Saturday, January 23, 2010
MUSIC BUSINESS Q&A:
Kaitlin Curtin asks:
In terms of the Big Top you said that about 10% make it and they make 99% of the money. The music industry has changed so much over the last few years in terms of how money is being made -- has that changed the percent of profit that the Big Top musicians are making? In other words, are the musicians who are not considered to be at the Big Top making more money these days because of things such as MySpace, Facebook, and other such technologies, or is the division of profit still about the same?
If an artist lacks ambition and wants to sit around and wait for the business to come to him, find another act. This is the most competitive environment on the planet and with the easy entry provided by digimodernization only the most aggressive and inspired artists will reach the survival plateau.
Only 10% of the bands competing will make a living from music without having to have a day job. They will share 99% of the money spent on music. The other 1% will be earned by the remaining 90% who will compete for a time and then get sucked down the black hole of broken dreams. Bands marketing themselves on MySpace, Facebook, will split that 1% without record company support. The ones who are truly talented will grow there fanbase and reach the survival level.
The tough part about this equation is that the top 1% of artists will split 90% of all money spent on concerts and recordings. This is a core principal that does not change. It is a very small, elite group who battle their way to The Big Top, and to whom most of the fame and fortune accrues.
We are experiencing the emergence of an entire generation of musicians who have received an extraordinary amount of musical training. They start younger with "toys" like Guitar Hero and Rock Band and many, experiencing the thrill of performing are inspired to take up "real" instruments. These fledgling artists enter the competition early and grow faster.
With thousands of colleges and universities around the country presenting majors in songwriting, recording and performing curricula, these musicians are learning more than the few chords utilized by the originators of rock & roll. These students are also being taught the systems, mechanics, protocols and politics of the every evolving music industry.
After graduation, college educated musicians will combine their musical talents with their accumulated knowledge of how to execute business strategies. They will create a new, sophisticated quality of music that will inspire their peer groups to support their favorite bands. It is even possible that the bonding experience created at live performances might inspire the public top pay for the music.
They may already have "shared" the artist's music, or why are they at your show in the first place. However, the connection between artist and audience is strengthened at live events and the fans saw MTV, they know when they buy the CDs and T-shirts at your gig that they are contributing to your survival. The artist's survival will depend on their ability to attract, nourish and maintain a relationship with the fans who respond to their music and are willing to come back for more.
Friday, January 15, 2010
The Reflectacles at Dakota Lounge - January 22, 2010
If you are 21 years old and ready to party, please come and join our back-to-school celebration featuring The Reflectacles at Dakota Lounge in Santa Monica January 22 at 11:oo PM. There will be drinks, dancing, door prizes, free downloads and a healthy dose of good old Americana rock & roll. So put on your dancing shoes and come on down to Dakota and we'll get this year off to a rocking good start. Tickets $10 in advance, $13 at the door. Three bands. Show starts at 9:00 PM and goes all night. I'll be there. Pax et Amo. Hartmann
Sunday, January 10, 2010
GUEST SHOT: Bob Lefsetz
Subject: What The Customer Wants
"Businesses should concentrate on their customers' needs, not on specific products.
" "Marketing Myopia" (1960) Theodore Levitt, Harvard Business School.
What does the music customer want?
1. To easily be able to hear all recorded music
Now I'm not saying such ability should be free, but this does not undermine the
If you read about a record, if a friend mentions a tune, you should be able to
instantly click and sample it. On your desktop, laptop and hand-held device.
Not jut a thirty second sample, but the whole thing.
The public hates thirty second samples. They project an image of withholding as
opposed to honest, fair dealing. It's like the music industry is a carny
attraction behind a curtain that you must pay for, with very little advance
knowledge, before you partake.
The best delivery of the ability to hear music is Spotify. Which has been
delayed in its American introduction because certain rights holders don't
believe in giving anything away for free.
Spotify is a music app, with a full catalog.
LaLa's not bad, it's just that you have to go to Google first, you've got to
click a bit.
Rhapsody and Napster provide the end result, with very poor functionality,
certainly compared to Spotify. They seem to live in a land where the lessons of
Apple are hidden, that usability and functionality are key. Apple has also
proven that people will pay premium prices for this usability and functionality.
