MusicBizAdvice.com Editor-in-Chief Randi Reed shares music industry tips, advice, editorials, and observations on the music business. Topics include songwriting, artist management, booking, concert promotion, publishing, indie music, DIY, and other advice for musicians.
It's an article I've had in mind for years, but it never came together until Bieber's arrest pushed me into finishing it. Its original title was "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Rock Stars," a takeoff on the song recorded by Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson (written by Ed and Patsy Bruce). Corny title for an article, I know--that's why I killed it. It referred to an old industry joke that pops into my head whenever a rock star does something stupid.
Readers, I have to tell you...This whole Justin Bieber thing enrages me. To say I'm so tired of seeing this happen to young celebrities doesn't even begin to cover it. That's why it took a few days for me to post the article: I needed to calm the f*ck down. (Some rewriting was in order, too: the line, "My, what a great big ego you have" probably wouldn't have gone over too well with the party it was directed toward.)
Even if you don't have kids who want to be in the industry, I hope you'll read it. There are things in it that have needed to be said for a long time, that no one is saying. It will probably piss some people off, and I'm fine with that.
By the way...I'm not saying it's a masterpiece, or for that matter, even my best writing. This blog and the writing style of my articles on MusicBizAdvice.com are slightly cleaned-up versions of the way I actually speak when I'm talking with friends. So if you don't like my writing, unfortunately, it means you don't like the way I speak. As most people do when they speak, I use a lot of fragments and and begin sentences with "And" or "But" and come up with wild punctuation combinations to convey the rhythm of my speech. I also use the words "a lot" a lot because unfortunately, I say it a lot. ;-) (Hey, It takes a lot of work to write this "badly"!)
I mention it to get ahead of the critics who may try to shut off a discussion that needs to be had. Whenever I write something that pisses someone off, the response is something like "poorly-written." It's just a petty way of creating a distraction--often orchestrated by someone's publicist--to change the subject and focus the attention on themselves. You're too savvy to fall for that, however, so when you see something like that, consider it an inside joke amongst ourselves and have a good laugh. My friends and I do. (Years ago I used to have dreams about hitting them over the head with my well-worn copy of A Grammar Book for You and I...Oops Me while shouting "Page 258!" so that's progress.)
Meanwhile, here's Waylon and Willie singing "Mammas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys."
I wrote this the other day while watching coverage of Bieber's latest antics.--RR
So, Justin Bieber got arrested yesterday.
Justin's been making a lot of bad-boy news lately. Am I surprised? No. One day he sped through my neighborhood before actually getting caught at it. I recognized his very recognizable car on the news a few days later, when he did get caught.
How innocent that all seems now...Except that I knew then that we'd be here now.
I have much to say about all this...I wrote it, but as always when I write quickly, it needs to breathe first before being posted. Stay tuned...
It will probably piss some people off.
"OMG!!! You're pissing people off! Are you sure you want to...???"
Yes. People. It's the music industry. Pissing people off comes with the territory. If you can't handle people getting pissed off at you when you say something, you probably shouldn't be in the business. (Or any business, really. Or perhaps you might want to consider life in a solitary cave, because at some point, someone will be angry with you.)
As a business strategy, trying to avoid having people pissed off at you is one thing. (Particularly when stockholders are involved.) But on a personal level, there are far more important things in life to worry about than random people getting angry at you. (Should you go out of your way to behave in a way that's likely to piss people off? No. That would make you an obnoxious a**hole.) But I digress...
Someone just texted to tell me Justin posted photos of a side by side comparison of himself waving on top of a car, with a picture of Michael Jackson waving on top of a car. This confirms my first thought the other day when I awoke to hear Justin had been arrested for DUI:
Michael Jackson all over again. Except, Michael was much older when he really started to unravel. Michael made it to 50.
If things continue at this pace, Justin won't have that luxury. And he's nowhere close to having Michael's legacy.
I wrote these articles using real-life examples from promo pieces sent to my email box. When I write How-Tos, I prefer to focus on how you can get it right, as opposed to what others do wrong, but the blunders in these were so unbelievably bad, I had to share them with you. (One was from a company that teaches marketing webinars and charges thousands of dollars for their marketing software.)
Here's hoping these tips will help you, and that you'll have more success with your marketing and promotion efforts than the senders of the original emails!
On November 14, 2013 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, live
music industry behind-the-scenesers gathered for the Billboard Touring Awards, as part of the 10th Annual Billboard Touring Conference.
Most of the awards were based on Billboard’s Boxscore numbers, with awards in a few categories
determined with input from touring industry personnel. As its name implied, the
Eventful Fan Choice Award was determined by fan votes on the Eventful event locator
website. Country artist George Strait was awarded the 2013 Billboard Legend of Live statue. P!nk was named Billboard Woman of the Year, in addition to winning the Top Boxscore award, which is awarded for the year's top-grossing engagement at a particular venue.
