Archive for March, 2010

Music Matters Organization

Posted: March 30, 2010 in General Music

Here’s an on line site that would seem to me to be worth supporting.

Its a very positive idea

Here’s an interesting news story that reminds me of another personal encounter I had with Keith.

As a good friend of mine and fellow manager said “This is getting old with Keith, but on the other hand, maybe he’s just trying to cop a stick for himself. I know if I went to a concert to hear him play, and instead heard him rant I’d get pretty pissed”

Wise words my friend.

But my story takes place in Japan at the New Otani Hotel,Tokyo in an elevator to the 54th floor some 15 years ago.

We were on our way back to our boxes after the most amazing performance at the Tokyo Music Joy Festival of the Mozart Double Piano Concerto.

In those days we stayed at the New Otani at $600 per night and the hotel rooms were amazing with incredible views.

We called them “our Boxes” as many the night after weeks on the road thats what they felt like and someone made the comment one night “come on guys its time to go to your boxes (Hotel Rooms) and it stuck.

Its road talk and you had to be there.

Anyway by some fluke I found myself in the elevator with Keith and his wife  going up into the 50’s floor  levels.

I was a little “star stuck” as I love Keith’s playing and I think he’s a genius so I started to try to compliment him on his performance and say what a fantastic show it was and it “was” amazing.

But nothing…. no one said anything … response to my comments in fact Keith wouldn’t even make eye contact with me it was amazing.

They got off the elevator before me and never even said goodnight.

I felt like a complete idiot and very embarrassed having made a complete blubbering fool of myself.

So I guess Keith’s “good manners” don’t extend to long elevator rides either but at least I wasn’t coughing and ruining his performance.

Boy was I glad to get into my box!!

Lady Gaga is being sued by her long time Producer Rob Fusari for $30.5 Million

What is interesting to an Artist Manager is her defense as it brings up the very pertinent point for California Managers in particular that in California a manager is not allowed to act as an agent and get gigs for his artist.

He can’t be a manager and an agent its one or the other.

One needs an employment license to get some one in employment,a gig, in otherwords in California.

Other states have different laws and other than the fact, that doing both for an artist can be a conflict of interest ,in most states one can do both and be an agent and a manager.

The defense being put forth by Lady Gaga’s attorney is that he acted as an agent without an employment license.

The report in the Daily Telegraph in UK says:

“Mr Fusari claims that their business partnership entitles him to 20 per cent of her record deal.

He acknowledges that he has received $611,000 from her but says it is not his full share.

But Lady Gaga’s lawyer Charles Ortner told that court that the agreement between the singer and the producer was “unlawful”.

He said that Mr Fusari and his company violated statutes that prohibited them from “acting as employment agents without a license and charging Lady Gaga an unlawful fee for their purported services.”

Mr Fusari’s lawyer, Robert S. Meloni, called the claim “ludicrous”.

“Rob was no more of an ‘agent’ for her than she is a Roman Catholic nun.” ”

Like that last line good one!

I’m not sure where this lawsuit was filed but it looks like the UK so presumably they have a similar laws as California in regards to being an agent and any other function for an artist.

I’m not a lawyer of course but it is my understanding that an artist can sue his manager for all back management commission’s to be repaid if the artist can prove the manager got him employment as a manager in California which is pretty scary for a manager.

Because the problem is that most managers get their artists gigs that they then pass on to the artists agent (or not) as the case maybe to issue contracts as the employment agent.

One presumes there is some sort of conflict  existing between the artist and manager for this to come about and they are hardly getting along if this is happening but it has happened.

I understand, for instance ,there was a case  between Jefferson Starship and their manager and I believe Starship won and got their commissions paid returned.

The law stems from the old MCA company who were agents,managers and producers for their clients, the true 360 deal I guess.

They put their acts in their moves and concerts which was then considered as a “conflict of interest” and the law was passed.

Besides which no other agents could get their artists in MCA movies or ventures….not fair …. penalty kick!!!

I’ll give an example of how this could be a conflict of interest if I can.

