As you know, typically we write about protecting your rights. This post is about musicians, of all types, having the right to make music in any format he or she may want.
Every decade or so a new type of music becomes popular amongst the teen to twenty-somethings. With the onset of a “new” hot genre of music an inevitable reaction is harsh criticism. The thirty-plus-somethings who still are fond of the trend that was tops when they were of a “taste-making” age cannot help themselves and shred the quality, craftsmanship or artistry of the the music trend du jour.
I guess it is a right of passage; you get to a certain age and you automatically are permitted to present your opinons on why whatever is hot right now sucks compared to what you like. In my formative years, rap took shape and took over. When I started rolling around in my Chevy Citation with a sideways tape deck and front-only speakers blasting Poor Righteous Teachers, De la Soul and NWA (when I was feeling especially hard) I definitely got some nasty looks from inhabitants of my white-bread suburb of Minneapolis. I immediately dismissed my parents and other elders who disclaimed that Rap was nothing more than unoriginal shouting and noise. They (Parents) just didn’t understand (thank you Will Smith).
Every generation has a similar story. Elvis and Chuck Berry were nothing but trouble makers with all that electronic nonsense and rotating hips. The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane and the Almond Brothers were pot smoking hippies who made noise that was only audible to people on acid trips. Ramones, Sex Pistols and the Misfits were screamers who couldn’t play more than one chord on a guitar. Hair bands came about, and well…I don’t know what to say about hair bands. The point is, every generation has its own thing, its own view point on music and society. That point begets the counter point that the preceding generations typically hate the succeeding generations music and viewpoints.
Enter Electronic Dance Music. EDM has taken the world by storm. DJs who seemingly have no traditional musical ability or knowledge are selling out tours and arenas with their version of music. Is it melodic or overly complicated in production and writing? No. Will it stand the test of time? Maybe. Is it actually music at all? Who cares?
Kids love it and are paying to see it. Yet, the music industry cannot help but get in the way of itself. Complaints by critics and label execs complain that it is destroying the professional musician and his/her chance at a career. Stories of musicians making less money because of the large number of computer programmers currently “acting” as imposter musicians are all over the industry blogs and postings. Complaints of so-called talentless button pushers are rampant amongst the “purists”.
What we can’t seem to understand is why are all of these critics complaining about anyone in the music industry making money? Jealousy is the obvious answer. Laziness or stubbornness are additional answers. The point is, in an industry that has completely changed in the past 15 plus years, another change in popular genres or fan patters should not be surprising. EDM is just another example of a new generation making a choice of what it wants to party and dance to; nothing more. No one is saying you should listen to it and no one is forcing you to buy a dub-step or die t-shirt. Just don’t hate on the kids that do.
EDM has had a huge impact on recent sales from pure DJ’s like Skrillex and Bassnectar to the EDM producers like Guetta and Afrojack. The Pop world has embraced it with acts like Bieber, Usher, Britney and Madonna jumping on the bandwagon and incorporating Dubstep and EDM styles into their major label releases. New festivals and concert series are popping up all over the place and bringing in huge revenue for the promoters, vendors and, oh yeah, the musicians.
So whether you can get down to “wub wub wub” or it makes you stroke out, try to accept it as the natural evolution of music. If you make EDM music, do what you can to learn the ins and outs of the music industry. If you are good, no doubt the late to the party label folks are coming around. Know what you are getting into before you get into it. Your music, whether created on a piano or a keyboard, carries the same rights as any other music. Make sure you protect it and make sure you cash in before the next craze takes shape.
*Disclaimer: L4M is fully biased as it works directly with Music Dealers.
Now that we’ve all had enough time to reflect on, (and recover from) our time at SXSW, we want to share a couple prominent themes we feel highlighted our own experience at the conference: striking change and profound gratitude.
If you’ve been attending SXSW for a while like we have, one thing is clear: the music industry has undergone massive changes, and nowhere are those changes reflected more intensely than at South by Southwest.
Since its inception over 20 years ago, SXSW has evolved from parking lot performances, bbqs and Shiners into a $65 million dollar event which attracts representatives from the world’s most powerful brands, industry heavy weights and thousands of musicians. The still-sizable and ever-changing industry descends on Austin, all seeking their piece of the pie. But what our conversations at the conference revealed is that this pie’s recipe has changed.
Clearly sugar, water, flour just aren’t going to cut it anymore.
Companies and individuals who were deeply entrenched and seemingly in a position of ever-lasting power have been swiftly unseated. New players have quickly emerged, whose foresight allowed them to gamble smart and win big on new online trends, social media and mobile technology. What we saw at SXSW this year were industry pros who were finally coming to the grips with the fact that they may have missed the boat.
