by Mike Breen
Locally-created music industry e-guidebook goes the monthly subscription route
After launching last year locally at the MidPoint Music Festival and nationally at New York’s CMJ conference, the intuitive and comprehensive music industry e-book Musicians’ Desk Reference has relaunched with a new format. Created in Cincinnati by longtime local musician and promoter Brian Penick (also the founder of The Counter Rhythm Group, which has helped numerous local acts garner national attention and work), MDR is moving from its original, one-time-purchase approach to a monthly (or annual) subscription plan. (Penick wrote guest blogs for CityBeat as he put the project together. For a more comprehensive MDR overview, click here and here. Billboard magazine has also given the project lots of love.)For those who may have been cautious about its upfront cost, Musicians’ Desk Reference, which is customizable to the user’s needs (no matter where they are in their career) and features information, templates and advice relating to everything from touring, promoting and recording to radio and press campaigns and well beyond, is now available to test-drive for free. The no-cost 30-day trial doesn’t even require a credit card; click here to get started. Artists serious about pursuing a career in music will likely become more interested in MDR as they dive in and look at all it has to offer. After the 30-day trial, MDR can be accessed for $10 a month or $100 for the year. Visit musiciansdeskreference.com for complete info.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 25, 2013
MDR is the project of Cincinnati’s Brian Penick, a former
drummer for several touring/recording bands like The Seedy Seeds and
Bottom Line, who stopped playing music to start the
development/marketing/events promo company The Counter Rhythm Group.
by Brian Penick
Interactive musicians' guide eBook moves towards beta-testing phase
Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians’ Desk Reference. Click here for his previous blog entries.Aaaaaaaaaaand we are done! Well, kind of …After nearly two years of content creation, testing, editing, restructuring and discussion, I am very proud to announce that the content for Musicians’ Desk Reference is finally complete! There is still much work to be done ahead of the release — completion of web development, beta testing, marketing, promotions and more — but we are at least moving ahead, right on schedule. It sounds cliché, but it is amazing to take a step back and realize how far this project has really come, in addition to considering how much it has forced me to grow as an individual. It all started with an idea that I simply could not let go of, despite my initial thoughts that The Counter Rhythm Group just could not handle taking on a project of this (theoretical) scale. I tried working around this notion from every angle, discussing it with an array of employees that have helped in our growth, and at the end of each reflection period I knew that we had to still move forward with the idea, any way we could.Those that know me know that I am a planner. I like making lists — and especially checking things off of that list. I try to find structure in everything when at all possible, and more often than not I find myself asking, “Why?” I have no idea where this mentality came from and my immediate family has reaffirmed that statement over the course of the last few months. It is this mentality, combined with my passion for helping musicians that has provided the fuel for this journey.I am so excited to share this vision with the world. While it sounds cheesy, I can promise you that every page has my heart and soul poured into it, and that it has been painstakingly been picked apart by myself and a dedicated group of contributors. We are truly aiming to provide the best information possible to be used for many generations to come. I have stated before in these blogs that this is by far the most involved I have ever been in a project — I never considered leaving a legacy, but I am starting to think that this could be it.So what does this mean for the user? I can say with confidence that there is way more to this project than I ever could have imagined, and the fact that it still consistently “wows” me should be a testament to those who have been patiently waiting for the final product over the past several months. While the eBook is completely customizable to each individual and scenario, I can honestly say (to those who are interested) to get ready to spend some time reading and considering the subject matter. We have meticulously worked to build the documentation so that it touches base on certain generalities and specifics, offering clarity and understanding on the matter without requiring several days’ worth of reading. I am not a big fan of lengthy reading materials and our generation tends to be intimidated by large batches of text — the sole reason we have invested so much time and resources into a digital platform. To state it conservatively, it will take an artist some time to work through the entire project, which is meant to serve the user through several areas of their career as they develop and grow.We are so close to being able to put Musicians’ Desk Reference in your hands that I honestly have a hard time sleeping at night. Looking ahead, we will be receiving a beta version of the eBook within the next week and we have many users lined up to participate. If you are interested in being considered for a beta trial, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. September is when things start getting really exciting, as we are pulling out all of the stops for this release. Without going into too much detail, I can say that we will have an established presence at the Midpoint Music Festival this year, and that this will be the first time the eBook will be available for purchase (acting as our “soft” release, exclusively to those physically at the festival). Pre-orders will be available in early September and are expected to ship the week after MPMF. This will all build up to our national release in October at the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City, where we will be also have a significant presence. There are many more things in the works; I promise that it will all be worth the wait.I would like to close by thanking all of those that have shown support throughout this process, to The Counter Rhythm Group and to myself. While this is not the time to name anyone individually (that comes later), I want you all to know how much it means to us. Your continued support will help us through the coming months and we hope you will join us in spreading the word about Musicians’ Desk Reference. We have literally put everything we can into this project, and we are proud to say that we were able to build it while living in this great city, utilizing most outsourced services to companies and individuals located in the Queen City. We want to make a significant impact in the music industry, and I look forward to proudly telling anyone and everyone where it all started — right here in Cincinnati.
