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The Music Biz - ronws - 10-22-2016

It's not specifically about singing, so this seemed like a good place to start.

A few things about the music biz and what it can mean for singers and other musicians.

To quote Gen. Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: A New Hope, as played by Sir Alec Guiness (RIP,) - "never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy."

Before launching into a tirade about the evil music industry, I think it helps to first walk a mile in their shoes. I work for a contractor in the construction industry and I am the company manager. I am responsible for everything, including seeing to it we get paid for our services. Everyone has to eat and keep a roof over his head.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ....

Most musicians made whatever money they could make from performance. From a life on the road. From playing any place that would pay them. Then along came the inventions that could record sounds. As these technologies came along, people realized that you could record performances and people would enjoy those, almost as if they were at the show, itself. This was the beginning of "record companies." It was to sell the product, to sell records, stuff the record companies could make. And this could be played on playback devices made by other people. And it was a popular idea because there were many people that would love to hear the music but would never have the time or money to see a band or artist in person.

And broadcast radio was there for people who could not afford players and phonographs. Since there was no way back then to control and charge people listening to airwaves, record companies would pay stations to play their product. Innocent enough. But later, it would be decided by others that this practice, which became known as payola, was "bad." The only people who thought it was bad were the ones who could not get their stuff played on the radio. So, make the government make others make it "fair."

So, then, radio stations, much as they hated to, would play listener's requests. And this, some of the time, turned into greater record sales.

And during most of these early years, performers did not get royalties. Often, they got a performance fee, just as if they played one show, somewhere. The record company kept all the profits of sales. Because the record company had the gear and personnel to record it and manufacture copies, or hired out to other companies to make duplicate recordings and distribute those to stores to sell to the general public.

And artists began to realize they should get some compensation. The record company was making money based on their skillls of playing. People were not buying a record because Capitol made it, they were buying because it was Woody Guthrie singing, a voice they admired. But Woody was already a travelling peformer and would continue to be one. At least as far as he could travel. Touring meant cramming into something like a '47 Marathon and travelling for hours to make piddling pay in some juke joint and sometimes nearly having to fight to get the money from club owner.

Any company, and I don't care what it is, has to make a profit to continue existing. The company has to take in money that covers the basic expenses and some of those expenses are payroll, which includes pay raises for the employees. Only one or two people at a record label are wearing penny loafers and capri pants and have a golden spoon around their neck. The largest majority are people like you and me, pushing paperwork around, receiving deliveries of supplies, cleaning bathrooms, taking out the trash. Every single one of those people has a family to feed and a house or rented apartment to pay for. Bills to pay. And that takes money. So, the record company pays them. If the record company cannot pay them, they would have to work somewhere else that pays. Pure and simple. And the executives in the loafers need money, too. Otherwise, they would have to dig ditches for a plumbing company, maybe. Work is work. And the profit a company makes goes into expansion, which translates into creating more jobs. More work? Then you need more people. People who need jobs, even if they are only taking care of themselves with no other family to support.

So, they still have to pay an artist and most of the company royalties go back into overhead, paying everyone's wages and building expenses, etcetera.

And the sad fact of the matter is, not every recording artist is going to make a lot of money, no matter how good they are. Because it is not about virtuosity, it is about market appeal. Woody Guthrie, whom I mentioned before, is an icon and legend in the folksinger tradition. As is his son, Arlo Guthrie. Neither one has ever sold or will ever sell as many albums as Michael Jackson.

Yes, Michael Jackson was a trained singer with lessons, technique, performance skills out the yin-yang. Absolutely none of that had anything to do with his success and popularity. He was, and still is, popular with teenagers. And women. Yes, guys can like him, too, and I am not making a sexist statement. However, the cold and hard truth is that most of the money on music is spent by teenagers or the parents of teenagers. Lou Reed is a great songwriter. He will never have as much money as Taylor Swift.

Uriah Heep was a heavy metal band with a great sense of storytelling and virtuosity. But it is AC/DC, Bon Jovi, and Foghat music that gets a synchro-license in a number of movies and tv shows.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3J5VWr6lvM

People have complained that the record companies are forcing Justin Bieber on us. They are not. They only sell what sells. And people keep buying Bieber. And the record company absolutely uses analytics on Youtube and other platforms to track how many plays. Who keeps buying the Bieb? Yep, teenagers.

And so, a record company could manage, let's say, 20 acts. Literally, only one of those might make any money at all. The others are a loss. And the record company already spent money on recording, development, instruments, etcetera.

So, they structured deals, sometimes unfairly, where most of the costs are eventually recouped or collected by means of deducting from royalties, which is money earned by the artist on a recording of a sale. Why would they do that? Because you have to make money, somehow, to pay the bills that you have, now.

So, like any good company does, they minimize expenses and maximize profits. What happens if the next couple of years have crappy album sales for your record company? You have the profits from the last multi-platinum to keep paying your employees, electric bill, city services, and all that stuff. Where can they minimize? Share of royalties to the artist. Is it fair? No, it is not, but they are doing what they can to make money to pay their bills, by hook or by crook. If they don't, the company will eventually spend itself out existence, chapter 13 bankruptcy.


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 10-22-2016

Thing is, if a record company were to be more fair in dealing with artists, they would have to sign less artists. See, in most deals, the artist pays out of royalties for recording costs, producer cut, packaging, breakage and loss and out 100 units made, 85 are sold and 15 are free goods to radio stations but the artist is not paid for the 15 percent free goods. By the time all expenses have been accounted for, an artist's about 3 percent, instead of 12 percent, which is where he started. And here is what I see is wrong with that.

While there are certain expenses in development and in keeping with my statement that everyone needs to eat, exactly why is it that an artist has to pay for this? Is this like a record company giving the artist a loan to start a business. And that would be okay if that is what it was described as. But it is not.

If the record company picks and hires the producer, based on his abilities and track record (having a grammy or two is a good thing), then he should be paid out of the record company's cut, not the artist. That is, whoever is hiring the producer is the one who pays the producer.