The theme of many of our meetings went something like this: How are you guys succeeding? Why am I going to lose my job at a major label when you guys keep opening offices in new locations? How did you get involved with working directly with brands? Are you hiring?
Now, as you all know, the Music Dealers company and brand philosophy is and will always be: Artists First.
Which leads to our next point: Profound Gratitude.
We are nothing without you. This basic principle helped us build our core business, and will forever guide our day-to-day activities. For some reason, the old industry somehow forgot this, or will simply not accept it. Without music, there is no music industry. How can a company possibly succeed in this industry if they think about the music and artists after they think about themselves?
By putting our artists first, our clients and customers know what they are getting. They know that what we offer is legitimate art from the best emerging artists all over the world. Our clients understand the value in that and the weight that it carries with the consumer. Our core belief of Artists First will continue to give us collective opportunities that had previously been unattainable for independent companies and independent musicians.
While SXSW and the music industry may have changed, we can assure you that one thing has not: without hard-working musicians, neither would exist.
Your friends at Music Dealers
Perusing the local trade magazines or attending a music based conference can lead a musician (or someone who works with musicians) to believe that Armageddon is truly here. If we hear one more speech or read one more article about the end of the music industry as we know it, we will certainly collectively go nutso.
The truth is the entire economy is in the crapper. We don’t know one industry that hasn’t been touched (well, maybe crime, if that is an industry). Music has certainly not been immune. However, we here at L4M are here to say that Debbie Downer needs to turn her frown upside down. While the days of multi-multi platinum records and huge advances are certainly on death’s doorstep, the savvy musician can do more than just eek out a living. Here are some things we think musicians should be happy about:
1. The Internet. Long hailed as the assassin of the music industry, the world-wide web offers more opportunities than it does problems if you know how to ride the waves. Not only has the internet introduced the fan to new (and mostly legitimate) ways of finding new music, collaborative websites now allow musicians a means to create, promote and distribute their music. Sites like TopSpin, BeatPort, BandCentral, SoundCloud and Facebook have become essential and typically inexpensive methods for sharing talent, ideas and product. If utilized properly, the internet’s social media platforms can completely replace a label based pr system. Access, affordability and a global reach are definitely something that the Internet provides to the musician willing to navigate it.
2. Music Festivals. Music festivals breath new life and huge opportunities to major label talent as well as emerging bands. Bringing great music to enormous crowds coupled with innovative festival organizers oftentimes bring great results. Not only are festivals bringing tremendous revenues to musicians and the organizers, they offer great opportunities to buzz bands to play in front of huge crowds and important taste makers. On top of that, every festival brings with it industry parties, opening slots for after shows, and tons of press. Emerging bands who strategically plan ahead for a visiting festival can really cash in (maybe not as much as Perry Farrell, but still…).
3. Music Licensing. It used to be that in order to get your music licensed your label or publisher would have to cozy up to a music supervisor. With the amount of media content around the world growing at a record pace (think tv, radio, satellite radio, internet programming, commercials, film etc.) there is a matching need for quality music. Jingles are a thing of the past. Ad agencies with unlimited budgets for music is also rare at best. Quality music that may originate from lesser known musicians but do not carry with it the rigors of publisher and label demands has become imperative. Musicians who work to get their music to savvy music libraries can make money on both up front music licensing sync fees as well as the oftentimes lucrative performance royalties.
4. The Remix. Want to resurrect an old single? Want to make some money as a producer by resurrecting that old singer? Never before has the remix been more important. DJ’s like Skrillex and Guetta have become über rich by making a name for themselves as talented remixers as well as great djs. For popular musicians, remixes by producers or other bands can lead to revitalized sales of a falling single. The remix is a handy promotional tool as well (Lady Gaga will be ever-present again for a while as she announces the release of an entire remix album). Another means of collaboration, oftentimes between artists who would not otherwise work together is definitely a trend that we can all be thankful for in 2011.
5. Vinyl. The LP appears to be back for good. Collectors as well as a new generation of music purchasers appear to be favoring holding something cool in their hands and not just in an electronic file living in an Ipod. While still expensive to manufacture, vinyl sales in 2011 continue to defy the rest of the industry. A positive trend that began several years ago, there does not seem to be a slow down to the sale of the old school vinyl record.
What about you? What are you thankful for as a musician or a music fan in 2011? Please comment below. Let’s stay positive and bring in the joy during this holiday season. Having trouble doing so, slap on the collector’s edition of Justin Bieber’s Christmas album. We have no doubt that you will soon be smiling!