Bon Jovi won four out of five of the awards they were
nominated for. In addition to the Eventful Fan Choice Award, they won Top Tour
(awarded to the top grossing tour), Top Draw (awarded to the top ticket seller),
and Top Manager.
There will, no doubt, be some blowhard who writes a nasty
remark or two about the “touring industry elite engaging in a self-congratulatory
exercise.” (They’re so predictable, I have them memorized.)
I say, you’re Goddamn right they are. They should congratulate themselves.
Touring can be, and often is, physically, mentally, and
emotionally exhausting. On the performers’ part, to carry off a successful tour
takes an incredible amount of focus and discipline. From behind-the-scenes, the
planning and execution of a tour might be best described to someone outside of
the industry as a lot like planning a huge wedding every night, as it's the only "real life" event most people can even begin to relate to in terms of scale and stress level. The difference is, on tour the “wedding”
takes place in a different town every night, and you have to keep getting
everyone and all the components of the reception to the church on time. Then
you pack ‘em all up and do it all over again. And again. And again.
That’s why I’ve always considered the Billboard Touring
Awards (and their sister awards the Pollstar
Awards) harder-won, and maybe a little more special than some of the other
music awards. During my career I’ve worked for and with some Billboard Touring Award and
Pollstar Award winning promoters and agents, so that’s admittedly part of, but not all of it.
The thing that makes a touring award special is—and this is
no disrespect to the Grammys or AMA’s, or anyone who’s won or been nominated
for them—a Grammy-award winning song or album is made once, by perhaps a
hundred or so people. An award-winning tour is made every night, by thousands.
Congratulations to all my colleagues and friends in the
touring industry who were nominated, won awards, or even just came really,
really close. You earned it.
The articfle was originally meant to be a blog post for this space (hence the blog-style writing of it), but during the editing process I realized it contained the three questions that are crucial for artists to ask themselves if they want to maintain their mental stability while pursuing a career in the music business. So, I reworked it as a post for MusicBizAdvice.com's Body and Soul section.
In this business, or any high-stakes business, people will constantly ask you to do things you do not want to do. Some will ask you to do things that are illegal, unhealthy, against your set of personal ethics, or what many people may consider to be morally reprehensible. Some will even push your boundaries just to see how far they can take you out of them.
That doesn't mean everyone does any of these things, but at some point, you will be asked.
A music industry career can be fun. The "business" part of the "music business" is also deadly serious.
You must learn how to handle this.
Hopefully, my post will give you some ideas of where to begin.
"My God is rock’n’roll. It’s an obscure power that can
change your life.”--Lou Reed, March 02,1942 – October 27, 2013
It’s an interesting challenge, writing about someone for whom so much has
been said and written about over the past couple of days. Suddenly, it seems,
everyone is talking about Lou Reed…even people you’d never imagine knew anything
about his material. (Hollywood being what it sometimes is, I suspect many of
them actually don’t.)
Here’s something you won’t likely read or hear among the
accolades today: I wasn’t a fan.
It’s true...Despite his legendary status (and our shared last
name), I just couldn’t get into his music, no matter how hard I tried…
…And tried I did, because almost every artist or songwriter
I’ve ever liked, respected, or worked with is a huge fan of Lou Reed’s music. (The
famous Brian Eno quote that the Velvet Underground's debut album only sold
30,000 copies but "everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started
a band” is infinitely accurate.) I’m a believer in listening to your influences’
influences, because listening to the music that inspired your favorite artists brings
new understanding and dimension to the music you already love. It can also open
new doors to your own creativity by making you see things in a different way.
In the case of Lou Reed’s music, his music just wasn’t my thing. His
vocal style put me to sleep, and I habitually switched stations whenever the intro to “Walk on the Wild Side” began playing on the radio.
I even—and this is truly a sin—turned down free tickets to a
Lou Reed show my former boss produced at an intimate venue. (I know, I know…)
I do get it, though. Lou Reed’s vocal style and subdued delivery
truly did fit his lyrics perfectly. He was a brilliant storyteller and lyricist who respected the power of the perfect word. Reading Lou Reed’s lyrics on
paper, I always find something—a storyline twist, a turn of phrase, a lyrical
smirk—that makes me think, “God, what an incredible writer.”
I just couldn’t stand to listen to the guy!
But I deeply
respected him. And the honesty in his lyrics. And the fearlessness he often
seemed to have in his interviews, when he chose to give them. (His reluctance
to give interviews? I respected that, too.)
Most of all, I respected Lou Reed’s ability to be himself in
a business that sometimes tries desperately to have you be anything but. From
being an integral part of Andy Warhol’s Factory, to a heroin user who wrote
about life in the Bowery, to a sober and devoted practitioner of T'ai Chi, Lou
Reed led many lives--yet he seemed to inhabit each of their accompanying skins equally true to himself.