Tuesday, September 29, 2009

QUESTION OF THE DAY - NEW ARTISTS - September 26, 2009



Jeff McMahon asks:

On indie news site pitchfork.com, the following was one of the day's featured quotes: "'You might not care about this, but the more difficult it is for new artists to make it, the less new artists you'll see and the more British music will be nothing but puppets paid for by Simon Cowell.'-- Lily Allen, countering the Featured Artists Coalition's argument that piracy is actually good for music. (via Lily's MySpace blog)". I can personally think of many reasons why Ms. Allen is incorrect. Just the fact that she is signed to Capitol alone tells me that she has an extremely vested interest in what she is saying. What is your take on this and in what ways can/have record labels hurt new artists?

Hartmann responds:

Regardless of the reasoning, or source of their attraction, record companies in the postmodern record business offered a series of incentives to induce artists to sign with them. First and foremost they provided a recording fund that usually included a cash advance to the act. Other considerations for promotion, tour support and video production were also negotiated. Curiously, no obligation to actually release the records was part of the deal.

The primary method of promoting a record was conducted at broadcast radio with singles being presented to the program directors on a priority basis designated by the label. The system was expensive and usually involved some form of payola that gave the priority record a better chance of being added at radio. A successful single usually stimulated album sales which provided very high profits to the labels.

The advent of digital distribution has completely altered the systems and protocols of the record business. No longer are large cash advances offered, or necessary. Anybody with a Mac a mic and a song can make a record, virtually for free. An ambitious and Internet savvy act can promote their records online at little or no cost. The game has completely changed for the better.

With the advent of peer-to-peer file sharing, and ubiquitous iPod use, new music is discovered and disseminated instantly without record company participation. The radio has become irrelevant since it is now a default mechanism for music acquisition and has little or no room for new artists. The power of record labels to manipulate the selection process has disappeared.

The fans are now in charge of the A&R process. The record companies are the last to find out what is popular. New artists created through talent TV and movies may or may not be demonstrating enduring skills. They are more a product of instant celebrity than quality music. This empowers TV and film producers with some control over the new talent. However, considering the number of artists exposed, and the minuscule number of successful careers produced from these sources, this method of discovering new artists will not support the long term survival of the record business.

The four major record companies will survive for some time on the low cost digital distribution of their catalogs and publishing holdings. If they continue to offer digital downloads at the same price as CDs they will eventually fade as a music delivery system. New artists careers will not be built from the record company penthouse down; they will be developed from the cyber-grass-roots up.

The major labels will follow the progress of artists growing their fan bases on the Internet and eventually offer huge advances to corral the best. This will be tempting to the rising artists who will be forced to choose between the high profits of personal sales, made directly to their fans at gigs and online, in return for a large payday that puts their catalog in the hands of third parties.

By the time new acts reach a level of success that makes them attractive to a label, they may prefer to own their records and publishing. By building an array of recordings that can be continuously offered to a growing fan base a permanent annuity will accrue to the artist. If an act has real talent and long term potential this may well be the best way to go.

Most hard CD sales for new artists will not be through the few remaining retail outlets. Superstores like Wal Mart, Best Buy and Target cater to established artists and generally offer a limited range of product that rarely includes new acts. Regardless of the outcome the challenge is to create an Internet profile that involves the development of a large fan base that results in millions of web hits.

Offering music free online is a key element in the promotion process for new artists. File sharing is the best thing that ever happened to musicians and their fans. It places the record labels on the back burner and gives the power of choice to the fan. All the extant content in every genre is available free to the customer; just like in the days of broadcast radio promotion dominance.

The cream will rise to the top of the Internet by the process of natural selection. If the talent is there, the fame will accrue and a demand for live performances will result. That's where the new artists can compete on a level ground under their own control. Successful artists will need to be proactive on the web and maintain a direct connection with their fans through Internet activity.

Monday, September 21, 2009

QUOTE ME! - CAREERS - September 21, 2009



McJob: A low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low-benefit, no-future job in the service sector.

