Interview with Jon Rezin, founder of Next Movement Records

 
 

Photo credit: Dino Antoniou

Every once in a while, someone comes along with an idea or a passion that establishes your faith in the human spirit. Jon Rezin, founder of Next Movement Records, is such a man…and he’s bent on making the world a better place through music. A Baha’i and just cool in general, he agreed to take some time out of his busy schedule and talk about how exactly he plans to turn the world upside down for the better.

 

  

 

 

Andrew Bowen:  So, tell us a little about Next Movement Records.

Jon Rezin: Well… It has gone through several transformations, but I’ll give you a bit of the background.

I have been an audio engineer for about 15 years…

I was working with lots of artists on records and pouring lots of sweat into helping make their products great, but unfortunately not enough people were hearing these artists. I had experience on the business side of music from working for several indie labels and decided to form Next Movement Records so that I could work with these artists…create great music which was uplifting and inspiring but still rocked and help be the machine behind their careers.

It started out with several Baha’i artists and was going fine…but it somehow was missing something.

That is when I saw a video of the guy behind http://www.roomtoread.org/

He went to Nepal for vacation and ended up creating a social business to help create schools, libraries, and scholarships for children around the world. It wasn’t a story of a philanthropist with amazing means taking on a problem, but rather a normal guy with a decent job realizing a problem existed and finding a simple way he could address it.

Simple steps that have made huge differences in the lives of thousands of children and adults.

Andrew Bowen: Sounds pretty incredible. So what was the missing ingredient?

Jon Rezin: My love of Socio Economic development led me to modify the business to focus more on that aspect of becoming a social business (i.e. A business that has social ills at the heart of its endeavor, pioneered by Muhammed Yunus of Grameen bank). So we decided to have each artist find their passion which of the ills of the world got them really impassioned and that they want to address.

They are then linked with organizations and like-minded groups so that they can be a part of the movement to address that ill.

Whether through benefit concerts, music support, and simple contributions from music sales. A portion of each artist’s sales go to address that ill. The artist and the label are making financial contributions directly to those organizations to help. Now the artist has an outlet to use their music and directly support a cause. The label also contributes money to www.kiva.org which helps raise people out of poverty through micro loans.

We are still in the process of transition including several new projects (which have not been announced) but that mission is very important and seems to fill that need to use our resources and careers to help serve others.

Andrew Bowen: Appears to be the antithesis of the entertainment industry today.

Jon Rezin: Well… possibly. We still want to make music that is commercially viable, but I think that often people in any walk of life are looking for meaning and purpose that leads to crazy lifestyles and attaching too much importance to un-important things. Our hope is that by focusing that energy we can help our artists fulfill that part of their being that wants to be a part of something greater; wants their music to do something greater.

Wow…that sounded almost like therapy.

Andrew Bowen: Truth is good medicine. That’s a great attitude to have. How many artists are currently working under the Next Movement label?

Jon Rezin: Right now we have one artist who is actively releasing things (Badi) we have a couple others that we have worked on which are not yet released. We don’t have a lot of artists; it takes a lot of time and resources to help push an artist, so we have to choose carefully and sometimes we have started relationships only to find out that it wasn’t a great fit. We look at the whole endeavor as something quite new and something that will take some time to gel into its final configuration.

Andrew Bowen: Are you running the ship solo, or do you have others helping out?

Jon Rezin: It is me and my wife as well as the artists who are doing the heavy lifting. We have others who come in for specific aspects, but mostly it is a fairly small circle.

Andrew Bowen: Badi is a talented artist, and also a Baha’i, is that right?

Jon Rezin: Yes on both counts.

Andrew Bowen: There are many labels that cater to a specific spiritual market, so to speak. There’s Christian music or Hindu remixes of old hymns…Is Next Movement the Baha’i answer to those markets or another beast entirely?

Jon Rezin: Well, it has never been a label focused toward a Baha’i audience. Our thought with the label was to take great artists and create music which could kind of be like a Trojan horse… infiltrate popular music and have an underlying message. Badi is a Baha’i and so his music, while being secular in nature is a reflection of his experience of being a Baha’i in a world that often times goes the opposite way. The underlying message is more about having a purpose to what you say rather than talking about things that are transitory. Some industry veterans have called his music “conscious rap,” which kind of makes me chuckle at what it implies all other rap as being. But that is the idea… no preaching… just having conviction about something and sharing that with the world.

