Success Stories : Color Theory (Brian Hazard)

by Neal on July 20, 2010 · Comments


Brian Hazard of Color Theory has been an extremely active member of the ReverbNation community for years. Though he started using ReverbNation mainly because of the FanReach email product, Hazard has taken advantage of many of the tools and opportunities the site offers. A few of these opportunities, such as the Windows Sponsored Songs and Playlist7 campaigns, were so successful for Hazard that he was invited as a special guest on behalf of Windows to the Ultra Music Festival and Winter Music Conference in Miami last year. We recently got the chance to catch up with Brian and wanted to share our conversation.

ReverbNation: How long have you been making music? How did you get into it?

Brian Hazard: I told my parents I wanted to learn the piano in 7th grade. My best friend played and I thought it was cool. So I had a bit of a late start, but I took lessons, played in my high school drumline, and messed around with a Korg M1 synth and a cassette 4-track. I didn’t get too serious until college, where I essentially trained to be a concert pianist, though I never had any desire to be one. I graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor’s in Music and started writing songs for the first Color Theory album.

RN: What is your definition of success in music? Have you ever reached that point where you were like, “I have to do so much business this year, or I’m out?”

BH: I define success as the gradual achievement of any worthy goal. By that yardstick, I’m already there, and so are a lot of my musician friends. My specific goal right now is to grow my mailing list. I have no desire to be rich or famous, or to “get signed.” In fact, I’m happy where I am right now. My music is better than it’s ever been and my audience continues to grow. I feel like I’ve got the best fans in the world, and their feedback and support keeps me motivated and pushes me to new heights. I’ve got quality equipment and I’ve developed my technical skills to to the point where I can do everything myself, except the graphic design. No complaints.

RN: I know that you do mastering, and that’s sort of the way you make your living, if I may be so presumptuous. Do you ever hope to reach the point where you’re able to make money from your own music full-time, or do you prefer that it not take over your life that much?

BH: I like to look at it this way – I make records. My role varies from self-producing, to collaborating, to mixing and mastering for others. While I sometimes wish I had more time for Color Theory, I learn more from working on other peoples’ music, and the pay is better. A 50/50 balance feels about right to me.

RN: Do you have ways that you usually keep in touch with current fans?

BH: Lots of them! All of which serve to direct traffic to my web site, colortheory.com. I update the site several times a month with news, lyrics, songs, and my latest sales figures. Fans who don’t want to miss anything can subscribe to site updates via RSS or email. Beyond that, I use Ping.fm to post two or three status updates a day to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and a few others. The majority of traffic to colortheory.com comes from Facebook and Twitter via the links I include in those updates. Finally, I maintain a mailing list through ReverbNation’s FanReach Pro platform. Only the most important updates go out to the mailing list, usually once or twice per month.

In order to encourage mailing list signups, I offer three or four songs at a time as fan exclusives on my ReverbNation profile. I try to rotate them out with fresh material every few months. I’ve got a page on my site titled “free mp3s” that explains how to sign up and download the songs. It may sound overly complicated, but what I like about the system is that it revolves around my own web site and mailing list. If the rest of the internet were to disappear tomorrow, I’d still be in business, unlike bands who just have a MySpace page.

RN: How did you get started using ReverbNation?

BH: My last album took five years to create, and during that time I let my mailing list lapse. I was in the market for a new mailing list service, and decided on AWeber. I gave it a shot, but half of my old subscribers either didn’t click on the confirmation link or didn’t receive the email. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice half of my remaining subscribers, so I decided to try FanReach, and the results were dramatically different. Dozens of people told me they never got the AWeber email, but they got the ReverbNation email just fine. I ended up losing only a handful of subscribers, who had probably forgotten about me after five years. Once I was sold on FanReach, I experimented with the rest of the ReverbNation ecosystem. I started using the widgets, tracking my stats, and building my street team. It’s nice having everything in one place!

RN: How did you get involved in the Windows programs? Have those been successful for you?

BH: An invitation showed up in my ReverbNation inbox and it sounded too good to pass up! Both programs were hugely successful from my point of view. It’s one thing to ask your fans to check out your song, and quite another to tell them you’ll get paid if they do. I had 2515 downloads through the Sponsored Songs program, and thousands more through Playlist 7. The exposure was great, and the money was a nice bonus.

RN: What happened with the Windows opportunity in Miami? How did that come about?

BH: Windows 7 sponsored an event called the Sunset Soire at the Delano Hotel in Miami, and wanted to bring along someone from the Playlist 7 program. The event was in the middle of Winter Music Conference and Ultra Music Festival, which draw the best DJs from across the world. They wanted someone whose music was a good fit and who produces that music on Windows 7. So I lucked out.

RN: How was the opportunity, what happened while you were there?

BH: It was spring break in Miami Beach, so it was pretty much like what you see on TV: sun and sand, fedoras, bikinis, cab-lined streets, and the constant thump of bass. I attended a couple panels at the conference, walked seven miles back to the hotel from Ultra at 2 a.m. because I spent my cab fare on paella, and hung out with the Windows gang at the event. All in all, a great time.

RN: What’s the number one piece of advice you would give to artists starting out?

BH: Give away your music – all of it! Post each song for free download in exchange for an email address. Nurture those new fans by communicating with them on a regular and consistent basis. Measure your success by the size of your mailing list, and don’t think about selling anything until you’ve got at least 1000 subscribers. Probably not what a new artist wants to hear, but that’s honestly what I would do if I were starting from scratch right now.

