Jimi Croker

Exclusive Interview Series: The internet and the music industry – Jimi Croker

As part of a new series of interviews EspyRock commander-in-chief Michael Hughes, who is currently writing a dissertation on the effect of the internet on the music industry for the University Of The West Of Scotland, will be getting the views of artists on the internet’s effect on the music industry. The interview series will cover what is currently going on with the band at the moment but will also feature a questionnaire ranging from topics as to illegal downloading, social networking, technology and the future of the industry.

Previously featured on EspyRock with his band Death Valley Pornstar (DVP), Jimi Croker was next in our series of interviews. Currently working with The Rob Michaels Band I caught up with Jimi to talk about the split of DVP, his involvement with Rob Michaels, his rig and what the future holds musically for him.

Be sure to follow Jimi on Twitter and check out The Rob Michaels Band on MySpace. Also keep an eye out for his new band Stereo Devils by following them on Twitter.

Interview

We previously featured Death Valley Pornstar on EspyRock and of course the band has been out of action for almost a year. What is the current status with the band, still on hiatus or does it look like a more permanent closer to the band?

Sadly DVP did break up but we’re all still friends and might do a show here or there for fun but that’s about it.

You have been working with The Rob Michaels Band now, how long have you been involved in the band?

I’ve been working with Rob for about a year now. I helped him put the live band together and we became fast friends.

I see the new album is currently being recorded, what has your involvement been in the writing process and has it been something new at all with the style or something that feels very close to home?

This is a very different style of rock music for me. I’m more of a Grinderman or The Kills type of guitarist but Rob is a lot of fun to share a stage with and a talented musician so I’m enjoying it. I like to think I bring a little sonic snarl to Rob’s over all sound. As for the album, it’s going to be a 7 song EP with some special guests playing on it. I think Rob’s fans are going to be blown away.

Jimi Croker - interviewWhat can everyone expect to hear from this album when it is released?

A more mature Rob. He really pushed himself on these songs and it shows. You can download a free track called “Letting Go” here: http://twiturm.com/roksi this track features the entire live band.

Your bio on MySpace sort of tells it all to your involvement in music from the range of jobs you have done. Do you prefer recording and performing or do you like the idea of producing albums?

I love producing albums and I love pushing myself in different musical directions. This past year I also did a stint with a Rockabilly band called A Brokeheart Pro and Jezebel and I (DVP) are still working on new music.

With the experience you have, have you ever considered a solo album or maybe a project that is a lot different to the rock album?

Yeah, totally. I’ve always been interested in fronting a band that was a combination of the group Morphine and really early blues from the 20’s to the early 50’s (Robert Johnson/Howlin Wolf, etc). Some day, some day, lol.

I’m sure some guitar players on the website would like to know what sort of kit you use if you could give a run-down of your normal rig?

Gibson and Gretsch guitars. All analogue effects, Orange amps and heavy gauge strings. It’s like a flamethrower of rock and roll fury.

What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not involved in music?

Spending quality time with my epic wife and our dogs. Jezebel (aka Ashley) and I got married last Oct. She’s currently hosting her own tech show called Techfoolery (http://techfoolery.tv) it’s like the Daily Show meets Engadget.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

Ashley and I are working on some new music and the project’s called Stereo Devils. It’s very much in it’s infancy but it’s a combination of heavy dance beats, female vocals and analogue guitar. We should have some music live in the next few months. You can follow us on twitter for updates: http://twitter.com/StereoDevils and our first track “When You’re Living (I’m Dying)” will be available for download soon.

Internet and the music industry

The biggest issue with the internet for artists is of course illegal downloading and there has been a rapid decline in value of the industry as the internet expands throughout the world. Several artists I have spoken to have stated that it has become part of life and that now selling albums is no longer a profitable business; money is solely earned from touring. What are your views on the matter of illegal downloading?

Thing is this affect all forms of media. Print, Film, Art, Music. It’s all lost its value because of illegal downloading. In my opinion it’s the fault of media corporations all of whom were slow to recognize the changing times. They’re quickly catching up but with anything new (the internet is new in terms of our industrialized history) it takes time to work out the bugs and the “this is a fad” old business models have failed to protect artists in a new digital age. People are people and they want free stuff so you really can’t blame them for doing it. The people that distribute music should have been looking ahead, not living in the past.

Do you feel that any of the current methods such as watermarking or streaming based models which have users paying a fee to stream music will take off and help stop the illegal sharing of music files? Or do you see any strength with the idea of giving away your music for free, having it shared around the world and again relying on touring to make money?

There will always be piracy but these new models are proving popular and I think over time the industry will recover. Will it ever be the same? I doubt it, it will be different for sure but I’m confident eventually it will become profitable. Free music as a marketing tool will become critical for up and coming bands, especially ones who do not have a major label behind them as a way to build familiarity for their sound with an audience that is becoming increasingly selective of what they buy/listen to. Touring has always been a bands bread and butter and I don’t think that will ever really change. You have to get out there and be heard regardless of if people buy or pirate your music.