We here at L4M are known for a few things: useful information to musicians and musid industry professionals, witty banter and throwing killer shows in Austin, TX.
The last two years in Austin have been “bananas”. We have moved from Momo’s to Aces with our hip hop oriented unofficial showcase. Last year at Aces, we packed the place with about 850 fans who seemed to instantenously decide to forget their weeklong festival hangover and party once more. Dialted Peoples, The Cool Kids, 88 Keys, Travie McCoy, Bad Rabbits, Kidz in the Hall, and others helped to make a day party spill over into the night.
L4M has expanded since 2010. We’ve added a couple more lawyers who generally do not suck. We have also partnered with a pretty bad ass music venue here in Chicago, The Bottom Lounge to host more shows here in our home town. Naturally, we felt the need to expand our showcase for Austin.
While details are still being put together, we can put a muzzle on some of the rumors and answer some of the questions we have been getting about this year’s festival. L4M, The Bottom Lounge and some otherh sweet partners will be sponsoring a two day unofficial showcase featuring one day of hip hop and one day of rock. As the kids say: that’s what’s up!
Confirmed artists include: The Cool Kids, the Doomtree crew, Pac Div, Blah Blah Blah, The Idle Hands, Empires, Elephant Stone and more. The hip hop show is slated for Friday at Aces (again) and the Rock show will most likely be in the same vicinity on Saturday. Obviously, more details will follow. Stay tuned!
As Chicagoans, we are spoiled with great music and great music festivals. Whether it is a local street fest with unknown but talented local bands, one of the many venues (Metro, Bottom Lounge, Park West…), Pitchfork Festival or the grandaddy of all commercial festivals, Lollapalooza, the Second City has to rank as one of the best music cities in the world. As a music fan the choices are too numerous to count. Often we are left with a sense of regret if we choose to check out Schubas while there is a great show going on at Double Door or we pick the wrong stage at Grant Park and find out that MGMT actually tried during their live set this year.
As fans, these dilemmas are pretty minor. As a band, getting noticed or better yet, getting booked can be overwhelming, frustrating and just flat out depressing. There is a wicked catch 22 situation between labels and bands these days and booking gigs is just one part of it. Labels and investors look for many things when determining whether to sign a band. The label will look at the number of units sold (digital/physical), the number of fans (facebook/myspace), the amount of press garnered, and the number of shows booked (taking into account the quality of those shows).
So a band is then faced with proving itself by doing a lot of work itself. The band and management (if management is in place) must grind it out to show that it can sell or give away a sufficient number of albums, generate its own press and social media statistics and book its own shows. Booking agents are out there but agents will only take a band onto its roster if the band has already proven itself by booking a ton of shows on its own. The band is left with the nauseating decision of whether it is better to not play at all or to play their uncle’s picnic just so it can “book” a show. All of this has to be done while also factoring in that touring and playing live shows may be the only source of income for a band. (You sure you want to be a musician?)
The best advice that we can give to a band who is in this type of crappy situation is to forget labels and booking agents. Just pretend they don’t exist. Once that impossible task is completed, the band can focus on a plan of attack. Let’s assume that the band is talented, has a local following and can book a few decent size venues on a regular basis within its home town. No band is going to make a comfortable living doing this, but being able to take up a residency at a solid venue in a metropolitan area is a really good first step. The band then has to find other bands from the same city and from surrounding cities and states and get them to play at their venue with the hope of reciprocity. Assuming that goes well and the bands from other cities like your band, you now have an invitation to play in a new city or state. As momentum grows, small local tours can be arranged all without the almighty aid of a booking agent or a label. The band has to team up within its own community. Take solace in the fact that there are a million other bands in the same situation as yours. When you team up you are that much stronger.
Now that you have a plan of attack (which may take several months or more to put together), you can attract more fans, sell more merchandise and book more gigs. Wait a second; isn’t that what labels and booking agents are looking for? Ah-ha. Obviously, this takes a lot of hard work, committment and organization. If those attributes are not your strong suit, you better quit the business or get a team together who can help. As we consistently tell our clients, being in a band is a lot of hard work. We turn down clients who are looking for a quick fix or for someone else to get them to where they think they want to be. If you are not committed to making music a full time job, it most likely will not happen for you.
Hopefully this was more motivational than depressing. Either way, we are off to Lolla to make some bad decisions about who to check out and marvel at hipsters in skinny jeans.
