Category: musicians

L4M SHOWCASE WAS “OFF THE CHAIN”!

This phrase, not used very often by your humble author, precisely captures the first ever Lawyer4musicians.com Showcase which coincided with SXSW in Austin, TX.  I will have a full run down of how awesome it was but I wanted to thank everyone:

The organizers:  Tonia Kim and James Kim from Catharsis;

Austin Promoter:  Sun Jue.

The Venue: Momo’s (huge shout out to Kate);

My law partner:  Brian Troglia (nice job on security);

The Sponsors:  Stahl Cowen, Music Dealers, Vapors, Karmaloop, and WESC.

And Obviously the Talented Musicians who collectively killed it all day:  DJ Clinton Sparks; Whatzisface; French Horn Rebellion, Hey Champ; Kidz in the Hall, Pac Div and The Cool Kids.  Special thanks to Fatlip who stuck around all day on the 1s and 2s; amazing.

Stay tuned for more updates with pictures and video from the event.

I’m sure I missed some people, so thanks to those I missed.

Packed! photo Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Packed! photo Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Fatlip! Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Fatlip! Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Whatzisface is okey dokey.  Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Whatzisface is okey dokey. Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Dirty face courtesy of Saam from Hey Champ. Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Dirty face courtesy of Saam from Hey Champ. Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Pac DIV. Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Pac DIV. Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

The Cool Kids! Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

The Cool Kids! Dániel Perlaky, cityonfire.us

Thanks to Larry from http://www.mashfest.com for the first video.

Go to the this page for a review posted by Vapors.

BREAKING NEWS: THE COOL KIDS ARE IN!

Pennies will be dropping live at the Lawyer 4 Musicians  Showcase in Austin, TX.  Thanks to some scheduling changes, L4M’s long time client and favorite hip hop duo, The Cool Kids will be performing live on March 21, 2009 at Momo’s between 1 and 6 pm.

See you all there.  Sweet.

Movies and Music, Still Possible Money Makers

From indie to major (bucks)

From indie to major (bucks)

How depressing is the economy?  For musicians and industry professionals who make a living off of musicians, times are as sad as a Cure ballad.  Not a day goes by without a record label, distribution company, or music marketing company shutting its doors.  Up front advances are a thing of the past.  Traditional record deals are dead (which is not a bad thing) and it is getting harder and harder to find corporate sponsors to shell out five to six figure licensing fees.

What is a rocker to do?  Go see a movie (naturally).  Two industries tend to be recession proof in the US:  Movies and Booze.  People like to escape and what better way to do that then going to a movie or a bar and forgetting about the bonus that is not on its way or the third job you just took on to afford gas money for the band’s van.  If you can find a brew n’ view in your town, no doubt it is packed with soused movie goers on a nightly basis.

Unless you have a distillery in your basement, the likely alternative may be to invest in movies.  Granted the majority of my audience may not be at the stage in his/her life where they are even thinking of making an investment.  However, for those lucky few readers out there, this is the time to invest in movies.  State and federal tax incentives limit the potential risk by up to 70% in some cases.

Think I’m nutso?  Think movies are riskier then investing in a hedge fund run by some dude named Ernie Nadoff?  If so, then read this:  SCENE STEALER:  SUDDENLY, HOLLYWOOD SEEMS A CONSERVATIVE INVESTMENT.  See, the New York Times agrees with me too.

Movies that cost between 1 and 7 million are constantly making money.  Think of the different revenue streams:  box office, product-tie-in/placement, dvd sales, merchandise sales, on-demand sales, on-line (itunes/amazon/netflix) sales, etc.  So even those low-budget craptastic voyages about a third rate dance squad can turn a profit.

What about the musicians?  Think licensing!   While the low budget movies that are made today do not have huge budgets for music, they still need music.  Enter the independent artist looking to get his band’s music out to a wider population.  Most indi flix will give little to no money up front but will give a back end participation to the artist, meaning that the band will earn money based on the sale of the soundtrack.  An added bonus is the distribution that the movie’s soundtrack gives to a musician without any distribution rights.  Think of Juno or Garden State; staples of most hipster kids’ ipods.  Several of the artists on those soundtracks did not have distribution but were able to rake in money when the movie and the soundtrack took off (via physical and digital sales).

41_various-artists_garden-state-soundtrack

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM L4M

Regardless of what you celebrate, enjoy the holidays and the music.  Try not to get too down about the economy.  Plenty of Egg Nog and/or Vodka will probably do the trick.  Thanks for a great year and here’s to a rockin’ 2009.

