music morsels fiorenza June 2007

INDUSTRY PROFILE - Manager, Producer, and Black Dog Recordings Co-founder Jim Anderson
by Mark E. Waterbury

Jim Anderson learned the hard way about the music business while he was in the band Undertow who were signed to Sinew Records. A self-confessed “military brat” born and raised primarily in Germany, after a blown knee ended his brief college basketball tenure at Oklahoma State Jim moved to tidewater Virginia. where he started writing, singing and playing guitar for Undertow. “Music was just always there for me,” Jim reflects. “I knew I was going to end up working with it one way or another. With Undertow, I was doing a lot of the creative facets, but starting to get more in the business side as well.” Jim had some bad experiences with the band’s manager and, during this timeframe, members of other area bands came to Jim to ask him for help with booking and promoting bands. “I was thinking, gee, this is just what my manager does. OK, I can figure this out. All I know is that I was never going to let what our manager did to us happen to me again.” Jim moved down to Florida, where he met Jeff Hansen, who at that time had not yet achieved his success as manager of Creed. After culling some valuable information from Jeff, Jim decided to head back to Virginia. “I gained some very insightful words from him,“ Jim remembers. “It made me go back to Virginia and completely refocus on what I was doing.”

Jim continued to learn about managing bands as he went along. He cites a couple other mentors who helped him along the way including former Lava Records A&R exec Andy Karp. “I ran a lot of projects through him and he always took the time to talk to me. I also really learned plenty from a music attorney in Atlanta named Lee Beitchman. He really showed me the ropes and opened my eyes to a lot of insights. It really helped make a difference in how I worked my bands.” Jim’s experience provided him the avenues to help most of the bands that he worked with on various levels, although he admits that none of them broke into any huge success. He did like to see some sort of progression with every act he represented. “Every band I always want to take to the next step, further than I did with the last band. You have to find the right equation and I found out early in my career you can’t just pick up a band because they are a happening band. You have to love the music. That was my biggest learning lesson. No matter how good a band is doing, people have to recognize there is a passion there.” In 2004, Jim started working with a local Virginia Beach band called Revery. He found a definite love for their music and started working every facet of trying to help their career. His work included being the main producer on their debut album “Avarice and Absolution.” Producing is another avenue Jim pursued when he was a musician and he continued to hone his craft over the years. “When I was in the studio, I was always the thick-headed guy,” Jim muses. “I was the one who always wanted things to sound a particular way. I learned a lot from Tom Benvenuto who is an incredible producer and engineer. I started dabbling in buying pieces of equipment here and there and now I have a full fledged studio in my house.”

Eventually, Jim saw the necessity of forming an indie label to further help promote bands that he was working with. “We were getting dissatisfied with the music scene around here. So we wanted to find the best local talent we could, and get it in shape and present it in a national forum.” Pooling financial resources with friend John Bernhardt, Black Dog Recordings was launched. The first signee was a band called Unhinged who unfortunately broke up just as they finished recording their debut album. In spite of this setback, Jim and John soldiered on, soon signing another youthful local band Days Difference. There is a bit of a buzz growing about this band already even though there has not been an official nationwide release of the debut CD yet. Jim takes the early buzz in stride and has to be realistic with how to grow both Days Difference and Black Dog Recordings.  “If you can sell the units and build a model to move five or ten thousand units in your home market, you are going to perk up a lot of attention. Then you have to find people who want to pick up what you did and go do that in another city. When you do grass roots like that, you can have a career. You’re not a fad or a one hit wonder. You can start building it, playing small shit clubs, and then graduate to the larger venues, while meeting every fan possible along the way.”

Over the years, Jim has done graphic design, music manufacturing, and also did an A&R web page called The A&R Scout that listed information on bands such as Drowning Pool, Stereomud and Flickerstick before they became famous. There is nothing new that Jim is really thinking of doing in the music business at this moment. His main focus is to keep growing the success of Black Dog Recordings and their current and future roster.  “We need to keep finding artists that we fall in love with. That is the best place for us to start. We have to find the talent and work the living crap out of it. My goal is not to be the biggest label in the world. We want to just put out the best music possible that people will enjoy. That is what it is all about because I am someone who really enjoys music myself.”


Jim Anderson’s advice for musicians: “Get out and do it. Stop talking about it and stop bitching. No one is going to give you an opportunity - you have to take it. You have to realize that you have to work hard whether you have a label involved or not. Some bands think they get signed and then all the work is over. When you get signed, it is a whole new animal. There are seventy-thousand releases a year. You have to make your dent in the industry and you are not going to do that by sitting around and saying, 'hey, I got signed, the label is going to take care of everything'. It takes a combined effort from the band, booking agent, label, manager, PR people, the whole thing has to run cohesively.”
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