The agent brings in a gig for an artist playing at Disneyland, the artist is an esoteric Jazz Pianist and the gig is totally the wrong place for the artist to perform. But the moneys very good and if the Hats of manger and artist are worn by the same person there is no one to say to the agent “hey thats wrong gig for this artist” forget it.

I’ve actually done just that and turned down a high paying gig from an agent as it was not right for my artist despite the money involved.

The manager is in fact part of a team and usually the General of that team that consists of the Manager,Agent,Producer, Attorney,Publicist, Business Manager (CPA) Promotion team,Record Label  etc. etc.

I lost a long term client one time by wearing all these hats and in fact the artist, in hind site, had NO manager in the end as its impossible to do all those functions with out creating a conflict of interest situation.

How can one be the Manager and the Record Company president.

What if the artist should be on another Record Label, is the manager going to take the artist off “his” Record Label to another label? I severely doubt it and if he did,  that would be pretty commendable if the manager could be that objective.What if he also has a fiduciary duty to run the record label to the best of his ability then he has a real problem.

It remains to be seen if Lady Gaga will prevail and the Producer (agent,manager?) what ever he is role was will get his $30 mill.

So there is an interesting scenario developing with the advent of Record Labels doing 360 deals with acts and wearing all the hats ,artist managers continually violating the California Agent/Manager  Law and getting their artists gigs and sometimes even writing the contracts. It would seem some change has to occur here on the legal level?

Not to mention with the declining state of the music business and with less income how long will artists be able to afford 10% to the Agent,15% to the manager and 5% to the Business manager,not too long I would think?

I submit to be practical these functions will have to be worn by less people and a more moderate percentage % taken from the artist as the their gross declines so they have some money to keep at least close to their existing life style!

But how do we retain the separation of these functions as they are all different and require there own expertise and if worn by one person present a “Conflict of Interest” situation in my opinion .

Plus if anything goes wrong the artist can sue and get his money back which is not bad deal for the artist at least in California.

I have a feeling there is a lot I don’t know here as I am not an attorney and this is turning out to be a frightfully boring post unless you are a manager or agent and they don’t want to hear about the problem anyway.

Interesting though if you are a manager and could be good news for artists who want to get rid of their managers and get their money back at the same time!

I haven’t written anything for a few days and  I realized I was reluctant to do so.

I was feeling embarrassed and was wondering if this was the right or wrong thing to do.

What the hell am I doing writing a blog?

What do I know and does my opinion matter?

Not a lot probably and I  feel its just a little pretentious to sit and write what you think about something ….so what who cares!!!

And all that may well be true but apparently it is the very nature of blogging I began to realize and it actually takes some sort of actual confronting to blog and I was definitely having second thoughts about continuing and still am really but my daughter and son in law continue to encourage me and I have even had some compliments would you believe?

BUT what about “so and so” I wonder what he thinks and that artist I worked with all those years…. are they laughing at what I’m saying… its all the people that are not saying anything what do THEY think!

Then it struck me and I started to write this blog.

As a manager one is always in the background and no artist wants his manager the subject of discussion good or bad as it the artist not the manager its all about and thats true.

Then I remembered something  directly relating to the confront of an artist and what he actually subjects himself to when he records or performs and creates.

I had a discussion one time with an artist who was having real problems with this almost to a  “stage fright” point but even deeper than that…he was doubting his creativity and creations.

But is that any surprise really and can you imagine writing a song, recording it and then putting it out to an audience and knowing  anything could happen.. it could be hated, loved,respected for its compositional strength….but not liked…it would appear to be a nightmare and it was to my artist friend!

I read 2 reviews on Brad Mehldau’s new CD today.

One loved it and one panned it completely!

I wonder how Brad deals with this as I don’t think I could and thats probably why I don’t write songs and never sing in public nor would I even if you paid me a million dollars …well maybe a million dollars 🙂

I think you get the point.

Thats what I admire about artists… they have the confront,the  real confront to create.

