EftMega: A Q&A with Evan Baken

“Support your scene and It’ll support you.” There are no gimmicks or algorithms behind consumer-friendly digital music store EftMega, just the desire to help musicians earn money and exposure by doing what they love, and in turn help listeners discover new artists on their own. Site founder and The Movielife drummer, Evan Baken is no stranger to the inner workings of the music industry, nor is he a stranger to the everyday struggles of trying to make a living as a musician. EftMega strives to break down those barriers between artists and their listeners, all while giving the artist complete control and ownership of their music. A win-win for both musicians and fans alike, EftMega promises to reshape the way we find and purchase new music.

Read more about EftMega below, and check out the collection of music here.

Interview by Shannon Shumaker

What first gave you the idea to start EftMega? 

I’ve been disenchanted with the music business since my band signed our first deal with Revelation Records way back when.  The industry was a necessary evil, we had no choice – we needed our music in stores and we needed to get our music out to as many people as possible.  With so few choices, the deals were unfavorable for artists like me.  I’ve been working in this biz for almost 20 years now and we still aren’t at a point where this situation has become favorable for the artist.  Most artist deals remain lopsided, most labels want commitments for a long term, and most want to own your albums and pieces of your publishing, touring and merch.

Distribution has become so much easier but it comes at a time when labels can’t even sell music.  We are facing limitless possibilities for artists to reach people today without a proper platform to bring all this in, focus consumers and convince them to pay for music.  I wanted to create a site that fixed all these issues and not only served to help artists today but also would have helped my band back in the day.  The idea that there could be a place that would get our music out to people, let us keep ownership of our albums, and show everyone just how hard we were working is what led me to create EftMega.

Can you tell us a little bit about EftMega? What sets it apart from other digital music stores or streaming services?

So we’re different in a few ways: we only sell albums, every album sells for $6.25, we don’t make any recommendations to users based on their purchases or listening habits, we rank all our artists by effort, and we categorize everyone by scene.  To me, I think back to the days when my friends and I would go to a record store and just rifle through all the bins of music and try to find shit that looked cool and then sounded cool.  It was always fun finding new stuff or coming across something that we read someone shout out in a magazine.  There was an excitement about finding new music.  I wanted to add that element to the site.  I like the idea of people spending a little time finding good stuff.  I feel psychologically, when you find something you like and you find it yourself, you stick with it a bit longer.  I am not sold on all the talk of curation and recommendation software primarily because music is personal, and although there are obvious ways to recommend music, beyond that the programs usually break down.  The music I love taps into a time and place, a moment where something else was going on linked to my listening of an album and that stuff never leaves me.  Machines can’t pick up on that.  The industry is too consumed with big data.  They only recommend based on patterns, and when I was looking at web companies to build the site, most of them were appalled that I would have customers actually spend time clicking through a site to find stuff they liked.  I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.  Beyond that I’m convinced that a large portion of recommendations are based on payola.  The effort part comes in to play with the idea of these recommendations and if label dollars are behind what customers see and how often they see it.  I’ve always wanted a system of exposure that felt fair, one that wasn’t based on money, who you know, labels favors, etc.

How does EftMega help artists make a profit off of their music? How does it benefit these artists?

First every artist is ranked by effort, so the harder they work the more exposure they get on my site.  That helps them get seen without spending money on advertising or placement.  The ranking system can also be used to help artists make decisions.  I can use my data to show them areas they are weak and areas they are strong and help them work to grow their fanbase, again at no cost.  Also, every artist gets categorized by scene so I have a better way of showing potential fans where these artists live, the type of music they play, the community they play in, and how that community connects to other ones around the globe.  And because we only sell albums digitally, I can afford to give most of the money on those sales to the artists, directly into their pockets.  I know there are other sites that allow musicians to put up music and take a percent of sales, but I do want to point out that most of those sites make the artist pick up the credit card fees, which we don’t.  Additionally I’m fairly certain on most of those sites they have packages an artist can buy for better site features, or seo help, or some type of a&r nonsense.  I’m happy to give artists any help I can, any advice I think is worthwhile and any connections they could benefit from.  Whomever I help in this business will in turn help me and we’ll have a good support system that no one has to pay for.

Artists are ranked by effort on the website, which I think is a really interesting way to give them incentive and prove that hard work pays off. What gave you the idea to rank it this way?

