Friday, July 04, 2014

Shep Gordon: Manager Extraordinaire

As I was winding down for the night from a long day (it's now early A.M.), I happened to catch Mike Meyers talking about artist manager Shep Gordon on Late Night with Seth Meyers...which reminded me I've been wanting to post about Shep Gordon.

If you don't know who Shep Gordon is and are in the music industry, or aspire to be, you should.

Shep Gordon is one of the most legendary managers in the music business. Not famous legendary...Legendary as in, one of the most beloved people in the behind-the-scenes music industry. Everyone in the business who knows and works with him holds him in great esteem.

Shep Gordon is one of the good guys.

If you've never heard of him, it's because he's the kind of manager who believes, as I do, that managers belong behind the scenes. Not trying to be famous. Not appearing on reality shows. Just doing the best possible job to make your clients shine.

Shep Gordon is the guy who made Alice Cooper a star by helping Alice to invent and craft his his image and stage show. He also created the concept of the celebrity chef with Emeril. Those are just two of his many accomplishments.
But most of all, he's a well-loved connector of people. And a very nice guy.

I grew up reading album liner notes with Shep Gordon's name in them, and I can't remember not knowing who he was. (Yeah, I'm that geek.) When I got into the industry working phones, the first time I answered a call from Shep Gordon I was more starstruck than when Alice himself called in. (Sorry Alice, you're great, but your manager's a legend.)

It took a very long time for Mike Meyers to talk Shep Gordon into allowing him to make a  documentary about him. I'm so glad he finally said yes. The result is Supermensch, and  I hope tons of people go to see it.

That sounds contradictory because of my "stay behind the scenes" theory. But artists who are new to the industry need to see examples of really good managers who are good people who care about their clients.

Shep Gordon is one of those people.

If you ask most young artists today, they don't think such managers exist, because the media highlights controversial, leechy, over-the-top, bad apple managers..

I think presenting that picture leads to young artists settling for really bad managers, because they don't know good ones are out there. 

Today's young artists don't have liner notes where they can learn the names of these people. And the trade media have taken on a tabloid tone rather than being the helpful, reliable resources they once were.

So, artists, if you're fortunate enough to have a good manager and a young artist asks you for advice, tell them what makes a good manager, and explain why yours meets that criteria.

Meanwhile, support media stories about good mangers by going to see Supermensch.


P.S. I often hear people refer to crew members or people who work behind the scenes in a derogatory way that implies people on the crew do it because they want to be famous.  (Then they proceed to follow every crew member they can find on Twitter.)
My colleagues are highly skilled, creative people who think fast on their feet. Some of their jobs, such as hanging sound and lights and the rigging that supports them, are extremely dangerous. In recent years other crew members have literally died trying to protect their artists.

The vast majority of crew and people who work behind the scenes love what they do and have no desire to be famous. Seeing fame up close usually puts an end to any desire for it, if it was ever there.

Speaking for myself, fame looks like a colossal pain in the ass, and I wouldn't be good at it. (I blog and Tweet to help musicians, and for my Klout score. People who hire you for certain jobs check it.)

Besides, if crew members wanted to be famous, wouldn't they just use their connections to facilitate it? (Many crew members are extremely talented musicians.)


Follow Me on Twitter @ MusicBizAdvice .

FTC Disclosure: No current financial relationship to the film, Shep Gordon, or Mike Meyers. Worked for Mike Meyers' agent as well as with agents of several of Shep Gordon clients, and a promoter of Alice Cooper shows and shows by other Shep Gordon clients.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Current State of the Music Biz (Especially the Live Touring Industry)

In case you missed it, music business analyst / writer Bob Lefsetz sent out and posted this to his website:

I'm posting it here because if you're embarking on a music industry career, you need to see it. And it's far more comprehensive than I currently have the time to write. Bob's done it for you.

It's going to piss some people off, but his analysis is accurate. There are a couple of artists I might add to the mix, but that's quibbling.

I don't always agree with Bob Lefsetz, but this post is dead on. Even when we don't agree, I love that he tells it like it is and doesn't sugarcoat.

