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Confessions of a Record Producer

Confessions of a Record Producer

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Confessions of a Record Producer

Lunghezza:
569 pagine
6 ore
Pubblicato:
May 1, 2009
ISBN:
9781617133930
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione

The first edition of Confessions of a Record Producer published real-life numbers showing what artists made on so-called “hit records” and how producers, labels, managers, and even the artists' own lawyers conspire to cheat them out of royalties. It's the only publication that tells the real story of how artists get ripped off and how they can protect their assets. In a special 10th Anniversary Edition, author Moses Avalon, one of the industry's most sought-after consultants and artist's rights gurus, has updates on all of the old shams and many new ones created by the internet and the ongoing transformation of the music industry. The book features detailed numbers on how new royalties from digital downloads are calculated, collected, and manipulated, and goes deep inside the new so-called “360 Deals” offered by the major labels. Private video lessons from Avalon's Workshop are also included. Groundbreaking charts and graphs show industry consolidation, who owns what, and where the future of the music business is headed.
Pubblicato:
May 1, 2009
ISBN:
9781617133930
Formato:
Libro

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Confessions of a Record Producer - Moses Avalon

it.

PART ONE The Game

Capitalism is convincing somebody that you own something.

—Henry David Thoreau

The Players

As in any business, before you get in over your head, it is important to understand what type of players you’ll be dealing with. Those who invest in the music business are an unusual breed of gambler. A lawyer friend once explained it to me this way: The entertainment industry is like a big casino. Motion pictures are the backroom baccarat tables for the millionaires with the $10,000 gold chips. Television is the $100 table for the yuppies, theater the $25 table, and the record biz is the $2 table, essentially for the bargain shopper.

This is not intended to demean musicians, or the other players in the game. On the contrary, to be a player and win at the record game, you will have to place many bets, so they’d better be cheap and shrewd ones. Nor is the above to say that the $2 table is not worth playing; many a large fortune was built on small, carefully thought-out wagers.

In this section we are going to examine the various types of players, both artists and professionals—their roles, agendas, and incomes. But for those of you who’ve never sat at the $2 table, I can tell you straight out, most of us got our clout from being shrewd, conniving, and in many cases, lawless.

Welcome, brother.

CHAPTER ONE The Pros

No matter what aspect of the business you pursue, over time you will find yourself talking to more non-musicians than actual music makers. Even if you are an artist, as you become more successful, the creative end of music will occupy less and less of your time and you will be dealing mostly with lawyers, accountants, managers, business affairs people, label promotion personnel, distributors, publicists, and more lawyers.

There is a natural feeling of dread many of us experience when dealing with high-priced professionals. We often believe that because they went to a fancy school, or have framed degrees on their wall, they must be more astute than we are. In the music business, this does not always apply. Here’s a big secret:

Most music industry pros, at one time or another, dreamt of being some type of performer.

I remember a piece of advice I received from a successful friend. He said that when meeting important or intimidating people he would try to imagine them naked; all their grandeur would instantly wilt. Building on that advice and looking at the line in bold above, try to imagine the pompous pro in front of you playing in a rock band, arguing over chord changes and how he should wear his hair tonight.

Though not all industry professionals were artists, you should be cautious about the ones that were seriously considering it. Even though they’ve given up the spotlight, their heart may still be there. The best pros are the professionals who love music and may even be musicians but have made peace with the path they have chosen. They are centered and secure with their station in life. These pros are worth their weight in gold. Even these, however, may have a hidden agenda, as we’ll see in the upcoming chapters. The key when dealing with them is to relax, listen carefully to what they say, and don’t panic. No matter how impressive they try to make themselves out to be, remember that they too are sitting at the $2 table.

The New Team

Before we launch into the profiles of each type of pro, I would like to address something important for this new edition—this concept of the team.

Many behind-the-scenes music books like to discus the concept of the artist’s team. This refers to the machinery behind the creative side. Typically this is the lawyer, manager, publicist, and business manager. Each are discussed below, largely because they all still play very significant roles in the process after the artist grows out of his garage and is headed towards stardom.

