I’ve known John going on ten years. He moved directly from France and started a punk record store in Los Angeles called Headline Records, many moons ago. Along with Bill of Dr. Strange Records, he’s one of the smartest, hardest-working, and honest guys I know who tries to make a living at what he loves (punk rock) while being conscientious of not ripping anyone off. It’s not an easy life, especially in the long run. Headline has had to move three times and constantly has to adjust itself to survive in the fickle music world and ever-increasing rents. Turning his mind to the future, John has come up with an idea that he’s been kicking around for awhile: http://www.showsintheus.com/. It’s an ambitious, innovative world-wide website for art, populated by the very people who make it and like it. Given John’s track record of tenacious perseverance, he’s going to get this done right. It’ll be more than “check out my hot links,” and a great resource in the years to come.
Interview by Todd Taylor
Todd: Give people some quick background on yourself. Who are you and what do you do?
John: My name is John and I own Headline Records and Showsintheus.com.
Todd: Why do you care so much about music?
John: It has been my passion since I was a teenager, something I always knew I wanted to be involved with.
Todd: What have you given up so that you can pursue what you do?
John: My entire family is in France, so being close with them. Other than that, I don’t consider myself giving up anything.
Todd: Why aren’t you satisfied by just running a record store?
John: It’s not that I am not satisfied, it’s that I have many ideas to implement and I want to see to their completion. Active mind.
Todd: Why did you pick up a new project?
John: The internet is the future. I want a place to incorporate my passions, and all genres of music and art that people are passionate about, without having to search twenty different websites to find entertainment.
Todd: Where did the genesis come from to start this website? Why do you want to do it?
John: I started this website in November 2005 by accident. I was checking the world wide web and trying to find clubs, venues, place for bands to play. I realized after a few hours, some major websites names weren’t taken. Showsincalifornia.com and showsinnewyork.com were the main ones. A few days later, the general idea came up, and I started to buy those domain names one by one. Of course, at first, the ideas were vague, but after a few weeks, it became a real project. More ideas came when I realized what I could do with all those domain names.
Todd: How is this website fundamentally different than what’s out there already?
John: First: as a person on the net looking for something to do, you don’t need to join, don’t need a profile, don’t need to sign up, remember a password, any of that, so for someone like my mom, a casual internet user, who doesn’t want to join or remember or sign up, it can be just a search. (You can sign up, but it’s not mandatory to use the website as a fan.)
Second: The name. You don’t need to explain what the website does. I know it sounds little stupid, but check Ebay or Amazon. Everyone knows what they do, but at first they had to work very hard to put their name out there and explain what they were doing. At least when I say showsinnewyork.com, I’m not selling lettuces!
Third: You are not taking about one website, showsintheus.com, you are taking about fifty websites—fifty states in the USA: showsincalifornia.com, showsinflorida.com, etc… Each website has their own database—subscribers, venues, bands, and so on—so everything, including advertising, can be local. But each of them are related to each other. A subscriber can check what’s going on in Florida or California, and be a subscriber in New York. Also, you don’t need to subscribe to check all the postings.
Fourth: This kind of website structure gives me the power to separate each state and genre and page for advertisement. I can put a banner only in California, in the art or painting section, so more people will have the opportunity to advertise, not just the big guys.
Fifth: The biggest and unique idea of this website is, no matter what website address the user put (http://www.showsinname of a state.com), the result is going to go to showsintheus.com. The user doesn’t need anymore to know about a specific website. For example, they can put showsinmiami.com, and it goes to my website.
Sixth: All subscribers (venues, bands, artists, festivals, theatres) can post their shows for free, but also, can promote them by buying the top banner in their own page. It’s a great way to promote what you do, because the people who are going to check your page are the potential public and customers.
Todd: What groundwork have you set down already?
John: The website is 60% finished. These kind of websites are never done. A lot of small details that makes the websites better need to be incorporated, but it’s getting there little bit by bit.
Todd: How many domain names do you have now?
John: Since I started this project, I’ve registered over 500 domain names. I’m missing only two! Not bad when, you know, I registered the name “showsinname.com” all over the world.
Todd: What’s been the most difficult part of showsintheus.com so far?
John: One of the biggest challenges, without any doubt, was the creation of the website. It took me four companies to arrive to this point. I’m not saying they were bad companies, or unprofessional, but they were not capable to realizing this project. A lot of delay. That’s why it took me almost two years of aggravations to arrive at what you see. And more work needs to be done. It means more headaches are coming.
Todd: Were, or are, there any legal issues that you hadn’t thought of that have popped up?
John: Not really. Of course I did a corporation to protect myself and the asset of the company. I know its not really punk rock, but for this kind of project, you have to have your shit together. This part of the project was very interesting. My knowledge about trademark and agreements were almost zero. Now I know a little bit more. DIY, being punk rock, to me means being smart about doing it yourself, as well.
Todd: So, the website covers all of the arts: readings, painting exhibits, stuff like that, and not just music, not just punk?
John: Yes. All types of art, music, and entertainment.
Todd: How will the site sustain itself, financially?
John: Since the beginning, Headline Records is putting a lot of money to the website. Of course, showsintheus.com hasn’t made any money, yet. But I think in a few months, the website will pick up and the advertisers will come. The website just needs to be known.
Todd: How has the response been so far to the site?
John: The response is slow but great. Like any project, it’s never easy when you start. You need to put your name out there. But, when you believe, you can succeed with a lot of work, passion, perseverance, focus and a little bit of luck! My luck was to find all those domain names, and now I need to do the rest of the list.
Todd: What are your current short-term and long-term goals?
John: My goal is to finish what I am scheduled to finish. And already it’s a big challenge. Right now, only two people are working in this project: my wife and me. Of course, I’ve had new ideas, new set up to improve the website. Those kinds of projects never stop, because new technology is always ahead of us. But my goal in the very near future is to do the website in Europe and Canada. I just need to finish what needs to be finished for the U.S. website, and after that, I can develop the same system somewhere else.