Blogger Spotlight: Kari Hana (15 Minute Media)

Hello again, everyone! Welcome to another edition of the Haulix Blogger Spotlight. When it comes to running this column on a regular basis there is no denying that we sometimes slack. Topics or interviews come up that we cannot resist and, as a result, someone’s else gets bumped. We are hoping to make up for the delays this week by running a series of interviews we have been attempting to complete for weeks, and I think when you see the final results you will understand why we were so determined to highlight the people at the center of each column. If you have any questions regarding the content of this blog, or if you would like to learn more information about the services offered by Haulix, please email james@haulix.com and share your thoughts. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.

Fifteen Minute Media is a site unlike any other we have featured on the blog. Created and run by Kari Hana, the site and its contributing staff understand that music is much more than just sound, that it goes deeper than what goes in our ears. To listen to music is to engage with art on an incredibly deep and personal level, with experiences varying from person to person, and its in understand that fact that Fifteen Minute Media have begun to carve their own niche audience in the digital realm. Their coverage may not highlight a specific genre, but they still offer insight on a variety of high quality talent – both known and unknown – from around the globe. They keep an open mind when it comes to new music and ask that readers do as well.

I have never had the great fortune of meeting Kari Hana in person, but based on the interview you are about to read I think it goes without saying that we would be the best of friends should our paths ever happen to cross. She is a focused and driven individual who will do whatever it takes to make a name for herself in music, but never forgets that her site exists to help others just as much as herself. Fifteen Minute Media is a place where dreamers are welcomed with open arms by people with similar passions who are ready and willing to aide that person – be it an aspiring professional or musician on the rise – with reach their goals. It’s a community of people actively working to curate the future of this industry, and if you ask me they are already doing a damn fine job.

If you would like to learn more about Kari and her efforts, please make it a point to visit and bookmark Fifteen Minute Media. Additional questions and comments can be left at the end of this post.

