Dave Harris Director, Red Ink

Dave Harris Director, Red Ink
Dave Harris is a 15-year music industry veteran. Since joining BMG in 1995, Dave has headed up marketing for a wide array of international and domestic artists including: Foo Fighters, System Of A Down, De La Soul, Sloan and many more. Red Ink is the artist development arm of Sony BMG Canada that provides innovative and specialized marketing, promotion and sales services in support of developing Canadian talent, indie labels and artists from Canada and abroad.

How important is it for artists to have a definable personality?
It’s becoming more and more important — the quintessential piece of an artist’s identity is, well, to have an identity. Nowadays there are so many artists and so much clutter, the ability to cut through that in a unique way is becoming more and more important. The mechanism by which most consumers find out about new artists has always been monopolized in a certain way. It’s always been through radio or video, which are mainstream channels that can reach a critical mass audience. The major labels had control of these channels and were able to homogenize a lot of the product that went through, so personality wasn’t as important. It was more about how many consumer impressions you could create. But that world has crumbled with all the new media, all the new options for artists, and the breadth of opportunities. These offer diversity, yes, but they also [raises the problem] of getting people focused. How do artists cut through? It could be a unique piece, an interesting performance that gets spread around on YouTube or a blogging network — identity being the paramount in all that.

At what point should bands start thinking about their "personality” as a band?
A lot of the artists that I love seem to have a unique approach or a unique personality that seems uncontrived, not thought through — it seems organic. I guess on the other end, it is thought through in some ways. But letting it happen naturally has merit. What artists have to do is always be conscious that every time they are doing something, people will see it, people will know about it. It could be taped and sent around the internet and reach millions of people instantly. The days of doing hidden shows or not really caring how you come across from an artistic standpoint, those days are done. You have to consistently think about how you are presenting yourself. And I think that happens from day one. But also, a lot of artists develop their true voice over time — it’s not something that happens right away. Some get consultation to expedite the process, while some just have to go through the experience to find out what that artistic voice is.

What are some things artists can do to build their identity?
It really depends on what they want. The spectrum can run from being the most obscure to the most accessible, and the means they choose to get to their objective will change based on that. If you want to do art for pure art’s sake, then your approach will be completely different than if you actually want people to see what you’re doing. It’s fairly standard what bands can do now, in terms of setting up MySpaces and YouTubes. It’s never been a better time for independent artists to network and reach their community. I would suggest that an important point is to always think "niche.” That’s where the industry has gone back to — find a community to exist in, and that’s a great starting place.