Monday, September 24, 2012

Laminate Managers, Artist Development and my Top 10 Pet Peeves

In my humble opinion one of the most overlooked necessities in the Texas Music Scene is Artist Development. In the "old days" a new band signed by a major label might spend the first couple years being "developed" by a team at the label before releasing it's first  record. They would school you in everything from image to musicianship to songwriting to fan base development. As smaller labels die out and larger ones tighten their spending Artist Development seems to have for the most all but disappeared. Many bands getting signed today either have already developed past the point of needing it and are selling records in the numbers which attracted the attention of the labels in the first place. Many of the brand new out of nowhere bands are creations of those very labels they are signed with, carefully put together based on look and demographic calculations.

But what about those artists who are out there trying to figure it out on their own. Many just have that "cool" factor and don't need a whole lot of help developing and are ready to sign on with an experienced professional manager. Many should never quit their day job, get this band thing out of their system and go back to the real world. Most fall somewhere in between.

One of my observations and something I tend to poke fun of a lot are what I call the "laminate managers." They go to every show you play because they get in free and have had occasional success with girls using the "I'm with the band" line. They are your fraternity brother, best friend, brother in law etc. Eventually they help you load in/out and sell merch. You let them tag along to a festival show which you are playing the noon slot in order to give the appearance of having a 'crew". You give them a laminate, they put around their neck. The result; instant hard on. The illusion of power, prestige and overall "I have arrived" feeling that accompany that 3 x 4 piece of plastic on a leash are overwhelming. They are committed 100% to doing whatever it takes to stand at the podium and again be awarded the gold medal laminate. They offer to be your manager. Knowing that having a "team" is a true sign YOU have arrived you agree. And though you notice a year later that nothing has changed in your career because your "manager" has no experience, no plan, no connections and no clue you swell with pride as you play the BBQ circuit because all 23 people in the audience can clearly see the shiny laminate hanging around your "crews" necks and surely they too will realize that you have arrived.

I love Artist Development. When you do find a good band that has what it takes to be a success there is nothing more exciting to me than to take what I have learned, utilize the connections I have made and share it with an artist who just needs some help to get to the next level. I don't advertise that I do this nor do I talk about it when I have signed on someone to work with. I already get too many requests for "listen to my band". In addition many times a few months into the relationship you realize the artist isn't willing to do what it takes or has his/her own agenda and just needs me to open some doors. Once this is apparent then I bail, no use wasting either of our time.

But every once in a while I connect with someone who allows me to create a plan, is willing to do the work with minimal resistance and has the patience to wait out what always takes longer than they imagined. The reward for them is a head start in an industry where swimming alone can be tiring and unproductive and for me the validation that after all these years maybe I have picked up a thing or two and that giving is always more gratifying than taking :)

So I have put together a few of my top ten pet peeves for those who would like a little unsolicited advice.


10.) Come up with something original for your logo, ripping off Jack Daniels, Luckenbach, Lone Star or Corona Beer is not only unoriginal it's Trademark infringement.

9.) Never, ever wear Affliction clothing especially with Aviator sunglasses

8.) Do not use the words "critically acclaimed" or "hit single" anywhere in your bio unless you have a top ten on the BILLBOARD charts.

7.) No more songs which progress from a G chord to a D chord to an E minor chord. It's been done over and over and over; stop it.

6.) Never send unsolicited music to a busy music business professional. It will get deleted. If you are asked to send a sample of music ask the preferred method and how many songs ie., SoundCloud, Dropbox or Email.

5.) Sending an email to a manager requesting to open for one of their bands with a "we are big fans and it would really help us" along with here is where you can go check us out will not get a response. It's not our job to help you and we certainly aren't going to go "check out your music"

4.) Emailing, texting or tweeting me wanting to know if I listened to your CD. If I have and I like it I will tell you. If I have and I did't like it I won't tell you that I didn't like it cuz even I'm not that mean. Chances are it's still on my stack.

3.) Opening bands who go over the alotted times; if you start late too bad, finish when you are supposed to. The headliner is expecting to go on at a certain time, make sure he does. If the crowd is digging you that much they will come to one of your shows.

2.) If your sound check takes over 20 minutes it's called rehearsal, you should have done that already

1.) There is absolutely no reason to wear a laminate at Cheatham Street much less 8 of them, there is no backstage You're embarrassing yourself, take them off.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Once Upon A Time There Were Songwriters.....