I think artists are very “brave” people who put their creations out there……naked……for all to see and they stand a very good chance of having them severely critiqued and mocked and it happens all the time, you know it does.

I’m not sure I could do that and I don’t plus then I look at myself being worried about writing a silly little blog that very few people will see or read. What a whimp!!

Artist should be admired and appreciated just because they are artists and thats why I love them and like to work with them and help them get their music or art out there to the public anyway I can.

I guess the payoff is when the creation is admired and liked and even loved and there is no financial value that can be put on that I’m sure.

I know because I got an E Mail from someone that said they liked my blogs…so there is a least one out there and it felt good and now I’m waiting for critic he’ll come I’m sure.

I also think it would bode well for critics to think a little more about this as most have failed as artists and thats why they are critics and the guy who took Brad Mehldau’ s New Cd apart in that review today would do real well to review his intentions for doing so as I think those intentions are highly suspect as there is no way that criticism was deserved regardless of how “bad’ the CD was.

I guess its fashionable to be a Simon Cowell but give me Ellen any day as she is really careful to respect the artist no matter what her opinion.

And thats why I like and admire artists no matter their art.

Since attending that seminar on Internet Marketing last week I’ve become more and more interested in this area as a manager and how it can be used to further the career of ones clients.

Some 5 years ago my friend and President of Concord Records said at one of our breakfasts at Jerry’s Deli.

“It is essential that an artist now get involved with his career on a very personal level and build his own fan base by going on Myspace  and responding directly to messages and interacting with his fans directly”

This has stuck with me all that time and boy was he correct.

The point Glenn was making was could one imagine as a fan of some artist in our youth receiving a personal message from say, Stan Kenton, John Coltrane or Miles  in response to a letter one sent them?

It never happened to me but if it had I would have been a fan of that artist FOREVER no question about it.

I would have bought every album he made and maybe erected a shrine in my bedroom.

I certainly would have done so if “Lonnie Donegan” had ever written to me personally as he was my idol in those teen days.  I doubt anyone knows him but he was banjo player/ singer with the Chris Barber Jazz Band and he practically invented a new format called “Skiffle” music in the 60’s in the UK with hits such as “My Old Mans a Dustman” and “Putting on the Style

I digress.

But the point is that this is the opportunity that all these Social Networks offer the artist these days that they never there before.

Its the enormous plus point of the Internet and I believe is a major factor these days in an artists success IF HE USES IT!!

It is my understanding that artists like John Mayer and Dave Mathews have over a million plus followers on Twitter and they personally post tweets all the time themselves.

And the tweets aren’t “Buy my new CD” or “Get your ticket for my concert in Bla Bla auditorium” they keep it real and personal, not too personal I guess but who knows if one had the b…ls one could talk about anything.

I think it would great to know from Miles Davis that he woke up this morning feeling upset about the argument he had with his girlfriend last night or he didn’t feel so hot today or he had a great idea for a song, it would certainly keep my interest.

So I think one has to keep real and honest for it to work and is the reason FaceBook and Twitter are passing up Myspace which is far less interactive and personal  or immediate but one can still reply directly to one’s messages on Myspace.

I have a rule on Facebook that if I get more than 3 requests from some one to become a fan I delete them as a friend as they are missing the point and just using Facebook to promote themselves and its not real. Take out an ad for heavens sake if thats what you want to do.

But something real I will respond to or at least take interest in.

The comedian from the UK Eddie Izzard, who I love, does a fantastic job on Twitter.

He’s an Executive Transvesite by the way:)

He tweets all the time and you know its him as he says things like “I’m not sure about this show tonight” and other real personal thoughts about things and he always thanks the audience afterwards on Twitter and even tells them he’s on his way to the stage door to sign autographs.Thats pretty instant!

He ran an extraordinary amount of Marathons in a month for charity and he tweeted all the time things like his feet were killing him or he was not sure he could keep it up,it was actually interesting to follow and very real.

Now the problem for the Manager is convincing his artist to do this as it seems it maybe a little time consuming but is it?

