Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Favorite Tom Silverman Quote

Tom Silverman of Tommy Boy Records and the New Music Seminar fame said the following at a workshop he held one time. I took down his words because what he said really affected me and has stayed with me over the years...and it is really quite prophetic in it's own way.

I hope you enjoy it...I suggest you read it slowly, and more than once, until it sinks in.

"For the first 10 years I was in this business I thought I was in the record business, but then a few years later I realized I wasn’t in the record business, I was in the ‘lifestyle’ business.

I had to provide my consumer base with what they needed that they weren’t getting anywhere else. So I had to identify not what they had, but what they didn’t have.

This is much more difficult to identify than what people have. Everything is created from nothing. So really the art is to be able to look at nothing, and create something out of it.

The reason why independent labels are growing is that Independent labels are down in the low places, so they can see nothing.

it’s easy to see something, but it’s very difficult to see nothing, and all the good stuff is found in nothing.

The independent labels are going to whip the majors because the majors can only see something, and once they see it they buy it.

They can’t create it, because the majors can’t see nothing.

Nothing is a great thing to aspire to. I aspire to nothing, and it’s really great...I recommend it.”

Tom Silverman

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What is a Band Agreement and Why You Need One

A band agreement (sometimes called a partnership agreement) is proof-on-paper that there’s a commitment within your group to deal with the everyday realities of being a professional musical act.

How many times have you heard the phrase “money changes everything”? Well, it’s true, and it’s one of the main reasons that you want to sit down with your fellow band members and work out on paper how you’re going to deal with the successes or failures that come your way BEFORE you start making money as a band or musical group. When money enters the picture, I can assure you that does indeed change everything.

No one wants to admit that they're ever going to be problems within a group of musicians. But, believe me personality problems, or business differences, or career goal conflicts within a group happen.

Why rock the boat by bringing up band agreements? Some bands go on for years without a written band agreement and live to regret it.

But hey, if you feel you don’t need a band agreement, OK, forget about it. Leave everything to an unspoken agreement, to a sense of fairness, to chance. As you read the summary of typical band agreement issues below, say to yourself after reading each point, “Well, that won’t be a problem in my group.” Perhaps if you chant this enough, you can conjure up a musical genie who will protect you from the jealousies, egos, and money problems that cause band breakups and lawsuits.

Should you decide you’re not immune from these problems, save yourself some attorney fees by discussing these issues beforehand. Write notes on how you’ll handle these issues—before you sit down to have a legal agreement drawn up by an entertainment law attorney (at a cost of approximately $150 an hour). These are the typical issues that should be discussed and resolved in a band agreement.

What form of business will the band take?

You can be a sole proprietorship, a partnership, or a limited liability corporation. It’s beyond our discussion here to get into the specifics of each, but do some research and make an appropriate choice. If you start making money with your music, you better realize you are a business. The IRS and other state and local agencies might just be interested in having you pay some taxes like any other responsible citizen. Besides, choosing the right business form is just the right thing to do. You did say you wanted to make money with your music, right? Well, act like a business and choose a suitable business form.

Who owns the copyrights to your songs? Who is/are the songwriter(s)?

Suffice it to say, there are as many possible answers to this question as there are members in a group. You have to take heed and resolve this issue. The real money in this business will come from the successful exploitation of the copyrights to your songs. Music publishing is a huge issue and there are many good books on the topic. If you want harmony within in your group, then agree on who writes all the songs and come up with a fair system to divide up the songwriting royalties. If you do not do this, when any kind of success comes along you’ll be in deep doo-doo about the split of those songwriting royalties with your fellow band-mates.

Share of profit and loss considerations

You will have to define how the money (profit or loss) is divided. All band members could be equal partners and divide the profit or loss equally. You could also distribute the profit or debit the loss based upon the percentage owned (i.e. in case you’re doing business as a corporation, with each person owning a certain percentage).

How do you make group decisions? How will you vote on band issues?

