the History of The Indie Bible Music Directory: Interview
The history of The Indie Bible is discussed at great length in an interview that editor David Wimble gave to The Princeton Songwriters Association founder (and mi2n correspondent) Anne Freeman
Anne: David, tell us about what inspired you to create the Indie Bible. What was your initial idea and how did it come about?
David: As is the case with a lot of things in life, the Indie Bible was created totally by accident. In 1999 I was in the process of recording my first CD. During the last months of recording, whenever I was away from the studio, I searched online for places that might help the CD to get some attention - radio stations that would play my songs, publications that would review the CD etc. I wanted to be prepared so that there would be a lot of places to send the CD to once it was pressed and ready to go.
When I started out, I knew almost nothing about the Internet and what could be found on it. I began my search suspecting that I could find at least a few websites where I could gain some some sort of exposure for my music. I began my research, and it wasn't long before a "massive" new world opened up to me. The number of places online that were willing to help Independent artists was mind-boggling!
I spent hours every day finding places that I could send my CD to in order to get a review or airplay. I was happily surprised to also find a lot of online services that were willing to help sell my music. I stored all the information about the various services I was finding in a spreadsheet. It wasn't a very well thought out system. It was a simple system that helped me to keep notes on who I sent my CD to and when. After a few months of research I had accumulated 1000 contacts or so.
When the recording of the CD was finally finished, the band I was building (and planning on touring with) broke up. I was heavily in debt, so the idea of trying to form another band, and then tour around, was not very practical. I needed to start paying off some of the bills, and selling a few CDs a week wasn't going to cover the expenses. I also knew that if I was to try and put a new band together, there was no guarantee that it would last long enough to get any momentum going. Then the "life-changing" thought struck me. During the whole time I was researching throughout the Internet, I was wondering why I couldn't find some sort of directory that lists the addresses of all the helpful websites for Independent musicians. There had to be one somewhere, but I couldn't find anything anywhere? I did purchase a few resources that I found in my research, but when they arrived in the mail, I was disappointed. The books I bought looked like they had been thrown together very quickly.
Under the pressure of this financial crunch, I wondered how practical it would be for me to publish a resource that would list all these places I'd been finding (in some sort of order). A resource that would enable musicians and songwriters to avoid spending the incredible number of hours it took me to find the resources in the first place. I asked the opinion of a musician I had met from Boston, and she said it was a great idea and that I would probably sell a lot of them. That's all I needed to confirm my belief that such a resource was needed. It was at that moment that the "Indie Contact Bible" was officially born. From that point on I began to consciously research information that would be added into this new resource I was about to create. I also realized after a bit of thought that if I was to succeed at publishing this resource, I would need to include "all" genres of music, not just resources for the styles of music that I enjoyed listening to. That took some adjusting, but it turned out to be quite fun because many new worlds opened up to me. The first edition came into being in October of 1999. It was a very low budget book that was photocopied and had a plain white cover. Fortunately for me, even though the book was as simple as it gets, the value shone through to those that were trying to get exposure for their music. People that bought it just loved it, and the feedback was incredible!
Anne: What is the principle behind Indie Bible?
David: The Indie Bible is unique because it is targeted specifically towards "recording" artists. There are many directories on the market, some have in the neighborhood of 30 categories of listings (venues, music stores, lawyers etc). The Indie Bible still only has six categories, but they are categories that are essential to the success of any artist attempting to promote their music...and the book delves very deeply into each of those categories. The Indie Bible was created by a recording artist, for recording artists. You can flip to any page, and there are listings on that page that will help you gain exposure for your music. If you're a recording artist, there is no fluff or filler.
Anne: How long did it take to put together your first edition and when was it published?
David: I think I did about eight months of research before the first edition was published. It came out in October of 1999, and it had about 2500 listings in it. It took hundreds of hours to compile. I worked on it from the moment I woke up in the morning until the wee hours of the next morning when I could no longer keep my head up. I worked for about 18 hours a day, seven days a week for the better part of a year. I was essentially channeling my fear and intensity into something positive.