How long does it it take to write a tweet from ones iphone,minutes surely?

And the question is 2 fold.

Are you actually interested in who your fans are or are you just being just interesting?

In my opinion thats the difference between the successful and great artists and the unsuccessful ones.

When you are on stage are you being interesting to your audience or are you “interested’ in your audience and how they feel and are they enjoying it or getting what you are doing?

When you go see Tony Bennett sing it feels like he is singing directly to you as he is really interested in his audience & the same with Michael Buble thats why he wows those middle aged ladies and they love him even if he makes Sinatra turn in his grave.

As for the time factor in general what I’m realizing is this is the artists lot these days and this IS being an artist in 2010 and its what is needed and expected and WANTED by the fans.

The result and benefit would be being able to reach 1.5 million real fans (followers) instantly with the Tweet:

“Just finished recording what is the new single for my next CD coming in June called ” You Are Not The one” I wrote it with Stevie Wonder”

Or is that too many digits for the post on Twitter but it tells you if it is?

Thats would sell a few CD’s surely

The point is what else are you going to do for your career if there are no Record labels or Radio Stations that play your music , this is at least something you can do to directly effect and be cause for your career.

Now I have to get my guys to do it more and more!!

One more note I am told the frequency of posts and/or activity on a web site is a major factor in Search Placement to the Google “Gremlins” that go out every month checking out the internet so be active and not one post a month.

Further on the article about Universal’s proposal of  dropping their prices of CD’s.

My good friend Rich Denhardt (who was the Head of A & R at Narada Records before EMI closed them down) says this.

“Universal tried this a few years ago… reducing suggested retail price. big rebellion from retail. I hope it takes this time.”

So apparently Universal tried this before only to have it refused by the retailers presumably because of lowered profits for the stores and now where have all the retailers gone.

A lot of the comments I saw on the net and I thought for myself were that the labels were the greedy ones but apparently thats not true and the labels tried to drop the price and it was retailers that rebelled.

There’s always two sides to these  things and one has to get all the data.

Now there are so few retail stores selling CD’s its a great shame as the Music Buisness has disappeared at a retail level where one could go and browse the store and find music.

When I first came to the states from the UK in 1974 I remember being able to go to Tower Records on Sunset and with $20 I could bring home 3 Albums.

1 expensive one at $9.98 and 2 for $4.98 which was the usual price of the new releases at the front of the store.

Every day was like Christmas compared to UK prices of Albums in those days it was amazing or brilliant as we say over the pond.

Plus the selection of music especially in Jazz was very extensive at Tower in those days.

I sound old!!

On a sad note Herb Cohen passed , an old school manager from LA who managed Zappa and many LA artists over the years including George Duke until recently.

Whenever dealing with him it was always entertaining and different for sure as many people will attest to!!

I think the only problem with this idea it maybe too late to make a real difference.

It should have been done years ago and I remember talking to various Record Company Executives about the idea years as I was constantly hearing the complaint that CD’s were too expensive from people.

But the head in the sand attitude continued I’m afraid.

Oh well lets hope it helps but I doubt will revive the CD sales business overall I’m afraid.

I wonder if Downloads will become cheaper respectively that would be interesting as they could be priced around $3 after all there are no hard costs compared with making  an actual CD with packaging costs etc.

Of course one has to consider the costs of producing the recording which easily gets forgotton by the general consumer.

Universal Announces Plans to Lower Prices to $10 or less

Sales of physical albums have steadily decreased over the past half decade, and now one major label is hoping to stem the decline by adopting a daring new strategy: lowering the price of CDs. Universal Music Group has revealed a plan to reduce the wholesale cost of their albums in order to decrease the retail price of single-disc albums to $10 or less, reports. Under the new plan, sales of CDs will only boast a 25 percent profit margin, but UMG hopes the increase of CD sales volume will help reinvigorate their revenues.

