#082: Brian Mazzaferi – I Fight Dragons

Brian is a member of the Band I Fight Dragons, who after their first year, find themselves signing a major label record deal.  What’s interesting is the events that led them to that deal were very focused DIY tactics that built an enormous amount of buzz and started generating consistently strong sales for their music.  We’ve talked to numerous solo artists in past episodes that have built a full time career going completely the DIY route, but in Brian’s opinion it’s still tough as a band that might have 4-5 members to generate enough income on their own to sustain a living for that many people with out some sort of larger machine behind them.  He highlights that for bands we might still be in a middle area between the old music business models and the models of the future.  I think you’ll find Brian’s insights to be thought provoking and possibly a slightly different take on where things are in the industry.  Plus he shares some great DIY tips that has helped them make strong connections with the fans.

You can hear I Fight Dragons on CD Baby here – http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/ifightdragons

  • I would never write that one episode is the best ever because I find there is something to learn even when an episode topic doesn’t apply to me.
    With that said, this interview is a wonderful culmination of the best CD Baby DIY Musician podcast episodes.

    The ‘I Fight Dragons’ interview touched on past episodes like #29 on social networking and #2 with Lisa Lepine on knowing who you are as an artist, as well as creating moments as discussed in #43 with Tom Jackson or knowing the right time to find the a manager as discussed in many of the most recent podcasts.

    It is as if this band listened to this podcast from the beginning and applied everything discussed. What is more likely is that the CD Baby DIY Musician podcast is right on the money reporting what is going on in the DIY movement and showing what is possible when you commit to applying this stuff.

    Great episode! Great job!

    Have you moved to an every other week schedule? I was missing the podcast last week.

  • Good show! It’s nice to hear from a big ol’ band, and to see the other side of the ‘indie-or-death’ viewpoint. I’m sure they had some reservations about signing with a major, but it sounds like they got a deal they are happy with, and I wish them the best of luck. I thought I’d share a couple quick links:

    Brain’s blog post announcing the deal with Atlantic/Photo Finish:

    The video they commissioned via Radar Music Videos:

    Radar’s FAQ:

    I had run across Radar before, and having seen what they were able to get for a few hundred dollars, I have to say it seems like a great resource for DIYers!

  • Excellent interview Kevin.

    I was ready not to enjoy this one, seeing as they’d ‘jumped ship’ and signed to a major but the advice was still relevant to those of us who either wish to remain, or have no choice (work etc.) but to remain indie.

    The mailing list advice was handy (use a provider – like Host Baby etc.), keep it short, keep it relevant, keep people involved. All of this stuff has been on the podcast before but a reminder now and then really helps keep us focused.

    Radar Music definitely looks interesting, I’ll be paying a visit once I’ve written this post!

    Their ‘gimmick’ is a good one too. It’s interesting enough to get people listening but not so strong that the band could never get rid of it and move on musically. I like to think our Mexican ‘gimmick’ has similar qualities, although I do suspect people sometimes come just to see the sombreros!

    As ever, I’m writing this a day after I listened and so a lot of what I meant to say has gone. I really must start taking notes but I’m not sure my boss will be happy…

  • Like Darren above I was ready to hate on iFD for making a deal with the devil but after hearing him out and not knowing the entire situation I can’t argue with him. Good for them! We should be happy that they are happy.

    As far as the “gimmick” goes. They are helping to expand the boundaries and the palette of tools we can use to make better music and keep it fresh. Is it really any different than Jimmy Page whipping out a violin bow or Ray Davies from the kinks slashing his amp speakers to get some distortion. Again, good for them!

    Great podcast and keep up the good work!

  • Hey there, great episode; struck very close to home with answers/ideas for me. I’m currently on a course with Ariel Hyatt culminating at the East Coast Music awards in Canada. I’m an emerging independent artist born in Iceland, stationed in Canada, I’m stoked about playing at the awards and about the nomination of my song “Sunny Day” from my 12 song debut album “Running Naked”.