But since the Internet has become essential to an artist’s development, the artist requires a somewhat retooled team of professionals. The new team may not even have any of the old players in it, but may consist of a Webmaster, a viral marketing guru, an aggregator, a consultant, and a Web site designer.

After the traditional pros I’ve placed some profiles on these new essentials.

Lawyers

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite target, the lawyer. As stated earlier, until recently most books on the music industry have been written by attorneys. As a result, these books tend to overlook the lawyer’s contribution to certain problems in this business. Whether this is done out of convenience or naiveté is anyone’s guess. So, for the lawyers out there reading this, consider what follows as equal time.

Before any record deal is done, it must go through a lawyer, usually several, in fact. The reason: if both sides of the deal are not properly represented, the entire contract may be disputed down the line. That’s the actual law! (As practiced by lawyers.)

Because lawyers are centrally placed on all sides of the deal, they have the ear of every important person you will need to know.

Fees for attorneys normally range anywhere from $250 per hour to $700+ per hour, although sometimes the lawyer will work for a percentage of the deal instead of an hourly fee (often about 5%). The size of the deal—whether with a major label, a small indie, or a production company—will usually determine the size of the lawyer’s fee.

Lawyers typically come from educated upper-middle-class backgrounds and earn anywhere from $60,000 to $500,000 a year. The cream of the crop have been reported to make $1,000,000 per year and up. Clive Davis started out as an attorney and became the president of Arista Records. In 1995, his contract was renewed for $5 million per year (but that’s minus a bonus).²

However, you shouldn’t think that just because the lawyer you’ve been speaking to has platinum records and framed law degrees on his wall he or she has great knowledge of the law. Many music biz lawyers are more salesmen than litigators. The mainstay of their day revolves around meetings and lunches to rope in business. They are often called rainmakers.

Behind them, kept well out of sight of the clients, are what I call the worker bees. They stay in the office well past 9 P.M., drafting the contracts and making sure the rainmakers, who promised the world to the client, can actually deliver. The worker bees aren’t slick like the rainmakers. They get less glory, but they are the ones who really know what’s going on and what you can and can’t get away with. One way I can always tell a rainmaker from a worker right off the bat—workers wear less jewelry.³

One other type of lawyer is one I call the crusader. Crusaders tend to be young attorneys just starting out in business. They’ve picked up all the book smarts in law school but have yet to learn how to apply it to real life. As with most people who are new, they tend to be somewhat idealistic about how things actually work. The result can be that they over-negotiate a deal into nonexistence. Afterward they will justify their actions by saying it was a lousy deal anyway.

New attorneys tend not to understand that business is about people, not clauses, especially in the music business. It’s about relationships. Keeping an eye on the bottom line can be shortsighted in a business where most people are not initially making a huge living. Unfortunately, lawyers are trained to see things in an arbitrary fashion, so sometimes they can do more harm than good, especially when negotiating small money deals. My friend Larry, who is a music industry attorney, says he would never hire a lawyer who wasn’t, at some time, in business for himself. I agree, but this isn’t always practical.

LAWYER LOGIC

It is all too easy for a lawyer to simply say, Forget this deal.

Consider the lawyer’s logic: If he tells you to sign a contract and something goes wrong, you will likely blame him, but if you never do the deal, he can remain forever wise.

Unlike your best friend or family member, lawyers are accountable for the advice they give. Bad advice can lead to a lawsuit against them. So it is in the lawyer’s best interest to lean away from a deal (usually after they’ve racked up a few billable hours examining it). This is not to say that every deal the attorney tells you to pass up is a good one, but you have to always consider the source when asking for advice.

Some crusaders mature into excellent lawyers; some don’t. Until you can determine which way they will go, my advice is to steer clear of the crusader. A typical example of how crusaders can muddy the waters is illustrated in the sidebar My Friend Don.