Some aspects of development that are arbitrary, not necessarily needed or desired by the artist? Don't charge the artist for that.

Breakage? Back in the days of phonographs, especially ceramic, units would get broken in shipping. Why should a company pay an artist for units sold that could not be sold because they have shattered into many pieces? By the same token, why is the artist paying for it by having his percentage of royalties cut to allow for it? The record company is charging you on units broken that were sold, even though broken. Which is caca. With each new physical medium of playback, less real breakage occurred, the artist had the same percentage deduction, even with CDs, which almost never break. And yes, believe it or not, record company contracts will try to charge you for breakage on digital downloads. How can they, when the copy that was sold was not created until the moment of purchase when the file was duplicated and emailed or downloaded to your personal computer?

Because they can get away with it. All the different ways of holding copyright, which really means translating into being paid for every unit in every medium sold is something that attorneys excel at. And humans are apes, chimps to be exact. Survival of the most vicious, it would seem. In other words, they are going to take it if you, the artist, don't. If you plan to be a recording artist and sign to a label, minor major, the firs most important person you will hire as part of your team is a music biz attorney. Yes, part of it is the word, attorney, seen by other companies and attorneys, as seen wearing the priestly vestments of a holy man. Read the book, "Looking Out for number one" to read about the mythos and strange bargaining power of having an attorney. The contract you are wanting to sign was written by an attorney trying to keep as much money for the company as they can, by their own definition. And you need an attorney to understand lawyer-speak.

In a moment of counterintuitiveness, you, the artist, actually have the position of power. For it is you signing or not signing the contract. And be prepared for the label or company to back out of the contract if you won't agree to certain stipulations, such as assignations of royalty ownership. Be ready to walk away from the table if you cannot get the deal that you want. It is like buying a car. The strongest way to buy a car is walk away. You don't have to buy that car at that dealership, for example. Actually, the best way to buy a car, if you can manage it, is get a bank loan based on total drive-away price for the car. Then, you walk into the dealership and tell your bank to transfer funds, after you have inspected and test-drove the car and make sure that it is outfitted with everything you want, because you are about to be on the hook for $20k, or so.

Same with a contract with a label. So, don't be afraid to get a major contract, just be sure to get what you want. And you may not get that with a label contract and don't sign it because you are hungry, or hungry for fame. And that is a whole lot easier, these days, thanks to acts like Garth Brooks, The Eagles, Guns and Roses. These are acts that could not get what they wanted from label deals and ended up producing themselves and arranging their own distribution. Garth Brooks and the Eagles went with Walmart and Target, Guns and Roses with Best Buy.

And you can do that and, in some ways, it is more possible for you now than before, though not necessarily easier. How do you get shelf space at Walmart? By having a CD that will sell at least 60,000 units in a year. And that will go up, not down. Have you been to a Walmart lately? Music is on one side of one Display rack. Everything else is tv's, computer stuff, smartphones and accessories. And here is why. You don't have to go to Walmart, or any brick-and-mortar store to buy music. You can order online and it is delivered right your house. Or digital download to your computer or phone. Or you can get streaming services. Pandora is free. And for 5 dollars, you get the entire catalog they have.

I am a bit old fashioned. I like hard copies. I have cd's. I made sure my new car, which has a media head, also has a cd player, one of the last models to have it. These days, people are playing music from their ipad or smart phone with a bluetooth synch. I have done so, myself.

I have phonographs. I have a ceramic pressing of Billie Holiday's "Lady Sings the Blues." I don't play it anymore, just keep it as a collector's item. I have not played my turntable in two decades.

Anyway, so, if a label is going to let you keep more of the money that is generated, then they can only afford to hire the artists that are a sure thing. Which means you already need a reputation, a following. And that is pretty much what is happening. Let the small independent producers find the "next big thing."

Nor is it a bad thing for a label to charge some things against your royalties. Let us say that you need a new wardrobe and some new instruments but you are flat broke, just now. Okay then, they pay for it and you pay them back through sales. That is fair, provided that you get to keep the clothes and the gear. You paid for them, right? It's like a loan. In the trade I have worked, the company could buy you a needed tool and then deduct a small amount from your paycheck until it is paid off.


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 10-22-2016

You don't have to be on a major label to sell music and make money. All it takes is a computer, Reaper or other similar DAW, and in interface to record instruments and voice. And because you are usually placing the mic close, the room does not matter. You can record an album at the dinner table. I am not just saying that. I have seen interviews with Rob Zombie and Corey Taylor, both noting that they have heard music from people who recorded and mixed on a laptop and the quality is equal to that of commercially produced cd's.

And you can have a computer with a built-in burner or plug into the USB an aftermarket and burn your own CDs, one at a time. Sell them one at at time. In the past year, online distributors, such as distrokids, have broken the back of the label industry's hold on itunes. Itunes would only carry you if you were from a major label. But these other distributors can get you placed everywhere. For either a flat fee or a small percentage, they can sell your music everywhere in any format. And you keep the profits. A check is mailed to you or deposited in your paypal. So, instead of 3 percent of every unit sold, you are making 90 percent of every unit sold. This does not mean you will be a millionaire, but you will be fairly paid.

Lets say that you make ten dollars on every unit sold and you fees are 1 dollar. So, 9 dollars per album. You sell 500,000 units, a gold record. That is $4,500,000 before taxes. 4.5 million. Let's say that you sell a single song recording. Easier to do and to manage. $450,000 before taxes. And it is fair to the distributor. 1 dollar times 500,000 is $500,000 from one artist, one music sound file. If they carry only 20 artists doing that well, which is possible, then they are always in the black. It's just good business.

And this is a business. Here is another bubble I must burst. There is nothing special about being an "Artist." If you plan to make it your only mode of work and money, then you must make money. You cannot do it for free. Just like you cannot gather shopping carts at Walmart for free. Because you have to eat and put shoes on your feet. And if you are not good at math and business, you need to find someone who is. And here is my favorite example.

