10 Superstars Who’d Fail On American Idol

American Idol Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

What is your lane?

Do you really know?

Should it change? Are you sure?

Keith Urban on American Idol

I was inspired by Keith Urban after hearing his comment on American Idol last week. He said something to the effect of (and I’m paraphrasing), “If these people would just listen to our suggestions American Idol imageinstead of simply reacting to the failure they might learn something.” Wow, I see struggling writers and artists deal with failure like this all the time. They focus on how they feel about a particular rejection rather than HEARING the feedback. I know a lot of you reading this post are suffering and struggling simply because you are focusing on the wrong lane. Once you are in the lane you are supposed to be in, rejection feels like a matter of taste which is not a judgment on you personally, rather than a catastrophic bomb that ruins your self-esteem. A rejection feels like you made a ham sandwich and someone doesn’t like ham as opposed to that person not liking YOU. Then I got to thinking how much of a specific lane American Idol is. There are amazing singers and then there are amazing vocalists; there is a definite difference and AI requires amazing vocalists.

Just because you’re not an amazing vocalist doesn’t mean you can’t achieve your artistic dreams. Setting appropriate goals, defining YOUR lane, and staying in YOUR lane are the keys to achieving your dreams and avoiding the heartache of unnecessary rejections. Let me explain.

I made a living for the better part of 10 years in an 80’s hair-band called Kidd Gypsy. I remember American Idol Kidd Gypsy IMagealways wanting to be a guitar shredder but I never had the right-hand skills (no matter how hard I practiced) to pull it off; this left me incredibly frustrated; for years this pissed me off. Once I realized that tasty guitar solos was my lane instead of shredding guitar solos, I eliminated a huge amount stress that was completely pointless and preventable; I was trying to be in the wrong lane. I was NEVER going to win any vocal competitions either, man, but it sure didn’t stop me from being a great front man and a decent enough singer not to drive people out of the club, LOL. This, in turn, allowed me to make a living doing what I loved to do instead of being depressed all the time. Kelly is a vocal GOD; it’s true. If you go to our Artist Tracks page on the DDP site and listen, 99% of the BGVs are Kelly; he’s like a machine in the studio. I could NEVER pull that off. I KNEW my lane was never going to be in the vocal God category; I had to entertain, I had to find a different way to be an artist.

Get it?

Find your strong suit and work on that. Constantly improve your weaknesses to be more well-rounded, but make sure that you are not trying to make a career out of your weaknesses. All this will do is leave you discouraged.

This got me thinking about how many SUPERSTAR artists are not great vocalists. Here is a list of 10 Superstars who’d fail on American Idol. All these artists are famous, some of them are considered more artistically important than others, some of them are amazing business people, some of them are amazing entertainers, some of them are good singers, but not one of them is an amazing vocalist.

10 Superstars Who’d Fail On American Idol

  1. Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones are certainly one of the longest lasting iconic bands in history (if not the most). Mick is a great front man, songwriter, business man (he kept the Stones rolling for the 20 years that Keith Richards checked out on heroin), and a sex symbol for sure. However, Mick wouldn’t be your first call to cut BGVs on a pop record.
  2. Bob Dylan – I think all would agree that Bob Dylan is one of the most important and influential songwriters of the 20th century. Listening to him talk can be as difficult as listening to him sing, LOL. Don’t get me wrong. I am a Dylan fan, but let’s face it, it was always about what he was saying not how he was singing. His lane was the writing. We are all drawn in by the message.
  3. David Lee Roth – Van Halen (not Van Hagar) is one of my very favorite bands. DLR is American Idol DLR Flying imagearguably the best front man on the planet. He really took the definition of “Rock Star” to a whole new level. I saw them live on the 1984 tour and he hardly sang! I didn’t care. I couldn’t take my eyes off him! He is a true star, extremely stylistic, and very compelling on and off the stage. However, we would never hire him to sing any demos, LOL
  4. Kenny Chesney – Kenny Chesney is currently one of the biggest stars on the planet; he has very cleverly carved a niche as the new “Jimmy Buffet” somehow. He will out work ALL of you put together and really understands how to be a star. (Just look at his old pictures when he first got signed. He was chubby, and now he’s extremely fit…do you have any idea how much work is required to maintain that?) If you really listen to all his songs, they focus on a very limited amount of notes because big melodies are NOT in his lane.
  5. Tim McGraw – I have several very close friends that work in the McGraw camp and I can tell you for certain Tim is extremely intelligent and a great businessman. They run a tight ship and the crew enjoys working for him. Tim has an uncanny understanding of his brand, of when and how to push that envelope. Tim is one of the few artists who will give all the songwriting credit to the songwriters as opposed to taking some credit and subsequent publishing revenue. If you really listen to the songs he chooses, they astonish with the lyrical content instead of big tricky melodies; they’re simple, honest, and good.
  6. Jennifer Lopez – J.Lo is a dancer, an actress, a television personality, perfumer, American Idol JLo Imagephilanthropist, fashion designer, producer, recording artist, and an incredible businesswoman, but singing is her weak suit to be sure. She was definitely fearless as she became the first Latina actress to make over 1 million dollars on a movie with Out of Sight. After she filmed Selena, she ventured into the music industry despite people close to her expressing their fears that she would ruin her growing reputation with an album. She didn’t let her mediocre vocal prowess get in the way of her 300 million dollar fortune. Ironically she would never get on American Idol as a contestant.
  7. Madonna – In 2013 Madonna’s net worth exceeded $650 million. She is a master at reinventing her music and her image. She is an amazing entertainer; in fact, her last tour grossed over $300 million dollars. I had a friend who engineered many of the Madonna records, I remember him saying that as amazing as she is, Madonna is the poster child for vocal mediocrity. I guess it didn’t stop her at all, huh?
  8. Taylor Swift – is an incredible songwriter, performer, and an extremely hard worker. She GETS IT! Taylor has amassed an incredible following largely due to the songs she co-wrote. She represented a lane that simply was not occupied in the country music market. Think about it, who was writing about, and singing to, teenagers in country music before her? NOBODY! Taylor, Scott Borchetta, and her team created a new lane that was unoccupied – genius! She is quickly becoming a master of the game with regards to television exposure; I think they bring one extra camera to every freaking award show just to ensure they get a million Taylor Swift reaction shots. Taylor accomplished all this, yet she simply isn’t going to win any awards for her vocal prowess. Here’s an example of a particularly bad Grammy performance with Stevie Nicks in 2010. Skip to 2:00 to see what I mean.
  9. Miley Cyrus – Miley got incredible exposure from the Disney show Hannah Montana. She started as an actress and turned that into a singer/songwriter career. Miley’s hard work has built up a $150 million net worth, but again, vocals are not her strong suit.
  10. Paula Abdul – I love Paula Abdul. She’s still just so sexy to me. She also started as a dancer American Idol Paula Abdul imageand choreographer. Then she turned that into a recording career. Paula can’t really sing, either, but she can follow well. In fact that is how they recorded Paula’s 1988 hit record Forever Your Girl. The producers brought in a pro singer named Yvette Marine who sang all the lead vocal parts as guide tracks. Then Paula came in and sang over Yvette’s vocals and they ditched the guide tracks. In fact Marine sued and lost to Abdul’s label, Virgin Records, claiming they left her vocal in the mix on a few parts.