Conflicts of Interest

An important point about lawyers is to understand their career goals. For example, if you were negotiating a contract with Universal Music, would you hire an attorney who was thinking about working for that company soon after your contract was completed? Would this make you a bit suspicious? Would you wonder how hard your lawyer was going to push for you, knowing that he was trying to suck up to the label?

But besides this, there is one other oddity that is unique to the music business: it is not uncommon to have attorneys from both sides of a lawsuit working at the same firm. By the letter of the law, this is in fact illegal. But in the music business, it happens every day. How can we trust that we are being represented fairly when opposite sides of a dispute sometimes literally share a file cabinet?

We can’t. The only answer is to be very cautious about who you get in bed with. Don’t go just on instinct that you are being well served. Almost all attorneys who work in large firms ask their clients to sign a document that makes the client aware that conflicts of interest do occur. The client, by signing the contract, agrees to give up their right to have any recourse against the firm if it causes a problem. If a situation arises where the closeness of the two attorneys could bias the outcome of a case, then the ethical attorney would, at that point, tell their client to seek a different lawyer. But not all attorneys are ethical.

MY FRIEND DON

Don came from an affluent family and had been working in the music business for several years when he decided to start his own production company. He hired a lawyer to draft a standard production agreement for him to use when negotiating with his clients. The contract, which was very professionally done, was about nine pages long, with lots of fine print. It cost Don a small fortune, too.

I had been operating my own production company for several years, and I tried to warn Don that his contract would never work. He said to me, But it’s a very good deal for the artist.

It was a very good deal for the artist. The problem was that the artist usually wouldn’t read it because it was too complex and intimidating. I suggested that he do what I did—a simple three-page agreement in plain English. Don’s attorney complained that my agreement was unprofessional and left many things out that should be addressed; he insisted that Don keep the agreement that he had drafted. Don did just that.

For about a year, he produced no one. No artist he came in contact with had the patience or the money to have a lawyer explain the meaning of the nine-page novel. Out of frustration, his prospective artists chose to look elsewhere rather than deal with Don’s business practices, even though it was a good deal for them. After 15 months and no new business, Don threw the contract out and photocopied mine.

Many attorneys dream of being executives of major labels and see representation of artists, producers, and managers as a mere stepping-stone. Other attorneys’ main mission is to represent the biggest artists in the business, negotiating against the corporations. Which side of the fence your lawyer is on is important.

A few humbling facts about lawyers:

Most lawyers in the U.S. don’t earn much more per year than the average sanitation worker.

Most lawyers have never taken anyone to court.

The most ethical entertainment lawyers make the least money.

Most lawyers are not as ethical as they think they are.

A&R

The A&R people work for record companies and are paid by them to find and sign talent that will record hit records for the label. Today, they are not generally supposed to dictate the creative content to the artist; however, this was not always the case. First, some history:

A&R stands for Artists and Repertoire. Up until about 1960, A&R men⁴ were the producers of the records. They spent time with the artists, developed the material, and were responsible for the sound and quality of the record. The A&R person would, more often than not, co-write the songs and assist with the arrangements, yet they would not receive a single royalty because they were employees of the record company—it was part of the job.

As the business went through its first major consolidation in the 1960s, labels began to cut expenses and farm out various functions, one of which was the producing of the record. With this element no longer part of the A&R responsibilities, those A&R persons who excelled at production became independent producers. Record companies hired them on a project-by-project basis, giving them a fee for producing and a percentage of the profits (usually 3% after recoupment of expenses). With the creative part of the job now filled by an independent contractor, the role of staff A&R was reduced to that of buyer for the record label.

A typical day for an A&R person consists of arriving at the office around 11 A.M. and taking phone calls and attending meetings (including lunch) until about 6 P.M. Then they go to a club to see an act they are interested in (often called a showcase). They will spend the better part of the evening talking to band members, managers, and producers, all in an attempt to put a deal together between the band and the label they work for. This can go well past midnight.