You have a couple choices; unanimous or majority rules. If you’re “All for one and one for all,” then choose the Three Musketeers way of voting. All decisions must be made unanimously, with no dissenting votes. If the democratic system is more attractive to you, then agree to a majority vote; the dissenting members of your group will get to hold a grudge and pout for the next month. (Guess which voting mechanism I’m inclined toward? Well, the subject today is commitment isn’t it? What kind of commitment is there when contention exists within a group?)

Who owns the name of your group? Or, what about leaving members?

Never thought of that one, huh? Well, you’d better. There have been hundreds, if not thousands of lawsuits by members of groups who split up and then fought over which members could continue to use the band’s name. This could be resolved in a band meeting, after a regular rehearsal is over, rather than in a court of law. Consider the following options:
• No one can use the name if the group breaks up, regardless of how many in the band are still performing together.
• A majority of the group members performing together can use the name. For example, if there are seven people in a group that breaks up, then four of them together can use the name.
• Only the lead singer, (name), can use the name, regardless of who he/she is performing with.
• Only (name), the songwriter who founded the group and thought of the name, can use the name, regardless of who he/she is performing with.
• (Name of songwriter who founded the group and thought of the name) and (name of lead singer) can use the name as long as they perform together, but if they don’t, no one else can use it.
• If the band doesn’t do anything, most likely the band name will be treated the same way as any other business partnership asset—meaning that any of the partners has the nonexclusive right to use it.

How will you fire someone who isn’t carrying their load?

What is meant by “carrying your load” in your band? If a band member is showing up late for rehearsals, missing rehearsals with lame excuses, missing or showing up late for sound checks and live gigs, how will you and the other band members deal with that? I suggest you agree to rules for acting like professional musicians. When a rule is broken, your band will have a policy to deal with it. What kind of vote do you use to fire somebody? Choose between majority rules and unanimous.

Ex-members and money—who gets what?

What happens after members are fired or quit? One option: they keep their percentage of money that comes in for past work done with the group. Or, they don’t keep their percentage for past work.

Money issues: band member investments and/or loans to the band.

Let’s say that someone in your band has more money than the other members. They’re the generous type, you know, they say things like “Don’t worry about the $200, we’re in this together. Some day you’ll have money when I don’t—it will all work out.” Right. Until there are some hard feelings, or the generous donor has some expenses and could really use that dough now. Many unpleasant scenarios can happen when money is spent without a clear understanding of how, or if, it is to be repaid. If you have a sugar daddy in your group, discuss in your written band agreement how your business form will deal with that issue.

Spending money and hiring other business professionals

What kind of vote does it take to approve spending money for the group? What kind of vote do you use to hire a lawyer, agent, or manager, to bring in a new musician? Again, the two basic options are majority or unanimous.

Who does what?

If it’s true that musicians often fail in their careers because of a lack of commitment from their fellow musicians, then I find it particularly important for each band member to be responsible for a specific business task. If, for example, someone takes on booking the shows, other members can split the work of getting posters designed, printed, and put up. There are plenty of tasks: getting bills paid, finding rehearsal spaces, sending out press releases. If you’re making a recording, someone will be setting up recording sessions and planning for manufacturing, promoting, marketing and selling the CDs. Until a band has established itself as a viable money-making entity—one that is attractive to labels, management companies, booking agencies, publishers, and merchandise companies—somebody has to take on all the jobs of being a real band. And that somebody is everybody in your group.

Amendment of the Band Agreement

What kind of vote does it take to change the terms of the band agreement?
There are more issues that should be included in a band agreement. I recommend a book called Music Law: How To Run Your Band’s Business by Richard Stim. He gives you a template for an actual agreement plus an in-depth discussion of band agreements, legal issues and reasons why a band agreement is so important.

There you have it. Deal with these issues or they’ll come back and bite you.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Feedback on Unpaid Royalties and the Saturated Music Marketplace

If you have been in the music business as long as I have then hearing the news last week that the history of the music business is one of NOT paying artists their royalties is not anything new to you. I heard from some old friends in the business, and they put an interesting spin on the state of things today, as opposed to the 'old days'.