Oh, here's where you tell me it's impossible to compete with free. Well, Apple
is competing with a plethora of computers a third the price, yet is extremely
profitable and valuable. So, rather than decry theft, the question becomes how
can one make a profit by delivering exactly what the public wants?
And just a note. The more access to music people have, the more they consume,
the more tickets and merch they buy.
2. A fair shot at a good concert ticket
The number one complaint is not high prices, the big bitch is you just don't get
a chance at a good seat. People know the value of a front row seat, they're
willing to pay for it, just give them a shot at it.
Sure, it works for the act to make a deal with AmEx, to have a fan club, to put
so many layers of sale between the act and the customer that people are turned
off instead of turned on, pissed instead of happy.
Yes, happy. People may say the movie is lousy, but most concertgoers are
thrilled to be able to attend the event, they fully enjoy it. But, how do they
Until all tickets are available at one time (how many credit cards and fan club
memberships do you have to get to be a regular concertgoer, this works against
the industry instead of for it), and are priced according to their desirability,
fans will be unhappy.
If you desire to appeal solely to your fans, by allowing them to get tickets and
requiring them to line up and show ID to get in...this is not a terrible
strategy. You're satiating the hard core, while pissing off the public. Then
again, most of the public is willing to shrug and say they just don't care that
much about going to this show.
What's the number one thing a fan wants?
To be able to go backstage.
Not everyone can provide this, but don't decry platinum packages that allow
this, for this is exactly what the public wants.
If you want to make people happy, make yourself available. That could be as
simple as a response on a message board or as complicated as going out on a date
with a contest winner.
But this is what people want. Think about how you can deliver it.
4. Music that they want to play again and again
Note, this does not mean music that is given a thumbs-up in radio callout
research, when a listener hears a short snippet. After all, we've established
above that thirty seconds is not enough. If a listener does not get the urge to
immediately replay your music, you're not going to have success. That could be
playing a three minute ditty again and again, or a complete album again and
again. The form is unimportant, it's about the desire.
5. More music by their favorite artists
Shorten the time between releases, deliver more material. Fans want outtakes,
rehearsal tapes, live tapes...almost anything and everything. Sure, this is
different from what the casual fan or the uninitiated person wants, but these
are two different markets, and you make the lion's share of your money from your
hard core fans.
Don't think about how you can placate radio, think about how you can placate
This is as simple as a live album of the studio album a month after the original
drop date. YouTube broadcasts of live shows. Downloadable content from your
Website. You can never have too much for a fan. And don't forget, fans are
your number one evangelists, they're the ones who spread the word.
6. More information
Where you are, who you're recording with, the process.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, no one does this better than John
Mayer. And in the process he sacrifices not a whit of credibility or charisma.
Somehow, the public feels as if it's in his back pocket and knows him, even
though they realize the odds of in-person contact are slim to none.
7. Fewer commercials
Whether it be radio, television or a streaming music service, the public is fed
up with commercials. And unlike forty years ago, people have options. Extended
runs of commercials are abuse, never forget this.
8. A final concert ticket price
People hate being pecked to death by ducks, which is the equivalent of buying
concert tickets today. It's not so much about the cost, as the feeling of being
screwed by hidden charges that make no sense. Print at home fee?
Come on. That's inane. I'm using my own paper and ink.
We know it's all about profits. But why can't it be buried in a final price?
9. A belief that the acts are in it for the music, not the money
It's hard to sell an art form if people think it's just a means to an end, a
good lifestyle. People won't respect it. People don't respect towels, they
don't respect toilet paper. Sure, they're necessary products, the companies
that purvey them make a profit, but it's not art.
Art generates profits in a wholly different way than traditional industries.
Look at fine art. The canvas may have been produced for essentially nothing,
the cost of materials. But only a few years later, it can sell for millions.
Stop calculating how to get to millions of revenue in a spreadsheet by
maximizing this and that. Just create something rawly desirable, then the
revenue will come. A great hit is more powerful than any marketing campaign.
People don't need music, but they want it. When it's great. When it speaks to
them. When it's seen as integral to their lives.
