NEWSFLASH! Bronson has just published his first
book! Buy it NOW!
I've known Bronson Herrmuth for a year or two and always
found him to be an interesting person to talk to. Bronson
has tons of experience in the music industry ranging from
performing, writing, producing, to publishing and beyond.
In my professional contact with him, I've always found him to be
a fair and honest and encouraging person who is very excited to
lend a hand or a helpful word of advice. I think you'd be
hard-pressed to find a more positive and friendly
I think that Bronson has a unique perspective on music and
business and I thought it would be interesting to ask him about
Can you explain what you do in the music business?
I am Creative Manager for Al Jolson Enterprises, Inc., and President of
Iowa HomeGrown Music,
Stepping Stone Productions and
SongRepair.com. I work in music publishing, studio and live music production, and songwriter/artist
You started your company in Iowa, how did you come to move from Iowa to
Johnny Drake and I founded Iowa HomeGrown Music together in 1986 in Lee
County, Iowa. In 1988 The Ozone Ramblers decided that if we wanted another
recording contract, we needed to record our new music again in Nashville.
Johnny's Dad, Pete Drake, who I was writing for and who had produced us in
1981 and helped us get signed to RCA, agreed to produce us again with Johnny
engineering and co producing. We went into Pete's studio and cut six songs,
but Pete who was in failing health, got too sick to go back in to the
studio, and so we put the project on hold, but then Pete died. We never have
finished those tracks, we just decided it wouldn't be right, without Pete,
so those tapes are still in the Ozone Rambler vault.
By then it was 1989, and we knew it was time to relocate the band to
Nashville if we wanted to get another deal. We had cut two more sessions in
Nashville with Johnny Drake and Greg Kane, one at Hank Cochrans studio, so
we had new recordings to pitch, once we had made the move. When the "smoke
cleared" not everyone was ready to make that final move, so we put the band
on hold and I moved for the second time to Nashville, where Johnny and I
started pitching our songs, working with other songwriters, and building the
song catalog of Iowa HomeGrown Music. In 1992 we opened our office's on
Music Row, where we are still located today.
I know you have a long history in performing and touring too. Can you
My first paid gig in a club I was seven. Now 46, I have performed
states and 18 countries. Signed to RCA Mexico from 1981-1985 with my band,
The Ozone Ramblers, who celebrate 25 years of touring together in January
2003. Some of the artists I have shared the stage with include Billy Ray
Cyrus, Suzy Bogguss, Ray Stevens, David and Allen Frizzell, Johnny Bush, Hal
David, Len Doolin and John Schneider. Some of the artists I have opened for
include Willie Nelson, Edwin McCain, Johnny Paycheck, The Ozark Mountain
Daredevils, The Lost Gonzo Band, Black Oak Arkansas, Johnny Rodriguez,
Little Jimmy Dickens, and The Imperials. Professionally I play Harmonica,
Fiddle, Mandolin and acoustic Guitar, and I sing Lead and Harmony vocals.
(The Ozone Ramblers, circa 1981)
Did you find audiences different in different parts of the country, and
different parts of the world?
After so many years of playing music professionally, I pride myself on being
a very high energy performer, and I am always working hard to be even
better. An audience is an audience to me, be it 1 person or 10,000.
Obviously the more in to it that a crowd is, the more they "give back" to
the performer and that of course helps "fuel" the show and makes it lots
easier to keep that energy level, but to me it doesn't matter. If you put
together your show right, you should be able to entertain anyone, anywhere,
that is open to the style of music that you play. Preparing and delivering
an ovation getting type show, is the key to success when performing live.
The ability to walk on stage, in any given situation and slay them. To leave
the audience begging for more, no matter who they are, or where You are.
Including big shot record executives who have seen it "all".
