Interviews

Andrew Apanov – Dotted Music

January 9th, 2011 by Anthony CW Morgan

Born in Kaliningrad, Russia and graduating from Kaliningrad State Technical University, Andrew Apanov has worked at tablature and magazine website Ultimate-Guitar.com for roughly seven years as an editor-in-chief, his various other responsibilities earning him the additional title of project manager. Since that time, Ultimate-Guitar.com has become the world’s largest guitar tablature website.

A drum and bass DJ under the name DJ Matter and an events promoter, Apanov debuted in 2003 as a permanent resident of Kaliningrad’s local pirate radio station (at the time) called Estation. A co-creator of all projects, he was involved in the station’s Power Source compilation. Playing at several Kaliningrad clubs and venues, Apanov has co-headlined St. Petersburg club Tunnel on many occasions. Artists he has performed alongside include; Pendulum, Dieselboy, John B, Noisia, Distorted Minds, Technical Itch, TeeBee, Spor, Panacea, Black Sun Empire, N. Phect, Raiden, The Sect, Aphrodite, Mutated Forms, Subwave, Paul B, and many others.

In the latter part of 2006, Apanov and fellow break-beat / drum and bass DJ Mars teamed up to become the first Russian DJs on the internet radio station NSB Radio, running the show The Broken Communistic Beats. In 2008’s spring, however, the pair announced a hiatus from the show. Other internet radio shows Apanov has run include Disgusting on NuBreaks.com and The Elements on ToBeat Radio.

In late 2009, Dotted Music was launched, a music blog website centred around music marketing, and particularly the digital medium as it relates to the music industry in both a positive and negative manner. To discuss Dotted Music, Andrew Apanov was interviewed via email.

What were your motives in opting to launch the website Dotted Music in late 2009?

I was compelled to start blogging for several years, I think, reading a lot about music industry, accumulating ideas on that topic. I am passionate about music, with all my hobbies, education and occupation being related to this beautiful form of art in one way or another. The actual idea of starting a blog came in early 2009 though, after attending the MIDEM trade fair in Cannes for the first time. The experience switched something in my head, and I decided to get my own resource about the music business and music marketing specifically.

I knew it would be tough to do it solely on my own, and to write as frequently as I wanted to (due to lack of time and the fact that English isn’t my first language). So I invited a number of writers and like-minded persons to join my project and start sharing their thoughts on the multifarious music industry.

Personally, how would you describe what Dotted Music covers exactly, and what achievements have you experienced thus far?

Dotted Music is heavily centred around music marketing, services for musicians, and general music biz news. What I try to cover more extensively right now is a variety of new technologies meeting musicians’ needs. And in the long run, this blog is all about inspiration. Each writer on this blog tries to give readers a few bits of inspiration each week, bits that can help boosting your music career at least slightly. Dotted Music can’t help to solve all problems of a struggling musician (no one can), but it is aimed to help musicians to move in the right direction instead. Fortunately, everything above fits the original Dotted Music motto, “Living music in the digital age.”

As for achievements, so far we have published a number of very interesting interviews and articles on various topics, with a few big exclusives.

Dotted Music seemingly has a focus on how the digital age has affected music, and the ways in which labels and bands are or are not adapting. How is Dotted Music incorporating new mediums in which to promote itself, and experimenting with new things? Surely it’s difficult to get noticed?

Marketing and managing a blog is an exciting and difficult adventure on its own, that’s for sure. I use social media actively and push the blog in various ways, but overall – will be sincere – I can and will do a way better job here.

A blog, just like a band, has to be treated as a business. I often find a lot of inspiration and great ideas applicable to music marketing in blogs about blogging. General internet marketing rules work for everyone on the Web. Vice versa, if you are a musician – go read Problogger or Copyblogger to find useful ideas and sharpen your writing skills. Have I mentioned that I believe that all musicians have to blog a priori?

Being involved in the music industry, has being located in Russia presented you with any difficulties in progressing throughout your career?

Living where I live has its pros and cons, but I tend to see mostly cons, ha! Kaliningrad is very nice and cosy, but there are not too many places to go out – and just being at the same town most of the time can be pretty tiring. I would be much happier with the place if I and my wife could travel more.

