Jacob Brennan and David Ginsburg, Co-Founders of BrenBurg Media & Producers of the 2011 Boston Music Awards
BrenBurg Media is a Boston based media startup with two branches of business: Hector Social handles the marketing projects while All the Jung Dudes handles the production projects.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT INTERVIEW
1. What prompted you to launch BrenBurg Media and its two entities ‘All the Jung Dudes’ and ‘Hector Social’? Most importantly, where did these names come from?
Jacob: Both of these entities came about organically and arose out of mine and David’s shared experiences in the Music Industry – David as Program Director for WBOS 92.9 and myself as an independent musician. At a time when revenue opportunities in the music industry were drying up, we found that people within our shared network were seeking us out to help them do a number of things that frankly, they thought we were capable of. These services ran the gamut from Event Production to Social Media Marketing to Fund Raising to Web Development and Film Scoring. After about two years of juggling as many projects as possible and taking any and all work that came our way we settled on focusing on what was generating the most return for us – Social Media Marketing and Music Event and Film Production.
The name All The Jung Dudes, to us, just sounded cool – it’s an irreverent nod to Mott The Hoople and Carl Jung. The octopus logo represents the way in which the brand developed – a company that took on many projects and juggled multiple skill sets and services to find it’s way.
The name Hector Social comes from a fictional uber-social character that David and I had created. His name is Hector. He’s cooler than all of us and cooler than anyone we’ve ever known. Hector can market milk to a cow and ice to an Eskimo.
David: After I left WBOS in late 2007, I did some web development projects for independent radio and then took a job at Blitz Media. I was hired in August 2008-right as the economy was cratering. While at Blitz, I was tasked with developing their in-house social media marketing program. Facebook had begun its ascension and Twitter was just bubbling up and clients were asking about them.
The program at Blitz launched in early 2009, working with clients such as Babson College, Cumberland Farms and the American Repertory Theater. Unfortunately, the economy was still in tough shape, and my department was laid off in May 2009. Jake and I had been working together for years on various projects and already had the germ of Hector in development. The day after I was laid off, a (former) Blitz client called me and asked if I would still work on their social media program. I agreed, and that was the beginning of the social media marketing consultancy.
2. 2011 marks the fourth year that BrenBurg Media will be promoting and producing the Boston Music Awards. What can people expect this year as opposed to the first year your company produced the event?
Jacob: We’re trying to build on the success of last year, which was the most successful event to date. We really made an effort to be more inclusive of all the entire Boston music scene not just the old guard. Last year we opened the Voting Academy up to some of the area’s bigger bloggers and less conventional venues. We also featured a very diverse performance lineup. The result was a big success and this year we’re looking to do more of the same in an effort to raise more money for the charity that the BMA’s benefit – the Music Drives Us Foundation.
David: It’s fun to be your own client once in a while! I’m a huge music dork, and doing the social marketing for an event I used to attend, as a fan is a trip.
3. For most successful entrepreneurs, there is no typical day so give us a sample of your schedule from start to finish.
Jacob: The first half of my day is spent working with David on managing our client’s Social Media accounts. The second half is spent on production (depending what time of year it is and what events we’re working on) and operations. There is never a shortage of calls and emails to return. If it’s one of those days that calls for me to be creative in any way – be it brand development or drafting client proposals or what have you – I try to do this work first thing in the morning as it’s when my head is clearest.
David: Social media marketing is an “always on” gig. I am usually logged on by 7:30am to catch up on the overnight feeds and news. A large portion of my day is spent on client execution: Twitter, Facebook, updating of custom applications including contest tabs, etc. I also do a lot of research on the overall effectiveness of client programs by reviewing Insights data from Facebook and Hootsuite’s analytics package, among other tools in the arsenal. I also draft new business proposals, maintain relationships with the partner agencies we work with (providing social media marketing services for their clients), and read a TON. This world is evolving so quickly that keeping up with the industry is a daily requirement. Mashable, Read Write Web, TechCrunch, and my Twitter feed are constants. I’ll often tweet at night on behalf of clients as well, if there’s a major sporting event, award show or other pertinent element. Typically, this is a 70 to 80 hour per week job…if I didn’t love it, I’d be a basket case (or more of one than I am already, if you ask Jake!)
4. What are your “can’t live without” apps on your desktop/cell phone?
David: Hootsuite on both! Plus the Twitter and Facebook apps for iPhone and Flipboard on the iPad. I’ve also got the mobile versions of my RockMelt and Firefox browsers on my devices. I stream a ton of music as well, from Pandora, Spotify, SiriusXM and a great online station from LA called Houndstooth Radio that’s run by a couple of ex-Boston guys that ran WFNX (alternative radio) during its heyday in the 80’s and early 90’s.
5. What are your tricks for time management?
Jacob: Lists! And staying on schedule. I’m kind of a maniac about punctuality and David is kind of always late. I don’t know how it works but it does. I try to keep a day to day list of tasks and schedule my work weeks out well in advance.
David: It’s true, punctuality and I have never seen eye-to-eye, although I do work on it. Client emergencies and fire drills can happen at anytime and frequently do. That aside, I am maniacal about maintaining a calendar and task list, and update both throughout the day with detailed notes on what needs to be done, possible tactics, needed items, etc. We deliver client material on time and accurately, and that’s my top priority. Jake and I get along quite well and we make it work, despite our opposing viewpoints on what 11am really means.
