The Future of What-logo

The Future of What

Music Talk >

A weekly radio program about the music and recording industry for insiders, outsiders, and outliers. Each week our host, Kill Rock Stars president Portia Sabin, talks to guests ranging from musicians to business experts.

A weekly radio program about the music and recording industry for insiders, outsiders, and outliers. Each week our host, Kill Rock Stars president Portia Sabin, talks to guests ranging from musicians to business experts.
More Information


Portland, OR


A weekly radio program about the music and recording industry for insiders, outsiders, and outliers. Each week our host, Kill Rock Stars president Portia Sabin, talks to guests ranging from musicians to business experts.






Unpacking Music's "Black Box"

Episode #125: Called “music’s monetization mystery” by Forbes, on today’s episode we shed light on the “black box” -- a complicated phenomenon in the music industry where small and large sums of money don’t make it to an artist. What happens to these unattributed royalties and how can musicians safeguard their income? We ask CD Baby CEO Tracy Maddux and CrossBorderWorks’ Vickie Nauman for insight. Produced by Will Watts and Anna McClain. Engineered by Brent Asbury at Beta Petrol.


Music Cities (LIVE from Seattle)

Episode #124: How do local music ecosystems affect the economic and cultural health of a city? Portia went to Upstream Music Fest to discuss with leaders from the regional music hubs of Seattle (Kate Becker), Portland (David O.G. ONE Jackson), and Vancouver BC (Alex Grigg). Hear how their groups are changing the game when it comes to protecting and sustaining music culture. Learn how these regional partnerships are impacting our local community, creating opportunities and helping increase...


Indie Label Spotlight: Merge Records

Merge Records has been behind some of the independent world’s most popular releases from bands like Spoon, Arcade Fire, Neutral Milk Hotel, Waxahatchee, and of course, Superchunk since 1989. We hear about the label’s beginnings from co-founder Laura Ballance (Superchunk), and are joined again by MC Taylor of Merge band Hiss Golden Messenger. Produced by Will Watts and Anna McClain. Engineered by Brent Asbury at Beta Petrol. Subscribe to The Future of What: Follow us:...


Indie Label Spotlight: Numero Group

Since 2003, Chicago-based independent record label Numero Group has been celebrating the obscure, the rare, and the long-forgotten through their meticulously crafted reissues and compilations. On this episode, we highlight the label with co-founder Ken Shipley and discuss the ways they’ve creatively adapted to major industry changes, always seeming to stay one step ahead of the game. We also hear from Andre Gibson of disco group Universal Togetherness Band. The prolific act was rediscovered...


Spotlight on Horse Feathers: Justin Ringle / Skyler Norwood

Establishing a reputation and fan base is vital as a musician, but how can a band evolve once they’re known for a sound? On this episode, Portia sits down with Justin Ringle, whose band Horse Feathers just released their sixth album, Appreciation. Justin and longtime producer Skyler Norwood discuss developing the band’s sound while preserving its identity and how they worked to push their boundaries after 12 years. We also hear about the album’s cycle and promotional strategies. Produced...


LIVE in Portland: The Aesthetics of Album Art

Album artwork is often a listener’s first impression of a record, so how does an artist successfully represent their music visually? We brought together graphic designers and music people for a panel at Design Week Portland to discuss the creative and conceptual collaborations that go into designing a record. Hear insight from designers Adam R. Garcia (Instrument, The Pressure), Tawfiq Mardini, Lead Designer at Fresh Selects Records, and Joe Stewart (Work & Co.), who’s behind many of Xiu...


Gear Makers: Philip Graham (Ear Trumpet) / Saul Koll (Koll Guitars) / Chris Benson (Benson Amps)

Portland, OR is one of many cities that have become known as hubs of creativity. The city's "maker culture" includes a large community of creators of music gear. In fact, you could put together an entire stage set up and backline just using instruments and gear made in Portland. On this episode, we hear about how some of these businesses got started and how the city's development has affected their industry. Guests include Philip Graham of microphone company Ear Trumpet Labs, Chris Benson...


"The Truth Behind the Supposed Decline of the Guitar": She Shreds Magazine / Bully / Trade Up Music

Last year, outlets like the Washington Post lamented the decline of the electric guitar and the supposed absence of American guitar heroes. In September of 2017, She Shreds Magazine published an article called "We Are The 50%: The Truth Behind the Supposed Decline of the Guitar," pushing back against this narrative. On this episode, we talk with the author of the piece, Natlie Baker, She Shreds Magazine editor-in-chief Fabi Reyna, Alicia Bognanno (Bully), and Trade Up Music manager Alexa...


