Music Morsels - January 2002
WELCOME TO THE JANUARY, 2002 ISSUE OF MUSIC MORSELS
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. FEATURE ARTICLE - TO GROW YOUR BAND, THINK LIKE A SMALL BUSINESS by Mark E. Waterbury & Sandy Serge
2. INDUSTRY PROFILE - DAN NOLEN of NOLEN/REEVES MUSIC by Mark E. Waterbury
3. ALBUM CAPSULES - WJJO 94.1 Local Stage Compilation, Saxon, George Fryer Combo, Fran Gray, Cats In The Trash, and Robin Brock - by Mark E. Waterbury
4. SCOTT TURNER’S SONG PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE - Where or where has my little song gone??
5. QUIPS & QUOTES - Stories & Sayings to keep you motivated in your music career
6. UNSIGNED BAND SPOTLIGHT - Songwriter FRED MOOLTEN by Mark E. Waterbury
7. MUSIC BIZ NEWS AND OPPORTUNITIES - compiled by Sandy Serge
8. MUSIC INDUSTRY MARKETING SHOWCASE - the latest and greatest music industry products and services
9. MUSIC MORSELS SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION
1. FEATURE ARTICLE - TO GROW YOUR BAND, THINK LIKE A SMALL BUSINESS
Let’s journey through a typical day in a baby band’s life. First you get your van which you had checked out by your mechanic. You have that special shirt that you wear on stage you don't trust to a washing machine so you pick it up at the dry cleaners. Then you stop at the local printers to pick up the flyers for the show. You gas up at a convenience store and head out of town. Once you get to the town your gig is in, you decide you are hungry so you go through the drive-thru at the nearest fast food chain outlet. Then your guitarist announces he needs extra strings so you find the local music store. Fast forwarding to after your gig, much too tired to drive home you all pile into a room at the local ma and pa restaurant.
So what is the point of this diatribe about life on the road that many are familiar with? In the course of your day, band members (and for that matter all of us) deal with a number of small businesses whose owners are trying to make a living doing what they have cultivated a passion for. Of course, many of us also deal with big corporate chains, but how do you think those businesses got started? McDonalds, the largest fast-food chain in the world started with just one restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois. At any rate, as you patronize these businesses, you have to step back and realize that in order to take further strides toward success in your music career, you need to treat your band like a small business.
What is the reason, you may ask? It is unfortunate in the current music business climate that what you sound like does not really determine whether or not you are going to get signed anymore. Because while there are some people in this business that are still doing it for the love of music, the majority of professionals in the music industry are...well...business people, especially at the major labels and the larger indies. The A&R rep may really like your music, but he is not the one who makes the decisions about who will get signed and who won’t. That will be passed on to someone who is only interested in finances; the number cruncher who wants to know how much money you are going to make for his company. How far you have toured, how large is your fan base, how many CDs have you sold, what kind of radio airplay you are getting are all important factors to the decision-makers at recording labels. And if you don’t have solid figures in those categories, it won't matter if you have a great-looking CD with killer production, and a sound like the second coming of the Stones, Zeppelin or Metallica; they are not going to touch you. So you really need to start thinking like a business person to get through to the business people making the decisions.