Merry Christmas from Peter Griffin

Happy Hannukah from Adam Sandler

and a HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ABBA!!!

Are you Exclusive (like a Chinese Democracy)?

Welcome to the New Hotel California

Welcome to the New Hotel California

The big rock bands today are more often than not bands that made it big yesterday.  By yesterday I mean in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.  Think of the biggest bands that appear on Billboard’s Soundscan:  the Eagles, ABBA, Journey, Metallica.  How do these bands stay relevant?  How are they able to top the charts with music that is  not entirely new but instead carries selling points such as “digitally remasterd” or “featuring 2 all new tracks”?  The answer:  EXCLUSIVITY.

The days of the neighborhood record shop are long gone.   If you are still buying cd’s you are buying them at the huge box-retailers like Target, Wal-Mart and Best-Buy.  On-line music is no longer the future, its the present.  The result is a dizzying number of potential outlets to purchase mp3’s or download music for free.  Great for the public and some websites, not great for record labels and big named bands or musicians.

Creative stores and music execs have learned from other industries which have had to combat diluted sales streams.   The “YOU CAN ONLY GET IT HERE” strategy has worked for retailers of all types of goods.  So why wouldn’t it work for music? 

A band with a previously established reputation as a big seller (10’s of millions of records sold) will enter into an agreement with a huge store and agree to only release its music through that store. Enter the exclusive sales agreement.  The Eagles and Journey, both represented by Front Line Management, rather than a record label, have etched deals with Wal-Mart that provided that their new releases (Eagles “Long Road Out of Eden” or Journey’s greatest hits compilation “Revelation”) would only be available for purchase at Wal-Mart.  Similarly, Christina Aguilera’s “Greatest” (I did not give it that adjective) Hits is only available at Target.

You may ask why any band would ever want to be exclusive with a monster chain like Wal-Mart or Best-Buy.  Think of the marketing reach that these mega stores have.  With newspaper, radio, television, internet and direct mail marketing materials from these stores consistently entering our homes the advertising and marketing reach is enormous.  Even in the record labels’ hey-day they were never able to match the marketing reach of today’s mega stores.  The proof is in the sales numbers, not the pudding.  The Eagles physical cd sales hit 711,000 in the first week with all sales going through the registers at Wal-Mart.

Guns N Roses Exclusively at Best Buy

Guns N Roses Exclusively at Best Buy

This weekend will see the release of the first Guns N Roses release in 14 years.  This highly anticipated release, just in time for the holiday shopping season, will only be available at Best Buy.  Best Buy has paid an “undisclosed” amount for the exclusive right to sell Chinese Democracy.  Best Buy’s upper management is banking on the millions of anxious GNR fans, the holiday season (albeit during a recession) and the collateral sales (customers buying a cd and an ipod or tv) it will make by bringing the fans into the store.  Will the deal make money for Best Buy?  Only the Best Buy brass will know, but chances are Chinese Democracy will have a long life on top of the charts.

What about the thousands of bands who do not have the clout of Guns N Roses or the Eagles?  Well up and coming buzz bands or even bands who have hit the 100,000 sales mark will not be able to grab a deal with Target any time soon, but options are out their for creative bands and management.  Write an exclusive song for a new music project like Green Label Sound or a website like Imeem.  The cross promotion will have the same, obviously on a smaller level, as the big guy’s exclusive deal.  Partner with an innovative company.  Rapper Xzibit is rumored to have reached a deal with Dodge to include his last release in new Dodge cars.  His sales numbers were automatically increased based on the number of cars produced.   Think outside the box and you will see increased sales and new opportunities.

SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION OF THE WEEK

the whiteshadow at work

the whiteshadow at work

DJ WHITESHADOW is on the road again.  For those of you who don’t know check him out when he roles into your town.  For those of you who do know the whiteshadow, you already know his skill(z).  Download his music and check out his new projects:  DJWHITESHADOW.COM.

You Are What You Own

Now more than ever being independent in the music business is important.  Its importance may be your band’s goal or, conversely, your independence is thrust unwillingly thrust upon you.  The key is making that independence work for you in every possible way.

The typical music recording agreements today include a multiple album commitment from the artist with an option for additional albums.  Unless you have clout, the form agreements coming out of New York, Memphis and Los Angeles will give ownership of all of your master recordings (your songs) to the label.  Ownership transfers even in most 360 deals (the topic of my next post).  The real whopper is that even though your band complies with the agreement and the label owns your music, the normal recording agreement will not include what is known as a release commitment.  

