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Behind-The-Scenes With Musician & Internet Superstar Jonathan Coulton

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About Today’s Guest, Jonathan Coulton:

I knew I had to have today’s guest, Jonathan Coulton, on the show when I got this email from fan of the show, Matt Monroe:

I know that you get hundreds of suggestions for potential guests, but I do think that you would find Jonathan Coulton – a singer/songwriter based out of New York – to be a fascinating interview. He’s an ex-computer programmer who quit his day job (while his wife was pregnant) in order to become a musician. He now has a huge, huge following via the web, and (from what I’ve been told) makes a very nice living selling songs and merchandise. Anyways, I think that you’d find him and his story to be interesting.

I had to find out more, so I looked up a few of his songs, such as: Baby Got Back and Code Monkey. I knew I had to track him down to find out even more, which led to this interview. Enjoy!

More about Jonathan Coulton (in his own words):

Jonathan CoultonIn 2005, I left my day job writing software to pursue music full time. To keep myself busy I released a new song on my website every week for a year in a project called Thing a Week. A few of those songs became big Internet hits (my folky cover of Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”, a funny video called “Flickr”, a song called “Code Monkey”), and I am now fortunate enough to make my living as a musician.

I write about a lot of geeky stuff because I am a geek. Some of it’s funny, but a lot of it’s not so funny, and even more of it is somewhere in between. I’ve been compared to They Might Be Giants, Barenaked Ladies, Loudon Wainwright III, and other musicians you REALLY LOVE.

I give lots of music away because I believe it helps my cause, and I love it when people use my music to create other stuff – music videos, pictures, remixes, etc. At the moment I’m unsigned, and I’m proud to say I’ve created this whole thing mostly on my own (with plenty of help from an amazingly supportive bunch of fans). But it certainly is getting busy…I will probably sell out and go Hollywood any day now…

Connect With Jonathan (and tell him you saw him on RISE!):

On Twitter
On His Website

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  1. David Siteman Garland says:

    Today’s interview on the show is about a creative guy who skipped the “traditional” route of making it as a musician and instead of focusing on signing with a label did it all on his own and via the Internet. Which leads to this question: Do you think music labels are becoming obsolete or are their roles changing (and how are are they changing)?

    1. David: Thanks for having Jonathan Coulton on your podcast today.  He’s a great musician, a great songwriter, and the story of his “rise to the top” is a lesson that others should be studying.

      In answer to your question (i.e.: are music labels becoming obsolete and/or changing), my short response to this would be that we are now living in a world where recorded music is nothing more than long strings of 0’s and 1’s stored on a hard drive, and this digital information can be distributed quickly and inexpensively without the need for (or the hassles involved with) having a gatekeeper.  In the past, record labels did perform much of the distribution work that the recording artists themselves couldn’t do — but that’s all changed with file sharing and iTunes. 

      And the gatekeeping aspect of the recording industry?  Those gates have been busted wide open…

      The one skill set that remains with record labels is their ability to generate publicity.  But someone like Jonathan Coulton proves that you don’t even need a label backing you up to manage that aspect of the business

      Of course, what I’ve just said about the recording industry also applies to the world of book publishing, the newspaper industry, the business of photography, magazines, and — soon, very soon — the movie industry.  

      Music, visual media, text — whatever information format you want to deal with — now exists as easily distributed digital information.  And aside from their ability to generate publicity, I really see no reason for labels, publishers, agents, and (again, this will change soon) movie studios to be the designated handlers of this information. 

      1. David Siteman Garland says:

        Matt – Very interesting thoughts. I remember speaking with Michael Hyatt about the book publishing industry and he told me he saw book publishers becoming more of curators (which makes sense).

        And as you said…distribution is zero. And marketing is cheaper…but takes a buttload of time and effort and so does of course running a biz which is essentially what you are doing if an artist is out on their own.

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