Douglas Copeland 1961 -

QUESTION OF THE DAY - MAKING IT BIG - September 21, 2009



Lindsay Stanger asks:

It seems as though... 30 years ago when a band got signed to a major record label they were bound to at least be a one hit wonder if not a superstar. I have some friends that are either solo artists or in bands that were signed to major record labels and even offered a pretty hefty signing bonus...why is it that nothing ever seems to happen for them after they are signed?? Does the record label give up on them even after originally seeing potential? Is this common?

Hartmann responds:

The postmodern record business was born of the marriage between AM radio and 331/3 R.P.M. long playing albums. The Beatles were the superstar attraction that exploded this format into the global popular culture. Their extraordinary songwriting talents, combined with unbridled charisma and social upheaval all contributed to rocketing the Fab Four into an international phenomenon that came to be known as Beatlmania.

Initially successful in the United Kingdom, The Beatles were slow off the launching pad in the United States. The catalytic event that launched their early success was the assassination Of JFK. In the beginning almost every major record company passed on them. However, they were steadily building a cult following in America in the early 60s. When Kennedy was killed, the baby boomers took it personally and rejected the materialistic values of their parents generation and embraced those mop tops from England. The Beatles replaced the leaders and the rest is history.

The record industry infrastructure that was created by unprecedented album sales was nourished by the British Invasion that followed. One after another the great musical attractions emerged and albums sold like never before. Every major music genre was effected and the record business grew to be a multi billion dollar enterprise. What followed was the most productive era in the history of popular music. An entire generation embraced music as its driving force.

Major international corporations were quick to recognize this highly lucrative business where fans would purchase albums as badges of honor and personal identification with their musical heroes. A counter culture was born in resistance to the Viet Nam war and this rebellion further fueled the growth of a music driven society of youth. The entire movement was driven by an anti-war mind set and the ubiquitous use of cannabis, psychedelic and eventually hard drugs.

Many observers and participants attributed the burst of creative expression to the throwing open of the doors of perception that massive drug taking provoked. The Hippie movement that resulted in the demise of the war was inspired by the protest songs of The Beatles and their emulators. Universal drug abuse led to the deaths of three of musics greatest talents in 1969.

Superstars Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all expired from accidental overdoses as experimentation transcended drugs as tools and turned to narcotics as fuels. Many other artists lives were cut short and careers interrupted by the insidious use of cocaine and heroin. There were other climactic moments when drug induced behavior led to the murder at Altamont and the Manson tragedy. Suddenly excessive drug use lost its charm and music has not been the same since.

The myriad of record labels condensed down to four major companies. In the 80s, sales of their vast catalogs of masters were reinvigorated by the invention of the compact disc known in the vernacular as the CD. This new technology inspired the greatest boom in recorded music ever. Entire record collections were replaced with the new digital format at no additional cost to the manufacturers. The music was already owned, controlled and paid for and now presented as brand new product. The power slipped away from the artists and accrued to the music giants.

What followed was unprecedented prosperity and tighter controls on the system. The formulaic approach ultimately led to a decline in musical quality and the birth of the independant record lable movement. Companies that had previously embraced artistic integrity and long term development of artists surrendered to the hunt for instant success and platinum status. New originators were left by the wayside or confined to micro-labels and limited success. If an artist didn't achieve an immediate hit they were abandoned by their record companies and declared instant failures.

What the record companies offered was a large recording budget and a one shot attack at radio. The artists they signed were mostly copies of yesterdays successes. The free form expression once offered by FM radio surrendered to the limited product offered by the labels and promoted primarily an AM. No longer was the concept of career building a consideration.

As the digital age progressed and universal, high speed, Internet access prevailed, the other side of the digital sword surfaced. Peer-to-peer file sharing abolished the label's dictation of what music was avaialable to compete for popularity. The fan base is now empowered to choose from the vast array of music from every extant genre now proliferating on the world wide web.

Today the power is with the people, who can acquire music freely from the Internet, which offers a promotional medium infinitely more accessible than broadcast airwaves. The cost of promotion is negligible; and with digital recording, so is the creation of recorded music. This has brought the postmodern record industry to its knees and thrown open the participation to anybody with a Mac a mic and a song.

