State of unEARTH-01

State of the unEARTH Address – March 2014

Hello unEARTHicans,

My name is Ben Kashuk and I am a co-founder of the Orange County-based media group, unEARTH Music Hub along with Josh Davis and Michael Klein. This “State of the unEARTH Music Hub Address” is coming to you due to our drive to be transparent in all things we do. We have been a company for over a year now (a year and 4 months to be exact) and we strongly believe in the notion of full disclosure. More specifically, making you, the followers/supporters, aware of what we have been up to, where we came from, and telling a few success stories. Our goal is to keep you updated with not only the local music scene, but with what we are doing to continue to provide the freshest, most consistent, and reliable information on local music. Here at the unEARTH Music Hub, we feel there is something to be said about your source for information, and herein lies our need for transparency, so that you may not only enjoy the content we put out, but trust it as well.

We Are Growing:

To begin, being that as of two months ago we were only an army of 3, we have been forced to wear many hats in order to get literally anything done. Jobs overlapped and specialty roles were created until one day, specifically around the 1st of the year, a solid infrastructure was put in place for growth, consistency and creativity. Now we have doubled in numbers with a staff of six and are in need of more hardworking contributors to keep up with the demand and events. But why have we needed to grow? To answer that question I want to begin with what our ideas were back in December of 2012, when we first formed.

In the beginning the roles of three co-founders were as follows: I knew the bands/artists and networked the crap out of them, Michael Klein was involved in video production, and Josh Davis was heavily involved in audio production as an accomplished audio engineer. We decided to put these skills together in a very narrow way with the idea of providing high-budget, live video shoots at low-budget costs. At this early stage, our ultimate goal was to attempt to have this done at no expense to the bands and that this service could be provided by the pockets of sponsors.

A few things were wrong with this framework:
1. We didn’t have sponsors.
Therefore…
2. We didn’t have money.

We learned a valuable lesson after we worked on two medium-budgeted productions with some of Orange County’s BEST acts. By no fault of the bands, who are our dear friends, and as a complete attribute to our naiveté, we ended up taking two HEAVY hits on our wallets and egos as we plowed through about eight months of harsh reality. The results were thousands of dollars in debt and more man-hours than we can count. The plus-side of these two shoots was the fact that we created videos whose numbers quickly shot up over 1,000. This isn’t bad; but for the efforts we put into it, we were hoping for 10’s to 100,000’s of views.

We Lived and Learned:

We almost disbanded after the hit of these two big productions. A few months went by with us feeling sorry for ourselves but we pulled ourselves back up and took our ideas back to the drawing board. We still have the skills, but how do we do it at no cost? The answer: Use what we have. Our next step was to develop something that was easy to produce, informative, and entertaining. From this stream of ideas we developed the Ground Sound Podcast.

The Ground Sound Podcast

Simply put, the Ground Sound Podcast has been the easiest form of media to produce, the most fun to produce and the highest growing traffic source since our first episode on October 2, 2013. It is a simple show. The format goes: Spotlight two underground bands (one local, one not local), rate/review a new mainstream album, discuss current events, laugh, and drink beer. We have quadrupled our viewership from the 1st to 2nd season having an average of 50-60 weekly views to having 200-400 weekly views in the span of about 2 months. At this rate we are getting well over 1,000 views a month and if this trajectory continues, we can only expect double for next season.

The Ground Sound Podcast also marked the beginning of Derrick Chan’s involvement with unEARTH. His music background and insight has provided a crucial layer to the show dynamic and his hosting personality on the show is irreplaceable. He has picked up responsibilities in all departments and has become an avid member of team.

Something I like to note in an analysis of the Ground Sound viewership is that it has been harder to compare view counts on older episodes with newer, because the old episodes are still growing as well. What does that tell us? It tells us that we are gaining new followers. With every new episode we release, followers are going back and listening to past episodes. A lot of these segments are not time sensitive. Not only will listeners find a great band to listen to in every episode, you’ll (usually) learn about the people in the band. We can’t fake or write this stuff. Our entertainment and knowledge value is only as strong as the shows we go to and who we decide to partner with and talk about. This brings me to my next point: Where we have found the foundation of our success.

We Live This Stuff:

It’s not uncommon to go to shows 4 out of the 7 days of the week. We have gone to 9 shows in 7 days. “But Ben, how do you do that?!” There has always been three of us, and we have made friends and partners all around Orange County so it hasn’t been uncommon for us to split our efforts and make an appearance at multiple events in an evening. Our goal is to keep ahead of the trends and support not only our friends, but to discover new acts.