Your band’s business plan can be broken down into three basic phases: make money, budget your money, and reinvest your money. That’s pretty standard for any small business. Make money...we all want to do that. And the best way for a baby band to make money is to develop your fan base in your hometown and eventually take your act on the road. You won't make money immediately when you are on the road - just like with any business when they first start out. It takes most businesses at least five years to begin operating in the black. And when you are going on the road for the first time into areas you have never played before, you need to start that process of growing your fan base by checking your egos at the door. Everyone thinks their music is great, but let that translate into a confidence, rather than an egomaniac attitude by not demanding a guarantee from the club booker. Chances are if you are new to the area, you'll only get a small percentage of the door. Clubs that provide guarantees to new original acts are extremely rare these days and many clubs still pay door percentages even after you become popular, particularly in the largest markets like New York and L.A.. These clubs are small businesses, too, and they have been hit hard by recessions, drunk driving laws and high insurance/licensing rates, not to mention the current state of affairs after the 9/11 tragedies. They are trying to make a living as well, and if you are an unproven band in their market, they are simply not going to pay you money up front at the onset. So is it worth it to travel many hours not knowing if you are going to walk away with $500 or $10? If you really want to make it in this business, it is not only worth it, but it is a necessity. In order to actually make money at your shows, only you have the power to increase the money in that till, first of all, by promoting your shows. Do everything you can to get people who have never heard of you to attend your show. Second but most important, sell your CDs and merchandise! Even if you only make $25 at the door, if you sell just ten CDs that can be another $100 or more in your pocket. Learn to be a sales person - another necessity for the small business owner - to ensure that you make some money even if it is a slow night at the door. Also remember that CD sales are one of the most important factors that the 'bean counters' at a label are going to consider before you are signed.
When you start touring, even if you are selling your CDs, you are not going to make much money until you become better known in the areas you are attempting to infiltrate. So it is imperative you budget carefully so you can survive until things start getting better. This is something that every band who has made it goes through and it always means sacrifice. You may want to take that trip to Mexico or buy that new home theater system you have been eyeing, but are materialistic items like this that important when your are trying to make a living doing what you love most? First of all, if you don’t have the passion to tighten your belt and make financial sacrifices for your career, then you probably should move on to something else and make room for those who are willing to make those sacrifices. But if you do want to make these sacrifices, you just need to be careful how you spend the money you earn. You need a band fund for expenses like motel rooms (since clubs do not provide them), promotion, instrument repairs, upkeep of your touring vehicle, advertising, promotion and a variety of other expenses. If you can't get a club booker to give you free food and/or drinks, buy your own at grocery and liquor stores since it will be much more affordable then going to restaurants and bars all the time. I've worked with bands who spent their entire performance fee on liquor at their shows. What a waste! Scrimp and save as much as you can because you need to be able to stay on tour until you can build a following. And then when you start to make some money, you can indulge a bit more....
You are not going to like this, but I am now going to tell you to spend the money you have been working so hard to get. Well, maybe “spend” is too generic a term - the better term would be to reinvest it in your band. This is following the simple old adage: you have to spend money to make money. Some of this reinvesting can go to better recording processes for your next CD, or to make sure that you have enough CDs printed to make money selling them. You should get additional merchandise such as T-shirts or stickers because this is an additional way you can make money at your shows. How about doing some repetitive advertising? When you start to make money, you also need to consider hiring music business professionals to help advance your career. Before hiring any professionals, you should investigate and comparison shop to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck for their services. You may want to look at public relations firms to help promote your band, and radio promoters to get your music to radio stations. Remember when you hire a PR firm or radio promoter that does not mean you can stop promoting your band yourself. Industry professionals are meant to augment your efforts, becoming part of your team. Concerning radio, you will need to find independent promoters to get your music to the few indie commercial stations that are left as well as college and NPR stations depending on your genre. Unless you are independently wealthy, it's probably best to refrain from approaching the huge radio promoters that deal with the major commercial stations. Also remember that if you decide to hire a manager, the primary responsibility for that manager is to provide guidance for your career. They are not your investor, booking agent, radio promoter or publicist. It is slightly possible to find investors for your band as well, and the best place to start looking for them is among your own fan base. This is another reason it is imperative to keep in close touch with your fan base through e-mails, e-letters, web sites, phone calls, and snail mailers, as you never know which one of them may have the money to back a recording project or radio promotion for you.
