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Marketing Mike Moran: Local Songwriter Finds Hustle as Important as the Music

Andy Taylor - July 8th, 2004
Over the past year, Traverse City’s own Mike Moran has been given an education by the roiling tempest known as the music business -- more specifically by the local scene. “Traverse City is a great place to learn how to get rejected and how to take criticism and to learn how to play in front of a crowd,” Moran says when asked about the past year of his career.
Many are the bullets that fill the gun of the business and they are unforgiving according to Moran. He even received interest from record labels that ended up being considerably less than a blessing. “There is always talk of label interest and if it’s serious enough to where they say they are going to fly you out, (it) revs you up. Then it falls through and it can bring you down for a couple weeks,” he states. “So I was going through a lot of that during the winter. I had three or four instances like that where you get calls from major things you read about and they’re talking about you and they want you to come out for a little bit. Then their minds change...”
This spring Moran also put forth a considerable amount of effort, thinking that he could score his band an opening slot as part of the Cherry Festival’s musical activities, but the powers that be did not see things the same way. “We really want to play the Cherry Festival. We won the best new artist award in the Express and we have sold as many CDs as anybody in Traverse City and still for some reason... It’s like, what do you have to do to get up there?”

THE GOOD NEWS
But no one, including Moran, can deny the positive parts of being directly involved with music, and the past 12 months have also brought good things his way. “My album (“Where Were You?”) came out on June 9 last year. Since then I have handed out like 6,000 free sample CDs to Traverse City alone. I’ve got a web site that is a lot more professional and you can download music off of it,” he says. “As far as gigs go I have just gigged 100% more than what I was doing.”
Moran says the large number of two-song samplers he has given out is the reason why he and his band have been slowly but steadily making their way up.
“I have seen my sales from the CD go up when I put as many sample CDs out as I can. Sales at shows have gone up. With full CD sales we are close to 1,000 up here just in the area,” he states with a grin.
Selling over 1,000 CDs is no small feat for an independent artist on their own record label and Moran is well-aware of this, but he still views the last album as more of a stepping stone to better territory than anything else.
“It was my first album. I’m proud of it being the first legitimate thing that I have gone through and finished... The whole thing is a learning experience,” he says. The album can’t get into the hands of store owners all over the nation at this point but Moran is making the best of things and looking at what he has accomplished instead of what he has not achieved. “We can’t distribute this album nationally but I can at least distribute it locally and learn how to do that kind of thing. It’s gotten the attention of a lot of radio stations in Michigan. I got a band because of that album. It has won over some of Traverse City’s best musicians and they are in my band now. That’s what something like that can do for you.”

STRATEGIZING
Marketing himself has become a focus for the songwriter and bandleader these days. “Getting the marketing strategy and coming up with the actual business plan: that is what I am working on right now,” Moran says. He is attempting to take full advantage of his better-designed web site and has even started advertising in cities all over the country. “I have put classified ads in Denver papers, in Cleveland and stuff like that. If people go to the site I get Internet sales. It’s not as much as I thought I would get but I think that is because the first site that I had, I had a horrible webmaster. We lost 35 CD sales. But I’ve got a great webmaster now. It is certified by PayPal and they take care of our stuff.”
Moran makes sure that he never loses an opportunity to get his music out to listeners, and he is taking strides to make sure that happens.
“I started a street team and I’m looking for interns to help with that and to do things like taking CDs down to Van Andel and Pine Knob and hand them out while people are coming out of concerts. You have to do that kind of stuff first before so people know who you are, because if you go into a club and they are paying you half a grand or a grand and you don’t have anyone there, they aren’t going to invite you back.”

LOOKING FORWARD
When asked about his goals, Moran states them in a manner that lets the listener know these are things he has thought about and meticulously planned.
“I want to sell the hell out of this album. I want to have another CD out by December. A year from now I want to be on the circuit of the House of Blues, the Hard Rock Cafes, the bigger clubs like Clutch Cargo’s and the Intersection. I would like to have a full-blown show of constant music which doesn’t start falling apart. I would like to have ‘Quarter After’ established to where I would have the resources to hand out CDs and to just do all that kind of stuff constantly. I would like to be touring all over the country, most likely the Midwest but as far as that goes I’m not gonna scatter it because that is just not the way to create a following.”
Having another album out by the end of the year is hardly beyond his reach as Moran says that he has already begun work on it. “Right now I am recording with Jason Kott who is one of the best local musicians. We’re putting together demos and we’re going into the studio in October. It will most likely be a full-length but it also might be an EP,” he says.
Excitement does not hide itself in his voice when Moran talks about his new album. His eyes and smile get just a shade larger when he speaks of it.
“It will be so much more polished and a lot more fun. We’ve got some really cool tunes that just have to be on CD. You can go out and play them in the clubs and people will dance to them even though they don’t know the words. Once you get it one-on-one with somebody, that’s when people can determine if you’re good or not. I think that the listener’s ear is where it will catch on.”
His high expectations do not overshadow his humility though. Moran is a musician who not only knows what he wants and how to get it, but also understands that only through blood, sweat and tears will he achieve it.
“As a band we’ve got some work to do. We’re getting better and better and it’s proven. Our last gig at Union Street was packed and it’s growing within Traverse City. We’ve just got some work to do,” he says.
Although Moran and company will not be appearing on any Cherry Festival stages, they will be performing at area venues during that time. They will be appearing at North Peak Brewery on July 10, and also at Union Street Station on July 8. For current show dates visit www.mikemoranmusic.com.


 
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