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My wife, Roxanne and I saw Jamey Johnson last weekend in an awful club in Clifton Park, N.Y. Johnson’s a country songwriter cum recording artist who’s anything but awful. He’s one of those rare artists who come along once in a generation in a genre, in this case country.
He’s so raw and real it hurts. He’s of the outlaw breed, and his songs — even some of his hits – hold a bare light bulb to reality.
He’s a Montgomery boy, an ex-marine, ex-family man, and ex-rebel rouser, and his voice is as perfectly imperfect as his life. I’m not writing this to pitch Johnson, but country fan or not, this plainspoken poet is worth a listen.
I’m reminded of Steve Earle, who blew me away with his 1986 debut album “Guitar Town.” One literate bad boy with a voice to match. The first time I heard him I wanted to burn my guitar and typewriter (remember those), but eventually returned to my auteur senses.
Most aspiring artists intuitively understand that there’s value in building an audience for the long-term rather that focusing solely on short-term revenue. Bands offer free downloads, play free shows, and spend countless hours on- and offline interacting with listeners in hopes of developing a fan base that will support them over their careers.
But how much is a fan actually worth? How much should an artist be willing to sacrifice (or spend) today to acquire fans? And how many fans are needed to be able to make a living as a musician?
All industries have liars and the music industry is definitely no exception. Many people do not follow through on their word; many people lack honor, consideration and professionalism. It’s unfortunate that those who do lack honor—who lie or skip out on promises—grow defensive about their lack of honor when called on it. Instead of righting wrongs or taking steps to modify their actions, they give excuses and reasons why it is okay for them to be dishonorable.
In the arts, as in any other profession, you must have professional abilities and skills, but today, with so many artists going after the same jobs, the same tours, the same records, it takes ability, professionalism and honor for people to call on you and continue to call on you again and again.
Your word, it is that simple
This is not rocket science. In fact, it shouldn’t even need to be mentioned. But honor is an issue. False promises, outright lies, back stabbing and just plain absence is a problem in the industry, but the industry is getting more and more fed up with it. While many superstar names have been troublesome in the past and put up with these days, with the economy, time restraints and other issues, more people are leaning towards working with those who can not only play, but also have the honor to show up, perform, follow through and deliver. Attitudes, egos and lack of professionalism are not tolerated like they used to be.
When you give your word, follow through with it. Honor it. This will lead to more work than you know.
When you are booked for a session, a show, anything, be there and be there on time. If you are going to be late, call. If there are things that are going to keep you from fulfilling your obligation or your promise then do everything in your power to remedy the situation with a replacement or some kind of fix.
I am amazed at how people give up with no consideration of the person who has booked them or what ever the agreement or contract situation is. I, for one and I speak for many, do not call people back that flake out, blow off or bail at the last minute. This adolescent behavior is unprofessional, dishonorable and disrespectful. This also makes me, as the producer, look bad to the artist or the client with whom I am working. I don’t care how good a musician is. When they show a lack of respect or consideration for me, the artist and the promise they have made, then I am done with that person.
Things do happen.
Now I am not saying things don’t happen that you can’t control. Car problems occur, accidents, emergencies, etc. can prevent anyone from being able to honor his or her word. When it comes to professionalism, honor and respect, it really isn’t as much about how you behave when everything is perfect. It is about how you behave when problems occur.
When anything, or everything, goes wrong, how do you problem solve? What kind of effort do you put in to rectifying the issue? If you get into a car accident and you are okay, but stuck waiting for a tow truck, are you the type to call and say you can’t make it and leave it at that? Or are you the type who either tries to find another way to get to the session or makes calls to the studio or producer asking if they can call anyone else while you, yourself, are working to find a way to get that session covered?
Your follow through
It comes down to the follow through, and while a solution will not be reached every time, if something has to change or a commitment has to be broken, I know that the person I hired did everything they possibly could to make it right. That is honor. That is professionalism. That is follow through.
You say you are going to be some where = Show.
