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How much does a producer matter? And Question and Answers about the music business

November 7, 2007

Date: November 7, 2007 2:17:21 AM EST
Subject: How much does a producer matter?  And Question and Answers about the music business

I’m constantly amazed at how demo versions of hit songs sound almost exactly like the final version that’s heard on the radio or MTV/VH1.

A lot of artists seem to think a “big name” producer will make them famous.

But really, the most important thing is you — the artist.

The song and music are truly what matters.

A great song will sound great as a demo – on acoustic guitar, on a simple piano recorded with vocal.

I see so many artists go crazy spending a lot of money to hire a ‘name’ producer to work with them.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Having a name producer can open doors.  A lot of doors.  Major labels particularly take interest when you have a producer attached to you that has produced other albums and artists that have sold millions, especially hit records that are charting Billboard’s top 40 right now.  This is what’s referred to as a “hot” producer.  Keep in mind, however, that there are dozens of these producers out there and many of them produce lots of indie artists and bands (not Timbaland but others).

My point is, hiring a “name” producer may open some doors — but it will ultimately only take you so far.

I’ve seen so many artists hire big producers and then sit back and think that’s all they need to do.  WRONG!

You still need to get out there, promote, promote, promote, play gigs, work myspace, network with other bands and people in the industry, do your own publicity, etc.

The trick is, these days, to make the best record you can for the LEAST amount of money.  Yes, you heard me correctly.  The LEAST amount of money.

Why?  Because whether you’re completely indie or signed to a label, the less money you spend making a record, the less you have to recoup.

And besides, when I’ve shopped bands, I’ve gotten just as much interest off the initial band produced demos (which were of course very, very well produced – thank you; they didn’t sound like they were recorded underwater or with 3 tracks and a drum machine) as I have when I’ve had big name producers attached.

So, if you get interest from a big name producer, and they’re willing to work on spec and give you a fair deal, go for it.  But if they want big bucks to work with you, right now, I’d say you should pass.  Because how on earth are you going to recoup that $20,000-60,000?  Only if you get a major label deal and/or sell thousands and thousands of CDs.  And besides, even if you sell 10,000 CDs and make $100,000, would you rather have paid $10K for your record or $50K?  If you spent $10K on your record, your profit is $90,000.  If you spend $60,000, your profit is only $40,000.

However, I will say that for placing songs, the recording quality is important but much more so with major TV commercials and films.  If a commercial is paying tens of thousands of dollars, your song better sound like songs you hear on the radio or MTV/VH1/Fuse in terms of singing ability and recording quality/production.  Why?  Because a big company isn’t going to plunk down $20,000 for a song that sounds like it was recorded in someone’s garage.

Now, on to some questions and answers that have been sent to me from artists!

If you have a question about the music business, especially if it relates to artist management or film/tv licensing, send it here and we’ll do our best to answer it next time!

Question:

Why should I have to pay you to pitch my music?  Either on a compilation CD or in general?  Can’t you just do it for free?

Answer:

Ha haha hahahahahaha.  You are kidding (I hope!)

Ok, now that I’m done laughing, let me answer the question.

The short answer:

I run a business.  Businesses need to make money.

The long answer:

I do this full-time.

I know that some people in the music business will do things for free.  For example, as an artist, you’ll play a free show to get exposure, etc.

However, I am not in the business of handouts.

Would you go to your job if they weren’t paying you?  Think about that for a minute.

Coming to me and asking me to work for you for free is the same as your boss asking you to go into work every day and not pay you.  Would you do that?

I have worked for over a decade in this business and developed contacts and relationships that are incredibly deep.

So you can either do everything yourself (and see how far you get), or hire someone like me to do the work for you.

Question:

I understand but from our point of few we’ve been placing songs with you for over 3 years, paid to be in a compilation and have nothing to show for it.  If you had placed a couple of songs I gladly pay $30 a month.

Answer:

Ever heard the expression, “You need to spend money to make money?”

Well, it’s true!

I understand your frustration.  Really, I do.  However, as in life, there are no guarantees.  Yes, you’re going to spend money promoting your music and there is no guarantee you’ll make that money back.  (Well, not if you just do it on a small scale anyhow.)

Listen, major labels easily spend a million dollars on each artist – between signing advances, making a record, tour support, marketing, radio payola, stylists, videos, etc.

And 9 times out of 10 they kiss that money goodbye.