 

 

So there it is. I’m sure you like some of these artists and I’m sure you detest some of them, but no one can deny that massive amounts of people find them absolutely fascinating. None of these artists let a lack of stellar vocal ability get in the way of their artistic endeavors. When I see contestants on American Idol melt down in the face of a “no” or, even worse, constructive criticism, I think they need to focus on singing better but also focus on being mesmerizing.

You don’t have to be the best singer to blow people’s minds.

What is your lane?

Do you really know?

Should it change? Are you sure?

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You Learn To Be An Artist

Learn To Be an Artist Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

You learn to be an artist

like you learn to be an expert plumber, like you learn to play poker, or like you become a master craftsman working with fine wood furniture.  First you tackle the broad strokes and Learn To Be an Artist Learn button imagethen increasingly you focus on details until you become a student of the game.  Every iconic artist you admire started out as a novice and was so fascinated with the learning and the search for the truth they couldn’t help but continue to improve.  There’s the rub; you first have to be open to the fact that you learn to be an artist and then you must work to continue improving.  Often times that means getting rid of people who are holding you back, however they manifest themselves in your life.  It always means you need to maintain a sense of humility around people who are better than you; be a sponge.  It means you have to always keep working; period.

 

First there are the broad strokes:

  • You learn to play some chordsLearn To Be an Artist Chord Chart image
  • You start singing
  • You start writing songs
  • You play your first gigs
  • You practice for hours to learn songs you like so you can emulate your heroes
  • You get laid
  • You make a lot of mistakes

FYI, you’re not an artist yet, you’re just beginning to mess with music.  For every artist looking back from a professional viewpoint these days are always a disaster.  Hell, John and Paul admitted the first 50-150 songs they wrote were crap!  This is accurate and it’s ok.  We continued to improve because we LOVED the process; we LOVED the journey.

 

Then you start in on some detail:

  • You strive to play chords better, more cleanly, like they do on the records you love
  • You strive to play with the drums
  • You strive to play the covers a bit more accurately with regards to proper voicing and arrangements rather than just playing the chords
  • It’s no longer about making noise that is close, you are after making music
  • You start focusing on trying to sing in pitch more
  • You continue to write and maybe begin to realize that any words put to music do not necessarily make a song.
  • Members of your band are in the band due to pragmatism; they have a van, a P.A. system, the coolest drum kit, or a place to rehearse, etc.
  • You learn from your previous mistakes and grow
  • You make a bunch of new mistakes

You’re not an artist yet; you’re in a band at this point.  If you’re the leader, the creative _DSC2610focal point, the driving force of the band you’re mostly a babysitter to the other members; a politician if you will.  Undoubtedly you begin to lose a few band members at this stage of the game, they get more interested in significant others than music.  This is called “natural selection” or as we called it “The Yoko Factor”, it’s painful but necessary to let them go; so recognize it and let them go. (Read this and think about the melody from Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me”.  Buh-bye.