by Brian Penick
Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians’ Desk Reference. We are very much in the trenches right now! Keeping afloat amongst a sea of deadlines is a feat in and of itself. And while we typically do not doubt ourselves here at The Counter Rhythm Group, we are quite impressed to bear witness the amount of information being processed within the schedule we have upheld.This past week I did something that I never thought I would do with Musicians’ Desk Reference — I printed it out! Well, part of it at least. I was simply amazed at the amount of pages and text that printed, so much that I had to refill the printer several times with new reams of paper and even with new ink cartridges.Through several stages of copy editing and revisions we are finally starting to show how massive this project really is. I knew somewhat early on that it was going to be a wealth of information and documentation (as demonstrated by my inability to stick to the five-page limit set by my high school teachers), but this is far beyond what I imagined.The interesting thing about all of this — beyond the content — is the fact that the entire workload is customizable to the user. If an artist wants to check every item on a list to recall all potential information, they could be in for several nights’ worth of preparation and work. However, the opposite is also true, as we have built MDR to allow both the beginner and the full-time touring musician to grab a single doc on the go with minimal effort. Maybe I have just been staring at the same set of screens for too long, but it still seems impressive after working on it for over two years!The rest of the month will see us continually chopping away at content and revisions, plus document sign-offs and content uploads. We are also starting to work out some specifics for the national release and promotional campaigns, which is enough excitement to keep me going like a kid on the night before Christmas morning. Every day that this project gets closer to release, the potential impact seems to grow exponentially and that is reward enough keep us awake and help pull us through all of these longs days and late nights.I am going to make this my shortest blog entry yet, because there is still so much work to do. Unfortunately, I have had to remove myself from much of the live music world that I enjoy so very much over the past few months. While this trend will likely continue through most of the summer for me, I hope that you all are able to get out and support the local music scene. We are very fortunate to live in this city with all of its talent and available venues. While you may not be able to contribute as much to the music industry and independent artists around here as you would like to, a simple start is to go see a show, buy a piece of merch and tell an artist “thank you” for doing what they do. The music industry is not an easy place to find success. We are trying to create a platform that informs and eases the process, but it cannot move forward without the support and contribution from the fans. Thank you for reading – now go see some live music!
by Brian Penick
Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians’ Desk Reference.It has been killing me to remain so broad and vague this
entire time about what exactly me and my staff have been working on, and
while I will attempt to be slightly more specific this time around, I
am afraid that you will inevitably be strung along for yet another
30-day span, inching closer to the release this Fall.
If you have been reading these entries (or know me
personally), you know I am a musician, and that I have experience
touring and working in the music industry for about half of my life.
While I do not necessarily claim to be an expert (I believe it requires
an extreme longevity with multiple facets of success and even some
failure to be given that label), I can tell you that I have an
understanding of how the working elements of this business function, and
that I have been able to make a career as both a performer and a
servicing agent. That being said, my passion (and I do consider
myself a passionate person), has become helping others to succeed in
this industry through sharing my experiences and knowledge. While
competition certainly has its place and can keep you sharp, ultimately
we are all in this together, trying to reach a common goal of finding
success. The more we work together the better the potential is for any
one of us to achieve these goals.
I truly believe Musicians’ Desk Reference is the
next step in the evolutionary process to bind us together as a musical
community. My overall intention with this project is to level the
playing field as much as possible, everywhere from general theories of
advancement to the specified documentation that an artist will actually
work with. At the end of the day, we hope to unveil the unknown
variables that musicians will face and provide the tools and the
understanding and put the focus on what matters most: your music.
