Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Bennet Silverman asks:
Does it seem like the Country is the best way to make money in the music industry these days? Artists like Taylor Swift sell out in under one minute.
In the golden days of Hollywood "western" music was such a large part of the popular music culture that it was systemically fused to "country" music to form the "Country & Western" genre. In the 60s, as the popularity of singing cowboys on film waned, western music no longer had a distribution mechanism and the appellation was abandoned. Country music assumed its original one word description. Only the tragically un-hip used the old C&W moniker. It was a sure sign that the speaker was not "country" if they used the antiquated terminology previously espoused.
All music genres exist simultaneously and Country Music remains one of the stalwart forms. The Internet allows fans to focus on and explore any extant body of music from classical to classic rock. Although no particular form is attracting ubiquitous attention at this time, the blues, jazz, bluegrass, gospel, rock, electronica, world music, latin and hip hop genres all maintain large international followings. Country music is always a contender for mass popularity.
Supremacy in the market place is always "star" driven. The focus of public attention is drawn toward artists who demonstrate extraordinary talent within their chosen musical style. Country music is a very evolved musical style. It has very specific ingredients that connote the signature sound that makes it appeal to the core fan base. These include instrumental arrangements and vocal styling that bring the "twang" to the country music sound. The basic characteristics are long established and best demonstrated by virtuoso players and seasoned vocalists.
Country music achieved its classic form over 100 years ago as America's "folk" music. There has not been an original lick in the style in decades. Clearly defined, requisite components enable fans to analyze performances an adjudicate quality based on long established criteria. This familiarity gives consumers the ability to choose which artists maintain the standard and which do not. Artists who adhere to the traditional standards inspire the loyalty of fans and peers alike.
A country music fan is generally less fickle than the followers of other genres. It is far more difficult to gain their respect, but once accomplished the affection is more likely to endure. The security blanket provided by a stable fan base affords artists a more solid platform upon which to build a career. A country fan is less likely to "rip" a song from the Internet. His bonds with favored artists are powerful connections and fans are less likely to tarnish them by stealing
the music. This personal relationship keeps country music in contention for most popular genre.
The difficulties that are devouring the postmodern record business have several sources. Most are digital in nature. Low cost production, digital piracy, iPod ubiquity and the waning influence of broadcast radio as a research mechanism, are all contributing factors in the paradigm shift. A strong personal appearance system keeps country music fans close to their heroes. The "same page" quality control agreement between fans and their stars will keep the genre healthy for years to come.
Success and popularity rise and fall on the fortunes of the artists and their songs. When a great star rises their talents and charisma accelerate commercial viability. Sound business practice provides insurance that careers can be sustained. Country will always be a viable form that could break an artist into universal stardom at any time. The game becomes one of turning a great song into a quality recording and provoking sales through strong live performances. This is the way it has always been done and the decline of record companies will never change that dynamic. The show must go on and artists must be paid for their work. Country music pays.
Monday, June 29, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
LMU Baseball8 Asks:
I am someone who had no desire to do anything in the music industry until my late 20's, when I had a change of heart and decided the record business is for me. Would it be possible to become a successful agent without a degree or much of a background in music? How would I pursue this career track?
The Music Renaissance is in full bloom on the Internet. The digital generation has turned its back on the postmodern record industry and embraced the blissful universe of "free" music. This cultural migration replaces a business model that systemically "forced" limited musical choices on the public with a new selection process. The net result is more music in play than ever before in history. Popular music no longer flows from the penthouse down. It grows upward from the grassroots. The fans are no longer the anvil of record business commerce. They now wield the mighty hammer of choice as they explore the extant global library of musical content.
It is important to draw a distinction between the record industry and the music business. The recording industry has flourished for over one hundred years. The infrastructure of the music business has been constructed over thousands of years. It is not surprising that a technology dependant industry could be drastically altered by the digital sword. It is impossible to think that the ancient music business would suffer a similar fate. The live music business is here to stay.
The concert business goes back to a time when men pounded on logs in caves and other guys took chickens at the door. In a recent issue of National Geographic magazine scientists declared that certain paleolithic caves in southern France were in fact ancient concert halls. It was in these prehistoric venues that performing artists and managers first conspired with booking agents to secure a fair share of the chickens. The profession of booking agent has flourished ever since.
Agents are one of the four primary players in the entertainment business. They are the well worn bridge connecting artists and managers with the producers of live music events. This ancient fraternity is not going to break up, nor is it going to surrender control of the personal appearance marketplace to digital entrepreneurs. As fragile and uncertain as the record business may be, the global concert business is strong, healthy and poised for long term survival.
The major full service talent agencies deal in every aspect of the entertainment industry and represent creators of music, theater, film, television, sports and literary works of art. There is a prevailing idea that an artist who negotiates for himself is represented by a fool. This generally turns out to be true and the fact ensures that the profession will prevail for many more years.
Agents are at the cross roads of all entertainment industry activities. The profession functions at the nexus of artists, managers, and producers. The practical activities of the agent are defined by the three "S's" of signing, selling and servicing. Agents "sign" artists to exclusive representation agreements; they engage in securing employment by "selling" the artists services to producers; and they "service" the bookings to ensure that the terms of agreement are honored.
The William Morris Agency, now known as William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, was founded in 1898 and evolved into the West Point of show business. There are more highly placed executives in entertainment who started their careers in the WME2 mail room than have emanated from any other single source. It is a long established tradition at all major talent agencies that prospective agents serve an apprenticeship in the mail room and the secretarial pools of their respective organizations.
Access to these coveted positions usually requires a college degree and often some manner of personal connection. There is a comprehensive description of the system in the best selling book The Mailroom by David Rensin. Agents' careers almost always start at this level and there is no guarantee of success because you get into the agent training program. As always personality, intelligence, charm and desire play a giant role in the achievement of any career goal. The most successful booking agents must demosntrate an ear for music, an eye for talent and a head for busienss. Surviving and thriving in the agency game is about becoming a great salesman.
Friday, June 26, 2009
DON'T FORGET: Here's what we know for sure: Michael was a force for musical greatness. His historical trajectory reinforced the tradition set by Caruso, Valee, Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles. He stands with honor among them in the pantheon of superstars of music. What we don't know for sure is that he ever harmed anyone. Honor him for what he did, not what some fear he may have done. Let it be.
What are your thoughts on Apple's decision to change the price of a song from its original 99 cent deal?
It is a long established tradition in the postmodern record business that the price of music is grossly inflated. In the era of high cost, multi-track, analog recording a tradition of paying about a dollar a track became firmly entrenched in the corporate business model. Fifteen dollar albums and CDs have always provided an extraordinary profit margin to the major record companies. The process allowed the funding of a very complex A&R mechanism that insured a flow of product into the system. The digital convergence has imposed a new formula on the recording industry.
In a reversal of the long established tradition, careers are no longer built from the top down. In the recent past record companies selected artists and music based on fads, trends and selection committee. This method of deciding what music would reach radio and the brick and mortar record stores, stifled competition. The end user was the last link in the chain and had little influence on the selection process. The Internet has enabled the music fan to search, select and distribute the songs he and his peer group decide are important. The fans are now in charge of the A&R machinery. They have turned their focus on the vast library of extant songs one tune at a time.
