Archive for January, 2010

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Why I don’t work for free / on commission!

January 27, 2010

I wanted to address an increasingly common (and annoying) question I get asked now on almost a daily basis.

Artists always say “I don’t want to pay to promote my music to film/tv – I want you to work on commission.”

Well, the answer to that is very easy.

Why don’t I work on commission?

i.e. for free?

Because I’m too good at what I do.

And it’s too much work to do on commission.

I have paying clients and as such, there is no reason I would ever work 100% for anyone (even a big label or publisher) on commission, which essentially means working for free.

If you can find someone who’s willing to work for you on commission, go for it. But as in many things in life, you get what you pay for.

I recently met with a very prominent music executive (whose clients have sold tens of millions of CDs) who wanted to hire me to promote his catalog of superstar and up and coming artists. But, like many artists, he wanted to save money. So he hired someone “on commission only” and you know what? It’s been a “disaster”. The company hasn’t placed one song for them. He would have been better off hiring me but live and learn, right? He saved his company money but he also has NO sales to show for it!

Because as good as I am at what I do, pitching music to film/tv is just like music PR or anything else in the entertainment world. You have to have EXACTLY what someone needs, the competition is FIERCE and there can be a lot of hard work for no direct results. I know, it’s a tough business to be in and as such, I’ve learned over the years, not to work for free. This is actually a good part of the reason why I’m not taking on any new management clients at this time. Because unless the artist is 1) already established 2) grossing $50-100K a year so they can pay me a percentage of their income or 3) has money to pay me to work on retainer, I’m simply not interested in essentially working for free for an artist. I’ve paid my dues over the past decade and definitely am moving forward, not back!

Now I know, you’re an artist, and because the music business is “sexy” you’ll find a lot of people who are willing to manage or pitch your music on commission to get their foot in the door. Many people will do this simply because they WANT to be in the music or entertainment business.

Well, that ain’t me.

I’m not aspiring to be in the music business.

I AM in the music business.

I’m friends with record label presidents, heads of major music publishing companies and a slew of others big and small. I’ve worked VERY hard to get to where I am (and sure, I’ve paid my dues and worked countless hours essentially for no pay – but that’s in my past). And sure if you’d caught me about 8-10 years ago, I likely would have jumped at the chance to take on another TALENTED band because I had hope they would make it big.

Well, as you know, things in the music business have changed DRAMATICALLY and the amount of artists getting signed is less and less every year, as are the advances paid (if any).

As such, I changed my business and got into film/tv pitching and promotion and now into radio promotion and music PR.

Because, at the end of the day “hope is not a business plan”.

I’m a person with bills to pay, just like you, so working on commission will never make sense for me. Especially not when fees have come so far down to the point where you’re sometimes lucky to get $500-1000 for a song.

***

Also, I don’t compete with every fly by night company or person that’s jumped on the bandwagon the past few years “trying” to get their foot in the door doing music pitching to film/tv.

Imagine this.

It’s like hiring a professional surgeon who’s been operating for 8-10 years who went to medical school and graduated with honors vs. hiring some kid who “things I can cut real well” or who just go out of med school and you’re his/her first patient. Or someone who wants to “try” being a surgeon because it “sounds fun”.

Now of course, pitching music isn’t rocket science or brain surgery.

But it is an occupation that requires great, no amazing relationships with those in the film/tv community. Now you can go with someone (like me) who has these relationships and has for over 8-10 years. Or someone who is just starting out.

Just the way you hire a music publicist with years of experience vs. someone who “thinks music PR would be fun” and knows one reporter.

Or, put in terms you might understand even better.

You can buy a PC. A PC is usually cheaper than a Mac. But it has crappy Microsoft software, can get viruses easily and let’s face it, PC’s just aren’t as cool as Macs. Sure, a Mac may cost more but to most artists it’s worth the extra money.

Well, so am I!

***

Also, the way I run my business, I’m not a music library.

Music libraries can be great for a handful of artists – but for the vast majority of artists, if you throw your song, album (or albums) into a music library with 2,000 other CDs or 200,000 other songs – what do you think your chances are of getting chosen?

