You can listen to the audio version of this article HERE.
Whilst in New York City, I caught up with the owner of EDM.com, Ethan Baer, to discuss how he built a strong brand within the music industry and his thoughts on media publications operating in today's digital environment.
EDM.com: First of all, thank you for being a guest in this series - I appreciate it.
Ethan Baer: My pleasure.
So for the people who don't know who you are, just say a little bit about your origin story.
I'm Ethan Baer & owner of EDM.com. I'm also a partner within Artist Intelligence Agency which is a record label & publishing company. I was a DJ in college doing parties etc to share my taste in music. I got to a point in which I was the music discovery guy in my group of friends.
A lot of my friends asked me for input on my music. I started a blog without the intention of it becoming my business. I took a year off to figure where my life was going. I realized that my music blog was paying my bills.
It was helping you get by.
Yeah, I was able to live. That was enough for me to give it a go and it all happened from there.
So how did EDM.com actually come about?
To give you some background, we started as Dubstep.net. Slowly, we started to incorporate different genres of music into our promotional network. So House, Trap etc. All the EDM genres that you can think of.
It was a great strategy as if you searched Dubstep online, Dubstep.net would be one of the top results. Our SEO was great. The downside was that once we established a site for all the genres we wanted, we were running 15 different websites.
It was the same website but with different genres of music. So every day, it felt like I was doing the same thing 15 times. So rather than running 15 separate sites, we consolidated everything into one platform. By this point, EDM had emerged as a key buzzword within the music industry. EDM.com's domain happened to be for sale, so we reached out and came up with a great deal.
He purchased the site in 1996 and had the choice of 2 domains between EDM.com & Golf.com. I think now he would regret not going after golf. But he was an engineer by trade, and so it was supposed to be called Electronic Discharge Machining. I don't know what that is - but he purchased the site. It was a perfect storm at the right time.
The timing was perfect.
Yeah, everything came together & we became a dominant platform in the music space.
Wow. As you know, EDM.com has managed to accumulate over 1.7 million Facebook followers. What advice do you have for producers wanting to be featured on the platform?
I actually have some good feedback on this one based on an article that you wrote.
If you're an artist, you need to look at it from a perspective of the blogger. Understand that they might be going through 1000 emails that are identical to yours. What makes yours stand out is not making it look like spam, and just making the email presentable. `Be genuine, authentic, and get to the point. Don't do spam follow-ups.
I get that all the time (sigh). It's annoying.
I get the mentality of "oh they're busy so I'll just follow up". But for the most part, most writers do a good job of going through their emails and listening to submissions. It's a point of pride for them. But if you're an artist & haven't got a response, it's just not good enough. It's better to move on than be recognized as the guy who spams.
Exactly. Some people just accept rejection and simply send their future music once it's released, and I'm always more than happy to listen. But others just get offended and ask why I'm not featuring their song.
Getting offended is not a good strategy.
Exactly. If anything, it makes bloggers not want to feature you.
Rather than diving into asking bloggers for stuff, start a relationship. It doesn't have to come across as you wanting to be best friends. But creating a relationship is important. It makes me much more likely to listen to your track than someone else's. After all, I know you.
At the end of the day, as a blogger, you have to be objective. But as much as you try to put conflicts of interest aside, having a relationship with people is always beneficial. Rather than ask yourself "how can I get what I need", ask "how can we work together".
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I agree. I get a lot of people saying "hey please feature my track". No. I probably won't even listen to the track if you pitch like that. Why should I spend 30 mins on a review if you can't be bothered to spend 5 mins on a good pitch?
Exactly. It may have been the best track you've ever been sent. But because they were rude, it's a shame that they didn't get featured. Poor communication skills can often get in the way of talent. It's about being polite.
But don't get discouraged. On our label, we have a submission portal that artists can submit tracks to. Often, we decline 20... But the 21st submission they send ends up being a massive release. Persistence is importance. But in contrast, some artists get p*ssed off when they get declined. If you believe in your music, keep submitting and good things will happen.
I totally agree with you. I uploaded a status a few weeks ago regarding the exact methods of getting featured on blogs. Some people said that we don't listen to music and that we don't reply to every submission. But in reality, we do (or at least we try to). It's just a case of them putting in the effort to build a relationship.
We do want to hear their music, yes.
Of course - we need the content.
So what are your thoughts on blogs and media publications? Are they still relevant in your opinion?
Umm. It's a tough one as I'm involved in this scene. With the record label business, the role of blogs and media platforms has certainly changed a lot. When I entered this space, it was the era of Hype Machine. That drove massive traffic to a song as multiple blogs were featuring a track.
Now, Hype Machine is still around. But it's not really that relevant to break a record. That dealt a serious blow to the media place. However, that did not make blogs irrelevant. During the Hype Machine era, blog posts drove streams & traffic. That's less so - even with Rolling Stone Magazine and Billboard. But blogs can be useful. eg. The sync licensing side of things. If your track gets featured in important publications, video game studios and commercial agencies will pick it up as it's in the public eye.
It also helps with booking agents and things like that.
Yeah, it shows that a producer is recognized outside of their little community. They're in an international space.
They use it as a stepping stone to progress their career.
A lot of media platforms have shifted to BuzzFeed style content which is dependant on utilizing social platforms. They're creating viral content and using the blog as a central hub for their content, in contrast to using the blog to promote the content & drive traffic. I think the role has shifted dramatically. But the relevancy is still there.
Obviously, you're a pretty busy guy most of the time.
Haha, yes most of the time.
So what are your thoughts on maintaining productivity & a social life?
I don't know if you could have asked a harder question.
I've got a bigger one coming up - trust me.
It depends on your objectives & personally, and what you get happiness from. I have a lot of close friends that simply live to work. I could easily find a psychologist who would say that they're compensating for something etc. But they love working and get energized by it. Finding a balance isn't important for them.
But I know other people that need X amount of time away from work otherwise their productivity suffers and they lose passion. It's hard to say specifically. It's dependant on the individual. It's hard in the music space. Very hard. What people in the corporate world would consider a social life is often considered work within the music industry.
Yeah, Festivals, shows etc.
Some would consider a festival as a social activity. But if you're managing an artist or taking meetings, you're not enjoying yourself at all whilst there as only doing work. Often, all the social things turn into work & you start to lose your social life. From experience, that can be very isolating. Even if you have a lot of friends in the workspace, you can lose a lot of friends outside of work. It has negative effects. It's important to keep time for yourself... otherwise, everything else will suffer as a result.
I totally agree with you. This is a question that I ask at the end of every interview I do. If the world was to end tomorrow, what would you want future generations to remember you by?
Hahahahaha. I called myself wrong before on saying that was the hardest question. This is harder. Wow.
Take your time.
I want to contribute something to the world that would make a lasting difference. I don't care if it brings me a lot of money. That doesn't matter much. I enjoy the finer things in life. But it's more important to know that I made a positive difference. That would mean more to me than anything else.
Whether it's finding a way to innovate payment in the music space, or innovate how artists release/create music... whatever. Something that would have a positive impact on a lot of people.
That's awesome. Thanks for coming on. I appreciate it.