Since most music is "pirated" via free downloads the discovery of a great song is up to the people. The search is continuous and universal and every genre provides a fertile hunting ground. When a song is valued and appreciated it is instantly flashed around on line niche communities. The cost in this case is eliminated. Some music fans carry a moral aversion to stealing MP3 files and stand willing to pay the 99 cents on iTunes. This charge conforms to the old established price point.
However, the costs associated with digital recording and distribution are vastly smaller than those established in the postmodern record business. Most new artists employ Protools and Garageband software to produce their records cheaply, but this savings was not passed on to the consumers. Apple held a firm line with the record companies and stubbornly stuck to the 99 cents model. The record companies lobbied long and hard to break this formula.
The new change in pricing structure allows labels to charge more for "special" product. It also opens the door for "bargain" pricing for records that are new or less popular. The change in the ceiling also makes possible the lowering of price on the other end as well. This new system gives more latitude to labels and artists to influence their profit margins. There is a strong argument that reducing the price of per song music acquisition could bring many more buyers into the marketplace. This could lead to less piracy, higher gross receipts and more income for songwriters, publishers, producers and recording artists. That would be good for the business.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
DON'T FORGET: Hartmann's Law # 6 - "Look For Virtuosity" - There's music and there's great music. The criterion for excellence in musicianship are long established. The perception of the absence, or presence, of greatness bust be measured by observation. Music itself is intangible and ethereal. It is of the moment and requires a creator and a receptor. The makers of music seemingly revel in the wonder of their own achievement. I never met a musician who didn't believe he was going all the way to The Big Top. I always found this to be somewhat romantic and charming since it is decidedly untrue. In fact ninety percent of musicians fail to profit from their art. Music appears to be imbued with the power to enchant the players as well as audiences.
There are several ingredients that must be addressed when dissecting music. Melody, meter, timbre and pitch must be crafted in harmony to create a song. These elements compose the ring setting and the lyric becomes the jewel. The combination of instruments used in the creation of tracks is determined by the arrangement. The quality of musical performances by individual musicians is determined by the recording artist and the producer. It is always easy to tell what is great. Music is intrinsically appealing and it can be difficult to determine when it is not so great.
There is an automatic, visceral and emotional response to music that is not subject to logical analysis. It just makes us feel good and we crave more. The best judges of virtuosity in musicianship are other musicians. They are the most aware of what it takes to accomplish the presentation and completion of the notes the composer has designated as correct. The top musicians are able to deliver "hot licks" to live and recorded performances based on their technical mastery of their instruments and the emotion they infuse into their work.
A great player will push the other musicians to reach beyond their perceived ability. This kind of inspiration contributes to extraordinary achievements in the recording arts. The differences in quality may not be describable by the average listener, but the vibration of the subtle energies of music can be received and appreciated by anyone. The mathematics of the masses satisfies an addiction we all share. Every human community has developed a musical component within their respective cultures. Some of the music produced is brilliant and some is dull; some becomes instantly classic and most dies with the last echo of its sound. When the notes are played with exceptional dexterity they are long remembered and repetition is sought by player and fan.
LACK OF MUSICIANSHIP
J. Gutto comments:
We all know the internet, especially file sharing, has been the bane of the music industry for years now. Record companies figured out how to swing it to their advantage to a certain extent, but on the whole the industry is suffering. Not because of illegal downloads or ripped youtube videos, but because of the lack of sheer musicianship seen in popular music today. That being said, there are still great contemporary bands that follow the classic models formed by groups such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd that became superstars through their own artistic avenues, but those contemporary bands fall through the cracks because they have no financial backing. The music industry is out to make money, not music. Greed stifles individuality and all you have left is an over-processed and over-produced pile of garbage that sounds exactly like the group that was in the week before. I say let the musicians run their own industry. It might not be as profitable for the suits in the labels, but that's just too bad. Let the people reclaim their art. Music is too important to be left to record exec's.
Molly Hankins comments:
Dance music. It's never needed to sell records to thrive, it appeals to hippies, indie kids, and the international elite. You hear it in car commercials, in line at Six Flags, in clubs of all genres across theworld. Anyone can be a DJ, it's entirely democratic and anyone with a computer can make a beat or remix, up tempo, down tempo or anywhere in between. Touring costs are relatively low so the show can get on the road and sustain more easily than live acts. It's just catching on in the mainstream as genres start to bend. Electronic everything is the future. Just ask The Whip and GhostlandObservatory. No one's ever heard of them yet they can make 5 figures anywhere in the world any night of the week and they don't move any units.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
i was wondering what music you think is going to take the place of hip hop as the dominant music on the air waves? I was thinking alternative music like we had in the 90's but my friend thinks i'm dumb and that it's going to be country. Please tell me that country is not the music my kids will be playing out their laptops.
The postmodern record business is dominated by monolithic record companies engaged in an illicit affair with broadcast radio. Multi-national power brokers have manipulated the entire industry down to four primary distribution systems, UMG, SONY, EMI and WB. Not one of them is American owned. Congressional scrutiny of various evolutions of "payola" failed to discover, or chose to ignore, the basic apparatus for delivering "hits" to radio and records to stores. That paradigm is in transition to the digital age. Artistic and executive survivors to be named at a later date. It was this machine that created the matrix for a strong hip hop presence on the air waves.
The Music Renaissance is taking place on the Internet, it is not CD dependant, it is not broadcast, and as a weapon of mass distribution, it is infinitely more powerful than AM and FM radio combined. Rap music has come to the end of its cycle of dominance. It has achieved its classic form and will remain a cultural phenomenon as one of the great popular genres. The music that replaces the beats and rhymes will have to consolidate what has become niche radio. Every style of music has a home station, but no one musical form is ubiquitous. Its hard to envision what music might unite radio. What's happening, when there is nothing happening?
Although "digital" has imposed an entire universe of travail on the record business, the music industry will forge ahead dependant only on the live arena. Coming of age will demand a musical hero and the "digeneration" will choose its superstar. The Avatar of digital music could spring full blown from the head of Zeus, or it might struggle on you.tube for years, but it would defy history for it not to arrive. The next big thing always arrives in a doldrums. Many classic, contemporary and hybrid fusion styles are competing for notice. The music that produces the biggest star wins.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The man who first abused his fellows with swear-words instead of bashing their brains out with a club should be counted among those who laid the foundations of civilization.
John Cohen 1911 -
J. G. Jurash asks:
Since technology has made it possible for anyone with a Mac and Protools to produce their own album, how does the profession of record producer fit in to the new era of the music business? If you're not necessarily a performing artist, but have a talent for producing, what are the elements of the right pitch for an up and coming producer?
There are two primary activities in the music business, live performing and recording. The postmodern record business was born out of the marriage of FM radio and 331/3 RPM long playing albums. The Beatles were the superstars who led the way into multi-platinum record sales. Thousands of acts followed and hundreds achieved some level of commercial success. Most of the records released from the early sixties through the late nineties were produced by experienced professionals. Occasionally the artists themselves were involved in the production.
The digital age has reduced the cost of recording music and the threshold to entry for artists has been lowered to ground level. This does not mean everybody with Protools is talented. Making records is still an art form that requires considerable skill to do well. This is not going to change because the record business has lost its way. No matter what distribution system is used, and regardless of weather fans pay for music or not, the records will still have to be produced.