In today's connected world, the customer sees himself as equal to the purveyor.
Think of the wrath inflicted upon Wall Street. That's how much people hate the
music industry, and that's a problem. Yup, fat cats who screwed us for far too
long who want to continue to screw us! You've overpaid for one good track on an
overpriced CD, you've overpaid for a shitty seat, but you'd better not steal our
product, we're entitled to our income! Huh? Don't make excuses, try and
rationalize your behavior, just look how stupid it appears to your customer,
without whom you've got nothing.
Record labels want to sell physical recorded product. Or individual tracks. Or
Concert promoters want to sell food and drink.
None of these speak to the underlying needs and desires of the consumer.
The consumer wants music. It doesn't matter what form it's rendered in, as long
as the end result pours into one's ears. People are not locked into vinyl or
CDs, tracks or albums, they just want the listening experience.
As do they want the experience of hearing live music. Sure, they'll buy food
and drink if they're at the show, but those are incidental. How can you make
the show so desirable that people will willingly come and not care about parting
with their dollars for extras?
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The Comeback Trail
After something as detrimental as the incident with Chris Brown and Rihanna, how does a manager (assuming he/she is still believes in this artist) deal with the situation to help the artist bounce back and regain his/her fan base?
Colonel Tom Parker, the legendary manager of Elvis Presley, is often quoted as having said,"There is no such thing as bad publicity." That may have been true in the golden days of Hollywood when movie studio publicity departments carefully fabricated stories and arranged relationships to accommodate the promotional needs of the "star" system. The media traded the truth for access and played along in order to lure patrons to the box-office. The fan magazines perpetuated the mythology and a gullible public believed everything because they wanted to.
Only the most heinous violations of moral and legal standards of the day burst through the veil of protection provided by the movie studios. Fatty Arbuckle paid for his peccadillo's, Robert Mitchum was arrested for smoking pot, Errol Flynn was criticised for being a Nazi sympathiser and Elvis was goaded into a bar room brawl, Ray Charles was a heroin addict. Sometimes the incidents incited public animosity and sometimes they were greeted with acceptance and humor. The public is very fickle and the bond with its heroes is thin and fragile. The long term effect of bad publicity varies from case to case.
Behavior that is acceptable from one artist may be totally detrimental to another. Careers are like fingerprints, from a distance they all look the same, up close each is different. Fatty's career evaporated, Mitchum became a superstar, Flynn shook off the stigma and Elvis incorporated the incident into one of his movies. Ray cleaned up his act, was declared a genius and became a legend. All of these incidents created huge negatives in the media, each with different results.
Back then, there was a certain naivete attached to the print media and how the fourth estate was manipulated by the system and the advertisers. With the advent of multi channel television and twenty-four hour news the game has drastically changed. Throw the paparazzi and the Internet into the mix, add ubiquitous photography, reality programming and universal video and the dynamic changes completely. Where there was once a shadow of a doubt in the stories of the past, today there's recorded proof of just about everything that ever happens in the life of a media star.
Artists have stories to tell in support of their career advancement. The seeds of these stories are sewn by managers and publicists to achieve a certain image and to stimulate interest in the act. The fans digest the seeds and evolve mental illusions about their personal relationship with their idols. Hero worship is the driving force. In the minds of the fan base an entitlement grows with the bond. The fan expects the artist's lifestyle to conform to his vision of what is "supposed" to be.
The story never overlaps the truth. When an artists sins are discovered and exposed in the media there is a moment of pause, while the fans love is tested. What one believes depends on who it is, what happened and weather or not it is acceptable to the fan. If the action is compatible with the artist's image the attention will not have a deleterious effect. When the artist's behavior is completely out of character with the fans perception of the person, it can cause permanent career damage.
Social mores are constantly changing and what may have been okay in the past, could be destructive today. Brittany Spear's "sans panties" incident was shocking, but not out of character. It didn't cause her any long term harm. Chris Brown's assault on Rhianna was completely unacceptable behavior. His fans didn't like it, her fans were outraged and their mutual fans were devastated. Since the O.J. incident domestic violence has a very definite connotation in our society. Men battering women is about as low as it goes. Nobody condones it for any reason.