"A great subject for you to teach I would assume....I've always been interested in the business side of rock & roll...and to hear this story again for the 100th time, it seems that it is no secret that musicians make money from just about everything EXCEPT record sales...touring...merchandise (only since 1980 )...publishing & endorsements, and most important of all...airplay!

if I was a hot new band looking for a record contract, I would sign up with the biggest record company in the world as long as everything else outside of the sales/distribution is MINE !....Prince is doing very well with his business plan...Pink Floyd & Zeppelin are cash cows because of airplay royalties....the record companies rip every band off & bands have to hire expensive lawyers to look thru their crooked books....which costs big $$$....sort of takes the fun out of being a musician if you have to worry about being ripped off to death...don't you think ?...

I remember Springsteen just confused as hell when he heard that U2 GAVE their new song 'Vertigo' to Apple for FREE...the hottest single from the biggest band in the world from the forthcoming release...for FREE....what U2 got in exchange was what?....6 months of TV advertising for the new Apple product using 'Vertigo' as the music bed !....bloody brilliant !....I'm not telling you anything you don't know, but I find it interesting to see how smart bands can get what they want."

From Peter Stupar: Photograper extraordinaire and former A&M Promo Rep

And this feedback on the "saturated music marketplace" due to too many new releases:

"Honestly, Chris, I think the crux of the problem is that there is SO MUCH music out there because anyone can record and put their album on iTunes these days, but most of what's being released will never create True Fans. The music isn't good enough.

True Fans are always True Fans and will always buy your music.

But 90% of what's being put out there is mediocre at best or just doesn't stir the soul.

I hear so much music, all day long in my job. How much do I really care about? Not much. It's just pretty noise. If you want me to buy your music, you need to create something better than pretty noise.

I really need to write that article, "Why Should I Buy Your Music?" One of these days when I have time. A lot of Indie's won't like it, because I'm basically going to tell them that most of them just aren't good enough to merit my money. But it's the truth."

from Musician extraordinaire and founder of - David Nevue

Monday, May 17, 2010

What Is Going On With Soundscan's New Release Data?

Perhaps I am overreacting to the following news, but something doesn't make sense to me.

Today, a report from the current NARM convention stated that there were 98,000 new releases that came out in 2009. I have Twittered and Facebooked my reactions to this today as well.

"What?" I said to myself..."What happened to Soundscan's earlier figure of 134,000 new releases coming out in 2009?"

I have been keeping track of the number of new releases coming out each year for a decade now...always relying on the Soundscan reports for the data I share with you in my website articles and on this blog.

I have startling figures that show in 2000 their were approximately 28,000 new releases put out in that calendar year (major label releases and Independent label releases combine. As the decade has unfolded we can see a rise in new releases year by year, culminating in 2009 with Soundcan's report that new releases in 2009 were approximately 134,000!

This is important data to know about!

Here is a direct quote for you from the recent SXSW conference:

"Rich Bengloff, who leads the American Assn. of Independent Music, dropped some updated industry stats that he said were courtesy of Nielsen SoundScan. Ten years ago, 28,000 full-length albums were released. That number swelled to 134,000 in 2009. More stark, of the 103,000 albums released in 2008, only about 6,000 sold more than 1,000 copies."

Well, Rich knows of what he speaks. He is in charge of the Association of Independent Music, for crying out loud. And he thinks having the correct data is important for his members to know, so what is going on?

Indie labels, artist, and bands,(as I often have stated) need to know what the competition out there is like. So what happened to the approximately 36,000 missing releases from Soundscan's initial reports earlier this year?

You may say "Chris, get a life...being so specific about how many new releases come out each year is not that big a deal" Well, your wrong! It is a big deal!

What if your record was not counted in the true number of releases? What if you did better than others? Wouldn't you like to be included accurately in the stats of new releases and how many copies your record sold?