I always wanted a system that I felt was fair, and when I was a touring musician I felt so many things were unfair.  It was unfair certain bands got their videos played while others didn’t, it was unfair which bands got radio play or in-store marketing, which ones got on better tours and which ones couldn’t sniff record deals.  I wanted people to check out my band cause we worked our ass off.  We took every fucking show we could get, drove countless miles just for the chance to get in front of new people, grew our fanbase slowly without piggybacking off anyone else’s coattails.  That’s what I wanted people to know, but there wasn’t a way to convey that.  So when I talk about effort, I mean a way to quantify those type of things bands like mine did and using that as the means for picking who gets exposed on my site. I wanted a system that made it possible for bands of varying sizes to be able to compete for the same exposure based solely on their work ethic.  That way they all have the same chances but also know they can influence the results.  I feel under those terms, the cream will rise to the top and the most deserving artists will be seen. I don’t make any claims as to anyone being better than anyone else, just who deserves the most attention for the week.  Hopefully, that’s a better way of helping people discover new music.

Each record is only $6.25, with the artists making $5 in profit, compared to very small percentages made on streaming services or retailers like iTunes. What goes into being able to provide artists with an actual revenue for their work?

For one, I don’t license any of the music I sell, it’s all provided by the artists.  Streaming services have to license catalog so they have massive upfront costs to obtain music.  Since I deliver all my music digitally, I don’t have manufacturing costs, packaging costs or distribution costs.  Also, I allow anyone who wants to sell music on my site do so without exclusivity.  Major sites pay artists for exclusive albums or exclusive tracks which also leads to large outlays of cash.   My costs to run the site are small – bandwidth and merchant fees, which allow me to offer most of the revenue to the artist.

On the consumer side of things, how does EftMega benefit consumers, besides the obvious price difference from other stores?

I think I have a better starting point for discovery than other sites.  If you come here not knowing where to begin, you can look at the Top 40 and sample one track from each artist and find things that interest you.  Once you find something you like, you can find other artists by searching their scenes.  Again, the scenes show fans where the artists live, the type of music they play, the community they play in, and how that community connects to other ones around the globe. The Top 40 also serves as a bit of quality control because most artists won’t rise up the charts without a decent recording, live show, and internet presence.  Another benefit is that I offer unlimited downloads, so once something is purchased a consumer can download it more than once, basically for life, or as long as I exist.  That’s a pretty good value – a onetime purchase gets you a lifetime of music.

How can an artist get involved with EftMega?

Visit EftMega.com and click on the sign up button.  If there are any issues with the sign up process bands can always email me direct on the site (contact@eftmega.com) and I can work with them and help to get their music online.  Unlike the major music platforms, you can email and speak directly to the person who owns and controls the site, and I can help any artist get through the beginning process if they are strapped for time, or have other concerns.

Lately, there have been quite a few artists who have been gaining traction without a label or leaving their label to continue forward independently. If you could give any piece of advice to these artists, what would it be?

The main thing for me is for artists to be in control of their music.  It’s very important to me that an artist owns their own masters, even if they license it out for a period of time, as long as it reverts back to them.  I can’t stress enough, performers really need to own their own shit.  Everything that went wrong for my band was in some way because we were beholden to labels for things, and they ultimately had the final say (still to this day) as to what we could and couldn’t do with our albums.  That’s why so many bands break up and others stop making new music.  When you can’t control what happens to your art, at some point you lose all interest in producing it.  Plus, it’s much easier to make a living when you receive the lion’s share of money for the work you created.  Keep your music, keep your money.  Services, whether they are publicity or marketing or production can all be paid for by an artist – they don’t need to be given in exchange for ownership of your masters.  It’s a bit harder to get going when you have to pay for everything but worth it if you want long term success, creative control and stability.

How would you like to see EftMega grow within the next year?

I want artists to get what they deserve- money for their art and a loyal following because they were able to build a proper fanbase.  Additionally I want customers to find meaningful music, and get a good value for their money.  I want to have the best system for discovering independent new music and supporting touring artists worldwide, because that’s what artists deserve.  The ultimate goal for me is that when a new band puts out an album and decides to give a career in music a go, this is the only place they want to be at, and there are enough fans here to make it meaningful.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you would like to add?

Please check out the site whether you are a consumer or artist.  There’s some real good music up there so I think fans will be able to find some really good bands and hopefully more new artists will join up and our catalog will grow.  I welcome any suggestions for making the site better and encourage people to email me and speak freely.

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