The stories behind great music interests me almost as much as the music itself. We were able to catch up with singer-songwriter Jesse Terry. He is a road warrior that has been touring non-stop with the exception of recently recording his second full-length album, Empty Seat On A Plane which was just released last month. He has already started touring for this album but we spoke to him between gigs. Read and learn:
Indie Band Guru: Having spent time in the music scenes of NYC, Nashville, and Boston, can you compare and contrast them for us?
Jesse Terry: Man, they are all so different and awesome and I suppose the grass is always greener… I love being in NYC but I sure do miss the quality of life and affordability of Nashville! I can’t believe what I was paying in rent there. I went to Berklee while I was in Boston so it was a bit different for me there. I was still finding my voice, cutting my teeth and finding my way. I feel like I have the best of all worlds now because I get to play in all three cities fairly often. The only scene I haven’t been immersed in is LA. I’d like to experience that someday as well. I love the northeast. As an acoustic touring artist you can drive to so many different markets within a 4 hour radius. The population is so dense here. And the musicians and venues are great in all cities. But as far as a community and a network of players, friends and studios I’m not sure anything beats Nashville.
IBG: You have won many awards for your songwriting. Do you think it is a good promotion strategy to enter any contests that you think you have a shot at winning?
Jesse: Most of the time I think it’s worth a shot… It just has to be a legit competition. I don’t enter if the Grand Prize is $500 and the entry fee is $25! It’s so subjective but if you have quality music I feel like it can be a great investment. Winning a contest doesn’t always equal huge exposure but it can get you a nice chunk of dough, which in turn can really help your music career. I’ve certainly lost many more times than I’ve won, but my contest wins have brought me some nice doughJ It’s allowed me to do afford some cool things (like afford PR campaigns, merch, cds etc) and make more music.
IBG: Has licensing your music to MTV shows such as The Hills and The City helped gain you fans and recognition?
Jesse: I licensed my first record to those TV shows but I’m not quite sure which ones were used (long story, but basic moral is: make sure your songs are reigsitered with your PRO!). I’m working with some great TV/Film folks for my new record “Empty Seat On A Plane”. I’m much more informed now and organized so I’ll know when songs are used. Occasionally the right song placement can equal huge exposure and great money. Sometimes there is little to no exposure, but anytime I get a royalty check in my mailbox I’m happy. It keeps me making music full time and is another revenue stream that I really want to increase. You can use that money for PR, radio or advertising, even if the placement doesn’t create exposure for you. It all helps.
IBG: You were able to release your new album through a successful fan funding campaign. Tell us about that experience?
Jesse: Ha, that was awesome and terrifying! The fear of failure is there but you have to push through that. Once you realize that people are in your corner and you’re going to make it, it’s exciting and encouraging. It gave me a greater connection to my fan-base, especially my “super-fans”.
IBG: What made you choose PledgeMusic as opposed to the many other sites popping up such as KickStarter?
Jesse: PledgeMusic made a direct connection with me and helped me out in so many ways. You are part of a team there. I like that they are smaller than KickStarter and more selective… I like to know who I’m working with and have a relationship there. Not to put down KickStarter or any of the other ones. The premise is the same; It’s ALL about your fans. If you have a solid fan-base and you work hard, chances are very good that you’ll raise the money. Pledge was awesome with setting up fan-collector widgets for me. I added hundreds of new folks to my email list and that definitely helped me reach my goal. It’s a personal choice. I’m a big fan of Pledge’s interface and design. And I love the fact that you can pay upfront with paypal. When I pledge on KickStarter the money comes out when I’m not expecting it. That’s tough for a full-time musician!
IBG: You offered many different items in your campaign. Which ones got the most attention and raised the most money for your album?
Jesse: Thanks to my talented wife Jess Terry, we sold over twenty of her beautiful framed prints. That exclusive raised the most money (and cost the most on the back end!). It was so cool to get photos of her framed photography on fan’s walls. SO cool.
IBG: How did it make recording this album different knowing that you had already presold a bunch of CDs and had a fanbase waiting to hear it?
Jesse: That was cool and exciting… And sharing the whole process with them was awesome too. Again, you feel like you’re part of a team and not alone out there. The only negative is that once you’re done with the record you don’t get that initial boom of cd sales, because all of your super-fans already have the record! But that’s cool. That’s why you hit the road, tour and convert other folks. It’s a thrill to perform for strangers and sell your cd to them. It means that you connected with them and that’s the greatest compliment for me.
IBG: You seem to share some intimate details and fears in your lyrics. Has that become comfortable for you?
Jesse: Yeah, totally. I had an epiphany one day to just completely open up with my audience. Why hide anything or be ashamed of anything in my past? It’s a matter of self acceptance and I think self acceptance is very liberating. It’s healing for me to speak complete truth in my music. And hopefully that truth resonates with other people out there. Maybe I can offer some comfort in that honesty. We all carry some scars.
IBG: You have worked hard to get where you are. What are your upcoming plans to keep the momentum going?
Jesse: I have but it’s mostly joyful work. I have my moments but I love my job. My PR campaigns have been so awesome and they finish up in October. I think a lot of those relationships will continue far past that time. In late September I start my first ever radio campaign and that’s exciting. I love the person that I’ve chosen to work with and I feel like she’ll be a real champion of my music. You never know who will hear the music and have the power to change my life. It’s exciting to check the email every morning because in this business, ya never know! But truly, every listener and fan matters to me. I hope I can reach more people with the radio campaign and continue to gain momentum in my career.
IBG: Thank you so much for your time and we will continue to keep an eye on your career as it blossoms.
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