I won't go on much more, but somebody is lying to us or misleading us.
So,if you have access to the correct Soundscan data on new releases for 2009 I sure would appreciate hearing from you.

You can email anytime at

By the way, IF the true figure IS 98,000 and not 134,000 new releases in 2009 than we have some REAL NEWS here, because in 2008 Soundscan reported that 103,000 new releases came out. So, if the number of new releases is going DOWN after a DECADE of new releases going up every year for the last 10 years....THAT is BIG news!

I will do what I can to research further any facts about these figures!

Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Mick Jagger's Royalty Quote + Comment

I found this Mick Jagger quote about getting paid royalties worth sharing with you all.
The link to the original Blog site is this:

Mick Jagger has an interesting take on whether the internet has meant that artists no longer get paid for their music:

“… it is a massive change and it does alter the fact that people don’t make as much money out of records. But I have a take on that – people only made money out of records for a very, very small time. When The Rolling Stones started out, we didn’t make any money out of records because record companies wouldn’t pay you! They didn’t pay anyone! Then, there was a small period from 1970 to 1997, where people did get paid, and they got paid very handsomely and everyone made money. But now that period has gone. So if you look at the history of recorded music from 1900 to now, there was a 25 year period where artists did very well, but the rest of the time they didn’t.”

Jagger still doesn’t control the music he made in the 60s because of a dispute with former manager Allen Klein. The Stones have previously gone to court to try to get Universal, which owns their former label Decca, to open its books so that they could establish whether they were paid all the royalties owing to them. It seems Jagger still believes that he was short-changed.

Comment on Jagger quote by Anonymous

The Supremes, the Marvelettes, the entire Motown lineup, the early rock and rollers, and so many of the jazz greats, didn’t make squat until the AF of M and the music publishers were compelled to sort matters out under the oversight of the National Labour Relations Board. Many of them died in abject poverty, and/or were gigging until the the day before they died. The only thing they stood a chance on getting paid for was live performance, and their managers pocketed most of that. Popular music has gone to be an alternative traveling carnival and amusement park sideshow venue to a genuine paid trade only since the 1960’s.

It’s important to note, too, that so much of the enforced underpayment and hypercontrol of musicians as a sort of mutant pet dancing bear at the zoo was a function in the USA of political terrorism by the regimes that prevailed at the time (I cannot think of another word to substitute for terrorism, sorry; I knew lots of Detroit rock musicians who lived in terror their whole performing careers up until the blacklist was abolished by Presidential decree by President Ford in 1976. It was physically dangerous to be a musician in rock music then).

I think Sir Mick could hold forth extensively on that, too. There are lots of good reasons why music then had such a political edge to it. It was in response to the high level of political harassment by the authorities. Had the state had its way, we would still be listening exclusively to Bobby Vinton and Fabian and Pat Boone. Few born after 1975 can even imagine what it was like, in terms of political and social pressures, to be 18 in 1968 in either the USA or the UK. To reimpose that sort of pressure would quadruple the teen suicide rate overnight. It’s why I am very leery and oppose much of this “Common Purpose” and social engineering stuff: it’s McCarthyism and micromanagement of people’s lives all over again, but this time coming from the Bolshie side of the same coin.

Come to that, it took an outright unrelenting 75 year war in the courts and the picket line so that film and stage actors could succeed in being paid anything better than working for a fast food franchise. “Bob’s your uncle” for centuries for performers was room and board and a place to sleep. For centuries up until the end of the 1940’s, they lived like and were treated like caged zoo animals and paid not much better unless they developed “side enterprises” which put them under the protection of a political bigwig.

Friday, May 14, 2010

National Record Store Day is Over, But The Stores Still Need Your Business.

Every time I talked to someone I know who loves music, and I spoke to a LOT of them recently, I mentioned the recent National Record Store Day that happened for the 3rd time last month. Almost all those people said that they went to an indie record store that day to buy something. That was great to hear...