Andrew Bowen: Great answer. I’ve listened to a few of his songs and, the way you’re speaking here, this sounds a lot like old school hip-hop–when the music was about something rather than being “in tha club” ad nauseum.

Jon Rezin: Yeah, nothing wrong with having some danceable tunes… but it is good to have an alternative. I enjoy the fact that I can refer parents to our music without any worry that their children might get bad ideas or language from it.

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dktsVL6ZZDM

Andrew Bowen: It’s like they get the treats…without all the preservatives.

Jon Rezin: Cake without the calories!

For those who haven’t checked out his music I set it up so you can download the album for whatever you feel like paying for it. (even 0.00)

http://badi.bandcamp.com/album/the-depar…

Andrew Bowen: Awesome.

Jon Rezin: Just select “digital download” (pay what you want)

Andrew Bowen: For “Culture and Arts” week here on Project Conversion, I made a post about service being a part of Baha’i culture. Something I learned was that Baha’is are switching their efforts from programs of giving (such as donations) and focusing more on helping others help themselves or educating folks on getting to the root of the issues. Does this philosophy play a role in your work at Next Movement? If so, can you give specific examples?

Jon Rezin: That is true. It is a challenge to combine commerce and socially focused businesses, so we created a hybrid I think. As a label we are investing in organizations that are not really charities. Kiva.org for example if a micro loan organization… so if we make a loan of our money to someone through Kiva we will actually get paid back (without interest) then we can loan that money to another individual. Essentially that same investment can be recycled to help lift people out of poverty indefinitely… and as we add to that investment we are able to help more people simultaneously.

Andrew Bowen: Brilliant

Jon Rezin: Aside from that, we are working at actively establishing relationships with organizations that have a particular ill as their mission, who ideally approach the ill through more of a social business aspect than charity. Charity has its place, but when contributions dry up so does the charity. With social business, it is combining commercial endeavors with social missions, so they are in fact businesses that measure their success based on the number of people they are able to help and still remain sustainable.

Andrew Bowen: Do you know of any other entertainment or media companies taking a similar approach?

Jon Rezin: This combination seemed to be the best way to combine my skills in music with my strong desire to help effect social change in the world. I really recommend the book by Muhammed Yunus “Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs.”

There are several that do things related. Most are attached to a specific church and are more like the media wing of that church. Jack Johnsons label gives 1 percent to environmental protection. There are artists who are personally doing this in a very strong way. Danny Gokey, is an artist I worked with on American Idol and he has an organization (which is dedicated to his late wife) called Sophia’s Heart. They are making some great strides. I get twitter updates about their endeavors.

The whole idea is rather new though. Using the principles of capitalism to end social ills and poverty; it helps establish a whole new definition of “bottom line”

http://www.sophiasheart.org/

Andrew Bowen: Well I think it’s a way to bridge that traditional and painful gap between profit and progress. And there seems to be no end to the potential.

Jon Rezin: That is the hope. Google “Social Entrepreneurship” and you can see a whole bunch of great new ideas surrounding this idea. There are some great examples of people making long-term differences in community’s lives through this model.

Andrew Bowen: So we’re talking about entertainment/media that is socially conscious. What about forms other than music? Do you think Next Movement might venture into publishing at some point?

Jon Rezin: Publishing as in outside of music or as in music publishing?

Andrew Bowen: As an additional arm. Let’s say Next Movement becomes the parent with multiple artistic wings…

Jon Rezin: It is always a possibility. With limited resources we are trying to maximize what we have going on currently. In addition to the label though Next Movement also does distribute some other records by Baha’is to Baha’i bookstores and communities around the world…and my wife and I also have a Baha’i audio book company we started. The purpose s to create commercial quality audio books of the Baha’i writings.

Andrew Bowen: Nice

Jon Rezin: I am a big fan of audio books (they are great on long commutes…I live in LA) but none existed in the Baha’i community, so I was living in NYC at the time and decided to get jobs at two of the biggest audio book production house so I could learn the business. I worked there for just under a year and a half, now I am using that to create a library of Baha’i audio books. It is called http://hearthewritings.com/. This is a passion project of mine.

Aside from that, I keep pretty busy with my producing and audio engineering as well as spending as much time with my baby daughter and wife as I can.