When our kid Lucas was little we, like parents have done for thousands of years, would make up stories at bedtime in order to help their little one drift off into dreamland so mom and dad could you Comedy Central. In our house Ray was by far the preferred storyteller as each night would be a new adventure full of details and drama fit for Disney. I on the other hand told the same old tired "Once upon time there were dinosaurs...” Since I tend to ponder irrelevant shit a lot I was wondering this morning what kind of stories the cavemen and cave women told their little cave babies when dinosaurs were not yet extinct. That eventually brought me around to the topic of this post.

I've noticed more and more, especially in the local Texas/Red Dirt Music Scene infringements on Copyright owners intellectual property. In other words, people ripping off songwriters. Now I'm not talking about blatant illegal downloading that's typically done by people, the majority of whom are blindly ignorant (or wouldn't care even if they knew) the songwriter in addition to the recording artist is due money. That's a whole different post someday in the future. I am talking about other songwriters, bands, small independent record labels, bloggers, some internet radio stations and anyone else calling themselves a music business professional. Those who are in the business and should know better. Who think, "Giving the artists exposure is helping them”, as one blogger who gives away free downloads of every TX/RD artist states. He doesn't write reviews, get permission and give away one song like the many reputable bloggers do, which in my opinion is a good thing. No, this guy takes old as well as brand new releases and puts up a link to download the entire record. When one artist requested his songs be removed Mr. Asshole Blogger publicly chastised him as if he, the artist were the bad guy.  My question to Mr. Asshole Blogger and others; what about the songwriters who wrote the songs you are giving away? Many are not the artists or band that recorded the song. Were you aware that for every CD sold, every digital download sold there is a royalty payment due to the songwriter and the publisher of each song? That's right, so let's just say for example a well-known Okie band records "Wanna Rock n Roll" which happens to have been written by Ray Wylie Hubbard. RWH also the owns the publishing on the song. Each time said Okie band sells a CD or digital album or single song of their recorded version of WRR Mr. Hubbard gets 9.1 cents. Well if you do the math and Okie band sells say 100,000 records (BTW they sold more than that!) then Mr. Hubbard gets a royalty check for $9,100. This allows him to finally pave his steep driveway and no longer incur flat tires every few months due to navigating a caliche hill, which gets washed out every time it rains. (I fondly refer to it as Ragweed Rd. We’ll talk about the fence that gangsta rapper 50 Cent built in a future post.)

But what if those mechanical royalties were never paid?  What if YOU were dependent on royalty income to provide a roof over your head and food on the table for your family? Did you know that many songwriters have no other source of income? Many are no longer working musicians and many never were; so the flippant excuse downloaders use of "they make a fortune off touring and merch" doesn’t fly with me. A large percentage of artists/bands who do find success (less than 5% reach national touring level) do not write their own material so somewhere out there a man or woman who wrote their hit song is depending on the mechanical royalty paid when you BUY that CD or digital download.

Much of what I do in my role as manager for RWH is song catalogue related. Though we have a publisher administrator (Bug Music) who collects and distributes the mechanicals from record labels and negotiates licenses for RWH songs there is a tremendous amount of additional business that has to be handled in our office. Wading through the various laws, terminology, royalty rates and general practices can be daunting. It requires education and a never-ending one at that. Just when you get to a point where you understand it all the laws and rates will change! Bring in the digital age and you have doubled the amount of information you now must keep current.

For every informed songwriter/artists/manager that I run across in this scene there 10 who don’t have a clue or have incorrect information about Copyright/Royalty Streams/Publishing etc. Many who make more money in a month than most of us will all year! I'm digging that the fans are willing to go out and support their TXRD Artists and that so many can afford shiny new buses and an entourage. It's all good.... until it's over. Because no matter what REK says the road does NOT go on forever and the party DOES end.

So, instead of bitching about the mistakes and/or intentional copyright infringements I run across I thought it best to write about it. My hope is that you won't just take my word as the law or gospel truth but will read something that gets you thinking about it all and propels you to be proactive in your own career or the artists you work with. Most of what I will be covering the next couple of weeks, months or until I get bored will be the basics.

Then in the future if you should find you no longer have that gig/merch $$ rolling in but because you have properly managed your catalogue your songs can still have a life of their own and provide you a nice income.

And most importantly your grandkids or their grandkids won't be handing down bedtime stories story which begin "Once upon a time there were songwriters..."