How do you know if Musisicans’ Desk Reference is something for you? The
eBook encompasses several distinct areas of the music business, ranging
from the inner workings of just starting out as a musician, down the
necessary paths of recording, promoting, touring and eventually building
a team of industry professionals to work for you. These topics are
based on my own personal experiences as a musician and with operating
The Counter Rhythm Group (my music industry promotions company), in
addition to many conversations with musicians over time about what
topics they are most curious about. Not surprisingly, many of the
requests were in the same categories, so in the end the subject matter
was not too difficult to choose from.
It is an exciting time for sure, as we are literally in
the last two weeks of content creation, working right along schedule
with our team of professionals we have amassed to help make the dream a
become a reality.
Looking ahead into the near future, I am excited to
announce that we will be conducting some closed focus groups for the
content, eventually leading into beta testing a full working version.
All preparation is leading up to the release of the final product this
Fall, and while I cannot give out too many specifics (sorry!), I can say
that it will be a series of events not to be missed.
I apologize if the bulk of these blogs seem to relate more
to the backstory and the generalities of the book rather than the
specific content and the process behind the final product, but that is
unfortunately the direction that it must take for now. While I have been
hit with a wave of positivity from musicians familiar with the project,
it is very clear that more explanation is required as to offer insight
as to what we are actually doing over here. The process, as that of many
servicing professionals, can often feel like a variety of desk jobs
that exist in the world, with the obvious exception of working with
fantastic clients and the ability to go to shows, travel and be among
others with similar interests that are typically awesome. In all
honesty, I sit at a desk and work on several computers, monitors and
devices, working with my team to create, verify and edit content, hour
after hour. It is nothing but work, work, work around here (especially
lately), and I would not have it any other way.
by Brian Penick
Editor's Note: Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians’ Desk Reference. Read Penick's first three blogs here.I am not sure where I originally heard it, but the statement about how an idea "is the most contagious thing in the world” has really been resonating with me this past month. It is amazing to take a step back from most things in the world and realize that they all started with an initial concept that grew through some evolutionary process. Probably not the way you would expect me to start a blog entry, but you have to understand this to know where this entire microcosm of Musicians’ Desk Reference has come from to consider where we are hoping to take it.All of this started with an idea, something that had been bubbling up in my sub-conscience for over a decade, since I first started touring in bands. The business side of the music industry had always fascinated me, if only to simply question “why” and “how” the process worked for artists finding success. I knew that there had to be a great deal of factors behind this and that there isn’t really one true answer, but it was still enough to start me on a quest to find out whatever I could. Quite a task for someone barely old enough to drive, but, still, I knew that it was something worth investigating.I have no shame in seeking the truth. I would ask anyone that I had met along the way, from bands to promoters and bar staff to industry professionals … if I could steal someone for a 30-second conversation, they would be hit with as many questions as I could get in. This always comes to a peak at any sort of festival/conference event when I am on the hunt for individuals that I know will be in attendance. The fangs come out and the hunt is on. I’ve been able to leverage some tours and significant milestones out for some of my projects, most notably at this year’s South by Southwest conference. This soon turned to me attempting to give back to the music community, offering advice to anyone that asked for it. Casual conversations at shows over drinks eventually led to me wonder if I could do something similar for a living. Several months and numerous drafts of a business plan later, I was on my way, always intending on helping the greatest number of artists as I possibly could. Here we are now, several years into the (initial phase of the) process, and the idea has certainly become infectious. What started as me wishfully thinking in the back of vans and busses that were buzzing across the land has started to take shape in a way that I would have never imagined. While there are many things that are happening behind closed doors and cannot be disclosed (this document would have more redacted text than not were I to reveal many of the details), I can tell you that this idea has grown into more than a book and more than a batch of information. Our team has now tripled in size and the partnerships with third parties are growing by the month. The end result is going to be something that will even impress me, which is important to note because I am probably the harshest critic of them all.I have had a vision for this project throughout the course of all of this. While I have been flexible at times, the integrity of Musicians’ Desk Reference is one thing that I am not willing to compromise. I am treating this as if it were a band trying to advance on its own through the music industry, gaining organic support along the way through due diligence and hard work. I am so proud of how far we have come. As we prepare to build the final version with a team of engineers over these next couple weeks, the anticipation builds like a child’s on Christmas morning — except we want to give rather than receive.It has been slightly unnerving while building Musicians’ Desk Reference, knowing that it will inevitably be released to the world and run through the gauntlet of reviewers and critics, but in the end it should be known that we are here to help. Others may be creating a process, but we are trying to set a standard; a precedent that the industry can work from to give everyone an equal opportunity. Call us crazy, but this is a mantra that we use on a daily basis.I know this may not all make sense and seem broad from an outside perspective, but, trust us, it will make sense as we delve further into the specifics. More clear details will emerge as our release date at this year’s Midpoint Music Festival (Sept. 26-28) approaches. Just know we are working hard with good intentions.