No doubt that playing overseas means having to deal with the different
language barriers and customs of the people where you are, but my experience
when playing in other countries has always been very positive and lots of
fun. The majority of times, the people are More into it, because they rarely
get to see the "real deal". I mean, American performers playing American
music live, right there in their hometown. In the states, you are just one
of thousands of bands playing that night, but overseas, you are very special
to your audience because you have come so far to entertain them, and that is
so cool. I have met so many people from all over the world playing music,
and that is the coolest part. Those ongoing relationships.
You've played all over the country and all over the world. What was your
favorite place to play? Also, what was your favorite type of place to play?
I have performed in bars, nightclubs, show rooms, concert halls, stadiums,
bullfight arenas, fairs and festivals, live on the radio, on TV, in videos,
on riverboats, on an aircraft carrier, in casinos, ball rooms, churches, on
beaches, mountain tops, Indian reservations and rodeos, for Kings,
Princess's and Presidents, in a castle, a prison, at weddings and at
With that said, I have lots of favorites so this is a hard question for me
to just pick one. I guess the Island of Mallorca is right at the top, when I
was playing with Milan & Biblioni in the mid seventies. Such a beautiful
island and Juan and Pepe were so much fun to jam with. We played clubs,
after hour venues and we also street picked, for the tourists and the
locals. It was very very cool.
The "was" part of your question should be "is" since my last gig was night
before last, but I know what you mean. I love playing outside at fairs and
festivals, big crowds, big stages with a lot of room to move, big PA's.
Nothing like the rush from getting up in front of thousands of people and
putting on a concert. Outside is always tops for me, of course, weather
permitting. I have played outside many times and got hit by bad weather, and
that isn't much fun at all, and usually very costly when it comes to losing
gear and hard on old acoustic instruments.
What was the best gig you've ever had?
The first night that The Ozone Ramblers played in Mexico City and were
offered recording contracts by 7 different record companies in the dressing
room after the show. It was an incredible night and we chose RCA, though we
did end up recording a session for Capitol - EMI too on our second tour
where we actually sang in Spanish. That was wild.
Everybody has one, tell me about the worst gig you've ever had.
It was New Years Eve, 1991for the grand opening of a private club in
"somewhere" Florida. We drove from Nashville to the gig and as soon as we
got there, the owner started pushing us to party with him. We had very
strict rules about partying when we were playing by then, but being New
Years Eve, the club owner pushing us, we said what the heck. BIG mistake and
the whole band got totally wiped out, and by the time we hit the stage, we
were a mess. We were hired to do 3 shows that night but I don't remember
playing the last one, and it is probably best that I don't. Almost all of us
got very sick, and the next morning as we left to return to Nashville, there
was an ice storm. We could only go about 25, 30 miles an hour All the way
back and with most of us sick, it was a horrible ride back. Of course we
were all also very embarrassed and dreading hearing what our Manager and
Agent would have to say to us when we got back to town, and they did not
disappoint us. One of the only gigs we have ever done, where we were not
asked to return. A total disaster.
So many bands come and go nowadays. What do you think was the secret of The
Ozone Ramblers' success at staying together for so long? Are you still
together as a regular band or do you just get together for special occasions?
The Ozone Ramblers started in January of 1978 as a four piece bluegrass
band. Over the last 24 years, there have been 18 different people who have
been in the band. The last time we performed in August 2002, there were
seven of us on stage, including all four of the original members who founded
the band. I am the only one who has been there since the beginning and have
played on all of our recordings. Several members have quit and come back on
more than one occasion as the years have passed, and two have died. We get
together to perform several times a year, usually to raise money for
something like Jerry's kids, or a benefit of some type, though we do still
do occasional paid gigs. Our next performance together will be over the
Christmas Holiday up in Iowa and we will be having a big official 25th year
reunion gig after the first of the year. That will be a very special show.
Keeping a band together is hard work but really quite simple. The reason
that The Ozone Ramblers are still together is that I have kept them
together. Obviously the other members have everything to say about their
involvement, but I have refused to let the band cease to exist, and I will
continue to do so, until the day they bury me. Obviously we are not pursuing
a record deal, and no longer live on the road, but there has always been a
special magic that happens when The Ozone Ramblers hit a stage that people
can identify with and feel. Our fans now range over several generations and
we are very proud of the fact that we have always been a band for all ages,
and that we have always put on a family type show. We have been through a
lot together and it is a very strong bond that we have as a band and with
our Fans. A very special bond that all of us respect and have pledged to
maintain. The only way to keep a band together is to not let it die. Total
refusal to even entertain the thought of breaking up, and the willingness
and complete dedication to do what ever it is that you have to, to keep it
going, No Matter What.
How do you get new clients? I mean do people find you through your
website etc and contact you, or do you go out looking for new clients?
Client really is not the right word for the people I work with and
represent. Songwriters, Artists, Singers, Musicians, Bands are who I work
with, either as a publisher, or as a producer. They find me mostly, through
books where our companies are listed, from the web sites, from word of
mouth. We do advertise occasionally but it is more to promote the songs we
publish, or the people we work with, than to actually promote the company. I
am approached on a daily basis from folks all over the world, the majority
of which are through packages in the mail, then by telephone, then by email
or in person. All ages, all styles, pretty much equally male and female
these days. It is non ending and we get a lot. Boxes full. I get invited to
lots of showcases, performances, many of which I attend. I have several
songwriters/artists I work with where the relationship started by meeting
them at a music conference or seminar that I was attending, or speaking at
on a panel.
Care to give a brief list of some of your clients and what they've done?
To answer this question properly, I would just invite you to visit
site where you can read about most of them and listen to their music. To
list a few, I would feel like I was disrespecting the others, as each and
every one of them, are just as important to me in their own right and all
part of our creative Family.
The most well known songwriter/artist that I have worked with creatively
would be Suzy Bogguss, and her career speaks for itself. In my opinion, Suzy
is one of the best female vocalist in Nashville, today, and she has been for
a long time. No disrespect intended, to any of the other female singers when
I say this, but Suzy singing on a bad day, tops what most of them can do, on
their best. She is the only singer I have ever produced that has perfect
How do you see the internet in terms of bands these days. Do you think it
helps or hurts? I sometimes think the internet is as much a hindrance
it is a help because I think maybe people get addicted to it and don't play
out or concentrate as much on the music.
The internet is an incredible source for information and for promotion, if
used properly. The easy access to finding places to play, radio stations in
the area you are going, accommodations, directions, media info, right at your
Sure, I see that. The internet IS a great resource for researching all those things and can be a huge asset for promotion. What are your thoughts on having a band website?
Having a website for your band is now just part of it, and a
great chance to present yourself visually and musically to a global
audience. With that said, if you are parked behind a computer, then you are
not on stage and that is a major negative. A website is basically a virtual
promo package and can be very effective for presenting a band to anyone who
does go online and spends a lot of time on the internet. For the industry
executives that don't go online much, it is useless. Most of the people that
a band would want to work with are extremely busy individuals, and they are
working with the person sitting across from them in the room, not surfing
the net or sitting in a chat room. Another negative about the internet is
that when someone does listen to your music online, they are in most cases
listening to a squashed down mp3 file version and not hearing your music to
it's full audio potential. The ability to approach the industry by email is
very cool, and of course still free. The major problem with contacting
someone by email is that obviously they have to open it, read it, then go to
the link of your website, then actually read it and listen. Industry folks
are no different then the rest of us in this regard. If they don't already
know you and recognize your email address, they very likely will just delete
your email with a click of their mouse. I look at the internet as just one
more tool to promote yourself and your music. If you can find someone to
actively maintain your website for you, this is the ultimate. If you just
sit in front of your computer, day after day, thinking that someone is going
to come to your website, wave a magic wand and make you a Star, you are
living in la la land.
So, use the internet as an information resource and an aid to promotion, but not as your total promotion, that's very sound advice. What else is in the recipe for success or getting signed?
The bottom line for a band who is seeking out a recording contract is really very simple. The band has got to play live and
tour as much as possible. 3 or 4 nights a month in your hometown is not
touring and does not impress anyone, who is in the business. You have to
play music for your living if you want to be taken seriously by a record
company or manager or agent or attorney, etc..
