This Business is Tough
I'm here today to talk about this whole idea of dreaming and dealing and trying to break in to the music business manage your way through the music business survive the music business we needed a clever title but it's not just breaking into the music biz this is drew mentioned I've been a music professional for the better part of thirty six years now I've been a start is a concert promoter I worked at sony music as a record label exact I did a stint is an internet entrepreneur way back when the very earliest days of the internet with a company called artist direct where we were trying tio take this idea, putting artists in charge of their own destiny on the web and didn't quite work out we'll talk about that a little bit later and for the better part of the last almost seventeen years now I've been the manager of a rock band called incubus and I've been on manager previously on dso during that time I've learned, you know, tons of valuable lessons about what it takes to actually succeed...
in this freaking crazy music business that we all because you're all here today we all love it, but it is it is nutty, michael you talked about the lunacy and all of that stuff and we'll talk some more about that today one of things I noticed about the proliferation and then in the how the internet has exploded is it gives all kinds of people an opportunity to talk about whatever it is they want to talk about so I find that there are tons of people in in lots of advice you know, whether it's from self profess experts or universities they're all trying to teach you the music business right? And it seems to me that they all spend a lot of time talking about how to this how to that how to market your music, how to use social media, how to play get those great guitar sounds you know how you're going to book a tour how you make a record the list is countless about all the how to things of the music business but one of the things that I've learned over thirty six years is that understanding the music business what I'll call the thirty thousand foot view being able to see it from not down in the trees not where the bullets were flying but but slightly above the fray helps you understand how to manage that the battlefield if you will right? So today I want to share with you um some big picture ideas that I've learned over the years ideas about how to get your head screwed on how to get your head in the right place to do something great and the music business and I know that based on my last visit here teo teo creative life that they're probably some people that aren't in the music business that are watching here today too so that some of the things that I'm going to talk about today, we'll talk specifically about the music business today, you know is I've got a little bit older I start to see that some of these things were really life lessons that apply to almost any business because if you're looking to do something great, you're looking to separate yourself from other folks and I say that in the nicest possible way you're looking to stand out from the crowd and it requires a little bit different head space you got, you know, your cards are arranged a little bit differently in the deck in fact, he might be missing a card or two somewhere in there, so hopefully these lessons will give you some perspective whether it's recording engineer, you know, artists, you know, somebody this trying to figure out where you want to go. The most important thing I'll tell you today is that these air lessons that I don't find anybody talking about I've never read them in a book I've never you know seen them in some classroom scenario because their lessons learned from doing ok and there are lots of business there's lots of things we're learning a technical skill is something you khun dio but the music business it is more art than science, whether you're on the artistic side or whether you're on the business side of it, right? Eh? So that's what we're going to talk about so these big picture ideas we're going to try to put, you know, get him out there, but I want to also give some context to him, and so we'll try to find a way today to talk about how to apply some of these ideas, these big picture concept a cz you face the challenges, and you're going to tell me with some of those challenges you're facing our, uh, on your little journey in the music business. Full disclosure here. You guys haven't met me before something you've seen some of my stuff um when people think about the music business, they almost have this romantic vision in their head. I always I always here I see it in people's eyes, and I feel like saying, cue the violins and the dreamy, you know, the butterflies in the garden and dogs barking and it's just it's just perfect. Um, that's, not the real music business. Okay, so today I'm going to give you an honest take on the music business I've been having this how to get started conversation in the music business for the whole of my music business career, whether it was my wife who has a friend and a steve will you sit down with joey and talked him about the music business whether it's a business associate hey I got a tape from somebody steve would you listen to it? Would you spend some time with it? Um you'll hear a lot about golf today even on the golf course my caddie lt's hey so you're in the music business and you know I have tio smile and gently remind him I'm there teo kind of lose the music business so it's not something I'm unfamiliar with is this whole idea of getting started and talking to people about how it actually works but the but the thing you need to know is the romantic vision of the music business and you're all nodding here today is not the rial music that today we're going to talk about the real music business and for some of you folks you