But when I was in San Francisco recently I went in to say Hi to the good guys who now own Aquarius Records, the store I owned from 1972-1980. They too said that they had a great National Record Store Day, but...that the next day, and the weeks since-business was immediately back to a normal day's business.

As Americans we love to help out when we feel there is a need, or when a special occasion arises to support a good cause. Supporting indie record stores has come down to this? You support them ONLY when there is a day set aside every year to raise awareness of how important they are?

I don't get it.

I heard that the National Record Store Day was very successful, and that business that day contributed to a week of great sales for indie stores, up 466% from the previous week. Sounds good huh? Well, go back to your favorite indie store now, and ask them if the momentum from that day celebrating indie stores has lasted.

I asked that question. The answer was that after that big splash of a day, business returned to so-called 'normal' real quick.

Because of that one day 'burst' of retail excitement you may have gone to an indie store to take advantage of the one-day specials, limited edition CDs or vinyl releases or whatever.

But think of it this way:


Maybe you have to have worked in a record store to know how important they are EVERYDAY, especially to local and/or independent labels and artists.

Music retail stores need your business more that once a year!

In case you missed this news: In 2000 there were over 20,000 independent record stores around the country selling independent music of all kinds and doing their best to support new music and champion the little there only around 1400 independent music stores around.

As indie labels and indie artists and bands, YOU NEED A HEALTHY INDEPENDENT RECORD STORE IN YOUR CITY or locale.

Look what they can do for you:

1. Take your indie releases on consignment (CDs are not dead yet, ok?)

2. Perhaps they will play your music in their stores. Indie stores are like small
radio stations in a way. If they are good at what they do, they check-out their
shoppers and play music that is appropriate for those particular shoppers.

3. Most of the good indie stores have spaces available for local and touring acts to
put on a live show the afternoon of their regular gig that night.

4. Indie stores can offer space for your posters and flyers, or do displays for you.
This can happen through the many 'indie store coalitions' around the country that
offer at a reasonable price a 'package' of promotional services within each
coalition store's membership: like sale pricing, listening post positioning, a
display option for putting your release in a easy-to-spot place in their store.
Ask you local store if they belong to a coalition.

5. Most employees and most owners of indie stores are 'early adopters' of music,
meaning they are really on top of what's hot and what's not in new releases.

6. Good indie stores, space providing, carry a healthy selection of older music
releases from era's past. Your music came from somewhere, ya know. Do you know
the cool artists that broke the ground for your music style? Good indie stores
can turn you on to the best music you've missed out on.

7. The people who work at indie stores can help spread the word about your music if
they really like it. I have always said the least appreciated person in the music
business is the indie record store owner or clerk. So. get to know them.

I could go on and on about supporting indie record stores EVERY DAY, NOT JUST ONCE

The last thing I will say for now is this: If you think it's hard to establish yourself as a new act, then imagine the world without stores like Aquarius Records, Easy Street, Amoeba Records, Music Millennium, and so many others across the country. Imagine they are more National Record Store Day, no nothing.

You imagine it, I can't. It makes me too depressed to think a day like that could happen.

Support your local indie record store!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

25 Things You Need To Know About Traditional Distributors

1) Distributors will usually only work with labels that have been in business for
at least 3 years and/or have at least 3 previous releases that have sold several
thousand copies each.

2) Distributors get records into retail stores, and record labels try to get
customers into retail stores through their promotion and marketing tactics. And
remember: these days there are fewer and fewer indie records stores around, so
be sure to find out what specific stores your chosen distributor works with.

3) Make sure there is a market for your style of music. Prove it to distributors by
showing them how many records you have sold through live sales, internet sales,
and any other alternative methods.

4) Be prepared to sign a written contract with your distributor because there are
no ‘handshake deals’ anymore.

5) Distributors want ‘exclusive’ agreements with the labels they choose to work
with. They usually want to represent you exclusively.

6) You will sell your product to a label for close to 50% of the retail list price.

