Find Out About: The National Club Industry Association Of America
Interview With NCIAA's President/CEO Kris Sweeton
By Anne Freeman, The Aspiring Songwriter® [04-21-2005]
The National Club Industry Association (NCIAA), Headquartered in New York, NY, USA, is a national trade association dedicated to representing the professional club DJ and the nightclub industry. NCIAA was founded in 1999, and it is a non-profit organization representing DJs, record executives, talent agents, club owners and related manufacturers in the music industry. NCIAA has the most comprehensive source of DJ and club information in the world. The NCIAA provides its visitors, clients, members, and partners with the latest resources, technology and information available impacting the industry, and actively promotes the career development of its members.
NCIAA is governed by its Constitution and By-laws, which outline the duties and responsibilities of the NCIAA, and which establish the procedures for how the NCIAA is governed. Its staff is made up of professionals from all aspects of the professional club music industry, and the staff is guided by the NCIAA’s Code of Ethics. NCIAA makes maintaining its organizational integrity a priority so it is free to pursue its mission – “Building an International Spirit of Music Cooperation.”
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Kris, NCIAA membership is diverse. What common thread runs through them all as expressed through NCIAA?
Kris Sweeton Each of our seven membership divisions are industry specific, custom designed with benefits, services, resources and tools necessary to support the wide range of members assigned to that particular membership class. Promotion, Exposure and Industry Endorsement are the most common assets found in each of our membership divisions.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Would you highlight some of the more important services that NCIAA offers the various sectors of its membership? And by the way, is it true that there are “DJ Universities”?
Kris Sweeton Each of our divisions has various membership levels that offer important services or features. What may be important to one group or class of members may be completely different to another. For example: A DJ member may join the NCIAA to gain specific industry exposure with the focus of a) being visible to booking agents, and promoters, or b) promoting their talents to agency reps like Paul Morris of AM Only. For a DJ to get the attention of an agent is really no different then an actor trying to get the recognized by a casting or talent agent. It’s next to impossible without a label endorsement or management agency promoting you. The NCIAA acts as this agent for many of our licensed members and all of our directory members. Our goal here is to boost the level of exposure of the DJ and eventually secure them agency representation in the industry.
For our label members, here we have a completely separate level of services that are commonly important, and that’s distribution. Here we focus on getting their new releases out to our members while at the same time promoting their roster to the industry and general public or music buying communities. Again, what we found is that there are several really good labels out there; their only problem is that they don’t have the marketing ability of the mainstream labels like Capital or EMI. People don’t know they exist unless they just so happen to be lucky enough to have a #1 or top 40 release. By becoming an NCIAA member, we have the controlled audience of literally thousands of professional DJs, all eager to discover new music from these labels. The results are easily recognized when you look at what’s being played in the clubs or on the radio.
Let me give you an example. Aardvark Records signed a trance duo group under the name Zetan Zpore. They became an NCIAA label member in November of last year. To-date you will find them just about everywhere on the Internet now. This, in addition to their individual marketing efforts, contributed to their first debut on NetMix Radio as a featured artist/label of the NCIAA. End result? They were heard by an A&R executive from Arista Records, who sent the group on tour in Japan.
Another example: Soda Club, which is signed under the independent label Water Music Records and which is affiliated with Universal Records, is currently being featured in our industry spotlight section. In just four hours their artist Blank and Jones had been viewed 2108 times in our video selects section, instantly bringing awareness to artist, video, track and label. Pretty significant, when you consider 40% of the page views were from non-registered users of our website, potentially representing an exposure to new fans or music buyers.
As to DJ Universities, most definitely! We actually endorse several of the world’s best DJ schools and universities, which you can easily access on our website. In fact, many of our members and staff have graduated from several of the schools we have listed in our educational directory.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] What does it mean that NCIAA certifies and licenses your members?
Kris Sweeton The hardest thing for any new or upcoming DJ, artist or independent label to obtain, regardless of who they are or how good they are, is industry recognition. For example, when the average DJ who spins at a local club twice a week for about 450-750 people decides its time to move up from that local residency to include booking nationally, whom would they contact and how do that do that? Now lets say he has managed to reach a promoter that a) is interested in booking him on a national level, and b) is capable of doing it, one of the first things that promoter is going to want to see or hear are credentials, and they are going to want to check them out. I don’t know when the last time you tried to check out a DJ’s real professional background or experience, but it can be quite time consuming. And your efforts often times offer no real validity other then someone at the other end of the phone or email saying "Oh yeah, he or she is a great DJ."
