Interview with Music Nomad founder Rand Rognlien
Even before the live music industry came to an indefinite stunning halt in March 2020, effectively cutting the life-support chord for thousands if not millions of professional touring musicians, the independent artist living and working on capitalist 21st-century planet Earth needed all the help she could get. For many, myself included, constructively and simultaneously working towards creative AND financial success had always been a herculean task. Some brains are good at art; other brains are wired for business. How many are capable of excelling in both of those seemingly opposite worlds at once?
Fortunately for the creative non-business minded musician who is without a team of strategic number-crunching brains in her corner, there are some incredible resources available. One of the coolest and most thoroughly researched collections of such resources can be found at MusicNomad.com. Founded in 2008, the company’s mission is to provide “the independent musician with thousands of organized resources to help produce, sell and support your music.” Their site provides thorough help in key areas like building a fan base, finding a tour van, getting finished recordings to the ears of listeners, connecting with other local musicians, and maybe their coolest feature, a free app that helps independent artists organize and manage their tours. In addition to all the resources that Music Nomad provides for free to the artist in need, they also manufacture and sell high-quality eco-friendly cleaning equipment for guitars and drums.
Rootfire recently conducted an interview with Music Nomad founder and CEO Rand Rognlien to find out more about how Music Nomad can help the independent artist navigate intelligently through the dense spider-webbed jungles of the music industry. Check it out below.
Music Nomad manufactures and sells cleaning products for instruments, but it seems that the heart and soul of your company can be found in your efforts to support the independent music community. How did you become passionate about that mission, enough to make it the focus of your career?
I was passionate about music when I was a kid, and at 14 started playing guitar and bass in various bands. That continued all the way through my 30s. After selling my family car-care business that I ran with my dad, I knew I wanted to follow my passion for music. So at 40, knowing no one in the music industry, I launched MusicNomad. It started in 2008 and still exists today as an Independent Musicians Advocate website. We research thousands of resources that help musicians navigate the music industry. I did not want to charge musicians for this service so I needed another way to finance the business, and realized my passion for developing care products was still there. I thought it would be amazing if I could develop a range of eco-friendlier and premium instrument care products that could help support the musician advocacy site. That is how MusicNomad Equipment Care started in 2010. Now our product is distributed to over 40 countries.
Through your work have you been able to identify one or two specific areas that you think independent musicians need the most help with? Do you find that those areas are the same ones that musicians themselves reach out for help in, or do you feel there is a discrepancy between what independent musicians think they need and what you have found through experience that they actually need?
In our experience, the areas that musicians seem to need the most help in are touring support and managing their different revenue streams. Most musicians don’t have a general manager or tour manager so they have to manage themselves. Since touring (in normal times) seems to be the biggest revenue stream, artists need help with things like finding a band van to rent, or creating/discovering promotional opportunities while on the road. Also, back in 2008 there were more traditional revenue streams like CD sales, but now bands have to get creative with where the revenue is coming from. However, most artists don’t want to put in the time on the business side as it takes away from the artistic side.
Could you talk a bit about your give-back program ONE FOR MUSIC?
ONE FOR MUSIC came to me in 2018 when I was thinking about how we can make a statement that we can live up to and maybe also inspire others to follow our lead. We donate 1% of our company sales to musicians and programs that play or promote music in everyday life. A portion goes to local music programs like high school music scholarships or funding the high school bands’ uniforms, to national programs like Little Kids Rock and Guitars in the Classrooms, and to international programs like Musicians Without Borders.
Are there one or two specific groups for whom you have provided support whose work you have been most impressed by?
Sure, there are many we support but a few come immediately to mind. One is Keep Music Alive, a great non-profit that is a big supporter and backer of Kids Music Day, Teach Music Week, and Instrument Petting Zoos. They expose countless kids to musical instruments. Another one is Resounding Joy, who bring music therapy to vets, children and families to improve cognitive, physical, psychological and social well being for them, thereby creating positive experiences that contribute to their overall quality of life and progression of health.
Your website mentions an app called Guitar Tracker that “helps musicians, repair techs, etc keep track and maintain their instruments.” Could you tell us about this app and how it works?
Yes. Launched in 2013, it is a web-based app only at this time, but it is free and guitarists and guitar techs use it to keep track of all their guitar, pedal and amp gear for insurance reasons, as well as specifications of the instrument from string gauge to the last time you got a guitar setup. 40% of all guitarists own 10+ guitars so we give them an online tool to help manage them. Hundreds of guitars get loaded up each month and are kept private and only visible to the account holder. It’s just another way we are giving back to help the everyday musician.
Are there some substantial ways in which the pandemic has altered the approach or changed the way Music Nomad functions?
Yes, we have really looked at how we can help the everyday musician keep their musical instrument gear in the best possible shape to look, sound and play the best. Since many music stores are closed or have restricted hours, it’s harder to get your gear repaired or set up during these times. What’s more, many musicians have lost income due to the pandemic. We have expanded our do-it-yourself video content. We have over seventy how-to videos and are building out more. We have also been doing free Zoom classes on how to maintain your gear.
What are some of the things you are currently working on that you are most excited about?
We just launched a program that saves time and money for guitarists called KEEP IT SIMPLE, SETUP (KISS) that empowers the everyday guitar player to set up their own guitar with our innovative tools and gauges. Instead of paying someone else to set up your guitar, you can learn to do it yourself. Not only is it fun, but a properly set up guitar takes your playing and sound to a whole new level. To support this we launched the MusicNomad Setup Hub where you can watch setup videos, download an instructional setup booklet or sign up for free Zoom setup classes.