A release commitment is something that every band should try to get from a label.  It gives a date certain for the release of the music that you have turned in for your album.  There are horror stories of artists that have turned in music to a label only to see the label sit on the album for months or even years.  I believe the rapper Saigon waited over 5 years to release his debut album.  Not much of a buzz left after waiting that long.  Having language in your agreement which puts the burden on the label to actually release your language or forfeit their rights under the recording agreement is the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen to your band. 

Just like every other industry in the U.S. right now, the music business is running on fumes.  The Recession is hurting record sales (physical and digital), merchandise and concert tickets.  So even if you have signed with a label, there is no guarantee that your label will (a) be able to fulfill its obligations under the agreement or (b) exist next month.  What happens if you sign with a label and that label’s distribution company goes belly up?  Unless you asked for a release and/or distribution commitment in your agreement, you may be stuck waiting for your label to work out a new deal with another distributor.  Either way your music is delayed in getting out (if it does) or you are back to square one: a great album with no means to get a physical copy out to your fans.

So should you just give up?  Like our friends from Galaxy Quest: Never Give up! Never Surrender

Do not despair.  Remember the title of this post.  Don’t rely on anyone else.  Especially in these tough economic times, bands have to get creative to make a buck.  If you are a band who has a buzz, can pack a 300 person venue, sells out of its merch at its show, etc., traditionally you would look to a label to swoop in and sign, wine and dine you.  Like I said, those days are over and even if they, do you really want to sign a recording agreement? 

It’s time to get creative.  Do everything you can yourself first.  Register your copyrights under your own band name.  Register your band’s name and logo as a trademark yourself.  Use every single contact you can to get your music to the next level .  Look to sponsors (RED BULL LOVES TO MUSIC), like minded third party companies (Apple), concert promoters, party planners, management companies, anyone who has the ability to do what you cannot do yourself.  Go strictly digital.  Contact digital distribution companies (read below) to get your music to websites in other countries.  Do what it takes to get your music out and build your band’s brand. 

Its not an easy road.  You definitely have to treat your band like a business.  But just like other small business owners you will directly benefit from your hard work because you, not a label, own your band.  You will be able to negotiate your own deals, collect 100% of the royalties, spend money when you think its appropriate and distribute income when you want to rather than waiting for someone else to pay you. 

So whether you choose to go the independent route or you went with a label that dropped you or dropped off the face of the earth, you are in a pretty good position.  Not easy, but definitely doable. 

 

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION OF THE WEEK

Check out Digital Distribution Company Seed-Ny: 

Seed is an awesome digital distribution company that works with labels and artists to get their music out to the public via websites and digital outlets all over the world.   They work to license your music to places you definitely have heard of and others you didn’t even knew existed.  Check them out:  www.seed-ny.com and www.myspace.com/seedny.  Tell them lawyer4musician sent you (but only if your music is good ;))

What’s my Band’s Niche?

As a musician Identifying your niche is not always an easy thing to do.  Sometimes you pick your own niche.  Sometimes a niche picks you.  One thing that was a clear consensus in yesterday’s Future of Music (www.futureofmusic.org) seminar was that you need to (1) Identify your niche as an artist and then (2) sell your music to that niche.  Great advice.  But what’s a niche and how can your band identify its niche?

A niche is often defined as “a position exactly suitable for the person occupying it”.  But in music, its a little different.  In music, a band’s niche’s may be in the genre of music that it generally is grouped into by Itunes or Best Buy or by the type of radio station that plays its music.  Oftentimes, the best way to find your niche as a musician is to identify where your fans are coming from. 

For example, Jimmy Buffet has a very particular niche.  A follower of his music even has a descriptive name:  Parrothead.  Parrotheads have a dedicated page on Jimmy’s highly successful (and highly commercialized) web page, Margaritaville.com.  Fans can post their pictures from the latest show they attended, keep up to date on Jimmy’s newest business venture and feel a sense of community with other like minded Cheeseburger in Paradise eaters. 

The Elusive Parrothead Niche

The Elusive Parrothead Niche

A remarkable businessman, Jimmy Buffet has done so well in identifying his niche that he has been able to sell not just his music to his niche fan base, but also beer, hot sauce, a successful restaurant chain, and even numerous Buffet penned novels.  He has identified his fan base and has capitalized on his discovery in a big way.

