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GarageBand: Interview With Patrick Koppula, COO

GarageBand's online, grass-roots, independent music community is an awesome source of exposure, fan feedback, and promotional tools for musicians.

gbstaff-copy.jpgThey've generated a lot of buzz with a number of cool applications and features: the GarageBand Podcast Studio (a free podcast-creation tool that lets you create podcasts with music from the GarageBand library), the Radio Network (a network of college, web, and podcast radio stations), a podcast-by-phone service, the LPE (Lathroum Preference Engine - a listener-driven rating system for new tracks), and other band-friendly stuff.

Patrick Koppula, COO of GarageBand (and musician/producer), gave us an inside look into what's up at the company, and insight into his own experiences in music. Check it out:

-- Q&A WITH PATRICK KOPPULA --

What kinds of bands have you played in personally, in the past?

PATRICK: I've played in every kind of band from the pit orchestra for a musical, to a cover band, to an experimental jazz quintet. My fondest memories are, of course, of my first: a straight ahead rock band.

How did you first get started at GarageBand? What is your current title?

PATRICK: I was hired initially to oversee the development of the website. GarageBand was remarkably similar to an idea I had in college, but didn't pursue mostly because I didn't think I could pull it together. So, you can understand how excited I was to join the company in any capacity. Five years later, I'm honored to serve as the COO.

How do you think your experiences in bands have helped you to succeed at GarageBand?

PATRICK: GarageBand is a great community for musicians because it was created by musicians (three fourths of our staff are musicians). I was personally aware of the needs of working musicians and the website was tailored to meet them. Now, of course, I bring the same sensitivity to managing the company.

How responsive have traditional media companies (record labels, major press, etc) been to GarageBand?

PATRICK: A significant percentage of our non-musician membership are from record label A&R departments. Twenty-four of our top bands have been signed in the past several years. We have over 300 members in the GarageBand Radio Network. There have been numerous news stories written and televised about us. We've clearly created a big stir. I think that's what you mean by "responsive".

Give us 5 up-and-coming acts we should check out on GarageBand.

PATRICK: There are too many to pick just five. You want to know who's got the goods to break? Just look at the top of our charts. (Quick Note: Bo Bice, American Idol's runner-up last season, and Geoff Byrd, are two of their better known success stories. Currently, 22 bands have been signed.)

The GarageBand Podcast Studio -- when was the idea created, how long did it take to develop, and how has it progressed since launch? Are there any plans to make GarageBand podcasts compatible with iTunes 4.9?

The idea for something like the GarageBand Podcast Studio had been simmering around here for a long time. We'd put it aside mainly because our efforts would be limited by the rudimentary sharing technology of the time, email. When podcasting started catching on early this year, we realized that limitation had been lifted. We already had sophisticated playlisting technology and it was easy enough to stitch the playlist together into a podcast and create an RSS feed - instant podcasts.

Shortly after launch, we completed the suite with the record-by-phone function. Since then, our focus has been on helping our podcasters distribute thier work. One really neat addition is the Podcast Player, a Flash based widget that can be embedded on any webpage. We've already started seeing these pop up on MySpace pages, blogs, and webcaster homepages.

GarageBand podcasts have always been compatible with iTunes and all podcatching software. In reality, iTunes was catching up to us. And we're keeping up-to-date with emerging standards/extensions for RSS.

Are there any new tools, marketing channels, and/or monetization strategies approaching on the horizon that you can tell us about?

PATRICK: Nothing I can tell you about yet, but I can tell that something is on the horizon.

Do GarageBand's offices include a recording studio, or any other kind of "cool" gear?

PATRICK: Of course! In my office I have a drum set and three guitars. I'm still trying to figure out how to install the hot tub.

Are you currently playing in or recording with any bands yourself? Is there a track of yours we can listen to?

PATRICK: Unfortunately I'm not currently in a band. For I while, there, it seemedlike this hair rock revival band was going to come together, but then the guitarist lost his job. As y'all know it's a lot of effort finding the right band and right now almost all of my energy is going into GarageBand.

Any advice or wisdom to pass on to indie musicians and unsigned acts aspiring for rock stardom?

PATRICK: Do it 'cause you love it. Whether you make five or five million people feel your groove, you're already a star.

Thanks, Patrick.


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