SXSW Profile: John Shaw (FE Presents: Industry Survival Skills Panelist

March 17, 2011 3 min read

If you are going to SXSW, RSVP To the "INDUSTRY SURVIVAL SKILLS 2011 PANEL" NOW!

In any discussion about the changing state of the music industry, the biggest changes are in the world of retail and distribution. It's one of most challenging questions facing any upcoming artist; do I have options for record deals, how do I secure distribution, and how important are physical sales at all??

John Shaw has been working in the retail and distribution market since the 90s and has seen the industry go thru a series of changes. His experience gives him a vast amount of knowledge on the subject, which he'll be sharing at the "Industry Survival Skills 2011" Panel.

Here's a Q&A session outlining some of his background in the business:

FE: What is your earliest Hip Hop memory?
John Shaw: Riding down Broad Avenue through the Binghampton neighborhood of Memphis, hearing Kurtis Blow's "Tough" playing on the radio. I was fascinated by the congas, timbales and other percussion on that track.

FE: When and what was the defining moment that made you want
to work in the music industry?
John Shaw: I have always been a musician, since I was a little kid, but I originally wanted to be a band director, and was for a year, in the Memphis City Schools district! But I had met Al Kapone during my college years, and had gotten involved in him both with regards to production and promotion. Through him , I had experience with calling retail stores, and doing mailouts, and in 1995, when Memphis' ill-fated Planet Music retail store laid me off, Kapone got me hired at Select-O-Hits for three weeks. When the SOH network (P & D side) laid me off after three weeks, the distributor side hired me, and I've been here ever since.

FE: What are some of the key projects/artists you have worked on
over the years:
John Shaw:: I've been involved in promotions and marketing for Three-6 Mafia, La Chat, Al Kapone, Cash Money Records (back in their independent days), Skinny Pimp, Playa Fly, K-Rino, all of this since I went to work for Select-O-Hits.

FE:Give us some info on the company you work for?
John Shaw: Select-O-Hits Music Distribution is America's oldest continuously-operating music distributor, founded in Memphis in 1960. At various times, it has encompassed a retail record store, a cut-out house, a one-stop, a label, and a distributor. Today, it is both a digital and traditional distributor, with several in-house labels that primarily exist to release purchased masters. is both our company website, and an online store which permits customers to purchase physical merchandise for shipping directly to their door, or digital content. Our distributed labels run the gamut from hip-hop, gangsta rap, reggae, blues, R & B, soul and gospel to rock and roll, country and bluegrass.

FE: What's the biggest challenge in the
retail/distribution industry in todays market?
John Shaw: The biggest challenge facing the retail and distribution business is the rapid shift from brick-and-mortar stores to digital downloads, which is having an adverse effect on the music business as a whole. Although digital distribution is logical and necessary, stores are closing faster than consumers are prepared to switch buying formats, leading to the kinds of crises that led one our blues labels, Ecko Records, to open a traditional retail record store in Memphis. (Their older customer base, who buy blues and soul, are not an iTunes demographic, and were constantly calling the label's office and studios wanting to drop by and purchase CDs after all our local stores closed in Memphis other than FYE, Best Buy and some used and indie rock places). The digital revolution is also adversely affecting the concept of "album" in general, and many artists are only doing singles or digital EPs. The digital shift also seems to be behind the industry's push to force artists into 360 deals, which make sense for the labels, but not necessarily for the artists, in a future world where record sales are minimal, and most money will be derived from derivatives (T-shirts, shows, movie appearances, other merchandise).


Fifth Element has assembled a panel of key artists and professionals in the business to discuss the best ways artists can be self-sufficient and successful in this changing industry!!

We will discuss everything from Social Media, Touring/Booking, Radio, Management, State Of Record Labels, Best Ways To Invest Money, and more!!

MODERATOR: Kevin Beacham

Shad (Decon)
Blueprint (Rhymesayers)
Sage Francis (Strange Famous)
Zach Quillen (The Agency Group)
Jessica Weber (Co-Sign)
John Shaw (Select O Hits)
Cool Nutz (Executive Branch Management)

See you at the panel tomorrow!!

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