Anne: How did you publish (yourself?) and distribute the first edition?
David: A friend I grew up with works at a print shop where I live in Ottawa, Canada. I told him what I was doing and we worked out a price that he would print them for. Those that bought the first two editions will remember that the book was only 8 1/2" by 5 1/2, had a plain white cover, and a spiral binding. The pages were photocopied as well. In fact, I was trying to sell ad space, and you could have got a full page black and white ad for $50.
Anne: In general, what kinds of listings are included?
David: There are 6 sections. Each section fill a different need of someone who has recorded a demo or CD.
The first section is a list of places where Independent artists can get their music reviewed - print publications, zines and webzines.
The second section is a directory of radio stations and shows that will play Independent music.
The third section lists companies that will help artists to sell their music - online vendors, Indie labels, promotional companies etc.
The fourth section lists sites where artists can upload their MP3 and audio files (video sites are also listed, as they are becoming quite popular as well).
The fifth section is a potpourri of resources that are helpful to artists and bands. There is an incredibly wide range of resources in this site, but one thing that is for sure, if you have recorded music, every listing in this section can be of help in some way (assuming that it addresses your style of music).
The last section contains 39 articles that are helpful to recording artists. These are articles written by experts that cover many of the key areas in the Independent music business. I sincerely want people to avoid making the mistakes that I made, and they can save themselves a lot of time, money and unnecessary stress by reading the articles in this section.
Anne: How did you gather the data and what guidelines do you use to include/exclude listing?
David: I used the above guidelines as far as content goes. No studios, producers, CD Duplicators etc. I wanted to make sure that all listings targeted the artist that has their CD in their hand (or will shortly have it in their hand) and are looking to do something with it that will gain them a bit more exposure. It's a resource that helps artists to connect with the masses.
I've also become a lot more critical as time goes by. The first edition was full of many personal sites using free web pages such as Geocities, Tripod or Angelfire. I now avoid listing the free web pages. The pop-ups are irritating, but also these pages, since they were not paid for, tend to become outdated quickly since there was no initial investment for the owner. With .com .org .net sites, you know there has been some sort of investement by the site owner, for both the domain name and the service that is hosting their site, so the odds are they are going to stick around a bit longer.
Anne: The Indie Bible is organized into different sections. You begin with "Reviews of Independent Music." Who and what are contained in Section One and why did you place this information first? How is the information organized and how many are included?
David: Section One contains any publication that is willing to review Independent music. They range from glossy magazines, to quirky web zines. I think getting your music reviewed is the most important thing you can do with your music (other than playing live). It gets your music out into the mainstream, and is a crucial element in the process of branding yourself. The more often someone surfing online runs across a mention or review of your band, the more likely they are to visit your website and check you out.
A good review is like having a giant advertisement online for your band. If you look at the Internet as a highway, having a review posted of your band is like having a giant billboard on a regular highway. The traffic may vary from bumper to bumper, a few cars passing by on a Sunday drive (depending on how popular the site is) but one thing is for certain, more people will become aware that you exist.
Reviews can also help you to hone your craft. Reviewers are not the enemy. Some do it just to get a rush from belittling people (I had a couple of doozies) but usually the reviewer is someone that loves music and has a lot of respect for what artists have to go through in their attempt to make a living in the music business.
Anne: Section Two: "Radio Stations That Are Willing To Play Independent Music" How did you find these stations? How are they organized and how many listings?
David: Finding radio stations and shows was probably the slowest chunk of research time. I had to weed through thousands of stations, contacting many of them when it wasn't clear whether they accepted Independent music or not. Basically, I just did searches, found sites that listed radio stations around the world, and followed up on links that I would find on websites I was researching.