guys we're already into so I'm not like we're going to talk you out of sandra is sitting here on the fence trying to figure out what she wants to to dio and so if if I scare you a little bit if it seems like I'm trying to talk you out of it um don't be afraid, okay it's just my way of full disclosure getting the honesty on the table but also there's a little bit of me that's trying to tweak you right on day want to see if you're really committed to doing this, seeing that this is really what you want to know whether you really have what it takes to deal with having a career in the music business. So for you folks there watching we're all here together okay? And I'll be here for the next seven hours and while I'm we're going to be talking about the big picture and talking about some of the nuts and bolts, I know that for lots of people they get a chance to talk to somebody that's in the music business on dh hopefully somebody that you know that's actually done it is helpful so I'm here to answer all your questions and for me you know there's no question about the music business is off bounds I'll let drew and russ upstairs handle all that but don't be shy here before we you know, living further I want to give you a great resource I will be here for seven hours saying well to cover a lot of ground no doubt but unlikely that I'll cover everything that's on everybody's mind. So, um one of things we'll talk about is this idea of doing your home work figuring stuff out okay? And if you're serious about the music business really serious about the music business one of the greatest place to find answers about the music business is a little website call ren men music in business dot com opaque show to there it is nice job ways let me get out of the way can you see that this a little website I started and we've killed it's not really that small there's some ads on the sides but will lose those this a website I started and there's all kinds of information in there about the music I started this and just give you a little background about two years ago is really kind of an offshoot of this ongoing conversation about how to get started in the music business, eh? So I started this web site for fun is kind of ah laugh and it was kind of a way to kill some time in between the lengthening periods of activity with my my buddies and incubus and as I mentioned, I've been involved in the music business, you know, for years doing all kinds of things, but over the last two years I've kind of added a couple new hats. One is web caster podcast I never know what to call myself um and I think mohr actor description is more kind of music mentor music business mentor no so I started this thing with twenty four videos right? And I just go to the front page if you will their slide back there you go all right, so if you slide down but there's there's, the feeder. We started with twenty four videos. Twelve of these videos were about the big picture of the music business, right? These thoughts that we're going to talk about today, the other one under the red one o one section there. These were kind of nuts and bolts videos that were designed to tell them here's what a record company's supposed to do here is what a publisher does. Here's, what a publicist does here is what promoters and kind of give you some nuts and bolts of it. So that was the beginning of rain, man and b we put it up there and not unlike the folks here. I understand of creative live where chase jarvis and his partner were photographers in love talking about it. Started posting videos, and somehow they got the same disease I got thought, well, geez, maybe we should invite some of our friends into the conversation. Then we'll we'll do a live webcast and people chat so I you know, I took the poison to it. Started a web shell call red man live, which lets go of governor red man live there. There you go. We got upcoming show here in a week with radio promo queen jackie saturn if you're interested in that jack will and she says, I mean, when they call it jack. Anyway, we started these web shows, we've done nineteen now we've done it with ninety of the smartest, most talented, most influential people in the music. This is I say that not to name drop, but to say that this idea of how to get started to understanding the music is that there is no tidy answer, so the more people that you can hang out with, okay, and pick their brains and share their knowledge, the better off you'll be. So red man live was my attempt to widen the conversation, but it was also a very overt attempt on my part to help people with this idea of networking. So we have done ninety plus shows, you can check them all out there and it's, good stuff. Our guest list, I think, can we show the guest list real quick? I think we had that there. I'm jumping around like I said, I didn't come to our guest list. You can see what everybody has given little bio honey, but we have music publisher, promoters, managers, agents, publicists, you know, record company guys and our people music, technology, book all kinds of information, unless you are a complete freak in eighty eight, you couldn't help. But learned something about the music business if you're there so if you're trying to talk to your dad and to spend and sixty grand to go to music business college I would say take a little visit here first and see if you want to proceed okay I came up here a couple of years ago on did a year ago and did my first uh creative live session it was very inspiring for me I sat down in a room like this with a bunch of folks like yourself and it was the first attempt for me to kind of what I call academics size or try to put into aa curriculum god, I hate to even say the word um all this knowledge that hadn't been banging around in my head I'll say I have one of my associates in the office