NOTE: Below is an interview outtake from the summer 2011 WHIR issue. Justin Lee questions myself, Seth Cole, on the history of ROCKHOST.COM.
Hey Justin, I had myself all psyched up for the phone interview, ha ha, but this will probably be better for me in the long run. All these years of playing loud rock music has made my hearing rather shoddy. I probably would have been saying “what?” a lot whether your phone was cutting out or not. :^)
So let’s see here…I guess I’ll repost the questions and answer below them. Sound good? Hope so. Oh, one thing I do want to mention before I get started is the timing of this whole interview. You said the next WHIR comes out in August, right? Well, it just so happens that ROCKHOST.COM was founded in August 2001. I plan on making a big deal of our ten-year anniversary. That’s a lifetime in the hosting industry if you ask me. Anyway, without further ado, here goes nothing….
How did you get into the niche market of providing hosting services for rock bands and online radio stations?
By accident really, back in 1999 my band at the time was touring the country. Booking shows was a really tedious task because long ago you had to snail mail press kits. Nobody had their music available online. I swear I was at the post office every other day. Before long I was searching for a better way to distribute our freebies and impress the right people. Luckily, for my sake, I did because then things began to snowball. Other bands and venues were soon coming to me for help. Long story short, that’s how ROCKHOST.COM was born.
How do you find your clients, or alternatively, how do they find you?
I think word of mouth is specifically important for my business, or any business really. Bands can’t help but network when drinking beer, loading gear, and playing shows. Hell, that’s how I met many of my most loyal clients–in person at a show. I think they like the fact that they can relate to me and I’m not a suit (sorry big wigs).
Do you advertise your services on music websites?
Of course, that would be pretty hard to overlook. I think places like streamfinder.com, stonerrock.com, and radiotoolbox.com have a pretty high conversion ratio for my business. I tried MySpace but that didn’t work out so well. Plus I’m a little jaded because when MySpace first blew up, I took a pretty serious hit to my bottom line.
What services do you provide your clients?
Well, we offer the standard domain name registration and web hosting type stuff, but the thing that put us over the top is streaming media. If somebody comes to me and wants to find an audio or video solution, I can usually pull something out of my bag of tricks. Between Shoutcast, Icecast, Flash, Quicktime, and Windows we can cover almost any event or broadcast. ROCKHOST.COM has hosted live Beastie Boys dj shows, Sub Pop listen parties, medical marijuana security cams, Sunday morning church services, high school football games, you name it.
Are these services all built into a one-stop package, or is it a la carte?
Neither really, for the most part, we try to stay away from anything that is too cookie cutter. You can get the basics from us just like you can any other provider, but the real story, the real grit, goes on behind the scenes here at ROCKHOST.COM. I try to view every situation as unique. So there are a lot of special work-arounds, hacks, and custom-coding jobs. Oh, and a lot of satisfied customers. :^)
Is there anything particularly unique that goes into offering hosting services specifically for bands that you wouldn’t normally find with other clients, such as an online retail store?
To some degree all bands need the same things. Most commonly they want people hear their music online. I mean that’s the whole point, right? That is key. But yes, selling music is also a big deal which is why we offer add-on products like Payment Gateways, SSL Certificates, SEO–yada yada–blah blah.
And just out of my own curiousity, who are some of your favourite bands and artists?
Wow, that’s a loaded question, for sure. You may regret that one, Justin. Ha ha. I guess I discovered my love of music through skateboarding in junior high. So my roots go back to punk rock (Sex Pistols, Misfits, Descendents, Black Flag, etc.), but that was only able to satisfy the thirst of a hormonal teenager for so long. My tastes blossomed into the Seattle grunge genre when I was a freshman in high school: The Melvins, Seaweed, Earth, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Nirvana, L7, to name a few. Then that took me deep into metal: Slayer, Motorhead, Metallica, Megadeth, and Danzig etc., which finally opened the door to all forms, types, kinds, genres, whatevers of music. I guess lastly I’ll just go into Oscar speech mode and do some name dropping of my faves: Jesus Lizard, Social Distortion, Urge Overkill, Sonic Youth, Bottom, Willie Nelson, Blondie, Motley Crue, Dinosaur Jr., Patsy Cline, Fleetwood Mac, Foo Fighters, Man or Astro-man?, Fu Manchu, Guns N’ Roses, Joan Jett, The Stray Cats, The Cars, Tom Petty, The Hellacopters, Sleep, Reverand Horton Heat, Oasis, Speedealer, Zeke, and Filthy Jim…cue the music…
You don’t get to spout off at the mouth like that very often, thanks WHIR!