No longer will artists be dependant on the approval of A&R committees. Now they can build their careers from the cyber-grass-roots up and own their masters, publishing and the lion's share of the income. Talent is still the primary criterion for success and survival is the challenge. Only ten percent of the artists will make a profit and ninety percent of the money will be earned by one percent of the acts. Only the most driven will reach the professional realm and only the great ones will prevail.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

QUOTE ME! - BEAUTY - September 16, 2009http://www.TheHolodigm.com



Beauty is all very well at first sight; but who ever looks at it when it has been in the house three days?

George Bernard Shaw - 1856 - 1960



Danny Delgato asks:

I'm trying to stand up and make a career. Its tough out there. What do I do?

Hartmann responds:

Don't tell me how tough it is, stop whining and kick some ass. Its only going to get tougher. This is the most competitive environment on the planet. Any fool with a mac and a mic can play. The public is the only true judge of your talent.

Stop worrying about Europe and the rest of the country. Become the dominant musical force within a 100 mile radius of your home. Play every high school, college, bar and concert hall you can get into and book it yourself. Even perform in the street. Play as often as you can.

Find someone you trust to be your partner in business. Give him an equal share with the band and put him to work. Take him to http://www.theholodigm.com/ All the answers are there, or ask me. Watch everything and read the "Blog" postings. Your new partner is the CEO of your business and his survival will depend on your success. He doesn't have to know anything about the postmodern record business that he can't learn on my web site.

If you try to get another record deal you will fail, or they will fail you, as in the past. The record companies are lost and don't know what to do. They don't have enough money left to fund a radio campaign and you don't need to waste your time on national touring. They are crashing and burning. If they do offer you a deal it will be a 360 degree participation in everything you ever earn. They will own your masters and your publishing; and, they won't deliver on their promises.

Start your own label and work it from the fan base up. Nurture your followers on the Internet, get them to form a cult around you and ask them to enroll their friends in your club. If you can't make it at home something is wrong and you won't make it elsewhere.

In my fifty two years in music I never met a band that didn't think it was going all the way. 99% of them are wrong. If you think you are one of the 10% who will make a living in music, or the 1% who will share most of the money, start now. Do it yourself. Get tough! This is not a game for the faint of heart. It is not about fame and fortune; its about making music.

The first level of success is survival. That means making a living from music without a day job. Own Portland and the world will come to your door step. If you can't get it done there, why would any body else care? There is no point in playing to an empty house in Chicago. Keep the money; don't spend it on long distance travel and hotel rooms. Are you reading me, Danny? This is the truth.

Monday, September 14, 2009

QUOTE ME! - ABSENCE - September 14, 2009



Most of what matters in your life takes place in your absence.

Salman Rushdie - 1947 -



L. Polliaki asks:

For people wanting to start out in the music industry, what is the best entry? I know individuals who have made it by starting out working the xerox or mail room in the 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 on YouTube of his work and someone in the music industry saw and launched him.

Hartmann responds:

The best way to start a career in the entertainment industry is to begin at rock bottom. This usually means with an internship at an established company while you are still in school. Most major companies have internship programs, first because its a way to contribute to the future of the business; and secondly because its free labor. Whatever the motivation of the company, the advantage to beginners is enormous.

The most common source of future executive talent is the mail room at the major talent agencies. More highly placed business careers begin here than emanate from any other single source. Access to the agent trainee programs is very difficult. College graduation, and often advanced degrees are mandatory. The major broadcast networks and movie studios have similar programs.

For artists starting out the road is actually easier. All you have to do is pick up an instrument and start playing music. Your chances of succeeding are doubled if you write your own songs. Create some copyrights and start performing them in front of a mirror in your room. As soon as you are ready to demonstrate your talents move into the parlor and see how your family reacts. If they laugh and walk away, go back to your room for more reharsal.

