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Musicians Desk Reference is a must-have, interactive how-to for aspiring artists

October 30, 2013

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In addition to writing a blog about new music, I work with musicians. I’ve booked tours, run press, produced albums, consulted on projects, and lots more. I know a little bit how music works right now, and I can say with definition that it’s a brave new world for musicians. Old business models are inaccessible, unreliable, or totally defunct. There’s a lot more artists have to do on their own. The problem is, of course, that there are few people to teach them how to do it.

Enter Musicians’ Desk Reference. Put together by the fine folks over at Counter Rhythm Group, the Reference gives step by step guides on how to do everything associated with being a band. I do mean everything, from starting a band, to branding, to managing rights, to booking tours. It is a comprehensive guide of how to get things done. Furthermore, it’s set up in five neat chapters, because you don’t need to know all of that at the beginning of your musical venture’s life. If that weren’t enough, there are checkboxes for when you get each section of the chapter done. If you’re a go-getter, Type A person, this is just the absolute best.

The Reference website allows you to run multiple projects at once, as well; so if you’re managing several bands, you can keep them all in the same account. Various people can be looped in, and they can be given different privileges corresponding to their level of need-to-know and editing privileges. In short, this is a comprehensive self-managing (or small manager of a few bands) system. I haven’t gotten to work with it extensively yet, but just from what I’ve been able to do and find so far, I give it my highest recommendation. This will teach you everything you need to know about how to be a musician right now. The fact that it’s an interactive system as well just makes it even more impressive.

If you’re an artist who wants to make career of it but doesn’t know where to start, you need the Musicians’ Desk Reference. That’s all there is to it. This is excellent, excellent stuff. It’s currently a one-time fee of $75, which is an absolute steal. I spent 10 years and thousands of dollars learning the hard way what you can get for less than a Benjamin in under a minute. I can’t stress to you how much of a good deal that is.

Musicians' Desk Reference wants to help you make it in music

February 22, 2013

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Independent Clauses is all about helping musicians navigate the thorny and confusing world that is independent music, so I was very interested when Brian Penick of The Counter Rhythm Group told me about his plans to make that journey easier for musicians. Brian is running a Kickstarter to fund Musicians’ Desk Referencea comprehensive guide to making your way in music. He was kind enough to take some time and explain the project to me and IC readers.

IC: What is the Musicians’ Desk Reference? 

Brian Penick: Musicians’ Desk Reference is an eBook that establishes a protocol for progression in the modern music industry. That is a mouthful so let me explain. Essentially this is a software driven experience for the user that aims to help a musician or a band receive information and working guides (including templates, instructional guides, examples and video tutorials) on specific areas of the music industry, with a majority of the information being customized around the WHEN, WHY and HOW something is completed in their unique situation. It’s very “hands on” in a digital sense.

What types of things are covered in the book?

We have been helping to introduce musicians to the servicing side of the music industry with The Counter Rhythm Group for about two and a half years now, gaining an understanding of what general areas of interest repeatedly come up. The working model of the book deals with and delves into several areas, ranging from information about starting a band and recording your first record to properly going on tour, promoting your project and building a team. There is a LOT if information in here and it is meant to be used throughout an artist’s progression, expanding on information as the users grow in the industry.

Who is the audience for the book? People with labels? People with agents? Do-it-yourselfers?

One of the most intriguing aspects of this book is that it serves such a wide group of musicians. You can literally work with it while starting your first project (helping to build a strong foundation from the beginning), then using it every time you go on tour to help map out a list of tasks that will help even larger and established musicians focusing on their own promotional practices, while still emphasizing the importance of building a team when the times comes for it. The book was designed to essentially help everyone it could, from new artists to local artists, regional and even up to national recognized musicians. While some of the information may already be known, it is nice to have it complied into one entity that gives the user so much control through customization.

How did you choose Kickstarter? How did you come to the amount that you need for the Kickstarter? As a person who is running a Kickstarter, I’m interested in how people make these decisions.  

Kickstarter is such a wonderful platform that allows the some of the wildest imaginations to become tangible aspects of life, and I could not think of another medium to work with. I got a lot of inspiration from other Kickstarters while considering independent sources to fund this idea, and ultimately I felt that this was the perfect one to run with. Regarding the amount, I have sat down and reworked the numbers over several months, and while the amount we’re asking for is not the final amount needed, it is enough that would get us over the initial hump of production and promotions.

We hope that once Musicians’ Desk Reference is released and helping artists, the users will be inspired enough to share their stories with others about its benefits and uses, calling attention to it a personal touch which is how we feel the best products are promoted. I see that you have already killed it with your own Kickstarter, so congratulations, Stephen!

How much will the e-book cost? How did you come to that price?

The price of the final product is ultimately going to be determined by the final amount of funding received. I am really trying to bypass any third party publishers and keeping the number of any outside investors down will also help us battle the costs. Realistically, this book will range anywhere from $50–$100, but that could change depending on MANY variables. It may sound like an expensive product, but for multiple uses throughout a musician’s career we feel it is definitely fair. Think of it how you would look at Quickbooks for your taxes, only that this helps you progress in the music industry. The more you use it, the more valuable of a tool it becomes. We’re promoting the mentality that it is essentially the cost of playing a show, and if you’re not making that amount per show the book is especially designed with you in mind.

What is your goal (or goals) with the book? 

Without sounding like I am trying to lead my people through a desert to a new salvation, I am essentially trying to standardize some aspects of the music industry. There are so many artists that I have encountered over 13+ years of being a musician and since I started this company that are desperately seeking help and answers, along with so much information and ideas that seem to be floating out in the ether that I hope to pack it all into one piece of information, helping as many musicians as possible.

I would have loved to have something like this when I was working on my own progression, and I hope users will find it as useful as I would have. There are too many artists out there that are working hard without the recognition they deserve, and I hope that this levels the playing field enough so that those hard workers get as much of a chance of finding success as anyone else could. We’re trying to build a community that promotes positivity and a strong work ethic, with musicians helping each other along the way. Call me crazy, but that is the world I want to live in.

Check out the Kickstarter.

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