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File Transfer Protocol - interview (2011)
2011-04-07 | Katarzyna NINa Górnisiewicz | e-mail interview
NINa: Can you tell Fabryka readers please about the roots of the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) project?

Sean Rieger: Sure. I’ve been in and out of different bands since I was 14. In 1998 I was a part of an industrial band called Experiment that had an aggressive sound pretty common to the northeast area of Ohio. We had earned the interest of Sony Music and went into the studio. Unfortunately, that’s where things fell apart. (I’ve seen more bands break up in the studio, than anywhere else. Pressure takes its toll, I guess.)

I had been the primary writer for the band, and felt that it was a shame to waste everything we had recorded, so I decided to go solo with it. Once I got permission from the former band members, I set out to re-track their parts on my own, under the name File Transfer Protocol. That first release was called Reconstruction, which was pretty fitting considering what I was doing. The album met with limited success, but stirred something deep in my creative process and my need to go solo.

Over the next decade or so, I worked on my own. I mean, there were group projects here and there, but I was primarily focused on a concept album titled Bipolar. The idea was to explore the duality within us. I believe that we all are a balance of good and evil. It’s a part of being human. Bipolar was about the beauty and the hate all rolled into a singular musical concept. At one point I had something like 64 songs for that album, but finally realized, it was time to cut it all down to a meaningful story, and release it. (I can be a perfectionist at times.) So in 2009, I released Bipolar on iTunes, Amazon and a few other stores. Sales went well and I was surprised that people embraced both sides of my music. My style is contrast. The “beauty” of a piano set against the “hate” of a metal grinder or distorted synth. It’s balance that just works for me.

After Bipolar was released, I took a break for a few years. I had to take a good look at my direction and figure out was going to be next. I didn’t want to repeat myself. During that time, I realized that the industry was changing in a big way. Musician’s could no longer release one album and then sit around for a few years. So, I decided to start releasing my music for free, and release it as soon as each song was complete. It’s been liberating. It’s connected me to the fans. It’s no longer about “me” and “them”, it’s quickly becoming a “we”. We feed off of each other. They inspire me with ideas and I give back music for free. (Don’t get me wrong, I have no issue with selling t-shirts or merchandise, but you get the point… the music is free and often. Everything else helps put food on the table.)

NINa: Musicians are encouraged to be social with their following, but most often they treat their fans like numbers instead of showing respect to those who willingly join them in social networking. However, people in the music industry also judge bands by the numbers. Do you think fans are really supportive in terms of social networks or does direct contact through an official website seem to be a more powerful platform?

Great question! I think it’s a combination. I think the music industry is playing a frantic game of catch-up, right now. They are desperately trying to figure out how to keep up with the technology and the artists who have figured out how to use it. Many artists are walking away from big labels because they can market themselves with more creative freedom. The industry still views things in terms of numbers, because numbers equal sales and sales equal bonuses for executives in top floor offices.

I see things differently. I don’t need millions of dollars to survive. I DO need to make music. It’s my only real outlet. I write music to reach out. It’s a way for me to put very personal moments and feelings out into the world. Like a sonar ping. Why? Because I don’t want to feel that I am the only person on earth who feels the way I do. I’m looking for a return ping. I want to know that I connect with someone. Fans help me do that. They reach back and say “Yeah… I get it, I get you… I know how you feel and can relate to what you are singing about” That’s priceless to me. It means way more than being able to say I sold so many albums or anything.

If you think about it, it’s incredibly personal. I’ll take a small group of people who can relate to what I am doing, over a million who can’t, any day. I open up to them, and they open up to me, so why would I ever treat them as a number? No way. Having a million fans who only listened to the music because it’s what the mainstream media has declared as the “flavor of the week”, would be a hollow victory for me.

I spend a lot of time getting to know my fans through social media, and I spend a lot of time responding to them. I think that’s incredibly important. I want to know their faces. They take their time to know mine, it’s only fair that I do the same. Recently, I had a very thoughtful question come in over Twitter that I couldn’t answer fully in 140 characters or less, so I answered in an entire blog post. It only felt right. That person took the time to reach out to me, the least I can do is respond in a thoughtful manner, as well. Artist’s who view fans as numbers… well, I think they just don’t get it. Big publishers view fans that way, and look what’s happening to them.

As far as preferred platform? Well, social media is a great starting point, but you can’t control when Facebook might decide to stop showing your updates to people. So ultimately, I try to guide people to my official site or ask them to sign up on my mailing list. I let the fan decide. If they are very interested, they will connect via the mailing list, to be sure they don’t miss anything, but if not? Well, I’m not going to shove it down their throats. I don’t require that people give me anything to download my music. So far, I think people appreciate it, and in return, they share my music with their friends. It’s working out for the best, I think.

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