 

 

Then you really start to dig in:

  • You start to play more gigs
  • The idea of making a living gets serious within you as you start to get some opportunities
  • These opportunities reveal the musical and spiritual weak links in your band; band members continue to change making way for more like-minded mates
  • You begin to experiment with recording (trust me we all suck at recording during this stage but we are FASCINATED so we press on)
  • The recording process reveals that you really aren’t playing with the drums and the drummer thinks time is a magazine
  • This brings up conversations that file000819242154will certainly manifest as confrontations between band members as the cracks in the musicianship are becoming glaringly obvious, it’s a mess.  Some of the cracks are your fault; you hate this but it’s true.  You wonder, “Is it like this on stage?”  Answer:  YES, how could it not be?
  • The strengths in your writing are steadily improving; the weaknesses are typically being ignored.  For instance, you sing like an angel and everyone is always kissing your ass so you really don’t feel the pressing need to improve your lyrics because you could sing the phone book and make people cry; they love you!  Your friends and family naturally choose to focus on delivering positive feedback to you.  So it’s up to you to see past the local and familial adoration and focus on your weak suit to become a more well-rounded writer (Most people don’t)
  • You learn from your previous mistakes and grow.
  • You make a bunch of new mistakes.

At this point you are not an artist.  You are in a band and beginning to tighten the screws; scratching the surface of being a musician.  The work you continue to do is creating small opportunities and the momentum is validation to press on.

 

Now you’re getting serious about living your life making music:

  • You do your first tour (aka a decent string of consecutive dates).  You are now presented with the chance to play a gig, revel in the moment, stew over that night’s performance mistakes in your head, and then fix what you didn’t like the very next day.  (It’s like skiing, you really need to put several days back to back to improve)
  • You find out that after 20 shows in a row, you are a completely different band; you are exposed to the need for professionalism (like how to sound check as efficiently as possible, politicking with band members, schmoozing the club owner/booker) and you begin to understand it; you begin to embrace it.
  • Learn To Be an Artist Drunk singer imageYou also find out the singer can’t party like the rest of the band and keep his voice.  The question is does the singer know this?
  • You finally understand the truth in David Lee Roth’s quote, “There’s Murphy’s Law and then there is the Law of Rock & Roll which states that Murphy completely underestimated the problem” as you run into countless surprise road-blocks with gear, routing, money, band members, production, logistics, weigh station delays, border crossings, transportation breakdowns, emotional breakdowns, local police, State Troopers, disruptions, alcohol, drugs, groupies, STD’s, creepy people, hangers on, etc.
  • You find out that the clubs don’t give a damn about your music, they only care about how many drinks they sell, because they are in the bar business.  You discover this truth after getting fired.  This is your first experience with the “Business” part of show business.
  • Your band is tightening up.  There is some definite attention being paid by the members to the pocket, phrasing, and the feel of the music as opposed to just playing chords.
  • You begin to create slightly better recordings as you slowly begin to digest the truth in the “less is more” approach.  Less Reverb, less effects, less notes, more space.
  • You focus on better performances on your recordings
  • You begin to explore decent sonic quality as you search for different ways to achieve improvement with amp settings, mic placement, sound control, mic chain, EQ’s, compression,  and LESS REVERB (did I say that already?)
  • Your writing continues to improve as you become more comfortable in your own skin, more willing to dig down and relay real feelings instead of stringing cool vowel, consonant, and rhyming sounds together.
  • You learn that mixing your tracks is an art form; one you don’t possess.
  • You learn from your previous mistakes and grow
  • You make a bunch of new mistakes

At this point you are not an artist but you are beginning to be enlightened on the fact that writing is a craft, recording is a craft, playing is a craft.  You are improving!  You are probably getting a little cocky in your head.  Maybe your progress affords you some opportunities for access to real artists where you get schooled once again.  For me, I had well over a year of touring under my belt (probably 500+ shows or more) and I knew everything, all you had to do was ask me, I would be happy to tell you, LOL.  Then I saw the Allman Brothers in the studio for the first time and realized I didn’t know shit about anything.  Bah!  It felt like I was back to square one, I had the wind sucked right out of my sails; like the feeling you get when you go from being king of the hill in 8th grade to the bottom of the barrel as a freshman in high school.  But I was even MORE FASCINATED so I pressed on.

Now You’re Making Money

  • Now you’re getting the hang of it, and certain people are noticing
  • You are beginning to develop a style
  • You spend some money to make a CD to sell at your shows because it’s time to expand your business and you feel you’re ready to make a record.
  • You’re smart and hungry for knowledge so you carefully choose a production team that can advance your sound and your knowledge instead of “studio shopping” and thinking you can produce yourself
  • You get regular access to professional recording experiences.
  • Your production team stumps you with certain questions like “what is your lane?”  “Before we begin what kind of record do you want to make?”  “Who do you feel your audience is?”  “What are we going to do differently to help you stand out from the herd that occupies the same lane?”
  • You learn that your drummer rocks live but under the microscope in the studio he doesn’t cut it Learn To Be an Artist Time Mag imagebecause he is inconsistent with velocities and meter.
  • You learn that singing live is way easier than working a microphone in the studio and you struggle to step up and render the vocal that you believe you can do…but you do it.
  • You learn that your guitar tone leaves a lot to be desired when a mic is put on it and half your pedals make an UNGODLY amount of preventable noise.
  • You learn from your producer who cares that half the songs you wanted on the record are nowhere near as cool as the other half and you have to keep writing
  • You learn through new relationships with pro writers that you are on the right track but you still have a long way to go; you still have a weak suit that needs attention
  • You begin to see the difference between recording music and making records
  • You learn from a misbehaving band member that negative, unstable energy in the recording studio is really bad; he or she goes the way of Pete Willis from Def Leppard.
  • You learn that your bass player plays ahead or “on top” of the kick drum and your engineer will be moving it back.  Your bass player is pissed and secretly embarrassed but you are secretly grateful the engineer will fix it because it sounds better
  • You learn “behind the scenes” stories that break your heart about your favorite bands and how they didn’t play on their own records because recordings are forever and playing live is here and gone.
  • You learn from past mistakes
  • You make a bunch of new mistakes