In the postmodern era record producers brought certain skills to the studio. Often they just had good musical taste and that justified their employment. Many producers were gifted songwriters and secured their assignments by providing material the artists and A&R men considered viable. Some producers were sought after for their engineering skills. A few combined all of these attributes and labels trusted them to deliver finished product on time and within the budget.
Practical experience making hit records is the common denominator most often sought. This system keeps a few producers in high demand and leaves many struggling to find employment. If a producer has product on the charts, everybody wants him, if he gets cold work was hard to find. The changing dynamic of the record industry has cut down drastically on the number of records being released. With fewer records in production, the hot producers will get the work and the new players will struggle to be noticed. All will have to discover, develop and promote new talent.
The Music Renaissance imposes other demands on producers seeking to build careers in music. Besides songwriting and engineering talent they are required to demonstrate informed and intelligent business choices. Record companies are losing their grip on the talent pool as independent artists create their own records and market them on the Internet. Record companies now watch for a record or video to receive extraordinary attention on the Internet and then they chase those artists offering 360 degree record deals and monetary inducements.
More importantly, music mavens scour the world wide web constantly searching for quality music. Since there is so much volume and so little quality material, it is very difficult to find music with universal appeal. This has produced a multi-niche format that allows fans to make deep explorations into specific genres without any one style dominating. Popular music is specific to the personal taste of each niche community and the fans become the prime promotional tool.
The Holodigm System requires that artists build their business enterprise from the ground up. The days of record companies deciding an act has talent and financing their careers is over. Today a simple formula can be applied: 1A + 1M = 1 E. One artist, plus one manager, equals one enterprise. The process of career direction is no longer about a manager working fifteen acts hoping one might stick. The entire game is far too competitive for an artist to risk being lost on a client list.
Survival is the first level of success. That means making a living from selling music without having a day job. If an act can reach the survival plateau the enterprise can be expanded to the wider market place. Record producers need to partner with artists and create their own record labels and publishing companies. If they can bring personal management services to the project they increase their chances of success. The more control each enterprise has over the various income streams the sooner survival can be achieved. Multi-tasking ability in all the core activities is imperative.
Artists starting out at Rock Bottom are simultaneously responsible for the activities of the eight core professions of entertainment. They must deal with the art, the management, booking, production of recorded product and presenting live performances. Until the budget allows, they are also their own lawyers, accountants, publicists and the crew. They need help they can trust.
Musicians who write songs, make records and perform shows have a lot of responsibilities. They need to find a business partner who can be the CEO of their corporation. It should be someone who is totally committed to exploiting the artist's talent and whose personal success is attached to the growth and development of their business. Experience is not necessary as the head of the management team can be trained and coached in The Holodigm System of career direction.
As in the past, future record producers will need the ability to get the job. This is about "pitching." The conversation between artists and prospective producers is a sales pitch. The act needs to feel that the producer knows more about what has to happen than the artist himself understands. Convincing an act that you can make a record, or run a business, is a skill in itself. Without that ability, a producer will have a hard time getting to make records. With it, his services will be in popular demand. If he can add management skills to the situation he becomes an invaluable asset.
The basic systems, mechanics and protocols of building an act in The music Renaissance are presented in The Holodigm Seminars at http://www.theholodigm.com/. The elements of a producer's pitch are specifically covered in The Holodigm Map and can be accessed free of charge on the site. Record Producers should learn to incorporate all aspects of how the business of music is conducted into their conversations with artists. The more details of the process they can include the more convincing they will be.
Producers should search for one great act and do whatever it takes to bring that artist's career to fruition. They should get as deep into the act's business system as circumstances allow. There won't be many artists with the talent to endure in the Music Renaissance and it will be important to own master recordings, publishing and equity in the company being built. There is no pension in Rock & Roll. The publishing and master recording library created becomes the permanent asset.
Monday, June 22, 2009
THE MUSIC RENAISSANCE
Mark Milovic asks:
What will constitute the new era in Music?? In the class we discussed about how we are going to need an Elvis type person to fulfill that, but don't we have enough great musicians out there with just as die hard fans? And isn't the industry is still "hurting?"
The new era in music is here. The Internet is a double edged sword. On one side it has cut the postmodern record business to its knees. On the other hand, it is the instrument that is carving The Music Renaissance. No one can predict for certain what this will actually mean in the long run. Some systems will fail and some will survive. There abides a flicker of hope, within the big four record companies, that some digital miracle will reverse their spiraling trend toward oblivion.
To arrest the labels' descent into irrelevance several significant changes would have to occur. First, an entire generation would have to suddenly regard music "piracy" as immoral and unacceptable behavior. However, the practice seems to be culturally protected by a moral code allowing that if its on the world wide web its free for the taking. That perception is not likely to change in the near future.
If rejecting peer-to-peer file sharing showed a serious lack of vision on the part of the record industry, the lawsuits filed by the RIAA against their customer base were down right foolish. The music fans all watch talent TV, and they know the record companies have never been artist friendly. Turning on the music user to thwart the spread of file sharing is somewhat like biting the hand that feeds you. The labels have turned their customers into enemies and even if they recognized the error of this tactic, there is still no obvious solution to the piracy problem.
Despite the fact that there is more music in play than ever before in history, sales are at an all time low. In the pre Napster era an album would have to sell upwards of a million units, in a window of a few weeks, to achieve the number one position in Billboard's top 200. Today that can be achieved if a CD sells as few as one hundred and fifty thousand copies in the first week of release. Such a dismal showing would have been considered an abject failure twenty years ago.
The infrastructure of the record business was built on the control of AM and FM radio as the primary promotional tool for recorded music. Enormous amounts of money were funneled into the acquisition of radio airplay. Some of this was spent on legitimate advertising. Most was channeled through a convoluted system of "payola" practices that constantly evolved under the occasionally watchful eyes of congress. In the modern record business cash payment for an actual number of spins was the common method of getting 45 RPM singles on AM radio.
In the postmodern era, singles were chosen from albums and exploited on AM and FM radio. The air play was purchased through "independent" promotion companies. Record companies would make under the table, and off the books, payments for blocks of stations to add certain priority records to their play lists. Indie promo men would deliver the money, goods or services and the stations added the records. When this practice came under government scrutiny, the paradigm shifted to an advertising based model. Companies purchased expensive advertising in "tip" sheets and trade magazines and some of those dollars found their way to radio station program directors. As record releases diminish these magazines and newspapers are slowly fading away.
The other mitigating factor is that most music fans no longer access their music through the radio. The building of new artists is no longer accomplished from the top down. Record companies used to decide what music would be offered for sale. From some narrow selection of choices the public would embrace what it liked best from the crop of new releases. This allowed "group" think, fad and trend influenced production, and committee diluted "product" to dominate the market place.
In The Music Renaissance the music mavens in each social community seek out the best of the new artists and quickly and efficiently share their discoveries through instant messaging and MP3 technology. Since the Internet is infinitely more powerful than AM and FM radio combined, the cost of promotion went from huge to minuscule over night. Now, new artists can be proactive about building their careers through social networking sites and on line music distribution and marketing systems. This leaves the record companies with very little to offer an artist.