Some bands will have it easier than others.  If your band models itself after the Ramones or The Kinks, it is clearly going for the punk niche.  If you have two synthesizers and a drummer, you are trying to capitalize on the rising Electro scene (MGMT, Cut Copy).  For genre specific bands, your target niche and consequently your target market is easier to identify.  You will find it easier to book your band at certain clubs and you will be able to sell your merch at specific stores.  Capitalize on that.  Post your flyers, whether paper or electronic, at sites where your target fan base frequents.  Create a community site profile and invite the friends that you already have as well as the other similar bands, clubs and radio station sites that already exist.  Cultivate your niche and watch it grow. 

Uber successful artists are able to cross the lines and appeal to fans of different genres.  Think about the Beastie Boys, Justin Timberlake, or even Lil Wayne.  These artists have been able to go beyond their obvious fan base and “cross over” into new populations thereby increasing the worth of their entire brand.  They have become mainstays on the iPods of 13 year old suburban mall rats, college hipsters and even thirty something professional types.  Their collective niches seem to have no boundaries.

So what about a new band? How does it identify its niche?  What about a band who’s music is not on the radio and who hasn’t uploaded their music to a Itunes, eMusic or Amazon?  Your band may think that it is alt-rock, but maybe your fans are coming from the emo/teen angst scene.  Community websites (a favorite tool of this writer) is a perfect way of determining where and to whom your band should be marketing.  Just look at where your fan base is coming from; what other bands are they into; what type of scene (fashion or otherwise) are they into, etc.  Are your fans blogging about websites like Friends or Enemies or are they more likely to spend time following the happenings on Fake Shore Drive?  Follow the path that is paved by your fan base and you will have an easier time discovering your target audience and therefore your niche.  Once you find it, focus on it and make it your friend.

Future of Music Event and Fresh Faces

Exciting stuff in my world this week.  My lovely and talented wife was named as one of the Fresh Faces in Fashion by Gen Art.  Obviously I have known for a long time how truly fresh her face and her jewelry are, but the fashion world has officially caught on to her brilliance.  Check out her wares at www.tokicollection.com.  Guys, special attention should be focused on Toki’s hat trick www.tokicollection.com/hattrick.html.  It’s the perfect gift for a guy to give to his lady friend.  One purchase equals a year of jewelry and, consequently, a year’s worth of your lady’s appreciation (theoretically).  

Unless you express your love to your significant other through interpretive dance or macrame, the hat trick is a  no brainer; trust me.   For more info on the Gen Art Fresh Faces in Fashion go to www.genart.org/fashion.event.htm.                  

More excitement, if you can take it.  The Hideout Block Party is this weekend and all the folks from the Future of Music Coalition folks will be there in full effect “spreading the word about the importance of net neutrality to musicians as part of One Web Day – a worldwide celebration of the open Internet” (their language not mine).  The block party should be great though as a lot of cool bands are playing.  Check out www.hideoutblockparty.com for more info.

The hits just keep on coming…after the weekend of excellent music and  jewelery purchasing, come to the Future of Music Coalitions: What’s the Future for Musicians? seminar on Monday at the Old Town School of Folk Music.  I will be speaking with some other panel types about how to actually make money as a musician in today’s over-saturated music marketplace.   If you are a musician you can still apply for a free pass to the seminar.  Seminars usually have a NyQuil type effect on me, but this one is chalk full of some great speakers (myself not included) and some pretty interesting topics, so come check it out.

Finally, best band name for a band playing at the Hideout Block Party:   Although it’s tough to beat Neil Hamburger’s Drunken Spelling Bee, I’m giving it to The Uglysuit as they are more of a band as compared to Neil’s Spelling competition and they rock in an appealing melodic way.   Plus they have this wicked flyer ready to go:

 

Jim Morrison Rules from the Grave

The Doors in happier times
The Doors are music legends; rock n’ roll hall of famers. They were led by iconic front man Jim Morrison who’s powerful voice and drug induced escapades marked an amazing, albeit brief, run as one of rock’s biggest bands. So why am I writing about Jim and The Doors now? Because their 1970 band member agreement is still controlling the lives of the three living members.

A recent lawsuit between John Densmore (drummer) and the parents of Morrison on one side and Ray Manzarek (keyboards) and Robbie Krieger (guitar) on the other, was just recently put to rest. The California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal filed by Krieger and Manzarek thereby upholding a $5 million dollar ruling against them and in favor of Densmore and Morrison’s family.