A&R people start off, in most cases, as an assistant. They make a starting salary of just under $30,000 (at most large labels in major cities), and this can go up to $150,000 at the executive level, once they’ve survived in the game for a while. On rare occasions, an A&R person may prove so vital to the label that his combined salary and bonus exceeds $750,000 a year.

The position of assistant A&R, which leads to an A&R executive position, seems to be the most nepotistic job in the industry. Most people who get these jobs are in some way related to the higher echelon of the label’s management, or they have parents who know someone high up in the label’s holding company. This is starting to change as the industry consolidates much of its middle-management and smaller indie labels start to seem more efficient to the majors. Smaller labels, who don’t have any room in the budget for waste, prefer to hire producers, managers, or people who have worked in the industry as A&R rather than the nephew of a CEO.

It is not uncommon for an A&R person—even a successful one making a six-figure salary—to leave a label after a year because they have fallen out of grace with the higher-ups or get a better offer from another label. The A&R position is a rather tenuous one. They become an easy target for blame in the failure of many projects. It’s a worthwhile risk, however, because if the band is a success, the A&R person gets a lot of recognition for his/her forecasting.

Often the most successful A&R people will try to get their own label spun off from the major label they were working for. (This is important information. Remember this when we’re talking about the recording deal in the section called Super-Duper Cross-Collateralization in chapter 12 and when we discuss one-deep and two-deep labels on page 64.)

Starting in 2007, several major labels downsized their A&R departments radically. One major label, EMI, let go of more than 75% of it’s staff. It seems that major labels, as they redefine their business models in the digital age, feel that there is no longer a need for gaggles of A&R persons that many feel are overpaid considering their track record. (See below.)

The A&R person of the future may be a telecommuting teenager who searches social networks for the next super star. So whereas once the skills for A&R were clubbing, we may now substitute online savvy.

A&R at the Indie Level

At smaller labels, the A&R person is usually the owner of the label. Chances are they once worked for a major label and have now grown their own legs. To do so, they’ve found an investor who is, in essence, investing in the A&R/owner’s judgment as to what is going to sell.

Many of these little labels don’t last long. But if an A&R/owner can survive the first two years, they have good potential for success. Some examples are Rick Ruben and Russell Simmons, co-founders of Def Jam Records (who released the Beastie Boys and LL Cool J), and Steve Gottlieb of TVT, who discovered Nine Inch Nails.

A few humbling facts about A&R:

Despite their alleged expertise, 75% of all acts signed by A&R people fail to sell enough records to turn a profit and less than 10% earn enough to pay the artist any royalties.

The average tenure of an A&R person at a major label is about two years.

A&R people are rarely welcome guests at recording sessions.

In fact, they’re rarely welcome anywhere near the creative process.

Managers

Yes, yes, managers. What exactly do they do, and how valuable are they in the grand scheme of things? This is complicated, because managers seem to come from every corner of the business.

So, let’s say you’re a recording artist (or hope to become one) and you’re looking for a manager. What will he or she do for the 15% to 20% that they will take of your earnings? Well . . .

Managers shop and negotiate the deal between the artist and the record label. But wait, doesn’t the lawyer do that?Well, yes.

Managers make sure that the artist gets their proper royalty payments. But wait, wait, doesn’t an accountant or business manager do that?Well, yes.

Managers help the artist select material for the record and help develop the sound. But wait, doesn’t the producer do that?Well, yes, he does.

Managers make sure that the venue conditions are the ones agreed upon in the tour contract (i.e., that there’s enough beer backstage and the instruments are in tune). But don’t we have tour managers and stage managers for that? Yup, we do.

Managers get the act great gigs on the road, like opening up for a national act. But can’t a booking agency do that for 10%? Uh, yeah, and for legal reasons, they should.

Managers supervise the artist’s interviews and press releases. They make sure that nothing too negative leaks to the press (unless they want it to). Butdon’t we have publicists for that? Most definitely.

Managers help mold the artist, like with the proper look. But can’t you get a stylist or image consultant to do that for a few bucks? Sure.