John Robert "Ozzy" Osbourne. The most distinctive voice, ever. You immediately know it's him. Great at writing lyrics and an unshakable image as "the Prince of Darkness." Able to find from nowhere virtuostic players and bring them to the public. But if he had one penny and found another penny, he could not make two cents out of it. He just can't. I would have better results asking my dog to perform brain surgery. But his wife and manager, Sharon Osbourne, can. And because of her, they have a house and a pot to piss in.

And before we create a mythos around the "artistic temperment," being bad at math does not make him a great artist. It just means he is bad at math. And so you, the new artist, need to be good at math and business, and yes, you can do that and be a good musician, a great artist. So, the more of your business you retain, the better. But it is more work for you. Or a business manager, if you hire one. And they need to be paid, too. You have to decide how much to pay. Salary? Retainer?

Attorney? Retainer, usually, plus billable hours. If you don't have a few thousand dollars for that, you will have to give him a percentage. He needs to eat and the new Benz he is driving won't pay for itself. But still, all in all, you are going to make more of the money and you need to keep track of that.

And taxes. You have to pay income taxes or you will wind up in the situation Willie Nelson had. He was not much into business and trusted others who failed him and it bit him in the butt, not them. Whatever money you receive as personal income, you need to pay taxes on. How do you do that? Well, take whatever check you get and calculate 20 percent of that and send it off as an estimated tax payment. You can do this once a quarter (every three months.) At the end of the tax year, you may have overpaid and will receive an refund. Or owe just a little. If you do that, you will never have a problem, never wind up in the Willie situation. And you have another option.

Put a big chunk of the money in tax shelters. These are investments that are not taxable as long as they stay invested. Once you start taking money out of that, you pay taxes on it. And investments that earn interest for you? You pay taxes on the dividends of the investments. And you can thank every president back to Woodrow Wilson, the first modern american socialist dictator. The bigger socialist than him was FDR. Equaled to only by pres Obama. Is it like paying a bribe or extortion money to the Mafia to leave you alone? Yes, it is. So, pay the squeeze and the rest of the day goes fine.

And if you do these things, you will be financially sound and mostly secure. But it takes work. It is paperwork and it demands your attention. And time in the day to deal with it, even if all you are doing is reviewing your currently monthly financial statements. Even if that takes only thirty minutes total, that is thirty minutes you must devote to that. Because if you don't, someone else will take it. Why? Because we are chimps fighting over bananas. Always have been, always will be.

That being said, how much do you need in order to live? You can make a healthy living while selling less copies of music than a label would sell. Because keeping 90 percent of 500,000 units in a year is $450k, and with 3 percent at a major label, selling the 500k units gets you about $40k gross, the same average pay as a journeyman electrician in Texas with maybe a decade or so of experience. And the electrician did not have to travel and went home every night to a clean and warm bed, not a rickety tour bus with a blocked up toilet.

So, let's say that you pay yourself better than an electrician. So, keep $60k for yearly income and invest the rest. Why?

Because you will not always sell 500k units. Popularity waxes and wanes. It just will. Even the great bands and iconic bands that other musicians have admired, have a life cycle. Once they become famous, which can take 5 to 10 years, the average is five years and 3 top selling albums. After that, you get diminishing returns. You have already put your freshest and best stuff. And the audience grows up and moves on and a new genre becomes the big seller.

Jon Bon Jovi said it best. "You have all of your young life to write your first album. You have less than a year to write the second album and it has to be as good as the first album."

In addition, you are trying to write that second album while on the road and touring, which is a physically exhausting job. It is not romantic or glamorous, no matter what images you see. It is a grind. Not to mention time away from home and family, kids growing up and you are not there for a lot of the great moments because you are at the Download Festival at Castle Donnington in England, for example. And that is the other thing. You are contracted to play the show. And you must play, even when you are tired. Because if you don't get shows to play, you will have to go back to cleaning houses and mowing lawns. Picking up trash and picking cranberries.

When grunge drove a sword in the side of heavy metal, that is exactly what happened to Michael Sweet, the singer from Stryper. His first wife had family that owned a cranberry farm and campgrounds in the New England area. So, he went home to be with kids and he worked there, harvesting cranberries, other times, emptying the trash bins around the campgrounds. So, if you were there and you heard someone whistling "To Hell with the Devil," it might have just been Michael, putting a fresh liner in the bin. And there is nothing wrong with that. Work is work, no matter what it is. And he was earning a paycheck. Not as big, but definitely more steady than the paycheck of a rock star. Nor does taking a job picking cranberries make him no longer a rock star. He was still a rock star, in waders with a bucket.

As hard copy sales diminish and I think Walmart will eventually get rid of any music display, and even now, they mainly have DVD and blue ray and a lot of peopler are just getting netflix and hulu and watching that way, hard copy sales will simply disappear.

If a record company can no longer sell hard copies because the public simply is not buying, what can they do? Change to the business model that they are selling the experience of hearing and seeing the artist. And that is why they are often referred to now as labels instead of record companies.

And digital downloads are cheap. There is no packaging or shipping to deal with. And streaming services like Spotify pay so cheaply that a few artists, like Taylor Swift, has had her catalog removed from her service. By the time she has collected the fraction of a fraction of a penny from that, it is eaten up by income taxes. Unfair? Sure. But how are you going to make Spotify pay more? They don't have to do so. And they might just go out of business. But you, the listener, are only willing to pay so much, if anything, to buy music. And Spotify and Pandora took over where Napster left off. And guess what? The inventor of Napster found himself in the same boat as the musicians he ripped off. And now he regrets it. It ain't so funny when someone has literally stolen the loaf of bread from your table. Once these other services offered even small compensation to artists, it was to late for Napster guy to get in. And he did not have the platform for streaming to phones. So, he lost out on a revenue stream for himself because he first thought to steal or pirate. Not only could he not charge more than these other services and would have to spend time and money to get a platform, but he has an eternally tainted image as a thief and no one is going to buy from him. You reap what you sow. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. This is the hill you wanted to die on. So, welcome the angel of death.