The costs of manufacturing, promotion and distribution no longer require large capital investment. The record stores have closed and the on line sales mechanisms are functioning efficiently as downloads slowly eclipse the sale of paper and plastic CDs. Add to this the fact that subscription and advertising based methods of distribution are being experimented with every day, and it seems certain that the future acquisition of music will get even easier. It is highly probable that owning a CD will become more about ritual identity than a practical necessity.
Accessing the extant global music library, of just about every record ever made, is already here. Purchase is a choice, not a requirement. Owning a CD will be a sign of affection and support for the subject artist. Fans won't buy the album to get the music. They will probably already have the act's repertoire on their iPod when they decide to purchase CDs and merch. They will only do that after they have fallen in love with the act. It will be an act of homage, not a commercial exchange. This bonding action is most likely to occur through the intensity of live concert events
The new paradigm of music is alive and evolving. There will be no permanent form that controls the future, it will continue to change. Recording will continue to be low cost and universal. High profit album sales will be accomplished directly with the artist and talent will continue to define the margins. Live performing will provide the catalyst for bringing the public and the musicians together. If you can put on a good show, you can sell your "brand." A dynamic live act will bring the fans back, with their friends, and talented artists will build followings that will support their business enterprises.
The historical trajectory has always provided a superstar to embrace new technologies and advance the medium of music. Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles were each catalysts for enormous growth and expansion. 78 RPM records, surrendered to 45 RPM singles and eventually 331/3 RPM and tape dominated. The Internet will produce a great star who will capitalize on the possibilities still being explored, and those as yet undiscovered. If a talented artist with great songs, charisma and sex appeal emerged today enormous global success could be achieved instantly.
Until a singer or band surfaces who can capture the imagination of the digital generation, there will continue to be a vast exploration of all the great genres of music. Internet access to "free" music has created a very sophisticated listener. Musical choices are niche oriented and several genre styles will compete for the popular vote. When the Avatar of the Internet arrives an eager and hungry audience will claim the next big thing as its own and if enough love accrues the new star could be rich and famous over night. Until then, music itself is the "superstar" of choice and fans will continue to search for the one great star that will bring them all together on the Internet. The fans will decide when that time has come and the music business will adapt to their selection.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Fidelity ♥♥♥♥ed? So with the creative process getting easier and cheaper, couldn't the music quality that is being produced be impacted? Cheap microphones and "garageband" don't have the quality that a high budget studio can produce. Is this downside contributing to the collapse of the status quo?
Music in its purist form exists in the hearts and minds of the composers. What Mozart heard in his head could be transcribed onto paper in the written language of music but of course the "sound" he heard was missing. Each time the songwriter's vision was translated from one medium to another there was a loss of quality. What could be imagined perfectly could not be interpreted without flaws imposed by the translation and interpretive process. No musical reproduction is ever accomplished perfectly. Even the greatest musician is less than perfect.
Through all the technical changes that have evolved within the recording arts sound quality has always been a driving force. The transition from mono to stereophonic sound was a huge leap. Most audiophiles still consider a needle on vinyl to be the source of the highest fidelity. The postmodern record business was dependant on very expensive recording and playback equipment.
Long play albums often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and involved incredibly sophisticated recording techniques. Home based sound systems achieved similar levels of excellence. The high cost of recording kept the process under the control of record companies who risked large capital investment to bring competitive "product" to the market place. Phonograph equipment achieved the ability to play music back with recording studio quality.
With the advent of the compact disc the entire process was drastically changed. Digital recording brought two significant changes to the game. First, reproduction was uniform and the zeroes and ones duplicated the music precisely the same every time. Secondly, the amount of time available on CDs virtually doubled. A Sony executive decided that the new format should be able to contain Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in its entirety. This made seventy four minutes of music possible.
Garageband and Pro Tools do not directly effect the quality of music itself. That is still controlled by the songwriters, composers, artists and producers. However, what makes a song great is the judgement of the fan base and the proof is in the competition. Only the public decides what is going to be popular and the control of that process is more in the hands of the fans than every before. The recording process is no longer "dollar" dependant; anybody can play and this has infused the game with a tremendous degree of mediocrity.
For the first time in the history of record production, fidelity is no longer the primary goal. An entire generation has decided that content is more important than sound value. Digital MP3 technology and the advent of the iPod has reversed the trend. Instant access to a particular song on demand and free of cost has changed the way music is used today. The listening mechanism is not dependant on expensive play back equipment and music heard through tiny little ear "buds" doesn't require the same degree of sophistication previously available on vinyl recordings.
All of these revolutionary changes are contributing to the demise of the major record companies. Expensive recording and high cost access to radio airplay for promotion kept the big four labels in power for decades. Today the fan base only uses radio by default and they don't want to be "told" what is good. They'll make that decision themselves and distribute what they like to their Internet communities directly.
The top recording engineers believe that digital sound quality will continue to evolve and in due course will rival the fidelity of the most sophisticated multi-track recording techniques. This does not bode well for the major record companies that built their infrastructure on the high cost of plastic and paper CD product. This format required fans to buy ten songs they didn't want in order to have the one they loved. With the advent of "free" music that is no longer necessary. Purchasing it has become a matter of choice; and who is going to steal something they don't want?
The record companies will continue to crash and burn and musicians and entrepreneurs must create new systems and protocols for the development of a business model that can survive in the digital age. There are numerous methods of distribution in play, including subscription and advertising based models. Survival in this environment will be precarious but one thing is certain, online file sharing is the mode of today and the future.
Ownership will become less important, than instant access to the song of choice, and Internet streaming systems will eventually make music free to all. Even the least tech savvy person will be able to "pirate" any song he wants at any time he chooses. The record labels will continuously struggle to survive, but it appears they missed their chance to control the digital market place when they decided to destroy Napster rather than embrace the system. The problem was further exacerbated when the RIAA decided to sue their customers for using the new technology. These were devastating choices proving there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. The old way died, the digital gates are wide open and the future is up for grabs.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
A. Compean asks:
I have a question about selling an artist. What are the main aspects that the audience wants? Of course good music is key, but with so many bands and artists that have "staying power", how would you make an artist stand out among others?
I began my career in the mail room of the William Morris agency in 1961. Shortly into my tenure as an agent trainee, I was assigned to intern on the staff of Colonel Tom Parker, the legendary manager of Elvis Presley. The Colonel maintained that the object of personal management was to build duration into the act. Considering the abiding popularity of Elvis and his music that goal was certainly accomplished in the case of the King of Rock & Roll. His fans remain loyal to this day.
This abiding loyalty is part of the enduring legacy of one of the greatest live performers of all time. Elvis was a student of the blues and gospel music. The blending of these two genres was originally presented by the great black artists who became the founding fathers of Rock & Roll. Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry created the elements that brought music with a beat to prominence in the fifties. Elvis, Bill Haley and Buddy Holly emulated their unique style.
The success of all of these great artists can be attributed to a number of specific qualities they were able to demonstrate throughout their careers. The singular most important ingredient was extraordinary material. As the old lyric goes, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." In this context "swing" means that magical, indescribable something that makes a song appealing in the first place. When a song has "it" we all want to hear it again and that is what makes hits.
For artists to endure they must continuously add hit material to their repertoires. The most long lived careers are usually attributed to artists who write their own material. However, many successful singers rely on the vast songwriting and music publishing community for their songs. With millions of tunes to choose from, it is almost as difficult to "discover" a great new song as it is to write one.