watching I'll say that it would never happen without my friend cody ron is he started as an intern a gentleman I met through the website like so many young people I've met in the web business you know? So we decided to do read manu right which is my rent man university was going to be my insider's guide on the music so what we did is we actually did it and so we have all we have eleven lessons we're going to talk about this big picture but we're gonna be weaving in some of these other bits here from building a professional team treating your career is a business ideas about organizing your business, your your manager and one of the most key people in if you're an artist and trying to get something to happen making great music, there's some great bits in the air. Some advice from super producer brendan o'brien he's, a good buddy of my marketing and promotion, but it's trying to figure out how to stand out from a crowd record labels, how do I get a record label deal? How do I deal with these record label guys? What should I be thinking about all of that? Their music publishing in touring? That was our rent, manu course, so that was my attempt to give you mohr knowledge and to kind of get it all out of my system. I say that they're not just to gloat, but because we're not going to able to cover everything, and I invite you to go there and check some of that self out where if we're not getting into all the detail you like today, that that would be a great way for you to catch up. So you folks in my little web show all right, so you know, what's going, michael, you've seen it, oh, then there's going to be good, pay attention way have a saying there was an old les I used to caddie for the country well, I told this this story last time I was on creative live and when you're a manager and you're waging a ban you always keep track of the set list what I started keeping track of the set list because incubus would go back and play in different markets over and over again so I took the same idea I went back through our set list from last time so we'll cover some of those things in here last time um but one of the things we talked about was this next little notion here there was a little lady I caddied for name mrs alison hillcrest country about a great bit of advice to me way back when she I was asking me about something and was complaining about something because you know, steve, you know if you don't ask you don't get right so we we just blew that cuba with boys back but anyway, that idea of asking and getting is what you need to get a hold of you know, I've been to a million great rock shows over the years and the greatest rock says you're in a band are the ones where the audience and the performers were kind of feeding on himself now I'm not going to sing a song like can I ask you to light your lighters or do any of that kind of stuff but all I want to ask you is that you get involve you ask questions. You all came here to learn there's, no question that's out of bounds. This should be a conversation we're having. I'm not a lecturer. You'll figure that out pretty quickly. But I do love talking about to the music business. I do love talking about it with people that air is passionate about. Doing something great in the music business is I am so ask questions for all you folks on the internet. They payin attention, drew. All right, so ask him questions, folks otherwise, and like, if I could I reach out there and smack you ok? Um, let's talk for a moment about this idea of why the big picture isn't so important, right? I don't need to tell some of you folks. And if I said that the music business is full of things that you can't control, would you agree or disagree? Everybody's nodding right? Ok, so what are some of those things? You, you're a musician. What are some of the things that are uncontrollable items? Well, I mean, it's just rife with I mean, in a way, you feel like you can't control anything, you feel really helpless. I was the only one feeling, are you going to make an executive pick up the phone? How are you going to get a, you know, a meeting with an executive? How are you going to get the studio? People just say, hey, come on in and we got something we're working on and were we're kind of like brainstorming, and we just need we don't know if you're the synth or a piano strings yeah, you know, just like, what do you think? You know? I mean, do you know about when she made that music right? Don't catch it, but how about once you've made that music right? And you've gotten through all of that, um, whether people are going to like your music or not, right? And you guys ever written a song and almost afraid to turn it loose on the world? Because now it's up for judgment, you know, I said I didn't sleep at all aspects, I was going through the same thing. I've been a manager my whole life, I decide to step out front, I turn into freaking and secure wreck of a human being. I feel like the singer in the band. Brandon boy, when I started the show, you said kidney goes now you know how it feels, steve, and if you're watching today, brandon, you're right. Um, you can't control whether that's on gets on the radio canyon. Okay, you have you ever had a client come in, book your studio and not paying jessica? God bless your tough. We're going to talk about getting the money. I have a feeling we're gonna have a good time talking about, uh, you can't control whether people are going to buy it. And at the end of the day, aziz, I mentioned we have some great interviews on that website. One used to check out. Is jason flom talking about what the on ly really yardstick of the record business is? If you're in the business side of it is whether you sell this judgment, whether it's, good or it's, greater it's horrible, I don't care, it's, not meaningful, is not important. That's