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| Silverlight Still King of the Hill
|So Creed has topped Bilboard chart for two weeks? Big deal. You say Madonna and Michael Jackson have been top of the pops for a couple months? Child's play. What if I told you a local boy's topped the charts for two years and still holds the top sixteen positions? Read Mitch Phillips' interview with Southhaven composer Ronald Silverlight and find out how he's become the undisputed champion of downloads and online plays on the Michigan MP3 chart. Click "Read More" below for the whole story.|
Article by Mitch Phillips
Photo by Mary Landry Decker
Ron Silverlight came to our attention over a year ago at Michiganartists.com (our former 'ahem, employer) because we discovered he held the top ten positions on the Michigan MP3 chart, yet we'd never heard of him before. Months later, he still reigned supreme, keeping dozens of newcomers at bay and even some old time heavyweights such as Dick Wagner of the Frost from taking the top position.
But you won't find Ron playing the local clubs, he got the road out of his system in the 70's and 80's, touring with his disco horn band, Silverhoof. Now Ron performs for his wife, kids and usually his four walls in the wee hours of the morning - but being a musical shut-in hasn't affected his success on MP3.com. At the time of writing this article, he holds the top sixteen positions in the MP3/michigan chart with over 594,511 total plays to date. Who says you have to tour to gain a following?
It hasn't come easy, though. Ron's been working the net and MP3.com for over three years now, spending several hours everyday writing and responding personally to hundreds of e-mails. "I can get up to 500 e-mails a day, " Ron said in a recent phone interview. "I spend the time to answer every one. I don't let these people down. If they're taking the time to communicate with me, I'd be a fool not to go out of my way to communicate back. That's how I created my fan base."
Currently, he's managed to score 2500 to 3500 plays a day - which works out to about eighteen bucks a day, $500 a month, or around $2000 a quarter. Not bad for never having to leave the house, deal with late band members, fend-off cranky bar-owners, or appease obnoxious drunks.
Late in 2001, Ron won $3000 worth of purchasing power from Musician's Friend, taking top honors in "A Musician's Odyssey" competition for his submission, "Desert Caravan," an instrumental Ron describes as, "A sultry easter-style, funky, trance/club song that swings." You can read his interview with Hitsquad and learn more about his entry here..
Speaking Words of Wisdom; Ronald Silverlight
On Internet Marketing: "It's just networking, getting exposure, getting people to know you even exist. That was the thing with the (Musician's Friend) Musician's Odyssey contest; yeah, you're up there, but so what? Unless you can get someone to listen and look, nobody's gonna find you. That's one of the problems you encounter with the internet. You need to be networking. You need to be e-mailing. You start with local people; your friends, your family - you ask them e-mail somebody. On a good day I'd get 5-10 e-mails. Now I'm getting 500 e-mails every day and I spend the time to answer every one. I don't let these people down. If they're taking the time to communicate with me, I'm a fool not to go out of my way and communicate back. In my little world, that's how I created my fanbase."
You Got Lucky Babe...When I found you."Every once in a while you get lucky and somebody will be kind enough to remember where they came from. I actually got a response from Michael McDonald (formerly of The Doobie Brothers). I've sent out plenty of e-mails to big shots and, believe me, you hear nothing. But he was kind enough to respond because he was starting a new label with his partner, the actor Jeff Bridges. The label's called Ramp Records. I wanted Michael McDonald to listen to a few of my songs. He gave me the name of a legitimate publishing company and the contact there. The hardest thing to get in this business is a name and a number. But he gave me the "in" and it's only because of the networking and e-mails."
On Being King of the Hill (MP3/Michigan chart)
"That's directly due to the e-mails. I attribute most of whatever success I've had on the net by making contacts and meeting people and just getting the word out that, 'Hey, I'm here. My music is free for you to listen to.' Also, I have so many hits because I have so many songs. With thirty-seven tunes, geez, I get one person to play them any particular day, that's thirty-seven plays compared with someone who only has five or ten songs on the site."
On having twice as many downloads as Kid Rock! - "The reason for that, I believe, is I'm working the internet and the labels just throw him up there. They don't consider the internet a viable media at this point. There isn't any money for the labels on the net; they're making their money from the concerts and CD sales in the stores. I think that's going to change in the future, though. I see more and more label artists on MP3 but in my heart I don't think it's anything more than an exposure thing. They're not putting any kind of effort (into it) - and why should they? They're not going to stand for a half- penny per play."