Managers oversee the construction and optimization of the artists’ Web presence. But can’t we get a Webmaster and viral marketing person to do that for a monthly fee? Yep.

Give up? This description may, on the surface, seem like I’m down on managers, but I’m not. A manager is a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Each function could be delegated to one of the other pros. But the manager has his or her hands in all of these areas and, if he or she’s a good one, keeps the machinery oiled with funny stories, rounds of drinks, free tickets, and the three R’s of the record industry—relationships, relationships, and relationships. But what makes a good one? Are there tests or qualifications that a local government makes one go through before they let someone handle your money? You are about to read a surprising answer.

In California, the entertainment capital of the U.S. (if not the world) there are special laws that disallow someone from collecting a commission off of a person’s earnings unless they are a bonded and licensed employment agent. This is to protect actors, directors, and writers and insure that the person representing them and collecting their money does not mishandle it. The personal bond insures that they won’t run to Mexico and have a wild weekend with your cash. It also weeds out wannabees who have no real professional experience.

SUPER MANAGER

Legendary record man Swervin’ Irving Azoff once managed the mega-group the Eagles. During a tour at the height of their career, one California hotel was unable to provide adjoining suites for the Hotel California songwriters. Swervin’ Irving drove to a hardware store, purchased a chainsaw, went to the hotel, and turned two separate rooms into one suite by sawing down the wall between them.

Being prudent and realizing that he would not be able to be there whenever the Eagles needed on-site remodeling, he had a carrying case made for the saw so that the group could take it on tour with them.

Now that’s hands-on management.

However, the record industry succeeded in getting an exception carved into the law, allowing anyone to act as an agent if they are procuring a record deal.

This exception is a double-edged sword. Managers in the music space can literally be anyone an artist chooses. Unlike California agents in other creative fields like acting, writing, and directing, in music, managers can make deals and collect money, and not even have to have a driver’s license or high school diploma. Is this a good thing? The record companies thinks so. They argued (through their lobby group the RIAA) that this exception is necessary. They claimed that because of the esoteric nature of the music business, artists should have the right to choose anyone they want to be their representatives. But who do you think really benefits from this lowered standard of professionalism?

So do you need to get involved with this funky dynamic? Yeah, you do. Just make sure you get a good one. The best way to think about managers are like toll booth attendants. You could bypass them and take a longer road to get to where you want to go. But if you want to get there faster and safer on a nice paved interstate highway, you have to pay the 20% toll. Good managers keep everyone talking to each other. They are master schmoozers, and because there are only two qualifications for the profession—(1) that they are good talkers, and (2) that they have lots of contacts—many people from many backgrounds call themselves managers. (See Drop-Kicked from the Roster, page 85.)

Here’s my definition of a good manager: Someone who pays attention to how things get done, as opposed to what gets done.

Some unfortunate facts about managers:

Managers often hide valuables when their clients come to their house.

Managers spend less than 6% of their waking time at their primary residence.

It can take a manager up to an average of three years to develop a new artist and get them signed.

Managers are often dumped by their clients after three years.

Publicists, Booking Agents, Tour Managers, and Image Consultants

See previous pages.

The New Pros and the New Team

Sure it’s nice to be able to afford all the people above, but who should you be looking to partner up with while you’re still on your way up? While many books discuss the pros below in terms of what they do, none have so far discussed how they integrate as a part of the artist’s new team.

Web Site Designer

This is the person who designs Web sites. Duh. While one might think that this is certainly a do-it-yourself function, there are many subtleties to putting together a site that will likely evade the nonprofessional and result in one that is not optimized for music marketing. MySpace and other social networks offer a quasi DIY approach to having a Web presence, but there is nothing like your own footprint in the sand. Why this is important is a subject for another book by a Web marketing expert, suffice it to say that in the age of the Internet, if you want to be a professional artist—you need your own Web site, and domain, or URL.

