Q&A with Todd Severin of Ripple Music

Q&A with Todd Severin of Ripple Music

MIR: Thank you for taking the time to do this. Please introduce yourself to the readers.

Todd: Todd Severin, founder, President and CEO -- bossman -- of Ripple Music. a.k.a. The Toddfather, a.k.a. Racer

Q: How did you get started on this adventure?

A: How did Ripple get started? Hell if I know! I’ve just been sitting on the tracks as the Ripple crazy train came and swooped me up. Actually, I have a history in radio, and I’m a diehard music junkie. My partner used to front a heavy metal band, Blind Justice, and is just as sick in the head about music as I am. About 15 years ago, we’d been talking about starting a ‘zine to review the masses of LP’s and CD’s in our collections. Finally one day, I started The Ripple Effect on Blogger, which quickly became a very cool review site. About a year into the Ripple Effect, a good friend said “Rather than just write about the music, you should play it for people to hear.“

Next thing you know, he set us up on Blogtalkradio and Ripple Radio became the top-rated music show on the station, and we're hanging out interviewing Marky Ramone, Fee Waybill, and others along with Ripple artists like Tony Reed and Kent Stump. Had a ball.

Within about another year, one thing led to another and JPT Scare Band, the amazing proto-metal, acid blues, heavy psych band from the 70’s dropped a stack of unreleased masters on my desk with the words, “Put this out for us.” I didn't even know what he meant, and I told him that we're not a record label, but he insisted, saying "I trust you, and want you to put it out." So with that, I studied for about a year what it meant to be a "record label" and we started the Ripple Music record label; JPT’s Acid Blues is the White Man’s Burden was our first release on glorious yellow and green translucent vinyl, psychedelic double LP. That was 2010. And we’re off and running … All started by a love of seriously heavy riffs.

Q: If you could go back to the day you started and give yourself one piece of advice, what would that be?

A: Other than not to do this crazy thing? Ha, ha! It really would all be about the bands we choose to work with, a philosophy I've mostly followed since Ripple started. In the end, it all comes down to the music -- which sounds cliche, but it's not. The stoner/doom scene, like all scenes runs the risk of becoming dull as the 20th and 30th iteration of recycled riffs plods out. I'm looking for band that bring that riff, that heavy, that groove, melody, songcraft and musicianship, and brings a fresh take on it. Keep the music moving forward, even while it's looking backwards. Make it groove. That's Ripple.

But beyond the music, I've definitely learned that the process has to be a true partnership between band and label. We need bands that are hard working and working hard to make things happen. Social media following and engagement is very important, as it shows the band knows how to work it, sales, bandcamp plays, spotify numbers, video plays are all important, and we want to see bands that are actively touring, gigs, festivals. We want bands with a plan that we can partner with. A label can't make a band that doesn't know how to work hard, but a hard working band and a hard working label can make something happen!

Finally... and it's usually not too much of a problem, but bands have to be nice. Be professional. I’ve declined working with people who acted entitled, rude, or difficult. We’re all in this together, it’s a long, close relationship. No one is making money here, we're all doing it because me love it. Let’s enjoy it. Life is too short to work with difficult, unmotivated or prima donna folks.

Q: What is something that you have adopted that brings value to your process?

A: Probably, my views on social media, like our facebook group, Waveriders Unite. It's an amazing tool to reach out and engage in conversation with your bands/customers/fans. And that's always been the way I use it. Yes, we promote our releases and special sales, but social media is so much more than a sales tool, and I really feel that any label or band that sees it only as a way to sell product is missing out on the real value. The connection you can make with fans, customers, bands is amped up exponentially with proper use of social media. I use it all the time to ask our fanbase questions about releases, share sneak previews, run contests, and ask daily questions like "What's your favorite song that mentions food?" and just to converse. People enjoy the interaction. Waveriders Unite has become a true community, where folks come to share and talk and post about what they love.

Also, and very importantly, I use social media to break down the barriers between the record label and the fans/bands. People enjoy seeing that there's a real person behind Ripple, who has fun and his own taste in music and is a fanatic record collector. Who works his ass off and is a part of the very scene that he's promoting. That concept that we are all one community, one scene, really is one of the most beautiful things about the underground, and that is something created by being personal, not just hawking product all the time.

It's all about interaction, and very importantly responding to the interaction. Communication is a two-way street. I always respond in some way to every comment, and I'm always easily reachable via DM on every site and email. And I actually respond to each DM/Email. People like to communicate.

Q: Please highlight some of the things you enjoy most about what you do.

A: As I'm typing this, I'm listening to a new submission from a German band. It's crazy good. Damn, I want his in my own record collection. Before that, I was chatting with a true legend in the scene, someone I never thought I'd be eating breakfast with, talking music, politics, planning and strategizing the future releases. I'm crazy for this stuff, just a music geek, fanboy.

What's not to love.

Q: What are some of your current goals? Things you may hope to achieve in the next 12-24 months or further.

A: Goals are always changing and evolving, which is part of the fun. Growing a business is hard work, requires tons of time and energy, and passion. If the passion fades, the business fails, simple as that. Right now, I have some amazing releases coming, working with bands and musicians I never thought I'd be able to work with. Folks I've admired for years. The Beneath The Desert Floor series, where we are reissuing albums that were released in the formative years of the scene, late 90's early 2000's --back before the vinyl resurgence, or social media to really spread the word-- has been key for this. So many albums were released into a relative vacuum then, never on vinyl, and with little promo. Getting some of those records back out, on vinyl, with full PR and social media support has been thrilling. So much fun.

In the end, I just want Ripple to be synonymous with quality and damn good, heavy rock. I want fans to see the label and just know the can trust it. You want riffs, look for the big R.

Q: What is an unpopular opinion that you subscribe to or a popular opinion that you disagree with?

A: Probably that there is so much more out there than heavy rock, doom, metal, stoner . .. stuff. I'm a huge reggae fan, have been for decades, a massive post-punk fan, punk, funk, old school R&B, African, singer-songwriter. Heck, three Cat Stevens albums are on my all time top 10 desert island discs, as is Echo and the Bunnymen's debut. They're amazing. So while I love the energy, the immersion, the power, of a great riff and heavy song, there is so much more to music than heavy stuff. I'm everywhere, and unapologetically so.

Q: Is there anything you want to mention as we close?

A: For those who are thinking of starting their own label, don't do it for the money. Small labels struggle every day to cover expenses, much less make a profit. I've never taken a salary or payment from Ripple, I do it purely as a labor of love. Do it because you love it, because you have to do it, because it's who you are. Then no matter how it turns out financially, it will always be a success.

On a more business basis, my advice is very simple. Be honest, keep your word, and always deliver what you promise. That will put you in the top 10% of business people in the world.

And find some kick ass bands

MIR: Thank you for your time and I appreciate what you are doing. 

Bobby Rayfield ~ Monuments in Ruin

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