Granted, music the gateway to fans but it is no longer the cash cow in tems of physical units sold. Or even digital units sold. And your free apps for ringtones? They aren't free. You are paying for them in your monthly or yearly price to the phone company. And, on average, it is cheaper than if you paid for each time. But you are paying. There is no such thing as "free" and there cannot be.

Even if you decide to "drop off the grid" and no longer deal with money, you will still have to live off the land and find shelter and food. And it will take all day. And that is work. Just like any other animal that forages or hunts for food and a warm place to sleep. Nothing is free.

So, a lot of successful artists are actually a "brand." They sell all kinds of things associated with their music and image. Either stuff they make themselves or their name on another company's product. Guitarists do it all the time with "signature" series of guitars made to their specifications and bearing their reproduced signature.

Rikki Rocket, the drummer for Poison, owns his own company that he started, making drum kits to order. Sometimes, from scratch. Seriously, you can design the kit that you want, call his company and order it. They will make it and ship it to whatever address you give.

Bobby Blotzer, drummer for Ratt, used to work for a carpet cleaning service. And when the fortunes of Ratt fell during grunge, he opened a company that cleans carpets. It's a regular paycheck and that pays the mortgage, not the pennies they collect because "Round and Round" is on the label's latest compilation CD "Now that's rock!"

Bruce Dickinson, singer for Iron Maiden, is a licensed commercial airline pilot and part owner of a company in Wales, England that customizes airplanes and jets of all kinds.

David Lee Roth is an author, dee jay, blogger, and a certified New York City paramedic and he had to intern on 200 calls to qualify for that.

Ted Nugent has a sportman store and hunting gear and Ted's Kamp for Kids and modernly lives near Crawford, Texas, having moved down from Michigan. It brings him closer to his favorite hunting spot, the Big Bend area of Texas.

A large number of musicians have moved on to music engineering and production. Butch Vig, founder of the band Garbage, is a producer and has his own vocal processing plug-in that you can buy. And he will show you how to use it.

James Lugo, one time singer for Nazareth, is an engineer and producer. He just recently changed from a physical SSL board to all Pro Tools. He is also a vocal instructor.

Jim Gillette, the singer from Nytro, is a vocal instructor.

George Lynch, guitarist for Dokken and Lynch Mob, has been teaching guitar since the 80's and came up with hard copy training programs as the technology advance.

The original keyboardist for Steppenwolf was a computer geek and maintained the band online presence even though there was only him and singer John Kay left from the original band.

One of my friends and former forum mates, Keith Goehner, is singer for Drop Head, with two albums professionally released. And, he is a lawyer.

All the way down to an unknown like me. I am a singer who can play more than one instrument. And I am company manager for an electrical contractor.

But I could also be Ron, the rock star, and infamous barbecue chef. Because I am really good at smoking brisket. And why not? Sammy Hagar is a chef with a great cookbook, which I happen to have. And he developed Cabo Wabo Tequila, which he sold to his competition. Now, he makes rum.

Kid Rock has a branded whiskey.

Iron Maiden has a beer.

Geoff Tate owns a winery and his wine label is Insania. And it is good stuff, too.

And so, for the artist, the music sales are smaller. And they can get some regular checks from branded merchandise. What else is there?


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 10-22-2016

Live performance and touring. At the height of Van Halen's popularity, David Lee Roth writes that they would start out 1.5 million in the red. That is how much it cost to put together a tour with equipment and staging, gear, crew (roadies) to handle that, and performance fees for the artists in the band and the associated management. The label would front this money and take it back out of tour receipts.

So, bands would often not make much or any money on tour and the whole idea of the tour was to promote the latest album, out of which they were getting little. So, what else is there?

Merchandise. Shirts, key rings, mugs, posters. As album sales have dwindled, the labels are trying to get more of that money, too. Enter the "360" deal, pioneered by such label execs as LA Reid. In this deal, the label gets a majority percentage of everything you sell, including merch. And how are they getting that? Because you, the ignorant and starving artist, signed the contract saying that was okay. No on forced you to sign. You may have even had your attorney there. And maybe the label was playing "chicken," expecting you to swerve first, and you did. Be prepared to walk away from a 360 deal. However, the upside might be that in signing a deal, at least the label is "working" for you. They are not. The main thing they have that you don't have yet is distribution contacts. Which you can get, now.

So, going on tour, you have to have money to pay the crew to get on the road. A big tour takes big money but at least you get a paycheck for each night. Because you are paying for everything. The hotel room you trashed to show your "rock star status"? That gets taken out of royalties and tour receipts. And the label a&r guy that flew out to take you out to dinner? His plane ticket and the thousand dollar restaurant bill are business expenses that get deducted from your royalties and tour receipts. Guess what? You pay for that case of Evian water you wanted in the studio. At a mark up because they paid someone to get it. You would have paid less if you bought the water, yourself, and brought in.

What if you just finance and run your own tour? You can do that. Pat Benetar does. And she would only tour in summer when her kids were out of school and could go with her. Yeah, she is not generating millions on a world tour but she and husband Neil Girardo are more in control of the money that they do make. They built their own home studio and record everything there. Really, it just boils down to distribution, which they are capable of handling and sub-contracting to others.

One of my favorite country artists Ray Wylie Hubbard, an old friend of my wife. He tours Texas and Oklahoma. In his own truck and u-haul style trailer. He and the band set up their own instruments and his wife runs the merch table. So, they go where they can afford to go. And sell what they can sell. But he is independent and no label tells him what he can or cannot record. And so, you can appreciate his music on a personal level direct from him to you.

Some of you may not know his name but if you have ever listened to "outlaw" country, you have heard his most famous song, "Redneck Mother," which was a major hit as a cover recorded by Jerry Jeff Walker.

Now, you could be the next Justin Bieber or Adele and that is what it is going to take. Popularity and luck and a deal with the devil, aka, the "Label."


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 10-29-2016

What does it take to make it in the music biz? Originals. Yeah, everyone does covers and will sometimes put them on an album with other songs. But no one ever became famous just from doing covers. Notable exception, sort of, is Al Yankovich, aka, Weird Al, but his stuff is parody. It is considered an achievement when you have been parodied by Weird Al.