Congrats, you’re beginning to become an artist.  The next step is up to you.  If you just want to make art for the sake of making art, then so it shall be; a glorious, expensive hobby.  If you want to be a professional artist, than you will have to make some money at this which means a whole new journey learning how to move product.

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A Dead Fish Can Float Downstream

By Johnny Dwinell

“Remember, a dead fish can float downstream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream” – W.C. Fields

Are you a dead fish? 5FdkhUkT

I love this quote.  If you think that money and the right connections equates to “easy street” for your career or that you need these things before you can begin seriously working on your career, you’re a dead fish.  If you are working your backside off every day to write, record, play, making mistakes and learning this business, then you are a live fish swimming upstream; I’m quite sure you feel the pressure of the current as you constantly swim against it.  I was reminded of this quote when I had a conversation yesterday with an artist friend.  We went on a long walk with Scooter McGhee (My Great Dane) and my artist friend was venting some frustrations he was having with the business (I get that a lot), and I feel like he is finally beginning to turn from a dead fish into a live one.

During our walk in the course of his listening and venting he asked me a question.  He asked what I thought about a strategy where he would finish the video he just shot and then pay to have a “showcase” of sorts where he would play the video followed by a live show.  He asked me if I thought we could get him “in front of some people”.

“In front of some people” is a phrase he has used quite often throughout our friendship.

“Johnny, I’ve never really gotten in front of some people before” he would say, “I just need to get in front of some people”.  You see I believe that in his mind, and probably many of yours (which is why I am writing this post today), he feels like if he just got “in front of” the right person everything would be puppy dogs and ice cream; he would have his break and it would be downhill from there.  He is super talented by the way and I believe that if he keeps fighting, he will begin to make a solid living singing and writing songs, but he has to stay in the game (which I’m proud to say he has ramped up his game plan as of late)

I answered his question, “What if we get everyone that is important in this town to your showcase?”

“What if we get you ‘in front of’ all the necessary people and they like you?  What do you think happens next?”

Knowing me well, he wisely avoided an answer and replaced it with a question, “Johnny, what happens next?”

Florida Georgia Line Story

Dead Fish FL GA imageI went into describing the broad strokes on the story of how Florida Georgia Line got their deal.  These 2 guys got “in front of the right people” and somehow landed a production deal with Craig Wiseman who is one of Nashville’s most successful writers and businessmen with his publishing company Big Loud Shirt.  Craig and the producer he chose named Joey Moi (Joey produced the Canadian rock group Nickelback) recorded an EP with Florida Georgia Line and went around town with their massive influence and connections to get a record deal for the duo; everyone passed.

Wha?

How can that be?  ALL the record labels passed?

YES!  Even with a proven hit songwriter and proven producer behind the group, the labels didn’t get it.  There was no social proof to ensure that the duo’s music and sound had any value in the market place, so they passed.

So Wiseman, Moi, and the group hunkered down and launched an incredibly effective marketing campaign/tour of sorts that resulted in 100,000 downloads of “Cruise”.  Boom!  Now, all the record labels that passed on the pair were clamoring to sign them.  Here is where I quote my friend Rick Barker, “Only 1 thing changed.”

  • The songs didn’t change
  • The melodies didn’t change
  • The lyrics didn’t change
  • The production didn’t change
  • The producer didn’t change
  • The record didn’t change

 

The ONLY thing that changed was the perception!

Listen guys, even with all the right people behind you, the work still has to be done.  In the new music business record labels DO NOT DEVELOP TALENT, they buy small businesses.  You are going to have to prove you are marketable with numbers, not dreams.  So if you’re “waiting” to begin working until you “get in front of some people” or if you’re waiting to begin working until you get “discovered” you’re a dead fish floating downstream.

Don’t be a dead fish, they’re boring and they stink.

Attack this new music market and make a place for yourself because it’s never been easier!

Swim upstream and watch the world come to you!

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All About YOU

All about You ROCK image

By Johnny Dwinell

At least once a week Ill get an email asking What does it take to have a successful music career like _____? The short answer is that there are literally a million ways to skin that cat, but the ONLY common denominator in EVERY success story is the artist. Every successful story in the music business has many facets and crazy subplots but they all have an artist, like you;

so its really ALL ABOUT YOU

You have to know that success in any field is about creating relationships

You have to know that creating relationships is never about what they can do for you rather what you can do to add value to them (so start giving more and asking for less, dummy)

You have to be willing to:

  • Listen
  • Relocate
  • Regroup
  • Change
  • Strategize
  • Risk
  • Be Vulnerable
  • Say No
  • Say Yes
  • WORK (harder than anyone else)
  • Tour
  • Collaborate
  • Be a student of the game
  • Fail

All about You Juice squeeze imageAll these things naturally happen when you have a solid goal and you are REALLY supposed to be there; you find a way to win. Its all about YOU. When YOU really HAVE to be there, the proverbial juice is worth the squeeze.