Regardless of the source, a hit record begins with the right combination of melody, meter and message. The tune, the tempo and the tale must be carefully constructed by skilled craftsmen. Through a calculated blending of music and poetry the mathematics of the masses provides a unique thrill that humanity craves. Millions of fans constantly search the Internet in hopes of finding a song they love. When they do, the song is quickly shared by text and MP3 files.
The second most important attribute of enduring artists is "vocal chops." A great singing voice is a virtual necessity when it comes to attracting and maintaining a strong fan base. Each genre has its signature qualities when it comes to voice. A country artists may not share any similarities with a soul singer, but Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklyn are able to touch the hearts of millions of fans in totally different ways. The music of Frank Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles relied heavily on strong vocal performances and they remain at the forefront of three different popular genres.
Charisma is another requisite aspect to adding staying power to the life of a musical attraction. Beauty, sex appeal, charm and personality are prime ingredients for attracting an audience. Sinatra was considered "dreamy" by his legions of "bobby-soxers" as his fans were known. Elvis was heavily criticized for being way too sexy for the fifties. Paul McCartney, dubbed the "cute" Beatle had millions of teen age girls crying to be with him in what was called "Beatlemania."
These specific qualities each provide some part of the over all package and it requires a careful cultivation of them all to create a star. Often, particular excellence in one or more of the primary ingredients can make up for a lack of talent in another area. Brittany Spears' beauty and performing skills eclipsed her singing ability. Beyonce Knowles , on the other hand, delivers a strong, sexy performance, a great voice, and movie star looks in a dazzling combination. Singing ability can out weigh most of the other requirements.
Every artists comes to the professional ranks with certain native abilities. Talent is measured by one's skill at presenting their assets in a balanced, harmonious and entertaining manner. Some of these ingredients are fixed and some are able to be enhanced through disciplined training. Virtuosity as a musician can contribute a lot to an artist's credibility and endurance in the competitive world of music. The greatest technicians engage their instruments incessantly.
Image and attitude are magnets that increase interest and inspire hero worship. When building an act, it is important for a performer to address all of these issues and work diligently on every aspect of their careers. On top of all these factors a comprehensive knowledge of the systems, mechanics, protocols and politics of show business are vital to long term survival. A clear vision defined by short and long term goals helps artists and managers make good diurnal choices.
All artists begin their careers at Rock Bottom and they strive to reach The Big Top. There is a natural resistance to their progress. The status-quo does not smile fondly on the new competitors. In my fifty year career in the postmodern record business, I have never met an artists who didn't think he was going all the way. Ninety-nine percent of them were wrong and these odds have not changed in The Music Renaissance. Easy access does not guarantee success.
Showbiz still remains the most competitive environment on the planet. There is one thing that magnifies the possibilities and reduces the odds of failure. That is the emotional commitment that some people bring to the pursuit of their dreams. A passionate dedication to one's art, an obsessive desire to achieve their goals, unbridled optimism and an aggressive work ethic can eclipse all the other ingredients. Very often the less talented person with more desire wins.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
L. Poliaki asks:
For people wanting to start out in the music industry, what is the best point of entry? I know individuals who have made it by starting out working the xerox or mail room in movie or television business offices. Music seems different, especially if you want to be a performer. I know one person made it by putting a video of his work on YouTube and someone in the music industry saw it and launched him.
More highly placed entertainment executives began their careers in the mail rooms of major talent agencies than have emanated from any other source. This tradition dates back over 100 years to the founding of the William Morris Agency in 1898. Since then, virtually every agent began his career in this lowly station. Enduring the rigors of a system that not only tested your desire but challenged your fortitude was not for the faint of heart. Competition to rise to the level of secretary, and then to junior agent, was stiff and often ruthless. There were no guarantees.
An ambitious young man, women were not admitted until the seventies, often toiled for three or four years before escaping from the mail room to the next plateau. Every minute of the process was a test of ego, desire and endurance. Only the most dedicated agent "trainee" prevailed. For those who graduated to agent status the battle to survive and prosper had just begun.
There were many tests and few errors allowed. Sitting at the crossroads of all show business activity agents faced many opportunities and often moved on to the ranks of managers and producers. Even to this day, the low paying mail room jobs are highly coveted. Harvard Law School graduates and Stanford MBA's lobby hard to gain access to the most powerful ladder in entertainment. These positions are for business minded people not actors, writers or musicians.
Those young people in pursuit of artistic opportunities must travel a different path. For the realm of music there are two primary activities, recording an performing. In the digital age, careers in the The Music Renaissance are practiced on night club stages and recorded on Pro Tools software. They are built and nurtured on the Internet. Record companies are not likely to offer much help.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
W. Dugoni asks:
With the economy in such a rut, is there anything the big record companies can do to help jump start our country? Or are they in too deep a hole themselves? Also, if the economy does pick up, do you think it will help the big record companies survive or are they just a dying breed with all the music piracy in today's world?
Within months of the election of Herbert Hoover as the thirty first president of the United States, the Wall street crash of 1929 gave birth to The Great Depression. Hoover, a prohibitionist was the first American President to use the term "trickle down economics." The concept proved no more successful for him than it did for Ronald Reagan or the Bush family. Of course they all got rich, but the destruction of the U.S. economy that resulted from their deregulation and taxation failures has devestated our middle class. It has disrupted the global economy and driven virtually every country into some form of recession. The record industry is already in a depression.
The decline of the postmodern record business preceded these events and has only been tangentially effected by them. It was a severe lack of vision, by its leaders, that caused the recording industry to crash and burn. The precipitating event was the rejection of Napster by the big four record labels a decade ago. Failure to grasp the significance of peer-to-peer file sharing technology, and the decision to file law suits against their customers, sealed the eventual fate of the major companies. In a universal act of defiance music fans decided to take the music for free.
The once mighty giants of music now reside in empty buildings and service a waning industry. There is some wheel spinning as the survivors struggle to hold on to their pay checks. There is even some A&R activity and an occasional signing. But, the albums that reach the top of the charts don't sell much product. The brick and mortar stores have evaporated and the purchased download sales, although significant, represent only a small fraction of the music actually "taken."
There is a prevailing mind set, among the digital generation, that considers anything that reaches the Internet public property and free for the taking. Although dissertations on the morality of music piracy often evoke sympathy, the situation is not likely to change. As the old song goes, "How can you keep the boy down on the farm now that he has seen Paree?" The concept of free music is a truly delicious predicament for the iPod fraternity. While they wrestle with their collective conscience the fans will continue to explore the extant music library on the Internet.
The economic recovery, we all crave, is probably a long way off. It is more likely that things will get worse before they get better. The power elite, who have more than they need, will not feel the heat from the crash. Sure they will take in less, but it won't change their lives, in the same way that the economic failure is crushing the middle class into poverty. The top one percent will lobby to rebuild the economy on the same old foundation and insure another crash just like Hoover did.
Without fundamental change in the systems and protocols history will just continue to repeat itself and all the stimulation dollars will only benefit the rich. The people comprising the ninety-nine percent who are suffering will become embittered and stealing music will be the least of their concerns. It may even be perceived as a form of justice. This will contribute to the record industry's eventual demise. By the time the economy reverses itself it will be too late to save the record business. For all intents and purposes the century old record industry is finished. It can't help the overall economy and it cannot save itself. Purchasing music is no longer a necessity.
