Grammy GPS at Stax: Third Man Records' Ben Swank

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Grammy GPS as Stax Academy

The Recording Academy Memphis Chapter is hosting another GRAMMY GPS seminar on Saturday on October 26th at Stax Music Academy. The Memphis Chapter is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The series brings top-level music industry folks to Memphis for informative sessions on succeeding in music. For more information, go to grammygps.com

This go-round features the CEO and co-founder of Sub Pop, Jonathan Poneman. Sub Pop is closely associated with the Seattle sound as the label for Nirvana. Sub Pop maintains an active roster of bands including the Shins, Mudhoney, and others.

Also on the bill for Grammy GPS is Ben Swank, co-founder of Third Man Records along with Jack White. Third Man settled in Nashville in 2009. The label is home to White’s output with the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, and the Dead Weather, in addition to an impressive roster of new and established artists.

We spoke with Swank about making it in music and loving the music more than the money.

Flyer: What advice do you have for aspiring artists and producers?
Swank: I advocate the DIY approach for a record label. I tell people who want to give us a demo, “Why don’t you have a look at pressing your own records and see how you do putting your own record out there. The music industry is like the Wild West. You can make up your own script and your own rules. There are obviously limitations to that, but if you have an interesting sound or approach and you know who you want to sell to, there’s no reason why you can’t be successful with it. You have to temper what your ideas of success are and set reasonable goals. You’ve got to be into it for the love and the pursuit of it.

Flyer: Some have said that White makes music that’s too expensive, given his limited-edition vinyl releases. Is that true?
I really take issue with that. We have a limited-edition component to just about everything that we do. That’s because we know our fan base, and a lot of them are collectors. But every release has a standard black vinyl release. If you just ewant the music, it’s a standard-priced LP or 45. Everything we release we release in a way that anyone that wants it can get it. Digitally or on vinyl. We have a bespoke quality to what we do. For instance, the Great Gatsby limited edition series. But we didn’t make a very high margin off of that: those were hand-fabricated items. We did them in such a limited number, that we didn’t reap a large profit. But it can be a great way to draw attention to what you are doing.

GRAMMY GPS:
A Road Map For Today’s Music Biz
Saturday, October 26, 2013, at 11 a.m.
Stax Music Academy
926 East McLemore Ave

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