Andrew Bowen: Balancing time between work/passion, and family is an art

Jon Rezin: Yes it is. I know that I want to create a legacy in this world, but that legacy means nothing if my own family is not taken care of. I won’t look back on my death bed and wish I had worked more, so I am striving now to make sure my family has as much of my time as possible.

We, as a family and individuals, also take part in Baha’i community activities

Andrew Bowen: Good man. Okay! I think it’s time I shut up and let these other fine folks ask a few questions. I’ll leave the floor open for about 3-5 minutes.

Bud Polk: I just got here a few minutes ago and quickly scanned through your conversation. Jon, are there any YouTube videos of Badi?

Jon Rezin: Hey Bud… mostly live stuff. You can check out NMR’s youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/nextmovementrecor… Hopefully we will be uploading some other new material soon…it is always a process.

Bud Polk: I checked the audiobook website. What other books are in the works?

Jon Rezin: The Kitab’i'Iqan, Tablets of Baha’u'llah, (Both by Baha’u'llah) and The Secret of Divine Civilization by Abdu’l-Baha… We haven’t publicized that yet, so you all are getting some insider info.

Andrew Bowen: Woo hoo!

Jon Rezin: We are also in the process of trying to figure out a great introductory book of the faith. We get a lot of requests for something like that as well that folks can share with their friends.

Bud Polk: This is very cool. Will they be in a format with a table of contents or some kind of internal links?

Andrew Bowen: Something to compliment the Ruhi Books would be excellent

Jon Rezin: Still figuring that out. It would be a million tracks if we spilt it up too much, but for example: Tablets of Baha’u'llah could easily be broken up tablet by table since it is composed of many tablets

Bud Polk: I have found audiobooks without some kind of links to be next to useless, in my opinion.

Jon Rezin: The Ruhi books are an interesting idea we have considered, the challenge is that the Ruhi courses are very participatory. That participation and practice is what helps make them so helpful. Finding a way to make an audio book of them is definitely in our minds. We shall see if and when that can happen.

When you mention “links” Bud, what do you mean exactly?

Bud Polk: Chapters, table of contents, some way of accessing the parts of the work – i have run into a few free audiobooks that were just one long mp3

Jon Rezin: I see. Yeah, that is definitely something that would be addressed to some extent in those books. It would be more like a table of contents. We did that on a smaller scale with one of the recent letters we released. We always release our MP3′s as multiple tracks; folks can join them later if they so desire.

Bud Polk: That’s what I am looking for Jon. I get commercially produced audiobooks at the library and put them on my IPod and they usually are organized by chapters.

Jon Rezin: Yeah, many Baha’i books are tablets and longer writings which may or may not have sections. When they don’t it becomes a challenge to break them up. I definitely wouldn’t want to do it by paragraph, but we try to find either a breaking point based on new sections, new tablet, or some place between paragraphs for a natural pause (the longer tablets require this as the tracks would be quite long otherwise). We try to keep it around 7min per track, +/- depending on context and accounting for actual content breaks

Bud Polk: It will be a challenge to you because some of the Writings just don’t have natural breaks. How would you do the Iqan, for example?

Jon Rezin:  Around 7 min per track, between paragraphs when there is no other way

Bud Polk: Is Badi your only artist right now, Jon?

Jon Rezin: Badi is the only artist actively releasing other stuff right now. We have a couple other things, but they are not out yet. We also distribute some other cd’s by Baha’is that I have worked on outside of NMR. You can check them out by clicking on “distribution” on NMR’s site and entering the password “distribution.”

Andrew Bowen: Well, if no one has any additional questions…Jon thanks so much for dropping by. It was great getting to know about you and your efforts to make change for the better.

Jon Rezin: It has been my pleasure to be here. Thank you all for your time and the opportunity. Please feel free to contact me via the contact page on my website. I check it daily and would love to hear any follow up questions. This has been great. Thanks Andrew.

As if Jon wasn’t busy enough, he aslo has a few other projects going on. Check him out here for more info.

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  • Tmennillo

    Great interview, Andrew. Jon is a neat guy. I’ve known him since he was a junior youth in Westerville, Ohio. (His family and others in Westerville were instrumental in my wife and I becoming Baha’is.) And I’ve followed his career from NYC to LA. Definitely someone who is both doing good and doing well!

  • http://twitter.com/mjsolender Michael Solender

    well done Andrew – a great conversation and an intriguing guy.