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Mentoring for the Modern Musician: The Disc Makers interview

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Disc Makers has always been committed to being a one-stop shop that provides varied and excellent service to the modern musician.

I was contacted by Adam and Michael Scharff, who produce the “Mentoring for the Modern Musician” podcast, as they wanted to hear from a Disc Makers’ representative about our business, our place in history in the independent music landscape, and to get our insights into the industry. Here’s a little of the conversation…

Andre C: Disc Makers’ story has always been about how do we do more to be a one-stop shop and be able to provide service at an excellent level to musicians all over the country.

Adam S: And what’s fascinating about that is that by leading by example, what you guys are doing is what we’re always trying to explain to musicians they should be doing, which is looking for the opportunities. Where are things going? What needs to be done, and how am I going to do it? Rather than looking for the problems … like you guys could have gone, “Oh no! Nobody’s printing vinyl anymore!” But instead you’ve rolled with the punches and made tapes and CDs… so just the whole story is a great example of how you continually grow – in your case as a company – but for the artists that you’re catering to, you’re being a great example of how to survive in the modern music industry.

Michael S: Could you talk a little about Merchly and the service you provide?

AC: It’s just another natural extension of the service we provide for the independent musician. So much of what I write about, and what I edit and curate for the blog, is about how to make money being an independent musician, and very often the answer is, “You need to have a number of revenue streams that are working together – passive and active.” And merch, certainly for anybody who’s playing live, is a big part of your capacity to make money at a show. I guess I’m not saying anything that most people listening to this don’t already know…

MS: But you’re saying it in a way that’s important to say, that you need to be looking at different revenue streams, that as a musician you are an entrepreneur, and to think that you’re not means you’re going to miss the boat.

AS: And having people hear from multiple sources that you need to have multiple sources of revenue streams is a great thing.

MS: As we’ve heard a couple of different times by artists recently – their feeling is that CDs are another part of their merch at their shows – even if people just want them to sign it, now it’s a memento from the show they were just at. It’s important to have it, it’s a physical representation of the experience you just had.

AC: It’s funny. Tom Jackson has often contributed to our blog and there’s one post in particular where he talks about “selling the experience,” and that is exactly what the CD represents. They’ve come to your show for an experience, and when they’re leaving, that CD is part of that experience, of having been there, and it’s a memento for your fans to be able to take with them.

MS: The distribution bundles are just another service where your company offers a way for a DIY musician – and even someone that’s on a smaller label – to get their music distributed. Worldwide, digitally, you make it easy, and make sure your royalties are being paid.

AC: And that really is where our first connection with CD Baby was. We would basically be a pipeline to CD Baby. We were taking care of all the set-up and everything you needed to do to get distribution. So rather than having to do your production with us and then go to a separate company to take care of your distribution, we were the channel for you to do it all, and that’s how our relationship with CD Baby started. To make us a one-stop place to go. And that’s how Disc Makers started to begin with. Ivin Ballen, who was the founder of the company, was basically starting his own label in Philadelphia and was having an incredibly difficult time sourcing all the different elements he needed to make the sleeves and press the records and do everything else, so he said, “I’ll do it myself.” So Disc Makers started because somebody who was in the industry saw a need and was not able to do something he thought was a no-brainer, so he started doing it himself. And that philosophy has been what’s driven Disc Makers ever since.

Listen to the entire podcast: #18, “Interview w/Andre Calilhanna, Blog Manager and Editor for the Disc Makers and BookBaby Blogs.

In addition to their M3 podcast, the Scharff brothers offer several music management/development services. You can purchase the “Video Vault” from their site for $97 with hours of topic specific virtual mentoring. They also offer one-on-one mentoring sessions with artists, offering a variety of services including a career assessment, social presence audit, career crisis counseling, and more. And if you are located in the Northeast, they even offer recording services. Learn more on the m3artist website.

A musician, writer, and marketer, Andre Calilhanna manages and edits the Disc Makers and BookBaby Blogs. Follow Andre on Twitter @dre_cal. Email him at

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