Very, very small!

Music libraries don’t usually pitch specific songs – and if they do you are EXTREMELY lucky. It’s almost akin to winning the lottery!

What I do is HIGHLY specialized; a real niche service.

If I chose to pitch your song for a campaign or music request, I’m likely ONLY pitching your song. Or maybe a handful of songs.

So you’re paying to get specialized attention.
And the music supervisors and contacts I have know and appreciate that I don’t flood them with a million crappy songs. So they listen to what I send them because they know when I pitch them, it’s likely a good fit for their project.

***

Sure there are some companies that will rep you on 100% on commission. But you have to be VERY VERY VERY good if not AMAZING to get repped by them. Like off the charts amazing, writing for other hit artists or an artist that has already shown they have placed a million songs already. I’m working towards becoming even more of a boutique company like this but even so, you’d have to make $500K-a million dollars in placements to be able to work on say, 20% commission. Frankly, I don’t know how companies survive working this way. I suppose if you came to me and said “I’ve been placing my songs at $8,000-10,000 a cue, let’s cut a deal” I would consider some type of different arrangement than my standard deal. But I’m guessing this is not you…

***

It’s up to you.

Do you want to be part of the .99 store of music and an artist selling in the discount bin? i.e. associated with a company that has an image for being cheap?

Or be part of a well-respected, high end, specialty boutique store?

The choice is up to you!

I’m a Mac, not a PC 🙂

Jennifer Yeko
True Talent Management
http://www.truetalentmgmt.com


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Artists – Stop wasting your money – The top 5 ways bands waste money and how to stop!!!

January 27, 2010

I hear artists complain all the time that they have “spent tens of thousands of dollars” promoting their CD and music career – but are no further along.

Well, welcome to the world of “being your own record label”.

For all the crap labels take from artists about being “ineffective”, now having run my own indie label for almost a year, I can tell you, it’s hard as hell.

And if you’ve tried promoting your own CD you’ve likely realized it’s no easy task to get people’s attention, much less get played on the radio or reviewed by anyone or placed in any film or TV show.

And hiring people is expensive!!!!

Why is it so hard?

Because even doing the basic, cheapest level of promoting – sending CDs to radio and for reviews and licensing is EXPENSIVE!!!

Sure, we are moving into a digital age but not everyone is down with digital files and even if they are, realize the people you are submitting to are getting hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of emails A DAY!  A DAY!!!!!!

You’re not the only one submitting a CD to radio or your local newspaper for the hopes at a feature story much less an album review.

Over 50,000 CDs come out EVERY YEAR on major labels, indie labels and of course, mainly, indie artists!

The competition is fierce and it’s unlikely you can OUTSPEND your competition – so you have to be SMARTER than that!  Because a LOT of artists have rich parents, or a rich uncle!

****

Anyhow, back to my original point.

Sure, there are no guarantees in life.

And there are definitely no guarantees in the music business.

But maybe you’re no further along in your career because you’re spending your money with the wrong people or on the wrong things!

Now I can tell you as much as the next person – there is no guarantee out there.

And any publicist, radio promoter, agent, lawyer, manager, publisher, label – anyone that GUARANTEES you any type of fame or success is absolutely a liar.

Why?

Because if it were “so easy” – every artist signed to a major label would be successful.

Every single one.

Because major label spend oodles of cash promoting their artists, right?  (Often a million dollars + PER ARTIST!!)

Yet, labels fail a LOT more than they succeed.

Sure, you only hear of the “successful artists” – the OneRepublics and Coldplays and Katy Perrys of the world right now.

But for every success like Coldplay, there are 99 artists that were signed to a major label that you’ve never heard of.  And many/most of those “failed” artists had hundreds of thousands of dollars (or a million dollars+) dropped on promoting their career.

So, to help you, I’ve come up with a list of the TOP 5 WAYS I SEE ARTISTS WASTE THEIR MONEY and how to stop!

