Archive for February, 2007

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Best email of 2006

February 18, 2007

Date: February 18, 2007 3:44:08 AM EST
Subject: Best email of 2006!  (music related)

This is by far the best email I received in 2006 and I wanted to share it with all of you!  (please see below)

What’s the future? I think I have a unique answer on this because of my personal experience. I was signed to a major in 2002 and recorded one of those $150,000 albums and got $250,000 as a publishing advance and $50,000 in tour support. And the deal fell apart a month before the record was supposed to hit the street. Let me tell you, the only thing worse than having no success at all is having a great taste of it and then not making it happen the way you had always dreamed about. I was part of the 85% of every major label roster that you’ve never heard of. Tons of money got thrown at us but there was no organization around it, no one really steering the ship at the time (I didn’t have a real manager until the very end and he only helped torpedo the deal).

People who are truly successful and make it big (gold and platinum records on the wall) are people who build a business from the ground up and work like the devil every day to make it successful. What about the Britney Spears of the world you say? She was auditioning for TV shows and kids groups and god knows what else from the time she could tie her shoes. She may not be your (or my) cup of tea but she discovered something the public wanted and then delivered it. The music business is finally really becoming a business like any other- the fat is being cut and the squandering of millions of dollars is finally being seen for what it is- a senseless waste of time, energy, money, hope. You have to see this as you would any other entrepreneurial enterprise- you start with an idea and a little start up money and you work yourself to the bone to build it into something bigger. If that something is compelling enough to enough people, help and attention and, yes, money will eventually come. Everything else is smoke and mirrors. The idea that a band or artist will not be successful because of their CD sales being cut into is proven wrong by the hundreds of artists you see and hear on the radio, on TV, touring and filling clubs and arenas and stadiums. They’ve found a way to make it happen. Do you think all those people are sitting around fretting about their lost money? They’re too busy SUCCEEDING to worry about it. Metallica took a minute to stress about it. See how much it helped them with their fanbase, their image, their music, their bottom line. If you’re losing big money due to illegal file sharing then you’re also MAKING big money because enough people are interested in your music. If you can’t build a profitable business around that kind of interest then something else is wrong with the picture. Do you really think that artists who have a couple thousand friends on myspace are losing big money because fans can’t go to Tower and buy their CD?

My deal fell apart because the music we made wasn’t compelling enough to REALLY get people’s attention.  Despite all the money and attention and promises lavished on my band, we never had a chance because WE weren’t ready for the opportunity. And it absolutely broke my heart. It took me two years to get over it and reinvent myself but I am finally at a place where I understand that my success BEGINS and ENDS with me. So people aren’t paying for as much music as they used to. Then I need to work on my live show. People will absolutely buy your CD after an amazing live performance because they want to meet you and take a sweaty, smelly photo with you and get your big, fat autograph. I also need to work on getting more placements and get my label interested in potential cross promotion opportunities and ringtones and whatever else might possibly help get the word out about my music. But at the end of the day, we’ve all been in a room where someone has stepped up to a mic and given us goose bumps and made us feel passionate about being alive. When you can do that, you WILL make a living. If you can’t do that and don’t have the stamina to figure out how to do it, then this probably isn’t the business for you. Lamenting that this is, in fact, a business to me just seems silly. No one’s holding a gun to your head telling you you have to do this. If you want people to buy your music and pay to see you play and invest huge sums of money in what you do, then understand that you have to deliver something that’s compelling to THEM, not just to you. If you want to create high art, the technology to set up in your basement is cheaper than it’s ever been… Art in the real world is only as successful as it communicates. We should all be celebrating the fact that major labels can no longer afford to give false hope to artists who probably won’t be successful anyway because they’re not ready to compete in the big leagues. I was one of those artists and that process of “almost” hit me so hard I almost didn’t get up again.

If you want to make a living purely as a songwriter, move to Nashville and start networking. Or do what Diane Warren did and be so relentless and determined that eventually someone HAS to pay attention. But for God’s sake, don’t be scared of the future or buy into the doom and gloom that there’s no money to be made. This was always a fight to the top of the pyramid. The rules are always changing. Rock and roll hasn’t been around long enough for there to ever be a “way that it is”. Embrace the fact that you don’t have to have a $250,000 studio to make great music, start up your business and work your ass off. Don’t ever expect any help from on high and by the time you get it you’ll be in the best possible negotiating position to take advantage of it. I got more help than I could have dreamed of the first time around. I was just too inexperienced and hard headed to know what to do with it. Make the best music you possibly can and do whatever is necessary to get up in front of people to share it. If the magic is there, things will happen, period.

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One of the best shows of my life

February 3, 2007

Date: February 3, 2007 2:01:40 AM EST
Subject: One of the best shows of my life

So thank you for reading all my endless rantings about the music business.

By now I hope you’ve read the articles in the LA Times with all the stats showing that yes, CD sales are declining year over year and digital sales are rising but not enough to make up for the loss off CD sales.  And I never had the stats to back it up, just gut instinct and a LOT of conversations with folks in the business.

But, I digress.

What I want to share with you today is about a little baned called Keane. If you haven’t heard them, I must urge you to check out their CD.  http://www.myspace.com/keane has some live audio clips up — but they aren’t as good as the songs on their full length CDs.