Perhaps you’re a record label and your promo budget allows you to send out 100 12" records every month. How do you know your sending that material to just the right DJs, or to a DJ at all? It’s almost impossible unless you happen to know that particular DJ. This is exactly what the NCIAA was created to do. We license and certify our members as professionals. By establishing an industry-wide seal of approval, we guarantee that each of our members have, in fact, verified by industry standards that they are legit, capable and qualified professionals. This applies not only to our DJs, but all of our members.
With the rise of Internet business, I'm sure we have all been surprised to learn that despite the appearance of stability of a company on the Internet, or their self acclaimed success or fame, chances are it’s a lot of hoopla often associated with garage based companies that can be here today or gone tomorrow, and often times with our hard earned money. We have exposed these companies that target our industry for what they are worth – crap - recalling the DJ.Org Email scam and Downshift Radio, costing DJs thousands and thousands of hard earned dollars.
The NCIAA is completely supported by both the music and recording industry. Our members rely on the #1 fact that if it’s listed on our website, it’s 99% legit. Labels are actually labels, artists are actually artists, and vendors are actually companies that ship and provide quality retail products or services. In fact, several of our vendors and product manufacturers rely on our exclusive membership directories to either introduce or offer our members significant discounts or free promotional products. We even offer our industry members the ability to look up a member’s status instantly online. This not only provides them with the information they need, but says a lot for the member that’s serious enough about their career or business exposure to have actually taken the time, effort and money to invest and earn that professional licensing status within our industry.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] It appears the NCIAA actually has its own programs/stations. What is NetMix Radio, XmixFM 93.1, and TrakHeadz and why were they formed?
Kris Sweeton NetMix Radio actually started out as an online chat room. It is a music broadcast supplier of live mixes and DJs aimed at stimulating the heavily populated chat rooms with DJ interactive entertainment. We were one of the first entities to experiment with introducing music via Internet radio to chat rooms, and were never really prepared for the tremendous response we generated.
Today, NetMix Radio continues to feature the live broadcasts of our members in real time, so what you hear is actually what’s being played right then and there by that DJ. Despite scheduling and time zone conflicts, we generally have a waiting list of DJs waiting to get on NetMix to broadcast from their home, bedroom or professional studios. NetMix Radio is currently ranked in the top 20 Internet radio stations according to Winamp and shoutcast.com. Our average listener is tuned into NetMix Radio for 2.5 hours before navigating away.
The response from both listeners and our DJs quickly contributed to the development of XMix FM 93.1, which is an Internet-based FM Relay Station that syndicates the commercial versions of our broadcasts and mixsets on a predefined genre schedule. XMix FM 93.1 provides its content to the general listener online, or to other Internet broadcasters, companies, webmasters and FM stations looking to expand their service or broadcast programming by playing the pre-recorded sets of the NCIAA DJs.
TrakHeadz, in this aspect, is actually a weekly broadcast program featured on XMix FM 93.1 every Thursday. TrakHeadz highlights and counts down the individual tracks as rated by the number of spins or ranks provided by our DJs when previewing the submissions of our labels from the previous week’s distribution. Here’s what happens: An independent record label or aspiring artist will submit their music for distribution through the NCIAA-TrakHeadz Label Distribution Program, an online digital marketing system that distributes a track for about twenty bucks ($20.00) to our professional DJ membership for review and feedback. Based on the number of spins or ranking set by the individual DJ, the TrakHeadz System generates charts based on this information, which is available by the systems online reporting feature.
Once these charts are compiled, we provide the ratings to the industry's top charting providers, including MP3 Charts.com, Euro Charts.com, World Music Charts, MP3 Raid.com, MP3 Cruise.com, No Vinyl.net, and Billboard.com. Each week we broadcast the results via XMix FM, featuring these tracks via Internet and Terrestrial Radio.
We have found that many of our industry inquiries from A&R executives, agents, promoters and club owners come from having either listened to a demo on the DJ’s NCIAA Profile or having heard their broadcast on NetMix Radio.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Is podcasting on the NCIAA radar screen?
Kris Sweeton Podcasting is definitely on the NCIAA Radar Screen, In fact, we are currently exploring a similar service with our partner, Audiofeast.com, and look to broaden our relationship with iTunes here in the near future to include iPod distribution. iTunes currently offers our industry members discounted rates for services, and has generated impressive results for several of our independent label members.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] The NCIAA shows that “streamies” are typically single males, 21-30 years old, live in North America/Canada, use broadband and listen at home, and they have some college or a two-year degree. Where are the trends going?
