8. IF ITS NOT GOOD LIVE DUMP IT
The day of artists being able to get away with a lack of performing skills is long past. The fans and the public are quite conscious of all the ingredients involved in any kind of theatrical production. An artist must be able to put on a good, live show. His performance must attract the audience back for a second, third, and fourth show. He must create enough excitement to induce the fans to invite their friends along next time. Unless the fan base continues to expand the act will not survive. It is very important that artists, building careers in The Music Renaissance, provide sales of recorded product and merchandise on site; these have become very important income streams. Without a good, live attraction, there is no way that an artist can function without a day job. Television requires a strong visual component and isn't likely to utilize artists without polished performance skills. Most sales of CDs will result from the impact of live performance on the fan base. Radio airplay is still controlled by the record companies and most of the air time is devoted to the established artists. New acts compete with the major stars for the same rotation. Live performance is the singular most important promotional activity that can accrue to the marketing of any record. When a manager chooses a client, he must make certain this particular ingredient is present. It will be very tough to survive if you can’t put on a good show that’ll bring those fans back time and time again. The bond created between audience and artist through the live concert experience is the most powerful inducement for fans to buy your records and merchandise.
The Return Of The Mountain Men - Eagles
In early 1971, I joined the Geffen-Roberts Company as an associate manager. David Geffen had entered into a partnership with Elliot Roberts, the manager of Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Geffen was the manager of Crosby, Stills & Nash whose eponymous debut album catapulted the first "supergroup" to international stardom. Their second album included Young to produce CSNY's iconic Deja Vu. David and Elliot parlayed their success and set up their own record label.
Asylum Records derived its name from the perception that the record business was an island of insanity amidst an ocean of chaos. The adventure that followed did little to assuage that perception. David went on an asserted campaign to influence Joni and G-R client Laura Nero to sign with Asylum. After a protracted tug-of-war with Clive Davis, president of Nero's label Columbia Records, Laura signed with Columbia and fired Geffen as her manager. Joni signed with the fledgling label and her presence contributed heavily to Asylum's immediate success.
The first artist signed to the label was singer/songwriter Jackson Browne who shared a house in Silver Lake with a folk-rock duo called Longbranch-Pennywhistle. The act was composed of John David Souther and Glenn Frye. Geffen signed Souther to a recording contract and he joined our management roster under my direction. David suggested to Glenn that he would be better in the context of a band and set in motion a process that eventually produced a superstar attraction.
Running the record label soon escalated into a full time job for Geffen and he began to distance himself from the management of artists. However, since good personal management was the most sought after and least found skill in the music industry, we provided the service to most of the Asylum artists creating a "family" atmosphere. Another established artist who joined the Asylum roster was legendary singer Linda Ronstadt. As an artist, she was to play a significant role in the label's success. And, her manager/producer, John Boylan, helped create the label's greatest artist.
David was focused on discovring new artists for the label, and every day paced his office, rolling a loop of scotch tape between his fingers, obsessing that we had to find "the next big thing." Boylan
hired Frey, bassist Randy Meisner and drummer Don Henley to perform in Linda's back up band. One Monday night we all converged on The Troubadour in West Hollywood to catch Rondstadt's performance. In the middle of her set, Linda graciously introduced Frey, Randy, Don and lead guitarist Bernie Leadon, and allowed them to perform a four song set in the middle of her show.
David always said that, when it comes to music, its easy to tell what's great; and its difficult to tell what's not great. What we saw that night was extraordinary. The musical virtuosity and tight harmonies inspired an enthusiastic reaction from Linda's fans; and I personally got goose bumps over my entire body. The next day David, Elliot and I met the quartet in a rehearsal hall in The Valley for what was to be the first rehearsal of the band that would cone to call itself Eagles.
Needless to say, the half dozen songs they had worked up were pretty raw; and there wasn't much attempt at performance. However, their potential greatness shone through and we immediately committed to manage the act and sign them to Asylum Records. As the new manager of an untested band, the first thing I wanted to do was get them out of town for some practical experience. I booked them in a bar called Tulagi's and sent them off to Aspen, Colorado.
With a limited repertoire, they were required to perform the same set four times a night for three weeks. There were about twenty-five patrons for the first show, twice that for the second and by the third set the place was packed. Every other performance in the run was jammed to capacity and beyond. Upon their return to L.A., I immediately noticed a remarkable difference in them.
Maybe it was the clean mountain air, or their beaming confidence, perhaps it was both. But, whatever happened it was obvious that the hard work had been a very positive experience. So I immediately booked them back for a return engagement. Geffen and I flew to Aspen and saw the phenomenon first hand. Their performance skills had blossomed and the music was tight. The rapport they had established with the locals was truly amazing. They knew how to put on a show.
By the time they returned the act was solid and seasoned and they were ready for the Los Angeles gig scene. From their first shows they dazzled the audience and their material was polished and ready to record. Their first album was produced by legendary English producer, Glynn Johns, and was an instant success. Two hit singles raced up the charts and their forty plus year career was off and running. Their succession of hit singles and albums have sold more CDs than any other American artist.
The skills they acquired in those early performances, out of the spotlight, have continued to grow. Today they are one of the most successful live attractions of all time and their current album is six times platinum and still selling. If Eagles come to your town, don't miss them, they continue to demonstrate virtuoso musicianship, a dynamic and entertaining show, they look good; and they can still hit the notes.