 

 

You have to be willing to weather:

  • Many storms
  • Speed-bumps
  • Setbacks
  • Rejection
  • Devastation
  • Abandonment
  • Assholes
  • Incompetence
  • Paradigm shifts
  • Massive strategic changes
  • Band member changes
  • Betrayal
  • Haters
  • Bad press
  • Passive aggressive Douche-bags

Its all about YOU

Just like you would do ANYTHING to physically survive (i.e. food, shelter, water, oxygen); the same goes for your career.

  • Are you waiting around for someone to come discover you need to eat or do you go find food?
  • Are you waiting around for someone to discover that you need water or do you find a way to hydrate?
  • Are you waiting around for someone to discover you need shelter from the crappy cold snap we just had or have you already found a way to shelter yourself?
  • Are you waiting around for someone to knock on your door and discover that you need a job or have you found work?
  • Are you waiting to be discovered as an artist or are you finding a way to make it happen?

Creating, performing, and simply existing in the artistic community is JUST as essential as breathing for any real artist. I have literally tried SEVERAL times to hang it up (and been very successful in other fields) but I never could leave the music business; its in my blood. I always had a studio in my house. I always maintained my music business relationships.

Unless youre an invalid nobody is going to constantly babysit you for too long, ensuring you eat, sleep, drink, eliminate, shower, work, etc., you have to find a way to do these things for yourself; your survival is all about YOU.

Why the hell do so many so-called artists act like invalids? Why do they believe their existence as artists relies on anyone else other than themselves? Why do so many so-called artists dream to become invalids where they get a big break and press the EZ Button while their entourage dotes over their every need? This doesnt happen in real life and it certainly doesnt happen with real artists.

I dont get it.

All about You How do you do you imageSo my answer to the question, What does it take to have a successful music career like so and so? is the one thing artist love to hear the most!

ITS ALL ABOUT YOU.

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Top 10 Cover Songs

Cover Songs Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

Kelly and I are so busy with the marketing and record production duties of Daredevil Production, we don’t get that much of a chance to listen to cool new music.  Enter my cool brother-in-law Randy Ahrens.  Randy is an unusual music consumer, in fact, he is what I have referred to in previous posts as a “Local Tastemaker” and statistically he represents a VERY miniscule part of the music marketplace with regards to purchasing and behavior, but he is extremely influential.  He goes looking specifically for new music on a regular basis via all those crazy algorithm widgets the different music sites use to “market” new music i.e. the “rabbit hole” and “if you like this then you’ll like this” etc..  He’s the guy you grew up with who had all the cool new records and turned you on to all the music that shapes your life.  Randy is to his friends and family what Thom Doucette was to Gregg and Duane Allman; Thom always had the cool records and to some degree shaped the Allman Brothers Band sound by exposing the brothers to the artists that would become their primary influences.

Cover Songs

Whenever our family gets together, Randy and I try to find a little “geek out” time where we turn each other on to the music we have; he shows me new bands and tracks, I show him what Kelly and I have been producing.  Cover Songs Tastemaker lips imageThis last week, up in WI, Randy and I got into a discussion about lame cover song recordings (you may remember my post “How to Record a Cover”)  In it I encouraged artists to be creative and to avoid the lame artistic act of “re-recording” of a cover song copping the exact same licks, tracks, BGV;s, feel, vibe, etc.  Well Randy turned me on to some covers that were not necessarily released in 2013 but I was certainly turned on to them last week.  So here is a list of the top 10 cover songs (that I was turned on to by Randy this year, LOL).  Check these bands out, very interesting and CERTAINLY artistic!

 

Top 10 Cover Songs

  1. Ring of Fire – Social Distortion – When you record a cover, especially a well known cover/mega hit song you better bring something different to the table.  Listen to this track and you can definitely hear the stylistic influence of the band.  Yes it’s a heavier version, but it’s so “Social Distortion” and cool it works.
  2. Sweet Child ‘O’ Mine – Luna – Cover Songs Luna Sweet Child imageThis track rocks.  The vibe is totally different.  The feel is different.  The vocal is an octave lower and clearly the singer took some artistic license with regards to melody and phrasing and decidedly DIDN’T try to cop any of W. Axl Rose’s vocal licks which is refreshing.  Also note that the band eliminated the break down “Where Do We Go Now” portion of the song, it’s these kinds of structural and sometimes melodic artistic licenses that make a cover special
  3. All Mixed Up – Red House Painters – Cover Songs Red House Painters imageWow, this version really spotlights the desperation in the lyrics…it’s almost hard to believe it was a pop song.  I dug this band so much, I listened to more and the Red House Painters CRUSHED it with this next cover.
  4. Long Distance Runaround – Red House Painters – Once again, the Red House Painters bring a very different perspective to a very popular song.  So creative and cool.
  5. Little Wing – Stevie Ray Vaughn – ok so I definitely knew about this cover, but it came up in my conversation with Randy this last week.  This was just such a good idea and so well done, I had to include it.Cover Songs R U A Tastemaker image
  6. Stairway to Heaven – Stanley Jordan – While we’re on the subject of instrumental versions of popular songs, here is a great one with Stanley Jordan.  Enjoy it.
  7. Solitary Man – Crooked Fingers – This is an interesting interpretation, completely different!  Mostly Banjo and a horn section…crazy.  Great song by Neil Diamond.
  8. Miss You – Mirwais – Cover Songs Mirwais imageThis is a killer version of this classic.  TOTALLY Different!  I enjoyed this immensely!  Have fun!
  9. Raspberry Beret – Hindu Love Gods – This track features Warren Zevon on vocals and the members of R.E.M. in the band.  Here is where you can get away with almost any instrumental arrangements if your vocalist is stylistic enough to make people forget about the original track!
  10. Any William Shatner Cover – You either like this or hate this, but this is a very strong example of someone bringing their very stylistic approach to some killer songs and making an effort to create a vastly different perspective.