So here you have some basic ideas about how to run your band like a small business. Investment, patience, hard work, sacrifice...they are all elements to make your small business a success. There is no free ride in the music industry. Many musicians expect business people to invest in them for a percentage of their CD sales. Wake up, kids! Business people are in BUSINESS to make an honest profit. If they take a percentage of your CD sales and you are not doing your part to promote your CD as well, how can they make any money to cover their overhead? Your success is not up to them. It is up to you and you alone. This is YOUR career - no theirs. Music industry businesses hire other businesses to help them promote, market and manage their businesses, just like you will eventually need to hire these entities to help you with your careers. Please note - I wrote, "Hire". Managers usually work for a commission of 10-25%. PR/publicity firms charge you by project or on an upfront monthly retainer fee. Radio promoters charge you an upfront fee and some charge an additional fee for radio adds. Web designers charge you by project. Attorneys are hired by monthly retainer. Business managers usually bill you by project or a retainer. Be prepared to pay for these services if you want to be successful.
Chances are you will need to use investment money for your career from a day job to get the ball rolling or from outside investors, friends, fans or relatives who believe in you, and it may be an ongoing process for perhaps many years until you can derive substantial income from your music career alone - enough to make a decent living. There are very few overnight successes in this business. Be realistic and give yourself at least a five year plan, just like any other business. Don't expect miracles in a year or you will only disappoint yourself unless you have a sizable bankroll and can devote 100% of your time to promoting your music to the masses in every way possible. Learn to appreciate the small successes along the way, be persistent without pestering, and live in the moment. Your attitude is everything. Those are some keys to winning in this very cutthroat, competitive industry. :->
2. INDUSTRY PROFILE - DAN NOLEN of NOLEN/REEVES MUSIC by Mark E. Waterbury
Dan Nolen was born in Jacksonville, Florida, and spent his childhood as a “Navy Brat,” moving numerous times throughout the U.S. and overseas. In spite of his travels, Dan, whose parents are from Alabama, considers himself a southerner and decided to return there for college. He developed a great love for all types of music, and while attending the University of Alabama, he began writing poetry, which translated into some early songwriting forays. “I still write songs, and initially I wanted to become a professional songwriter and move to Nashville or L.A., but I really wrote songs more for an emotional release for me. I’d always been more of a lyricist and not a musician.”
Dan also bartended and managed a bar in Tuscaloosa and he began to really enjoy the interaction with the patrons, as well as certain tasks like picking the music to go on the jukeboxes. After two years at Alabama, he finished his college at nearby Jacksonville State University in 1976. At that time the state of Alabama had just passed a law that you could now open up a bar within a mile of a college campus. Feeling that Jacksonville needed a good bar, Dan and his brother decided to open one. Originally, it was supposed to be more of a college bar with pool tables and such, but their focus began to change almost from the onset when they had a couple of acoustic guitar players perform for thier grand opening. “We built a stage and were just mainly going to do acoustic music and have the stage available in case anyone wanted to just hop up and play. And as time went along, more and more bands that knew about the room wanted to play it, so we began scheduling bands on weekends, and then it turned into almost a nightly affair.”