Artists tend to like to have a soft place to fall, so many of them have difficulty hearing the truth. Or sometimes they'll listen, but they want the information you're giving them to be heavily sugarcoated.

This is a tough business. Sugarcoating will kill you.

An eternal optimist myself, as a young artist I had to learn this early on, the hard way. I saw many people fall because people were afraid to tell them the truth.

Sugarcoating leads to things like pushing away people who care about you in favor of leeches who cajole you into investing in their projects and drain your money--or perhaps encourage you to donate to their favorite cult--while telling you everything's OK. They get away with this by seeming to protect you by only telling you exactly what you want to hear. (If you're an addict, they'll even keep you high while doing so.)

The person who can listen to information with no sugarcoating always has the upper hand, because they're hard to manipulate.

If you're the type of person who needs to have everything sugarcoated to get through life, start with your business stuff. Force yourself to read the realities of your business so you know what's going on.

You stand a much better chance of winning when you know what you're up against.

I want you to win. Bob Lefsetz wants you to win.

Start now, by learning about your business.


Follow me on Twitter @MusicBizAdvice.

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Monday, June 30, 2014

I’m in Chris Brogan’s Business Blog Talking About Female Freaks, And Ten Ways You Can Apply It To Your Own Career

Yep, I thought that title would get your attention. It'll make sense in a sec.

This morning I woke up to discover something I wrote is featured in Chris Brogan’s June 26 business blog post. Chris Brogan happens to be the author of one of my favorite business books for creatives, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators.

I’m incredibly honored, humbled, and-I-don't-know-what -ed. Wow...And holy crap!

For perspective, Chris Brogan is a respected business consultant and New York Times  best-selling author. He’s been interviewed for Forbes multiple times, he's written for many business publications such as Success, and he gives speeches about business stuff a lot of creative people don't like to think about. He's also consulted for Disney, among others. His latest book, The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, has endorsement blurbs from Seth Godin, Anthony Robbins, Amanda Palmer, and Steven Pressfield, who was on the Oprah Winfrey Network last week. (Which reminds me...Chris has also been on Dr. Phil.)

"Freaks," in Chris Brogan’s terms, are people who do things differently. Freaks are creative people who don’t fit into the usual corporate structure. Freaks stand out and are misunderstood by corporate types. Or, Freaks may look average, but they don’t fit into their particular industry’s neat little boxes.

As someone who was once told, “You think too much like a musician” by someone who represented musicians and then half an hour later was told, "You think too much like a Suit" by someone from the same company, I could relate. So, recently, after hearing Chris speak, I bought a copy of The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth.

As I was reading it I thought, “This is a fantastic book!” I liked Chris’s concept of monchu and his matter-of-fact advice. His step-by-step plans for people who didn't know where to begin were dead on. The more I read, the more I couldn’t wait to share it with you...

…until page 171, which included this sentence:

“I would love to see the first amazing female freak being her own weird self at a huge corporation in my lifetime.”

I stopped reading, grabbed the green pen I’d been been using for underlining, and began scribbling names in the margin of the book. In less than five minutes I had a list of successful female Freaks spanning not only Chris Brogan’s lifetime, but his mom’s lifetime, and his grandmother’s lifetime:
(Photo: Randi Reed / MusicBizAdvice Blog)

I should add, the subject of "women in business" isn't something I'm comfortable talking about. While it’s true I’ve been one of “the first” or "only" several times in my career and have interesting stories about that, the idea of making a big deal out of being a woman in business baffles me. I’d rather be treated equally at work than singled out or “celebrated” for my chromosomes. After all, the guys don't refer to themselves as "male musicians" or "Men in Entertainment".

Exclusion is another matter, though. Just who the heck was this Chris Brogan character, anyway? Was he a sexist idiot? Or was he a fellow human being who, nearing the end of his book, maybe suffered writer’s fatigue and had a brainfart his editor happened to miss?

I decided to find out. So, I emailed Chris, giving him the benefit of the doubt. I also included the list of women I’d written in the margin of his book, with a couple of sentences about what made each one a “Freak” according to his terms of Freakiness in the book. Meanwhile, I wondered how or if I could still recommend Chris's book. Damn that page 171!!!

