Sound Advice From Music Industry Professionals
by Mark E. Waterbury
Readers of Music Morsels have probably noticed in the last couple of issues that we are now highlighting monthly advice from our Industry Profile subjects. This is to augment our mission to provide you with sound advice for all phases of your musical careers. If you are taking your career seriously, you know that you are going to have to deal with a plethora of music business professionals that handle or help various facets of your career. You have the people with whom you work directly, such as managers, sound engineers, publicists and radio promoters, as well as those who you would certainly like to have work with you, like radio music directors, festival and venue bookers, label reps and editors of major publications. All of these behind the scene folks are as necessary to your success as you own attitudes, talents and music. In this article we are providing you with quotes from a broad cross section of industry professionals that we have profiled over the years in Music Morsels. We hope that you will take their advice, perspectives and personal insights about the music industry as well as what they may be looking for in the way of new talent to heart. You never know - one of the following professionals or one or several of their peers may someday play an integral role in your own career and success!
Bill House - Publisher of Performer Magazine
"You have to decide who you are and how to get that across. If you're a real super-slick thing then you need a real super-slick package. Deciding what you are and what you want to be and then getting that out and using that to guide everything. People get bogged down in what do I need or what am I supposed to have. In terms of your package, remember who you are sending it to. Some people have a sort of one-size-fits-all mentality. You should tailor your notes and your package to whoever you are sending it to, whether it is a lawyer or booking agent or label, you need to find out what they need. With the press, present them with a story, something that people pay to look at and they can go, "a-b-c-d-e-f" and have the whole story written in their head. Too many people send in things about how they met in high school or how they were a power-trio, and you can't expect someone to make up a story and fill in the blanks. That's the hard part, have something to write about and something to cover. Present a bit of a story and have photos...that's the trick. It's easier said then done."
Jan Mirkin - Mirkin Management (Ian Moore's manager)
"It's got to be great music and it's got to be great people, because you get so entwined with these peoples' lives that you really have to like these people and want to be around them. So it's great music, great art, vision and the ability for them to be responsible on their end for what I need them to do for their success."
Dixie Fuller - Talent and Production Coordinator for Chattanooga's Riverbend Festival
"When I look at indie bands what I really like to do is take one of the smaller stage bands that nobody in Chattanooga may have ever heard of, and educate them on who the band is, where they are from, what their roots are and what their strong points are. I always listen for tightness, because if a band is tight and their vocals are good and the rhythm section supports that tightness, you've got something to start with."
Victor Somogyi - Manager of Tesla, co-manager of DoubleDrive
"There's the interaction with so many types of people. It's a constant potpourri of people who are thinking and creating and trying as hard as they can to make their careers. It's a highly motivated business."
Angel Davis - Independent Radio Promoter, Sheheshe Music Services
"We have some artists that we call "Ego Bands". They are playing in their back yard and their hometown because they want mom to hear them on the radio. We'll promote them, but we know they are not really going to go anywhere, they will always be a backyard band. When they're forty-five, they're going to be playing in the same beer-bars. The bands that are out touring, have publicity and have a web presence and work on another album after completing their first one, we know they're serious."
Ruta Sepetys - Sepetys Management (Manager for Steve Vai, Lit, Hair of the Dog, Eric Sardinas and others)
"(Lit) are talented, disciplined and hard working guys, and that is the first step in a band. Do all the band members have a common goal and are you willing to work for it? In Lit's case, it took ten years, and that is a long time. They were dedicated. I think musicians need to realize it takes a long time. For artists that want a career, they have to realize how much dedication it really takes."
Jay Marshall - Assistant Director of Student Unions and Activities at Idaho State University
"Even though it may seem like a jaded side of the business, they need to put a good press kit together. Get a web-site up and running, have a demo CD with a black and white photo and a bio. All those dog and pony type things help people get to know you. The other thing is longevity with bands. Bands are a dime a dozen and if you don't get along as players and band members, you're going to be defunct in a month. You have to be in it for the long haul, you have to be hungry and realize to go anywhere you have to treat everyone with respect and not demand the world."
Lance Stinson a.k.a. Banzai - Co-owner & co-founder of M4Radio.com
"It takes a lot of footwork. It doesn't matter how good your product is. You can have the best sound in the world and if you don't get it out to the people no one is going to know about it. That means hitting the web, every different club or newsgroup that does music, and hooking up with other indie bands. Look for other indie bands who are making it on their own and hook up with them, see how they're doing it. Bands really have to do their homework. I've seen too many bands who are good but they don't want to do the work. They think that if you just play good and do a good show it will just come to them. No...if that's how they think it is, then they're never going to go anywhere."
Entertainment attorney Charles Driebe Jr.
"What the average artist and entertainer needs is a lot of education about the business of entertainment. Just the general rules of doing business, and of course part of doing business is contracts, so they need to know about contracts and how they work. There are a lot of aspects of different entertainment contracts that need to be focused on. I see a lot of people put the cart in front of the horse, they try to do the business before they really know what the business is all about. They need to educate themselves and be better prepared on the business end of it."
Rob Gill - Vice President of Promotion and A&R at Spitfire Records
"It's really tough. I've seen that since day one. Bands need to stay on the road as much as they can and play as many shows as they can and instead of trying to make all these friends with the record labels, they should try to make friends in the towns they play in with the local radio stations. If they do enough local shows, the radio station is eventually going to want to get involved. If you're able to play a show and start selling out on any night of the week in a club that holds three, four, five hundred and up, the radio stations are going to start to notice. And when the radio station gets involved they are your vocal point because it's not that the A&R guys don't listen to other people, but if the radio station is hyping you that can start branching out. And then an A&R person will be a little more attracted to it. But you have to keep playing out in your hometown, and once you break out there you have to start expanding out from there, and then you can start getting people to notice you."
Andy Martin, CEO of Deep South Entertainment
"We wanted to get the bands who were the best of the best. It didn't matter what type of music it was as long as it was a great song and it was a band that was really doing something we wanted to put them on there [cd compilation]. For example, there was a song by Marcy Playground on the first one that didn't fit in with anything musically at the time, but we thought it was something that was really cool and unique and we wanted to get behind it, so we put it on there. It's just kind of the attitude we take with about everything. We also got known as people with good ears."
Larry Mills - General Manager of Autonomous Records
"Musicians give up friends, families and regular careers to pursue their dreams."
Entertainment attorney Vernon Slaughter
"The misconception I see with a lot of new musicians starting off is you have to get to a certain point before you need some legal advice or basic knowledge. It's a lot cheaper to come to an attorney in the beginning than it is after you've signed a contract and want to get out of it."
Mark Berschet of HardKnocks Records
"A lot of bands are not even close to being in the reality of what this business is all about. When I tried to be a musician, we used to sit in my garage practicing and thinking some big producer was going to drive by and give us a shot. But it's a business, and you've gotta put more into promotion than into writing and performing.