A college friend of Dan’s named Robert Stuart was working with a promotion and management company in Nashville called Sound 70, that worked with Charlie Daniels, among others. Robert called Dan to tell him he just started working with the reunited Wet Willie and wondered if he could set them up for shows at the club. “They wanted to come down and try out some new songs and he wanted to do three nights with them. So we did that in the middle of the summer and sold out all three nights. And that is really what did it for me. Once I did my first couple of big shows, I just really fell in love with that end of the business - where you bring in a great band, sell tickets, and have people come to the show and have a great time.” So in less than a year, the club called Brothers Bar had become the primary music venue in Jacksonville, gaining a solid reputation with touring bands and also being in a strategic location, about halfway between Birmingham and Atlanta. Dan learned everything he could about booking and promoting on the job and admittedly learned such elements as contract riders, concert lighting and sound and doing outdoor shows the “hard way.” He also learned while working with a promoter in Birmingham named Tony Ruffino, whose company would eventually merge into Clear Channel - Birmingham. Birmingham was also the city that Dan eyed for opening his second club Brothers Music Hall in 1978. The place was too large and ahead of its time, and the 1981 recession forced them to close the doors. They opened a smaller venue a short time later called The Nick, and since that time, that club has grown to be one of the most respectable music clubs in Birmingham. Several years later, Dan partnered with Mike Reeves to form Nolen/Reeves Music, mainly to enter into music publishing, eventually progressing into management. They worked with various independent artists, pitching songs and executive producing records. They moved the company to Atlanta in 1990, and a couple years later, felt Atlanta was lacking a solid, smaller club with great sound. “We found a location that was an old dinner theater, and we opened it up and called it Smith's Olde Bar. It took a while to catch on, but we kept at it, and it’s now a room that I’m very proud of and has been voted “Best Of Atlanta” by Creative Loafing year after year. Everybody plays the room. It’s been a wonderful experience for me.” Smith's and The Nick are also two of the very few places in the area willing to give new bands and musicians a chance with their Monday New Faces Night that brings in unknown bands basically for an unpaid audition.
Nolen/Reeves is continuing with its creative ventures including an indie label as the clubs help them keep in touch with the current music climate. But Dan still enjoys putting on great shows the most, particularly with up and coming bands. “I enjoy the music. I love the idea of putting on shows that are sold out in advance, or having my club available for someone who may be the next biggest act or someone who is supremely talented to reinforce that. I do my best to promote both cities, and sometime you get lucky. We had Pat Greene perform recently, who just blew up out of nowhere. Years ago, I had the Black Crowes come in as a support act, and Train come in on a Sunday for a hundred dollars because I believed in what they were doing. I just keep doing my best to help to move real talent along to get to where it ought to be.” :->
3. ALBUM CAPSULES by Mark E. Waterbury
WJJO 94.1 Local Stage - Rockin’ The Midwest 2001
Saxon - Killing Ground
George Fryer Combo - Melodica
Fran Gray - Singular Intent
Cats In the Trash - Self-titled
Robin Brock - Hidden Power
4. SCOTT TURNER’S SONG PUBLISHER’S PERSPECTIVE
This column really relates to those of you who have songs published by (let's say) "Campfire Music" only to discover that Campfire sold their firm to another company and that company sold their entire catalogue to a major firm like Warner/Chappell, etc.. Now, what do you do as a writer when you call Campfire only to discover the operator says, 'This number is no longer in service"? Firstly, check your contract to see if the copyright expired. Then, if it has, you re-copyright the song. If not, then possibly BMI or ASCAP or SESAC may know where your song is.
The next step might be to call that publisher and talk (courteously) to the general manager and see if they might let you have the song back. Depending on the mood of the person you're talking to and if the song has never had any major action, they may well give it back to you, but on the other hand, you might be telling them about a GREAT song that they didn't know they owned, especially if it's a firm that owns over 100,000 songs. Naturally, the general manager will listen to the song and because of your call, it may spur him or her on to show the song to a major artist; hence, you should leave the song in that firm as they are staffed properly to see it through.
Personally, I have 40 to 50 some odd songs that I signed to various small publishing companies in Los Angeles back in the late 50's that I have no idea where they are today. In fact, I can't even remember the titles yet alone the songs themselves.
One song though that I wrote with Audie Murphy has seen quite an excursion. It started out in "Camp & Canyon" music. Then it was sold to Lawrence Welk's "Vogue" music and finally (I think) ended up in the Polygram Music Group, and there it shall remain because they are ultra-prompt with royalty payments.
Recently, I saw my old mentor Herb Alpert whom I hadn't seen in 20 years. Herb was in Nashville showing the art and sculptures he has created (and they were excellent). Herb informed me that all of my songs that were with Irving/Almo Publishing now belong to the Atlantic Music Group as he and Jerry Moss (The "M" in A&M) have sold all of their music firms including A&M Records (to Polygram).
