I offered to be a roadie for the day in exchange for a few answers from indie-folk band The Head and the Heart. Desperate to keep me from doing some heavy lifting, vocalist/guitarist/percussionist Josiah Johnson agreed to sit down to talk business before the band’s sold-out WXRT show at the Riviera last week. Here’s what I got:
Please state your name and your astrological sign.
Josiah Johnson and I’m a Virgo. The only reason that I know this is because Jon [Russell, also on vocals, guitar and percussion] is a Pisces and he’s big on that, ‘Oh Virgo/Pisces, they’re like yin-yang.’ I was like, ‘I have no idea.’ Didn’t even know I was a Virgo until I met him.
How do you go about marketing the band to separate yourselves from the competition?
I don’t really see music as a competition. I think we have our own unique strengths as a band that you would listen to us, as opposed to someone else if you like the style of music that we play. People have thousands of artists on their iTunes; there’s enough room for all sorts of bands.
When you started making money as a band, what was the first toy that you bought? You jokingly mentioned onstage that you use lotion made of diamonds now, but anything else?
I’m not a ‘buying things’ person, but … Jon is like huge on shoes, he has a ton of them from all over the place and Charity [Rose Thielen, violinist and vocalist] is a huge clothes person and Tyler [Williams, drummer] bought an Audi, a used one. But, no, my big thing with having money is probably actually to be able to live in two different places in different parts of the year. So, if I can be able to have a place in LA to go in the winter, or Austin, I would love to live in two different places. That’s what I would definitely do!
Learn any good business lessons along the way?
A lot of bands have points where they think they’re ready for a big break, and they try to go and find that — whether that means you just recorded your album, so you go and shop it around to record labels before you put it out — everyone thinks that something is going to bring them that success instantly. I feel like we never had [that]. What we were doing, our music our product, if you will in a business sense, we knew it was good and continued to work and practice and refine it and make it better so that when an opportunity came around, we were able to step into that, as opposed to spending all of our time looking for opportunities. We spent all of our time getting ready for the inevitable moment when an opportunity did come.
How do you feel about sponsorships and aligning with products and brands?
It’s definitely something to be careful about. Because there are so many bands, it’s very nice to have someone that wants to align themselves with you and partner with you and bring you more exposure. For some reason people [believe that] a radio station is OK for you to partner with, and they’re going to give you exposure, but brands aren’t. In reality, you do favors for radio stations just like you do favors for brands, and it is an exchange of value. So, I’m not entirely opposed to it, but I’m definitely weary of it being just anything. Obviously, it has to be a brand that at the bare minimum isn’t doing something offensive.