1)  Music conventions.  With all due respect to the fine folks who run these amazing conventions (I’ve gone to both, lots of fun) but in general, IMHO, SXSW, CMJ, sure, all of those music events get a ton of buzz and press because the Killers or some huge act that you’ve heard of NOW played them BACK in 2005 or what not.  But what you don’t hear about is the other 3,000 unknown baby bands and artists that played that year that spent thousands of dollars of their own money to get to Austin or NYC to “showcase” in the hopes of getting discovered — and yet absolutely NOTHING happened from playing one show at these festivals.  Now I’m not saying don’t do it or consider it (after all, I always say “be open minded” & “try new things” because maybe you’ll meet someone amazing in the hotel elevator or walking down 6th street – you never know!).  I just think there are a LOT better ways to spend your money than playing SXSW or CMJ or attending most music conventions or events.  Sure, if you can tour through Austin and make a stop there to play some shows at SXSW for fun, why not.  But just know it’s like spending your money on a vacation i.e. it’s expensive (easily $1,000+ and a lot more if you’re a full band) and purely something you’re doing for FUN with no hopes of making that money back.

2)  Hiring an expensive “old school” publicist without a plan or good reason.  If you aren’t touring, or don’t have an AMAZING new CD or single you’re promoting, you likely don’t need an expensive music publicist.  Because a lot of the press a traditional, “old school” publicist will get for you will be “tour press” and guess what?  Most newspapers and weeklies don’t care about you unless you’re touring through their city and they can mention an upcoming gig or two.  And generally, getting press is VERY difficult if not impossible for an indie artist.  You need some pre-existing buzz or a “story” – some reason why someone would want to write about you.  Do you have famous parents?  Or something INCREDIBLY unique about you or your music?  Like were you raised by wolves?  Or vampires?  If so, I bet you could get some good press!  But if not, it’s going to be a VERY hard sell for even the most experienced of music publicists.  If you do hire one, hire someone who specializes in your style of music and make sure you have very realistic goals before going in!  Remember, music PR is tough – it’s a lot of work with NO guarantees that any journalist will write about you or review your CD!  Just be realistic!  You gotta try but also realize, thousands of other artists are hiring publicists too!

3)  Hiring a “name” producer.  Listen, it doesn’t impress anyone (not even a major label) that you have a “name” producer who produced your record.  Why?  Because EVERY indie artist has one.  I can’t tell you how many CDs and press kits I receive from bands that say “Our CD was produced by famous producer 1234”.  I’m only impressed if that “name” producer produced your songs or CD on spec (meaning, entirely for free) and/or he’s at the top of the Billboard charts RIGHT NOW.  Because most producers, like many in this business, are hired guns and will work for anyone who has enough money.  And now more so than ever, especially since their revenue from major labels has dried up, they are looking more and more to indie artists to foot their bill.  In general, save your money.  If you can’t produce a great record on your own, or with an “up and coming” producer or kid in your hometown, you should well, be in another business!  Because a big part of being an artist these days means knowing how you want your record to sound and having control over it in the studio.  Besides, name producers don’t sell CDs.  You think Joe Blow in Kansas is going to buy your record or single on iTunes because Mr. XXZ produced it? Think again!  Artists sell CDs, not producers!

4)  Hiring a shady radio promoter.  There are SO many shady radio promoters out there.  Ones that will take your money, make up fake charts to show your song doing well – and all the while not even sending your CD out.  It’s hard to know who to trust, right?  I would only hire a radio promoter who had worked with bands that I could verify references with i.e. the bands heard their songs on the radio that the promoter allegedly got them on.  And if they are contacting you on myspace or you haven’t heard songs on the radio because of that promoter, I’d run run run away!  This is such a shady business it’s really tough to find a good radio promoter out there so unless you’re 110% sure you’re with a reputable one, save your money!