Personal managers are responsible for how an artist relates to the media. It is a double edged sword. The acts court the media to get the "good" publicity, but fear and hide from them when their is "bad" news or something to hide. They cooperate to get their promotional licks in, pretend to not want it when out in the world and abhor it when they get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. We all swim in the media ocean and sooner or later we all get wet. Sometimes when the "truth" hits the fan it is best to just walk away and let the dust settle. A career must be built to last a lifetime,showbiz is a marathon. Nobody dashes to the finish line. Fix it tomorrow.
Artists are seriously affected by the exposure of their weaknesses and flaws. Fans don't build those elements into their view of a star. The person they imagine the artist to be is idealized in the mind of the beholder. The bursting of that illusory bubble can be the end of the relationship or the beginning of a new era of affection and alliance. The difference is in how the problem is initially addressed by the artist, how it is handled in the long run and the degree of culpability.
A personal manager in a successful business relationship with an artist should not jump ship because his client gets in trouble. Untoward "incidents" provide opportunities for managers to prove their worth. Very often managers stand between the act and the law in dealing with potentially embarrasing situations. Sometimes containment and control will dictate the survival of the artist's career or personal liberty. In the case of Bobby Brown, there is a lot of power and money at stake.
In the shame of discovery, one's natural instinct is to deny everything regardless of innnocence or guilt, as Bill Clinton did in the little blue dress debacle. However, if there is absolute, irrefutable proof because that is your picture and you are doing "it," there are two ways to go. Come forward immediately and confess as Hugh Grant did in the Hollywood hooker matter. Grant defused the bomb before it went off. Yes, he looked foolish for a minute but it all blew over, no harm, no foul.
In the face of absolute guilt, it is often better to exercise one's right to freedom "from" the press, as in the case of Tiger Woods. He did it, there is no room for denial, and he is very wise not to throw fuel on the fire. I experienced this personally when my late brother Phil Hartman was murdered by his wife a decade ago. The media was instantly stirred into a feeding frenzy.
Reporters descended on our world like locusts and they were insatiable. We became a form of prey and were forced into hiding to conceal out tears and protect the dignity of our family at a very difficult time. We were all dazed in the first days following the tragedy and any statement would have projected only anger and pain. Despite a continous inquiry from every possible source, we said nothing for four and a half years. There was no flavor that would turn that pill sweet.
It always shocks me when the day after the incident the survivors are displaying their grief on television for all to see. This happens because they don't know that it is their right to say nothing. They don't owe the media a story or an answer; not a lie, not the truth or anything in between. Reporters are in business to sell their papers, magazines, TV shows and blogs. You do not have to participate in the process. The less you contribute, the smaller the historical archive will become.
The good news is the fickle public has a short memory. If Bobby and Rhianna show up on enough red carpets the fans will forgive and forget. After all, they are the only ones who know what really happened and why. If she can forgive him, so will the fans. If he keeps doing good work his career will survive and he will continue to thrive in The Music Renaissance. Bobby is young, and kids make mistakes. He has plenty of time to recover and if he was talented and driven enough to make it once, he can certainly do it again. There will always be room for talented artists on The Comeback Trail.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Artists in Sobriety
Emilin Yaghoubian asks:
If an artist believes that he/she is incapable of performing completely sober, without drugs and alcohol, what does the manager say or do to change this belief?
A manager should never encourage an artist to incorporate drug use into his creative process. When artists and managers put together a professional career plan that includes sobriety as part of the operational procedure they greatly increases their chances of success. Drug abuse is a serious inhibitor of creative energy. It not only dulls one's perception of reality during the inebriation, but there is always a recovery period during which time and efficacy are lost. There is a prevailing attitude that certain drugs can stimulate the creative process by opening the doors of perception and dispelling inhibitions. This has been known to produce some great music. However, if an artist is able to write, produce and perform without the use of mind altering substances it is in the manager's best interest to encourage and support a drug free lifestyle. Touring bands are engaged in a rigorous activity that requires coordination of mental and physical aspects of performing. A clear head can see farther, adapt faster and deliver better work. Go sober. Manage the jones.