Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Mason Brothers -- Jarring the Music Industry

Recently I posted about advice I gave to some parents who asked how their son could break into the music business. I didn't tell them what they wanted to hear, which was how to get signed to a major label. Instead, I offered up some examples of how to go about building an audience in this post-major label era, citing Jonathan Coulton and Geoff Smith.

I also told them something else neither they nor their son really wanted to hear -- that you have to get out there and promote yourself every way you possibly can. The advantage of the Internet is that most of the ways to do this are free. The disadvantage is that they're all labor-intensive.

I was fortunate to get a copy of "The Sun, the Moon & the Sea," the new acoustic album from the Richmond, Virginia-based Mason Brothers. It's a well-crafted album of solid songwriting with some truly inspired arrangements. There's a nice balance between the guitars and the vocals that sit just right.
So how are the Mason Brothers getting the word out about "The Sun, the Moon & the Sky?" They're working the Internet every way they can -- and the results are starting to pay off. If you're looking for the Mason Brothers, you'll easily find them. And that's good -- because as their profile rises, more people will be seeking them out.

In addition to their website, you can also check the Mason Brothers out on They also have a band blog, entitled "Hood up, Hazards on" to keep the conversation with fans going. And they've worked hard to make their music as available as possible online.

Want a copy of the CD? You can purchase it from, or

Prefer digital downloads? Well, you can find them on iTunes and, as well as,, and That last one is interesting because bands are promoted on the site through social networking. The tracks start out as free, and as the recommendations and downloads accrue, the price starts to rise until it tops out at 0.99. In other words, the more popular a band is, the more they can earn at Amie Street.

And the Mason Brothers have social networking covered, too. MySpace takes care of some of that, but they're also on, and You can also find mentions of them at,,,, as well as various blogs.

The band's reaching out another way, too. They've placed some of their music with, which makes it available for use in movies, TV shows, and other forms of entertainment. And unlike with major label artists, the band gets all the licensing money, not just a small percentage.

Now constructing websites, providing content for blogs and Myspace pages, and getting music registered with all those download sites takes a lot of time and effort. The Mason Brothers have done what's necessary to lay the foundation.

And now the band seems to be moving to the next level of Internet presence. A video of the band was just posted on YouTube. And the post wasn't from the Mason Brothers, it was from the venue, the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville.

When other people start freely promoting a band, that's when things start to happen. There's still a lot of work for the artist to do, but as more people come on board it gets easier to get the word out. That helps sales increase. And since all the money goes straight to the Mason Brothers (as opposed to 10-12% as it would if they were signed to a major label), the total volume of sales doesn't have to be very large to start generating a nice return on their investment.

And here's the important thing. None of this works if the music isn't good, which is why major label flacks have met with indifferent success with this Interwebtube thing.

The Mason Brothers are very, very, good.

- Ralph

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