generate from your recorded music;
  • The importance of establishing and maintaining a happy and engaged fanbase.

Two years have passed since then and we reached out to Ron to ask him for an update. This is what he had to say – enjoy!

Fabio: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions, Ron. We read with extreme interest your op-ed on Billboard from November 2014 and we’re wondering: what happened since then in terms of your business model?

Ron: Thanks for reading! When I wrote that, I was one of the only artists speaking up on behalf of platforms like Spotify, so things have changed drastically since then. Now almost everyone is on board and understands the value these platforms can present. In terms of my own business model – we are still a small team, but we do try to strategically focus releases around streaming platform offerings. Even at the time I wrote the article, I would say that our revenue was still about half downloads and half streaming, so we thought about releases differently. There are so many more platforms now, so we do our best to utilise each one’s strengths. For instance, Spotify is heavy on playlists and they are incredibly important to how your music is consumed, so we spend a good deal of time focusing on which playlists will best suit the music and the fans, and we go for those.

You are a successful independent artist: how is your core team organised and what are its key members?

It’s pretty small. I have a manager, an agent, and a publicist. My manager & I started a label last year (Brooklyn Basement Records), so we have 2 full time employees there that help us with social media and digital marketing. We’re very much a “mom and pop” shop.

What would you say are the activities that take most of your time and how do you decide what to do yourself and what to delegate?

It depends on what we’re working on at the time. Right now I’m busy planning the next album, so I spend most of my time writing songs and researching how to accomplish the sounds I want to create. In general though, I am involved in most business decisions, but I leave a lot of the strategic planning on how to execute those plans to my team. They are better at it then I am, ha. They also do a lot of the digital marketing for the same reason 🙂

Everything is in flux in the music ecosystem, so many artists might feel confused by the pace of change: to help them focus on relevant goals and activities, what would be your practical advice to musicians seriously committed to making music their life?

I always say this – if you want music to be your job, then treat it like your job before it’s actually your job. There will always be people more talented than you, but you can make up for that in hustle. You don’t need a big team to get things done, you just need to focus and pour all of your energy into putting on the most professional front – in both music and the business side.

We are fans and we have fans of yours in our community: what are your current and upcoming projects?

I just put out a record at the top of 2016 – “Ron Pope & The Nighthawks” – and I just wrapped up touring for the year. Right now I’m focusing on writing and thinking about the next record. We’ve got some good stuff coming up – stay tuned!

Thank you Ron!

Follow Ron on these links: Ron Pope | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube