Starfleet Digital Music Pool: Why Record Pools Still Matter

This year music industry veteran Ronnie Matthews and the Starfleet Music Pool are celebrating 22 years in the music business. Most people under the age of 30, have no idea what a record pool is or the importance they played in breaking new music while playing the liaison between DJs and record labels.

Starfleet is one of the few record pools that is still standing from the “golden area,” and it continues to thrive because of its willingness to embrace change. With over 19,000 registered DJs in it’s database, Starfleet is consistently recognized as a global leader in music promotions. Early last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ronnie about the history of Starfleet and why record pools are still important.

How was Starfleet started?

Being in the music business as a dj and as a promoter for so many years is where it kind of all started for me. I was always working with record pools, and I knew exactly how they broke records and exposed people to new music. During the early part of my career, I was a buyer for Camelot Music and the store in the Charlotte region was the largest around. So, that relationship exposed me to just about every indie and major label you can name. Because of my background, I had record labels to actually come to me and ask if I would start a record pool in this region. And, as of today Starfleet Music Pool has been servicing DJs for the last 22 years.

With most of the old school record pools no longer operating, how has Starfleet maintained its relevancy?

Basically, a lot of the older record pools that were around as long as me weren’t able to make the digital turn. As of January,we have been working digital music for over twelve years. I remember we were at the Winter Music Conference in Miami right around the time that digital music was beginning to take over, and we had a long debate about what the future was for the industry. We have always supported the industry, and we knew that change was inevitable so it made sense for us to embrace the change. Labels were talking about no longer pressing cds, shipping vinyl, and how inexpensive it would be to service a record.

We weren’t necessarily ready to give up physical copies of music, but we saw the change coming. We would have loved to keep getting 12 inches and boxes of cd’s but it’s evolution. So instead of fighting it we supported. I remember speaking on a panel with label heads, record buyers and other record pool owners during that conference; and I had a pool director tell me I was helping the demise of hard copies being shipped to the record pools. I basically told everybody that I’m not the one making things happen. I would love to continue getting vinyl and cd’s but sometimes you have to go with the flow of things. As I was finishing my spill, one of the heads of the major record labels basically told the guy if you don’t think this is the direction that music is going in your not gonna be in business very long.

Tell me how Starfleet’s digital service works?

You can submit your music into us for a free, and we will actually set it up at no cost. The first group of 135 DJs,which are called the Vip DJs, are Billboard Reporters, Mix show DJs and big club DJs will give you limited feedback on your single. If they like it, they will actually play it and we will chart it. We also offer a service called the VIP featured artist, which sets up an artist profile with a bio, concert info, a comment system, links to purchase music and contact information. This is important because It has all of our DJs have to login to our system to download mp3′s and when the DJs sees the visual it creates that extra reinforcement that reminds them about the artists music.

Why are record pools still important in 2012?

The connections that we already have is an extremely important thing for a new artist looking to build relationships with DJs. We have over 19,000 registered DJs around the globe in our pool. We provide a reputable place that record labels and artists have been working with for years. In addition, you have new DJs that are searching for places to find new music and record labels are always searching for ways to get their music noticed. And, the one thing you still have to do to get your music noticed is you must have somebody somewhere playing it. You have to have exposure or no one will ever know about you.

What advice would you give a new artist looking to promote their first single?

One thing I think I would say is that you better have a thick skin about things. We wish that every song was a hit and sounded great, but it’s just not the case. Everybody is chasing the same sound with auto-tune, and its good to have a familiar sound that people can relate to, but you still want to be unique while implementing your own style.

Renting Digital Music May Be a Better Alternative Then Buying Music

The question is should you purchase your music or rent your digital music. Studies have indicated that the average digital music player has about 1,770 songs. The same survey from a University in England also discovered that half of the songs consisted of illegal downloads. So lets assume that you are a law abiding citizen, setting the average number of legal songs on a digital music player at 850 songs.
Most online sources that sell music charge about .99 cents a song, meaning that 850 songs will set you back $850 dollars. Since you own the music you can listen to them as you please, for as long as you please. Renting digital music ranges from 10 – 14 dollars a month, depending on the service you chose to rent your music from. Subscription based digital music services will allow you to listen to millions of songs, and would most likely include the 850 songs on your digital music player, all for the cost of the subscription. 

A subscription cost of 13 dollars a month would give you almost 5 and a half years of music access before you hit the 850 dollars. Canceling your subscription in 5 and half years would no longer leave you access to the 850 songs on your music player if you opted for a subscription over purchasing the 850 songs. Keep in mind that if you started with 850 songs today, you would most likely purchase a fair number of additional songs over the next 5 and half years.

Based on the 850 song comparison, you would shell out 850 dollars in 5 and a half years. On a strict song ownership perspective purchasing is a better because you would own 850 songs in 5 and a half years. Since most people will average 2 song purchases a week totaling 8 dollars a month, you would only be spending a couple of bucks more a month to keep your subscription going. A subscription is by far the better option. A subscription will give you the option to listen to millions of songs whenever you choose, including new songs being released every week.

Pros and Cons of Mixing Digital Music

Hello Everyone,

I have been around the electronica music scene for over a decade, and I have witnessed a complete evolution in the equipment used by deejays throughout the years. I would like to explain some of the different types of equipment, how it has evolved, as well as some of the Pros and Cons of these evolutions.

It was probably back in the mid 1990’s when I first took up a real interest in deejaying and all the different types of music that make up the electronica genre. Back then and for quite a few years to come, the main deejay tools were vinyl records, turntables and a microphone. However, everything started changing very quickly in the early to mid part of this past decade.

The first main transformation I started to see was when deejays switched from records and turntables to mixing CDs using CD Controllers. This was a very significant point on the evolutionary time-line of DJ equipment because it signifies the move from analog to digital music formats. This was the first part of the digital revolution, which opening the flood gates for the ideas and inventions that we have today. There were many Pros to mixing CDs rather than records. The most noticeable would have to be the amount of equipment DJs would have to carry. No more crate after crate of records that needed to be hauled all over the place, searched through, organized, and stocked with new fresh records. With CDs, DJs could carry just one or two cases of CDs. Also with digital, searching and finding tracks became much easier. Within a few years, most DJs made the switch to mixing CDs completely, or they at least incorporated the use of to CD controllers along with turntables.

I soon began to see a new type of DJ equipment that was being called, “DJ Console” or “MP3 Mixer”. With DJ Consoles, you didn’t even need music on a CD. You used these DJ consoles with computers and you could pretty much use any music format you wanted. Now, the amount of DJ equipment that one had to carry could easily be a one man job. This has opened up the doors to so many people that would have never been able to mix music before and that, my friend, is also one of its Cons.

Not all the DJs out there today, have the skills of older DJs that never had “auto pitch-matching” or my favorite “auto mixing” options to utilize. There are a lot of DJs today that have no idea how to really mix records. I give the DJs that have evolved along-side with the equipment the most respect because I know the trip that they have made.

Thank You,
Jacob Liston Black