August 11, 2013

The Pete Kilpatrick Band: A sound business plan

Thanks to advances in technology, making it in the music business nowadays is easier for everyone – and, just maybe, harder than ever.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

BRUNSWICK - Pete Kilpatrick plopped his laptop computer on a table in his living room while his 14-month-old son, Sawyer, rummaged through a box of toys on the floor.

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The Pete Kilpatrick Band plays to a packed house at The Big Easy recently in Portland.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Bandmates Matt Cosby and Pete Kilpatrick lug equipment into the Market Street venue before the show. These days, musicians often struggle to be heard above all the competition.

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Kilpatrick's wife, Molly, is a sixth-grade teacher, so he spends many weekdays at the couple's two-bedroom ranch house taking care of Sawyer and working when he can. When he has a spare moment, usually at nap time, he goes online to book gigs, check on publishing royalties, drum up ticket sales -- whatever he needs to do to keep The Pete Kilpatrick Band in business.

The folk-rock band has a sound that features Kilpatrick's warm lead vocals and quiet acoustic guitar intros combined with jazzy bass lines, soulful keyboards, fuzzy electric guitar riffs and tempos that range from breezy to dance-worthy and rockin'. The band has had a fair amount of success, getting songs on local radio and in network TV shows and films, and playing shows around the country.

But instead of sitting back and waiting for a representative from a label to discover his band and write a big check, Kilpatrick does all he can to build his band without corporate help. The group makes money playing gigs, including a national ski resort tour most winters and a few shows on the same bill with big acts like John Popper and Dave Matthews. It licenses its music to film and TV production companies, markets its own merchandise, and sells its songs directly to fans.

In a good year, Kilpatrick can make $40,000 from being in the band. But he does it by not only keeping his voice and guitar skills sharp, but by honing his business acumen as well.

In today's music industry, he doesn't really have a choice.

"There's not a lot of downtime with a 14-month-old, but when I can, I do some work. Like today, I'm checking some of our publishing accounts (online) to make sure the numbers are right, and I'll check the statements from the TV shows," said Kilpatrick, 30, sitting under a poster of his favorite band, Irish indie rockers The Frames. "And then, since we have shows coming up, I'll get on Facebook and try to get people to come out. Plus, I've got to reserve a U-Haul van."

Making it big in the music business is a completely different challenge today than it was a decade or so ago -- largely because of the double-edged sword of technology. Computer software allows those with the desire to record their own music, and the Internet and social media allow them to potentially distribute it to millions of people on their own.

But it also means there's a glut of music from which to choose and less support from traditional record companies, which have seen their businesses shrink because of changes in technology and consumer habits.

So musicians like Kilpatrick and his bandmates have to work harder -- and smarter -- to get their music heard above the din.


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