    I have set myself similar goals for the next year (fingers crossed) so as usual this podcast delivers great and relevant content. I’ve been following you guys since the beginning, great job!

    BTW thanks Neil for those links; I’m very interested in radarmusicvideos.com.

    Sign up for my mailing list for free songs from the album: http://www.tiny.cc/signupwiththor

  • I found this to be very informative, the networking that was done was obviously great. Thanks for being so open, I’m just getting started with getting my music “out there” and this was very helpful and motivating

  • This is such a useful interview. I’m already applying the concept of e-mails that are fun, short and offer something. THEREFORE, I REALLY WANT TO KNOW: Brian mentions a way to make a clickable thumbnail for your video that you can include in an e-mail, so it LOOKS like an embedded video, but it just links you to youtube (since you can’t really embed a video in hotmail etc…). HOW DO YOU DO THIS?

    Thanks for eveything. This is my favorite podcast.

  • anonymous

    This is an interesting and controversial topic. There are many members of the chiptune community, a group of people whom specialize in making what IFD has adopted as their main gimmick, (I use this term to indicate the distaste I feel for it’s use,) that feel IFD’s success is only an indicator of how insincere popular music can be. There are more talented people doing the same thing that are, for the most part, going unnoticed, and that’s a shame.

  • Greg

    I think the band is more focused on promotion and getting fans than on the music. It’s pretty generic and not memorable. I guess I don’t like gimmic bands…maybe CD baby can do a follow up story in a year when they get dropped?

    FYI: The song at the end of the podcast has the same chorus melody as All American rejects “swing swing”. Nice work boys…nice work….

  • Harry

    This is exactly why the music business is over. Devo was at least interesting. This is all gimmick, no grease – like the video with the treadmills. Go work in the IT department somewhere, and let the musicians make music, I wish Jimmy Page could put a spell on this and make it stop.

  • Does a transcript of this podcast exist somewhere? Thanks.

  • This guy knows what he is talking about! In regards to the musical integrity (gimmick), screw that! Music is art, and art is freedom of expression. This is how they express themselves in a creative manner. And there are so many listeners, fans, people that express themselves the same way. Kudos IFD, kudos!

  • Butch

    could you do an interview with someone who doesn’t have gimmicky music and isn’t geared towards the childrens market? someone who’s doing adult pop/rock and has managed to have success without gimmicks. thanks

  • Great podcast. Really enjoyed some of the specific tips and I’ll be trying out a few things because of it.

    Definitely fun to listen to also! Also nice to hear some specific stories and a bit of a happy ‘beginning’ (getting signed).

  • This podcast lead me to enable my whole new EP, “Humanist”, to be downloaded for free! http://derekjordan.bandcamp.com/

  • This is a textbook example (in my opinion) that bands with the best marketing, not necessarily the best music, achieve the most success. Overall, though, Brian from IFD did provide some helpful advice and thought-provoking ideas. I’m not entirely sold, however, on everything he said. The “Rule of 1,000” is an intriguing concept, but I’m not convinced it negates a full band’s potential to remain indie and make a living. The flip side of the coin for bands with 3 or more members is that you have that many more people to delegate tasks. I appreciate the tip on Radar Music as a cost-effective way to make music videos, although you can potentially find a skillful director on Craigslist who will work for free. Ideally, with a bit of luck, you’ll find a director who wants to add a music video to their reel, believes in your project, and enjoys working with you. I’ve actually been lucky enough to pull this off with two different directors. The videos came out well for being done on an indie level with no budget. Anyway, that’s only advice for the financially strapped musician. On a final note, the guidelines that Brian laid out for administering an e-mail list seem pretty solid, although cost once again becomes an issue.

  • I was a bit surprised that one of their keys to success is an email list. The average open rate for an email newsletter is 8%. Although I get higher open rates than that, the vast majority do go unopened. At any rate, I’ve been focusing on my list a bit more (including mobile) and will see if it creates results for me.