by Brian Penick
Brian Penick of local music promotions company The Counter Rhythm Group is guest blogging for CityBeat monthly to provide a behind-the-scenes look at his journey to release his interactive industry guidebook, Musicians' Desk Reference. For more on the project, visit its Facebook page here.Wow, what a month. Extreme highs and lows, minimal sleep and a work schedule that would make an outsider believe I had an armed guard with a shotgun pointed at my back … which in some regard is true, except that I am playing both roles.I am going to attempt to make this blog entry significantly shorter than the last because, as you may have guessed, I have more work to accomplish. The ever-looming deadline for South by Southwest (SXSW) is creeping up and preparations with everything surrounding the presence of Musicians’ Desk Reference at SXSW grow almost exponentially by the day. This will be my fifth year attending the Austin, Tex., festival/conference (the largest music-related event in the US), and while it is my second time going without performing, I can already tell that this will be my busiest year ever. Taking meetings, handing out promo material and managing schedules for myself and my team are just a few of the things that will fill my week-long itinerary, all for the pursuit of introducing Musicians’ Desk Reference to some select individuals for endorsement. While there are many different potential outcomes to this journey, I feel confident that my inevitable glass of top-shelf Kentucky bourbon at the end of the week will be a salute to success rather than a drowning of sorrows.The obvious focus of this month, or at least what the intention was to focus on, was our Kickstarter campaign for Musicians’ Desk Reference (our upcoming music industry progression eBook for you newcomers). We still have a little over a week to go and time will tell what the final outcome is. My original goal was to have the funding reached by interested parties to eliminate the need for a third party publisher, ultimately keeping the cost down for the user. Click here to view the project's Kickstarter page. In the event that this goal is not obtained in early March, never fear, as those who know me have probably deduced, I have several backup plans. Am I thorough? Yes. To the point that I am slightly neurotic? Probably. Regardless, nothing is going to stop the freight train that is Musicians’ Desk Reference. Nothing.So in my attempt to clear my schedule for February to make way for this crowdfunding campaign, I actually ended up with a much busier month that originally anticipated. On top of all of our regular client work, The Counter Rhythm Group hosted our Locally Insourced Cincinnati Music Industry Trade Show, a fantastic show with Bad Veins, PUBLIC and The Ridges. We have been in negotiations with several of our clients for national support tours and we are in the midst of working a potentially huge licensing contract for a client. In addition to a nationwide social media campaign and a getting ever so close to finishing the book, these past 28 days have seemingly become a marathon that we have just sprinted through. My next vacation is (literally) planned for 2015.In closing I would like to take a second to thank not only those who have already donated to our Kickstarter, but also to those who (hopefully) will. There is still some time left (depending on when you read this; campaign ends on March 8), and sharing is something we are also encouraging folks to do. I would really like to try and go the independent route with this project, but I am prepared with other options in the end if that is not the case. At the least it has been quite a journey.I also would like to thank those who have had to deal with my absentmindedness in (“normal,” non-music related) conversation over the past few weeks. I would like to say that this may change in the coming months, but knowing myself and how much I want to accomplish with Musicians’ Desk Reference, I would just plan on it for the next several months. It is by no means a way of stating that I do not care about what else is going on in the world, but should be viewed as a precursor to how significant I think this project can potentially be. I have dedicated literally half of my life to the music industry and I believe this is my biggest accomplishment to date. Goodnight, and thanks for reading!