While some may deem UMG’s strategy as “too little, too late,” the move does put the price of physical discs in line with what digital music services like iTunes charge for full album downloads, making physical discs a more attractive option. “We think it will really bring new life into the physical format,” Universal Music Group Distribution president/CEO Jim Urie said. UMG revealed that they plan on selling more deluxe editions of albums, however those discs will carry a higher price tag.

While retailers are applauding the move, writes that the other major labels aren’t too pleased with UMG’s price shift. “Why does Universal feel the need to get below $10?,” a distributor at a competing major wondered. However, there is precedent for UMG believing their new strategy will work: When Trans World Entertainment, who runs music stores like f.y.e. and Wherehouse Music, tested out a $9.99 price plan, CD sales jumped 100 percent.

I just completed my “About” section which took a while.

Good day at the office with a nice US Tour coming together for my client Kyle Eastwood including a week at the Blue Note New York opening to Larry Carlton or Larry Correyl.

Its good when you find a good agent for some who really does a good job for your client.

So this work to keep this up I guess so a short blog of no real substance but FYI

So Michael has a new deal the biggest he ever got with  7 Albums I believe for a lot of money.

There are unreleased tracks that I guess were recorded prior to his demise?

It made me wonder as an artist manager if he, as the artist, actually wants them released?

Why weren’t they released in the first place?

Maybe they weren’t good enough?

Of course no one can ask him now but over the years I’ve had many artists who didn’t want certain music released for many reasons and in my opinion its their prerogative to do so and I have always honored that.

So I wonder what the deal is with the trustee’s and if they have the right to release this material that was unrelased ?

I hope they do as Michael cannot stop them now and all that money is going to the creditors of the estate to pay the debts I hear.

I used to…I actually still do…manage artists but my business is disappearing before my very eyes.

I thought I might have something to say about whats going on these days in the music business but I hesitate as I hate people who think they know what they are talking about and have the guts to write a blog,

But here I am writing a blog.

It started the other night when I went to a seminar about the use of the Internet in Marketing ones music.

Listening to every one talk, and there’s was some great data given by the speaker, it struck me just how far down the music business has gone.

There was some criticism of the “Big Bad Record Labels” of the olden days of course, you know how bad they were…bla bla bla.

Then a young artist who was pretty smart and who I’m going to check out at some point asked the big question “How do I finance my career” basically was the question.

So artists slam the record labels as the big bad guys and yet they need those bad guys now?

So I piped up for the first time and said “Sure we can criticize the labels but they were the bank that allowed the artist (IF CHOSEN BY SOME A & R GUY, THE ARBITRARY) to get helped in getting established and there were some great artists established and still are out there I think.

But the suits were crooks and bad for the artist was the comment and it just struck me that every business has its bad guys including governments and politicians  and any form of activity (Toyota safety of the cars,the health care debate and corruption,waste at all levels).

It cannot be avoided and its naive to think that this can be avoided whatever the activity one is involved in and artists must be prepared to deal with it if they are going to achieve their goals.

Boy did this young artist need a record label to bank roll him right now but you know what they are not there anymore.

I have managed many artists over the last 40 years but if I was shopping Norah Jones right now as an unknown artist I would be very challenged to get her a record deal I can tell you as my business has disappeared.

And thats why would like to open up to discussion and I don’t mean just to discuss how bad everything is even if it is bad right now.

Its a desert out there as labels are not making money as they can’t sell CD’s anymore in any quantity so they can’t bankroll the artist hence the advent of the 360 deal (More later)

I believe there are answers out there on how artists can get their music to their listeners and have a career in music.

But the Record Labels were not the bad guys in realty as we certainly need them now but they are not really there anymore as far I can see.

Its not absolute for sure a acts do still get signed but developing a new act right now is a nightmare that is not easily solved.

Of course its a vast discussion and has some serious complexities to it for sure but I’m a Artist Manager with out a profession as our job was to get the record deal,find the agent and be the general and put the team together for the artist and that is increasingly difficult to do.

But I’m not giving up just yet!!

However I may have to go back to playing trombone and no one wants that for sure as I was never that good believe me.

more later ……..