Like the rest of the Indie Bible, the radio stations are sorted by format, and within each format, they are sorted by geographic location. There's a section for almost every style of music that you can imagine - country, punk, metal, women in music, classical, children's, goth, dance, Christian etc. There is also a section for Internet stations....of which there are now hundreds. Even with all the licensing issues that are ongoing, new Internet stations still pop up.
A common practice these days is that the station will make it clear upfront that artists that get radio airplay on their station will NOT receive any royalites. The simple truth is that many of these Internet stations could not survive if they had to pay the artist's royalties. Many artists, such as myself, would gladly have their music played without being payed the royalties.
Anne: Section Three: "Services That Will Help You Sell Your Music" What kinds of services are included in this section and how many listings? How is the information organized?
David: In Section 3, there is a sub-section for the "Promotional Services", and then another sub-section for "Online Vendors and Labels". As is the case with the rest of the book, the vendors and labels are sorted by genre, and within each genre by geographic location.
This section was originally just a listing of online vendors. I wanted the Indie Bible to be a "high return" type of resource. In other words, I didn't want to list a bunch of labels that would most likely just send you a rejection letter. The online vendors will take your music and place it online for others to buy. Most have a small setup fee, and take a portion of each sale. Unless your music really stinks badly, you probably won't be refused. The online vendors are also non-exclusive. You can start selling it online from as many sites as you choose...and almost immediately. This section eventually morphed into any sort of service that will help you to sell your music, including Indie labels and promotional services. I don't really seek these services out, but if they contact me I'll place a listing for them in the Indie Bible as well as my monthly newsletter.
Anne: Section Four: Section Four: "Sites That Allow You To Upload Your Music And Video Files" What kinds of sites are these and how many listings? How are they organized?
David: This section contains any site (of quality) where artists can upload their music files. Some are the huge sites like MP3.com and PeopleSound, while others are smaller sites that welcome only specific genres of music. Most of the sites listed in this section (there are over 400) will allow you to load your songs for free. It's a great opportunity to get your music heard. There's that continuous debate on whether it is wise to make your songs available online, and if you do whether it should be the full song or just an excerpt. It's really up to the individual. Personally I recommend placing a full song online. If you choose one song, and make it available at several of these sites, it's great advertising. If people like the song, at the very least they will remember you or your band, and that's a great step in the overall (and lengthy) process of "branding"...which is the key to success in the music industry. I'd be honored if someone downloaded one of my songs and burned it to a CD.
Anne: Section Five: "Helpful Resources for Musicians and Songwriters" When and why did you include this section? What kinds of information can people expect to find? How did you determine what to include?
David: This section really contains resources that don't fit in any of the first four sections. That doesn't mean that I stuff all the remaining resources that are available into this section. There is still a strict criteria for getting a listing in this section. The Indie Bible does not list CD Duplicators, studios, producers, equipment stores, merchandise stores, venues etc. The demographic I am targeting is the individual that has their newly recorded CD in their hand, and is wondering what the heck to do with it. I want to make sure that whenever someone flips open the Indie Bible, whatever listing they set their eyes on will be something that will help them to gain greater exposure for their music. It's really hard to describe what is listed in section Five, other than helpful resources for recording musicians looking to get their name branded and their music heard. Often it's a site that will place information about the band online. There are also sites that have a lot of good articles on how to get started in the business. There are online music communities where artists can share information and ideas, various forms of promotion for artists and their music, lots of good legal and copyright sites, press release services, and basically, all sorts of sites that are created by people that want to help musicians succeed.
I used to only list sites and companies that offered their services for free, but now I also list those that charge a small fee, but I make sure that the price is something that I consider to be reasonable. Having seen thousands of sites and services go under in the last few years, I do realize that it is costly to run a website. May artist services started up with the best intentions to "fight the man" and offer free services to musicians, but they never lasted very long. The reality is that you cannot survive that way. Not unlike a physical store owner, you have to generate enough income to pay for your rent, utilities etc. So, I give many of these services a lot more slack than I used to.
Anne: What percentage of listings included in the Bible go dead each year prior to the next year's edition?
