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The Somebody behind the “Album of a Nobody”

December 7, 2010
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"Album of a Nobody" album cover

Why do you write music? Are you hoping for fame and fortune?  Or perhaps at least a livelihood?  My interview with Mark Roper, reminded me that the enjoyment of the process can be the ultimate reward.  Mark Roper has had an adventurous life, which includes spending a year in Russia where he worked on learning the language.  During that time, he had a British roommate with whom he played cover songs on the cheapest guitars they could find.

Fast forward many years later, and the former roommate is now a cross-Atlantic songwriting partner.  What began as a few songs where Roper sent his partner recorded chord progressions and tracks became a 6 year project that eventually birthed Roper’s debut album, “Album of a Nobody,” recorded by the band, “Enough About You.”  Co-writing across time zones has it’s challenges including not being able to get feedback on mixes in real time, however, overall the cowriting relationship has been satisfying for the accountability and forward motion it has created, especially while juggling a job and a family with kids.

Once they had accumulated enough material, Roper knew it was time to put out an album.   Most of the time, bands give birth to songs which lead to albums.  In this case, Roper had the songs, then formed the band, which lead to the album.  The lead singer of “Enough About You,” is a Scottish singer whose voice Roper was drawn to during an open mic in Scotland.  The rest of the band is a mixture of friends and acquaintances, some of whom have withheld their name from the project for tax purposes.  The resulting sound is self-described as “light indie-pop.”  Whether or not the band will ever play a live show depends on whether or not digital sales for the album takes off.

There are no plans for a big release event, “Album of a Nobody,” quietly went on sale on iTunes and other digital outlets last week.  The album title was inspired by the English novel, “Diary of a Nobody,” about an ordinary guy in London living an ordinary life.  Similarly, the songs on the album loosely form the story of the romantic highs and lows of an ordinary guy who eventually settles down and has a child…not unlike Roper who seems like a nice ordinary guy, with a family and a job.

About his chosen path
There are a lot of songwriters who pursue their career with shark-like ambition.  Mark Roper is not one of them.  While he plans to devote some time to emailing radio stations to promote his music and hopefully garner some airplay, he acknowledges that he doesn’t have huge plans and doesn’t enjoy marketing because he finds it slightly self-indulgent.  Instead, Roper moves purposefully forward and plans to take things as they come.  He surmises that his example may be the tip of a trend of songwriters who are not interested in touring or being in a gigging band, but rather forming a community of artists who will be satisfied with whatever audience they can garner online.

Even if he makes back only a fraction of the production costs, Roper is happy because he knows that if he hadn’t of done it, he would have lived a lifetime of regret.  When asked about how he would define the success of this album, Mark replied, “Even if I don’t make all the money back, I won’t have any regrets because I enjoyed the process so much.”

Sidenote on Digital Distribution for Songwriters:

Mark Roper used Catapult Distribution to release his album through several websites including iTunes.  He chose this company from a list provided by iTunes.  While researching distribution companies, here are some tips from Mark:

  • Different distribution companies offer different terms and percentages, others also have joining fees.  It is important to compare these when making a decision.
  • Distribution companies differ in local and international reach.
  • Watch out for extra services that can actually be accessed for free, for example, some companies charge artists to register with Nielsen SoundScan,  when artists can register themselves directly for free.
  • There are some great bells and whistles to choose from, for example downloadable album notes.
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