H: Thank you talking with us today. I’ve been following your work for a while and am excited to learn more about your efforts.
K: Thanks you. 
H: Every person who aspires to work in the industry has no doubt spent their entire lives in love with music. When you think of your earliest experiences with music, what memories come to mind?
K: I remember my father blasting AC/DC in the car and my feet dangling in the front seat because I was too short to reach the ground. I would just throw my head around because I thought it was the coolest music I’d ever heard. Then I’d come home where my cousins (who I grew up with) would blast Spice Girls and we’d roller skate through the house dancing to it. My mom would blast Thunder Rolls by Garth Brooks when she cleaned. I grew up with so many different genres of music. It really made me learn to love and appreciate it all. 
H: I want to talk a lot about the ‘now,’ but before we get there I do have one or two more general music questions to ask. First, who was the first artist(s) you saw in concert? Bonus points if you include a story about the experience.
K: Jingle Ball with P.Diddy, Missy Elliot, Ja Rule, and a bunch of others I can’t actually remember. We were at the end of the aisle and Missy Elliot came to sing to us. I was 14 at the time and ridiculously short (I’m 5’2 now) and Missy was shorter than I was. I asked my Aunt who had taken me if Missy was 14 too. 
H: Second (and far more importantly), can you recall the first time you seriously considered the idea of pursuing a career in the music industry? 
K: Interestingly enough, it wasn’t at a young age. I mean, I’d always dreamed of being a rock star but I can’t sing and never learned to play an instrument so I knew that dream was far off. I went to a music festival called Spirit West Coast a few years back and sold merch for a few bands there. Which I then fell in love with doing that. I spent more time at the merch tables than out watching the bands. I fell in love with the people. The way every one was just so nice. We all had a common interest, music. There was nothing dividing us. That’s when I started dreaming of going on tour with bands and selling their merch. I ended up helping out at This Great Escape’s merch tent and met this drummer named Johnny Mitchell. We talked a lot about photography. So during one three day summer festival, I found all kinds of love for this industry. Then in fall of that year I met a girl who did press and she invited me to work with her. From there, I fell in love with everything. I don’t think I could have turned back at that point. I was in this industry for good. 
H: You’re known now as the founder of Fifteen Minute Media, but before the site launched you were just another aspiring professional trying to find their place in this crazy business. From what I have read, it seems you actually wrote for another blog prior to stepping out on your own. What can you tell us about that experience?
K: It was amazing. I’ll forever be grateful. It taught me so much. It’s where I met most of the bands who I’d consider my friends now. Within about three months, I took this little blog and turned it into a website. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was winging it. Probably doing everything the wrong way but people fell in love with it. I fell in love with it. If I was given instructions on how to do things the “right” way, I wouldn’t go back and change it. Messing up, doing things wrong, that shaped Fifteen Minute Media. I’ll never change who Fifteen Minute Media is. Fifteen Minute Media in a way gave me life. 
H: Do you recall what initially attracted you to the world of music writing? There are a hundred ways one can try to make it in this business, so what was it about this particular path that continues to appeal to you?
K: Honestly, I was writing books on vampires and demons before this. Haha. That’s a little embarrassing but true. I’ve got notebooks upon notebooks just filled with a couple books I’ve been working on. I never before expected I’d be doing this. Like I said, the girl who ran that first blog I worked for got me interested. I met her at a show. In fact, it was the Vultures Unite tour. Versaemerge and Anarbor. We had a mutual friend. She told me what she does, my friend threw the fact that I was a writer in. She invited me to write for her and there is was. It’s silly but probably one of the best things that ever happened to me. 
H: I love the name of your site. A lot of young writers pigeonhole themselves with site names referencing certain genres or styles, but Fifteen Minute Media is generic enough (in a good way) to be about anything at all. You could even expand into film and television down the line. What is the story behind the site’s name?
K: Thank you. When Vestra Vera Press (the first blog I was a part of) ended, I was a wreck. Honestly, I thought that was it for me. Which really, it didn’t end right away, I was just kindly let go. The team I had built called me and told me to come in for a meeting (we were using my church as an office) and I was very confused. Guys, I don’t work with VVP anymore. It’s kind of dead. But I went in anyway. They said they’d hardly known the girl who ran it and knew that I’d do great things. They convinced me to start over. The band The Maine did too. I don’t know if John and Garrett will ever remember the conversation we had but if it weren’t for them, I can almost guarantee I would no longer be in this industry. Anyway, back to the name. Vestra Vera Press meant Your True Press in Latin. I really liked the meaning of that. However I never liked the name. Bands would stumble over it in interviews. I’d often call it strange things. It just didn’t work. I needed something that just rolled off the tongue but I also needed something that meant something. “KarPress” because at one point I was going to do it with my friend Karena and that was part of our name. We even considered “Awesome Press.” Nothing was clicking. Then finally I was going through quotes that I’d always really enjoyed (I had a folder filled with them on my laptop). “In the future, every one will be famous for fifteen minutes.” Andy Warhol. It just sort of.. fit. It worked and it really meant something. That’s what I was trying to go for. I also really enjoyed that I could shorten it up to FM Media. Made me think of FM radio, you know? 
H: I noticed you built your site using Squarespace, which is one of many popular start-ups aiming to corner the ‘build your own website’ market. As far as I know, you’re the first writer to be featured on the blog who has used this platform for their site. How has your experience been thus far with Squarespace, and how do you think it compares to platforms like Tumblr or WordPress?
K: We never actually used WordPress. I love Tumblr. I’d say I’m quite addicted to it. Haha. I used that first for FM but realized that labels and publicists never really took me seriously. FM Media is something I want to be my career. So we moved up toWix.com. Which is a website more geared towards photographers so the templates and things never really worked for me. Randomly saw an ad for Squarespace and thought it was perfect for us. I really love it. The customer service is great. The templates are literally just templates. I’m able to change things however I want. Move them around. Colors. All of that. I can do that. It’s the coding I can’t do. So I was really pleased with how you can design your website on Squarespace. 