This does not mean that the music itself is doomed to share a similar fate. The music business goes back to when pounded on logs in caves and other guys took chickens at the door. It has endured a myriad of changes, provoked by advances in technology, for thousands of years. For most of that time the personal appearance of live attractions has been the primary activity.
Songwriters, singers and bands will continue to create music and fans will always be searching for the next big thing. Inevitably, inspired entrepreneurs will devise new mechanics and exploit the proven principals of entertainment.
There will be a new "superstar" and fame and forune will accrue. The economics of music will be influended by the state of the national and global recovery. However, once the music business hits bottom there will be no place for it to go but up. The fan base is the electorate and if they get their way, as was the case with Herbert Hoover, there will be no second term for the postmodern record industry.
Monday, June 15, 2009
You are a shining star bright and beautiful. When they turn to look, all will see the light within.
John Hartmann - 1940 -
Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.
Lewis Mumford 1895 - 1982
Sean Pope asks:
Do you think that the decline in CD sales, and the rise of music piracy, has forced many artists to rethink the "CC-first, touring-second" model and turn to a more touring-centered model in order to make the same amount of money they once were able to do only through CD sales?
Hartman's Law #6 - "If it's not good live, dump it." Careers in music can no longer be built from the top down. For five decades the A&R men, from hundreds of record companies, have scoured the cities, towns and villages of America in search of what they perceived as commercially exploitable talent. In most cases the process required some vision and risk taking. Often the A&R choices were about local music trends and movements. Almost always the focus centered on talented individuals who were making a significant impact in their local communities.
If more than one star appeared to be rising from one location the industry flocked to that city and signed up every act in sight. This tradition spawned the British Invasion of the early 1960s as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones achieved world wide fame simultaneously. The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Doors inspired a similar explosion in Southern California later in the decade. Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead led the "psychedelic" rock genre out of San Francisco. The "grundge" movement from Seattle was attached to the emergence of Nirvana and Pearl Jam.
All of these popular music trends were born without the stimulation, or investment of major record companies. The artists created a grass roots constituency and the record business followed. The infusion of recording industry capital into the process provided the systems and protocols that expanded the fame and fortune of those innovative artists. The net result was a vibrant touring mechanism that allowed performers and bands to gain significant control over their survival. Personal managers were able to keep the labels from participating in this income.Record companies are the historical enemy of artists. F
rom the beginning of the antiquarian record business, through the traditional, modern and postmodern eras the nature of recording agreements has grossly favored the company. The formulae offered in record contracts are designed to keep the artists share at an absolute minimum. The profit to labels, on per unit sales, is enormous. Digital piracy has shattered that system, the brick and mortar stores are gone. Only the giant "budget" chains carry packaged CDs and this does not carry a broad based catalog.
By controlling the flow of product to AM and FM radio the record companies imposed their choices of artists and records on the fan base for decades. This was a reversal of the traditional flow. No longer were the fans choosing what they liked. Instead, A&R committees offered a narrow selection of choices that resulted in a formulaic approach to the process. The labels decided what would be offered and radio, as the primary promotional vehicle, channeled the current trend to the fan base. Music was a closed shop and quality was dictated from the top.
Absent the enormous profit margins, previously enjoyed, the postmodern record business is rapidly shrinking. The big four companies, UMG, Sony, EMI and Warner Bros., who distribute ninety per cent of the non-digital "purchased" product, can no longer move millions of units. A number one album today rarely sells more than two hundred thousand copies to achieve that status on the charts. This fact has taken the discovery and development of new artists out of the labels hands and placed it back where it all began; in the market place of local communities.
If you can't make it at home you can't make it anywhere. The hammer now meets the anvil in the home town of the act just like at the beginning of the postmodern era. The high cost of national touring no longer has monolithic record companies to bankroll the short fall. Nor is it necessary.Careers in music must now evolve organically. It is way too easy for an act to participate in the process.
With Pro Tools and Garage Band software readily available, anybody can make a record without a governing arbiter to judge the quality of their product. This has created millions of would be artists steeped in mediocrity. The resulting haystack of brass needles conceals the few golden needles that have the potential to reach The Big Top. Searching for the gold among the millions of artists demonstrating their talents on myspace.com is a vain quest. The fog of showbiz is just too thick. The shear volume of choices dilutes the talent pool and blinds the searchers.
In my fifty year career in entertainment, I have never met an actor or musician who didn't think he was going all the way. However, the statistical history shows that one hundred percent of the money will be earned by ten percent of the artists. Ninety percent of that money will be earned by one percent of the competitors. The rest of the artists will be sucked down the black hole of broken dreams. To avoid that fate, an artist must develop a strong live attraction through which to purvey his music. That act need not tour the world until the world is already aware of it.
The digital age has created The Music Renaissance. There is more music in play than ever before in history and this will continue to grow. The challenge for today's musicians is to develop a new business model that will monetize recorded music and facilitate live performances. Touring is no longer necessary until the first level of success has been achieved. When you have become the dominant musical force withing driving distance of your home, you may worry about the road. Until then, you must build your business in music where it matters, in your own back yard.
When you can survive in that local arena, you will be ready to spread your gifts to the region, the state and the nation. After that, the world will be yours for the taking. The Internet is your weapon of mass distribution. Your home town is your garden. Carefully cultivate your local music market. Bond with your fan base through the live experience and market your albums and merchandise through direct sales on site while they're hot. Control all the income streams and keep the profits as part of your survival mechanism. Tour when there is a demand for your services elsewhere. The future of music will be built from the grassroots up and the sky's the
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Megan Berry asks:
What is essential in making a rock documentary that will truly impact the music industry, and make a difference in classes like Rock on Film?
In the realm of documentary film making the primary, essential ingredient is choosing the right subject. The greatest examples in the music category are accomplished when talented directors align with the best artists. Martin Scorsese and The Rolling Stones, Jonathon Demme and Neil Young , Malcolm Leo and Andrew Solt's "This Is Elvis" and Bernard Shaky (Neil Young) directing "CSNY Deja Vu" provide some of the most powerful examples. Only a truly significant artist can provide an historical legacy that is significant enough to sustain a feature length documentary.
Other important considerations include the availability of archival footage and access to the subject artist in order to create original material. Documentaries are primarily editing projects that are most effective when their is a budget appropriate to the creators' intention. Producers and directors should carefully map out story boards for the production; and they should have all the requisite footage in hand before they begin cutting the film. Well written and performed narration is often the key to making a film that impacts the market place. Producers should allot enough money in the budget to cover the cost of synchronization and master use licenses for the significant music from the artist's career. Combining these elements with a talented director's vision, a true love of the star involved and a passionate commitment to the process will produce the best end product.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
There is enough in the world for every one's need, but not enough for every one's greed.
Frank Buchman 1878 - 1961
C. Villaflores asks:
I was wondering what your thoughts are on Asian artists, like Se7en, Rain, and the Wonder Girls, trying to break through in the US market. These artists have been able to sell millions in the Asian market but they are having trouble breaking through in the USA. Do you think that coming here is a wise decision on their part?
