Saturday, July 23, 2011

This post originally appeared on BMA on December 20, 2005.
There are amazing women musicians out there. But the industry signs acts based on marketing. It’s definitely a loop. There aren’t women out there doing well, because they haven’t been signed, so (the record) industry doesn’t sign any more, figuring they won’t do well.” - Jason Mraz

The explosion of music downloads in the late 1990s cut deeply into the cash coffers of record labels. As a result, record executives decided to cut back on promoting ‘unproven’ artists, and went from focusing on talented female artists, to looking for a marketing vehicle. Out with Lilith Fair, in with Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. So as Gen Y helps prompt a change in the country’s musical tastes, this poses a very tough question for female artists whose last name isn’t Spears or Simpson: Do they try to reinvent themselves like Jewel did, or forge forward relying on their talent to win them fans?
And this isn’t a problem reserved for undiscovered artists. Some of Jewel’s contemporaries such as Sheryl Crow and Alanis have seen their album sales slide since their Lilith days. Many of today’s labels see a woman onstage with a guitar in her hands as a ‘marketing risk’. But musicians don’t have to reinvent themselves every few years simply because tastes temporarily change.

A perfect example is Sarah McLachlan. Her music is basically the same today as it was in 1989 when she released her first album, Touch. Touch sold over 500,000 copies, while Afterglow, which is her fifth and latest album of new material, currently has over 2 million in sales.

The best way for Jewel and other female rockers in her position to re-establish a strong bond with their fans could be, you guessed it, the internet. There are so many ways to reach out directly to fans. Artists can tap fan sites, mailing lists, MySpace, anything. Blogs are another obvious way for artists to reach their fans. Such viral efforts are already being used to launch the careers of female artists such as Missy Higgins, they could easily work for established stars. These moves are authetic, and fans will respond to any musician that reaches out to them in such a personal way.

While the current music climate has put a temporary crunch on some female artists, the ultimate loser here could be the record labels themselves. As the record companies make it harder and harder for emerging and existing female artists to make a name for themselves, these musicians are looking for other outlets to promote themselves. And the risk that labels run is, once these acts find a way to circumvent the current system, will they ever return?

“The major label system is broken, but I’m not crying. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of people.” said Carla DiSantis, editor of the magazine ROCKRGRL.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

True Blue Fan (TBF)

Many artist & their bands can sing & play, but, they are amazed (sometimes mad) when the audiences fail to connect with them.  Artist and bands work on perfecting their play list of songs to sound like the studio version or the 'cover' version they hear. On stage, it's entertainment time!  If I go see a movie and it doesn't entertain, connect, excite me, then most of the time I actually take short naps.  Most artist/band never think about changing up a song to allow it to 'CONNECT' with their audience. And, if you don't connect and create special moments of memory, then, in most cases you will not have won over new fans & you certainly will not have what every artist should strive to have and that is:  TRUE BLUE FANS!  Yes, that is a KSE exclusive.  TRUE BLUE FAN OR TBF IS WHAT EVERY ARTIST MUST HAVE to create longevity as an INDIE touring band.  TBF are those people that will become the most important part of your TEAM.  In short, they are the ones that will show up for your shows with new fans & they are the ones that will buy tickets, merchandise, and leave tips in your tip jar.  As we all know most young inexperienced bands can only tour if they can meet expenses.

Developing into an entertainer takes time, much practice, money, and developing TRUE BLUE FANS!  It's like going from grade school, Jr. High, High School to getting your Bachelors, Masters and your PhD.  After you have completed those degrees, you need continuing updates and training....All Roads that lead to the STAGE must be incrementally improved each year, but, only after an artist has mastered all the baseline stages.  Once this is accomplished, an artist/band will forever be developing their passion for creative performances that make connecting memorial moments that last with their new fans that will change into TBF.

Fine line between self-promotion and the “me, me, me”

It’s really important to not overdose your fans or the press with your promotions. It can be taken the wrong way. Firstly, if you saturate everyone, no one will read your emails or promotions. Secondly, find a way to promote yourself but also add cool opportunities or interesting stores along the way. Then people won’t turn off if it’s just all about you. I love to read gig news emails if it starts with some funny anecdote about what the artist has been up to or a story they want to tell. It grabs me in. Then, in a subliminal way, I’m also fed great gig and music news. 

 It’s hard to be your own promoter, that’s for sure. But if you don’t have someone to do it for you, or you don’t want to use a pseudonym and write in the third person, then go for intimacy. Speak from you, colloquial, and let us into your world. Fans love to know the “real” artist! 

 Don’t’ be afraid to self-promote. It’s a new era, and you can do it. Just watch any language you use that might suggests a focus too much on yourself and please veer away from fancy words like ‘outstanding’, ‘the hottest performer ever’, or ‘ the new Madonna of Studio City’. Try not to compare yourself too much and be your own unique being! Being humble is also important. It’s nice to be glorified, but let others glorify you, not you.

