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Advice > Industry Interviews > Interview With Tony Van Veen Of AVL Digital (CD Baby/Disc Makers)

Interview With Tony Van Veen Of AVL Digital (CD Baby/Disc Makers)


As CEO and president of AVL Digital Group, the parent company of Disc Makers and CD Baby, Tony van Veen has been helping independent artists release, distribute, and promote their own music since 1989. In this interview, Tony offers his views, and a few more tips, on product and service development. 


Q: After an artist conceptualizes his brand image and is ready to bring a product or service to the marketplace, there are some big decisions that he/she must make regarding production and manufacturing. What are your personal thoughts on the pros and cons of doing it yourself and/or outsourcing to other companies? 


T.V: The keyword is quality! Whether you decide to go in-house or outsource, just remember that the market nowadays expects a professional product, and nothing less. You must always strive to deliver the highest quality products and services you possibly can, whether you’re manufacturing T-shirts, building websites, or anything else. It really will make a difference in your ability to generate revenue. 


Q: What tips can you offer from a “project management” perspective to ensure that a product or service makes it all the way from “concept to marketplace” as planned with minimal errors?  


T.V: The main thing that artists need to be aware of is that YOU are primarily responsible for the final quality—even when using an outsource company. That said, it is extremely important that you dot every “i” and cross every “t” before starting the final manufacturing process. For instance, when recording an album, you must scrutinize whether you’ve really captured the best performances and sounds on record, worked toward getting the best and most current sounding mixes, got your masters to sound close to what you hear on TV and the radio, used high quality images in your artwork, and checked for typos in your liner notes. If you’re in a band, all of the members can be responsible for making this assessment, or you can even get a third party opinion from a consultant.  


Q: What more can readers of this book learn from a successful company like Disc Makers that might help their own companies operate more efficiently and effectively?


T.V: Great songs and great performances are crucial to building a successful career, but that alone is not enough to drive success. To drive success, you need to build “mindshare.” That is, you have to earn a place in the minds of the fans. To do this, you have to get your unique music, interesting look, and overall brand in front of your potential customers. This is hard work. Gigging, promoting, writing newsletters, managing your social media presence, and interacting with customers are all par for the course and things I know you discuss your book (Music Marketing For The DIY Musician). But keep in mind that if you’re not prepared to work harder at that than at your day job, you’ll never be able to lose your day job. It takes dedication and a willingness to do the hard work. Furthermore, it takes a commitment to market yourself, constantly, for the long haul. Most overnight successes took years to create. 


Q: Anything else you want to add along the lines of Product development? 



T.V: Like most products and services, development is all incremental—it’s a gradual slow build over time. It’s about continual improvement. Keep focusing on moving the needle forward, a little bit, every day. Keep building on every success and learning from every failure. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries, continually, until you get to where you want to end up. And be sure to enjoy the ride!


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Your career is only worth as much as you’re willing to invest into yourself.


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