all coffee shop talk, okay? If it sells it's successful, if it doesn't sell, it doesn't. Now. That doesn't mean if your record didn't sell, it wasn't meaningful and what it just means that is a business proposition it didn't fly right you mentioned talking about record companies and you get a record I have talked to so many bands that get a record deal right there oh my god we got a record deal right? And I went to work in sony for about four years in in my first six months of money who shall remain nameless and, you know, ready you are the best bad news deliver I've ever seen in my life because I've been a manager for six years where I went to the label so I dealt I was highly skilled in bad news because that's what you dealt with right? And so in that first six months I had to tell three acts who were signed to the label your records not coming out what you're right way what do you mean your records not coming up on and they would go to pieces and I go don't take this personally, there are issues going on that are bigger than you that we can't control I'm just the messenger here um it is what it is and so those are the kind of things that have the uncontrollable items right? What is then the things you can't control anybody want to take a shot musician let's talk to me is one of things that you can control getting out there really making sure that the opportunities that do arise don't don't go squandered. I feel like if there's an opportunity, you know, try to take it. Try toe tryto. Make yourself available toe opportunity. How about a musical of you guys? Because I'm a man. You're going all talk to me in business, but I'm interested from immune. One of the things that you can control is a musician. Uh, I would say I'm being being approachable on your social networks is a great opportunity. Making music. Yeah, we control that, right? Imagine that. Yeah. Yeah. Look, there's, a lot of artist getting this well the record. Company's going to tell me what to deal with. Nobody ever told incubus what to write, including their manager. They gave opinions about what they did, but they didn't tell him with you. Now there are some scenarios where they're telling you what to do. And we'll talk about that a little bit later, when we talked about this idea of true north, can you control your presentation? Oh, definitely you. You can be your own filter and decide what's. Ah, you know what you want to do? And you know, when you want to get judged by okay, people in today's world can an artist tell their own story when I mean by that is that used to have to go to the publicist who take your story to rolling stone, they send you on the road with some writer and you would shudder with fear, hoping that they didn't come back and focus on some stupid stuff that happened on the road today. Can you tell your own story? Definitely, yeah, hold back on facebook posts and decide what story you want to tell exactly. Ok, so those are some of the things we can control, but the most important thing that you can control is your attitude, the attitude you bring to work every day, right? And your attitude is literally one of the few things beyond the music. Assuming that you have enough, the two year old music that you can control and having a handle on the big picture of the music is understanding it from that thirty thousand. But view will help guide the decisions you make once you get started, because if you're a musician or if you're a business person trying to exploit the music of a musician, the decisions you make after you make the music will have his big an impact, if not more. Then the actual music itself now a lot of musicians cringe when they hear that but my sixty one year old friend I'm fifty nine were buds okay it's not in his head because you know what I'm talking about you're right you know you write a great record and get to sunk by a million different things so if you are trying to figure out all of these little details in the middle of the battle and you're thinking while the bullets were flying you're dead you have to be instinctive you have to know where you're going and have a sense of what it's all about so those are some of things you can control if you don't have a sense of that you'll get distracted you'll be pulled off target you'll be pulled around you'll never make any progress right? So it's like flying a plane on instruments right? You know if you you gotta trust what's going on there and that's what the big picture gives you right these are the lessons we talk about and if you scroll up in dallas but they're out there I'm going to go out of these a little bit out of where the first one is really our first lesson is not really a lesson it's an observation right on and it's it's simple is this business is tough okay there it is put it on the wall do it again this business is tough ah, the home home game, feel away, game. Okay, we've got thank you. Okay, nice. We'll talk about timing and lighting. Later, gentlemen, uh, they're easier ways to make a buck. We agree on that could have gone to become an accountant. You could be selling life insurance, I'm sure everybody's somebody's dying every day, right? Not everybody is not making in the music biz, but somebody's died. There's. Easier ways to make a buck and it's always tough, right? And the reason I mention this is is because so often, when I'm talking about the music business with people, they start crying to me about how tough. Well, I can't get this person, but I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do that. And so I always tell him what part of this face tells you that I don't know it's tough okay, I handed I was sure it a little bit later earlier today with my twenty two year old mug when I was a dreamer uh this is what it looks like you've been when you've been doing it so for me this notion