On a positive side, hell – I am in Russia, so everything could be way worse! I’m very lucky with where exactly I am located. Geographically, Kaliningrad is in the middle of Eastern Europe, and it doesn’t even have any direct connection with the “big” Russia. Plus, I think it’s a blessing if you live here and own business operations outside the country. Compared to most European countries or the US, life is relatively cheap over here.

As a drum and bass DJ, you’ve played at many clubs and venues in Kaliningrad, Russia under the name DJ Matter. What drew you to drum and bass DJing, and how would you personally describe your style?

As Moses Avalon said, “Most music industry pros, at some time or another, dreamed of being some type of performer.” This is about me (you can cut off the “music industry pro” part though). I’m a DJ and play in local clubs and my own events from time to time, but this will always be just my hobby. I’m very picky with the tunes I spin though. I’m into mental, melancholic, while wobbly and still dance-floor oriented drum & bass music.

In what ways do you strive to make your sets as creative and unexpected for audiences as possible?

At the beginning of my DJ career I was afraid to experiment in front of an audience. Now I feel way more confident about what I am doing on stage, and I want to show people some truly good music.

From the later part of 2006 until the spring of 2008, you had a show on the internet radio station NSB Radio with DJ Mars entitled The Broken Communistic Beats. What were the challenges in co-hosting your own show, and how did those challenges differ to the challenges which face a club DJ?

It was so much fun! Really, now looking back on those days I realize how fun it is to host a morning radio show. I even miss it a bit. Tech-wise, Mars was responsible for setting everything up, but it’s not difficult at all – if you’ve got a slot on an internet radio station. A pair of decks, a mic and a good broadband connection make the magic.

You’ve said that you and DJ Mars were “the first DJs ever to break the old mould and mix breaks and drum and bass together”. Looking back, how successful do you feel that fusion was? Also, is it important to experiment as a DJ, or can experimentation sometimes happen at the expense of creating good music?

It wasn’t a hundred percent true that we were the first to mix these two styles, of course (hey, looks like I started my first marketing efforts back then), but we did it fairly good. It was a huge part of the fun that we had, and it was good for the DJ practice. Experimentation is needed for an artist, be he or she a musician or a DJ.

What is more important, in my opinion, is to be consistent and to not betray yourself. If you’ve got that genius “a-ha!” idea, think twice before announcing the change of your creative direction on Twitter. You should match your ideas to your inner feelings and confidently cut off everything that doesn’t fit your world. Experimentation is about trying different things, that’s a fact, and you have to try out your ideas to learn if it’s your thing or not, just always remember about the core essence of your music.

How did you come to be editor-in-chief at Ultimate-Guitar.com, and what appealed to you about the role itself?

My work for Ultimate Guitar started almost seven years ago, I was the fourth or third employee ever hired for the then small company. My knowledge of the English language secured me the position of content manager. It took around three years into the job for me to become an editor-in-chief, and now I’m also a project manager for a number of exciting projects, including those in our Mobile Development Division.

How long have you been editor-in-chief of Ultimate-Guitar.com, and what does the job entail?

In fact, since I’ve got an enormous list of various tasks in the company, my official title is a project manager. I’m still mostly known as an editor-in-chief though, even in the office. And here I’ve got a team of editors, people that do all the hard job of editing and posting content on the site – everything that I went through.

What new developments can readers expect at Ultimate-Guitar.com, and also, will these new developments give you any extra responsibilities?

Oh man, there are so many things happening right now. We’ve been in a very difficult licensing process with music publishers during the last few years, and by now have signed contracts with all major publishers, which is absolutely unique for a tablature website. The Ultimate Guitar Tabs mobile application is doing very well, and we just released an Android version to accompany the iPhone one. An iPad app is coming very shortly, too. In March we announced a venture deal with Slash, and as part of that deal we are hosting his official website, built and maintained on our side. There was even a very special branded edition of Arcade Rocker iPhone app released in the summer.

And around February or March Ultimate Guitar will present users something totally fresh. I believe any guitarist will love what we’ve prepared. This is a big step for UG, and more details are to follow soon.

The company as a whole is at a very important stage of its life cycle. We are getting seriously big, and I’m really happy to grow alongside it.

Please keep an eye on news from the UG and DM camps.

For more information about Andrew Apanov, visit Dotted Music.


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