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Liars, Assurances, ROI and The Music Business – Some Please Explain

February 19, 2015

Can someone please explain artist logic to me?

I feel like, in general, artists make horrible decisions with their careers.

Please, before you get mad at me for saying this, hear me out.

Then, please prove me wrong.

1) LIARS: I feel like liars in this business get all the deals – It frustrates me to no end to lose business. I’m a naturally competitive person and I know the 17+ years of connections I bring to the table. And while I don’t like to lose business to anyone, I know that there are many wonderful PR firms, licensing companies and managers who are honest, hard working, have a great reputation and do their best to do a great job for every single client.

However, it seems like many of my competitors in the PR, licensing and management world prefer to lie to clients. They make big, huge promises that they can’t possibly fulfill.

Yet, artists and bands seem to buy this hook, line and sinker.

Years ago, I met with with a record label President recently who had sold tens of millions of albums. He was going to hire me to pitch his roster to film/tv. Instead, he hired a competitor of mine, who also happened to be a music supervisor.

Frustrated, I asked, “Why are you hiring them? They don’t even have the connections or reputation that I do!!!???”

He replied, “Whenever we’re on a call, they have all these staff on the call too and that impressed me. And they PROMISED they could get our songs licensed everywhere.”

“Yikes,” I thought to myself. I don’t have a huge staff. And honestly, I know most of those people working for that company were young kids making either no money or working for free as interns. Meanwhile, it’s just me here doing 99% of the work with some assistants or interns when needed. And I certainly never promise anyone anything because you can’t possibly know if a song is going to stick or how someone is going to react to an album.

Flash forward to him spending $72,000 ($3K a month for 2 years in a contract):

Him: “Hiring that company was a DISASTER!!!!!”

LET ME REPEAT THAT FOR YA!

A DISASTER!!!

Hmmm. I guess even successful people make horrible mistakes….but I lost out on a $72,000 client and 2 year deal because someone else lied….and now that company has a label on their roster that will impress other people for decades to come…even if they did a horrible job with their campaign.

I can’t lie. Truly. It’s not in my DNA. I will tell you if your music sucks. Believe me, I’ll try to be nice about it. But you would not believe how many hundreds of clients I’ve turned down because I told them I just couldn’t promote music I didn’t believe in or that wasn’t very good. I believe there’s always room for improvement and I rather someone go back 100 times to fix a song or songs to make them better than to take someone’s money to do a PR campaign for crappy music.

2) Assurances – I was chatting with one artist recently who said they wanted “assurances.” Now, I’m not sure if they meant “vote of confidence” or “guarantee” as the word has a few meanings but where I come from, when someone says, “assurances” they mean “guarantees.” Now, while I understand a lot of artists get nervous when it comes to working with a manager, signing a contract, hiring a publicist or doing a lot of the business stuff, this is a very scary word.

Assurances are basically guarantees.

And they don’t exist.

Let me tell you why.

THERE ARE NO ASSURANCES IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS.

Yup. You heard me right.

There just aren’t.

Why?

Mainly because music is an art form.

And art is subjective.

What I love, someone else may hate.

What someone else loves, I may hate.

I think you get the drill.

3) ROI – If one more artist sends me an email asking, “What’s my ROI if I hire you to do PR for me?” I think I will scream.

For those of you that don’t know, ROI stands for “return on investment.”

That is, people want to know, “If I spend $1 on a PR campaign, how much can I expect to get back?”

My answer is first….I laugh….

Then I say, “Since when did all artists become stock brokers?”

Because you suddenly start acting like you’re investing a million dollars in the stock market and you want to know what the stock has returned the past 10 years in order to make your decision.

Well, guess what?

There is NO ROI IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS. Not unless you’re investing in actual Apple stock or Pandora stock and Apple isn’t even a music company (although they like to pretend to be.)

NO ONE HONEST IN THIS BUSINESS CAN GUARANTEE YOU A DAMN THING.

And that’s a good thing!

Why?

Because, in my experience, GOOD, TALENTED artists have NO PROBLEM spending their own, hard earned money to promote their music. In fact, they WANT TO and are DYING to because they know they are so good that they can’t wait to hire you to get their music in front of everyone that matters.

Everyone else just dicks you around, wastes your time wanting you to “check out” their music for free, while they have no money for a PR campaign.

And for the few shady folks who claim they can do X, Y & Z, I STRONGLY advise you run FAR FAR AWAY from these people and not to sign or work with someone like that.

