GUITARS AND AMPS EXPO 2014: The music industry is a shadow of its former self and everyone but the most established artist is struggling to make a living. It's an all too familiar story, with what might be described as 'mid-level acts' such as DevilDriver perhaps suffering the most.
Jeff Kendrick and Mike Spreitzer aren't the type to bang their heads into the sand while all around them comes crashing down, though. Since 2010, the duo and their Australian business partner Joel Smith have been working on ways to "help musicians generate income for themselves outside of making music". Foremost of which is the guitar and bass tuition site All Axess. We find out a little more about it, whilst also gleaning some titbits about DevilDriver's new album due out next year.
How would you describe All Axess for someone who hasn't visited the site?
Jeff Kendrick: "It started as a way for professional guitarists to teach fans their songs. We wanted to make something where you could learn the right way how to play the songs, and also for the artist to be able to connect with their fans.
"Since launching, we've been building our assets and acquiring artists. We build websites for various musicians and help them earn revenue through display advertising and other branding opportunities, so it's kind of like being able to do social media and earn a little bit of extra money. Now we represent eight artists online - we do a revenue split with them. We've built them official websites, we rely on them uploading content, we integrate with Twitter and Facebook, and we try to drive traffic."
"The record business is diminishing so much that only certain high-level artists can make any money off a record."
Why did you decide to launch the site?
Jeff: "It's something we wanted to do for the sake of the music industry because it's changing so much. The record business is passé now. I mean, it's diminishing so much that only certain high-level artists can make any money off a record. Record labels are going out of business and the ones who are still around are offering less and less of a record deal, or they're offering a 360 deal that encompasses the band's entire business. It's kind of a desperate time."
Mike Spreitzer: "The music business has changed so much since Napster came around. A lot of people tried to fight it and I truly believe it's a losing battle. No-one's gonna pay as much for music as they used to unless it's live. I still believe that musicians should be paid for what they do and Jeff, Joel and I have sat down and tried to brainstorm a lot of ideas of how we can help musicians generate income for themselves outside of making music."
Watch DevilDriver guitarists Jeff and Mike in action for the Dead To Rights video:
How did you fund the business?
Jeff: "Well, we've done a lot of self-financing and we've had outside investment, so we are a legitimate company and we are earning revenue. All Axess also has a merchandise company called Black Harmonix and we release a series of signature shirts for various musicians that's nothing to do with their bands - it's something they can do outside of that.
"We also have a viral video website called SlamFactory.net. We're a full-blown media company. We've also released a guitar lesson with Willie Adler from Lamb Of God and sold it via his website. It's done exceptionally well and also hasn't been pirated because with these subscription-based sites it's a lot easier to protect your content."
How has it been going so far?
Jeff: "For the last couple of years we've been trying to build assets, trying to get musicians to sign up and do all the website builds. We don't actually charge to build our websites. We don't have any hidden costs. It's enticing because we're not trying to make a quick buck and these guys want websites, but most of them don't want to spend several thousand dollars. Now we're just about to sign an advertising deal. It's pretty much done. It's with a really big company and they're gonna be selling our websites along with the rest of the stuff they sell. They're an online publisher.
"Some of the stuff we tried worked and some of it didn't, but we've figured out a really cool model now that's way beyond just the musical instruction. It's this whole social media marketing and management for various people. And we're doing musicians now, but the platform could work for anyone of stature, like sports stars or even actors. It's a way to earn a bit of extra revenue."
"I've been talking to Dez and he'll be starting vocals early next year. Hopefully we'll have a new record out by summer 2015" - Mike Spreitzer
Mike, you have your own section of the site called Guitar Geek. What can you tell us about it?
Mike: "Gear Geek is basically tutorial videos on gear I own, giving my input on how to use it, and gear that I've got that I don't like and I don't recommend. There's definitely going to be more of those episodes going up when I've got the studio done - I've moved into a new house and I'm building a recording studio, just a control room and an isolation booth. We won't be able to record drums here, but it'll be for All Axess, for DevilDriver… I do mixing, producing and mastering on the side when I'm at home."
Do you think more musicians will branch out like this now, doing other things that weren't previously associated with being a recording artist?
Mike: "Yeah, I think it has already started to happen. It's not set in stone yet, but I plan on recording guitars and bass for the next DevilDriver record at my studio."
What stage is the next DevilDriver album at?
Mike: "We have a few songs written. I've got roughly two or three started so far. I know [John] Boecklin, our drummer, has been writing a lot lately and I've heard two songs that he demoed with somebody else and he told me he has about five songs - rough drafts. We have another tour coming up in the States, a co-headliner with Whitechapel, then I'll be home in July and August and my studio will be done. We'll start the pre-production process then. I've been talking to Dez and he'll be starting vocals early next year, and hopefully we'll have a new record out by summer 2015."
Words: Stephen Lawson