Designers are a stubborn group. In fact, since Web sites have become essentially digital storefronts, the demand for quality work has made designers the new rock stars. They return your calls if they feel like it, finish your job on time if they’re not too busy. Lord knows what they do all day besides write code, but whatever it is, it does not involve communicating with people. Speaking to ordinary, non-tech oriented folk is something they loath more than designing a frameless shopping cart system to be Windows 98 compatible. If you know what I mean.

Most are PC, not Mac, and this tells you a lot, as well. They love the power computers have given them over everyone else and the way the Internet has allowed them to survive well while having virtually no human contact, if they choose.

FLASH IN THE PAIN

Web designers, just like any other professionals, are salespeople at heart. Part of their responsibility to themselves is to get you to spend more than you intend to. The easiest way to up-sell you is with Flash.

Flash is what creates those cool animated effects on many Web sites. It’s very, very cool, and it’s therefore an easy up-sell to the newbie. However, something many designers won’t tell you is that search engines like Google are allergic to Flash. By this I mean that Flash interferes with their ability to read the information on the site. If they can’t read the text, they tend to rank the site lower. This is bad, bad, bad.

There are work-arounds. Make sure if you’re going to have a Flash introduction on your site that your designer knows them. Otherwise you’re better off with simple text as a landing page.

Why should a designer be part of your team and not just someone you hire once? Less so than the other new pros, they don’t. But you’re going to need more than one Web site in time and if you can find a designer who is less obsessed with making your site look flashy and fancy because it satisfies his ego and more interested in creating one that optimizes search engines and marketing plans, then he or she is worth hanging on to.

These types range in price a great deal. A decent site can be built for about $400. But stuff with bells and whistles (usually not necessary) can go for over a grand. Don’t get talked into stuff you don’t need. See Flash in the Pan in the side bar. And make sure you’re hiring a real designer, not a Webmaster wannabe (see below).

Webmaster

After you have a Web site, you’ll need someone to manage it for you. It might seem obvious that you could just ask your designer to maintain your site, but they tend not to like to dirty their fingernails with work like that. If you find one that does both, that’s a bargain, but be warned, many Webmasters fancy themselves designers. It’s more prestigious. But like some musicians who claim they can play any style, tech people also have specialties. Great designers usually will not do maintenance, and so the work is delegated to the underclass of Web folk—Webmasters—who usually don’t have the chops to be a designer. There are many exceptions. Find one if you can, but don’t beat yourself up over this combo.

Why should this person be part of the artist’s new team? Well, the Web is an ever-changing, dynamic place. Your site will have to keep up. Your Webmaster should be spending his or her time keeping up on the latest gizmos that will help your site function well and look professional. Monthly tweaks are usually necessary. If they are good, they will keep your site optimized so that people can easily find you on the Net, and once they do, they can be easily converted to become a fan. This means fixing broken links, finding e-commerce and database solutions, making sure that the server hasn’t altered its operating system in a way that is incompatible with the design of your site, and a hundred other things that go wrong with Web sites over time.

These guys are not expensive. A good one can be had for about $100 a month.

Viral Marketer

Operating silently in the background of all this technology is a person whose job it is to drive traffic to your site. Once, we hired a public relations person for attracting attention. They didn’t work stealthily. On the contrary, they were (and are) quite forward about getting someone noticed via Page Six articles, big ads, and feature stories on news shows.

The Web has an entirely different acumen. Obvious PR translates into insincerity. Why? Who knows? The Web functions on a sort of hippy mentality; one that suggests the need for advertising is for losers and con men; your product should organically attract traffic because it’s cool. Nice sentiment. Too bad it does not reflect reality.

So here come the viral marketers, also called SEO (search engine optimizers). They have cool Web bots and toys that get into social networks and chat rooms. They drive traffic to your site in a way that doesn’t look obvious. Those in the biz can spot them a mile away, but the average person has not caught on yet.

They tend to charge by the month, getting anywhere from $200 to $2,000 a month on the low end and $10,000 to $20,000 a month on the high end.

As an up-sell to their service many offer Web optimization reports. These are elaborate charts that will tell you how to design your site so that search engines will rank it higher than others.