If you can make it at home, you can make it everywhere. Asian artists like Se7en, Rain, and the Wonder Girls have proven their talents in their native countries. These artists are superstars in the far East and have relatively huge followings. Japan and South Korea have especially vibrant music scenes and China is joining the parade. The fans seem like Americans twenty-five years ago. They are reverant, sweet and adore their musical heroes. The artists themselves are demonstrating powerful musical and performing skills. Their style is particularly American.
There is a proliferation of handsome and sexy young men emulating the image and style of Michael Jackson, Usher and Justin Timberlake. They have the looks, the moves and the "bad boy" attitude down cold. The music itself is a hybrid fusion of hip hop, electronica and urban pop. Most of the material is "love" oriented, although some artists express more rebellious and provocative themes in their lyrics. Charisma and beauty are strong elements with all of these performers and both aspects are demonstrated in their sophisticated videos posted on Internet.
The business of marketing music is a global enterprise that has been violently knocked from the course it has followed for the past fifty years. Because American and British artists have dominated the postmodern record business, we have been the dictators of excellence standards for the rest of the world. Asian countries have embraced our pop music culture for decades. Since they have been following our lead, the Asians run somewhat behind the curve. Although the global reach of the Internet has quickened the process there is a derivative quality in the music.
The lag time can create the impression that these artists are lacking in originality which is one of the key elements in attracting hard core fans. The music aficionados in any given community usually discover the "next big thing" first and they inspire their friends to get on the band wagon. Also, singing in a foreign language can make it difficult for new singers and bands to create an impact on the U.S. fan base. However, most of the Asian stars offer English versions of their hits.
As world wide CD sales continue to wain, it becomes increasingly difficult for record companies to break new acts and even to experiment with transitioning international artists into western countries. The primary breaking point, for artists today, is the live performance arena. However, Asian stars are used to presenting spectaular shows, with choreographed dancers and elaborate production values. Bringing them to America is very expensive and unless they are playing to sell out crowds, in large venues, the costs are prohibitive. Without hit records on the radio success is not likely to accrue. Few labels are ready to pour millions into promoting Asian artists in the U.S.
To reach The Big Top in America an Asian act would have to build a large Internet following numbering in the millions. If this army of supporters could be organized through viral marketing to inspire a national movement on behalf of an act, anything is possible. But, so far the American music fans have not embraced these artists or their music. It is brave of the Asian stars to come here and try, but it is likely to be a long hard road before any one of them achieves extraordinary success in the U.S. market. It would take a sustained and costly effort to build an Asian act from the grassroots level and nobody seems interested in spending the money or taking the risk.
Friday, June 12, 2009
DON'T FORGET: Friends tell friends about music they love and they tell others. It is all very personal and its not likely that record companies will provide innovative leadership on the Internet. Social networks are very domain specific. We all have our little communities on line; but most don't translate into millions of friends. The record companies know the postmodern record business will not survive as we knew it.
The big four labels are desperate to find a way to get the "fans" to pay for music which is a choice, not a necessity. Most music is taken free of charge not because the fan doesn't have the money to pay, but because they regard the Internet as a free domain. Every kid knows how to rip a download. I don't even call them "fans" anymore. They are far too sophisticated and knowledgeable about the world of music and the biz to suit that appellation. They are really allies, patrons of the musical arts, members of a tribe. They have all watched MTV, and they know that when they buy the CD or the t-shirt, they are supporting the artist's survival. A strong and active live act is key to the process of selling artist's merchandise.
The record companies want to continue forcing music into the 'get a single on the radio and sell some albums' system that gives them the power to manipulate their distribution mechanism. This assumes that somebody still listens to the radio and they remain willing to be told what music is valuable. However, the prevailing method of sharing music is liquid and free. Texting is the new promotional weapon of choice for a cyber-social, cellular generation, bent on taking control. The record business seems to be lost in the digital convergence, it will need a new image, some new acts and a new product to survive. However, the biz is not ready to start over.
In the future the music lovers will download the files directly from the artist's site; most often free of charge. But, if they love the act, they'll pay. The proactive artist must create a vibrant personal appearance act and play a lot of local gigs. If they can satisfy an audience and lure them back with their friends they will generate high profit sales of CDs, and other merchandise, while the buyer is hot.
If singers and bands concentrate on becoming the dominant musical force within driving distance of their homes they can turn a profit with relative ease. And, they'll sleep in their own bed. If you can't make it at home, you can't make it anywhere. If you can make it at home, you can make it everywhere. Dominate the music scene within one hundred miles of your house. Control the income streams. Don't spend the receipts on long distance travel, hotel rooms and per-ems.
The first plateau of success is survival. That is accomplished when you make your living from music, without a day job. That is no little feat in The Music Renaissance. It presumes that you have a short and long term plan. It demands that you play your instrument well, and that you develop your songwriting and performing skills. To build a successful career in the digital music business you must learn how to play the game, you must execute perfectly well, you must have extraordinary talent, and you will still have to get lucky to win. The game is neither fair nor easy.
Anyone can call himself an artist. and as low as the threshold to entry has become, it is still the talent business and music is the toughest game in town. 100% of the money will be earned by 10% of the artists. 90% of that money will go to 1% of the competitors. The digital age has precipitated many changes on the music business, but it has always been the most competitive environment on the planet, and it always will be. Only the best of the best reap fame and fortune
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Marc Muraoka asks:
Do you think that it is possible that there may never be another ubiquitous, unifying musical act due to the way that American culture has become so fragmented?
It is entirely possible that there may never be another great "superstar" in popular music. However, that would require a complete reversal of the historical trajectory. Various genres have competed for universal acceptance from the inception of the record business. The first mass produced records were made of paper and sold in the form of sheet music. The songwriters and music publishers from Tin Pan Alley plugged their tunes to great vaudeville stars like Lilly Langtree and Sophie Tucker. The best songs were performed by American families around the parlor piano as a major entertainment activity.
The invention of the Gramophone changed all that and in the early 1900s, the top opera singer of the day, Enrico "The Great" Caruso had the first million selling phonograph record. The antiquarian record industry peaked in 1928 with the emergence of Rudy Vallee. He started performing on the radio and introduced a new style of popular singer, the "crooner." In the days before the electric microphone singers required "big" voices to fill the concert halls of the day. Crooners had soft voices more suited to the intimacy of radio. Vallee would inspire later crooners such as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Dean Martin, Tony Bennet and 'The Voice," Frank Sinatra.
The record business leaped forward in the Big Band era when a mass audience embraced the song stylings of many other jazz singers of the day. Sinatra broke wide open in the latter 30's and eventually became a very successful solo artist and the next great superstar of music. In the 40s his legions of hysterical female fans, known as "bobby soxers," drove him to the heights of success in music. He had an enduring career with 11 Grammy Awards and he received the "Oscar" for Best Supporting Actor in the film "From Here To Eternity." He maintained his popularity into the 80s and continued to perform until just before his death in 1985. He was an ubiquitous star.
The modern record business was born in the 50s as a result of the marriage of 45 RPM singles and AM radio. A hybrid musical style resulted from white musicians blending The Blues and Gospel Music into a genre that would eventually be dubbed Rock & Roll. The great innovators were black artists Little Richard, Fats Domino and Check Berry and all had early hits on their original songs. It was very difficult for these artists to overcome the racial prejudices of the day, but the great ones eventually broke through. White musicians, like Buddy Holly and Bill Haley, emulated the hybrid style of the black artists they admired and achieved commercial success. The record business reached unprecedented heights as Elvis Presley rose to become The King of Rock & Roll.
