Rockford’s Own: Phillip Ryan Block (Founder & CEO of Independent Ear Productions)

1185770_10151829133022560_1993431255_n1) Give us a bit of insight into who you are and what prompted you to begin Independent Ear Productions. What sort of an impact has music had on your life?

I am Phillip Ryan Block, Founder & CEO of Independent Ear Productions ….

I have been involved in music for my entire life whether it be listening to my grandmother playing the piano & singing at church with my entire family as a child to singing and playing guitar in punk rock bands as a teenager to even managing a couple local acts as a late teenager & even down to my deep passion for creating art; Music has been the sole driving force of all of it. I know it is cliché to say but on more than one occasion music has saved my life, not in the literal sense per say more metaphorically & emotionally speaking.

Out of my own personal struggle and a thirst for more out of my life along with the help of some great friends and family “Independent Ear Productions” was born.

This fusion organization of Recording Studio, Production Company, Record Label & Management Company has been my dream since I learned what a record label was & even more importantly than that what a record label should be. I’ve watched “The Big Labels” almost completely destroy what the music industry should be about and that’s the MUSIC. We are here to make a change within this industry, to take a stand for real music & real artists.

Music is one of my greatest passions in life & helping others to live their dreams while living mine, a real dream come true!!

2) Tell us a bit of history about what Independent Ear Productions (IEP) is and some info on the artists you work with. Where can we find their music?

Independent Ear Productions was founded to give independent & unsigned talent from around the a place to call home, being a huge fan of music myself I wondered how it was that amazing artists went unnoticed while dime a dozen meaningless pop artists hit stardom. I wanted to give those talented real musicians, songwriters & bands a place where they could be themselves playing the music they want to, not what some greedy “big music” executive told them they had to play.

Independent Ear Productions was founded in May of 2011, after an in depth conversation with an amazing colleague and fellow artist John aka North… I had listened to the basic frame of an album that later became his group Ladder to the Sun’s debut album “The Naturals”…. I had told him that I didn’t know exactly how to go about it but that I had to become a part of this amazing project & that I wanted to go after my childhood dream of running a record label… then after a few minutes of back & forth going over what to call this dream.. His words that will forever be etched into the history of this organization were “Well, you’ve always had an Independent Ear when it comes to my music” and it was that afternoon in May that Independent Ear Productions was born.  Shortly after that I left the practice to chase this dream. Then for a matter of 11 months the label was nothing more than a name & a Facebook page… while I was talking about it to everyone under the sun I didn’t sign our first artist; Keri Lancaster until April of 2012. I was using every way of social networking that I could get myself into to market this dream of mine & it has worked.

Since the beginning it has been formed to be that “one stop shop” for artists to work with offering everything that they need in order to ensure their success within this ever changing industry & we wanted to do it in a way rarely heard of in the industry today. The way we have done that is a tailored approach to the needs of each and every artist that comes to us, whether they needed a place to record, mix, master or a company to assist in distribution, promotion, marketing or management & overall artist development we wanted them to know it was Independent Ear Productions that they could call home.

Since signing our first artist Keri Lancaster in April of 2012 we have signed on 12 more artists & they are (in order of time they came to the label) Sun Whiskey and The Asteroid, Hunter Van Doorn, Black Diamond Folds, The Ghosts, Electric Head, Pete Berwick, Crash The Lights, Theo Write, Jeff Givens, Clifton Derrell, North & AuralVista… We are also as of this moment in”contract” negation stages with an additional 3 more artists/bands that can’t be mentioned at this time.

Not only do our artists span the globe geographically as they hail from as close as Machesney Park, IL to as far away as Singapore (yes you read that right I did say Singapore) they also span many, many genres from hip hop to folk to punk to electronica to country to progressive rock… well the list keeps going but, you get the point.

We released the label’s debut which also happened to be the debut LP titled “Ctrl” from Sun Whiskey and The Asteroid October 26th of 2012  since the release of that album we have released or reissued 11 more albums, those being :

1002223_10151829135372560_1251598663_n“Crash The Lights “ by Crash the Lights in January 2013 (reissue)

“Damn Sure” by Listen, Natalia in March of 2013

“Myself Denial” by The Ghosts in March of 2013

“Greatest Hits” by Electric Head in March of 2013

“LoveBirds” by Keri Lancaster in March of 2013

“2nd Anniversary Compilation”  A collection of songs from our artists In May of 2013

“Good Fortune” an original soundtrack composed by Sun Whiskey and The Asteroid in June of 2013

“Alive & Dangerous: Live at The Frequency” by Pete Berwick in June of 2013

“One” by Theo Write in July of 2013

“Bourbon Cowboy” by Jeff Givens in July of 2013 (reissue)

“Play It Forward” by North in August of 2013

All of our music is available for digital download via our bandcamp page

We also, as of September have struck a deal with fellow Rockford Original “Toad Hall books & records” they now stock all of our albums that have been printed.