7) When searching for a distributor find out what labels they represent, and talk
to some of those labels to find out how well the distributor did getting records
into retailers.

8) Investigate the distributor’s financial status. Thousands of Indie labels have
closed down in recent years, and you cannot afford to get attached to a
distributor that may not be able to pay its invoices.

9) Find out if the distributor has a sales staff and how large it is. Then get to
know the sales reps.

10) What commitment will the distributor make to help you get your records into

11) Is the distributor truly a national distributor? Most large 'big box' stores
only work with national distributors.

12) Expect the distributor to request that you remove any product you have on
consignment in stores so that they can be the one to service retailers.

13) Make sure that your distributor has the ability to help you setup various
retail promotions such as: coop advertising (where you must be prepared to pay
the costs of media ads for select retailers), in-store artist appearances,
in-store listening station programs, and furnishing POP’s (point of purchase
posters and other graphics).

14) Be aware that as a new label you will have to offer a distributor 100% on
returns of your product.

15) You must bear all the costs of any distribution and retail promotions.

16) Be able to furnish the distributor with hundreds of ‘Distributor One Sheets’
(Attractively designed summary sheets describing your promotion and marketing
commitments. Include barcodes, list price, picture of the album cover, and
catalog numbers of your product too).

17) Distributors may ask for hundreds of free promotional copies of your release to
give to the buyers at the retail stores.

18) Make sure all promotional copies have a hole punched in the barcode, and that
they are not shrink-wrapped. This will prevent any unnecessary returns of your

19) Don’t expect a distributor to pay your invoices in full or on time. You will
always be owed something by the distributor because of the delay between orders
sent, invoices received, time payment schedules (50-120 days per invoice) and
whether or not your product has sold through, or returns are pending.

20) Create a relationship that is a true partnership between your label and the

21) Keep the distributor updated on any and all promotion and marketing plans and
results, as they develop.

22) Be well financed. Trying to work with distributors without a realistic budget
to participate in promotional opportunities would be a big mistake.

23) Your distributor will only be as good as your marketing plans to sell the
record. Don’t expect them to do your work for you, remember all they do is get
records into the stores.

24) Read the trades, especially Billboard for weekly news on the health of the
industry, and/or the status of your distributor.

25) Work your product relentlessly on as many of the Four-Fronts as
possible…commercial and non commercial airplay, internet airplay and sales
campaigns, on and offline publicity ideas, and touring…eternally touring! .

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

What Kind of Luck Do You Have?

There are Four kinds of luck;

1. Dumb luck

2. Blind luck

3. Good luck

4. Bad luck

So, as a band-member or indie artist what kind of luck do you have?

Let's look at the First kind of luck:

Dumb luck.

This is the kind of luck that you stumble on, but having stumbled on it, you can't figure out what happened. It could have been either good luck or bad luck, but the point is you were not aware of it, so you either missed a great opportunity or encountered some bad luck and escaped without knowing how you could have dealt with it. Dumb luck happens when you are not conscious of what is going on around you.

Example: You have a listening party and are introduced to someone in attendance who is well respected in the live performance booking business. You are not aware of this person's reputation but they say they love your music and could help you get more gigs. Well, you either say something to sound cool, like " Oh, yeah...thanks", but the next day the person contacts you and offers you a gig supporting a bigger act. You say to yourself " Now, how did that happen" - having no memory of meeting the person at your party,or interest in knowing how it came about. So, you had some good dumb luck.

Conversely, you meet someone at your listening party and but you are so wrapped up in your own ego you don't pay attention to the introduction and land up actually insulting the person who could have gotten you better gigs. They just walk away shaking their head thinking " what's up with that character?" You don't make a connection and what's worse you are not even aware you lost an opportunity.
That is bad Dumb luck.

Blind Luck:

This is the kind of luck that presents an opportunity to are aware of it, but you have no idea how it came about or how to deal with it.

