Artist Survival Rules Part 1

ARTIST SURVIVAL RULES (before signing a record deal)

So you want to have your music released as wide as possible, maybe you’re even dreaming about to be a rock star ? If you have made that decision and you are sitting on a hot demo or even a self-produced album (not adviseable), than the following hints and tips might be helpful for you.

First of all let me explain why a selfproduced album is not a good choice. By approaching a record company (big and small) you usually have to deal with the A&R department (Artist & Repertoire) or, if it’s a smaller one, with the owner acting as A&R. The function of any A&R is to find bands/music with a sales potential . Compare selfproduced music at best with a rough diamond which needs to be shaped in a way that it exposes it’s real potential. How do you know wether there is potential ? By constantly doing your market research about what sells or doesn’t and acting accordingly. Of course there are still different measures to evaluate the market. Some A&R guys like the bandwagon game or the slogan „the trend is your friend“, they sign everything with a style as long as this style is „hot“ – that’s why new trends quickly get killed , the market is oversaturated. Remember „Metal Core“. Other A+R guys, the more visionary ones, go for a substyle which has been on a downslope for a while and expect an upswing in the very next future.

And than there are these very few A+R types who look out for something fresh and new. Of course there are plenty more considerations possible. Think hard – why would any one of these different A+R guys be interested to pick your selfproduced album ? For each of these A&R decision makers its the same reasons not to greenlight you:

 

  • production quality & songwriting,
  • the packaging which needs to reflect marketing and promotion needs and
  • the question of image and identy incl. the name issue.

It’s virtually impossible for an unsigned band to do it right in light of the three above essentials. So don’t waste your time and money on such a project. Instead concentrate on your 3 best songs and produce a DEMO with them. But how do you know how to select the right songs ? Quite simple: see your audience reactions.

Okay you now have spent € 2000,- on this demo effort and you got your 3 songs down on CD , you also got a good band shot (action please !) in b/w and a half page bio with a mission statement – and you didn’t waste your good money on a cover ! So you think the next logical step is to approach a selected bunch of labels. Again wrong ! The next step is to build up an internet profile by using your freshly produced material. Get 1000+ real friends at Face Book, build your own homepage with deeper content so that the FaceBook friends will find their way there, produce regular streams of interactive content, build a community and a digital fanclub. Maybe after a year of hard work you got everything lined up and you are ready to approach the labels. But didn’t you miss anything ? Hey – where are the live shows ? Did you forget to build a live buzz too ? Where are your 20 regional shows of last year ? You see step 1 (demo), step 2 (internet presence), Step 3 live shows they go all hand in hand at the same time.

And believe me – the labels are a hard nut to crack. They want happening bands, no unproven „talent“. Within the last 10 years the effort to get signed has increased fourfold.

So please consider ! Did you do the job as described above. Or do you want to waste your and the A+R departments time because you live in a dream world ?
And a last tip here might be in order: never ever sent anything to anybody within the music industry without an introduction by a friend, a super-fan, a journalist or anybody else „connected“.The chance of being noticed is almost nil if you pull up a mailing list
of labels you have heard about. Being successful in the music world is also about networking !
But you might not have to even approach any label when you do things right as described above – they might come to you, simply because the buzz created is so strong that it get’s „their“ attention.

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Hello music dinosaurs !

Hello Music Dinosaurs,

I have been involved in the music business all my working live. We are talking about the eighties, nineties, the new century… And we are talking label politics. I got tired of it all in the mid-nineties after I changed places, from Berlin to Los Angeles. The distance to the head office and the early years of the Internet pushed my thinking into new directions. John Negropontes ideas „poisoned“ my thinking. Within 5 years I would loose interest in the label as a  factory . Churning out 2,3,4 metal albums every month. Talking to lawyers and accountants 80% of my time, fixing schedule problems and dealing with staff people the remainder of time. Creativity ? That got lost. Vision: nope. So when I returned to Berlin in the end of 1999 the step to sell my 20 year old company was a logical conclusion . And finally in 2001 I got rid of my operation for good money, what a relief !

I kept my studio and my three publishing companies. Keeping the latter was a mistake though.When I finally sold my Publishing catalouge in 2006 to WarnerPublishing the value had shrunk by 80% ! Showing clearly where this industry was heading.