You say you are going to do something = Do it.
You say you are going to pay some one = Pay them.
Honor your commitments, your promises and your own goals. If something goes wrong, do all you can to make it right.
Too easy. Really!
Regardless of the booking, the gig, the contract, the promise, as long as you do what you say you are going to do or make every effort to resolve an emergency situation, then you truly are a professional with honor in every sense of the word. You want to have a reputation of a skilled, competent professional whose playing matches his or her honor.
Be the person who follows through on commitments, takes care of business and can be counted on when things are going right and even more so when things go wrong. Be the dependable, honorable person. It can make all the difference in the world. When people know they can count on you through thick and thin, your reputation will spread like wild fire but don’t forget, the same thing goes for the opposite as well.
© 2009 Loren Weisman
Watch out for Loren Weisman’s “Realistic Music Careers 101 Seminar” coming to a city near you and Loren’s book “The Artist’s Guide to Success in the Music Business” coming in 2010.
A friend of mine was asked by a musician to help him do a huge mail-out of CDs.
The musician had pressed up 10,000 copies of his CD in anticipation of 10,000 orders that were sure to come through that week.
He had bought a quarter-page advertisement in the back of a magazine with a circulation of one million people.
He kept saying, “If only one percent of the people reading this magazine buy my CD… that’ll be 10,000 copies! And that’s only one percent!”
Do you ever find yourself wishing the soundman knew your songs or your music a little better? Telling yourself if he only knew about this dynamic or that change, or that you mean to make this horrible screeching sound that should not be compressed. Maybe you wish the monitors could be turned up at a certain section or maybe if there is a light guy to have him cut the lights right at a big accent.
You have seen it in larger shows where everyone just seemed in sync and you long for that, even if this is the only night you are working with a given soundman, monitor engineer or lighting guy.
The forgotten notes
A lot of artists will come up to a soundman and, before hitting the stage or during a sound check, barrage the soundman (or woman) with a series of verbal bullet points. More often than not, these are immediately forgotten, especially when there is a night where you are on a bill with a number of other artists. Your information will surely fall through the cracks and be history.
Then on the other hand, there are those places where the sound guy is going to get a linear level line just making sure that nothing is feeding back and everything can basically be heard. You are not going to see those nuances at that show. But, if you have the right venue, the right crew and the right information, you can take your show up a notch.
Updated on October 6, 2009 by Michael Tiemann
In the case of the written word, I can quote a few words from the latest best-seller and know that I am legally protected by the doctrine of fair use. In the case of digital media, the US 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that no such fair use exists at all when it comes to sampling. In the case of the written word, it is possible to quote and rearrange concepts as a form of criticism, satire, parody, or public discourse, but the record industry claims there is no such right when it involves quoting from their music catalogs. In the case of the written word, it is possible to draw inspiration (and characters) from multiple sources and to bring those characters together in a new context to reveal new truths (or at least discussions) about the human condition, but when this is attempted with musical materials (such as Danger Mouse’s The Gray Album), the music industry demands no less than total destruction of all such works.
A few months ago, I announced I was cutting back on blogging to record a new Color Theory album. Instead, I was hired to mix three others (Exhibition by Die Brücke, The Deadliest Fairy Tales by Rain Rain, and a yet-to-be-named album for 907Britt). Since I’ve been living and breathing mixing since June, I thought I’d give my ears a rest and share my thoughts on spectral management.
Spectral management sounds like something you’d hire a firm to do, but it simply means finding a place for each instrument in the frequency spectrum. In my last mixing article, I described how to tighten the low end of the mix using a frequency analyzer. When the competing rumble and mud is removed, you’re left with tight and punchy bass. The same philosophy applies to the rest of the mix.
To generate a return for your investors, you probably need 1,000,000 people to click their mouse three times. How hard can that be? In fact, every artist is just three clicks (times 100,000 or so people) away from financial independence.
Here are the clicks:
Click one is the click that leads to discovery of a song or artist.
