Dave Douglas' Greenleaf Music Label

Defining success in today's online music biz

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Dave Douglas & Keystone at Undead Jazzfest 2010
By Greg Aiello

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Dave Douglas’ recordings are released on Greenleaf Music, the label that he cofounded in 2005. (It has also released albums by Kneebody, Donny McCaslin and Linda Oh, among others.) Like his music, Greenleaf is predicated on constant evolution and innovation.

Though it has a brick-and-mortar distributor in eOne, the label is distinguished by remarkable Internet presence. Greenleaf quickly adopted the virtual trends now known as Web 2.0. “It was just after Napster, and the industry was kind of in a big state of upheaval. [Douglas and Greenleaf cofounder Mike Friedman] saw an opening,” says Jim Tuerk, Greenleaf’s label manager. “They saw that a heavy online presence could get Dave closer to his fanbase.” It started with a Greenleaf blog, allowing Douglas and the label to connect directly to fans. (More recently, the blog has been supplemented by Douglas’ busy Twitter feed.)

Greenleaf built an online community, then made a wealth of otherwise-unreleased music available to it. This began with the label’s Paperback Series, a set of concert recordings (now out of print) featuring Douglas and others, released in no-frills packaging. “It was an avenue that allowed Dave to release live shows that he really loved but that there wasn’t much interest in releasing,” Tuerk explains. “[It was] a way of providing the content without making it a frontline title—making sure that that message stayed clear while we were still giving our online community some awesome music.”

Then came the triple-tiered Subscription Series, which now comprises hours of premium music content, plus concert tickets, artist meet-and-greets and other incentives. The two higher levels allow downloads; for the lowest level, Greenleaf last year added to its website a cloud music player streaming the label’s entire catalog. (The higher levels can access the cloud as well.) “It’s not just ‘go on a computer, be able to click on a song and listen to it,’” says Tuerk. “It’s ‘pull out your mobile, have it bookmarked—boom! It’s right there.’ You can listen to any song you want, wherever you want.”

More recently, the label introduced the Greenleaf Portable Series. Unlike other series, this one is entirely studio-oriented: short albums, quickly recorded and dispersed to fans without complicated post-production. “Like they used to do,” says Tuerk. “You’d go in, you’d play the tunes and then you’d take off. And it would be an awesome record.” Last year, Douglas used the Portable Series to release three excellent albums in four months. (These were also released as a box set, Greenleaf Portable Series Vols. 1-3.) The series will continue into 2013.

The philosophy, then, has been to create a broader audience by focusing on a narrow one. “It’s really all about finding those few hundred folks who are diehard Dave Douglas fans and giving them more of what they want,” says Tuerk. “On top of that, [it’s about] trying to expand that list of people. Keep those who are close, close, and keep trying to grow that community as best we can.”

Originally published in October 2012

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