Over the last ten years I kept watching my music friends, former music business partners, all those labels throwing in the towel and all the others defending the status quo by all means.

Overall the CD market has shrunk by 71% in one decade. The death tolls are now ringing. It all depends on one key chain in any given market. If this key chain (in Germany for example „Media Markt“) jumps ship, we will see a cascading effect: the death jump of the CD. Without proper retail coverage, without shell space, a format is doomed and will only be able to cater to collectors and hard core fans. This trigger will be pulled in the very near future for sure. And the trigger I’m talking about is the world financial Crisis. Look at Spain and Greece. Look at their unemployment rates (not the manipulated government statistic) and you know what will happen here in the Western Core markets: Germany, France, UK ,US, Japan. We have all seen this before when Vinyl got replaced, when the VHS got extinct. Now it’s happening with the CD. There is no chance to compete against free. The CD has such a formidable enemy like no other replaced format had before. It’s a fact : the old money game of the music „industry“ is over.

Of course they don’t want to believe this, they try to protect whatever is left over. The music industry and it’s lobby groups have become one of the most evil industries around. They are spearheading Internet Censorship in the name of Anti-Piracy, they propagate Orwell Systems on your hard drive to defend artist rights, they never really cared about. This industry is backwards, anti-freedom and anti-free speech. Their function :  coopting music in the name of profit and creating mindless marionettes. Watkins slogan „We will conform“ in his banned and censored rock film „Privilege“ could be the banner slogan for a whole industry. http://pwatkins.mnsi.net/privilege.htm

But back to us, to my new project. So finally I decided it’s about time to switch sides. Some marketing gurus proclaim the „Record Company of the Future“ to be management. I don’t like this reference to „record“ anymore, whatever the new structures are. In the digital age we are moving away from physical, yes physical will be around in one way or the other , but in a marginal form.

The grab for ever more artist rights by the music industry is just an indication about the state of desperation this industry is in. Instead of embracing the new opportunities and trying radically new ways, the artist webpages are empty exercises in visual flamboyance devoid of substance. Full music streams, downloads and fan engagement have no place there. Dinosaur graveyards. The „slave“ of the system, the Artist, is being exploited to the max. Meaningful fan-interaction and control of fan-databases by the Artist is not in this industries interest. As is real interest presentation for Artists. With the new type of 360 degree deals any Artist management is reduced to the execution of the masters will.

To guarantee full control over the Artist’s creativity many labels have usurped management by buying up established management companies, either via silent partnerships or by acquiring a controlling interest. The perversion of genuine interest presentation has come full circle.

However my approach is radically different. The digital landscape requires new structures and new talent ,willing to embrace the new challenges and new opportunities.And the new set-up has to be centered around Artist Representation, i.e. Management. At the core of the new future stays the relationship between artist and fan. The organization of this relationship is our main task as Manager. And the key word here is „DIRECT“. Or cut out as many intermediares as practical useful. Take the press for example: how useful is shotgun advertising compared to targeted direct mail campaigns ? How effective is poster advertising for live shows if you can utilize the power of your local digital fanclub members ? How effective is the release of one CD by an artist every 18 months if the Internet allows you to reach your (known) fans virtually every minute with new MP3’s ? How useful is a system of physical distribution if there are no stores carrying product in the majority of mid sized and smaller cities ?

Record Promotion and Record Distribution, the exclusive former domain of the Walking Dead (The Music Industry as we know it), have to come under Artist control. Record Promotion will morph into Music promotion and at it’s core will have to be direct fan communication . Record Distribution will be no longer the monopolistic agenda of a dying industry: the placement of digital files is an interim life-straw of this industry until the price for music as files has moved towards zero as it must, in an infinite market place. Since a decade, market forces are proving that they are so much stronger than the Orwellian approach of the music dinosaurs trying secure their yesterdays rights.

In addition to fan-relationship marketing our focus will be of the classical talent school with song writing, image building and the development of live concepts at it’s core.

The monetization of creativity in the new digital environment comes as a last step after the Artist has build a sufficient fanbase of committed followers. We can’t risk to undermine our attention strategies by establishing price barriers.

This blog will be our forum to communicate the practical application of this vision in the new marketplace without borders. The shifting of the focus from physical exploitation to relationship marketing will be a key topic.