5)  Making an expensive CD.  I know, I know.  It’s “fun” to be in the studio.  But what did you spend on recording, mixing and mastering your last record?  Hopefully not much.  I was talking to the President of a major indie label who said he doesn’t spend more than $30,000 making a record for an artist or band on his label. So, if you’re spending more than that as an INDIE artist, well, it’s likely just money down the toilet.  Because what chance do you have at recouping even $10K of that let alone $20 or $30K as an indie artist?  You don’t have the marketing budget that a major or even decent size indie label has to recoup your investment.  And sure, it helps if you own your own studio (or have a friend that does).  The smart artists who were signed to major deals took their advance money and used it to build their own studio and buy their own recording equipment.  So not only can they make music and their next records inexpensively, they can also rent out their studio to other bands and artists and maybe even produce or engineer other band’s records. Besides, in case you haven’t noticed, CD sales are declining, and people aren’t buying enough mp3’s to make up the difference. So, spend as LITTLE you can on your next record and maybe, just maybe, you’ll recoup!

Not to worry, next time I’ll email you a list of the Top 5 things you SHOULD be spending your money on!

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

~Indie Record Label~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity
http://www.soloendeavorrecords.com
http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
-Yogi Berra

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ballpark.”
-David Ogilvy

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I didn’t write this but what do you think?

January 1, 2010

Bob loves to rant and usually I ignore his posts because they are SO negative and yeah, he doesn’t offer solutions but what do you think about this one??

Jennifer

—– Original Message —–
From: “Bob Lefsetz” <bob@lefsetz.com>
Sent: Thursday, December 31, 2009 1:58 PM
Subject: My Screed

>
> I’m sick and fucking tired of people telling me to be more positive. To
> focus on solutions rather than problems. Don’t you get it, it all comes
> down to the MUSIC!
>
> That’s what I love about this business. You’re either a player or a
> supporter. There’s a clear divide. That’s the difference from the movie
> business. Even a five year old can tell you what’s wrong with filmed
> entertainment. The acting was bad, or the story wasn’t believable, or the
> sets were phony. But ask a fifty year old about a record and he’ll shrug
> his shoulders and say he liked it or he didn’t. That’s about as far as it
> goes.
>
> So, you’re sitting there trying to be a manager, or a booking agent, even
> starting a label. And you’re frustrated, and dipping your toe in social
> media, reading marketing books. I’m gonna tell you, that’s all bullshit.
> Find one great act and the doors will open to you.
>
> The major labels triumphed because they had the best acts. But then they
> got greedy, the execs started thinking they were the talent, they broke
> the cardinal music business rule, that we all bow down to the creator. If
> you’re really that talented, make your own damn music. This happens in
> the movie sphere, producers become directors. But when was the last time
> a record company president became a best-selling artist? When did he even
> make a record?
>
> And for you frustrated artists, I’ll say it one more time… Your lack of
> success probably comes down to the fact that you’re just not that good.
> Sorry, the truth hurts. And if you’re the king of klezmer or the new
> Philip Glass and want to complain that you’re not on “American Idol”?
> Wow, how do you cope every day, are you really that far from reality?
> Just because you’re good at something, anything, that doesn’t mean the
> whole world needs to pay attention.
>
> What does the public like? Melody. A good voice. A beat. These aren’t
> immutable rules, and it’s the cutting edge that we tend to become enamored
> of, but if we can’t sing your song and think you can barely sing it
> either, GIVE UP!
>
> Or practice a ton more.
>
> Yes, practice. That’s how you get better. Sure playing every night in a
> bar helps. But you’ve also got to challenge yourself. You’ve got to test
> your own limits, learn more than three chords, not so you can use them so
> much as you become aware of the POSSIBILITIES!
>
> If you’re a musician, listen to a lot of records.
>
> If you want to write lyrics, read a lot of books.
>
> Doctors go to school to become M.D.’s. Why should you be able to be a
> world famous music star without putting in the work?
>
> The hardest thing to do in this business is find a hit act. You can be
> the best manager, the most tenacious agent, but if you don’t have a hit
> act, you’re doomed to failure. Speak to a concert promoter. He’ll tell
> you there’s no way you can get people to come to see a stiff act. Even if
> you pick them up in limos and give them good seats.
>
> A great act can make a ton of business mistakes, have a less than great
> manager, a rip-off label and STILL make it. A third-rate act with the
> best team is still a third-rate act.
>
> I think it’s great that you’re looking for innovative ways to do business,
> that you want to challenge old models. But some things never change. And
> what never changes in this business is it all comes down to the music.
> More than ever. In a world where anybody can make a record and the
> audience doesn’t concentrate on one outlet, not even one format. Some
> people listen to NO radio. Others watch NO television.
>
> But that doesn’t mean greatness will go unnoticed. We’re all looking for
> quality. And, if we find it, we tell everybody we know. So, a great act
> gets traction. But takes a long time to make it. Shit, the Kings Of Leon
> would have been gargantuan right away fifteen or twenty years ago. Now it
> takes that long just to get people to pay attention.
>
> And maybe KOL weren’t that great in the beginning. To think that talent
> needs to emerge fully-formed is to think that babies can do calculus.
> It’s a long hard road to becoming a musician. Short cuts might deliver
> success sooner, having your songs written by the usual suspects and
> working with an experienced producer might give you a leg up. But there’s
> no real foundation, you’re going to fall back to earth if you don’t do the
> work.
>
> Everything I write, all the innovation, it only applies to GOOD ACTS! The
> question is, what choices do you make if the act has talent. If it
> doesn’t, GIVE UP!
>
> You’re not entitled to a gig in the music industry. People don’t need
> records the same way they need food. If you can’t associate yourself with
> a good act, you’re going to starve, no matter what your desire.
>
> Finding great talent and bonding to it is a skill unto itself. Don’t rail
> against Irving Azoff or Jimmy Iovine, this is what they do BEST!
>
> And until you do it as well as they do, you’re gonna be broke.
>
> Sorry.
>
>
> —
> Visit the archive: http://lefsetz.com/wordpress/
> —
> http://www.twitter.com/lefsetz
> —

