Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Feel Your Pain

As many of you know, over the last 9 months or so I have recorded the audiobook version of my book "Music Is Your Business: the 3rd Edition".

It is a MP3 audio book, so that you can play it in the NEWEST CD players that are now on the market, OR put it into your computer to play it, and/or rip it so you can sych it to your favorite MP3 player. (i Pod, Creative Zen player, etc) and carry it around with you and listen at your leisure.

But as I went through all the stages...recording to production and editing (with cudos to Andy Boyd of Prescription Audio in Seattle,) to putting together the cover art and all the graphics any CD has to have + the EXTRAS, a free data file of the charts and graphics from the print edition, with more thanks to my graphic artist extraordinaire (Sue Cook of Sue Cook Visuals in Seattle)

I realized that after 30 odd years in the music business, with experience in music retail. independent label ownership, radio station management and teaching music business marketing...that THIS project was my first exploration into experiencing what so many millions of artists and bands have to go through to get their CDs, Music Files and graphics looking great and prepared for the marketplace.

I take my hat off to all you out there for going through this horredous process, and I take back any comments I have made through the years that may have suggested that carrying out all this work to the end is a breeze and no big deal. Well, IT IS a BIG DEAL!

I wonder how many of you lost a relationship along the way, grew weary of the important proof-listening, and proof-reading you had to do, blew-up a hundred or more times with your work partners and apologized even more often to them for your short temper and lack of appreciation of their skills?

Anyway, I have learned a lot by going through all this, and I can assure you that the lessons I learned from putting this MP3 Audio CD out are lessons I wil not quickly forget.

Maybe we should create a special day for these folks. Like there is a Secratery's Day and a Support Your Home Team Day....lets create a Support Your Creative Music Technician's Day!!

I know I have learned a new appreciation for the tedious and laborious work so many creative folks do to get our music projects completed... Here is a toast, in my case, to Mr.Andy Boyd and Ms. Sue Cook. How did you ever put up with all the bitching and moaning I managed to throw out? Oh, I are getting paid for this!.. I guess that could provide some slight motivation. Well, the check is in the of these days. Just give me some time to do what I do for a living....promote and market the danged thing!

Thanks one and all!



Monday, May 25, 2009

Holidays Are A Waste of Time

Bah, holidays!

Who can take time out from twitering, blogging, reading all the Google Alerts that come pouring in?

Not me, and hopefully not you. You're a musician. Either in a band or on your own. The best quote I remember regarding this issue was from a panel I was on at a CMJ conference. (the one that was postponed due to 9/11, and the one that was on the weekend of the anthrax attacks)

Anyway, there were two young girls, from an Irish band there with me (I forgot their names, shame on me) but when we took questions from the audience, someone asked them "You sound so busy, when do you take your vacations?) They turned to each other and said simultaneously
" what vacations"?

Ahh, what a great answer! Really as independent musicians there are no days off. So, when a holiday comes along like this recent Memorial Day weekend, how many of you stopped because you thought you could? It was a holiday!

Wrong...maybe you should think of most holidays way in advance and put on a free show to compete with the all-too-expensive "Star" attractions that are put on all over town. or if you need a time to catch up on any bookkeeping what a perfect time to sit down for a few hours and get caught up.

Ever since the explosion of Interent Marketing, all of us have more to do than ever before!
So, we have another holiday coming up soon...the 4th of July. AND this year it is on a weekend!! Whoa... are you really thinking of taking 3 or 4 days OFF!!!. Yikes i say!

Its not too late to change any plans you have for that holiday and any activities you could come up with to further your career.

Think about it, IF you need some down time, and for sure that IS needed. they don't HAVE to be on a holiday weekend. Look at a calendar and pick some off peak times to rest up, but the thing of it is...the rest of the population HAS to take those typical holidays off to rest up, maybe you don't. Maybe you could entertain some of them, and/or, as I said, take that time to do the backed-up business of paperwork of some kind.

Just a thought, rest up now :-)

Chris Knab

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Some Good Things about the Not So Good Ol' Days

I was listening to the latest release of a client of mine today. I won't mention their name due to some of the comments I have to make about it. I don't want to offend them, overall they made a good new release. But there is a big difference between a good record, and a GREAT record.

I would like to share some of my thoughts while listening to their release because as I was listening I was reminded about the music industry I grew up with, and especially some of the good things about an industry that in the 60's thru the 90's was a whole different animal.

