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Here at Baha’i Blog we’re huge fans of Baha’i related media content, and one of the things we really want to do is to help Baha’is discover all of the wonderful new Baha’i media-related initiatives happening around the world. Now it’s one thing to discover new Baha’i musicians, albums, videos and the like, but getting your hands on their products can often be difficult… so welcome 9 Star Media!
9StarMedia.com showcases the best in Baha’i inspired music, audio books and film, and they’ve created a single outlet to discover, preview, and purchase the best the Baha’i community has to offer. Think “iTunes for Baha’i Media”, but they go even one step further by offering physical media sales (CD, DVD, Blu-Ray) as well as wholesale sales to Baha’i bookstores, communities, and distribution services around the world.
9 Star Media was started by a couple of good friends of mine named Jon and Auntieclare Rezin. They live in California and Jon works in the music business. I decided to touch base with them to find out more about 9 Star Media and what it’s all about. Oh, and they’re also giving Baha’i Blog readers a nice discount (shown at the bottom of the post), so read on!
Baha’i Blog: Hi Jon, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what 9StarMedia.com is all about?
I’m a Baha’i who makes his living mixing albums, both secular and Baha’i Inspired… and I’ve been making albums for the better part of 20 years. I have been involved on both sides of the industry – production and administration. My wife and I also have a small Baha’i audio book company called HearTheWritings.com.
The promotion of Baha’i inspired albums has always proven to be a challenge for artists in terms of the time and resources it takes to do it properly. Without any real channel for Baha’i inspired artists to plug media into which can HELP serve as a conduit for them to promote their work, it’s been an “every artist for himself” type of landscape. This has meant that each artist has to, in effect, “reinvent the wheel” for each album. No significant email lists exist, no publicly available directories of communities, no public way to directly advertise to the global Baha’i community. This all combines to make it really hard to let the community know a new resource exists. After having put over 4 years into promoting a handful of Baha’i albums to bookstores and communities, we knew there had to be a better way… that is how the idea for 9 Star was born.
The idea for 9 Star Media is pretty simple. We scour the web and find the best media that our community creates, invite the artists to submit their media for consideration, and then offer it for sale in one simple online store. This makes it easier than ever for Baha’is around the world to be exposed to new and amazing Baha’i inspired content.
For artists, being a part of 9 Star gives them a single outlet which will help them promote and distribute to a larger audience than they could easily reach on their own. We also get their media placed in bookstores around the globe. In the end, the goal with artists is to help relieve a bit of the busy work that goes into promoting their creation to such a niche market, and instead focus their energies on creating new music, audio books or film.
Another major focus we have is helping uplift the quality of media our community puts out. We believe that Baha’i inspired media should be as good if not better than the secular media we see released everyday. Those artists and content creators who are already striving for and/or achieving that standard are the artists whose work we showcase. We are also working to bridge that quality gap by offering artists resources, tutorials, and additional services to improve their work.
In the end, our hope is to create a portal where Baha’is and our friends can come to find spiritually uplifting music, audio books and film or video. We want to make that experience as simple and seamless as possible.
Baha’i Blog: Baha’i “Inspired” Media is a mouthful… why not just say Baha’i Media?
There is no such thing as Baha’i media… yet. Shoghi Effendi was quite clear that until the community developed a significant culture over many years would something uniquely “Baha’i” come into existence… we are still in the infancy of the Faith, so we call it what it is: “Inspired”. All in all this also seems to be a better description since there’s a lot of amazing, spiritually influenced media which doesn’t mention the Faith directly in any way, but is a creative reflection of that artists Faith in Baha’u’llah.
Baha’i Blog: You had mentioned to me that you were also working on restoring and re-releasing a number of classic Baha’i albums, and I got super-excited about that! Can you tell us more about this?
Oh yes! Although 9 Star is about showcasing the best new music, it is also about saving and re-releasing the classic records which have been out of print or fallen into obscurity over the years. Just because they don’t have physical CDs doesn’t mean those amazing and ground-breaking records should die. We are restoring, re-mastering and re-releasing a number of classic Baha’i albums over the coming years. We rely a lot on the community to help us know which albums we should pursue and how to track down those who own these recordings, but once we get a hold of the artists we go to work to make them available once again. One re-release which we are really excited about is the completely restored and re-mastered Ayyam-i-Ha album with Mr. William Sears. A personal labor of love… it sounds like my childhood… only better!