David: It's usually about 10 percent. I think last year may have been higher. This is based on how many dead links there were when I was preparing the new edition. I think a lot of people closed down their sites when the economy in the US took a downturn.
Anne: Do you have a CDROM option?
David: There is an electronic version of the book that we sell, which is quite popular. It's in .pdf format and is sent by e-mail to those that purchase it.
Anne: The Indie Bible also includes advertisers. What selection criteria do you use for advertisers, if any?
David: ALL advertisers are welcome. However, if I thought that the business was shady, I certainly wouldn't allow them to advertise.
Advertising is my life-blood. Unfortunately it's not really my niche in life to solicit ads. I'm terrible at it. It takes a special person to be able to sell ad space. You have to have very thick skin. As my ad salesperson said to me, when someone says "No", they mean "Not today".
Anne: How can companies and service providers get listed in the Indie Bible?
David: They can send me an e-mail at david@indiebible or go to the website and click on the "Submit" button. There is a list of the types of resources that qualify (as well as a list of resources that do not qualify) http://www.indiebible.com
Anne: You offer update packages. What are those?
David: An update package is sent out to the subcriber whenever a new edition comes out (every fall). The update is all the NEWinformation that is going into the latest edition of the Indie Bible. This also includes any sites that have changed address. What this allows the artist to do, is keep current without having to purchase a whole new book. It's quite popular. An update usually consists of between 1000 - 2000 new listings, so it's easily worth the small price it costs to purchase.
Anne: Tell me about your monthly newsletter.
David: A newsletter was a necessary element in almost every article I read about Internet promotion. For the first year or so of publishing the Indie Bible, I didn't really think I had anything to offer musicians in a newsletter. Then a few years ago I thought it might be well received if I created a newsletter that had a tiny sampling of contacts each month. I called it the Indie Contact Newsletter and each month there are a good number of listings that are helpful to artists trying to promote their music.
I felt I needed something more than the contacts, so I used this newsletter as an opportunity to educate people as well. I made many costly mistakes in the promotion of my own music, and this was a chance for me to help others avoid the same mistakes. I made. I asked many of the authors and music people that I met and respected in the previous two years to write an article for my newsletter. All of the authors have been great so far in helping out. The best articles are also placed into the Indie Bible....a section of the book that is becoming very popular. The last three reviews the Indie Bible has received (Performing Songwriter, American Songwriter and The Circular Cosmic Spot) all praise the articles that are in the last section of the Indie Bible....all which were originally in the monthly newsletter.
It's mindboggling travel around the country to various conferences and have people come up and thank me for the newsletter. When I send it out, I have no idea where it's going to and who is reading it....and how much it's helping. I do get a few e-mails after each issue is sent out, and that helps a lot. It's inspirational to have people thank me and let me know that it's helping them.
Anne: What is the Indie Link Exchange?
David: In the early days of trying to promote my music and my band's website, I checked out many of the banner exchanges that were available. Usually you had to put a 2 banners on your site, in exchange for having one of your banners placed God knows where. Some exchanges would only allow you to put their banner on your main page. It was an exclusive contract you had to keep or you would be removed from the exchange. It was those sorts of goofy rules that brought on the Indie Link Exchange. I wanted to create the most basic dead-simple exchange in the world for music people. All the Indie Link Exchange is, is a list of music sites that want to swap links with other music sites. Their preferences (styles of music they will and will not link with) and type of link (banner or text) are posted with each listing. All a person has to do is check out the listings on each page of the exchange and contact the people that interest them. There's no hidden fee or agenda.
Those that would like to check out the Indie Link Exchange can visit it at: http://www.indielinkexchange.com/ile
Anne: What is your guarantee policy?
David: My policy is to refund the customer's money without question. I have a lot of confidence in the Indie Bible, and I can't see how anyone who has recorded a CD or demo would be disappointed. But, if they are disappointed they will have their money refunded.
