Suzanne Glass, founder of Indie-Music.com, passed away last week after a short bout with cancer. Suzanne started the site back in 1996 as a place for independent musicians to learn about marketing, the music business, professionalism, and to have their albums reviewed.
It's this last category where I got to work with Suzanne, reviewing any CDs I could, and putting them up on her website.
I met Suzanne through our mutual friend, Joel, who I had known since college. And my first email to her, asking her if I could possibly write for the site was met with, "any friend of Joel's is a friend of ours!" and I was off and running.
I wrote over 150 CD and technology reviews for the site, and a few marketing articles. Suzanne and I toyed with the idea of representing some bands, even going so far as to meet with a few of them, before deciding we were both too busy and couldn't put the time into it. We also did some PR work for a couple artists, including an Indian sitar star, whose album I still have.
- I can't listen to commercial radio anymore, thanks to Suzanne. I know what goes into the music business, know how record labels killed many good bands, and know first hand how awesome many of these forever-unsigned bands are. Now, I listen to community and public radio stations that play the little-known and independent artists. I developed that habit after hearing dozens and dozens of outstanding artists that are still better than a lot of the crap on the radio.
- I know how to review music and the arts, after three or four years of writing for Suzanne. Being a music reviewer is more than just listening to a CD and saying, "yeah, I liked it," or more commonly, "I'm going to say I didn't like it so I can appear smarter than the band." Being a music reviewer means understanding the artist's vision for their album, and being able to unearth it. She taught me how to find their vision and that one gem of a song or a hook that's worth sharing with a reader.
- I learned how to write well, quickly. Many times I would have 10 - 12 reviews to do in a single month, and had to churn out better-than-average articles for her and Paul. If I wanted to be published, I had to do well. So I learned how to write good first drafts, and how to edit. But it was Suzanne's confidence in me to do it right, rather than her constantly editing me, that made me try harder.
- I learned confidence to do things I wasn't sure of. When we tried our hand at PR, I was the sales guy and the money-asker, making sure we got paid. "But I hate asking for money," I protested. "I hate it so much that I don't do it here at work." Suzanne said I was way better than she or Paul were, so I was the best choice. So I learned to ask for payment from clients.
- I learned how artists think. Before I started working with Suzanne, before I met any musicians, I thought musicians were flaky whackjobs who did music because they couldn't function in real life. Now, after having met dozens of musicians, and worked with many of them directly, I know they're actually flaky whackjobs who do music because it's their passion. They can't not do music. If they stopped, they would die. Suzanne told me that and showed me that more than once. It's helped me understand why I love writing.
- My wife, Toni, is pursuing her own jazz career now, and any marketing advice I give her is a direct result of everything I learned either reading or writing for Indie-Music.com.
Most importantly, I learned to find the workaround. Back in the 1990s, just as the Internet was taking hold of our collective consciousness, the record labels still ran the show. If you wanted to be on the radio, you had to be on a major record label. If you wanted to be on a major record label, you had to be pretty and perky. It helped if you could sing. But the best musicians weren't ever going to make it on the radio, because no one could figure out who they were.
Then we got the Internet.
And we started helping musicians find out how they could reach their crowds, tell them how to find their music, and make sure they were heard without a major record label packaging them up, slapping a blond wig on them, and making them sing "baby, baby, baby."
We started showing musicians — and they started showing each other — how you didn't need the radio, or even a record label to make it big. Artists like Rich Hardesty were making a great living going out, making music people liked, and selling it to them without his albums appearing in a single music store.
Websites like Indie-Music.com started showing people how the little guy could find the workaround. The little guy no longer needed the big guys to make their dreams come true. The little guy could ignore the big guy, and reach everyone just fine without him.
The little guy had a workaround. And that workaround was there if you would just look for it.
In the music business, the workaround was Indie-Music.com. And I'm proud to say I got to spend four of the best years of my life, listening to great music, meeting great musicians, and learning some of the most valuable lessons of my writing and marketing life, all from Suzanne Glass.