Perhaps I'll give whoever a call a year or so from now and tell them about some songs that might be re-cut...that's if Atlantic hasn't been resold to another firm. :->
5. QUIPS & QUOTES
You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality. - Walt Disney
Have you ever wondered how some people seem to easily rise to fame and fortune while other people who have equal or even more talent, intelligence and presence never seem to hit the big time? Some of the characteristics behind success are good self-image, relentless drive to be successful and continuous self-promotion. "The most famous people in the world do not sit back and wait for the media to notice them. They run out in front of them and yell, "Look at me! I've got talent to share with the world", says Debbie Allen, author of Confessions of Shameless Self-Promoters. Here are three ways that you can ensure success through self-promotion:
1. Position yourself in front of the people who will make a difference in your business. Create strategic alliances. The real movers and shakers get heavily involved in networking groups and community organizations.
2. Develop a unique selling proposition and become the expert who is invaluable to others.
3. Find out what works and then keep doing it over and over. Use testimonials everywhere you can. The goal is to never let your audience forget you. Shameless self-promoters develop a strong belief in themselves, keep a positive attitude, have contagious enthusiasm, and develop gutsy goals to make themselves stretch. If you don't ask, you don't get and if you don't take a chance, you will never reap the rewards. :->
6. UNSIGNED ARTIST SPOTLIGHT by Mark E. Waterbury
ARTIST NAME: Fred Moolten
MM: Was there any particular factor that originally motivated you to take up writing songs?
FM: I started songwriting about four years ago and took it up as sort of a casual hobby. It was actually triggered by two things: over many years I absorbed music and I think certain elements became part of my way of feeling and thinking about music, but I never thought of doing anything about it until a few years ago. A friend of mine had taken music up as a hobby and played me some songs he had recorded and I liked it. And the second and most important thing was I started to develop computer skills. I am not a performer. I sing poorly and can sort of scrape by on the piano. With the computer, I found out that it made it easier for me to get started writing whereas previously I was unable to do that. But the music and content was in me for a long time. So then I started to take it more seriously than I had originally intended. I had written a number of songs and I decided I wanted to do a CD. I picked those songs that I thought would span a spectrum of genres and would still fit together.
MM: You do a number of different styles of music on the CD. Does this reflect your personal musical tastes as far as what you like to listen to?
FM: Absolutely. It’s the kind of music that only appeals to a niche audience, but that is the kind of music that I like and that would be the only reason I would write a style of music is if it was something that I feel I would know how to express.
MM: Did you write lyrics first and then build the song around them, or did you write melodies and add the lyrics, or was it a combination?
FM: I’ve done it both ways. It varies from one song to another. Sometimes the music and the rhythm end up as the framework of the melody, and it will suggest certain verbal phrases to me and I will turn it into a lyric that matches the mood of the melody. Other times, I have something that I wanted to say lyrically and I searched for the appropriate music to accompany it.
MM: Were the songs where you wrote the lyrics first inspired by actual events or life experiences?
FM: Of the various songs I have written, I would say that all of the serious ones reflect my life experience but none are strictly autobiographical. The closest one that comes to being autobiographical is the one that I wrote about putting a cat to sleep, called “Cat Lullaby”. That was, in fact, right after one of our cats had to be put asleep. All the others were select experiences I’ve had transformed into a different story so that they were fictional in their details, but real in the nature of their emotions. Even a few of the lighthearted songs to some extent reflect experiences.
MM: Tell me about the computer program you used.
FM: The sounds of the instruments are not really authentic, but they are good enough so that I can have some sense of how it is going to sound. I have a keyboard that I also use, and I’m not very good with it, but I’m good enough that I can play melodies and chords on the keyboards and also get the gist of what the other instruments should sound like. Then, of course, I can back edit it and so forth, and that way I can get beyond my own skill limitations as a performer.
MM: At what point during the project did you start looking for the musicians you would use in the recording?