Street Promotion

  • Street teams are it! – gather people in cities you will tour, who are fans of yours to help promote you before you come to town. You’ll find that your fans will work twice as hard for you if you give them and their friends some free passes or maybe even CDs.
  • Flyer handouts – hand out gig notices and CD release flyers to people on the street, outside other performances. If you play Brazilian music, find a hot Brazilian music concert and flyer away!
  • Posters at venues – put up posters at venues you’re going to play at.
  • Rallying fans – entice your fans to help you spread the word and offer cool merch, swag and CDs in return. They like to feel special. 

What are the odds of succeeding WITH a record deal?

July 19, 2011

Robin Davey in The Road to Success, Understanding Record Labels, record deal, recording contract, success 
If your aim as an artist is to purely chase a record deal as a means to succeeding in this business, I will tell you right now that you are doomed for failure. You can throw all the trumped up statistics around that you want, but fundamentally your chances of actually landing a record deal are extremely slim. Furthermore, your chances of actually making money directly from that deal are pretty much zero.
In the good old days when the CD was king and big advances were de rigueur, the percentage of bands that succeeded in the system was around 5%. That was before the CD crashed. Now if you do not fit the predisposed top 40 vision of the major label machine, there is no space left for you. There may still be a few independent labels who still have a working business model to accomodate less mainstream acts, but they survive by cutting down their roster, and investing in those who have already amassed an ever growing following. Quite simply if you can’t already pull the people, you are not ready for a label.


When a previously burgeoning scene dies, it either disappears, or it finds a way to get subsidized, not due to popularity, but due to status.  This is why the pay-to-play system swallows up the shell of a once happening music scene. LA is a prime example of this, with venues like The Whiskey using its once legendary name to con bands into paying up to $500 for the privilege of playing there.
These venues survive, not because they offer a legitimate service, but because there are enough bands that blindly believe they are the ones destined for success. As a result they will happily make the monetary sacrifices in order to be “discovered”.
The music industry has long since been an extension of this pay-to-play mentality. You think that once you get a record deal your talent shines through and all the magazines, radio stations and established bands looking for opening acts are itching to include you in their insular worlds? Get real. These opportunities are all paid for. It is just another pay-to-play milieu that a record deal gains you access to.


Just look at Rolling Stone magazine these days. How many bad reviews do they write in an issue? You would think that journalists are chomping at the bit to express their distaste for the latest debacle by a pop princess, but no, all the reviews are glowing. Surely this means every bit of space is bought in one-way or another.
You want to be a part of that world? You go ahead, but don’t think you will actually have a musical personality left by the end of it. Certainly don’t believe that it will affect your bank balance positively.
The major record companies think they are still king, but they are the corporate equivalent of a band who think they have stature because they bought themselves a 8pm slot at the Whiskey. Once you play the Whiskey you realize why they have to charge bands to play there – because no one else shows up.
Similarly no one is buying Magazines any more, so what happens? I would say it is pretty fair to assume they instigate a pay-to-play policy. Just like Johnny No Name believes that to have an appearance at the Whiskey on their bio holds some weight, the majors seemingly believe that to have a review in Rolling Stone also still means something.  But if no one is reading the magazine, the truth is, it doesn’t mean shit.
This is the major labels conundrum, they are locked into an old system, putting up the front of a reigning potentate, but behind the scenes they are a crumbling monarchy quickly losing favor with their subjects, reflecting a distinct lack of understanding for what the people want.


They pay for features, pay for songs, pay for radio, pay for style, pay for TV, they’ll probably even pay Bob Lefsetz for a mention if he’ll let them. But if no one is buying the products, how can they sustain this? And when everyone is jostling for the record company to use their money to bribe someone on their behalf, the reality is why should they use their ever-diminishing cash pile on you. Unless you are prepared to do whatever they want you to do in order to achieve their goals. But of course you will be signed because of your unrivaled talent. Right? Yeah right.
Maybe the future of the major labels will become a step-up from the Pay-to-Play model adopted by music clubs. Rich Mommy and Daddy putting up the cash to have the major label machine pimp their child’s product. This already happens with smaller labels that offer a kind of middleman role - if you have the cash  they provide everything from radio promotion to distribution. You are basically buying yourself a record deal.


Those artists who have broken during these last dark few years, achieved their success because they did what it takes to succeed, and with the major labels that currently means metaphorically sucking dick whenever the situation deems it necessary.
It may be a route to fame, for a very select few, but is it really a route to musical satisfaction, for both the artists and the fans? And what is a business without satisfied clients and customers?

Robin Davey is a Musician, Film Director and Producer born in the UK and now residing in Los Angeles. He was inducted into the British Blues Hall Of Fame at the age of 23 with his band The Hoax. His band The Bastard Fairies achieved over 1 Million downloads when they were the first band to release an album for free via the internet in 2006. As a director he won the best Music Video award at the American Indian Motion Picture Awards. His feature documentary The Canary Effect - an exploration into the hidden Genocide of Native Americans, won The Stanley Kubrick Award For Bold and Innovative Film Making at Michael Moores Traverse city Film Festival in 2006. He is also head of Film and Music Development at GROWvision - A full service media, management and production company