Like many Americans, Joe Pug recently lost his job, which he optimistically describes as the official start date of his becoming a full-time musician. "I looked at the big bunch of gigs I had lined up and realized I just need to pay rent, pay for my phone, keep some food on the table and keep cigarettes in my pocket," he says. "It occurred to me that I could easily run this little Joe Pug business."

The Joe Pug business up to this point has consisted of an EP and hundreds of tour dates. The 24-year-old folk artist released "Nation of Heat" last year and has managed to sell 3,000 copies through CD Baby and iTunes, as well as on the road, according to manager Don Bartlett. To inspire purchases, Pug also gives away a free two-song sampler at his shows and offers to mail them to fans, as many as they want, free of shipping, with a handwritten thank-you note in every package.

"Not only does that provide us the most targeted marketing we could possibly ask for, it's also creating a great relationship with the fans," Bartlett says. "It doesn't hurt that you build a detailed database of your biggest fans, complete with home address."

Pug has also done a "Mountain Stage" taping for NPR and appeared on noncommercial KCRW Santa Monica, Calif.'s "Morning Becomes Eclectic," while Paste magazine included a song of his on a recent compilation.

Pug, who is represented for touring by Josh Brinkman of Monterey International, has further broadened his audience by supporting Robert Randolph, Susan Tedeschi, Rhett Miller and the Sadies.

The artist is finishing his debut full-length, due for release at the beginning of May and accompanied by a pair of dates at Schuba's in his adopted hometown of Chicago.

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