Because I’ve worked with many artists who have stupidly gotten into bed with a shady liar who promised them the world….and while they might get a slight bump from cheating the system, karma eventually catches up with them and then they vanish and fall to depths you have never seen.

***

MY POINT IS THIS.

THERE ARE NO ASSURANCES IN THE MUSIC BUSINESS.

I MAY BELIEVE IN YOU AND YOUR MUSIC 110% BUT THAT IS NOT A GUARANTEE OF SUCCESS.

IF YOU WANT ASSURANCES AND ROI, GO TO MEDICAL SCHOOL. OR LAW SCHOOL. AND EVEN THEN….YOU AREN’T GUARANTEED ANYTHING. (After all, so many law school grads can’t even find jobs these days…but I digress…)

The music business is a subjective business where people’s opinions and the public’s fickle mood can determine whether or not you have a career.

Don’t believe the liars that give you “assurances” and promise you things.

I GUARANTEE YOU WILL END UP BROKE, DISILLUSIONED, DISAPPOINTED AND FULL OF REGRET.

Now, back to our reguarly scheduled, sometimes happy (but probably not) programming….

And tell me your thoughts about this article!

I love hearing from you!

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

~Artist Management~Music Licensing~Music Publicity
http://www.truetalentmgmt.com

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

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5 comments

  1. Hey Jennifer,

    I really appreciate you sending the awesome info. I think everything you said is SO
    right. All of my music friends and myself are sick of these types of shady people.
    I just released a new song called “Just Like Jolene”
    I know you are probably super busy, but if you have a moment to spare
    I would really love to know your opinion of it!
    http://www.belleroussemusic.com

    Thanks and best wishes,
    Belle Rousse


  2. Well, I do believe you’re right and I can appreciate this kind of rant. It’s good for the soul sometimes (it’s my method too at times).

    I’m not sure a mass email was the best venue to vent like this, but it is something that caught my attention. This is kind of like your Jerry Maguire memo.

    Anyway, it was a really good read, but I hope you’re expectations of changing the world is more closer to changing the opinion of one or two musicians!

    Now that’s off your chest (please don’t sue me for harassment for saying that, it’s a neutral word) I hope you’ll find a little more peace in your Return on Investment! 🙂

    Kindest wishes,

    Anthony

    Gun Hill Royals
    gunhillroyals@gmail.com


  3. Great one here! I know there are bands I’ve worked with who moved on to another label that promised them more sales & exposure & because I’m nosy I looked to find to no surprise their numbers went down in reality, but when I talked to the band they think things are going better because the label is telling them it’s doing better than expected! But I guess people would rather hear they are about to be huge than they are about to stay exactly the same & can’t quit their day jobs. A couple years ago a guy on my label went to work with someone else (which is fine) & they had him shell out $5000 for a publicist (which I feel is reasonable) & I told him since a lot of people were fans from him on my label did he want me to send press a free download link of the new record & he said sure. Somehow I generated literally 10 times the amount of coverage as the publicist & the guy still feels like it was money well spent. WTF?

    Though I will say, I wish more artists had a clue to even think about ROI. But probably because I feel like if they realized the amount of work being done on their release on spec from the label, they’d realize they are more likely to be ripping me off than me ripping them off.

    Saw an interesting article today about how bands should stop worrying about online marketing so much & get back to trying to right good songs, truest thing I’d seen in a while.


  4. Reblogged this on Bongo Boy Records and commented:
    I agree with what I read here and appreciated that you shared this with us so clearly.


  5. Ah, yes, promises, promises! I usually go by my gut feeling about the situation. When someone promises something to me, it’s often a red flag. However, there’s the occasional enthusiastic bloke whom I actually believe. I have to say, confidence is infectious. But there’s a difference between confidence that delivers and confidence that’s stuck in fantasy. I guess it’s up to the artist to discern the situation: what’s this said person’s track record? Have they helped other artists to be successful? Can they back up their promises with real success and experience? Sometimes they can’t if they are new to the business. It’s a catch 22 for new managers, film/TV rep’s, PR, labels, etc. They have to find a young band or an artist who hasn’t broke yet who’s willing to take a gamble and vice versa; the band has to gamble on a young, inexperienced or ‘just hasn’t had success yet’ industry patron. So in a situation like this, they have to trust and what feels right, and go by basic criteria: do I like this person’s ideas/direction, do we get along and can we work together, etc.



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