Comments

  1. DJ Oxygen says:

    great interview brian! glad to hear you’re happy with your music, and great to have advice for a musician starting out. can’t wait to hear the new album, again, all the best, have a wonderful 2010, and i’ll be stoppin by from time to time.

    -DJ Oxygen (Matt Baron)

  2. Carl T. for BluSound Productions says:

    Nice work. How does one become a featured artist on the blog? There are so many great artists out there. Of course I’m trying my best to push my own artists. Please visit my page. Comments are greatly appreciated and if you become a fan, I will do the same in return. Thank you for the support!!
    -Carl T.-

  3. I like the fact that you mentioned to “give away all” of your music. I totally agree that is the best thing ever. At one point of time I would to say, “This is a hit song, I don’t want anybody to hear it until I make it big.” I know now that I can make it big by letting everyone hear these songs. Also, providing many different varieties of song, styles, genres and lyrics works for a larger audience. “If you don’t like this one, you’ll like that one,” even though everyone loves my music. lol

    http://www.reverbnation.com/officialburn

  4. [...] posted an interview with Brian Hazard from Color Theory and I’d highly recommend you’d check it out. Regularly I’d post something like this in a tweet; but, as many of you know, the guys and I [...]

  5. Chris Bracco says:

    This interview is awesome! Thanks so much for this. Brian, you always provide excellent insights, and I like the radical statement you make of giving all of your music away for free starting out. That is something that people are still very weary of doing because of the potential for devaluing music in society. But I say what the hell, people are already downloading music for free anyways, why not give it a shot if you’re just starting out!

  6. Brian Hazard says:

    Thanks for the kind words!

    I’m seriously considering giving away future tracks as I complete them, to continue building momentum. Once I’ve got a dozen quality songs, I’ll refine the mixes, master the set, and put it on iTunes.

  7. Stephen Lee says:

    That was a cool musical journey. Great use of synthesized sounds.
    Congrats and good luck!

  8. You’re bored. Tired of what you do. You’re not even close to where you hoped your business would be by now. You feel like you’re losing ground and don’t know how to get energized and ready for the next round.

    It happens to nearly everyone. Even though we know it takes most people two to four years to get a business off the ground and making money, we somehow believe we will be the exception to the rule. Or we just forget how long two to four years actually is. It doesn’t help that every time we turn on the news, echoes of the declining economy ring in our ears.

    Plenty of people are thriving, even in this economy, and you can, too. More important, you can regain your passion for what you do. Follow some of these suggestions to boost your flagging enthusiasm:

    1.Become an industry insider. Take the next step to becoming savvier about what’s going on in your field. Buy a subscription to that industry magazine you considered a luxury. Become a presenter or simply attend a conference you’ve always wanted to go to. You can always become more involved, whether it’s helping at a local event, writing articles for publication or lobbying for a cause your industry cares about.

    2.Sharpen your skills. You may be good at what you do. But someone else in your field knows more than you do, has more skills than you do or has that extra edge. Nothing chases away a slump faster than learning something new. Government agencies, businesses and schools all offer tons of e-learning opportunities at low cost. Look for training sessions at local universities or interest groups.

    3.Find a mentor. One of the best ways to insulate yourself against business failure is to find and work with a mentor, someone with business experience who can guide and assist you. One place to begin is findamentor.org, a free website with a database of mentors and apprentices–a safe community where people can find support for achieving their desires. Find the right people to give you advice at the right stages in your career, be it one person or 20. Nothing is better than having a go-to person with whom to discuss your business ideas and concerns.

    4.Grow your network. You know you need a professional network of people to help you open doors, get you in someone’s office or help you close a deal. But there are other advantages, too. When you find the right group of people and you click, it can be fun. Group events, socializing one-on-one and even commiserating about similar situations and feelings can remind you that you aren’t alone and that a new day is just around the corner.

    5.Dealing with naysayers. Most of us deal with some clients or customers we can’t seem to please, no matter what we do. Take their comments in stride and see if what they are saying is honest. If it is, take measures to improve your business. If it’s not, focus on the positive testimonials you have gotten. Remind yourself how many people you are helping. Keep a folder of those positive comments and revisit them often. Better yet, add those testimonials to your website. They’re great for attracting new clients and are a real mood booster when you’re having “one of those days.”

    Check out my music at (www.reverbnation.com/michaeljclimaxx) and (www.myspace.com/yungcubdidub) Thanks for your time & attention. It means so much to me

  9. William Ramsey says:

    Hi everybody come check out my new music an keep pushing your music I think we can make it .

  10. New 2 ReveRb StumBleD On Your MusiC Hear FiRst SonG LiKEd it The I cAught MysElf Listenin 2 The WHOle Thing ALL the Way THRU
    YOU GOT A DOPE ALBUM

  11. Big Grime says:

    I really like this because when people ask me when starting out how can they be successful. I would always ask them if they knew for sure t would take them 5 years or possibly more to make it would they still want to make music. Most of them said no. I tell then you might wanna do something else. Music takes time to develop. Not just learning to sing or play a instrument. You have to learn how to make those instruments sound good (Mixing & Mastering) unless you have the money to pay someone else. Market your music and earn fans. So much more then just playing.

  12. When i visit a blog, chances are that I see that the construction is poor and the writting bad. Regarding your blog,I have to say that you have done a good job here.

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