Cathy Henderson of Antigone Rising
Muse-Wrapped Records GM Trent Gardner
indie and national artists CD Reviews
SCOTT TURNER'S SONG PUBLISHER'S PERSPECTIVE
INDIE ARTIST SPOTLIGHT
Jack Foster III
MUSIC BIZ NEWS & OPPORTUNITIES
compiled by Sandy Serge
MUSIC INDUSTRY MARKETING SHOWCASE
the latest and greatest music industry products and services
A very common and often annoying sound can be the car horn. So it may seem strange that when Trent Gardner heard a horn honking during his junior high days that it had a profound affect on him. I heard this horn beep and I realized that I knew what those notes were,Trent remembers. It was a D and an E together in minor just one step apart. I realized that I had perfect pitch that day, and for some reason, that propelled my interest in music.Born and raised in California, Trent had already received some music indoctrination from instructors in elementary school. As he went into high school, other music teachers introduced him to many of the horn driven rock bands such as Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Earth Wind and Fire. Trent's musical interests were kindled enough that he actually wrote his first song at fourteen, and from there, continued writing and also performing in various local bands. He attended college for awhile, and while he continued to write and perform music he soon realized how tough it was to make a living at it. So Trent pursued another passion of his: law enforcement. He joined the police force, but even while he was a cop, he never lost sight of where his true passions were. He continued to write songs and started producing albums by other musicians as well, including the first two albums from his brother Wayne's progressive rock band Magellan. Trent eventually discovered it was time to return his full attention to his true devotion. When I became a cop, I really needed the steady job to get my family life started. Meanwhile, I continued to pursue getting better as a songwriter and a producer. Eventually I realized that it did not make any sense to continue in law enforcement, because if I really wanted to make a living at music, I needed to jump into it full time.
It was sort of by accident that Trent fell into the production side of music, by producing his own albums and those from Magellan. The record company that released the Magellan albums thought since Trent handled the complexity of the music so well, he should try to produce albums for more artists. Among the projects he worked with was Explorer's Club, which was comprised of a who's who of progressive rock performers, as well as a solo project from Kansas frontman Steve Walsh. I was really lucky that I ended up working with some of these people who had been my musical heroes. Working with them and telling them 'hey, I want to do that' or 'hey, I want to do this'...that was all very strange for me. (Producing) wasn't something I went out searching for, but after getting a few opportunities to do it, I realized that I could expand what I did with Magellan and open up a new career path for myself that I didn't initially go looking for.
The production business started booming for Trent after he left the police force. As he continued to produce Magellan and other bands, he also began to realize that the record labels his projects were involved in were less than helpful in regard to marketing the albums. Every label I went to I saw a similar model emerging where I still did not feel it was the best option in the world for me. I figured, if I started my own label I would at least have some say over what happened with the projects. It got to the point where starting a record company came out of necessity. I hadn't seen any other way to make it work for me. Through a mutual friend, Trent met a musician named Jack Foster III. Jack recorded a number of songs and attempted to assemble an album from them, but this had not yet come to fruition. Trent and Jack clicked with each other right out of the gate, and Trent prompted Jack to record his album. When the album Evolution Of the Jazzraptorwas finished, Trent and Jack sat down to figure what they needed to do next. We began the process of starting our own record label,Trent recalls. We found out that this was a two to three year mouth full of words; the incubation period for an indie label is just crazy. We worked really hard to find distribution that was real, which was a labor intensive and expensive project. We had to put our business plan together and get everything financed, but then we got to the point where we were, well, we had this company, but we didn't have any material!
Trent and Jack called their label Muse-Wrapped, and although Evolution Of the Jazzraptorwas their first official release, the album was handled mostly by the French prog rock label Musea. They endeavored to make Muse-Wrapped a home for high quality music by giving indie musicians more control over their own destinies. The old expectation the typical musician had is that some big label will come along and give them a big deal.Trent notes. That is a bad thing to set yourself up for, thinking like that. After having my head in the business for awhile, I think you will see more of these musician-entrepreneurs who take control and take responsibility. Musicians think the job is done when you record a song, when in reality the job is only beginning when you finish a song.Actually, the first musician other than Jack that was signed to Muse-Wrapped ended up being a hard working veteran musician, namely Steve Walsh. Steve had an idea where he wanted to do a new recording, so the timing ended up perfect for him and Muse-Wrapped. Steve inked a deal to release his new solo CD which would be titled Shadowman.Then Trent received an MP3 file that was sent to him from King Crimson drummer Pat Mastelotto. The song was called Everlastingthat was written and recorded by Turkish guitarist Cenk Eroglu. I was just blown away by the tune. I sent Cenk an e-mail and said that this was great stuff and asked him if he wanted to do some more. He was still shopping around for labels, and at that time Universal and a couple other labels were looking at him. They never could come to terms, so we kind of scrambled and put together what I thought was a good deal and convinced him to go with us.The project was dubbed Xcarnation, and the debut CD Groundedincluded contributions from Kip Winger, Reb Beach and Rod Morgenstein as well as Mastelotto. Groundedwas released on September 13th, the same day as Jack Foster III's new CD Raptorgnosis(which featured production by Trent and noted prog producer Robert Berry) hit the shelves.
As 2005 begins to wind down, Muse-Wrapped is looking toward a busy future. Along with promoting the new releases by Steve, Jack and Xcarnation, there are plans for a new Magellan album to be released in late winter or early spring. Trent and Jack created another company called Hip-Solve Media, which is currently in the beta testing process. Hip Solve is a digital distribution platform that allows musicians or indie labels to keep all the profits rather than share them with a service provider such as I-Tunes. We are trying to enable people and give them more control over their destiny and provide them with the tools they need. These are things we found that we needed that weren't available, and the market is so tough these days, labels and musicians have to reduce their overhead as much as possible if there is going to be any hope of doing anything serious.Trent is actively trying to bring more quality music acts into the Muse-Wrapped fold. He admits that there was some trial and error involved with learning the ropes of running an indie label, but he also picked up some solid advice over his years working with musicians and business people. He is working to apply this to keep a bright light focused on his future, and that of Muse-Wrapped and their clients. It's interesting because it has been a day-by-day learning process that is really incredible. You have to stay adept at what is evolving in the industry to a certain extent, but also realize that this is an industry that, for independents, is broken in quite a few ways. There is no doubt in my mind that it does not come down to a particular business strategy or set of music or artist or anything like that. It comes down to a sheer matter of will, of how bad we want to do this. There are a lot of obstacles, but we have set ourselves up for the long haul and give our ideas time to develop and find our niche and turn this into a real business. I like that we are in charge of our own destiny.
Trent Gardner's advice for musicians: “Try to educate yourself in the business areas and be smart. Don't sign to a label until you know everything there is to know about a contract, which unless you are an attorney you won't. The other thing is try to focus on the artistic aspects and be happy with that. Don't have the economic success or failure of an album put you in or out of music. Focus on your craft and as long as you hang in there and stay relentless, you can make things happen.” :->