Krieger and Manzarek wanted to go on a revival tour in 2003 but Densmore declined the offer citing his past promises to Morrison and his opinion that The Doors cannot be The Doors without Morrison. Densmore compromised and allowed his two former band mates to tour under the new name “The Doors of the 21st Century”. However, once Manzarek and Krieger hit the road, “the 21st Century” was only seen in small print and it was clear that the two were attempting to capitalize on the fame and notoriety of their former band. (To find out more about the case go to http://news.findlaw.com/ap/e/1403/08-22-2008/20080822023504_40.html)

Through the power of the 1970 band member agreement, Densmore and Morrison’s family successfully sued Manzarek and Krieger. The agreement states that any business deal offered to the band requires the permission of all four bandmates; a vote against by one means a vote against by all. Depending on which side of the case one was on, this provision was either brilliant or shortsighted. Densmore’s probable argument is that the band had the foresight to include this type of strict consent requirement to preserve the image and brand name of the band. While Manzarek’s and Krieger’s likely stance is that the provision was meant for a different time and a different place.

A unanimous consent provision is rarely seen in today’s band member agreements, but is, at times, still appropriate. What may have saved the day for the Doors and avoided this type of nasty and expensive lawsuit was to also include an amendment provision which would allow the remaining band members to amend the band member agreement by a vote of the majority of the then living band members.

If you feel like your band and your band mates are all on equal footing, this type of provision may be the right move. Just like life, contracts should be fluid. Maybe unanimous consent is the right call now, but give yourself a chance to change things around when your band changes (somebody leaves, you bring on a new member, etc.). Again, these are not fun things to think about, but look at The Doors, more than 35 years after their last major album release, the band is still utilizing their band member agreement.

Best Band Name Competition Week 2:

Last week’s competition was a bit off. Perhaps because last week’s nominee wasn’t really a band name or perhaps because I creeped too many people out who actually checked out the Exotic Men of Mystery’s webpage. Not really sure. Here’s a better one; straight forward, evokes a joyful and funny image and near and dear to my heart:

THE NERD PARADE. (its best to picture it, makes the name much better)

Check them out: www.myspace.com/thenerdparade

Tax Write Offs and Excellent Band Names (sort of)

There is something that our benevolent government enacted entitled the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 (see: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-regs/11540305.pdf for text of the important section of the AJCA). Section 181 of the act is all that a musician, a film maker, a video producer or a really rich person with too much in the way of “passive income” should worry about.

This tax break, which is set to expire at the end of 2008, allows someone who spends money to produce a movie, a music video, a webisode or Internet production to deduct every dollar spent against his or her personal income. In plain English: If you spend $100 to make a music video or maybe to make a video journal of your tour, that $100 can be used as a deduction against your income for the year.

This not only helps out musicians looking to make videos themselves, but is a really good way to get your dad or your rich great uncle to pony up some cash to make the video really pop. The tax credit applies to money spent on the production and post-production work (editing, mixing, sound, etc.). Rather than letting a label put you deeper in the whole by setting up a crazy video with Maserati’s, a mansion, live leopards and 30 video hos thereby putting you $100,000 further into the hole; get some people with money together and try to explain this tax break. Better yet, have me try to explain the tax break to the rich people (they tend to need lawyers more often than musicians).

Now for a new section of the L4M blog. I don’t really know who reads my blog, but I have a feeling a lot of the time it comes off a bit depressing what with all the ripping on the music industry and legal crap artists have to deal with on a daily basis. Hopefully you realize that I’m trying to help musicians treat their art as a business so that they don’t get hosed. Anyway, (there I go again), I want to pay homage to the best band names (active bands only) that I have come across. Your submissions are welcome and encouraged. If your band has an especially awesome name, I will link to it and your music (if you want).
This blog’s winner was (emphasis on was) going to go to the Exotic Men of Magic. They were on the marquee at a local rock bar, the Double Door (www.doubledoor.com) which has a solid reputation in Chicago for featuring a good mix of musicians. My wife and I noticed the name and immediately thought it was simultaneously a hilarious and yet intriguing name. Why are they exotic and do they perform magic whilst they rock? I figured they were a classic rock type band hearkening back to the likes of Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden with perhaps a Tenacious D comedy twist. Man was I wrong. At your own risk, check out www.exoticmenofmagic.com. NOT A ROCK BAND. I imagine there were a few confused people at that show. So they are not the official winner, but a good conversation starter nonetheless.
Any nominees of your own?