Interview with Ha Ha Tonka [Podcast]

Ha Ha Tonka is a rock band from Missouri with a sound influenced by life in the Ozarks. We recently had guitarist and vocalist Brian Roberts on the phone for an interview, because we wanted to find out his thoughts on Bloodshot Records, the value of buying music, and getting through a personal run-in with cancer and the American healthcare system.

Here’s a transcript of our interview, along with the Soundcloud link below for your listening pleasure.

438958-largeWho: Brian Roberts; interviewed by Kayla Liederbach
When: Thursday July 16th, 2015
How: via phone

Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

K:  So Brian, how do you like being part of Bloodshot Records and that family over there?

B: Well I’m glad you used the word family. That’s basically what it is. I mean really we’ve been with Bloodshot since we started doing this professionally, since 2007. So yeah, we love all those guys. They’re the smartest people in the industry and just a great label to be a part of. We’ve been really fortunate to grow our band with them as our main supporters.

K: Are there any other bands on their client list that you’re following pretty closely?

B: Yeah, the Banditos are really having a great year. They’ve had such great acts in the past, like you know some of our favorite records, and I think can speak collectively for the band too. Ryan AdamsHeartbreaker came out on Bloodshot, and I wore that album out listening to it so many times. Justin Townes Earle was on the label recently and put out a couple great records. Of course the Old 97’s earlier on. They’ve had so many good acts, I could just talk about them all day. Bobby Bare, Jr. There’s some phenomenal acts on Bloodshot.

K: Cool. Well you’re in good company. You know the music business is an interesting thing, it’s always changing. I was wondering what your thoughts are on some of the recent trends in the music business, including the infinite access to music that people have.

B: Well you know I don’t…obviously it would be great if people still bought records the way they did in the 90’s or anytime prior to that. I don’t hold out any hope that that will come back. So I am thankful that we are a touring band, and the touring side of things hasn’t changed. We generate most of our income from the touring side of what we do. When it comes to the debate over streaming services or digital downloads, or any of the Napster or post-Napster stuff that’s gone on, really that’s just technology. And I don’t know if the music industry was ready for the onslaught like some of the other digital industries were, whether that be gaming or movies or the film industry. I don’t know. I don’t really know how to talk about it in a way that doesn’t make me sound like an asshole. I love that people can go online and check out a band—check out our band—and not have to pay for it right away. But the problem I think comes into the fact that people then never pay for your music. Or rarely do. Or there’s probably a whole generation that doesn’t think that music costs anything. And I think Bloodshot’s tried to educate people, Nan Warshaw has spoke on it several times about how not buying a record from a band like the Banditos or the 97’s 25 years or 20 years ago would have meant they got less money for next time they want to make a record. Less tour support. They get less of everything.

K: Yeah I agree with some of the things you pointed out, especially I believe that maybe the next generation of music consumers doesn’t even expect to pay for music.

B: Right, what does that mean?

Continue reading Interview with Ha Ha Tonka [Podcast]

Ownership Matters: Pay it forward, buy the album

Amanda Palmer recently wrote an interesting article that used personal experience to show how fans truly want to pay artists they love.

Amanda spent years as a street performer—an eight foot bride on a box who gave out flowers to anyone who tipped her. Of the millions of passers-by, Amanda said some people watched her performance and gave nothing. Some watched and tipped upwards of $20. Some watched, enjoyed the performance, and left personal notes or gifts since they didn’t have money.

When Amanda was in The Dresden Dolls, fans would approach her after concerts with $10 bills, admitting they burned copies of her CDs since they couldn’t find them in stores. They wanted to make up for it.

The big message Amanda learned from her experiences: “People actually like supporting the artists whose work they like. It makes them feel happy.”

In a time where free streaming services seem to dominate the music listening experience, it’s harder for fans to invest in the musicians they really appreciate. The money artists make early on from streaming services is a tiny fraction of what they could have made if those fans also bought the album when it came out.

It’s important that streaming fans buy albums and patronize their favorite artists. Media ownership enables fans to reward artists in a much different way from streaming. Physical album purchases pull all the money up front where it should be: it’s not resting on the uncertain future mathematics of streaming payouts from services like Spotify.

At Murfie, we’re all about providing modern, digital ownership in the cloud. Your ownership of physical CDs is boosted with the streaming and download service we provide for your collection. We have new CDs listed for sale, and you can buy any CD from any artist or store, or from sites like Amazon, and have it shipped directly to your Murfie collection. Murfie lets fans buy albums and support artists without sacrificing the convenience of streaming.

When you love an artist, no matter how you listen to their music, it feels great to invest in them and own a piece of it. Give it a try. “When people feel and know that you are keeping the channels open, doors open, airwaves unblocked, locks unlocked….they come,” says Palmer. “And they will pay their hard-earned to keep the content existing and the cycle continuing.”

Ownership Matters: Redbox Instant has shut down

On October 7th 2014, Redbox Instant officially shut down and discontinued their movie streaming service which only existed for 19 months.

With Redbox Instant, customers could pay a monthly fee to stream movies at home or on their mobile devices. Customers could also purchase electronic versions of movies, which were made available to them in their account for on-demand viewing anytime.

Since the company is no more, they offered refunds for the remainder of any unused monthly subscriptions. But the lingering question that customers are asking is: What happened to the digital movies I purchased?

Redbox posted an FAQ about this very question:

What happens to the movies I bought and stored in my digital locker? We’re exploring options for customers who purchased electronic versions of on-demand movies and will be providing that information to you soon. We appreciate your patience.

Do you know what that really means? “Be very, very worried, because you never really owned anything.” The FAQ was posted almost three weeks ago with no update to follow.

As we gain more convenient access to music and movies in the cloud, our ownership and control of this content is under assault. As the Redbox example points out, it doesn’t matter that you paid real money for a cloud copy of a movie—your access to that copy is controlled by a gatekeeper. And that gatekeeper can change the rules or even cease to exist at any point. Redbox Instant is not the first DRM service to shut down and leave customers high and dry after purchasing digital content. Within the last decade, Walmart, MSN, and Yahoo Music ended up announcing that customers would no longer have access to the digital content they paid for.

Contrast that with the ownership experience of physical media—your CDs and DVDs. Physical media puts you in total control. Ownership rights are well established. The formats are well documented. The only real downside to physical media is that it takes up real physical space. It’s less convenient than streaming.

And that’s why we built Murfie. We wanted to make real ownership of content in the cloud a reality. We’ve realized that vision for music. Our platform makes it ultra-convenient to really own CDs in the cloud. Check back soon about movies!