Interview with SmashMouth

Smashmouth  august 21, 2001

SmashMouth, the iconic band behind hit’s like “All Star” and “I’m a Believer” discussed the evolution of their career and shared some tips for emerging artists with Backtrack.

How did you decide to become a professional musician? Nobody decides to be a professional musician. We all wanted to be Rock Stars as kids so we started a band and it just happened to work. We didn’t know it then but a band is sorta like a start-up company, most don’t even get off the ground.

How did SmashMouth form? Cheating,lying and criminal activity. It was also a conscious decision,….Do we play in cover bands our whole lives or take a chance at something new&original. Maybe we can create our own hits instead of playing other peoples hits our entire lives.

How did SmashMouth develop their sound? It came naturally, half of us grew up listening to Van Halen and going to mega concerts and the other half grew up with Punk/Modern Rock hanging out on the beach surfing all day.

How did you find the right label and manager? Our Manager grew up in the same area as us and even went to the same High School with a couple of us. He started working with bands very early on. We we’re lucky enough to get a song spinning on KRoq in LA and we found ourselves in a label bidding war. Interscope Records was very aggressive and it just felt right from the start, they also came to the table with the strongest budget. Jimmy Iovine basically wouldn’t let us leave the building without signing a deal. The dude had John Lennon’s piano in his damn office, that was impressive.

If you had to start your career over today, what would you do differently? Nothing because we’re not even sure how we did it in the first place. The experiences are so amazing we couldn’t ask for anything to be different.

How did you maintain a healthy relationship with your fans throughout the years? I’m not sure we did to be honest. As our sound changed and developed so did our fans. Whenever a small punk type of band gets widely popular you lose some of the diehards along the way but gain new ones. We ended up with a lot of fans who loved our songs. They love our songs much more than us as individuals and that’s perfectly fine with us.

What is your opinion on streaming services, and do you feel as though they are a viable platform for emerging artists to distribute their music? Of course, it’s another vehicle to get your music out there. The lack of sales from streaming only affects about 1% of artists/bands in the entire biz because there’s only 1% making real revenue from sales anyways.

With such a unique sound, how were you able to find your target audience? We didn’t know anything about a “Target Audience”. We played what we loved and the audience found us. “Walkin On The Sun” was very new & fresh so younger audiences gravitated toward it but so did older folks because it reminded them of The Doors. Then we created “All Star” and at first our built-in AltRock fan base loved it but we also gained a kid type of audience because “Shrek” picked it up. The song was already charting top10 before Shrek licensed it however people think the movie broke the song. Totally not true, the film moved it to another “Target Audience” called “The Kiddie” world. Hence Radio Disney came along with it and all of a sudden we we’re on tour with NSYNC. In other words the Target Audience keeps changing at the same time staying the same.

Do you believe that new technology will allow for more opportunities for emerging artists such as finding a manager, book shows, getting signed, and finding the right audience? New technology helps bands move forward without a manager and/or label. The trick is to accomplish the most you can within the band and not even concern yourself with a manager,label or even agent. They will find you once you become attractive. When we came up we didn’t have access and transperancy like you have today. Heck the internet wasn’t even invented yet, not even email. So you had to find someone who had access to the hidden secret world of the music biz. Nowadays you can reach the masses all by yourself.

What is the most useful advice you can give to aspiring, unsigned musicians?


Bring something “Unique&Great” to the music scene and you will stir waves. Don’t try and chase trends, you will always trail those trends. Make sure you LOVE what you’re creating otherwise you will come across as a car salesman. You’re selling music but you’re also selling a lifestyle and a piece of yourself so it must be authentic. That being said pay attention to current music and trends, you must know what’s currently going on so you can follow and feel the trends as they come and go. Be on the forefront of current happeings then take your songs about 5 steps ahead. Don’t write in a vaccuum, be able to reference current topics etc,…. And you must be superhuman, you have to give 100% to your music,school,job,relationships etc,… Your music can NEVER be an excuse for anything. If you have to rehearse till 2am and get up at 8am for a class the next morning you can’t complain, put on your cape and fly. Also realize nobody in your family wants you to be a musician so don’t fight it. They will NEVER believe it’s a real job even when you earn your first million. Do not look for acceptance because it won’t happen.