There are many ways to discover music that only require a single click; here’s one: when a receptive music consumer (one whom is open to, and an early adopter of unknown songs) clicks the ‘recommend’ button (attached to some music site or service) to obtain a recommended playlist of new songs.
Click two is the easiest click to obtain; it’s simply the click of the play button.
Click three is the hardest click to obtain; click three is the ‘meaningful’ click.
Meaningful clicks result in a purchase, or a share, or a placement in a personal playlist (where songs are spun until they are loved), or a recommendation to friends, or a trip to a concert, or a public spin (at a party for example), and/or meaningful clicks result in other meaningful actions…
Since most consumers can’t tell the difference between a great song and a good party (where they often hear the best new band on earth whilst drinking and dancing the night away), I would argue that in the absence of context (celebrity or radio endorsement, social group endorsement, or serious momentum to celebrity), most consumers will do nothing; they will not generate a meaningful click.
Over the past several years, I’ve spent much more (non-billable) time than I should have trying to convince old-school label execs, independent artists, managers (both big and small) and others that the traditional rules don’t work any more in this new music business.
When trying to “break” a new artist independently, spending a large amount of money on radio, downplaying internet marketing and direct-to-fan communication and spending a lot on expensive videos rather than producing less-expensive but more interesting/innovative videos (e.g., the now famous OK Go treadmill video) are usually bad moves. Top-down marketing just doesn’t work any more, unless you’re a very young pop act signed to Disney/Hollywood. As my marketing friend would say, it’s all about “pull” rather than “push” marketing.
If you are a performing musician that sells CDs at your shows, please consider this:
A band he was managing was doing the usual thing of selling CDs for $15. They’d mention it once or twice from the stage, and sell about $300 per night on average.
He asked them to try a completely different approach:
This is an exclusive early post from my Juggernaut Brew blog which every day this week asks a big question of the music industry…http://juggernautbrew.blogspot.com/
Back in 2007, Radiohead exited its record deal with EMI and promptly self-released their new album In Rainbows as a ‘pay what you want’ download. This I know did not escape your attention.
The genius of the strategy was multi-layered. The move generated such a huge wave of PR that the record hardly needed a marketing budget. And ironically, the band themselves avoided the need to do the usual round of publicity appearances and interviews – an established system the band loathed. It made them look forward thinking and brave. I’m even convinced that the distribution strategy for In Rainbows had an impact on the critical reception of the album itself which garnered four & five star reviews across the board and was number one on many critical lists for that year (it was a good record but was it a great one?).
It’s no longer the flavor or the month or what used to be called 24/7 or wall-to-wall coverage. The new media cycle, at least for this nanosecond, is called “perpetual movement.”
In other words, spin or die. That’s the latest from Internet guru Michael Moritz, a Sequoia investor who backed Google, Yahoo and the Sugar Inc. blog-networks.
Quoted in a recent New York Times article, Moritz says:
“Perpetual movement is the essence of survival and prosperity online. If online media and entertainment companies don’t improve every day, they will just wind up as the newfangled version of Reader’s Digest — bankrupt.”
“Artists should be compensated for their art.” is a phrase that often comes up in discussions on copyright. It is assumed that a) Artists are inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their Art, and b) copyright is a mechanism for this compensation.
I challenge both assumptions.
Of course, what people actually say is usually “Artists should be compensated for their work”. Below I’m going to distinguish between Art and Work, because confusing the two is exactly the problem.
a) Artists are inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their work.
I agree that artists are entitled to payment FOR THEIR WORK.
WORK is labor exchanged for money. Employer and worker negotiate a fee, the labor is performed, and the worker is paid. Many artists are workers: they are waiters, baristas, truck drivers. They should be compensated for their work, and they are, which is why they work.
Some artists perform a kind of skilled labor for money. This type of pre-negotiated labor is called a commission. Commissioned work is work, and artists are compensated for it, which is why artists take commissions.
But artists are not inherently entitled to monetary compensation FOR THEIR ART.
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