((A lot of growth in less than a

I would like to make special mention of a few people whom are integral parts of this organization who aren’t located in the , my right hand man & former Rockfordian Ben Ahlenius who handles talent scouting (A&R) for the label in South & Central Wisconsin. As well the ever growing team out in Las Vegas whom are joining forces to assist in westward expansion of our great musical family, there are too many to name but you all know who you are.





3) What sort of success have you had with IEP and how can that relate to what local artists are doing now in the Rockford area?

Our Success… I guess that depends on your definition of the word, in my perspective we have been incredibly successful for the short time that we have been in operation. I would have to say our greatest success has come by way of the artists that we have involved in our “musical family” of the 13 artists/ bands that we represent they have a collective experience in making music of close to if not more than 2 centuries… Our true measure of not only our current success but our future success as well is the belief that ALL of our artists have in us & what we do. Being involved the local scene for the better part of the last 13 years has taught me a lot of do’s and don’ts relating to the inevitable success of a band in this area & the most paramount of those lessons has been to BE INVOLVED, go to shows & not just your friends shows but broaden your scope, go to local events, not just the ones based in music but anything having to do with the arts of this city, play as many shows as you can even if they aren’t for top dollar. Really it comes down to just getting out there & becoming involved… the adage “how can you grow if no one knows who you are or what you do” has been a great reason behind the growth & success that we’ve seen. It was a fun moment when a month or so ago I was attending “THE WRITER’S BLOK” & a buddy of mine referred to me as a “Local Celebrity” that was the first time that title had been used to refer to me & considering what I do & the history of music in this community to be called a “celebrity” even a local one is a good thing.

4) Is there one specific memory you have of Rockford when it comes to music? Any special artists that are your personal favorites? Where do you go to scope out new talent and just take part in great music in general?

Oh, this is a fun question… many years through my late teens were spent going to punk rock shows in Rockford & seeing some of my favorites such as Carly’s Day Out & Magnum Opus play at venues such as “The Lion’s Den”…. My favorite memory of that venue was attending the “Youth Against Hunger Festival” I still have that CD in fact & on occasion I will play it just to reminisce about the old days. As far as a local favorite artist, that’s a tough question nowadays because I love so many styles & genres of music that it depends on my mood as to who I listen to, to name a few of the local artists that I enjoy…outside of the local ones that work with me on the label, they would be the guys over at Hustle N Culture, UniverSouLove, Andrew Robinson, Modifire, Paul Bronson (hands down one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen)&  Jerry Harris, just to name a few although the list could go on (to those of you whom I didn’t mention & may read this, you know I Love You too)… I have so much respect for the local bands that work hard to get their music heard. As far as it goes regarding venues, I’ve seen shows in many of the area venues such as Kryptonite, Whiskey’s, Bar3, The Adriatic, Mary’s Place… all of them great venues in their own right.

5) Given recent articles lowering the reputation of Rockford, how do you think music, or the arts as a whole, can benefit the community in Rockford?

I have read all of those articles & whole-heartedly disagree with their views on this great city, while yes we have crime, not the best schools & crappy roads… that doesn’t take away from the vibrancy that this community could have if we all pulled together, events like City Market in the summer through early fall as well as The Weekly musical performances that take place at Anderson Gardens & The Sinnissipi band shell are great ways to pull this community together. As a father of two young kids, that I plan to raise in this city I love finding events we can all go to & the Movies in the Park were awesome this summer.

I must say what I miss most in this city is On The Waterfront. If we as a community could pull together & create an annual event similar to if not better than that, to showcase “The Best of Rockford” that would really add credibility to us as a true music community again.

There is another project that I will be looking to undertake starting Midway through 2014 that with the right support will really put this music scene as well as our local/regional artists/bands/musicians/songwriters on the map once again.

I want to see my community & my home town come together to make this the best possible community that we could have, call me a dreamer if you want but I know it can be done!!


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