Photographer to Headphone: “Try to look pensive.”
Many musicians seem to stumble into their profession. Morgan McRae was not one of these. He had a plan from the start. While attending St. Louis University he studied piano and business management. He is utilizing both at the moment by serving as the keyboard player for Headphone and co-owning (with bassist Darren Goldberg) Foxhole Studios. He is attempting to make a living in the music industry, even though the college he attended didn’t have a firm grasp as to how that is accomplished.
“I noticed they weren’t teaching any business sense to any of my music school cohorts,” McRae explained. “You learned about music, but you didn’t get any tools to make money off of it. It’s confusing anyway, which is why I think they don’t teach it. That’s why they’re professors at music schools. That’s how they make their money.”
He continued through laughter, “I asked a music professor once, ‘How do I make money in all this?’ and his response was to laugh at me.”
McRae is part of a savvy collection of younger musicians that seem to slowly be figuring out sustained existence in a turbulent industry. Headphone is a trio that tours in a car. They have a stripped-down set-up that makes it work. Most bands with guitars, drums, and amps need a van to transport the entire showcase across the country. McRae and his bandmates have tweaked that system. Instead of waiting to tour nationally or losing money by using a van which would hemorrhage money, they just plug in instruments direct and cap the band at three members.
McRae and Goldberg employ the same logic with Foxhole Studios. They passed on a stand-alone physical space for the studio to instead work as a sort of travelling production service that utilizes other studios when they are contracted by bands. They have a workspace in Goldberg’s house from which they can produce music as well.
“I think it’s a really good time for music, and I think all of this confusion in the industry is going to start making more sense — if you’re smart about it. I feel like we have all weathered a storm. The legalities of streaming and royalties. The desire to get offline and go be romantic and be in a room with a band playing out of amps. I think that’s coming right back,” McRae said.
On the local front, Headphone has spearheaded an indie-rock showcase (Indie In OB) at Winstons in Ocean Beach. The thinking was that there are many fans of the genre in the neighborhood, but not much live representation of it.
“I have a lot of friends [in Ocean Beach] and when I go to their houses and we’re all partying they’re playing indie music. We were just like, ‘Let’s curate a night,’ and we fucking packed that place. It was packed! The Winstons staff, the owner, they’re all stoked. We already have a date for the next one. It’s twice now that it’s worked. It’s just been a hopping night. I think it’s so cool,” McRae said.
Indie in OB #3 will be going down on November 9. Between now and then, expect some more singles with videos from Headphone, but not a full-length album.
Exclusive Reader preview "Ready Steady Run" by Headphone
"Ready Steady Run" is the latest single from San Diego indie rock band Headphone
“From now on, there’s videos coming out every two to three months from us. We just want to have enough out ahead of us that we’re not rushed.... I think the album is not dead, but the video and a single can have the same impact. We could write a series of three songs and put those out. There’s no need for a certain amount of structure anymore because of the way music is distributed. iTunes is dead. There’s not even downloads anymore. It’s going total streaming. You can put out a single or three or ten.”