Just like, you have achieved something when you hear one of your own songs on the muzak you would hear on elevators.

Tristan made a good point in a recent video. The largest audience on youtube is millenials. And that is how a lot of them are hearing music, new and old.

And I have long thought that you should consider the market you intend to reach. For example, if you are a country singer, you might consider getting links to your music and web site placed on sportsman web sites, like Texas Fish and Game, in my state. Reason being, at least around here, a lot of fishermen and hunters also like country music.

Heavy metal and hard rock? Market yourself to video games. Avenged Sevenfold has done just that, inspired by lead singer Matt Shadow's love for video games.

For those who don't know of A7F, here is one of their big hit songs.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DelhLppPSxY

Anyway, so, write your own songs, even if you don't play an instrument. You can find people who do. Including websites of musicians who collaberate. Madonna cannot play a single instrument. But she knows people who do. So can you. By her own admission, she is an okay singer, not tremendous. Not even the best dancer. But she entertains. Which is what being a singer is allow about. More than technique. Entertaining people.

So, you write songs. As soon as you have a song in a final form of chords and melody and lyrics then, technically, the first time it is created in a format that others can here, it is copyrighted. But you are still better off registering it with the US copyright office. Because it is your intellectual property. If anyone heard it and tried to sell it as their own, you could successfully sue and win, because you would have the government's notice of the song before anyone else put it out.

And you need to register your name or your publishing company name with ASCAP, BMI, and / or SESAC. These are performance right organizations, though the Harry Fox Agency is often used. Anytime your song is played, you get paid. Anytime a singer wants to record your song, you get paid. And I mean an ASCAP check to you, not to some label. Unless you sign over copyright to a label. Of those three performance rights organization (PRO), SESAC deals a lot with copyright usage outside of the USA.

You or a label can pay a blanket fee to ASCAP, per year, and record anything in their catalog. Or you can pay per song.

There are advantages and disadvantages to forming a publishing company for yourself. Advantage? If you get sued, it is the company that gets sued, not you. Which means you need to get liability insurance for your publishing company.

Disadvantage: if your publishing company is publically traded on the stock market, you could be victim of a take-over, where someone buys most of the shares and voting rights and takes over copyright, if you registered copyright with your publishing name, instead of your own name.

Advantage: if sued and if you have liability insurance, the insurance company will fight the claim and even can offer legal defense. Without being a company, you might be sued as a person and have to hire your own attorney. If you have a music biz attorney already, then you are already a step of ahead.

It's six one way, half a dozen the other. Even if you were signed to a label, they might still absolve themselves of copyright infringement and leave you twisting in the wind.


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 11-05-2016

Can you make a lot of money by recording music? Depends on what is a lot of money. Album sales are not what they used to be. Even comedy albums don't sell as much because you can watch anything on youtube. So, even for comedians, money is still made in live performance. Ticket sales. Some just roll with the flow and stay current. Rodney Carrington puts up vids of his performances. Because entertainers are becoming multi-facet "brands." So, it is not just the music you perform and sell, it is whatever products you sell in conjunction. Clothing, perfumes, signature instruments, whatever. Eddie Van Halen holds patent on his guitar "Frankenstein" and on the 5150 amplifier. So, he gets a piece of every sale. There will be limited money on the "Frankenstein." They made a limited run because the spec required gluing a 1976 quarter (USD) and there were only so many of those still in circulation of currency.

Starting out, you could burn your CDs and ship orders as they come into your website. If you start getting too much of a demand, then you could think about hiring a duplication or replication house. Or go with a digital distributor, such as distrokid or cdbaby, who have the ability to order hard media copies. Of course, they take a fee, but you are still keeping most of the money.

Now, based on my math earlier, can you expect to make 450k in your first year? I would not bet on it, exactly. Yes, have faith in yourself and be prepared for hard times. It depends on the market and what people like or don't like about your song.

Don't be afraid to write what you want to write. Metallica received all kinds of crap and low album sales for "St Anger." Because of the mix and the lack of guitar solos. But they made plenty from the black album. And the early albums, so they could afford to lose money on what was an artistic exercise for them.

Draven, a member of the other forum, was illustrator for a book written by a friend of his and it is called "Your Band Sucks." You guys should read that, if you get the chance.

What if you want to make money? Then you need to consider song structure. Every pop song and most every rock song is verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge (sometimes with instrumental solo,) chorus, chorus. and chorus repeats if it's a fade-out. That is the formula and it works for every band and style. Why? It is like the band of frequencies most humans can hear and respond to. This song format is similar, that way. It just makes sense to the human way of thinking. Is it selling out? I hope so.

My favorite reply to accusations about selling out is from Gene Simmons (nee' Chaim Weitz, from Israel) of Kiss: "Do we sell out? Yes, we do, every night we are scheduled for a show."

"Gene, what is your favorite Kiss song?"

"For making money every time? Rock and roll all night, party every day."

Not only is that song their first big hit and their most consistent hit, it is one of the songs that Gene sings the lead. Paul Stanley is a great singer and natural tenor but tone is king and Gene's voice fits this song better.

And it follows exactly the formula I described. As does every single other song in their catalog. And they were one of the first and most successful in starting in merch and branding. And because they did not sign over into any 360 deal. By the time Destroyer came out, they had money to finance their own recording, if they wanted to do so.

Make the song move and be succinct. As Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters says, "Don't bore us, get to the chorus." That is why Judas Priest had such a gigantic hit with "Diamonds and Rust." Joan Baez original version was a hippie folk song that went on for quite some time. Nothing wrong with that but the JP version fits the consumer market so much better.

How do you write songs? By writing songs. Or pieces of songs. Point is, you don't stop writing. Even if it is crap and most of it will be. No one shits gold every time. And you or I will not be the first to lay the golden egg. So, we should get over ourselves.

So, what if you work with someone on a song and it is going to get published? You need to be aware of business. Make a contract. Who is getting what percentage. And what rights. Any song can be recorded by others, synched in a movie, tv show, or commercial ad soundtrack. It can be a ringtone which are sold from either websites or through your phone plan. You think it is free but you have already paid for it with your phone service.