With any cover song, the most important part of the equation is YOU as an artist!!  Not how well you can cop the original tracks man!  Happy New Year and I hope you enjoy these as much as I did!  May you all get closer to your dream in 2014!

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What’s Your Frame Of Reference?

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By Johnny Dwinell

What’s your frame of reference?

What’s your frame of reference? Your frame of reference dictates your experiences, perceptions and, subsequently, will dictate your decisions and strategic planning. If you want to be successful in any business (especially the music business) you need to ensure that you have an accurate frame of reference. As human beings (especially in the music business), we develop feelings towards certain viewpoints and perceived situations that are certainly strong but often based on inaccurate information. Once you have an accurate frame of reference, it’s quite amazing how much your thinking process will change, which changes your decision-making process, which changes how people respond to you, which changes your experiences, which determines your level of success.

So let’s demonstrate how MUCH a change in your frame of reference can completely reverse your mood, perception, outlook, and the ensuing action you take to deal with a situation. I have a phenomenal story that will exhibit my point precisely. You should know this never happened to me directly, rather I heard it at a seminar and to make the story work, it must be told in the first person, so allow me to do so now.

Frame of Reference

When I first started my new sales job I put up a vision board to remind me and motivate me towards my long and short term goals. One of the pictures on my awesome vision board was a photo of my dream car, the holy grail on the whole board, a new model cherry red Corvette Z06. For 3 years I tirelessly worked, looking at that vision board every day and day-dreaming about the day I would get my prize, that amazing driving machine. Well, that day came. HOLY CRAP, was I excited!! This was the ultimate trophy of my hard work. Purchasing this car meant that I was a success and I executed my business affairs with precision. I worked hard every day and saved every week to afford this reward. I EARNED THIS CAR! So there I am at the dealership, finalizing the deal, my heart pumping harder and harder in anticipation of getting behind that wheel. Then it happens and I proudly drive off the lot.

My first thought was to take it up to Mulholland Drive on the very top of the Hollywood Hills. The weather was lamborghiniperfect, my windows were down, there was absolutely no traffic, I was CRANKING my premium sound system. You couldn’t possibly knock the smile off my face. I was savoring every second of my victory and the incredible views of the L.A. basin and the San Fernando Valley that Mulholland provides. Then I came around a bend and saw a kid ahead in the distance. It looked like he was holding an object of some sort and he was definitely staring at me. As I drove closer, I could see the object was actually a huge rock. This kid was maybe 15 years old. I was wondering why he had a rock and why was he staring at me? As I drove closer, a minor panic attack set in as I witnessed this punk cock the arm that was holding the huge rock. I was in such a good mood, it just didn’t occur to me that this kid had any bad intentions. I didn’t want to believe it. Yes, his eyes never left my brand new vehicle. What the hell was he doing? Playing with his friends? Trying to toy with me? Trying to scare me? He didn’t look thuggish at all so I still couldn’t connect the dots.

Then it happened. BOOM! That punk ass kid hauled off and LAUNCHED that rock at my brand new cherry red Corvette Z06. Life surreally went into slow motion. There was nothing I could file000996461003do! I felt so VIOLATED even before the rock hit. He had been tracking me for at least a few hundred yards waiting for me to get close enough to ensure that the rock was going to hit its intended target: my trophy!! It seemed to take forever as I watched the rock fly towards me with a perfect arc. This kid had a good arm! It first hit on the hood of my beloved ride, chipping the paint and skipping off to CRUSH my windshield.

WTF!!! I STOOD on the brakes and pulled the car over. My face was as red as a chili pepper! As I got out of the car I looked at this kid and noticed he wasn’t running or laughing. I turned to my right to survey the damage from the rock. I went from feeling absolutely dumbfounded to unbelievable hostility. I wanted vengeance! At this moment, I turned to my left, my eyes on fire, sweating, breathing heavily and TOTALLY charged up on adrenaline. I was gonna walk across the street and throttle this kid. I was prepared to chase him FOREVER and beat him within inches of his life. This kid knew this, too, but he still wasn’t scared; he still wasn’t moving. Why wasn’t he scared? I walked towards him with a Sasquatch-like gait, my fists clenched so hard I could have turned coal into diamonds from the pressure! I was staring this kid down, blind from rage, he wasn’t moving. All I could think of was how exactly I was going to kill this kid and why the hell wasn’t he scared?