Example: you have always wanted to meet an A&R Rep from some label and you are introduced to that person, but can't remember what to say to them, or it dawns on you that you really are clueless, but remain speechless, not knowing what you next move should be. But the person helps you out and reminds you that they are an A&R Rep from the label you were interested in. That is good Blind luck.

If you meet this A&R Rep and don't notice the hints the person gives you about sending in your music to them, well you have just experienced bad Bling luck.

Good Luck:

This kind of luck you do recognize when it comes along. AND you know what to do about it and how to react to it. You are also very happy and pleased that 'luck has come your way" and you are prepared on all levels to deal with the situation.

Example: At that first party where the booker is introduced to you. You recognize the person's name AND you address him/her by their name saying something like
" Thanks so much for coming to my release party. I have heard about you for so long, and I really appreciate your taking the time to come to our party. I would love to talk more with you about how we might work together." And the booker says "Lets have lunch tomorrow." That is good luck, really good luck. You have done your homework, you knew how to react to the meeting, and you were fully aware of your opportunity.

Bad Luck:

Remember the lyrics to that old blues song "If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." That, in a nutshell is what bad luck is all about. This kind of luck can come about when either dumb luck or blind luck have become a habit for now just attract bad things, like some kind of magnet.

Example: Music business people are always looking for some really killer new artist or band, but you have created a reputation over the years that when your name comes up, those people you have dealt with stupidly or unconsciously want nothing to do with you, and so you lose opportunities, and eventually you are 'damaged goods'
God help the talented but clueless artist or band because you now have nothing but Bad luck coming your way.

Learning about how that evasive thing called 'Luck' works can really open your eyes to the situations you create and/or the situations that come your way.

Stay awake! The career you save may be your own.

Friday, May 7, 2010

What Happens WhenYou Really Connect

I am in San Francisco tonight. I had a reunion dinner with 3 of my best friends/employees and a partner from when I owned my record store, Aquarius Records, in the 70's. Tonight was great. It was like a certain time stood still for a few hours, or maybe just came back for awhile to make this reunion evening a reminder of how important we all were, and are, to each other. But also it was a reminder of what we did at that store...turning-on our customers (and each other) to the best music we could find out there. And believe me we all had our own musical tastes, but those different tastes are what cemented our friendships.

I felt tonight like I have another family of sorts with them. And tonight we reminded each other of those shared musical memories and the customers we knew, and other friends we worked with and we really just picked up where we left off so many years ago.

So that is what YOU can get when you find like-minded people who you trust in this wonderful music business world, a sense of not just friendship and bonding but a sense of a special kind of family feeling that can last your lifetime.

We all live our lives apart from each other; but even though years may pass between contacts (and in some cases years DID pass before tonight's reunion and when we worked together) we will be forever connected.

Another cool thing tonight was that the music scene we worked in back so many years ago were defining times for all us. With almost 30-odd years gone by, now as older people we can reflect on how we went out into our own worlds; some making homes or breaking up homes, having kids-or not, but caring enough about each other that we wanted to get back together to see each other as we are now, and reflect on who we were and what memories we shared.

This was a good night, the best of nights. a rare chance to be reminded of how important music was to us all then, and how it continues to be a big part of our lives now.

"When can we do this again?" one of us asked as we said goodbye.

Soon was the answer. We will make sure we do it again, and we won't wait 30 more years for it to happen.

This is what can happen to you when you really connect with the music friends you have today. Your musical comrades-in-arms.

At least I hope this happens to you someday, you deserve friends like this.

\What Happens

Monday, May 3, 2010

Why I Do What I Do

I started my career in the music business back in the late 60’s in San Francisco working at one of the first ever Used Record Stores in the country-The Magic Flute. That was really a ‘school’ of sorts for me in the sense that my love for a wide variety of music was born there. I hung out every day for over 6 months just diving into all the cool records the owner had and customers brought in. I remember so many great conversations with other music hounds and ‘vinyl junkies’ that inspired and motivated me to want to learn more about any kind of music.