The Website:

Not the most effective of segways, but this spawns my need to address the website. When we started unEARTH Music Hub we knew we needed a website to store all of our past/present/future media endeavors. Luckily, ‘unearthmusichub.com’ was available and we have held that domain ever since. When we began, however, we were using WIX as a host. We soon realized that through WIX we couldn’t efficiently or effectively update our website to the degree we wanted. We wanted to produce media on a daily basis or at least have the option to and with all of us having day jobs or attending grad school, it wasn’t working with the WIX format.

In January we switched to WordPress. With the switch we revealed our current, updated layout and provided a medium that is not only easy for us to update, but easy to navigate for users, and (most importantly) easy for other contributors to update. Herein lies what I believe is our biggest room for improvement: We are doing our best to get videos out that will result in website updating, but the written article side is the biggest area of growth that we need at this point. I have been the main contributor/writer since the beginning of the website. Not to fish for sympathy, but rather to tell you how it is; I wake up between 6:30-7:30 AM everyday to go to work and stay up until 1:00-2:00 AM either writing articles or attending events. That is the reality. So you should know, be it a stupid list article that is begging for a cheap laugh or a special podcast tidbit that you couldn’t get anywhere else, know that we (not just I) slaved away getting that to you by the means of little sleep and driven by passion and stubbornness.

So in terms of what we can improve upon, we are releasing on average about 3-4 articles a week, different days of the week. Our traffic, given these few updates, is surprisingly really good with just under 10,000 views since we launched three months ago. It isn’t bad considering we started with zero. We are growing. There have been weeks when an article was written and released every day for an entire week. The numbers on that week revealed potential for where we hope to be on a regular basis. To help grow this segment of unEARTH, we have added 3 new writers to the team:

Matt Zimmerman
Tierney Bartling
Sara Escalante

All have outstanding music tastes, most we see at events as often as ourselves, and all have the ability and want to transcend from not just a writer but everything else we do as well. They are go getters who need little-to-no management, and want to use our mediums to grow the brand, their names, and try things they have never done before. We like to think of them as partners as opposed to contributors.

To Conclude / Looking Forward:

We are working hard to make sure our followers are getting the best, most recent, and most in depth, information on the web in regards to music media. Our biggest asset thus far has been our versatility and ability to transcend the confines of standard written word reviews. We have video interviews, album reviews, podcasts, live performance videos, audio specialties, thought-provoking articles, light-hearted articles, and everything in between. As of March, we added a few more departments to our wheelhouse: event/production planning, and partnering with craft breweries and beer blogs.

On March 7th we put both of these new assets to the test when we put together a live show in conjunction with Ballast Point where we threw the biggest tap take-over in Orange County to date with 26 beers on tap. We were at capacity for hours at the Copper Door with an estimated 500-700 attendees. Everybody won. The bands were well received and got to play to new audiences. Ballast Point gained new ground from the music crowd present. Copper Door made a killing, because we clearly packed the house. We got to get our name out there to new potential viewership. The audience/beer attendees/showgoers won because the event was killer. That is going to be the key to our success in the world of event planning. We are not going to be a production company. At least for now, it doesn’t look that way. We are going to throw events with everyone in mind, especially the audience. With attendee-mindedness in event planning, everyone wins. We isolate our target market (the viewers/followers/music and beer geeks), provide the right product (bands and beer), and utilize the right venue (beer havens like Copper Door). Simply put, that is our equation for success.

From the bottom of our hearts, here at the unEARTH Music Hub, we thank you for your loyalty, support, and viewership thus far in everything we have done. We have been working our butts off in the music world here in Orange County and have big dreams of expanding our brand into other markets until there is a unEARTH branch in every major city here in the west… and beyond. We couldn’t even visualize this possibility if it weren’t for the undying support of those we have partnered with and you who tune into the website now again. We will continue to grow and updating you on all things we do. Per usual, there are big plans in the works and we can’t wait to tell the world about them!

I will close with this: If you or a friend is interested in writing/producing/planning/coordinating for the unEARTH Music Hub please contact me at ben@unearthmusichub.com. As mentioned before, we are always searching for new contributors because we have too much going on here at home and everywhere else in the West for us to get to. We are always growing and transforming and are always open to fresh ideas. Join our ranks… if you dare!

Thanks,
Ben Kashuk

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