I got right up in this punk’s face and just started screaming at the top of my lungs. “What the hell is wrong with you? I’m gonna KILL YOU, YOU *$&%@ SON OF A BITCH!!! I just bought that car!!! Do you have ANY IDEA how much I worked to EARN that car??”

He responded, “You don’t understand, I think my friend is dying! He’s definitely injured. He lost control of our car and went over the ledge.” He pointed down the steep hill off the side of Mulholland. He enthusiastically continued, “I tried to flag people down several different times and nobody would stop. Throwing the rock was the only way I felt I could get your attention, PLEASE HELP US!” In those four sentences my frame of reference completely changed from one of rage and violent hostility to absolute compassion as I dialed 911 to help those poor kids.

Wow.

When I heard that story, it blew my mind. This kid tried and failed several times to bring the necessary attention he required to get someone to perform for him in a fashion that would hopefully save his friend’s life.

Do you have accurate information on how the music business really works?

What’s your frame of reference on your career?

Are you angry and frustrated because you thought it would be easy?

Are you overly confident about your abilities and turning people off?

Are you working hard enough to get the attention you need?

Maybe you need to start throwing rocks.

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12 Steps For Buying Martian Milk

12 Steps For Buying Martian Milk feature

By Johnny Dwinell

My favorite question to ask aspiring artists and songwriters is: “Do You Really Have a Plan?” and what EXACTLY is it? How EXACTLY are you going to make a living as an artist? This question is always good at separating the wheat from the chaff or in this case the real musicians from the people who just want to be famous. I have come to understand that people don’t have enough common sense in this world; however, there seems to be an epic famine of it in the music business. The weight and importance that comes with any individual’s dreams and aspirations of “making in the music biz” seems to be proportionately offset by their most ridiculous and bizarre battle plans/fantasies to achieve this noble goal. I am constantly AMAZED at how most artist’s/songwriter’s success strategies have some component that requires “winning the lottery” as a key action item necessary for success. Winning the lottery!!!

Huh?

Yes, like 22 planets HAVE to align at a precise time, all the rivers have to turn purple, and monkeys have to fly out of my butt for their plan to actually work. I don’t depend on that for my existence and neither do you! I’m certainly NOT going to depend on that for my future; especially the future of something as important to me as my music/business aspirations and dreams.

I have found that sometimes it is quite beneficial to compare the most complex far-reaching plans of action to the simplest ones that we take for granted every day to maintain a good perspective with regards to process and simple steps. So let me know what y’all think of this one!

12 Steps For Buying Martian Milk

12 Steps For Buying Martian Milk

Some of you are already thinking this is ridiculous, but hear me out. Imagine we meet a Martian, who has a BIG DREAM of buying milk. Regularly purchasing milk is his dream because with continued access to milk our Martian friend can actually build a spaceship to get home where his soul will be saved on Mars. So you need to explain to your Martian the exact process that he would have to take to not only successfully purchase milk, but also make the task repeatable. Remember, as remedial as this sounds, there was a time when you didn’t know exactly how to buy milk, either. Now it is so habitual you don’t even think about it. I stand by the mental exercise because for professional musicians, the methods they use to make a living are so habitual that they don’t even think about it.

I would break it down like this:

  1. First, the Martian would have to consistently work a day job so they can afford to purchase milk. Working consistently every day, means he can afford to purchase a gallon of milk. Remember, if he works one week, and gets that gallon of milk, then takes off the next week, he won’t have money to buy milk next week. Consistent work is paramount here. Who we are and who we become will ALWAYS be based on what we do consistently, NOT random events or luck.
  2. Next, the Martian would then have to actually BELIEVE that they could acquire this gallon of milk or he would just go through the motions and quit at every little speed bump. I would have to assure him that the dream is TOTALLY doable as long as he has a solid, intelligent, executable plan to make it happen.
  3. Next the Martian would need to stop talking about buying milk and get off the couch (exert some energy and forward progress) and somehow travel to a place where they actually sell milk.
    1. They don’t sell milk at Tiffany’s
    2. They don’t sell milk at Jiffy Lubes
    3. They don’t sell milk at Levi’s Outlet Stores
    4. They don’t sell milk at Home Depots, etc.
    5. They don’t sell milk at the Wells Fargo Bank
    6. He shouldn’t bother with these places. It IS POSSIBLE that he may find somebody randomly selling milk at these places but HIGHLY unlikely, so why base his return home on such a “low percentage shot.” I would recommend that the Martian stick to the grocery stores even if all his Martian friends are telling him they heard from a friend who heard from a friend who abducted a milk expert back in the 70s who said that you could go to these places. We need to focus on what’s happening NOW and where file9411272063260you find milk TODAY.
  4. I would tell him that you then have to walk into the grocery store and go all the way to the back, because that’s where they always stock the milk. This is a tall order for a Martian.
  5. I would encourage him to hold his head high and persevere through the anxiety and temptation while navigating through the chaos of people with their carts (who are undoubtedly STARING at my Martian friend causing self-esteem issues because he’s noticeably green), the terrorists on the motorized scooters who are out-to-get-you, the super hot honey-babies who could melt all the frozen stuff, the peanut butter, the Oreo cookies, the smelly people. He MUST forge through to physically grab the gallon of milk.
  6. I might have to restore confidence with my Martian if he went to the store during some kind FEMA-grade national disaster and there was no milk on the shelves! He would undoubtedly incur a faith crisis of some sort seeing as how I had PROMISED him that he could find milk at the grocery store!
  7. Then assuming the milk is in stock one day, he would need to also plot a course back through the same gauntlet of people and temptation towards the front where the checkout line is to complete the task of buying his first gallon of milk.
  8. I would explain that the checkout is where his 1st victory will occur, thus, the anticipation and excitement will certainly begin to settle in. I would further counsel him on how to contain himself because he is not done yet (as the milk is NOT quite purchased yet…or as my mother always says “It’s not soup yet”). After all, there may be a line, especially if he shows up on Friday after 5pm. So patience and a will to complete the task will be necessary here.
  9. I would also have to comfort him after getting right up in the line, the 1st one behind the person currently checking out (everybody is still staring at him like he’s a Martian or something), he’s breathing heavily, his excitement is growing only half as much as his nervousness only to get delayed even more. PRICE CHECK!!! (So close, yet so far away…) I would tell my Martian friend that he needs to wait and NOT bail out (when he is so close to purchasing the milk that his dreams depend on) solely because some lady makes him wait FOREVER so she can price check every item in her dangerously overflowing shopping cart by deploying all the store employees on search and rescue missions. I would have to talk him off the ledge again while this crazy woman is still making him wait longer by writing a check in 2014 that takes forever to process, then while she conscientiously enters every digit into her checkbook transaction log, puts her pen carefully back into its proper place, and then puts the checkbook itself back into its appropriate pocket in her purse (which of course she will have trouble finding).