The SF music scene of that era was just unfolding, as was the 2nd British Invasion of bands like The Original Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green, early Clapton and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Yardbirds going through Clapton to Jeff Beck to Jimmy Page and morphing into Led Zeppelin, not mention all the American groundbreaking bands like Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention, and the Velvet Underground. in Jazz there was the prime time of Miles Davis and his adventures in music, along with John Coltrane, and all the way to the avant garde space music of Sun Ra’s Arkestra …and on and on it went. Then to be able to go see these bands at the Fillmore and the Avalon ballroom…I was lucky enough to be right in the middle of a true renaissance in music.

As the 70’s arrived I got an offer to manage a new record store that had sprung up around 1971- Aquarius Records, eventually buying it in ’72 and watching first hand a major shift in music and the music business…the birth of punk rock and the ‘new wave’ bands of the later 70’s.

It was at this time that my love for music gave birth to another love that would be my main source of interest to this day…learning HOW the business of music worked. I was a curious guy. I wanted to know how record labels and distributors worked together, what role did radio airplay contribute to the selling of records, and how important was it to learn what publicity contributed to this ‘game’, as well as observing the live performance industry first as a concert goer, and then as a behind the scenes guy who just soaked up the work that went into putting on a concert and the business of that part of things.

I asked questions all the time during that period, probably driving a lot of my comrades in the music business crazy with all of my questions.

Around 1977 I was even asked to become a DJ on one of the greatest radio stations ever, KSAN the ‘Jive 95” underground and ground-breaking station led by visionary rock radio guru Tom Donahue. Being a DJ was like being on the other side of a fence. I saw the business, as I said, first from a music retailers point of view, and simultaneously as a DJ playing cool music that would then send flocks of customers to my store to buy what I played. “How cool is that” I said to myself.
Then within a year I help start and became a co-owner of my own record label, 415 Records, along with a good friend at that time, and fellow music addict, Howie Klein. Wow, now I was really in the thick of things. Learning everyday on-the-job how and what a record label did…signing bands like The Nuns, Romeo Void, Translator, Wire Train, Roky Erickson and many others.

We did well enough to attract the interest of Columbia Records in 1982 and then the curtain that was slowly being lifted with the inner-workings of the music business really started to rise up in importance and interest to me. I thought to myself “This is an amazing job I have” and the first ripples of a desire to explain what I had been learning throughout those ‘apprentice-ship’years to others came to mind.

I would however have more to learn before I could really commit to teaching others what made the wheels of this business turn. Next up was to quit working with my label and moving from SF to Seattle to take on the position of being the station manager of a non-commercial public radio atation- 90.3 fm. To say the least that was an unexpected learning curve, but one that led strangely enough to my first job of teaching a real class about one part of the music business…Radio Promotion.
Little did I know at the time that I taught my first class at the Art Institute of Seattle, that I would finally find my real purpose in life, my vocation if you will. I was offered more and more classes on topics that related directly to my life experience that I have described here.

I had become a teacher. That long ago faint whisper-in-my-ear thought about how cool it would be to share my knowledge of the mysteries of the music business with others was now a reality.

For 18 years I taught classes on every aspect of the music business, except music law….(I would leave that for real entertainment law attorneys to deal with)
So , here I am some 40 years later (and for the last 15 years as well) not only a teacher, but an author, a consultant, and supporter of any and all people who love music and want to learn more about the business side of it.

That is why I write my books, why I write this blog, why I offer my workshops and seminars on the business of music, why I offer consultations, and why I have committed to interacting with social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter etc. I have this insatiable appetite to not only keep educating artists and bands and any other people who love music the way I do, but I continue to have the same zeal and enthusiasm to check out any and all new developments in this fascinating business of music . We live in a remarkable world of new and evolving digital tools and skills that we can apply to the basic old ‘analog’ ways of promoting, marketing, and selling music.

What a ride it has been. So, I promised to write a bit about why I do what I do, and now I have put it into words for the first time.

I'll drink to that.