Ryan Catbird

Ryan's headBack in the formative days of the mp3-blog world, Ryan Catbird was king with The Catbirdseat. Since then he’s started his own label (Catbird Records, with a slew of new releases) and founded MBV Music, an amalgam of music blogging’s finest that recently won an Eddy.

TMN: What was the impetus behind developing MBV?

RC: Everyone knows that the media landscape is going through some very dramatic changes. I’d say this has been especially true of the last 18-24 months or so, and it was during that time it became apparent to me that blogs were starting to be viewed as more credible media outlets (as much as I still want to punch someone in the face when they refer to me as “blogger”). It seemed like the industry was beginning to see many potential opportunities in the music blogs. This was manifested most clearly in aggressive music-blogger courting from ad networks and entities like Buzznet and MOG (in my opinion, all ostensibly the same thing; they look at the blogs and all they see is built-in traffic they can slap some ads on). I mean, it struck me that none of these entities really seemed to give a damn about the blogs themselves. It was as if they had come across some wonderful plants growing in the wild, and were content to pluck off the fruit—as long as the fruit kept coming. No need to worry about the actual plant; it could take care of itself, right? And if it died, so what?

So rather than sit back and just wait for the ad guys or social networks or old media publishers to define what the future of this online music space should be, I decided that we (the guys who had been waist-deep in the “music blogosphere” since it first arose) should take a bigger role in defining that future. I think a music blog can be so much more than just a guy sitting alone in his apartment, posting mp3s. But it’s not gonna happen until someone acts to make it happen.

TMN: What’s something you’re not good at but wish you were?

RC: Tanning.

TMN: Why did you start a label?

RC: Oh, I had thought about doing it for a while, but it was a combination of two things that finally cinched it for me in 2005. The first was my discovery of a little unknown band from Springfield, Mo. (Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin), and my intense desire to get them into the ears of more people—this was May of 2005, and their album Broom didn’t get rerelesed on Polyvinyl until October 2006. The second factor, believe it or not, was implementing advertising into my site. Back in the day, it was looked on very unfavorably for a site to have ads (“Their integrity is blown! They’re just jockeying for ad dollars!”), and I had resisted it since my site’s inception in ‘02. Truth be told, I probably would have continued to resist, were it not for a long phone call from a very persistent ad network that finally convinced me to give it a go. I mean, I myself was totally hyper-conscious of the “ad dollars vs. purity of intent” dynamic, and so things really only clicked after I realized that I could stick ads on the site and then “Robin Hood” that ad money directly into releasing records by bands I wanted people to hear.

Ryan's favorite paintingTMN: What is your favorite object in your office?

RC: The painting in this photo. “Untitled” by Richard Aldrich.

TMN: As a label, would you like to compete on the level of a Matador or a Sub Pop? Or bigger?

RC: All I’m trying to do is just nudge these bands out into the water, maybe teach them to swim a little bit—but ideally, someone with a big ol’ boat will eventually come along and pull them onboard. I mean, Catbird Records is really nothing more than a logical extension of what I’ve been doing with the site since the beginning; it’s just another way of me saying, “Hey, I think this music is pretty great; check this out!”

TMN: So, why fatherhood, and why now? Will you try to persuade or dissuade baby Catbird from following in your footsteps? What are those footsteps, as you see them?

RC: Dude, I find this question so incredibly strange! I’m not really sure how to answer other than to say that sometimes in life, when things are right, they’re just right—and this was one of those times. I mean, wow, how does one answer the question, “Why did you want to be a father?” I think I’ll save the unpacking of that one for my upcoming Psychology Today interview.

TMN: What was the most terrifying moment of your childhood?

RC: Riding the legendary “Beast” coaster at King’s Island in Cincinnati. Actually, that’s a lie, I must confess. I was always too terrified to ever actually ride it.

TMN: What makes you irrationally angry?

RC: “SEO Wizards,” “Social Media Experts,” “Personal Brand Consultants,” “Twitter Strategists.” I could go on, but I’m getting irrationally angry.

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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