You have all heard some stories about all the rip-offs of young, (and old) artists and bands, and how horrible some of the recording contracts were back then. But before I launch into things I want to stress that no matter how many ripoffs there were, or how the business of music was conducted before the dawn of the digital age, there were also some good aspects of being signed to major label, and even the earlier independent labels of era's long gone..

1. When a record label signed an act and gave them an advance to record that record, standing right beside those artists were legions of seasoned music business professionals. From the A&R reps that discovered a new act, to the label brass that approved the signings, to the producers and engineers who recorded them, to the amazing promotional people behind getting them radio airplay or working the distributors and store buyers, and even the talented publicity folks who knew how to make the press excited about an new act. Many of these old school guys had a inherent talent, and that was the ability to smell a hit record, and how to make it a hit.

2. We wouldn't have the rich legacy of amazing music that we do have without this army of talented label reps doing what they do a record in such a way that got that act's songs to become the hits, and played over and over for many months or even years.
The men and women who created the hits of the past had a skill. We used to compliment
these people by saying " So and so has really got ears!" In many ways it was THE compliment to get back then. If you had that ability you stayed employed a long time.

3. So what happened? Why aren't the thousands of new releases I have talked about so much, (over 80,000 new releases in '08 for example) producing as many lasting songs as they used to 20, 30, or even 40 years ago? One main reason is technology. By this I mean in the past, not every musician had the luxury of going into a studio, let alone having their own home studio, or computer software available to record themselves. What I am leading up to is that maybe it isn't all that great that technology has evolved so rapidly that everybody and their sister can and does record themselves, because therein lies a strange phenomenon: Without an experienced music professional, who has the ability to hear in a recording what is right AND what is wrong with a song? Where are we now? We're on our own, and for the most part we don't always know what we're doing.

4. So, back to my first thoughts while I was listening to the new release by this client of mine.
This band, overall, is amazing. The lead singer is a woman with a voice to die for, and they do have experienced musicians in their band who are quite good to say the least. But, and it is a big BUT...what they lack is the 'business sense' of those old guys who could hear in a mix or a demo, or even a finished product, what was right about it and what was wrong with it.

So, I am listening to their new CD and I am blown away by the first track and the second, and even the third tune, and then the momentum stopped. and the next couple of songs are ok, but I found myself losing interest quickly, and around track 7 or 8, I forget which, the amazing lead vocalist doesn't sing, maybe she does a bit of background vocals but that's it. And what do I hear, ruining the whole pacing of the CD...another voice, a male voice, who can't sing for shit dropping in to fuck up the whole record. At this point I stopped enjoying the CD for the most part, and now it is ruined for me. If I listen again I will have to delete that song if I have any chance of liking it again. What happened? I'll tell you what happened...there was no label guy butting in, and stopping the session and saying loud and clear "What is this??!! Why are we recording this limp dick singer with a lousy voice and letting him ruin a very good recording??"

That is what is different today from the so-called good ol' days. Artists are artists, and they are mere mortals with faults like any of us. Except since they can record themselves, even bring in a fairly good producer maybe, that someone or someones in the group is afraid to speak up when the limp dick member of the band comes in with "his" song.

5. That's it. That is what I needed to write about today. Remember my bumper-sticker comment " Just because you can record, doesn't mean you should" In this case I say...bring back the good ol' days!! With all its faults the record industry of old had more say and control of the artist in the studio then they do today, and why is that? Because in those suppodedly good ol' days, the record label was paying for the record. They had an investment in the record, and they wanted the record to be a hit. Because financial rewards are an important reward and an significant measure of success and satisfaction for everyone associated with the record.

Everyone today who is recording their own music can learn a lot about what to do with that recording, during the studio process, and all the way down the marketing phase of the project.
Do you have the "ears" to hear what is right or wrong for your recording? That's the question isn't it. Watch your egos folks. or pick someone you trust to watch it for you. It will be worth it in the long run.

Chris Knab
copyright 2009 all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Who Can You Trust?

