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
I feel like an entire calendar year has passed since my
last blog entry. The thought of "how much time has passed this year" is
instantly canceled out by the perplexing conclusion of that it's really only April. This year has been one long workweek for me and I honestly
would not have it any other way.
The main focus of these past few weeks has been the
preparation and actual duration of South by Southwest (SXSW), the
largest music festival/conference in the USA. This event is best
described as organized chaos, with almost 2,000 bands performing
showcases on 80 or so stages with about 500,000 running around a small
downtown setting in the evening. This does not include the 2,000 or so
“unofficial” artists that come to play free events during the day,
basically creating a microcosm for a week that involves live music,
networking, workshops, cheap beer and even cheaper tacos. Most people
have a love hate relationship with it, yet still return each year for
This year was very unique experience for myself, not only
because I was not preforming (I did for 3-years in a row and last year
came down just with The Counter Rhythm Group), but for the fact that my
main focus was not necessarily on music/artists (crazy, right?). This
year, rather, I was down to unveil Musicians’ Desk Reference to a
select few individuals that are considered important in the music
industry (and rightfully so, I might add). These meetings were
strategically in place for equal parts discussion, pre-endorsement and
even some initial shock value. I cannot describe to you the feeling of
anxiety and pride you have when presenting something to the world that
almost no one has seen. A blogger that is way more full of themselves may
describe it as close to bringing a new life into the world, but I'm
definitely not that guy. Still, it is pretty amazing indeed. For any
music fans out there, Haim and Alpine were definitely my highlights this
While I cannot technically say whom/what companies I met
with down at the festival (legal blah blah blah), I can say that they
are significant entities designed to help musicians in this
ever-changing industry and all of the meetings went extremely well,
even vastly exceeding my expectations at times.
The overall week went better than I had hoped and there are definitely some tricks up my sleeve for the release of Musicians’ Desk Reference this fall.
The actual informal networking at SXSW is what absolutely
amazes me. My job (in addition to Izzi Krombholz’s, employee
extraordinaire) was to literally go hang out with other people in the
music business, dip in and see a few songs of a set and then find a
quiet corner to have a drink and talk shop about what both parties do
and how they could potentially help each other in the industry. Maybe my
next written venture should be titled, “How to Network at SXSW: Drink,
Talk, Drink, Talk, Drink, Drink, 15-minute Nap, Tacos, Talk and Drink.” I
see a fruitful career move here.
By now you’re asking, “Why has he spent the entire
duration of this blog yapping about SXSW?” Because this single week has
such a large impact on the music industry, if you are a fan that has the
slightest interest in music culture you should be paying attention.
This organized chaos dictates what you are going to read about in music
magazines and blogs for months to come, what videos you’ll see go viral,
the secondary headliners that you’ll pay hundreds to see at music
festivals, the fashion trends for the summer and fall, the soundtracks
to the latest electronic commercials featuring artists that win all of
the awards and your annoying “mainstream/generic” friends are going to
be bugging you about next year.
My favorite part of SXSW is not the festival itself, but
its sound waves that echo year-round in music venues like The Comet and
Mayday and mid-sized festivals such as Midpoint and Bunbury. If you are
not one of the individuals willing to pay hundreds (or thousands) of
dollars to make the musical exodus, I strongly encourage you to exhaust
the minimal amount of research required to see if the bands playing in
venues around town have made the trek to perform at such an elite event.
If so, consider it a stamp of approval by the music industry and, most
importantly, give these bands a chance when they come to you. I often
hear chatter from people wishing that they could go be a part of the
festivities and see these “unforgettable performances” from
“groundbreaking artists” in “intimate venues,” yet they have no clue
that their chances of seeing that same scenario in a city like ours
(often times for FREE) is extremely high and is tirelessly being written
about week after week by poor Mr. Breen and Mr. Baker. Open your eyes
and ears people; you’ll probably be glad you did.
Sorry for the rant, but I do feel it was necessary. Next
month I promise to write more about the book, as we have some major
updates taking place, in addition to having what we hope to be 99%
completed prototype in our hands. Exciting times for sure! But for now,
go appreciate some awesome live music (April is the busiest touring
month of the year due to post-SXSW tours) and have some fun for me … I
will not see the light day for several weeks to come. Send help and some
Thai Express if I don’t turn in my next blog on time next month.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
Plus, new releases due from Annette Shepherd, Green Light Morning and Saturn Batteries, and Locally Insourced debuts
0 Comments · Wednesday, February 6, 2013
The Cincy Blues Society's Winter Blues Fest finds a new, one-stop home for this weekend's event