FM: It was after I had written the songs. Once I had the songs, my task at that point was to get them produced, and I contacted professionals to do that. I got Mike Lewis in Miami and Don Vappie in New Orleans, and they were the ones who actually chose the performers. And I did not know either Mike or Don. I asked around and looked around on internet sites. And when I found people whose credentials looked promising, I looked further and ended up talking to Mike and Don, and thought they were the ones for the job.
MM: But you were of course involved in the recording process?
FM: Absolutely, that was a critical part of the whole thing. When I was in the studio, sometimes the musicians would do some things that I didn’t intend or desire and I could suggest changes, but they also had ideas for how to do things that I didn’t imagine, but really added greatly to the music. There were several times when I heard things on the recordings that I hadn't dreamed of which I loved. So it was a very worthwhile experience with interaction in both directions.
MM: What was your reaction the first time you heard the entire finished project?
FM: My reaction was very positive. In my nature, nothing is ever finished in my mind. There is always something I would have gone back and done differently. But that was a small point. On the larger picture, I was very pleased and truly gratified. I thought the production came out very well.
MM: Since you are not a performing musician, tell us a little about your marketing plan for the CD.
FM: I’ve gotten people I know to listen to it and work the word of mouth angle, which is obviously very limited, but to the extent that I’ve been able to do that, it has been successful. The people who have actually listened to the CD have liked it. The wider marketing campaign is through the internet. I set up a web-site and was hoping that would attract an audience with sound samples, but that has not been as successful even though the web site is reasonably well indexed by search engines. I’ve been disappointed, but in retrospect I should not be surprised at how hard it is to promote music through the internet if you are not known.
MM: Are you changing some of your marketing strategies?
FM: Well, I really suffer from the fact that I don't perform. What I’d like to do is get some of the songs to the attention of people who have a name, singers in particular. Not that it would increase sales of the CD that much, but it could create more awareness to my music. Then I could try to get another CD going with other songs that I have in mind. I think if I start with the premise that a number of people like my songs, I know that one reason it hasn’t sold is my not doing live performances and the other reason is no one knows about me. And I also write for a niche audience. But I’m looking towards the long term, and I think that the songs and production on this CD over that long term will begin to gather some audience, and if more people become aware of me, I think it will help me with this project as well as future ones. :->
7. MUSIC BIZ NEWS & OPPORTUNITIES
Music Morsels encourages all of you with opportunities for musicians to email your press releases to MusMorsels@aol.com for possible inclusion in this column. This column will be featured monthly. Deadline for inclusion is the 25th of the month for the upcoming issue.
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8. MUSIC INDUSTRY MARKETING SHOWCASE
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Music Morsels’ Own Scott Turner Chronicles His Life In Audio Cassette Series
Scott Turner Audio Cassette Series Tape #1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. 9, 10 & 11
Are Now Available!
To order Tapes #1 - 11, please complete this form (copy and paste is easiest) and mail with your check or money order for $12 plus $1 shipping and handling per tape ($13 total) to: Scott Turner Cassette Series, c/o Serge Entertainment Group, P.O. Box 2760, Acworth, GA 30102 USA . You will receive ordering information for additional tapes when you receive your first tape.
City, State, Zip __________________________________
Please make checks payable to Serge Entertainment Group. Please allow 2-3 weeks for delivery. Thank you for your order!
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Play a song for me…
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SONGWRITER'S MONTHLY - the stories behind today's songs. For a free sample, call 1-800-574-2986.
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Fall into a place beyond earth listening to music by new age/classical pianist Mark Birmingham. Visit his web site at http://www.rosemeadrecordings.com for a taste of his "Garden Life" CD that offers some true soothing and relaxing music as well as several uplifting, emotive tunes for your listening pleasure. Media members: For more info or a presskit, contact SergeEnt@aol.com.
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That’s it for this month. Happy New Year! Thank you for your subscription. E-ya next month!
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