On MP3 - "The whole purpose of being on mp3 is the hope that a label listens and wants to buy the rights to one of my songs for their bands or up and coming artists. I have no intention of going into a studio to become the entertainer. I'm more of a songwriter. That's really why I'm using MP3. In the meantime they're paying me a bit for it to help buy equipment and keep that bottle of milk in the fridge. But all these publishers and labels don't want unsolicited material, so unless they're looking at you, you don't have a chance in hell of landing a deal. I've given twelve of my songs to MP3 to add to their publishing catalog. When their customers come looking to them for a jingle, background music for a soundtrack or whatever, MP3 gives them ten-thousand pieces of music in whatever genre they want and my song might be one of them. The label or company pitches a deal to MP3, they pitch it to me and I say yay or nay. If I agree, we sign a contract and I get 10¢ and they get a million dollars! (laughter) Whattya' gonna do? That's ALL you can do."
A TOUGH GAME: "MP3's a tough game to play. So many statistical things for the artists to keep track of. I mean, they're there for you but they're so big and they have so much content they have their own problems. There's at least a million songs from a quarter-million artists on there. There's so much talent out there and I'm one little guy trying to do it by himself. As far as I'm concerned they're all ten times better than I could ever be. I'm basically a humble person. I have a lot of pride in myselfand what I do, but I know where I stand in the world of music. My stuff is o.k. I've heard better and I've heard a lot worse."
On Being Nice: "You become friends with the other artists on MP3 because everybody's basically in the same boat. There's times I'll listen to artists and I'll send them an e-mail and say I like their stuff or make a comment. You never tell a man it's bad, ya know what I'm saying? You show a little respect - even to make something bad takes a lot of work and the average person doesn't realize that. So you try and be kind; it's so easy to put somebody down. You want to say to them, 'Well, you walk in my shoes for a bit. You see how many hours it took me to create this tune you listened to for thirty seconds and tell me it's terrible. And it very well may be terrible. However, it took me eighty to a hundred hours to create that tune. They don't realize that. There's an awful lot of work to get that 'lousy tune' up and then just for somebody to step on your heart? Which is why artists are a different type of people. "
On the Need to Create: "I think it's done more for self-satisfaction than anything else...if you can get other people to listen and like it too, that makes you feel real good. It's kind of this need to be accepted I guess. It's from the heart. It's really you. You lay your heart out there on the line and it's so easy for people to just say 'you suck' but you realize not everybody's going to like it. I think Ricky Nelson said it best in "Garden Party" '...you can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself.' If I can get you to tap your foot, I'm real happy. Any of the arts are like that and that's why we're all nuts!"
Beyond MP3: - " I'm starting to catch on. I'm on other websites other than MP3; I was on Michiganartists, I hope to be on MichiganBands. There's a new one called LocalBand.net which I just joined about two weeks ago and I was already number two on the site."
What's next for Ron Silverlight? "I'm so tied up with the e-mails it's been three months since I've actually done anything with music, as far as composing. I just, last night, started a new tune, finally. But I'm approaching the 500,000 plays play mark on MP3, which is a lot but there are people with well over a million - so it's all relative. One of my goals is to be in the "million-plays" club on MP3 by the end of this year. There's a clickable banner on their site with people who have over a million plays and I want to be on that list. I know what it takes to get those kind of hits - they're working their booty off. It's hard; I've lost a hundred pounds and I don't have any hair left! If there's an easier way to do this, PLEASE, somebody tell me!"(laughter)
Listen To Ron Silverlight on MP3.com.
"Silverlight?" - On my dad's side it's Russian, on my mom's side it's Hungarian. So the joke is, "I'm a Hungry Russian!"
INFLUENCES: Average White Band, Chicago, Earth Wind & Fire, Tower of Power.
EDUCATION: B.A. in Elementary and Secondary Music Education from Heidelberg College, a small liberal arts college in Ohio.
OLD BAND: "SilverHoof" lived together and toured for ten years in the Disco era. Horn band (Ron's first instrument is trumpet). "We had the disco scarfs, the hats, the shoes with the big heels on 'em. made a lot of money and spent it all!"
Musical Style: A variety; funk, swing, jazz. I tend to keep my stuff happy, upbeat. My lyrics are like, "I love you. We're gonna make it. Let's hang in there." But I don't consider myself a lyricist or a vocalist. I'm an instrumentalist more than anything else. I don't use a computer to create any of my music. The quality of the sound probably suffers because of it but It's the best I can get it with the equipment I have."
REAL JOB: Pharmaceutical Industry.
MARITAL STATUS: Married for 21 years now... "that's when the band went to the wayside; you have to get a real job to support your family with insurance, etc..."
Tips - MP3.Com CD
Busity Whelk - MP3.Com CD
Trikkin - MP3.Com CD
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