Kris Sweeton Trends are definitely showing that Internet radio is rapidly replacing terrestrial radio, which provides broadcasters and advertisers a more intent listener environment. While statistics show internet radio listeners are more apt to purchase products online then the average FM dial listener, they also show listeners are more likely to share that information, via email or instant messages, within the first 30 minutes of hearing it then per se someone telling a friend on the phone, "Hey, guess what I heard on the radio."
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Kris, you noted on the NCIAA website that Deep Dish recently launched the Technics CD Decks DZ1200. Why is this important?
Kris Sweeton Keeping our members informed of the latest news, information and product reviews in very important. We have realized that product manufacturers and vendors rely on the NCIAA to keep our members abreast of the latest technology, equipment, and products being introduced to the market, while at the same time our members rely on our ability to tell them about how feasible a new product might actually be for their particular use. In fact, the NCIAA has a separate department known as the Peer Program that tests new products on the market, providing the results to both the manufacturer as well as to our membership.
Currently we are testing two new products and services on the market right now, which includes the Easybe Music 123 online record store system with modules for both artists and labels, and a really incredible software program created by Xingtones.com that allows a user to convert an existing mp3 file into a personalized ring tone and then upload the ring tone directly to their cell phone. Definitely changing the industry with technology, these product manufacturers depend on this industry feedback to not only make the products stand out, but to absorb consumer feedback necessary for planning upgrades or the development of new products.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Does NCIAA have a lobbying unit and if so, what issues are NCIAA focused on at this time?
Kris Sweeton You know, we do, but getting involved with government agendas is not something we enjoy doing. We work very close with the RIAA, mostly with regards to our supporting the prevention of illegal broadcasting and pirate use of selling mix set CDs that use unauthorized or copy-protected material. In this capacity we act to educate our members as to the dos and don’ts when recording mix set CDs. We have lobbied heavily against the Rave Act and the Clean Up Bill passed under the guise of the Amber Alert Bill by Senator Bidden in 2002, and we are still opposed to it.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Kris, is there a sector in your industry that is not availing itself on the services provided by NCIAA and that you would like to target?
Kris Sweeton Hmm ... We have just launched a new division for independent artists, and are looking to expand our partner relationships and membership roster within that sector of the music industry. I would like to see this new division focus on artist management as well as the cross promotion of merging artists with our DJ and Record Label Division, while promoting them individually.
We also have just completely redesigned our contest efforts, and will be introducing an online voting system that will be open to the general pubic here shortly. We have also just completed the programming of our new Online MP3 Store, where we will debut the singles and albums of our labels and DJ’s producers, and look forward to having this module active on the website in the next week or so.
Editor's Note: The NCIAA and MusicDish are cosponsoring two remix contests, which started on April 20, 2005, and which include the “Running-2005” remix competition, a Global DJ/Artist Remix Competition of the hit track “Running” from the debut album Serendipity of Caribbean Artist Bajan MASON, which is hosted by the National Club Industry Association, Trakheadz.com, Onlinegigs.com, MusicDish Network, and Rebel Region Productions.
The second remix contest, which also started on April 20, is the “Glideascope - WMC Remix Contest” featuring the #5 Track of the official 2005 Miami Winter Music Conference Compilation CD - "Big Big Disgrace." The “Glideascope - WMC Remix Contest” is sponsored by the National Club Industry Association, Trakheadz.com, Onlinegigs.com, Dark Ghost Records, and The Drop Shop - MusicDish Network, Akara Music and Jet Star Music Publishing.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Any advice for aspiring artists and DJs?
Kris Sweeton The music industry as well as the club industry are constantly changing. It’s evolution, clearly an opportunity to define our future, our expectations and our goals. What was once deemed the underground community is no longer. Independent artists, labels, clubs and DJs "ARE" the new mainstream, and our members and our success depend on it. This is your window of opportunity. Take it!
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Thanks, Kris. Final thoughts?
Kris Sweeton Often times, and I know I have done this myself, we compare the term association with companies like the AARP, or Triple A (AAA) the Auto people - or paying for a bunch of services and benefits we will hardly ever use or need. On this note, I would like to say that this is definitely "NOT" the case with the NCIAA. Our members have used every service or benefit we offer, and we are constantly complimenting the many rewards and benefits of joining the NCIAA. I think a lot of times we expect memberships or services within this industry to be outrageously over priced, and often times they are; however, the NCIAA has several free level and trial level membership programs available, as well as paid memberships which start as low as $25 a year for a DJ license, up to $350 a year for record labels.
I encourage everyone to check out the various divisions and membership levels we offer and ask that if there’s something we don’t offer, or something you would like to see us offer our members. Our lines and email are always open to suggestions, and new ideas.
[The Aspiring Songwriter] Thank you, Kris.
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