Also, mechanical royalties. Each person that played on the recording gets a piece of each recording sold. Even digital download is considered a mechanical performance royalty because it will be played on a device that eventually outputs to some kind of speaker, no matter how small, which is a mechanical device.

So, for example, I write a song and invite someone to play. They get mechanical royalties from the recording. If they contribute to writing the song, then they could be do some compensation. Either in the form of shared copyright or commission or pay-per-piece. That is, I could pay what is a labor contract fee of money. They get paid a chunk of money, up front, for this one visit. Also, with mechanical royalties, or I can pay a performance fee for time during the recording. Which one? Depends on how I write the contract and whether or not the other person signs it or not.

Why would a person, even a friend, sign for a one time fee, no royalties? Because the song might not sell at all. Maybe not even get released and the money I pay for commission or performance might be the only money they would get at all and it is better than nothing. For example, let's say that I pay 1,000 USD for a one day session and that is your pay, whether the session is 3 hours long or 10 hours. You are getting a thousand dollars for the day. And we both like the song and it is released and tanks hard. Launches off of a pier and nose-dives right into the water. You would not see anything from it based on royalties. At least you made a thousand dollars and are now a professional studio musician, even if the studio is the back room near the back yard.

Or, we assigned percentages of royalties to you based on sales and I don't have to pay you any cash today. Or even a small amount, just to cover your gas and dinner. Or, I might be smoking a brisket and you are welcome to some of that, too. A 15 lb slab of meat is plenty to go around. Bring you own water or you drink mine, if you don't mind drinking Ozarka. I will even buy the beer and you are not charged for it, per se.

So, we sell and release it and, like the album Fallen by Evanescence goes multi-platinum (their album sold 17,000,000 copies world wide)? Now, you are looking at being a multi-millionaire within the space of a year's cycle of sales. With proper investment of this money, you could conceivably leave your job gathering shopping carts at Walmart.

Is that cold and calculating? Yes, it is. And a contract makes everyone more at ease because you know what to expect. Even among friends.


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 11-06-2016

Making money to eat and pay bills requires working, which takes time in a day. You work for a store. You have a shift of a certain number of hours in which you complete the duties of the job. And you receive compensation, pay, usually in the form of a check that you can take to the bank.

Same goes for a professional musician. If they are going to do nothing but music full time, they have to make money to eat. Problem, everyone wants their product without paying for it. Places like Napster and also torrent sites, especially on the "dark web" where someone has taken the time to rip songs from a CD and distribute them no cost. And so others go there and get copies of the music and pay nothing.

So, the musician does not get paid and goes bankrupt and playing music full time does not pay the bills. It ends up not paying as much as being an electrician.

In his memoirs, Dee Snider talks about the crash of heavy metal in the face of Nirvana's debut. Their tour was canceled midway through it. Record stores were returning thousands of copies of the latest album. Dee could not get a gig singing at a bar mitzvah.

His wife, however, was a custom tailor. And so, he found himself, once one of the biggest rock stars in the world, pasting up fliers for his wife's sewing business on boards and telephone poles around town, wearing a hoodie and being a ninja poster of fliers.

Brian Johnson of aC/DC owns race cars and a race car team. Bon Jovi has been trying to buy a football team.

Butch Vig of Garbage has a recording studio and a recording label.

Same with James Lugo.

In addition, some singers go into other performing arts, such as acting. Some started out as actors. Phil Collins was an actor. Gordon Sumner, known as Sting, was an english lit teacher and small time actor and was in the Who movie, "Quadraphenia" before becoming big in his art band, The Police.

Bon Jovi, Mark Wahlberg, brother Donny Wahlberg have done acting. Now, Mark Wahlberg is a tv producer, producing the tv version of his hit movie, "The Shooter."

Corey Taylor, singer in Slipknot and Stone Sour, is an author. Henry Rollins, singer for Black Flag and for the Henry Rollins Group, is a writer, poet, and had his own special interest show on cable. And is an actor. He played a neo-nazi skinhead in a section of episodes of "Sons of Anarchy." Which is totally against type and I know this because I have read Henry's memoirs, too. I read a lot. I mean, a lot.

Gene Simmons owns pieces of everything.

And vice versa. A number of actors are also musicians. Keanu Reeves. Gary Sinise, Bruce Willis. Kevin Bacon. Hugh Laurie, who plays several instruments and seems to have an affection for the blues. Dick Van Dyke, who plays piano. Clint Eastwood plays piano and is a jazz fiend. Eddie Murphy. Patrick Swayze (RIP) was a really good singer. Not surprising since his mother was a dancer and singer and Patrick actually started out in modern dance and theater. His brother, Don, is still a versatile actor.

We are all of us, singers and actors, telling the human story.

So, if you feel down because you want to be a singer but are still working as a temp in a lawyer's office, let me relay a message from the rock stars; welcome to the club. Everyone has to do something to pay the bills but music is our passion. So, keep singing and doing what you do. It could turn around for you.

Lorde made a video for youtube called "Royals." Within a year, it had gone viral and they were a featured act on an awards show. And now, they go on tours, as in plural. It can happen. You just need a song that everyone likes. Verse, chorus, verse chorus, bridge, verse, chorus, in a way that sticks in people's brains. Around here, we call that an ear worm. A song gets in your head and burrows in and won't go away.


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 11-12-2016

A long time ago, it was incredibly expensive to record anything. A company would be the ones with capital to buy gear, build studios and all of that. And so, most musicians would have to get a contract with a company to be able to record stuff and sell the recordings. The problem lies in who brings what to the table. The record company or label has the logistics and people connections to mass produce the product and ship it to stores where you and I can buy recordings. But if we did not know the musicians, why would we buy their stuff, other than as a one-off experiment? And so, at first, musicians were paid flat fees for performance during recording.