by Brian Penick
A thousand words. That’s what I have to tell you everything about what I am doing, why I am doing it and how it may affect musicians and the music industry. At the end of it, you get to form an overlying judgment on both who I am and my reasoning. So here we go.My name is Brian Penick and I am the founder of an artist development company called The Counter Rhythm Group and the author of the upcoming eBook, Musicians’ Desk Reference, an interactive and customizable eBook that establishes a protocol for progression through the modern music industry. Yes, that’s a lot — I’ll explain below.But first I’d like to thank the kind folks at Cincinnati's CityBeat for giving me an amazing opportunity to guest blog about my world for the next couple months, raising nationwide awareness (and funding) for an eBook that will be released in October. We are very fortunate to have an entity such as CB here in Cincinnati that is willing to take a chance at promoting a startup project this early on, something that fewer individuals have every year with the closing of “altweekly” newspapers across the land. While I could go on for many paragraphs ranting about how important these outlets are to the worlds of the arts, small businesses and independent thinking in general, I simply implore you, if you have not done so in a while, to go pick one up and start reading. You won’t realize what you’re missing until its gone.This book is a project that I am putting together out of both passion and necessity. I have been a touring musician for well over a decade now, having a large part of the business end in each of my projects, always trying to learn the ins and outs of the beast known as the music industry. I love giving advice to other musicians on whatever I can, and while I might not have the answer, I often have an answer, which is (usually) better than nothing. I enjoy seeing independent musicians thrive or “make it,” and I always hope that people who find success are willing to share their knowledge and experiences with those who have not … a utopian dream I have where the music industry becomes more of a community, eliminating the competitive edge that unfortunately drives musicians to greedy and selfish attitudes about helping others.Throughout my personal experiences as a musician and running The Counter Rhythm Group I have found some parallels to the questions musicians are asking, most of which seem to have a natural progression to them. For many, the music industry seems to be a labyrinth you have to face in the dark. Why does it need to be this way? I believe it doesn’t.Musicians’ Desk Reference sheds light on the complexities. You’re still going to have to navigate your own path, but this eBook will give you some tools in your belt to have as good of a chance as ever. The inner workings of the book display information on several topics of the music industry, offering insight as to WHY, WHEN and HOW you can accomplish important tasks, all leading towards progression. But it doesn’t stop there, as the book gives you customized scenarios in chronological order that offer clarity on what exactly you need to do. In addition to all of this, there is an extensive collection of documents that are included — everything from templates and instructional guides to examples and video tutorials.Again, I don’t have ALL the answers, but I do have some, which, combined with my desire to help more musicians than I presently can, is why I am in the position that I’m in. I would have loved to have a resource like this when I was coming up as an independent musician and I really hope this is a game changer for the music industry.We’re about to launch a Kickstarter campaign for the project, something that makes me queasy just thinking about it. I have been on the fence about KS from the start; while I think it’s actually a great platform to help projects that extend the bounds of creativity come to fruition, you’re still begging for money, which I am not a fan of. I started The Counter Rhythm Group out of pocket and, while I would love to do the same for this, the costs are astronomical to produce a good (like this) vs. a service, and there is no way I can handle that at the moment.But then I started to realize that how important crowd funding is to something like this. Getting people to support this extends beyond the monetary value (more backing = cheaper book costs to users), because when someone backs this project it means that they believe in what we are doing and that it’s necessary. That is a very humbling thought to someone who has essentially shut himself away from the masses since starting this project and it makes this knot in my stomach start to slightly ease up. Here I am about to enter the most important month of my life, one that will dictate at least the rest of the year, with the amount of sleep dwindling with each approaching night. I encourage you to read the story and watch the video at my Kickstarter page and if you feel compelled to, contribute and/or share. Again, I am grateful for what I do and the fact that I get to do it every day, even if it means I get to help only a few. I love music more than most things in this world and I know many of you share that same sentiment. Thank you for reading. Here we go.Brian Penick will be guest blogging for CityBeat monthly, leading up to the fall release of Musicians' Desk Reference. For more on the project, visit the official site here.
'Musician’s Desk Reference' announces 2013 launch and Kim Taylor goes to Sundance
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Brian Penick, musician turned music-biz entrepreneur with his two-year-old promo company, the Counter Rhythm Group, announces the 2013 release of an expansive and ambitious interactive e-book to help musicians navigate the modern music industry. Plus, singer/songwriter Kim Taylor preps a new album, but first visits the Sundance Film Festival in Utah for the world premiere of the feature film, I Used to Be Darker, in which she co-stars.