TUNED UP Special: Dave Elkins (formerly of Mae, current Schematic founder) interview
Dave Elkins is perhaps best known for being the long time frontman of Mae, a successful alternative/emo influenced rock band that had stints on both Tooth and Nail and Capitol Records. The band headlined a number of successful tours and has opened for the likes of The Fray and Motion City Soundtrack. Now, Dave is a businessman eager to embrace the cutting edge of music business. I AM TUNED UP caught up with him on post-Mae life and his new venture, Schematic.
RYAN GETZ: At what point did you sense your career shifting from full time music to music business?
DAVE ELKINS: Mae started out with a very “DIY” attitude. Coming out of the gate, we self-produced our first record, Destination: Beautiful and through a licensing agreement with Tooth & Nail Records, we sold well over 100,000 records, teaching us the value of growing our brand slowly and steadily and being at a place of leverage, being able to own our own masters. After a great run with Tooth & Nail, and a lesson learning experience on Capitol Records, Mae spent the last 3 years and 3 releases as a fully independent, self-managed, self-produced, and self-labeled band. Starting and finishing Mae’s run with my bandmates and myself fully engaged in band business and getting an opportunity to understand and reap the benefits of a well-oiled autonomous machine was definitely the foundation for my creation of Schematic.
What’s the meaning behind “Schematic?”
Schematic literally means a diagram or plan. One fundamental we hope to bring to every artist we partner with is a well developed plan that will allow our artists to live within their means and with practical and methodical evaluation help them develop careers and nest eggs and opportunities for a long term successful future.
In what order do you wish to prioritize the different divisions of Schematic personally, if at all? Why?
That really depends on the artists we work with. Some artists are looking solely for management. Some have a record ready for a release and a manager they’re working with and they are looking for Schematic Records to partner with them and help with the release. Some are simply looking to get into the studio. We always hope that we can successfully partner with our artist, help them understand the landscape and the realities of music business while putting them on a trajectory for real growth and long term success.
How do you hope that Schematic will stand out from other social networks promoting music?
As important as “The Community” is for Schematic to succeed, I hope that in time Schematic will be known as the entity that always provides the best knowledge and experiences in the music industry and only operates with the best interest of the artist in mind. From only doing “licensing deals” to our management rule that artists are only commissionable if they are profitable, Schematic will be a social network that only thrives and grows if our artists are doing so before us.
Compare/contrast Schematic the music project with your previous projects.
Having my own studio has really opened up the doors of creativity again for me. Being responsible for all of the ingredients also has been a challenge I’ve looked forward to facing. I was a drummer in my very first band, bass player, in my 2nd, and played a little keys as a hired gun along with bass, guitar, and back up vocals when I played with my friend, Kenna. Since I’m performing most of the instrumentation and arranging practically everything on my new project, I’m challenged to practice and get better at my primary instruments and anything that’s sitting around the studio. I’m having a lot of fun with experimentation and vibe and ambience in the studio as well. Some songs I’m writing these days will come at you and you’ll think “That sounds like a new Mae song.” Other songs might catch you by surprise.
Do you have any special plans for the blogging community?
Since we intend for Schematic to be a complete microcosm with the music and art industry, we look forward to contributing our own blog as well as sending our community to articles and blogs covering innovation and change in the industry on a daily basis. We will always strive to bring the most up to date information to our artists and our community so they can always feel well equipped to handle their business in an industry who’s rules are constantly changing. What a better way to do so than to be subscribed to a number great blogs within the community.
Enough of the Schematic talk – how’s post-Mae life been otherwise?
Post-Mae life has been great! I’ve been living in Nashville for the last two years, building Schematic Studios, producing a bunch of great bands, slowly working on my solo stuff, and plugging into the Nashville community. For me, the Mae hiatus has been about unplugging from the band, as being in Mae is absolutely a full time job. I’ve been able to start over in a new city and embrace the challenges and learning experiences needed to build something new in Music City USA.
Do you still keep up with your ex-bandmates? Are they a part of any ventures music enthusiasts should be aware of?
Absolutely! We’re all in the middle of new endeavors but still we are best friends and the reason for our break has more to do with personal life ventures and nothing to do with an inability to get along or be creative together. Both Jacob and Zach are managing bands back home in VA. Unfortunately, they aren’t currently playing anything musically that they are building towards but marriage, school, new careers, and new growth are what challenge the three of us these days.
In general, what trends should musicians and fans alike be paying the most attention to?
Practically everyone knows about crowdfunding techniques such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, PledgeMusic, etc. One thing we hope to bring to our artists who utilize these incredible methods is to help them understand that once the crowdfunding is complete, the “real work” is only about to begin. These are prime opportunities to build and grow the brands and yet so much energy and time is exhausted during these campaigns (I should know, I’m in the middle of one right now) Since many of our bands will have used these crowdfunding techniques to bring recording, manufacturing, touring, marketing, etc. budgets to their team, we wish to help them stretch these dollars, conserve their energy, and understand how to properly strike while the iron is hot. When DIY artists work hard, results are easier to see and to celebrate. Pacing the work accordingly and having a forum that shows results are what we hope to add to the equation. Being an artist operating independently, semi- independently, with a major label, and completely independently again, my allegiance is to the artists and their hard work. I hope that Schematic will be known for a business of integrity, knowledge, and innovation. Of course, I hope that Schematic artistry will be as excellent as it can possibly be!
What songs and/or artists are dominating your playlist(s) right now?
Schematic’s two newest artists, Asker: an Indie rock band from Minneapolis, and Treehouse: a socially conscious hip-hop band from Chicago.
Thanks for your time! Any final words?
www.indiegogo.com/thisisschematic Please spread the word!!