Ricky Smith knows music. His company helped build a scene, now they help build labels.
There are few people who can say they have been apart of a grand undertaking like Ricky Smith, CEO of Smith Music. You may be aware of Smith Music due to their huge music distribution network that includes Bucc-ee’s, the warehouse sized convenience store and gift shops that dot Texas highways. Ricky has been making Live at Billy Bob’s Texas albums since he inherited the company from his father. Now he does more than that by helping artists create their own labels. Over a plate of tacos, we sat down for a chat about his life and where the music business is going.
Q: Where does your music career begin?
A: When I was a kid, around 12 or so, I would fall asleep on the side stage of Billy Bob’s. But when I first started working, – I don’t know if I should say this – but we used to film our festivals and Dad had me go through the VHS tapes and mark the timecode where women were flashing the stage. That way we could censor it. What a way to start your music industry career!
Q: Smith Music has been around 20 plus years. When did they begin distribution?
A: When our distribution company went out of business! We went to work and built a network of gift stores, independent record shops and large chain media outlets to get our music on the shelves. Then iTunes, Spotify and Pandora came along and we had to adapt to those emerging technologies which now dominates the way people listen to music. But don’t count out the physical side, yet. We still sell a lot of CDs in Bucc-ee’s and gift stores. Vinyl has made a comeback. We’re even seeing short runs of cassette tapes being sold. There are still many opportunities for bands to be seen in brick and mortar stores. The key is thinking like the big labels and marketing yourself.
Q: Where is the future of the music business?
A: I couldn’t tell you, because this industry is rapidly changing month to month. But I do know that 360˚ deals only go to a fraction of artists, so the future of the business will be built on independent distribution. Artists are gaining followers that rival some radio station’s listener bases. You have to have someone facilitate getting your music on those services and that is how we help. DD