There are two cautionary issues with these up-sells:

Most all viral marketers use more or less the same tools for determining these facts. These tools can be purchased and mastered for far less than anyone charges for the service.

They are questionably accurate. Sure you’ll get some info about keywords and meta tags, but remember that everyone out there is using the same tools to arrive at the same results. That means by the time you implement the data retrieved by these optimization reports it’s probably obsolete. You need to be a step ahead of your competition, not running astride with it. To accomplish that, you’ll need both the data and the analysis of the data. If your viral marketer is going to up-sell you on getting this data, make sure he has the qualifications to interpret it correctly!

Consultants

In the first edition of Confessions (1998) there was really little need to highlight the music business consultant. There were very few and they consisted mostly of old guys who were once label presidents. Their fees were staggering and accessible only by big labels in need of juice. Once in a while you heard about one of them being called to testify in a big case involving a pop star. As an artist you would never need to speak to one. Your lawyer or manager was your consultant.

Much has changed. The 2004–2005 label consolidations have produced a surplus of unemployed label execs, and many have hung out shingles as consultants. Many have also retooled their services to meet the needs of emerging artists. Why? Well, this is where the new business is going.

The growth of this area brings with it new elements both good and bad. On the good side most consultants will offer services that many a lawyer is hired to do for a fraction of the lawyer’s price. (With the caveat that most of what a music lawyer is hired to do has little to do with a practice of law.) One needs no law degree to negotiate a contract in most U.S. states or to give you an opinion of whether a contract is industry standard. A manager who charges 20% over five to seven years to shop a record deal can also be replaced by a consultant hired for a few thousands dollars. Instead of paying a producer 3%–5% to produce your record, hire a consultant to executive-produce your record. You make the creative decisions, they do the paperwork, rights clearances, etc., and negotiations with musicians, studios, and even labels.

While the up-front costs can be more than engaging a traditional pro (who would tend to work on a back-end percentage), in the long run most any reasonable up-front fee is going to be far less than a back-end percentage, especially if you think you really have a shot at making it. They are also willing to supply services to folks who normally wouldn’t generate enough commission to capture the attention of a seasoned pro. Best of all, you are not bound to a consultant if you decide after the fact that they suck. The no-strings-attached model allows for full ownership of songs and masters. So a consultant could get an artist/writer a record deal and doesn’t necessarily get a piece of his publishing in exchange, as most managers would.

On the down side, like any growth field you get a lot of people whose skills are better at marketing themselves than their actual industry expertise. Whereas managers will help develop an act from the ground up on spec and lawyers as well will take on some charity cases in hopes of their hitting it big, conversely, consultants are not known for their vision or their loyalty. They are more like sprinters than long-distance runners. They get in, do a job, and get out. Cash up front and no long-term commitments. Some artists find this attitude disingenuous. But this is mostly their egos talking (and often their pocketbooks). Managers and lawyers can be just as mercenary, signing acts to long-term and binding agreements and then becoming too busy to deal with their client’s petty needs. With consultants you can usually fire them at will if they get too uppity.

Consultants will typically charge a small fee for a basic consultation of anywhere from $200 to $1,000. Some work on monthly retainers (like lawyers) of $500–$1,500 a month with a three-month minimum. Others perform services à la carte for $200–$1,000 per service. This emerging profession is working on a trade organization, the Music Business Consultants of America, that will set standards and practices.

Now Your New Team

Years before you’ll be retaining a lawyer to get you a deal on a major or a direct deal with someone like Wal-Mart or Starbucks, you’ll be working with these cats. Pitched together, the right combination of viral marketing, Webmastering, site designing, and consulting can be a deadly force. They will drive traffic to your site, get you noticed, and help get you to the point where lawyers, accountants, and other pros will be a necessity.

CHAPTER TWO The Creators

The other types of players are the creative entities who make the music. I divide them up into five categories: musicians, songwriters, engineers, artists, and producers.

Don’t let the

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