Thing is, musicians need to eat, as well and if a record company is going to sell product, then the focal point of their product, the artist, needs some kind of help. So, the contracts arose where an artist could receive an advance against the earnings of a future album. The idea being that when the albums sold, the percentage assigned to the artist would pay off the advance. Conceivably, once the original advance was paid off, profits after that would be going to the artist. Not so much, though. Because the contract will state that any and all expenses will be "re-couped". This means that anything spent on your album in addition to your advance, is also paid by you. The producer and engineer are paid either up front by the label or they are assigned a small percent of the artist's percentage.

From the company's standpoint, they have just ponied about a million dollars up front to get your deal going. And those costs have to be re-paid.

Now, if you organized your own tour, then all that tour money is yours. However, the label has connections to arrange bigger tours. And so, they could spend another million and a half to get a tour physically on the road. And your daily performance fee and whatever you spend on the road comes out of the tour receipts. So, you released an album that is doing fairly well and just came back from a tour that did pretty good yet you still netted less income that year than a journeyman electrician.

So, then, you tried to sell merch. You and the band designed your logo and brand idea and arranged for manufacturing. Only to find that the mafia and other organized crime make cheap knock-offs and sell them, taking away from your business. Van Halen had a big problem with this. And you cannot fight the mafia but you do come to an understanding of maintaining distance from the venue.

Then, the record company takes over that because they have lawyers who can successfully sue criminals. enter the 360 deal, pioneered by such as people as LA Reid. And so the label gets a major piece of everything associated with your name and logo. You don't have to sign that. If you do, you may receive better artist development and promotion, but it costs you.

Thing is, you could sign a deal and make some good money, even if it is not all the money. But this is where most musicians fail because they are not doing math and managing their money. The trick is to stay within a budget. Always remember that you will be paying for everything and everything the label gives you comes out of your earnings. So, you need to take the earnings you do have and keep them separate. Invest, put in trust funds, all that. And later, when you want to have a business of your own, the label cannot have a part of it. They already got their part on the album, tour, and associated merch.

The other option is to produce yourself, without a record label. Guns and Roses ended up doing this. it cost 3 million dollars and 13 years, with a studio build and stuff to make the album, Chinese Democracy. But it went triple platinum world wide with no promotion and both Interscope and Best Buy dropping the ball several times. It sold that well just on the fan base. Basically, it paid for itself and then some.

And part of the reason it took so long for GnR to ever tour again is not just the acrimony between the band mates. It was also because they could not find a tour deal that did not rip them off blind. One of those cases where you are financially better off staying at home.

Some other business ideas you can contemplate. You can start your own label as a limited liability corporation (LLC) or sole proprietorship (SP). The reason for this is that if you are sued as a company for any reason, the judgements are against the company, and not you personally. Someone could take over your business but not your house or personal assets. You would write a check to yourself and pay taxes on your earned income and you would also have to process and pay taxes for the business. In Texas, businesses pay a 1 percent of net income to the comptroller. So, you are best off by getting a corporate line of credit card for your business. Buy literally everything on their and keep every single receipt. And keep them for an average of 10 years, in case of audit. And if you are not an expert accountant, get one, even a cpa. Have someone else do that for you. And not a friend but someone who is a pro. Willie Nelson had a friend in charge of his finances and this got him in trouble with the IRS. So, Willie arranged to record two albums and all proceeds go to the IRS and that got him back in black. And he changed managers and finance officers and has not had a problem since then.

The disadvantage is that someone could try to buy out and take over your company, especially if you make public offering on the stock market. You could retain 60 percent ownership but then you have to have the cash to back 60 percent shares in the business. So, no, you can't just go buying everything. You need to stay in budget. And pay your bills on time or ahead of time. The best way is to pay them the day they come in the mail or email. Some things you can put on auto-draft. This also does good things for your credit since it results in less hits on your credit. Sometimes, credit is helped by lack of negative activity.

But one other advantage you could have as a business is that, for about 1000 dollars a year, you could have insurance on the business and they have lawyers that can handle lawsuits and settlements quite easily. Just the same, there are things you can do that make it an easy job defending you for your insurance company and any attorney that you may have. How? Get your copyrighted songs registered with the US Copyright Office. You can send tape, CD, memory stick, pay a fee. Yes, technically, the first time you have music recorded in a medium that allows others to listen, it is copyrighted but it could be a while to prove that in a dispute. What if you uploaded in a forum or site that is now defunct. How do you prove time and date? But if you processed an application with today's date, it is copyrighted as of today.

If someone steals your song, your lawyer has an easy time, often going through secondary arbitration instead of a court battle. Then you can settle. The other person has to acknowledge copyright to you and pay you royalties or remove it from their recording and money making venture. Of the two, the first is the better option because now you are getting paid from work they have to do. That's better than going to court, where you could win all the chips but it is more expensive because of court costs and attorney fees, instead of arbitration with just the attorney fees.


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 11-13-2016

How much money can you make? It depends on how many people want to buy and what they will pay. The modern era of DAW and cheap interfaces and mics allows anyone to record and make pro sounding recordings on their dining table. Problem is, that is exactly what is happening. Not only can everyone record whatever, everyone IS recording whatever. The world is flooded with music, much of it being posted for free. You can hear just about everything on youtube, for example.

So, the focus should be to get your music into revenue streams, a polite word for finding ways to sell your recordings and receive money.

And be prepared to tour. Even the old musicians still out there aren't making money on albums the way that they used to, though there is still money to be made. They are making money by touring. Because, as of yet, ipods, streaming phones, bluetooth linked mp3 players cannot replace seeing someone perform live at whatever venue you like.

So, how do you get gigs? By hook and by crook. And you start out playing for peanuts, literally. Anywhere someone will let you sing. Open mic nights, just to get your name out in public. Play at family events. And if you are singing at your nephew's birthday party and a guest says, "man, you should play at my club," don't be shy, tell him what your gig fee is. And if he balks at that, point out that you are performing for your nephew and not charging your brother and sister-in-law but they are also feeding you for the evening.

