music morsels fiorenza May 2007

INDUSTRY PROFILE - ProgRock Records President Shawn Gordon
by Mark E. Waterbury

Gary Calamar

“I spent my twenties as a rock star,” Shawn Gordon muses. He may be speaking tongue-in-cheek, but Shawn spent a lot of time in his teens through twenties prowling stages and studios. Coming from a musical family, Shawn's first musical foray was a garage band with his sister in his early teens. In high school, he continued to learn several different instruments, and Shawn took his music seriously, playing Moog Synthesizer and later picking up the bass guitar. He focused even more on honing his craft and his musical influences began to take root in his playing. Being a self-confessed huge fan of Genesis and Saga, Shawn also took a keen interest in learning the twelve string guitar ala Tony Banks. He played with a lot of bands in his twenties, including some moderate successes with a band called Airborne. He worked with another band (whose music he would later use in a project called Frameshift with Sebastian Bach) that had potential, but because of some personal life issues with some of the members, they eventually disbanded. Shawn had also been working as a computer programmer, and with his family to think of he left his rock star dreams behind, although he carried some valuable experience from his time as a touring and recording musician. “When I was in college, my original degree was in business administration. So by default, I used to take care of a lot of the business activities of the bands I was in. I always like to make deals and I was usually the most organized band member. I would set up most of the gigs, I would take care of the set lists, and I have this more logical and realistic process.”

Focusing on his computer programing career, Shawn would climb various rungs of the management ladder due to his organizational abilities. Although he was becoming quite successful at this career, he had never lost his passion for music. In the early part of the twenty-first century, he decided to undertake a long time dream of his. “I had always wanted to start a radio station. It has always been in the background of my mind to do it. With internet radio, I had this learning curve to figure out the technology involved in it. Once I got over that hump, I decided to launch an internet station.” Calling the station, Shawn brought in live DJ’s as well as recorded ones, culling from a playlist that would eventually grow to over eighteen thousand songs, and interviewing artists and bands. The station is set up so that when someone logs in and requests a song, chances are it will play in the next three or four songs. “I think that is one feature that people really like about the station. Sometimes I will see over a dozen songs in a row that have all been requests. We have a very easy to use request systems, and we are not snobs with what music we put on the station. We have a very loose definition of prog.” (the internet radio station) started growing in popularity right from the start. Shawn was amazed at the amount of quality music that people were sending his way. He became so enamored by some of the music that he soon realized the music needed something a bit more substantial to get it out to the masses than an internet radio station. Thus heralded the birth of ProgRock Records, a mere four months after the launch of He met with a member of a band called Under the Sun who thought that prog rock needed a more effective label. Some of the early signings included Little Atlas, Seraphim, and Henning Pauly. “I was still feeling my way out in those early days. I was selling everything direct and not getting as much traction as I wanted to that way. So I researched prog distributors and ended up evolving from there. I have actually seen an insane growth with it, it is now the main way I make my money.” ProgRock Records recently teamed with Ryko Distribution and their products can be found in outlets worldwide. The roster has grown to offer an extensive cross section of prog rock bands including Amarok, Puppet Show, Dial, and Starcastle among many others. Shawn has presided over the growth for the label by using his previously honed business instincts to help his clients grow both their popularity and sales. “I am very focused on spending money smartly. Whenever I am in contract negotiations with bands, I have to bring that to the table and show the band how to be realistic with their promotional avenues and how they can generate sales. A lot of bands think that getting their music on the radio is going to sell albums, but they don’t realize that if some person hears your song on the radio while driving home, they are less likely to buy it than say if they hear it being played in a record store. So you have to be thoughtful and realistic about what works.”

Along with growing ProgRock Records and keeping broadcasting, Shawn has delved into another music endeavor. In 2005, he launched which is an internet retail store similar to the I-Tunes store. “It mostly has a focus on prog, but in reality I am focusing on having as unique a catalogue as possible. I can get the same catalogue that everyone else has, but there is not a whole lot of value in that.” works with Windows, Lennox and Mac operating systems and provides CD quality audio that can play on any portable digital device. The uniqueness of the store has helped to gain some good internet partners, increasing its growth in a short amount of time. In general, with Mindawn, radio and ProgRock Records, Shawn has created a viable stepping stone for artists in what can almost be considered an underground genre to get their music out to people. “It is very synergistic. Especially with radio, because as there becomes a greater network of wireless internet capabilities, there will be more access to online radio stations and hopefully that will end the grip of commercial radio giants.”

Looking to the future, Shawn feels that internet radio is going to supplant regular radio, while digital distribution will replace CDs. As a result of this convergence of mediums, Shawn is wanting to provide a system where bands can release each song as they record them, perhaps in a “comic book” fashion where digital media creates a story line that bridges the songs as they are recorded. Perhaps because he spent so many years as a musician, Shawn’s varied work to help musicians has created a very satisfying career for him, that keeps him looking to a bright future. “It is great to actually become friends with some of the bands that I have been a fan of for years. That and discovering new music are very cool aspects about what I do. With my businesses I am forming sort of a four prong attack plan. I can leverage ProgRock’s catalogue on Mindawn, and even my competitor's catalogues, so there is more material there that can’t be found anywhere else. Because I have been in the music, computer, software, consumer and deployment industry, that puts me in a unique position. I personally designed the entire Mindawn system and all the back ends on all of our web sites. So it all works well together and I think it can help bands and musicians.”


Shawn Gordon’s advice for musicians: “There has been such an explosion of music in the past five years, and most of it has been bad because of the ease of which musicians can do home recording on their computers now. This allows people who don’t really know how to record and write music to do it. When you are writing and recording, the best position you can put yourself into is to make sure that the quality in all areas is as good as possible, You have to be honest with yourself and test market your music and get honest opinions on it. You have to decide whether your music is something that you yourself would want to go to a store and put down fifteen dollars to buy. It is all about having honesty in your craft.”
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