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Sometimes I can’t believe the emails I receive

January 1, 2010

“We’re not worried about getting paid for the use of these songs…we just want to be able to brag to our friends that some big movie producer is using our songs in their movies/shows.”

-Name withheld

***

Yikes!

This is an actual email I received from an artist.

So yeah, if anyone is wondering why music fees are coming down it’s a number of reasons:

1) Studios and networks are slashing their music budgets. I’d say they are roughly 1/2 of what they used to be. In some cases, 1/3. They aren’t doing this solely to be greedy but as their lose advertisers (or advertisers cut their budgets) the first thing to get cut in a TV show or film is the music budget. Blame digital files for being “free” so now the studios and networks think they can get music if not for free, for very cheap, from indie artists like you!

2) Artists – artists and bands need to stand up for their rights. And value their music. Everyone will tell you “it’s all about the exposure” – even music supervisors and people at the performing rights societies will say this. Yet, YOU, the artist, are the one that really gets hurt and mostly by your fellow musician and songwriting friends. Because artists (like the one above who wrote that quote) don’t value their music, the studios, networks and supervisors know they don’t have to pay what they used to for songs.

3) Simple supply and demand. Before the Internet really exploded, studios and networks had no choice but to license songs from major record labels and major publishers. Now they can go to any one of a million bands and artists on sites like myspace – many of whom are too naive to ask for payment for their songs so they practically give them away.

4) The growing use of music libraries that provide lots of music in a huge volume, for cheap, often at pre-negotiated rates of say $500 a track, if that.

So, what’s the solution?

Educate yourself.

Know when you’re being taken advantage of in terms of fees – and when you should be happy to get *any* money – i.e. a festival license for an indie film.

Really the only way to know this is to work with an experienced licensing person (like me) who knows what’s fair and what’s not. Also, ask around. If you have friends that have licensed their songs, make sure you’re getting comparable fees for yours if it’s the same TV show or project.

Most artists just concentrate on the “fun” stuff.

The music.

But the reality is, if you don’t educate yourself on the important side – the “business” side – you may soon find yourself without any business.

Or money to be made from your music.

Keep the faith!

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

~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity
www.truetalentmgmt.com

“Anything worthwhile in life requires time, patience, and persistence.”
–Cheryl Richardson