Once you get a few gigs that pay, people start to take you seriously because money is involved. It is best when you get paid up front. So, then you enter the problem of deciding how to get paid. If you take a flat fee, then that is all you make, even if the place is packed because of you. If you get a percentage of the door, that is okay, unless it is the one night when the high school is playing football and you are lucky to have ten people show up. Half of those ten are family members, the other five are professional drinkers who have come to get loaded and you just happened to be there.

And don't expect adulation for your awesome singing technique. Most people would think a C5 is a model of Mercedes-Benz. Can you sing on pitch and move their souls, even though the haze of beer and tequila shots? And, in Texas, there are still some bars where smoking is allowed, so be prepared for that.

And go ahead and use falsetto where it sounds good. Audiences do not give a flying act of fornication about whether falsetto is cool or not. They want another beer and they want to hear "Freebird."


RE: The Music Biz - ronws - 11-24-2016

The Jared Dines channel on youtube, he highly recommends using distrokid for release and distribution. You pay one fee of $20 USD for every year and you keep all profits of sales. And they get you distributed to spotifiy, Amazon, itunes, all the big digital sources of music.

Someone had asked in the comments if distrokid takes care of your copyright. My response is that you should be responsible for your copyright. Don't depend on others. So, you write songs, you get them registered with the US Copyright Office. (Or whatever equivalent in your country.) Get yourself listed with ASCAP or BMI. SESAC if outside of the US. These are PROs that protect your copyrights, although it is the Harry Fox Agency that actually goes through the effort of collecting royalties. Even if you are releasing independently on your own and receive all the profits of a sale, and therefore are due no royalties from yourself, others may want to record your song as a cover. Then you get royalties based on unit sold of their recording. And what happens is ASCAP writes a check to you, not a record company, to you the writer or, if you are dead, then whoever holds the copyright, such as your estate of surviving family members.

It used to be there was no copyright. Then there was copyright for author life plus fifty years. That is, your family could collect on an inherited copyright for 50 years past your death. Then it would either become public domain or another person or company could buy out the copyright. But the copyright has extended past 50 years. This is a minor blessing to the family. But also a cost consideration for others who want to record music with these songs who feel they should be public domain, by now.

It's kind of like holding a patent. You design something and the US Patent Office agrees and you own all interest in the design and prototype. That means that only you can make the product and if someone else wants to make it, they have to give you a business agreement for compensation. This is leasing the patent. another company gets to make it and you get a percentage of every sale or even a flat rate per year, regardless of company profits.

So, I would offer the advice that before you do anything business-wise with your music, you get it copyrighted, first. It does not cost a lot. That way, if someone else does record your exact song and tries to sell it as their creation, your lawyer has a really easy time in court when he shows the registered copyright in your name before the other person ever recorded the song. Then, either they award all receipts to date to you, or, what happens more often, is the credits are changed to show your copyright and you get a percentage of royalties or sales, and let the recording stand, especially if it is a good one and will sell a lot.

It could turn into a good business relationship as a songwriter for any number of people who would see that you can be worked with and not totally unapproachable. And songwriters make more regular paychecks than recording artists.

More about ownership of copyright. You can copyright under your own personal name. Or you could copyright under the name of a publishing company you start. And then write a check to yourself. What is the advantage of this? Well, what if someone sues you for infringement of copyright and they win? Well, if personal copyright holder, then can win against you in person and you could lose some assets paying off. If they win against your publishing company, then it is a judgement against the company, not you, personally. And what is bad about that? Well, your publishing business can be bought out or seized. And all assets in that company can be frozen.

Or you could do like Willie Nelson did in his settlement with the IRS. He still owns copyright. What he did was release two albums with all proceeds directed to the IRS and that took care of his bill.

This kept him from losing everything he worked for. His previous business manager was to handle the paying of his taxes and never did. So, by taking matters into his own hand, he saved himself and his family and his fortune.

There is always going to be money to make from music. Live performance, sheet music publication, sales of recorded music in both digital and hard media formats. We are always paying for music, either directly or indirectly. What is important is to find the different markets and venues in which to place the music and making sure the money goes to you.

You don't have to have a deal with a record company to get heard or distributed. The advantage a label has is in connections of distribution, especially for hard media like CDs and vinyl phonographs. Which are deals you could also arrange for yourself. You can get with duplication houses than can press 5,000 CDs at a whack and go with distributors that have trucks.

But these days of lighter sales in CDs, it is just as easy to have a quantity made that can easily ship to your house by FedEx or USPS and then you mail or ship out orders as you get them in.

The reason for this is that you can and will sell from your website. Also, it used to be that a store would not carry music product unless it was from a big label like Sony or Capitol or Chrysalis.

Now, it does not matter. If you can get analytics showing online sales and you price a CD low enough, it will still sell. That is because there is a little better sound quality on a CD than with an mp3. It is a matter of bit resolution and retainage. And people still like having a physical product in their hands to look at. That is part of while vinyl is coming back. It is big enough to enjoy the art work on the sleeve.

And again, get your music syncro-licensed with movies, ads, tv shows. Get it in games. That is what Avenged Sevenfold is doing. Singer M Shadows is a gamer freak. And he helped design a game you can play on your phone and it has A7F music in it.

You may not sell as much and maybe music supervisors at film companies are more used to dealing with reps from labels but that does not mean that you cannot do the same thing. But it does involve work on your part. Phone calls, correspondence, always paperwork to push.

And you have to be flexible. What if a movie company wants to use your music but they want to record it with a small orchestra and want to fly you out to their studio in Hollywood to supervise and help re-write parts to fit new instruments? You need to be flexible enough to fly on a plane that someone else bought the ticket and collect a fat check for living the dream.

Another option is getting your music listed with TAXICAB, a company that reps your music to people in the music and film industry. They take all kinds of music for all purposes. If you don't know enough people, they do. You pay one fee a year, they list your music and people at film and tv companies go to them looking for stuff. Production companies also put out project requests like: "medium tempo ballad acoustic." And you come up with instrumental stuff that they will use in soundtracks. Checkout their youtube channel for pointers on how to write that stuff. Warning though, the episodes are usually an hour to an hour and a half.