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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