Yes, goodbye to millions and millions of dollars.

Now why do they do this?

Because for every 9 artists that fail, one usually strikes it big.

How big?

Big enough that the one artist not only covers that million dollars, but also pays for the other 9 artists that didn’t get released – or that sold less than a million CDs and lost the label money.

So I can understand your frustration.  But you have to spend money marketing your music, especially in the beginning, if you ever have any hope of becoming more successful.  Why?  Because you have to do something to rise above the other million unsigned artists that are on myspace and playing local bars and clubs.  Every artist and band records a few songs and puts them on myspace and expects the music business will beat a path to their door.  It doesn’t work that way.  And for anyone that says that it does, they are just lying to hide the fact that the “secret” to them becoming successful is hard work.  If everyone knew that, it would make more competition for them!

And $300, are you kidding me?  You spent $300 and didn’t see any results?  Labels spend millions of dollars and don’t always see that money come back.  But if you believe in your music, if you believe in your artist, you will spend thousands and thousands of your own dollars and hopefully, one day, if the music truly is great, you will start to see that money coming back to you.

Spending $300 and expecting you’ll have made that money back is not realistic.  It can happen, and it has happened for artists that have put songs my compilation CDs.  Or if you happen to hit the right A&R guy at the right time.  Or the right music supervisor at the right time.  But this is a business where you have to be very aggressive in how much you promote yourself.  And keep trying and trying until you see results.

You cannot look at investing in your music career like you would a bank.  You don’t put in $1000 and get $1050 at the end of the year.  It’s a bit more like investing in a college education or a graduate degree.  It will pay off in the long run, but you have to have faith.  And you can’t do something once or twice and expect results.  Do you have any idea how many times I’ve been rejected?  Told that a song doesn’t work?  Thousands.  But still I plug away. Because for every 100 or 1,000 no’s, there will be one yes!

For bands that I’ve placed dozens of songs for, I’ve send out thousands of CDs.  Yep, thousands (4,000-5,000).  Now how much do you think that cost?  That doesn’t even include my time or other costs at all.

It’s like taking one business class at a community college (spending $300) and then whining after that it wasn’t worth it because you’re not the CEO of Microsoft.  It doesn’t work that way.  You have to be willing to invest a lot of time and money in yourself (or your band) and if you truly believe you have something special and work for many years on it, you will see that money come back to you.

Of course, if you’ve done some promoting to A&R or music supervisors and you haven’t gotten any bites you have to ask yourself – am I promoting music that’s popular right now?  Maybe labels aren’t looking to sign a reggae band right now.  Or maybe music supervisors don’t need your type of music right now.  It can take 5-10 years for things to happen.  But you have to work hard and plug away and believe in yourself (or the band you’re representing).

So, hang in there, and be patient. But don’t forget to look in the mirror at your songs and your band and see if they have what it takes. Because if 100 CDs go out to 100 A&R people and no one is interested, maybe it’s the wrong 100 A&R people.  Or maybe the music needs some work.  Stronger hooks. Better production.

Something to think about.

Hope that helps.

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

http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

“Motivation and determination are 1000 times more potent than talent alone”
-Some guy online
“Be nice to everyone.  You never know if the intern will be the next president of your record company.”
-Michael Buble
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
“People have to learn they have to juggle everything until they get lucky. They need to work a steady job, make a living and make time for the band. They need to take all the money they make from the band and throw it back into the band”
–David Draiman, Vocalist for Disturbed, interviewed in Music Connection

You are receiving this email because you have either sent us music in the past or are an artist or band that we’ve heard great things about (or are otherwise involved in the music business as a composer, manager, attorney, record label, publisher, A&R, etc).

To unsubscribe from future event notifications, please email: unsubscribe@truetalentmgmt.com and specify if you’d like to unsubscribe from True Talent’s database entirely or just from our music requests.  We certainly can’t imagine why you’d leave though since we’ve placed now over 50 songs in film/tv, including “Sex and the City” and “The OC”.

Jennifer Yeko has been a speaker on numerous panels for everyone from Billboard/The Hollywood Reporter to LAMN/National Association of Record Industry Professionals, etc.  She is a 10 year veteran of the music business, a member of The Record Academy (who puts together the Grammies).  She was featured as Music Connection’s # 1 film/tv placement executive (issue with the Killers on the cover).  Major labels, artists and managers have asked to be added to the list.

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