of this business is tough let's just said is tough you record sales down there's less you know there's less money to spend on records it's more difficult than ever to stand out from the crowd because there's so much music being you know people are worried about do I get paid for streaming do I get paid for this there's all kinds of tough out there okay, but if you're going to talk with may let's just skip that let's put it on the wall. This business is tough I'll thank you now we're walking here so that it's covered if I could I always wanted to put that literally over the door of my office we could just win somebody brava go! What is your point? Okay, so that's our first kind of observation before we get into these lessons I want to talk about just this notion of getting started the period right lots of folks including yourself are dreaming of some kind of career in the music biz he's right let's be honest, it's sexy right it's cool music is part of our culture on so many different levels whether it's listening to the radio whether it's watching american idol away awards show video games in the elevator wherever you go these days you are surrounded by music right? The the analogy I always uses simple you go to a cocktail party of graduated college is ten years after everybody sit around going eh so what do you know I'm an accountant and what do you work for morgan stanley men of investment is somebody else goes I'm a notch very he's not know what he's doing right but the great one that I've always had is that when you tell him you're in the music business right that is great cocktail party ammo playing a lot of golf tournaments and inevitably I'll be playing with kids that are much younger than may and they'll be looking at the old guy right and smoking a cigar put these glasses on to right to score in there and though god you know then they'll say what do you do I got in the music business now they're my best buddy right? So the music business everybody wants to get into it you know let me ask you folks here brad why do you want to get in the music business you crazy knucklehead I just couldn't stay away from music and talking in these a should be the thing I play drums okay? You had your goal at a musician. Yeah, well, yeah. So you played in a band first, and then you decided to go in the studio. Do you still play music yourself? Yes. Yeah, I do a lot of session work. Do you have aspirations to be a musician or no, I I think I enjoy the production side of things, but all right, gentlemen, next to you and I forgot your name already. It's anthony anthony. Thank you. Uh, I would say that it's the reason why I wanted to get into music is because I don't really have a choice. It was it was a passion that I don't think I could ever stop even if I really wanted to. It's ah it's been it's been with me longer than any relationship in my life? I would say, you know, like, you know, beyond anything else it's it's been the consistency. So it's it's not something I could really stopped at this point. Even if I really wanted to put this sexy and cool and fun to talk about it. I'm in a band, right? Yeah, well, a lot. A lot. A lot more so then before he no fact back in the day when I first start producing, you'd be like, oh, what do you d'oh? You make computer on a music me stay indoors all day long, you know, like that wasn't really the, you know, the sexy cool but it's definitely made its way into the limelight over the past couple of years. Good and it's yes, yes. Okay, music's played a huge part part in my life, but I realized very early on that I have no talent for performing, but I'm an excellent fan. So I got into the music or the business end of it because I wanted to support artists because they add so much to our community and our culture. All right, so we could share some common sandra the quiet see injury, you know, there's always one quiet, one in every crowd I'm gonna have you happened like freaking hyena by the time we're done the annual hygiene why do you want to be in the music business? You look like a smart person on. I kind of agree with those guys. I knew at a very young age that music was what I wanted to do and when I'm not doing it, I start to go mildly insane he was funny, I didn't do it, I going wild and because I am about your musician yes ok, so a lot of musicians in the house okay, michael, I know you're you're helplessly addicted inc of bob's last name but said no he's a great producer he produced like kiss and I think he even produced some of the bob as around yes, bob asian people I was his big elite said it really well his uncle goes all the way it went all the way back to vaudeville and he just said, you know, the great thing about real musicians is that they would die if they didn't play if they didn't perform and you think about that you think about how you couldn't even live without making music and you think about what the world would be like without me it is a beautiful bumper sticker and you see it every now and then it says, what would the world be like without music? It's just you can't even imagine the, you know, the complete void of, you know, you know, just aesthetic that we wouldn't have as human beings without it it we you know, I'm the kind of person who I you know unfortunately could like live in my basement making great music and listening to great music and, you know, just being revered over the music be made now the music being made, you know, hundreds of years ago because that's. That's. What? I live for that's what we all want. We all especially it's in the twenty first century. Twenty first century american musicians play everything classical. They played jazz. They study, you know. So I mean, yeah, I mean, that's. Why we do it is way have to do this. You know, it's funny. I started in the music business like you. I