The Other Side with Everything Independent's Kirby Desmarais
Everything Independent founder Kirby Desmarais emphasizes the importance of collaboration, explains why there is no better time than now to make history in the music industry, and tells why a great marketing pitch goes a long way in this week's Other Side.
Originally from Woodstock, New York, Kirby Desmarais spent her childhood surrounded by the arts. By the time she was thirteen years old, Desmarais had already booked her first show and was well on her way to running Rock N Dolls, a Lower East Side promotions and events company which she took charge of at the ripe age of eighteen, “during the last gasp of the Lower East Side sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll [movement].” Desmarais recalls, “We booked shows at places such as CBGB's before its closing, as well as larger spaces like the Canal Room. We also toured with several acts, giving marketing support while on the road. It was a wild, amazing ride. I learned so much firsthand by running that business and I credit those three years of my life to really learning how to deal with artists and industry people as a whole.”
After leaving Rock N Dolls behind, Kirby Desmarais spent a short stint in Canada before relocating back to New York City with her husband and Everything Independent business partner, Mark Desmarais. She notes, “I started Everything Independent (Ei) almost five years ago with the goal of setting up an artist friendly company. Since I was managing bands at the time, a handful of companies contacted me over the span of a few months offering ‘kick backs’ if I would send business their way. That system got me thinking, ‘No, you should give the client a discount [for your services] so I can [also] charge the client, we can all make money, and the artist has enough money left over to support themselves and their career.’ This thought process initially inspired me to start up Ei and over the past five years, I've worked with artists on all levels, from major label acts, to those on indie labels, to unsigned artists. Since we're not a genre specific company, we have the freedom to work with anyone we believe in,” such as Barling, Gangstagrass, The Gorgeous Hussies, and The Flying Machines.
We managed to pry Kirby Desmarais away from Everything Independent long enough to tell us what it’s like to be on The Other Side:
Green Light Go: As the founder of Everything Independent, what was the turning point that sparked your decision to evolve from a self-proclaimed “groupie” to the president of an industry service provider that assists independent artists in furthering their careers?
Kibry Desmarais: I think you're born a groupie, you don't become one. Just as one might be born a writer, or a painter, we each have our own calling. The only difference between who I am now versus who I was back then is that [now], I inspire the artists through helping them better understand the music industry and I have less fear of how the industry works through my own experiences. Much like the artists I work with, I [keep learning new] ways to practice my craft. I am and always will be a groupie.
GLG: Let’s say that an independent artist just signed on to work with Everything Independent. After all of the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, what happens next?
KD: We collect a ton of information and hold a few intense meetings with the artist to configure the campaign we'll be working on in the upcoming months.
GLG: Everything Independent is a unique company that allows artists to customize affordable, realistic music career packages to suit their particular needs in terms of publicity, distribution, legal advice, and music production. If an artist is unsure about what specific options to choose, how might you help a musician cater their music package to suit their needs and ensure that they are maximizing their efforts with your company?
KD: A big part of what we do relates to the management and consulting side of the music business. The artist is not left to figure out the details of their campaign on their own, it's a team decision.
GLG: In the past, you’ve worked with One High Five, Pearl and the Beard, The Flying Machines, and Barling, to name a few. What bands are you currently working with at and who might you like to work with in the future?
KD: We have a handful of artists currently on the roster, but because we are a paid service, we never directly advertise who is active, out of respect for our clients. Our contracts last for at least two months, so our roster is always changing depending on who is active from one month to the next. Once a client signs a contract, they can pick and choose when to be active with us, based on their calendar and availability.
I would love to someday work with a band that is directly coming out of a major label contract, rather than during (since I work with signed acts). I think the dynamic from [a major label] experience to [an independent collaboration] would be a really cool thing to observe.
GLG: One of the goals of Everything Independent is to “help artists navigate through this complicated and misunderstood industry.” What advice might you offer to an independent artist that just released their first album and was about to jump head first into the shark tank of the music industry?
KD: I would say you need a strong team and a great marketing pitch to really get any attention. You can have the best album in the world, but if no one has heard of you, it won't matter [in the grand scheme of things]. Your team is everything, so you should hold the bar of quality just as high for them as you would for your quality of music.
GLG: What are some of the most rewarding and challenging things about working in the entertainment industry?
KD: I love being able to make our own history. There's no one single way to do things in this business any longer, because no one owns the industry. With hard work, an artist can reach places that would have been impossible just a few years ago. We as industry workers have endless possibilities for the future of this business. By looking at the expansion of new tech companies, to publicists who have learned to adapt to the shrinking demand of print, to the bands who have learned that they can be successful without the support of a label, it’s clear that everyone is playing a part [in the evolution of the industry]. That is really exciting to me, because we have the opportunity to shape history.
The hardest part of this business is dealing with the bad attitudes I come across. The fact is, no one knows everything, yet a lot of people think they do and they’ll become competitive for no reason other than to protect their ego. Being a nice guy in a ‘mean man’s business’ can get exhausting at times. I just have to keep fighting the good fight and know that at the end of the day, I’m running a good business.
GLG: Outside of the Everything Independent roster, what have you been listening to lately?
KD: Honestly, I'm stuck in the late 90's with my taste of music, but I also like to listen to my friends who work in the business. Brent Jordan has been on constant rotation in my house for some time now for two reasons, First, because he's an amazing musician and secondly, because my baby girl jumps up and starts dancing as soon as his albums starts. I could watch that for hours!
This week’s Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Mercury Roberts