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Interview with T. Mancuso

I started playing the sax as a kid. I really wanted to play the drums but my mom said ‘no way - too noisy’. Sax seemed cool and came naturally to me. It became my main instrument growing up. I’ve always been a songwriter, probably wrote my first music around age 6.

In high school, I got started playing in clubs with a local R&B group. We did a Blues Brothers tribute at larger venues like the local State Fair and a lot of smaller blues club gigs. It was a pretty cool experience to play at night for folks and then attend school with their kids the next day (well, most days anyway … my school attendance was fairly poor). My chance at lead vocals came during a band tryout one night when the bass player asked if anyone knew a particular song and I said ‘I can sing that one’. The rest, as they say, is history.

After years of vocals and sax with various bands, both cover and original music, I took time out to raise a family and didn’t do much for about a 10-year span. Fast forward to now: Since live performances have dried up with the pandemic, I’ve got my studio up and running and have been working to get more music out to the fans directly. On top of recording, I front a Dallas, TX tribute band with some super-talented musicians. If COVID ever lets up we’ll be out playing festivals, parties, and events again. It’s certainly an interesting time to be a musician.

As for the future, I just want to have the music out there where people can listen to it, enjoy the experience and share it with others. My music becoming part of their story - that’s the legacy I aspire to leave.

Tell us about your latest release, what's it about?

My latest release is a very personal one. Not just for me, but for many people. The title is ‘That’s The Way It Goes (my friend)’. It’s a song about loss and it’s something that all of us have had to deal with in one way or another. It’s different because it’s written from the perspective of the person leaving. I wanted it to be a more positive take on saying ‘goodbye’ to a special someone. There’s so much hurt and sadness that the negative tends to dominate in those times. I hope it brings people some hope and peace and reminds them that this is a common struggle.

T. Mancuso sax sugar

How did you record it?

That’s The Way It Goes’ was written, arranged, recorded, and mastered entirely in my home studio here in Dallas. I run on Logic and a mix of legacy equipment that I trust and have used for years. With the technology available to independent artists today it’s cool that we can collaborate digitally with players from around the world, especially in these restrictive times.

How did you distribute it?

I currently use Distrokid. I’m super impressed by Kaplan and his team, they really have it together and provide solid value for independent artists and producers. I’ve used other distributors in the past but for me, it’s about the long game. It takes a quality service and technology platform at the start and reliability plus accessible tech support to keep things streaming in order to succeed in today’s music business. Distrokid checks all the boxes in my book.

How did you promote it?

Promotion for independent artists can be a bit overwhelming, not to mention expensive. That’s The Way It Goes’ has already benefitted from using Songwhip links in my marketing. I’ve also focused on my fan base for this one and they’ve really seemed to be connecting with it so far. All of that being said, my advice to independent artists is just to find someone new to share your music with every day. Each time you make a new fan of your music you potentially increase your reach 10-fold.

The music industry is in a state of flux right now, where do you see it heading?

It’s really hard to say where the music industry is heading right now. The end-user is changing dramatically. Not only ‘who’ listens, but ‘how’ people listen is quite different than even 10 years ago. There is so much music available today (over 40,000 new releases PER DAY just on Spotify) it’s become quite hard for a new or independent release to stand out and gain traction.

These days every kid with a guitar is singing from their bedroom and ‘streaming live’. Although recording and production costs have definitely come down since the ‘heyday’ of the big label studios (the 70s-90s) it’s still improbable that an independent artist will recoup their production costs on a new release in the short term without supplemental revenue from live shows, merch sales, fan membership, etc.

Personally, I think the future belongs to the fans. The listener is the most important part of the equation now. To survive in the music business you must make great music and captivate your audience. Period. In the end, that’s what it will take. People are loyal to their ears; they stream it, like it, follow it, and fave it when it touches their hearts.

What's the most important thing missing from Songwhip?

That’s a tough question, here’s why: I’ve been following along and using Songwhip for a while and the good stuff keeps getting added in! I think adding song/album pre-saves would take it to the next level and pull some folks over from competing conversion pages. Maybe somewhere down the road being able to add a few custom pages or nav and use it for a full-on artist site would be cool. What’s great about Songwhip is that it’s AFFORDABLE. There’s no shortage of solutions for artists out there but WOW we get nickel-and-dimed to death just trying to keep things going. Wilson has been great about that - I appreciate and respect him for it.

T. Mancuso Blues Rcks Dallas Music

Which artist do you look up to the most and why?

There’s not a single artist I can name for this. Every time I speak with someone in the business I’m blown away by their story. I’ve been blessed to have played with so many great musicians over the years. A personal friend of mine was the drummer for Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly back in the day. He’s one of the survivors. The history there with so many great players is something that goes beyond words. I look up to everyone that’s bringing smiles to listeners’ faces, dancing to their feet, and tears to their eyes. Anyone who stands out a bit and isn’t just another artist that sounds like so-and-so’ - that’s who I dig and respect.

What artist tools/services can't you live without?

Currently, that would be the following: Logic, Social Media Advertising Platform(s), Metrics, Reporting, Landing Page(s) and stats (songwhip.com), Distribution and Royalty Platform (distrokid.com), Streaming Services, and my trusted friend Ian Shepherd with The Loudness Penalty and Mastering Advice (productionadvice.co.uk).

What is your advice to other indie artists to help fund their work/produce music?

  1. Be frugal. Don’t buy the stuff you don’t need, and that includes the latest greatest ‘get 1M streams instantly’ programs.
  2. Use what you have. Do the very BEST work you are able to with what you’ve already got. Then get out there and share it with people. Sing/play into your cell phone mic if you have to - just get started.
  3. Get a new fan every day. Ask for their help, get them to share your music with someone they know will like it.
  4. Be real. Be a musician. Be an artist. The world has enough prima-donnas.
  5. Don’t quit. Keep writing new material - and performing whenever and wherever you can. In time, you’ll get the funding you need to upgrade your setup.
  6. Focus on the great free/inexpensive tools out there like Songwhip and make the most of them.
  7. Find a mentor that’s been where you are.
  8. Study the business. Read. Listen to Podcasts. Follow people that are smarter than you about what you want to do.
  9. Oh yeah, don’t buy inventory hoping to sell it (like Vinyl, Shirts, CDs in bulk) - stick with print-on-demand services and save your money, sanity, and marriage. (See #1)
Fear of Falling album cover art

Anything else you'd like to plug?

As a multi-genre artist, I’ve got 2 albums set to release this year. ‘Still Got It’ is a jazz / R&B rhythm section-driven album with a bit of the blues thrown in there.

Fear of Falling’ is Pop / Dance / Rock with a more contemporary feel to it. Both links are available via Songwhip (StreamTMancuso.com) so be sure to give them a listen.