was a fan and I talked about before we started the rolling stones with one of the first concerts I saw and, you know, it's all three of them in a row, back to back led zeppelin, jethro tall in the rolling stones and the rolling stones just iced it for me. I talked about how they came out and they have a big curtain from the stage and the lights dropping out. Pop from the tongue. That greatest icon of all time the tongue pops, mick jagger. Bang. They started playing, and me and my buddies were involved in illegal activity. My buddy cut his hair on fire. I'll never forget it. I was putting what do you doing? Having a bite, right? You know, and so we were like, in so I started as a music fan and and I never lost my level love listen to records so I'd be out playing golf all day long I'd come home I put on my all my records and loved it I started in college I went to college to become a lawyer right whiffed on it too got on the debate team uh debate coach says that you should run for office so we can get some money for the debate team I did that I met the guy who was in charge of the commissioner of activities you didn't like talking the age and said, hey, maybe you should call I said fired I'm in so I started booking college concert, right? I tried getting a job in the music business, I had a job all lined up at william morris in the mail room I was going to start right in there and then they did a degree check on me and found out for reasons I won't go into that I hadn't quite graduated from usc because I'd had a debate scholarship and like a lot of c folks, I yeah, I got off the train low early anyway, I wanted starting my own company and because I that was my first bit of this thing we'll talk about this f the gatekeeper meant I was I'm going, I'm doing this, okay not from the musicians point of view, but for me, it was cool that it was happening. I remember that first rolling stones concert watching all of the business I watching this guy who everybody was coming up and talking to you, he turned out to be the tour manager for the rolling stones that I still have memories of being, for some reason, being conscious about what was going around the contra before I found myself falling onto it, right? I was lucky enough to meet some mentors along the way who really had a huge impact on my life. And I think in lots of ways fuels my own interest in desire, in stamina for doing the mentoring thing, which provides me lots of intrinsic rewards. But but nothing on the financial side. I want to talk about something else and why we're well, we're rolling here. This what I call the checklist, right? Put that check list up there. Okay. All the time. Particularly young folks. You know, they come in there and I think it's this culture that we have where you take your test to prove that you're ok. You take your essay, see to take yeah, so you can say I'm good I got a degree in the music business so therefore I know the music is not to bum me out sandra, but I don't even have a degree period okay? And I was asked once to teach at a college you know, to teach a class and they go but you have to have a master's degree and I called the person are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? I need to have a master's degree to teach your kids please I don't have it I have a master's degree in reality of the music business, but I couldn't teach it so that the point is is that for you folks out there that think there's a checklist if I write a starring steve, if I do a show if I make a video, if I do my tweets, can I be a star? And the answer is no next like there's no checklist out there, okay? There really is what happens in the music business whether you're a musician or a professional will ultimately be down to the energy that you bring to it your own unique take that you put on it but just understand there is no checklist out there for you, right? I told you how I started in the music business I'll also tell you there are a cz many different stories okay of how people got started in the music business is there are people that have succeeded in the music biz back to the website, please yeoman over to the right. You don't have to show a little bit there you go getting start if you click on that link right there, you're going to find some great stories, right? When I was a kid, you'll appreciate this, michael, if you admired somebody, if you like somebody story, whether is lee iacocca, our richard branson. I was I didn't read any classic literature. I read the wall street journal sports illustrated the times and I read lots of biographies because I was interested in how successful people thought what they did to get started. What were what were the challenges they face. So that's how you did it back in the day, kids easy read books okay, today I must have some sixteen year old in me because I don't read books that I want to watch videos too, but I still I want that information. I still think it's valuable to know how other people face the same challenges or similar challenges that you face and how they dealt with itself. If you go click on that link, you will see some of the greatest getting started stories in the world from artists, musicians, publishers, promoters just some unbelievable stuff. If you really want to get a funny when go check out jason flom, who's, one of the top and our guys in the business he recently signed, lord he's had one of the greatest careers in the world, also one of them most funny guys in the world. And while I do love working here, a creative live, we have a little bit tighter rules of engagement that we do it, rent, man live. So were I to show you that video, you would be laughing, but chases lawyers probably wouldn't. So I'll leave it to you tow to find that, when, anyway, go check it out, get inspired in here with these people are doing ok.