Native talent and technical skills are not the same for all aspirants. However, any craft can be learned and practice is the key to improving your abilities. There are no guarantees that your best efforts will produce the results you hope for. Too many young artists are motivated by fame and fortune and that is usually not enough to create a viable presence in the professional arena.The most successful artists are motivated by a passionate need to make music and a vision that honors the art form.

The Internet makes it easy to participate, and low cost digital recording gives everyone a chance. If a new act makes a record and posts it on his MySpace.com page and logs a video on YouTube.com, he can get a foot in the door. A commitment to live performing and viral marketing can improve the odds. If you have "it" the public will discover you and spread the word. Only ten percent of the contenders will survive. One percent will make ninety percent ofthe money.

Monday, September 7, 2009

QUOTE ME! - YOUTH - September 7, 2009



I'm not young enough to know everything.

J.M. Barrie 1860 - 1937



Nichole Clementi asks:

It is evident that people of today have an endless amount of sources to obtain music illegally. I know you mentioned multiple times during your lectures that once the "next big star" hits everyone will appreciate their music so much that they will actually purchase the album. Do you think this will happen anytime soon, and who might this next big act be?

Hartmann responds;

We can only imagine how the future will unfold and this requires a certain sense of vision. It is reasonable to assume that the next big thing is already alive and growing toward fulfillment of the dream of becoming a superstar. Throughout my fifty plus years in the music industry, I have never met an artist who didn't think he was going all the way to The Big Top. Some even thought they would reach Elvisland and unseat the King of Rock & Roll as the all time greatest music star.

The degree of difficulty for success has not been diminished by the Internet. The threshold to entry is very low because of cheap digital recording, but everyone with a Mac, a mic and a song in his heart is not talented. It takes extraordinary talent to create a successful career in music and everyone with a MySpace page is not a contender. Only 10% of artists have a chance to succeed.

There is no artificial time frame attached to the emergence of the next superstar. And, only after an artist makes a spectacular impact will the race for ubiquitous popularity begin. One thing is for certain, the contest will be initiated and executed on the Internet. The next big thing will not trickle down from the record company penthouse. It will be built from the cyber-grass-roots up.

The most obvious contender at this moment in time is Colbie Caillat, who posted song and videos on the web and received several million hits. Her MySpace profile led her to become the number one unsigned singer in her genre. Her debut single "Bubbly" peaked at #5 in the charts. This brought her to the attention of professional managers Fitzgerald & Hartley. They were able to secure a multi-million dollar record deal with Universal Music Group and her second album "Breakthrough," reached the #1 spot in Billboard in its first week of release. Caillat is a prolific songwriter with a distinctive voice and an incredible work ethic. She may well be the next big thing in music. Only time and a continuing stream of live shows and recorded product will tell.

Friday, September 4, 2009

QUOTE ME! - WAR - September 4, 2009



When war enters a country it produces lies like sand.





Kiley Ong asks:

I have recently taken a great interest in electronic music and was wondering what you see for the future of it and whether or not it will remain in the "indie" scene forever? Also, with most of today's music being sold one song at a time on sites like itunes, do you think there can really be a next "superstar" today? As many people are really only being exposed to one good song from many different artists, even the radio finds one song per artist and just plays the hell out of it.

Hartmann responds:

Electronic music has maintained a steady growth in popularity over the past few decades. Electronic musical instruments and technology began with the use of sound producing instruments like the Telharmonium, the Hammond organ and electric guitars. Sound production is also achieved by using devices such as the Theremin, sound synthesizer, and the computer

Originally utilized to add unique sounds to the recording process, in recent years electronic music has achieved enormous popularity in the form of electronic dance music. Computer technology has become more accessible and music software interacts with music production technology in ways that bear no relationship to traditional musical performance practices.

Any musician with a Mac a mic and song in his head can produce a high quality home recording at virtually no cost. This has lead to millions of new artists posting their songs online and playing their music in night clubs around the world. Despite its popularity the genre has yet to produce a true superstar.

If a great artist were to emerge, it would most likely get the genre off the back burner and into the mainstream. It has an enormous potential but needs a star to establish ubiquitous interest with the fan base. It would only take one great song to break electronic music wide open; but it will have to come from a performing artist with original songs, tremendous sex appeal and unbridled passion to succeed.