I actually just recieved one of our best reviews ever by an online publication called The Circular Cosmic Spot. The reviewer stated that he has never seen anything negative said about the Indie Bible. For any artist looking to expose their music, I'm confident that they will be thrilled at all the resources that they will find in each edition.
Anne: You have an affiliate program. What's that about?
David: The affiliate program was started about 3 years ago. It was one of the top recommendations when I was reading up on how to market products on the Internet. Regardless of the author, it was almost unanimous that one of the keys to success was to set up an affiliate system. It's been great, because it allows me to tap into the traffic that some of these other sites are generating. It is also an excellent tool for branding the Indie Bible. I travel all around North America to attend various conferences, and people are always telling me that they see "this book" all over the Internet.
Anne: Now a little about you. You're a performing songwriter. What impact has the bible had you your personal career?
David: I guess it's more accurate to say I "was" a performing songwriter. The impact the Indie Bible has had is nothing short of an all-powerful vortex sucking me up into its core, and keeping me prisoner there for an undetermined amount of time- 11 years and counting. Essentially, my whole life revolves around the Indie Bible. There's just too much work and not enough hours. Hopefully some day I'll be able to chill out a bit, but not for awhile. I guess I'll have to soon. I'm getting married in the summer, and after four years, I can't use my old excuses for why I have to work, check my e-mail etc. There is that line that one can cross into the world of workaholicism. I have to learn that some things can be put aside for a day or at least few hours.
Anne: What genre(s) of music do you write and perform, and do you promote your own CDs?
David: The music I write is kind of folk rock. When I'm puttering around by myself, it can be any type of music. I have not done any sort of promotion for about 4 years, ever since the Indie Bible research began. Of course I've probably had more opportunities than anyone on the planet because I now know hundreds of people that could help me career along...if I had the time. I'm really hoping that someday I can find the time to tap into this wealth of resources that I've connected with.
Anne: Can we hear your music being played on any of the radio resources that you've listed?
David: I have no idea who is playing it. I'm sure in most cases it is buried quite deeply in the music libraries. I haven't really been able to follow-up with any of the stations for about 4 years.
Anne: What are you future goals, both as a performing songwriter and as the publisher of Indie Bible?
David: Actually, I have a novel that I've been writing for several years. It's kind of a humourous look at the way humans think, and our opinions about what life is all about. It's a gentle look into the mysterious world of metaphysics. With this novel, I am doing my best to bridge the gap between the seen and the unseen truths of life. One of my main goals is to get this book published.
The big plan is to continue with the Indie Bible and eventually play live a little bit (as more of a stress reliever than anything else), as well as getting the novel published.
Anne: How can people purchase a copy of the Indie Bible and when is the next edition coming out?
David: A new edition comes out every fall...usually in late October/early November. People can purchase the book online at: http://www.indiebible.com
Anne: Any advice you'd like to leave us with?
David: One thing that I try to emphasize when I'm talking with artists is that it is very important to keep your expectations realistic. For most people the goal or dream is to get signed to a major label (and of course with that comes the wheelbarrows full of money). However, the goal of the artist should be to do the best they can attempting to become self-sufficient. A byproduct of become self sufficent is that the labels will catch wind of it. The major labels are becoming distributors rather than developers. They want you to reach a certain level, and then they will take you on and promote you. But, you have to build that foundation first.
Also, always be moving forward. Do something, however small, every day. Don't lie in bed and stare at the ceiling when something is put in your path. Get up and do something, anything that is helpful to your career. And don't listen to the thoughts that tell you that it's hopeless. Nothing is hopeless, as long as you keep moving forward, one tiny step at a time.
Lastly, be flexible. Try to listen and look around with an inner sense that seeks opportunity. The opportunity is always there, but maybe not in a form that appeals to you (or is part of your current plan). No one goes straight from A to Z. The path is swirly at best. Follow your instinct the best you can, and when you sense that something is moving you in a particular direction, go with it.