Baha’i Blog: You have a really diverse catalog, but what about media from other countries in other languages?
This is incredibly important to us. We are actively engaged in finding media in all languages which represents the best of our community. We are seeking to showcase “The best in Baha’i inspired media” from wherever and in whatever language that media can be found. We just need everything we showcase to be great within the confines of that particular genre. Heavy Metal devotional album? Yes… Zydeco-Klezmer rendition of the long healing prayer? Of Course!!! Operatic Baha’i inspired Hip-Hop Jazz with Country Fiddle album? You better believe it!
Baha’i Blog: How are artists responding to the 9 Star Media services so far?
The response has been wonderful. We currently have around 50 artists in the 9 Star family. While some felt a little skeptical at the start, they have expressed over and over how pleased they are with the work we are doing on their behalf. For our artists, the services we offer are really tailored to take away the busy work. When we invite an artist to join 9 Star, they choose what services they want us to handle, for instance digital sales, physical sales, and/or wholesale sales. The majority of our artists have opted to have us assist with all those services. We focus on making the best possible presentation of their media and target and promote their media to our social media family.
Baha’i Blog: Do you think we can ever have another Seals & Crofts?
People always refer to Seals & Crofts as if the heyday of Baha’i music is a thing of the past. The truth is, we will never have another group that fills the same musical and cultural void that Seals & Crofts fit into. The times have changed. And with that change comes new opportunities. Perhaps the next Baha’i who is able to share the faith from the stage in a similar way as Seals & Crofts will do so by singing pop songs that sound more like Lady Gaga! Opportunities are opening up for Baha’i inspired artists around the world to share their faith with the world community.
The biggest pop star in the Baha’i world right now is probably Khalil Fong… and who has heard of him? China my friends…China! Besides winning tons of musical awards, he also wins awards for his upright behavior and for exemplifying a standard for other Chinese youth to live up to… and he is not afraid to share his Faith. This is the next generation of Seals & Crofts… they look different, sing different, have a different audience, and are navigating a world with vastly different tastes. These are the types of artists our community should focus on cultivating… and I believe it is done by engaging them in the work of the community, supporting their creative and artistic endeavors, and encouraging them to pursue their “secular” career as an outward oriented expression of Faith… and we as a Baha’i community need to support that expression… not just the devotional albums.
Baha’i Blog. So how do you think something like 9 Star Media helps the Baha’i community?
This is a tough question… it may seem strange, but I think that providing a hub to find both quality devotional and Baha’i inspired media does a great service for both our community and our artists. The idea that we have our regular lives and our religious lives as distinct separate entities is tired. As artists, everything is an expression of who we are, and as Baha’is our media is a reflection of that. I feel that the next group of artists to have that Seals & Crofts type of influence on the world probably already exist in the community. The challenge is that we have segregated our media so much that we may not even know they are in our midst. As we focus on integrating these facets (religious and secular art) I think it assists in the development of distinctive Baha’i culture as well as opening the doors for our friends outside the bounds of our Faith to find a point of attraction. Sometimes we just don’t feel like listening to prayers being sung… but that does not mean we have to listen to misogynistic pop music instead.. our community is beginning to create quality media that fills that void already. We just have to know it exists.
Baha’i Blog: Where do you hope to see 9 Star in the next 5 years?
In 5 years, I would like to look back and see that we have helped bridge the gap between artistic expression, commerce and Faith for these artists. Offering them the support of a centralized distribution network that enables them to devote more time to creating their next masterpiece is something which is in dire need. At that point, we also hope that 9 Star will have become a powerful force for encouraging excellence in the arts and may also be facilitating and encouraging creative collaboration between artists. The potential is limitless, it is just a matter of time, effort, prayer, and growth…. I feel that we are on our way. Little by little, day by day.
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Jon and keep up the great work!
9 Star Media is also offering Baha’i Blog readers 15% off their first order… Just in time for Ayyam-i-Ha! Simply use the discount code “BahaiBlog2014” when checking out. (Hurry though… Offer expires at Ridvan 2014!)
Also, for any artists interested in showcasing their media on 9 Star, you can request an invite by visiting this page: members.9starmedia.com/invite-request-form
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