Outside in Music Offers Support in All Directions


Trombonist and educator Nick Finzer runs the media company Outside in Music.

(Photo: Courtesy of the Artist)

Trombonist Nick Finzer, 31, has a thriving career as a leader, accompanist and acclaimed educator at the University of North Texas. But back in 2012, just out of a master’s program at The Juilliard School, he was having trouble finding a label that would meet his timeline for a debut album.

“I was young and fresh and eager,” he said over coffee at a Manhattan patisserie in December. “So, I put it out on my own.” That led to some self-education in the art of marketing, which Finzer used to maximum effect helping a few friends release their albums. By 2016, “It was like, ‘I guess we can create a label out of this.’”

The label was dubbed Outside in Music, and Finzer’s debut album, Exposition, which he had released in 2013, became the OiM catalog’s first listing. Colleagues signed on to the label and brought other artists with them. What began as a trickle of releases has grown to a steady stream: The label has about 60 CDs, and a clutch of digital-only collections, out or set to be released.

OiM, which now includes a subsidiary label called Next Level, positions itself as multifaceted media company for jazz musicians—many of them young—who lack the will or the means to navigate the world of promoting one’s career in the digital age. OiM provides a range of artist services (including management and consultation), while simultaneously maintaining and marketing its catalog.

“We focus on a digital-first approach and a content approach,” Finzer explained. “We encourage artists to co-release things—digital and physical—to make sure things can exist in all places, meaning streaming, physical stores, YouTube”—anywhere, in fact, where the music can be heard and an artist’s brand built.

Though OiM can aid artists in all phases of their projects, the company typically becomes involved after the tracks have been recorded. Thinking holistically, OiM offers services variously executed in-house or through a network of select vendors. But OiM is flexible; clients can pick and choose among services and bring in vendors with whom they have a preexisting relationship.

Paul Nedzela, a baritone saxophonist with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra who knew Finzer primarily from the big-band scene, retained OiM after mixing and mastering what would become his debut album. A quartet effort titled Introducing Paul Nedzela, the 10-track collection was teased with a digital release of the swinging single “Lisa” in June 2019, a month before the full album was released.

“Nick really took the reins,” Nedzela said. “He has an idea of what the state of the music is like right now, what the business is right now. He’s got his finger in a lot of pies and has an idea of what you have to do to tap into the new scene, from a recording standpoint.”

OiM handled the album’s social media posts. It wrote a one-page press primer that complemented a full release by an outside publicist with whom OiM coordinated. OiM also hooked up vendors for the design and printing of the package, arranged distribution of physical and online copies, and negotiated the tricky path to a slot on Spotify’s State of Jazz playlist for “Bernard’s Revenge,” a hard-driving track from the album.

“The fact that it got picked up got me more exposure than I would have without him doing that stuff,” Nedzela said.

Like Nedzela, Jen Allen—a pianist who teaches at Trinity and Bennington colleges—came to OiM with her tracks already laid down. Unlike Nedzela, however, she hadn’t met Finzer. In fact, even though they’ve performed with some of the same artists, Allen and Finzer never have met in person. It is a very modern take on the business relationship—but one that has worked.

“Nick’s really organized and very thoughtful about what he’s doing,” Allen said. “There are a lot of things that have come my way through Outside in Music.”

For Allen, the process began with questions OiM asked about her work, a step that Finzer argued helps shape a profile useful for social and other media. OiM arranged gigs and turned Allen’s photos into art for the cover of her album Sifting Grace, slated for a Feb. 21 release on Next Level. The quartet recording features excellent musicians: Kris Allen (saxophone), Marty Jaffe (bass) and Kush Abadey (drums).

Sifting Grace could presage a more extensive collaboration with OiM, she said, citing the possibility of a big band album in a year or two. For that, she said she might call on OiM to aid in the recording process itself: “That would be ideal. In a project like that, it needs a lot more input from other people.”

Whether the project is big or small, Finzer encourages artists to put themselves out there. Abundance is key to being noticed in the multiplatform marketplace, he said, and if that means issuing an instructional video, a digital release of a holiday song or a standards CD as a means of drawing listeners to work that more closely reflects an artist’s unique vision, so be it.

Finzer practices what he preaches, functioning, he said, as a de facto “guinea pig” for OiM services. The release of his next CD, Cast Of Characters, on Feb. 28, will be his fifth since he graduated from Juilliard. He also has produced four digital-only collections and a well-received educational series on YouTube that has boosted the global audience for both his teaching and his music. All of which has informed the OiM experience today—and, potentially, for the future.

“I feel like the industry is probably ready for another shift soon,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but I want to be ready.” DB

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April 2024
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