Be as creative with your online identity and brand as you are with the creation of your music itself.”

Brian Thompson 

MM: How did you get your start in the music industry? What motivated you to put your focus into Thorny Bleeder?

BT: I got started in the music industry 20 years ago when I got a job at a record store, unpacking boxes of CDs and tapes in the back room. I loved the job and poured my heart and soul into it, eventually becoming a manager and bouncing around to a few different locations.

I worked my way up the corporate ladder and became a music buyer for the entire chain of 22 stores, in addition to doing all of the marketing and advertising for them. After 14 amazing years, I left the chain in 2006 due to the heavy decline in CD sales. One year later the company went under after more than 45 years in business.

I decided I could no longer be someone’s employee ever again and had to do my own thing. It was at that time that I started Thorny Bleeder along with Greg Bradley and Jonny Hetherington, the founders of Vancouver rock band Art Of Dying.


MM: You wear a lot of hats as a Managing Partner of TBR: manager, label owner, digital strategist, etc. What role do you find presents the greatest challenges?

BT: My number one challenge has always been in trying to decide how and where I should direct the focus of Thorny Bleeder. Are we a record label? An artist management firm? A radio promoter? A publicist? A marketing company? A consultant?

Brian-Thompson-Thorny-Bleeder-iTunes-Cover-Art - Mojito MasteringIt was only in the past year that I’ve finally figured out what Thorny Bleeder and I really are… and that’s a creative coach to artists and a resource for figuring out and understanding both the industry and marketing.


MM: In what ways have you had to adapt the most?

BT: Thorny Bleeder has needed to evolve as the music business has changed. In 2006, running an indie record label still made a ton of sense for us.

But as DIY tools became more prevalent and the power of social media put the power back into an artist’s hands, our importance as a label became less and less, with the real power falling into the hands of the artists themselves.

So the real crux was to figure out my place in the industry and align it with my passions, while at the same time providing undeniable value.


MM: What are some of the most common branding mistakes that you find bands making? Do you have a “golden-rule” when it comes to building a band’s brand or image?

BT: A common mistake is a band promoting themselves before they’re truly ready for primetime. You only have one chance to make a first impression, so make it count.

Before you start reaching out to industry professionals, press, radio or blogs… make sure you have a logo, a good photo, a pro recording, a bio, and a website.


MM: As a digital strategist what would you say are the best AND worst trends in regards to social media and music?

BT: The worst things I see are artists who create their social media profiles and then never use them. And then when nothing is happening, they blame the network… rather than their lack of understanding on how to use it.

[pullquote style=”right” quote=”dark”]Social media is not an advertising platform. If you’re not using it to genuinely communicate and make new relationships, then you’re using it wrong.[/pullquote]In regards to the best trends I’m seeing, I think it’s all good. Social media has reduced marketing and advertising costs to virtually zero, which is huge.

Self-publishing and focusing on direct-to-fan marketing and sales is absolutely brilliant. It’s empowered artists more than ever before. And more recently, I find the rise and subsequent acceptance of fan funding incredibly exciting and liberating.


MM: What are some things that every artist should be doing when it comes to their social media presence? Things they should avoid?

 BT: The most important thing to remember is that social media is not an advertising platform. It’s a social platform. If you’re not using it to genuinely communicate and make new relationships, then you’re using it wrong. Do not become a shameless self- promoter or spammer. It doesn’t work.

The number one thing people can do is to engage in conversations and use it regularly and consistently. It takes time to grow, but it’s worth it.


MM: What are some tools that all DIY musicians should have?

BT: The basics:

– An iPhone.

– Evernote and Dropbox on all of your devices (they’re both free).

– Your music on Bandcamp or Soundcloud.

– A website with a blog.

– An email newsletter provider (Mail Chimp, Fan Bridge, Mad Mimi).

– Self-published to all digital stores and streaming subscription services.




MM: Do you think there’s a tipping point where bands should shift from DIY to building a professional industry team?

Brian Thompson I Feel Infinite - Mojito Mastering, Toronto, CanadaBT: There is definitely a tipping point when it’s needed, but it’s almost never when a band thinks it is. Most bands seem to think that just because they’re busy and have a big To-Do list that they need to enlist help. That’s not necessarily the case.

If you don’t have any industry interest yet and you’re not generating any real buzz or revenue, then looking for a manager or agent or publicist is premature. You need to have a story worth telling before any one can properly help you.

It’s different for every artist and it completely depends on what area of the industry they’re starting to see action in. I’d like to suggest that the first addition to your team might be a close friend of the band who really believes in you and who is a digital native… meaning that they’re adept and fluent with the web and online tools.

Chances are you’ll need little bits of help all over the place and not in just one place. Find someone who can be an intern for you if possible… and who knows, perhaps they’ll eventually become a full time paid member of your team.


MM: Do you have any other tips for the DIY’ers?

BT: The most important is to to realize that nothing happens overnight. Slow and steady is always the best approach. Always be active. Never stop. Use social media to nurture your existing fans, to organically reach new ones and to create new relationships with potential industry partners.

Be as creative with your online identity and brand as you are with the creation of your music itself.

I’ll leave you with these parting words which I tell everyone: Be Remarkable. Exceed Expectations.


Brian produces the DIY Daily, a newsletter and podcast jam-packed with great digital marketing and DIY tips for artists. Be sure to sign up for the DIY Daily, as well as follow Thorny Bleeder on Facebook and Twitter for more useful strategies. 

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