In the early 60s the postmodern record business was born of the marriage of FM radio and 331/3 RPM, long playing albums. This new technology improved the quality of record fidelity and introduced "stereophonic" sound. The driving force behind the enormous growth that followed was "The Beatles." The Fab Four from Liverpool took America by storm in the early 1960s and the "British Invasion" that followed set the tone of popular music around the world for the balance of the decade. Thousand of artists were influenced by their music and millions of teenagers took up the guitar and dreamed of following in their footsteps. The Beatles were more popular than Jesus, according to John Lennon, who was harshly criticised for saying so.
Today, in the early years of the digital convergence, the music industry has been influenced by another giant leap forward in technology. The emergence of Pro Tools and Garage Band recording software has shifted control from the domination of the postmodern record business and placed the creative process in the hands of the artists. Internet music distribution has further eroded the power structure of the big four record companies. Peer to peer file sharing and other forms of digital piracy have eliminated the high profits previously enjoyed by the major labels. Music fans are no longer disposed to paying high prices for albums that may contain only one song they want.
None of these great "superstars" was expected to rise. Each came to stardom because of specific talents and charisma that they demonstrated to their fans. In the wake of this repetitive star cycle, it stands to reason that it will all happen again. All of these superstars generated music from a new genre, and each had enormous sex appeal that challenged the mores of their day.
Considering that the Internet is infinitely more powerful a promotional tool than AM and FM radio combined, an artist with the right combination of star components could attract a global audience over night. If an act produced a record that every music fan had to have, and there was the right amount of "love' in the mix, it would be possible to sell millions of downloads in one day.
If everybody with an iPod elected, by choice, not out of necessity, to purchase the song simultaneously, that artist could achieve fame and fortune instantly. It would require no more love than Sinatra, Elvis and The Beatles enjoyed from their fans. Every major music wave exploded from just such a doldrums as we are experiencing today. The Next Big Thing is out there floating around in cyber-space and growing toward a future of ubiquitous adoration. The music industry is thousands of years old and will never go away it is just changing one more time.
The record business is just over one hundred years old and it has always been technology driven. The influence of digital on music will continue to be imposed, and The Music Renaissance it has provoked will continue to put more songs, artists and records in play than ever before in history. Music fans have access to every genre, every artist and every song ever produced and paying for it is voluntary. The "superstar" today is music itself.
The Internet provides a global platform for the ins ant sharing and distribution of recorded music. Some great artist will inevitably pull this audience together into an international fan base and become the first ubiquitous "superstar" of the Internet. The great Paul Simon said it best, "Every generation puts a hero up the pop charts." That star is shining now and one great song, that everybody wants to hear one more time, is all that is needed to explode the sleeping giant's career.
The youth always reject their parent's music and choose the soundtrack to their own lives. Their quest for personal identity makes this search a coming of age ritual in our culture that so far has proved timeless. The emergence of a great star could provide the catalyst that will reinvent the music business. The challenge is how to get the public to fund the survival of this ancient art form. The record business will continue to shrink as artists sell their records directly to their fan base. This will happen through the bonding of artists and fans as they share music in the live concert experience. Something's coming, something big. It always has and it always will.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
They cannot commit treason, nor be outlawed, nor excomunicated, for they have no souls.
Edward Coke 1552 - 1634
She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
meet in her aspect and her eyes.
Lord Byron 1788 - 1824
J.N. Condon asks:
I have a question regarding public relations. How has your experience been working with publicist of rock bands? Do you feel that publicity is important for music?
The publicist is one of the core professions of entertainment. It is an ancillary profession in that the job of press agents results from the basic activities of the primary players, artists, managers, agents and producers. When these four create recordings and live events, getting the word out is accomplished through the traditional, mainstream media and on line channels. It is a vital step in the process of promoting and selling the product. Every music industry professional can benefit from exposure in the media and every singer and band has a story to tell. Public relations specialists are responsible for creating and telling their stories.
Lawyers, accountants and crew members contribute their expertise and skills to service the various needs that support career development. These professionals provide their talents for retainers, commissions, salaries and hourly fees based on actual performance. P.R. is unique among the team member's services in that publicists receive a guaranteed monthly payment before they even begin their work. At top PR firms the fees usually start in the five thousand dollar a month range and grow from there depending on the specifics of the campaign. The money is paid regardless of how effective the effort might be in producing published stories, articles and reviews about the act. It is very difficult to tell just how productive the effort might be.
Most bands get their first taste of public relations when they are signed to a record company. Every major label has an extensive PR mechanism that generates promotional information regarding the product scheduled for imminent release. Photos, biographies, electronic press kits and videos are compiled months in advance of the record's drop date. Cover stories, editorial articles and record reviews are solicited. The media deals with these materials with varying degrees of interest. They want to interview the big star and have little regard for the baby band.
Since record companies are often providing access to their "star" attractions, they are usually able to leverage exposure for their new artists as well. Publicity departments deal with an endless stream of new releases and the job of securing press is never over. All that can be expected is a burst of effort at the beginning and a sustained pressure if the product is deemed successful. Otherwise the focus moves on to the release and promotion of the next artist's album.
The only way to measure the results is to collect the press material generated. Clipping services are often engaged to gather this proof that the story got printed. It is the personal manager's job to build a relationship with the publicity vice-president and make sure the PR staff is working on behalf of the act. On line promotion is a little more difficult to measure, as there are so many music outlets to monitor. Bands should have their own web sites as well as having material posted on youtube.om, myspace.com and other social, marketing and music specific networks.
Independant public relations services are usually reserved for established artists who can afford the high fees involved. Most publicity firms have large client rosters and much more work to do on a given day than can be accomplished. This means that somebody may not be getting the effort and attention for which they are paying. Managers must be in constant contact with the press agents in charge of their client's interests to insure the money is not wasted. Even then, it is hard sometimes to discern if the press was generated by the efforts of the publicist, or if the article or review might have happened organically.
Regardless of who is at the forefront of any public relations campaign, the job has to be done. Artists and managers must engage in the dissemination of appropriate materials in order to sell records and attract fans to live performances. This puts the job in the hands of the act until such time as success provides disposable income that can be devoted to the hiring of public relations experts. Managers must develop on line systems that carry the message to the target audience.
Overall my experience with publicists, weather record company affiliated or in dependant agents, has been quite good. People attracted to this kind of work are generally warm and empathetic. They sincerely want to help and usually seem to take their role seriously. They require writing and organizational skills and need outgoing personalities as they are often the first person the media meets when approaching artists. Public relations is a do-it-yourself business for baby bands and even if there is no budget the job still has to be handled efficiently and effectively.
There is a great book on the subject called "Guerilla P.R. 2.0" by Michael Levine. This best selling guide to the low cost implementation of public relations systems and protocols is considered the all time best book on the subject. Artists and managers should be aware of the creative and fiduciary responsibilities of publicists. This will enable them to conduct the activity themselves, until such time as paid professionals can be employed to perform this important service. A clear knowledge of the profession helps managers do the job and when applicable, it makes them aware of how well the paid fiduciaries are executing their efforts in pursuit of the artist career goals.