How To Start My Music Career

Every year, thousands of people attempt to start their music career. With new technology and online services, this is now a journey that anyone can navigate. Making yourself knowledgeable about the evolving music industry is your key to starting a sustainable and successful music career.

How serious are you about your music career? This question might seem silly, but knowing the answer is essential to defining your personal success. Do you want this to be your side job or your career? Figure this out for yourself and you can approach your career with purpose, and this will be evident in your work.

Create your own music. As an unsigned artist, you can differentiate yourself from other emerging or established musicians by showcasing your original work. Have a repertoire of original songs readily available to showcase and perform. Record your music well; either invest in recording equipment, software or time at a local recording studio. However, the quality of your production is not the deciding factor for a label or manager. Nonetheless, it is important to ensure that you provide labels and managers with the best representation of your sound.

Copyright and protect your music. If you distribute your music online via aggregators or record labels, then you must protect yourself from intellectual property theft and copyright infringement. Copyright can be conducted without a lawyer, maximizing efficiency and reducing expenses. This is a necessity, regardless of the status of your career.

Consider a membership to performing rights organizations such as ASCAP, BMI or SESAC. They will work to ensure that royalties are distributed to you appropriately. While it might not seem important in the beginning, the foundation of legal protection is necessary for your music to flourish commercially in the future.

Analyze your current situation in terms of your career status, expectations, and goals. Should you be looking for a manager, aggregator, or label? Managers book shows, put you in contact with labels, and cover public relations, usually at the price of a retainment cost, however certain agreements result in a percentage of your revenue. Aggregators distribute your music efficiently to all the digital retailers and streaming services for a fee. Record labels assume responsibility for distribution, legalities, and marketing for a percentage of your revenue. When finalizing a contract with a label, there are two avenues to consider: Assignment and Licensing. Assignment results in the signing away of all rights to the label in return for extreme support as well as commitment from the label. Assignment ensures trust on both ends as the artist believes the label is fully capable of handling not only their music but their career. On the other hand, the other conclusion is through licensing your music to the label. The artist will be able to maintain their rights to the music, however, the relationship with the label will be weaker as less trust is evident. What you decide will depend on the size of the label that signs you, your desired relationship with your label, and your vision for your music career.

You need to be heard, seen, and constantly thought of. Create a simple webpage that describes who you are, gives upcoming show dates, and links visitors to music and social networking feeds. Your social media presence must be strong if you want to be a relevant force in an extremely competitive industry.

Backtrack, a music service dedicated to connecting unsigned artists with managers and record labels throughout the world, makes the rapidly evolving music industry more accessible to those who seek to start a professional music career. The conventional method of starting any music career requires a lot of time, effort, dedication, and money–all of which are the necessary and inevitable costs of touring. By giving artists direct access to managers and labels on its digital platform, Backtrack reduces the amount of touring that is needed to get noticed or discovered by labels and managers, thus saving the artist a significant amount of money. Backtrack uses software to connect you to the global labels and managers that would be best for you, based on your goals, sounds, and visions. Furthermore, Backtrack offers organizational and analytical tools which you can use to further develop your sound and image, thus growing your musical career and potential and making you an attractive prospect for record labels and managers.

Starting a successful music career used to seem impossible. It was easy to feel hopeless and overwhelmed by the roadblocks, uncertainty, and magnitude of competition. However, Backtrack is committed to making your music career a very feasible reality, because we believe every voice should have the opportunity to be heard by the right people throughout the world. So go ahead, if you’re talented and passionate and ready to start your career, you can be confident that Backtrack is actively rooting for you and ready to take your career to the next level.


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