Probably the worse thing I have noticed about bands and the internet, is that once they put up a
website and start creating their identity in cyber space, they think they
have now exposed themselves properly to the world and that now they don't need
a label, or manager or anyone, to make their music and promote it. They
pronounce themselves an Artist and convince themselves they are now on
another level in their career. The reality I know after over 20 years of
dealing with Music Row, is that for a band to be successful they need a
solid team around them of very talented people, doing what they do, to
promote and support the band. You can't do it alone, it does not work unless
you are independently wealthy and money is not the issue. To most bands I
know, money Is the main issue, whether they will admit it to you or not.
Don't be fooled by looking at your picture on your website, and thinking
that makes you special to anyone else in the industry. Use the internet to
your advantage, as another promotional and information gathering tool,
but don't fool yourself into thinking that spending the majority of your time on
line, is the way you are going to get a record deal.
A lot of bands now have their own CDs. What effect do you see that having
on the music industry?
Bands used to have tapes, then records, now CDs, CDrom's, DVDs. I really
don't think it is any different than it always has been. Just another format
for recording. The music industry is only concerned with the CD's or product
they are putting out in their respective companies. Even with so many CD's
coming out now, the percentage of the true artists, who honestly have a
shot, is still very tiny. Those are the only artists or bands that the
industry overall is looking for.
What is your perception of the public's opinion of indie music?
I don't think the public, the average folks out there in the world think
about it consciously at all. They manage to hear and be exposed to x amount
of music, and they like what they like. I don't think they care what label
they are on, or if they are a signed artist. They just know what They like,
and that is what they listen to and sometimes, actually support by
purchasing their product. People that are involved someway in the music
business, or are close to someone who is, are the only ones who think about
the music as indie music or major label music. The public has no reason to
care or to even think about it like that. They listen to what they like for
the sake of enjoying the music.
What is your thought on home recording equipment? I mean it's relatively
cheap and easy to use. What is your opinion of that?
Recording studios, big or small, are money pits. Everyone I know who has
ever had their own studio, always feels the need to update and add to their
gear as fast as they can and they are usually having to deal with some
equipment problem, and stressed. Just because someone buys a
equipment does not mean they know how to use it properly. Just because they
read the manual and can turn it on and make it operate does not make them a
top engineer. Whenever music is being recorded in what ever fashion, someone
is playing the role of producer. In most home studios, the person who owns
the gear is usually the actual musician playing or creating the music,
engineering the sessions, producing the sessions. In the majority of home
studios the music being recorded was also written by the studio owner. My
thoughts are, just because a person can afford to buy the equipment, set it
up, turn it on and operate it, play and sing a song they wrote into a
recording machine of some type, it doesn't automatically mean they are Good
at it, or that they really know what they are doing. I hear lots and lots of
music from all over the world that was recorded on home gear and it is
horrible. I know the person who did it thinks it is as good as anything on
the market today, and just as valid, and that is why they sent it to me.
Meanwhile when you listen to the quality of their home made recording and
the quality of music that comes out of our studio, Masterlink, their tape
becomes almost unlistenable, in recording or performance quality. No doubt
there are a tiny group of individuals who are really good at it. All parts
of it, the engineering, the musicianship, the production, the vocals, the
mix, the mastering, and they are to be commended for their work.
Meanwhile 99% of the music made in a home recording situation is what
I would call a
work tape, or a demo. Not a record. Not a Master. No way.
To sum up my thoughts on this, if you are using your home studio to put out
product as an artist, doing it all your self on home gear, more power to
you. I wish you luck, but I must say I think you are living in dream world,
if you think you will get a recording contract with a major company with the
finished product. I think a home studio is a good place to put down song
ideas, pre-production, make a demo of your song, but not a place to make
records as an artist, unless of course, you Truly are one of those few that
are really good at it, or are working with someone who is. Of course, if
your goal isn't scoring a recording contract, and you just want to record
your music inexpensively, home studio equipment is probably perfect for you.