Who Can You Trust
by Christopher Knab (copyright 2009) all rights reserved

I am what is known as a 'Music Business Consultant' and I was just talking with a former student of one of my Seattle-based music business courses I give several times a year. It is a 6 week course that meets once a week for 3 hours. It is a primer course created for musicians and bands who are new to the independent way of marketing and promoting themselves. I often use the analogy that I am the first stage of a potential 3-stage rocket, and my work and passion is to help new acts get 'launched' so to speak. And if they are fortunate through a lot of hard work, talent, and luck to begin to attract more and more fans to their growing email lists, then I feel I have done my job...pure and simple.

But not all consultants, teachers, or even potential managers have the same goals as I do.
Sadly there are a lot of music business professionals, (or former music business professionals) out there who do not share my goals or ethics, and can be very aggressive about promising young acts the world.

" Hey kid, I really think you got something there, and I really want to help you get to the top. For only $600 a month I can promise you that you will have my full attention, if you agree to let me help you and sign this simple contract with me, that will protect both of us."


" I have been to several of your gigs now, and you are, in my opinion, just a few steps away from stardom. I have so many connections in this business that I know I can really help you out.,,,sure there's going to be some costs involved, and I am willing to reduce my usual fee from $1000 a month to only $750 a month. Now you have to understand. I am going to be here for you and help you fight the good fight, but I have to make a living if I am going to be spending most of my time focused on your career. So check out my contract and don't worry about things...Your music is great, and I'm not just saying that, so whad'ya say...lets find a way to help each other out and get your career kick-started."

I have heard variations on the above examples for years.

So, what should you do? How can you tell if someone approaches you and overwhelms you with flattering comments?

1. Check their backgrounds out.
2. Who have they helped become a star? AND what do people who have worked with the person have to say about their experiences working with that individual?
3. What are their real intentions as a consultant, or manager? What is THEIR motivation to be working with new acts?

What I tell people is what I said above: I like to help inexperienced artists and bands learn that there is a business surrounding any popular music. That the music industry is business oriented, and these days start-up acts should take the time to learn some basics about the business of music. More than any time in the last 100 years, musicians and bands MUST learn how to promote, market, and sell themselves mainly to a focused or niche group of music fans that might enjoy their unique style of music.

Also, these days, it is all about making and keeping relationships going. I say that over and over. Many independent and alternative acts get this and are using the Internet and all the amazing tools available to them, but not enough new acts are doing this.

Another thing I want to point out... When I am asked by a musicians "What do you think of my music", I cringe when I hear that question. I turn it around and ask the act " Why do you care if I like your music, I am not your customer, or potential fan" Too many start-up bands and solo performers get disappointed when some current label guy or a veteran of the music business wars tells them that they don't get their music. WHO CARES IF WE DON"T LIKE IT!

The point is... too many young acts think 'old school'. What they should be doing is playing a ton of live shows wherever and whenever they can,,,,THEN they will find out if their music is "good" or not.
Your audience will tell you if you are good or lame, and they are the only ones that matter me on this. If you get a good response from an audience and your gigs attract more and more fans, guess what? .... Now you have something to build on. The same goes for any online
promotional activities you experiment with. Whether it be a growning number of hits on your website, or more downloads or ' listens' you get on social networking sites, Those are the responses that REALLY matter these days.

And that is how I like to work. This is just me, but getting a career started should begin with attracting a fanbase, and as you do so, a funny thing happens...breaks start to happen for you. Things begin to happen!

So how does this rant apply to me and my career as a music business consultant or how does this rant apply to finding a great teacher. There is an old saying:" When the student is ready, the teacher will arrive"

This is how I try to talk to my students and clients. I like to " pop their balloons" so to speak. Just talk straight with them about this crazy business and what their expectations are. If I can convey that in a consultation or a class I am teaching, I feel I have done my job to help them get that first stage of a career-rocket off and running.

You many think this posting has only been a long ad for my services. Believe me or not, but that is not the case. I just get fed up with too many jerks out there promising the moon to new acts.
These types of 'Flim-Flam' men and women are more into exploiting young acts rather than trying to nourish them. They speak with righteous gibberish about how they value their clients so much, they are like 'lost sheep' and the Flim Flammers are the act's shepard....

Yuck! gives me the chills just writing about these folks. I say this: carry a fully charged 'bullshit detector' on your person at all times!! That will pay off more than handing over $600 or $750 dollars a month to someone you don't even know.

This goes for checking me out as well, why should you trust me if you don't know what my philosopy is or what my intentions are?

Good luck and trust your gut. It rarely lets you down.

Chris Knab