Since the music delivery system of choice today is free downloads, via peer-to-peer file sharing, it would only take one record to achieve instant popularity. If the fans loved the act enough to pay for the music, the artist could make a fortune from the first song on day one. However, a new act is more likely to build slowly over a long period of time and it will be dificult to eke out a survival.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

QUOTE ME! - VIRTUE - September 2, 2009



Terrible is the temptation to be good.

Bertolt Brecht - 1898 - 1956



Joe Depaoli asks:

The music industry is ever changing with different genres, rhythms, and melodies. Where do you see music heading in the future? Who do you feel is the next "rising star?" Is "Elvis Land" attainable for contemporary artists?

Hartmann responds:

Everything changes. It is not surprising that the record business would be drastically effected by digital technology. The shock would be if the music industry failed to adapt to the evolution. Instant access to all music genres, on demand, is not the only contributing factor in the decline of record sales. The DigiKids have a deep rooted perception that if it's on the web it belongs to them.

The "its mine" mind set is universally accepted and evolves out of the fact that broadcast radio has always been free. The penalty is tied to enduring the constant barrage of commercials. Record companies spend millions of dollars creating "product" and millions more to place their "priority" records on the radio. Music fans tune in and purchase what they like from the choices offered.

As Rock & Roll morphed into its classic form there was a golden age of music that made every song, from a favored artist, relevant. The Beatles set a very high standard and every new band and artist was forced to reach for a the highest plateau. In the sixties and seventies many great bands delivered. Fans purchased albums because they wanted to know the artists they loved and the resultant profits created the postmodern record business. The artist/fan dynamic has changed.

In order to feed the insatiable system a constant flow of product was required. As the machinery grew, the quality declined. Mediocre talent was able to reach financial success, if not critical acclaim. Artists who would have been laughed of the stage in the golden age of music became regular residents at the top of the charts. Celebrity provoked more sales than virtuosity or performing skills and the fans became more influenced by peer pressure than intrinsic value.

The old formula of quality being determined in record company board rooms and sold through the purchase of radio airplay has been replaced by a new filtration method. The Internet is the new arbiter of quality and it cannot be fooled. The millions of videos on YouTube reveal the artist's talent, or lack thereof, instantly. And, as always, most of the content is not commercially viable. The shear volume of material makes it extremely difficult to identify the best new artists.

Every band thinks it is great and the ones that get the most encouragement attempt to achieve success in the professional realm. The ones that make their living from music attempt to reach the pinnacle an done percent reach The Big Top. Success can only be measured over time and it is the survivors who look back over their twenty or thirty year careers who compete for Elvisland.

For decades Elvis Presley has been the highest earning dead person and thus demonstrates the most enduring career in music. Artists who seek to be the next big thing must compete with Elvis' legacy. It is possible that a charismatic and talented artist could emerge and through the power of the Internet establish a formidable career. Instant fame and fortune could accrue to such an act if the fans elected to pay for the music instead of stealing it. That's a big if! Such an artist may be just over the horizon, but has failed to reveal itself so far. For sure, its not The Jonas Brothers.

One of the key mitigating factors is the changing role of music in our culture. What was once a central force that permeated every level of society and maintained an ubiquitous presence has lost its primary delivery system. Radio is no longer the common denominator it once was. Access to new music is accomplished through peer-to-peer file sharing and is mostly free of charge. Songs are discovered, explored and shared one at a time and whole albums are rarely interesting enough to download.

Piracy comes with no moral imperative and nobody steals something they don't want. Regardless of the opinion of the prevailing systems and protocols the digital generation claims music as there own. If they love the artist they will support their live performances and purchase their CDs and merch. Even though they probably already have the songs on their iPods they will purchase the artist's product as a demonstration of their affection. The Internet is the ultimate promotional tool. What the record companies really cannot stand is the fact that it is free and makes them irrelevant. This phenomenon is the greatest boon to artists and puts the profits in their pockets.