Sunday, July 19, 2009

Question of the Day - BREAKING THE BRAND - July 20, 2009


esolarz1 asks:

With rumors circulating as to whether or not the popular all girl group, "The ♥♥♥♥♥cat Dolls," will break up, leaving Nicole Scherzinger with a solo career, I have a question: Is this a good career choice for everyone involved, including Nicole, and the girls themselves, the record label, etc. Also, is it a good risk to separate a group that has been so successful? We have seen this in the past with Destiny's Child, and recently with rock bands, such as Jack White from The White Stripes creating a new band, but again is it a good risk?

Hartmann responds:

Showbiz is a game of risk and reward. There is a fundamental gamble involved, when pursuing careers in the music renaissance, and the odds favor the established. The new artist must not only out run his contemporaries, he competes with the reigning stars as well. If the goal is to become rich and famous, you have a better shot at winning the lottery than becoming a superstar. If you are driven by an obsession to make music, no matter what the cost, you may have a chance.

In the music renaissance each attraction is engaged in the building of a "brand." The postmodern record business requires that artists compete to be included in the shelter of the four super-brands, UMG, SONY, WB and EMI. They represent the status-quo and the traditional pathway. However, the public has lost confidence in the old system and is turning to piracy and other free, digital-delivery mechanics. The loss of revenue forces the labels to shelter fewer and fewer artists.
This puts every band in the branding business. The money will go to the act that can do it alone.

The Internet is a perfect weapon for proactive promoters. Easy access, low cost maintenance and high end reach, give you control of your career and business enterprise. The brand you build belongs to the artist and the manager who build it. This is best accomplished in partnership, with shared equity, and mutual exclusivity. Artist and manager are under contract to their own company. Their covenant is to build a business around the artistic product and bring it to profit.

Ninety percent of the time that effort fails. When it is successful it is a phenomenal achievement. It requires a vividly envisioned and carefully executed career-direction strategy; and a flexible and spontaneous management team. With a clear game plan, a trustworthy CEO, partnered with a talented and charismatic artist, can compete to be in the ten percent of performers who will earn one hundred percent of the money. Of those, one percent will reach superstar status where ninety percent of the money is taken. Even,the ten percent club is very exclusive and access is hard won.

Professional musicians walk an endless tight rope in order to advance their art, extend their careers and turn a profit. The company you build should be designed to hold the business you might eventually become. Presume you will have maximum success and plan ahead for that eventuality. Create an infrastructure that will accommodate the artistic and business needs of the board of directors. In the case of bands, all partners own equal equity and are board members.

Initially, the equities and responsibilities reside with the singer/song writer around whom the musical enterprise will be built. However, turning a body of music into a business is not a singular activity, it is a team sport. To succeed many things must go right, and the credit is shared. If the repertoire exists and an artist can sing it, there is an act and a show is possible.

Getting the show on the road and bringing them back alive, with the money, is an ancient enterprise. It is possible for enormous profits to accrue. Ownership and entitlement must be clearly defined in advance so there are no lawsuits somewhere down the line. It is hard to keep civil, artistic and business marriages together, and that becomes the challenge. Everyone participating should know what he is expected to do, what he will receive for doing it, and what happens in the event of a divorce. This understanding should be resolved at the beginning.

The Holodigm System advocates forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC). This is easily accomplished with a few well placed dollars on The equities in the company are equally shared between the management partner (CEO) and the artistic partner (Act). The services of each are exclusive to the LLC. If extraordinary success is achieved the board may elect to transfer the assets of the company to a more sophisticated corporate entity.

The first major expense is the cost of the band. As the capacity of the venue grows so goes the size of the band. The American Federation of Musicians (AFofM) designates that bands have leaders and sidemen. Usually the guy with the tunes is the leader and he dictates who gets to play in the group. If the tune-smith doesn't have money to hire players, he often has to turn the band into a democracy and give each member an equal share. This entitles every band member to a vote and it imposes an array of fiduciary rights and responsibilities that must be legally documented.

When a band is succeeding, the LLC is the vehicle that provides the glue factor. The allure that made the original singer/songwriter attractive in the first place often remains the focal point. The public isolates him from the other members of the band and the media speculates about how great a solo career he might enjoy. A strong CEO (manager) will hold the band together and enforce the mandate of the board of directors. But, the star is tantalized by the possibilities.

All bands break up eventually and they often change members for a variety of reasons. The LLC's by laws should require an exiting member to leave his equity in the firm. This becomes the magnet to attract the replacement member. Founding members should be entitled to royalties from sales of recordings on which they perform. Specific terms should be clearly defined.

If a band member chooses to pursue a solo career, it does not necessarily demand the dissolution of the established act. A solo career is often a challenging possibility for the star, but they do not always succeed. Preserving the original brand provides a certain fall back position if the new venture does not take root. Establishing a name in showbiz is extremely difficult and, once accomplished, remains bookable regardless of the number of extant founding members. There are many successful touring attractions that don't have any original members in the current lineup.

Even if the new solo artist's brand is enormously popular, it may not have the enduring qualities of the original act. The creative burden, of having to write all the material, might diminish the quality of the songs and recordings. Hall of Fame singer/songwriters Glenn Frey and Don Henley both enjoyed solo careers of considerable stature, but neither could eclipse the fame or fortune of the Eagles. We all know how tough it is to keep a band together and we love when it happens.

Demand for superstar attractions is very high. Sooner or later "they" make "them" offers they can't refuse. In this day of high ticket prices, and multiple income streams, major attractions often go out the door in profit from day one. What Eagles and their CEO-partner Irving Azoff have demonstrated is that you can succeed outside of the box. They recognize that a good name is hard to find, a band and a brand is a business, and in the end, three branded bands are better than one.

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