Do you have any words of advice for new songwriters?
Lots, and many of them are in the book I have written, that is almost
finished. For the sake of this interview, I will just say this.
There was a survey of songwriters done last year, with hundreds of
songwriters, some unpublished, some established writers, some famous and
very successful writers. The findings of this survey was then looked over
by a selected group of industry exec's to make observations and comments on.
One of the questions asked was similar to this. "Do you think the reason
you have not had more success as a songwriter, is that maybe your songs are
just not good enough?" Of the 100% of songwriters surveyed, only 3% thought
that this might be the reason. 97% thought there songs were just fine, the
way they were. Think about that .... another question was something like,
"How many of you have invested in your songwriting career, by attending
workshops or seminars, or having your music professionally critiqued?" Of
the writers surveyed, the vast majority of the successful songwriters, had
invested, in books, attended workshops, paying for critiques, etc.. When it
came to the songwriters surveyed who had never had any success with their
songwriting, almost every one of them said they had never invested any money
at all in their songwriting career. Think about it.
The greatest professional songwriters, are the most awesome Re writers. They
have the ability to be very critical with their own work, and can detach
themselves emotionally, from their songs and then go back to them, and
tighten them up by re writing them. Professional songwriting is a craft and
like any other craft, the more you do it, the better you can be at it, and
just like any other craft, the best way to learn, is from other more skilled
craftsmen. That is probably the hardest part of being a new songwriter,
getting that input, direction, feedback on the songs you are writing, from
someone who really knows. That is the whole reason we started
SongRepair.com, to provide new songwriters a place to go to get that support
and guidance from professionals who do it for a living.
Do you have any advice for new bands?
Play, Play, Play. The more you play, the better you will be. The stronger
your songs, your music, your show will be. The stronger your band will be.
No matter how much someone in the music industry likes your music, if you
are not a performing, touring band, they will probably not be able to help
you. Don't expect anything from anyone, concentrate on your music, your
show, your performance and don't worry about getting a record deal. Worry
about making sure you are booked and playing somewhere. If you really are
good, the people will follow you and they will support you by buying your
CD's and merchandise. The places you play will want you back and new places
will hear about you and want you too. Build your following and then travel a
little farther to play, increase your following, the amount of places you
can play. Doing so, will not only increase how much money you can generate,
it will increase your chances for a recording contract, for success in the
music business overall. I know that there a small number of bands who have
scored record deals who do not perform live or who tour rarely, but the
number is so small it is almost insignificant, when discussing this subject.
In the last 4 months I have attended 4 separate music conferences that all
together featured over 500 bands, covering almost all genre's of music. Of
all those bands, I would bet not more than 10 of them actually played music
for their living. The reality is they play music Part Time and have other
jobs ("real" jobs) that they use to support themselves financially. They all
have many reasons to justify this fact to themselves, and anyone else who
will listen. The bottom line here, is that if you tell me you are a band,
then you tell me that you only do it part time, we are done. I can't help
you and no one that I know can help you, when it comes to trying to assist
you in getting a recording contract. My first reaction to someone who tells
me they are an artist, but they do something else to make their actual
living, is that the person I am talking to must not believe in themselves or
their talent very much, if they don't feel they are good enough to make a
living playing their music. If they really did, they would be doing it
already, and no one could stop them. That is the band I want to work with.
In summation, what you have to do as a band, if you are trying to get a
deal, is you have to separate yourself from the pack. You have to prove to
everyone, that you are special, that you can tour successfully and sell
CD's and merchandise, and that you can operate your band, your business, and show
a profit. That you are in, 100%, and that you can do all this, without
breaking up. It can be done, the big question is, can You do it? All you
have to do is prove that you can. You have to lead the charge. Every other
role played in the music business is carried out in Support of the band, the
artists. No one can, or will, do it for you. You have to inspire others, to
Want to work with you. It is your career, and you have to maintain it.