Jimi Croker - interviewThe global recorded music industry saw a 31% decline in value from the years of 2004 to 2010 but the digital music market has seen a 1000% increase in value over the same period. Do you see the internet’s influence on the industry as the sole cause of this decline or do you believe there are any other factors which you consider an issue?

Digital music is convenient and people love new technology. The easy of downloading, no storage space needed for jewel cases and the ability to keep an entire music library in the palm of your hand all contributed to a decline in CD sales.

With such a growth in the digital music market, many artists have already stopped creating physical albums; the most notable is Rob Zombie who stated his most recent release would be his last physical album as the growing popularity of iTunes and Amazon is now controlling album sales. The IFPI recently published findings that 16.5% of internet users in the United States purchase their music digitally than physically.
Firstly as an artist and music fan, do you still buy physical albums or do you download from digital music stores? Secondly, do see the digital music markets as something positive for the industry and your career as a new and cheaper distribution method?

I download music almost exclusively now but I do pay for it. But I’ve also started buying vinyl. Downloads fit in well with a life on the go while vinyl satisfies my desire to collect music as art. Most people simply consume music and I think the resurgence of vinyl really calls to those of us who feel music is more then something to play in the back round.

Distributing music digitally does put a lot more power in the hands of the artist and I do feel that’s a good thing. You can do a lot these days as a DIY artist and build a solid following all from the comforts of your home.

As the digital music stores assist in distribution, other factors that come into releasing an album are marketing and promotion of any sort. What are your views on the ability to use the internet to promote and market yourself?

It’s an amazing tool, again with the right music and a little money you can be heard by far more people then ever before. Gone are the days where you have to have “a deal” and while labels can offer massive promotion there is now room for the little guy to make some noise and be heard.

Social networking has naturally become a massive asset in the industry for labels and artists to be able to interact with fans on an everyday basis from anywhere in the world. Do you feel that if the social networking boom hadn’t taken place that it would effectively hinder careers as there would have been no direct route to communicate with fans?

I think it’s a logical evolution of the internet in general. People want to feel connected even in a virtual world so I think social networking and its use as a marketing tool for musicians was inevitable.

A big development in recent years has been the hardware and software that has been created for anyone and everyone to purchase. We now find aspiring artists building their own home studios at their computer by purchasing top of line software, sound cards, microphones and such. What are your views on the technology advancements in recent years from software, hardware and even to the MP3 itself? What positives or negatives if any do you see from these advancements?

Love it. On a personal level I’m able to produce and release my own music and my way and with out massive out of pocket expense. Is it as good as a million dollar studio? No, but it sounds damn good and the goal of creating something good is achievable with in financial reason now. Anyone can do it now but no everyone can do it well. The cream always rises and if you’re good at what you do you will get heard.

While purchasing hardware/software and recording in your own home studio is a method of removing big studio costs and staff costs, recently fan funding in return for incentives has become a new way forward. Recently in the UK bands such as Madina Lake, Funeral For A Friend and The Blackout have used Pledge Music (Kickstarter in the US) in which fans contribute towards the cost of the studio in return for signed albums, special gifts and more. Do you think this method of involving fans more intimately in the creation of an album and offering them incentives to do so could be a way forward to combat the losses through piracy?

Absolutely. A sense of ownership can go a long way in getting people to buy their favourite artists music. However people will most likely still pirate other bands if access to it is easy. Piracy has been around since the dawn of man and it’s not going anywhere. It’s up to artists to connect with fans and the industry to minimize piracy.

Jimi Croker - interviewIn the United States from 1999 to 2009 there was a 17% fall in the number of people hired as a musician and in Europe, while not directly musicians, the estimated number of jobs likely to be lost due to piracy in the creative industries will reach 1.2 million by 2015. Do you worry as an artist that you will ever be swept by this wave and be forced to leave the industry you love in order to provide a better living for yourself?

Music is in my blood and it’s who I am. I’ll always be playing regardless of if I’m making a living with it or not. Great musicians, artists, poets don’t do it for the money they do it for the love of the craft and even before the internet being an artist in any medium has been a dicey venture at best.

When you consider the industry previously to the time before the internet and to now with the internet in full swing, what do you see for the future of the industry?

I see a “nobody” blowing up on the web and becoming a mega star totally on his or her own terms. I see the industry shifting more towards promotion deals and less towards recording deals. I see singles becoming the new norm (like in the 50’s) and albums (for now) having less pull. I see better business models being created to minimize piracy and eventually I see it all going back to business as usual. It will simply be a new reality. Funny thing is a hundred or so years ago the music industry was rocked to it’s foundation by a then new technology. It was called the record and sheet music companies all over the world felt it would destroy the music industry. The more things change the more they stay the same.

     

About Michael

Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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