I fully expected no response, or perhaps a defensive one. A book is an author’s baby, after all, and who the heck was I to tell a best-selling business author what he’d omitted?

Chris couldn’t have been nicer about it. He emailed back with a friendly reply, and as it turns out, he liked my list. We had a nice email exchange, and I’d be pleased to have Chris as part of my monchu any day. 

Expecting that to be all, this morning I was pleasantly surprised to hear about this post:

Chris Brogan printed my list, word for word, giving me full credit. Then he went the extra mile by linking to my bio. (Thank you, Chris. That was really cool of you!)

So, fellow Freaks, what can you take away from this?

1. Be nice, but stand up for yourself.
2. State your case in a way that cuts the other person some slack.
3. Wait and re-read that email, Tweet, or Facebook post instead of just firing it off.
4. Be open to what the other person has to say in response.

5. Look for common ground. (Chris Brogan and I have the same "would like to meet" business mentor: Sir Richard Branson.)

6. Let go of the outcome.  

7. When someone shares something with you, be generous in giving them credit, as Chris did.

8. Go the extra mile: give a little more than might be expected.

9. When someone acknowledges you or something you've done, be appreciative and grateful, and use that to open the next door--even if you're a little uncomfortable promoting yourself.You've gotta eat, so work it.

 …and lastly…

10.  Read Chris’s book!!! There’s great stuff in there. (No, this link isn't an affiliate link. Timing, people, timing.)

Follow me on Twitter @MusicBizAdvice .

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fake Reality? ABC Rising Star Talent Competition's "Surprise" Instagram Contestant Macy Kate Came to the Show Already Repped By a Major Talent Agency and Worked with Ludacris Producers

So, tonight I watched the premiere of ABC's new talent show, Rising Star...

And I'm crying "Foul!!!"

So foul, in fact, that I'm writing this post directly into Blogger instead of writing a draft first like I usually do.

Did the producers think no one would notice that the "surprise" Instagram contestant from the audience (Macy Kate) looked considerably more polished and put together for TV than the other audience members?

That was the first thing I noticed: unlike the audience members around her, Macy Kate had obviously been brushed and currycombed like a prized show pony.

"I wonder if she's insurance in case the amateur contestants fall apart..." I thought to myself. 

Then later in the show, we're shown her obviously expensive, pro-shot music video "Instagram Audition" entry that supposedly "won" her a place on the show. Even host Josh Groban commented on the obvious professionalism of it. Hmmm...

"I guess she could have Kickstartered it," I said aloud to my sis, trying to find some benefit of doubt left for the 16-year old contestant. (Ragging on an adult is one thing. This is a teenager, after all.)

Still, it looked a little pricey for a Kickstarter video. Maybe her parents were off the charts wealthy? Or maybe she used to be signed to a label that dropped a bunch of artists in a merger? She did look kind of familiar, and dropped artists appear on talent competitions all the time. (Rules usually state that you can't be "currently" repped).

Or, maybe she's actually a current client of Paradigm Talent Agency, a major talent agency in Beverly Hills.

If you're not familiar with Paradigm, while they're less-talked about than they once were thanks to mergers that turned William Morris into the now-behemoth WME, Paradigm is still big, and their huge roster boasts some current hotshots, as well as legends. (Ed Sheeran, Toby Keith, Solange, The Lumineers, Stevie Nicks, and Aerosmith all come to mind.)

Paradigm also has on its roster at least one American Idol alum: Taylor Hicks. As it happens, Rising Star Executive Producer Ken Warwick also executive produces Idol.

Did the show not stop to think that while we have our devices in our hands ready to vote with the Rising Star app, we're also Googling the contestants--especially the ones we suspect are seasoned pros?

Did the show not realize that before we'd even finished wondering aloud about the pro-shot video, we already knew Macy Kate is on the Paradigm roster, repped by a fairly well-known booking agent, has recorded with Sean Kingston, has a You Tube partnership with Sony/ATV,  and has endorsements for Uber,  Samsung, Jewel Mint, and others? 