Inclusivity in Recording: Madeleine Campbell (Women in Sound) / Terri Winston (WAM) / Andrew Jones

“Where Are All the Female Producers?” “Why Aren’t There More Women Working in Audio?” Why don’t more women “step up” in music? These are just some of the questions that continue to baffle the mainstream music industry. Yet, there are (and have been) many talented women working in recording. On this episode, we talk to people working toward broader inclusion and accessibility in recording. Madeleine Campbell is the editor of the Women in Sound zine, which is “dedicated to women, queer, &...


Data! What is it good for? (LIVE at Treefort)

These days there’s nothing but data out there — social media statistics, Spotify artist insights, info about who your fans are, where they are, and when they listen to your music. But what do you do with all this data? And who is really benefiting from it? Experts Kevin Erickson (Future of Music Coalition), Erica Sinkovic (CD Baby), Susie Giang (APA), and Zeke Howard (Trailboss) join Portia to discuss how artists can put their data to work. Subscribe to The Future of What:...


We'll be right back!

Portia is off to SXSW and Treefort! We'll be back with a new episode on March 30th! In the meantime, check out some of our past episodes, like last week's conversation about recovery and addiction in the music industry, or brush up on the Fair Play Fair Pay Act! If you're headed to Treefort, come to our panels at JUMP!


Addiction & Recovery: Gene Bowen (Road Recovery) / Slim Moon / Rob Crow (Pinback)

This episode contains discussions of addiction and suicide. Episode #115: The stereotype of “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” is pervasive in music. The music business often fosters an environment where addiction is the norm, but many artists and industry professionals who are in recovery have successfully stayed in the industry. Today, we talk to a few of those people about their experiences, advice for those who are struggling, and resources like MusiCares. We hear from Gene Bowen, founder...


Understanding Contracts with Gandhar Savur and Horse Feathers

Episode #114: When people start a band, they’re entering relationships that will hopefully last for years. Contracts can be helpful in remembering what you agreed to years later. We talk to lawyer Gandhar Savur about what to expect when entering into a contract with bandmates or a label. What’s normal in a record deal? How do indie label contracts generally differ from majors? What are percentage deals? Gandhar gives practical advice for anyone about to sign a deal. We also hear from...


Unpacking the Music Modernization Act: David Israelite (NMPA) / Mitch Glazier (RIAA) / Blake Morgan

What is the Music Modernization Act and how could it impact songwriters? On this episode we hear from people who have worked on this new bill and those whose livelihoods will be affected if it passes. David Israelite, President and CEO of the NMPA explains who the key players are and clears up some common misunderstandings surrounding the MMA. We also hear from RIAA President Mitch Glazier about the timeline of the act, and Blake Morgan (#IRespectMusic) shares pros and cons from an...


Mastering Social Media: GLASYS / CD Baby / Bozyk Media

Social media has become a vital tool for artists to connect with their fans, but knowing where to invest your time, energy, and even money can be difficult. After all, you probably didn’t become a musician to spend hours on Facebook figuring out which markets to advertise to. On this episode, we gather concrete tips for musicians to efficiently and effectively use social media, playlists, and newsletters. We’re joined by Daniel Bozyk, a Social Content & Marketing Specialist who runs Bozyk...


BONUS: Dewey Halpaus (Peer Pleasure Podcast)

BONUS: Dewey Halpaus is a musician and founding member of Anatomy of a Ghost and The Burning Room. He's also toured as a guitarist for Portugal. The Man. Now, Dewey hosts The Peer Pleasure Podcast, where he interviews musicians and creatives. We discuss his music career, podcasting, and more.


The Women of Pearl Jam's Crew / Mike McCready

Episode #111: Last year, we recorded a conversation with the many women who hold positions in Pearl Jam's road crew, like sound engineer and production manager. The women discussed life on the road and shared their advice for young women looking for jobs in the industry. We also look back at an interview with Pearl Jam's lead guitarist, Mike McCready, about the band's activism and McCready's own work outside the group. Subscribe to The Future of What: Follow us: Twitter:...


Apollo Playlists Curator Walt Lilly

Single: Walt Lilly is a playlist curator for Apollo Playlists. He walks us through the curation process and what factors he considers when creating a playlist. Subscribe to The Future of What: Follow us: Twitter: Facebook: Instagram:


Music-Tech Journalist Cherie Hu

Cherie Hu is a music-tech journalist who has written for publications like Billboard and Forbes. We talk to her about her recent article in Forbes on the push to get playlist curators paid:


Crosshair Music Founder Garrison Snell

Crosshair Music is a new company that helps independent artists pitch their music to playlist curators. We spoke with founder Garrison Snell.