6. Best advice received when you started your career?
Jacob: I’ve been lucky to have a lot of great advice from a lot of great friends and mentors. David and I learned first hand recently after a failed dance with an investor that it’s always great to have a solid Plan B. Aside from the obvious, there is a Joe Strummer drawing on my wall that has this quote, “Everyone has got to realize that you can’t hold onto the past. If you want any future each second should lead to the next one.” I think that’s some good advice right there.
David: I really subscribe to the Golden Rule. Business or life, treat people as you wish to be treated. I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some incredible people over the years, people that mentored me when I had not a clue. They taught me to be a professional. Beyond that, the words I live by every day—especially in challenging moments—are “everyone else is just as f***ed up as you are.” It’s a good reminder not to judge anyone else’s outside against your inside.
7. Given the current economic climate, how has your strategy for building awareness of your work changed for the short-term and long-term?
Jacob: We’ve been lucky in that our work has spoken for itself. We are profitable and have done zero advertising. Everything that has come through the door has been via client referrals and despite this economy we’ve had a tough time keeping up with the work. That said, we just underwent a company wide re-brand in an effort to grow our client base. Re-brands obviously only make sense on a case by case basis but we thought it was time for us to tighten up our B2B image in an effort to grow beyond our current client list.
David: Yeah, to echo what Jake said: we’ve been amazingly fortunate to have a solid business without having spent any money marketing. It’s all been referrals, cold calls from Linked In, and networking extensively by attending business-oriented events and simply talking to people. There’s a huge need for what we do, obviously—lots of businesses are still just getting started in the space and need help doing so effectively. As we complete the rebranding, we may do some paid marketing in a B2B channel such as Linked In.
8. What’s been your proudest achievement as such an immensely accomplished Entrepreneur?
Jacob: I don’t know really. I’m proud to wake up every day and work with a partner that I believe in and that I know believes in me. I know that he’s going to work as hard as I do and vice versa and I have to say that I can speak for both of us when I say that it feels great to be independent and to not have to answer to anyone but ourselves.
David: That’s really it. Each client is effectively our boss, but at the end of the day this is all self-directed. Growing up, I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur. Having become one organically and earning a decent living doing it is still mind-boggling to me. I’m very grateful to be in this position.
9. What are some of the ways that you achieve balance in your life?
Jacob: Exercise. Properly planned schedules. Unplugging for at least part of the weekend and listening to plenty of Serge Gainsbourgh.
David: I have a pretty active social life and enjoy going out to dinner to indulge the inner foodie in me. Yoga, the occasional weekend nap, reading, and The Howard Stern show keep my workaholism manageable. Sort of.
10. Your top 3 book recommendations for our readers (and why?)
- Getting To Yes, Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury – I just started reading this recently. I would recommend it to anyone in or out of business. Priceless insight on understanding what the person on the other side of the table is looking for and how to use that to benefit you both.
- Never Mind The Pollacks by Neal Pollack: Even though Rock-N-Roll is dead, we all need a reminder that having a business infused with the basic tenants of Rock-N-Roll – independence, abandon, righteousness is a GOOD thing.
- The Complete Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz – Because Charlie Brown got a bum deal.
- Ignore Everybody by Hugh MacCleod. I’ve been an avid reader of his “Gaping Void” blog for years. This is a book that you can read in an afternoon and walk away with no-nonsense insight into following your passion and ignoring the doubters.
- Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Timeless wisdom. There’s a reason the book has been huge for thousands of years. I’ll read a page or two at a time and then mull them over for a day or two.
- Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li. Required reading for social media marketers.
11. If you had an exceptional month and earned double of your average month, what (if anything) would you spend it on?
Jacob: I’d buy my partner a week off. He could use one right about now.
12. What are some of your most rewarding charitable involvements and why?
Jacob: Personally it makes me feel good to know that every penny that the Boston Music Awards generates goes to the Music Drives Us Foundation.
David: I’ve served on the board of the Boston Learning Center, a nonprofit that helps urban students on a path to college. Seeing these kids thrive under very difficult circumstances is awfully rewarding. In addition, many of our clients have charitable endeavors and it’s an honor to help maximize their potential, especially those that aid veterans of our armed forces such as the Wounded Warrior Project. I also contribute to local food banks each quarter. I’m very fortunate to have food on the table every day and every day, I remember that there are too many people going without.
13. Who has been the most influential person to you as you’ve advanced in your career?
Jacob: I’ve had two. Grammy winning record producer Paul Q. Kolderie (Radiohead, Hole, Pixies) and my business partner, David Ginsburg.
David: Tough question. My grandfather and father were/are independent businessmen and I’m sure that’s part of the influence. Two guys from my radio days had an enormous impact on me professionally as well—Frank Murtagh (Boston marketing legend) and Brian Interland, a legendary local music-business insider. Jake too, obviously—none of this would have come about without that friendship first.
14. What’s your advice to someone interested in entrepreneurship?
Jacob: Roll your sleeves up. Invest in a good coffee machine. Preferably a French Press actually. Find a partner who is FLEXIBLE and understanding and get ready for some hairy, sleepless nights. Of course the benefit is total freedom and an immense sense of satisfaction.
David: Accept that this will be the dominant factor in your life. Forget 9 to 5. Be ready for the cyclical nature of clients coming and going, of crazy busy weeks and slower weeks that allow you to catch up on all the stuff you had to back-burner previously. Put money aside for those times clients are late in paying your invoices—they will be, and you’ll be scrambling otherwise. Lastly…remember, no matter what day still follows night. This isn’t life or death. I should heed my own advice too I suppose…
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