H: There are at least ten contributors listed on your staff page. How big is the Fifteen Minute Media team overall? Are you still looking for additional recruits?
K: The staff page is forever changing. I currently have eleven members on my team. I’m always open to new recruits. I like to give people chances. People who are new in the industry. Photographers without much experience. I got picked up at a show with no experience in this industry whatsoever. I love helping people. Warped Tour is always a big event for  my team. They have so much fun. I’ve had one photographer that has never shot a show have Warped as their first ever concert to shoot. Kevin Chu and Brie Heinrichs have been two of my favorites, to be honest. Kevin was so excited.He did amazing! He was such a great person to have on my team for the year that he was on it. He was so nervous at Warped Tour but if you look at our website, I have one of his photos from that show featured on the page. I’m so impressed with Kevin and his photography. Brie’s first Warped was this year. Over the weekend actually. She was so awkwardly nervous. You could tell from the second you saw her but she did so well. She had a very long schedule for the day but she still managed to rock it. I love helping people find their passion and love for this industry because someone did that for me. I think that’s what I did with Kevin and Brie. We’ve had up to twenty four members on the team at a time. I try to throw a few parties for them every year. I want them to know how much I appreciate them and what they are doing for Fifteen Minute Media. I’ve always said it and I’ll continue to say it, I run FM Media as a family. Fifteen Minute Media does not succeed without the every single member. They all make FM great. I’ll forever be grateful. 
H: I am going to go out on a limb and guess that you don’t make much, if any money from your efforts. With that in mind, what keeps you going?
K: Oh my. We hardly make anything and that’s the truth. My passion keeps me going. I want to make money off of FM. I want this to be my career. It’s my life’s dream. It will be that. It will be my career. I just have to keep fighting for it every single day. 
H: Following in line with that question, there is next to no advertising on your site. Do you have plans to introduce ads in the future? If not, have you considered any alternate ways of making money with your site?
K: No, there are no ads. We do plan on introducing this but again, I’m new to this. Every thing I do with FM is just a guess. I have no idea what I’m doing. I don’t know how to introduce those kinds of things. Currently, we manage and promote local bands for a small fee. We do a lot of promo shoots and things like that. That’s about as far into the money making flow we’ve gotten so far. 
H: Do you see yourself continuing to write about music for the foreseeable future, or would you rather find work in another part of the industry?
K: Fifteen Minute Media will always be my thing. I will forever write for it. However, I do want to be a tour manager or tour merchie. If any TMs or merchies are reading this they are probably shaking their head saying NO THAT’S NOT WHAT YOU WANT. It is though. I’ve done my research. I’ve spoken to TMs and merchies a lot. I talk to people all the time about it. I know how hard it is. I know how exhausting it is. It’s a dream I won’t give up on. I think I can still TM or sling merch and run a successful music magazine though.
H: Speaking in terms of growth and development, what are the biggest challenges facing Fifteen Minute Media right now?
K:  Probably our lack of funding. I live about an hour and a half from Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose and Fresno. Which is where all the tours hit around here. Gas is expensive. Time is expensive. If I could had one wish it would be that we had the funding to make this thing bigger. My dream is print. I’d love to hold FM Magazine in my hands. It’ll be the greatest feeling. 
H: What advice would you offer to others who may be considering a career, or at least the pursuit of a career, in music writing?
K: Don’t give up. Find the right publication. The one that suits you. Vestra Vera Press didn’t work for my needs. Fifteen Minute Media does. If this is what you want, don’t let anything stop you. I never have and I never will. That’s why I’m doing what I am with FM. That’s why we’re so successful. It’s all about the passion. Hard work will get you everywhere. 
H: When it comes to receiving music for review and feature consideration, what distribution platforms do you prefer and why?
K: I often get emails with digital music for review. Which is great, but nothing beats the bands who send me an album in the mail. I love putting it in my car stereo and just driving around nowhere listening to it. I live in the Central Valley. Miles and miles of beautiful farm lands. I just love to drive around and listen to a new record. I focus better on it that way. 
H: Music piracy is as big a problem today as ever. Do you think it’s possible to eradicate music leaks altogether?
K: I don’t know. I mean, it would be awesome. These artists put so much time, energy and money out of pocket into what they’re doing. Unfortunately I don’t think a lot of teenagers (and some adults) respect that or even get what they are doing. 
H:If you could offer one piece of guidance to unsigned bands trying to gain attention for their efforts, what would it be?
K: What touring artist do you sound like? Flyer out in front of a venue after a show. Give away free music downloads. Free demos you made. You’re going to lose money but I’ve met some incredible artists that way. This guy Nick Haskin from a band The Adventurous Type was handing out free CDs after an All Time Low show. I got in my car and immediately popped it in. I fell in love with this band. You don’t understand how good they are. I still have the CD and I STILL listen to it. Send all of your information to different music publication. To college radio station. Get heard, basically, is my advice. 
H: What is your ultimate career goal? Life goal?
K: To have Fifteen Minute Media be a career I could live off of. I don’t want to work anywhere else. It would also be awesome to have this in print, but I’ll settle for online. Just make it successful, that’s my dream. 
H: A genie pops out of a bottle and tell you he will grant one wish as long as it changes the music industry for the better. What do you wish?
K: A successful career for Fifteen Minute Media staff changes the industry by spreading the word of the industry. Haha.
H: Okay. This is getting pretty long and I know you’re a busy person, so I will go ahead and stop here. Before I let you go, are there any final thoughts or comments you want to share with our readers?
K: I just want to thank you for the interview, first of all. I also want to thank the readers for supporting Fifteen Minute Media. Most of you have been here with me since I first started in the industry. You’re all very loyal. I appreciate all of you. Thank you for helping me and my team live our dream. 

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.