In any case, I had to write and share an experience that has really restored my faith and hope in the music business.

Keane’s last CD did not sell as well as their first.  It’s a bit more moody, a bit more depressing.  Songs like “Bad Deam” that I thought were about love – well, it turns out the song was inspired by an old war poem.  Don’t you just love that a song you write can be taken many different ways, depending on how you listen? That’s one of the great things about songs, lyrics and songwriting.  You can touch people in so many different ways, even though the song may have been written by you meaning one thing, it can be interpreted differently and that’s wonderful.

In any case, the lead singer of Keane recently checked himself into rehab. And now Keane, having played the Greek Theater last year, has “fallen behind” other UK bands like Ireland’s Snow Patrol.

Anyhow, I saw both Keane and Snow Patrol a couple years ago.  Seeing Keane play the Greek I was convinced they would be the next big band.

Then the rehab thing happened. Which I know got in the way of their tour and their ability to promote their singles and new CD.  Snow Patrol has since rocketed ahead. They are a great live band and I’m truly happy for their success.  I met them all when they played a small venue here in LA so it’s great to see them playing larger and larger venues each time out.

Now, back to Keane.  The lead singer is now how of rehab and let me tell you, what a difference in their live show from a year ago to now.

The last time I saw them they were great.  The lead singer, Tom Chapin, has the most sweet and angelic voice. He can truly SING.  Not pitchy, not off key, his voice truly reminds me of a cherub singing.  So, last time I saw them play the Greek he sounded great.  And chatted up the crowd a good bit. But his movements on stage seemed awkward. He’d dance around his mic stand, basically using the stand as a faux dance partner.  Their songs, while musically uplifting, can have some very depressing lyrics. And that sometimes came across on stage. A rather odd combo of upbeat music with sad lyrics.

This tour, the energy was entirely different.  Tom ran out on stage with the type of energy that you would normally only see at the beginning of a major sporting event. (I can only picture that he must have been doing jumping jacks and running mini-laps backstage – that’s how pumped up he was when he first got on stage).

He’d lost some weight and was clearly glad to be alive, glad to be on stage, singing before a sold out crowd at a venue that was much too small for them to be playing (the Wiltern).  After breezing through a few tunes, including one of their hit songs, he sat down at the piano to catch a breath. I thought to myself, “He better stop now and chat up the crowd a bit” and that’s exactly what he did.  He stopped for a moment, clearly thinking of something good to say.  He talked about how great it was for a UK band to be in LA – how we “do things differently here” i.e. when everyone else is having a heat wave, we go and have snow!  Just to be different.

He joked at different points throughout the show, saying that because he was wearing all black and playing guitar on one song, he felt like Johnny Cash — but then he “fucked up a chord” and was brought right back down to reality.  LOL.  Very charming.  Funny and humble.  What a great combo.

No words can describe the feeling that was in the air that night.  Towards the end of the show, Tom remarked that this was honestly, truly one of the most memorable shows they had ever performed.

Now I don’t think it’s being in rehab that did it.  Well, maybe it was. But truly the change in his energy and attitude were reflected in the show that night.  Several times he came down into the crowd and sang directly to them.  He got the audience to sing along.  And yes, having a few hit songs can help.

But most people probably don’t have a clue who Keane is.

I’m here to tell you that, if they play their cards right, Keane WILL be just as big, if not bigger than Coldplay. They’ve got the songs. He’s got the voice. The showmanship is growing.

I hope you have an opportunity to see them one day.  Or, at least, a show as great as the one I saw Friday night.

After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Rocking the house and leaving a couple thousand fans with an experience they will never forget.  For me, that is what makes life worth living and the reason why I got into this business.

I know, I know, before I go, I better address how this affect you, right? Because you’re an artist and you want to know.

Well, for one, I think it’s really important to get out there and see bands play.  Not just local bands but big bands.  Bands playing large venues. There is something to the energy at those shows.  It’s rare I see an artist or band perform at a large venue that isn’t good.  Sure, you can argue that success breeds confidence (and hence a great show) – but maybe confidence (and talent) lead to success and a great show.

Also, I have to say, Keane treats their fans, their concert goers extremely well.  Luckily, they don’t make the type of music that requires you to be frisked at the door. But they sold tickets to their fans early as part of a pre-sale.  For a reasonable sum, I ended up with 2 tickets 3 rows back on the floor.  So, always treat your fans well.  Reserve the good seats for your fans at your shows –if you’re playing in front of thousands — or three people.  People (your fans) will always remember if you treat them well.

And lastly? Well, lastly it’s late and I’ve run out of advice for the night….

Maybe my last piece of advice is to always get a good night’s sleep.  🙂

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
9663 Santa Monica Blvd. # 320
Beverly Hills, CA  90210

http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

“Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.”—–Norman R. Augustine
“The most important thing any songwriter needs to have is that drive, an ‘against all odds’ instinct to keep writing through all the rejection and all the hardships. These are your stories, the stuff that turns into your songs. I think a lot of people run from these things, but they need to realize that’s what you’re gonna be writing about for the next 20 years.”Jeffrey Steele, hit songwriter.