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION (SORT OF) OF THE WEEK:
THE BOTTOM LOUNGE – CHICAGO
L4m is psyched to partner with one of Chicago’s best live music venues, The Bottom Lounge. The place is large yet intimate, the beer list is large and amazing and the staff is not large but also awesome. We plan on working with them to showcase both our clients and other bands who will eventually be our clients (or not). If you haven’t gone to a show there yet, shame on you. If you have, then you are super smart. Stay tuned for updates on our collaboration.
If any of you read my ramblings you or are fans of any of my clients, you already know that we had our second annual showcase in Austin last week. Our showcase is a way to promote our clients and let the music community know that not all lawyers suck. We at L4M strive to help artists (not just musicians) treat their art as a business. We routinely help protect work product, form entities for bands, review and draft label and license agreements and, overall, act as the left brain aide to right brain thinkers. Our showcase is just a way to get that across to a wider audience and to thank our current roster of clients. NOW ON TO THE SHOW:
It is now Wednesday, March 24, and I have still not completely recovered from our showcase which took place on Saturday, March 20. To say that it was an amazing show is a huge understatement. Obviously I am a bit biased, but our lineup which included You, You’re Awesome, French Horn Rebellion, Hey Champ, Kidz in the Hall, Bad Rabbits, 88 Keys, Cool Calm Pete, The Cool Kids and Rakaa actually got better on the day of the show! Travis McCoy dropped by to perform a new song with 88 Keys, Tenille blessed us with her vocals on a couple of Cool Kids’ tracks and The Alchemist and Evidence reunited with their Dilated Peoples mate Rakaa to take the show to the next level.
None of this could have been possible without the amazing work and dedication of CATHARSIS NYC. Thanks to Justin Kim, James Kim and Tonia Kim (no relation) who put on yet another seamless show. All of the artists were amazed at their efficiency and organization in running such a giant event. Several commented that it was the best show they played for the entire showcase. If you are even thinking of hosting an event, you need to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More kudos goes to our firm of Stahl Cowen. If you become a client of ours, you are a client of theirs. Without Stahl Cowen’s support, there would be no show.
Finally, thanks to the newest members of L4M, Eric Malnar and Brian Troglia. Both of my partners have made L4M bigger and better by bringing their unique music industry and legal experience to the team. Watch for new entries and articles from both of these guys.
So, if you were at the show, thanks for coming. If you were not there, you missed a great time. While it is impossible to replicate the live show experience (there were about 800 people there and a line around the block at 2pm on Saturday!!!), here are some pics to help bring you a little bit closer to the action. Special thanks to Justin Kim and Tonia Kim for the pictures (All Rights in the following pictures are reserved to Catharsis, LLC).
I’m on the way to CMJ music marathon in NYC. CMJ and other similar music events are good barometers for the industry as whole. Who will be the next band? What are the labels going to do know? How has piracy effected music sales? Etc. Etc.
In the past this indie music conference and pseudo music festival has proven to be a great place to find new music talent and network with creative industry types. This year, the line up is more representative of the changing music scene: a lot of bands that are great, but that you probably haven’t heard of yet. The Antlers, Pitbull, Japanroids and Das Rascist are recognizable names to those in the know and will hopefully CMJ will take them and the hundreds of other bands to the next level.
The networking that had gone on in the past was between labels, pr firms, distributors and radio folks. This year, many of those people are looking for jobs. Perhaps CMJ will have a job fair day?
I’m looking forward to seeing if the unprecedented ease of getting music to the masses (i.e. the Internet) has truly watered down the musical talent or if it has afforded those that never would have had the opportunity to perform in the past to have their talent seen and heard. I’m obviously hoping for the latter. I’m also curious to see what pearls of wisdom the overly entrenched New York industry types plan on sharing at the various panels. My prediction this year is that a lot of the label types have new jobs with smaller (both in size and revenue) companies. So, chances are that the theme will be battling piracy and identifying new ways of getting paid for making music.
We shall see and I’ll report back after my trip.
SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION OF THE WEEK:
Speaking of new ways of getting music to the masses in a creative way, check out my friend Whatzisface’s newest project (click the link below). In the past hip hop artists have been found via the mixtape. Mixtapes were and still are to a large extent, full length albums without a particular theme or concept. They are given away for free usually on a burned cd or now, via myspace download. The hope is the same: someone with decision making power and a budget will listen and choose to develop the artist. Why not change it up? Why not re-invent the mixtape so that people look forward to it like a new album release? Add a concept to it. Make it funny and release it in a cool way. That’s what ‘face has done. Here is one of his latest installments in the White Chocolate and… series. Enjoy.