(While we're at it, is she 16 or 17? Rising Star and Macy Kate's talent agency can't quite seem to agree.)

And wait a minute...What's this?

According to her agency website Macy Kate "is currently working with" Rock City, the songwriting /production duo, who's worked with a host former Idol winners, and major artists...

...including--ta da--Rising Star judge Ludacris.

Wow. Just wow.

At least judge Brad Paisley said he and contestant Sarah Darling have mutual friends...

That, I'd actually expect and would be OK with: Sarah Darling's been kicking around Nashville since moving there straight out of high school. She's now 31 and was signed to a label at one point but got dropped. Nashville's a pretty tight clique, but if you've been around long enough and have been working your butt off all that time, you're probably going to be just a couple of degrees of separation from most people in the industry there. If you do it right, that's how the business works.

So, that didn't bother me enough to Google.

Besides, by then, there was already enough to make me question the validity of this "reality" competition that I didn't need to. A currently repped contestant was more than enough for me to cry foul. 

Anybody got a copy of the rules for this thing?

And is it just me, or are "reality" shows starting to get really sloppy about details?

Edited to Add: I Googled Sarah Darling, and she had a single that went to #34 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart two years ago. She's also a regular performer at the Grand Ole Opry.

P.S. Macy Kate is a apparently a veteran of other shows on the "Reality" Competition Show circuit. None of this is her fault, by the way. She's very talented. But whomever's advising her seems to have a lack of foresight and creativity. If they're trying to work a publicity angle, it's the wrong one. She's a teenager, people. [Shaking My Head...]

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Saturday, May 31, 2014 To Accept Bitcoin As Payment For Services (And Becomes One of the First Music Business Consultancy Firms To Accept Bitcoin)

Los Angeles, CA 5/31/ will accept Bitcoin virtual currency as payment for its music consultancy services starting in June, Founder Randi Reed announced on the MusicBizAdvice Blog on Friday.

The move places in position to be one of the first, if not the first, music business consultancy firms to accept Bitcoin virtual currency, as well as one of the first music business service providers to accept it.

It also happens just as many independent artists on the road at the height of concert season discover the hazards of attempting to manage themselves, or realize the cousin they hired to be their tour manager doesn’t know what he’s doing after all.
Says Reed, “Creative people need a variety of solutions. Bitcoin is a great option for Indie Musicians who don’t have a lot of immediate cash flow but need urgent advice about how to market their music or manage their band when something goes wrong on the road. A lot of them have Bitcoin they bought a couple of tours ago but never used because the services they needed didn’t accept it. By giving artists the choice of using Bitcoin, helps them bridge that gap, which frees up more of their traditional cash for other things they need.”

Bitcoin will not replace other forms of payment accepts, says Reed. “Bitcoin is one more avenue to make it easier for artists. We’re all about creative solutions, like the consultations I do through (which does pro-rated per-minute billing for telephone consultations). You have to make it easy for clients in a variety of situations.” 

Why haven’t more businesses embraced Bitcoin?  “They’re nervous about the fluctuation in value. But we don’t see it that way. As an ex-musician, it’s very important to me to make things easy for musicians, not harder.” will use Coinbase, which converts Bitcoin into U.S. dollars, for processing its Bitcoin payments. On Friday, DirecTV also announced it will accept payment from its customers via Coinbase.

About is a resource for indie musicians, songwriters, self-managed bands, and new managers and tour managers. Established in 1997, has resources including a free website and online magazine by music industry professionals experienced in booking, artist management, and concert promotion at the Platinum level, as well as offline short-term consulting services.

The website launched at its current URL in 2003 and has been utilized by Volunteer Lawyers of the Arts, Song U, and E! News. It’s also been featured on the News page of Bon Jovi’s official website, and its This Month in Music History was displayed at the entrance to the Hard Rock Cafe Surfers Paradise.

About Randi Reed: Randi Reed is an independent music business consultant who has worked in artist management, booking, and concert promotion from the local to Platinum level. She developed in 1997 while battling a chronic autoimmune disease, CFIDS (sometimes known as CFS).