10. Now!! It’s here! HIS TURN IS FINALLY UP! But wait, he would absolutely need to bring something to the cashier in exchange for the milk; his money. “You see, the grocery store is in the business of selling milk,” I would say to my Martian friend. “They don’t care that you’re the REAL Martian that America would surely love if they put one million dollars into marketing him, and they don’t care that you need this milk to get home. It still costs money if you want to purchase the milk, no matter how real or how amazing your circumstances.”

11. I would tell him that if he wants to create lasting relationships with people and companies that are important to his dream he would need to provide some VALUE for them, something more than a back-end performance-based deal. Their company consistently performs in this space and he has yet to prove that he can perform, much less perform consistently; AND he has yet to prove that his performances have value in the marketplace!

12. Next I would tell my Martian friend, after all the work and anxiety that he had to go through to get his milk, that he will have to do that EVERY WEEK if he really wants to get home.

So where do you have to go to buy your milk?

What are YOUR exact steps needed to execute your plan?

What are you doing on a consistent basis to move your agenda forward?

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Percentages and Branding

By Johnny Dwinell

I hate to say it but even though it is easier than ever before to make a living as an artist these days, artists are starving more and more in large part because they suck at business.  The most iconic Percentages and Branding team building imageartists we cherish today are literal business titans as well musical geniuses; they understand percentages and branding.  Artists like Madonna, Bono, Sting, Bon Jovi, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, etc. truly understand how to operate as a business and what percentage is required to give away in exchange for an opportunity to grow the brand.  They also have a talent for team building which is a requirement to any success story.  Even with a huge record deal, do NOT underestimate the vital business necessity of team building.

 

Percentages and Branding

Think about Levi Strauss for a second.  Everybody is aware of Levi’s.  Hell, back in the cold war days one could make a fortune selling boat loads of Levi’s to the sheltered, ravenous-for-Western-culture residents of the U.S.S.R.  Levi Strauss & Co Percentages and Branding Levi imagedelivered the first pair of blue jeans in 1873 after Jacob Davis (not from the Levi Strauss family), a tailor who regularly purchased bolts of denim cloth from the Levi’s wholesale house, came up with the idea of using copper rivets to reinforce the main stress points of pants (such as the pocket corners and the base of the buttonfly) after one of his customers constantly came in to reinforce torn pants with the cloth.  Jacob Davis couldn’t afford a patent for his idea so he wrote Levi suggesting that they go into business together and they obviously came up with a plan to split the percentages.  I’ll bet this plan was heavily weighted in favor of Levi Strauss as they were taking all the risk by putting up all the capital to pay for the patent.

Here we have a symbiotic relationship where 2 separate entities work together to create something great and have to somehow split the profits.  Next, we need to remember that there was no internet so how on earth would you expose your brand to the masses across the United States in 1873?

 

Distribution

Think about this using your business brain for a second in today’s world.  If you can graph-backgroundpurchase a set of Levi’s from Wal-Mart for $38, and we know that Wal-Mart requires a profit to be made, how much do you think Levi’s sells the jeans to Wal-Mart for?  Back at the beginning of the 1900’s the biggie distributor was Penney’s (A.K.A. J.C. Penney)  Levi’s HAD to sell to J.C. Penny to get their product exposed and out into the market place.  It was much later AFTER the brand was solidly constructed that Levi Strauss began opening “Outlet Stores” where consumers felt they got a discount and Levi’s not only took 100% of the money (saving on distribution percentages) but also ONLY sold Levi’s.

You see, if you get a record deal the major label is going to try to take about 91% of the revenue created from record sales; this was standard back in the glamor days of the music business.  The sad reality is that Kelly and I have many friends who are/were famous stars selling millions of records and they never made a dime selling records, they only made money touring.  So why on earth does everyone always feel they have “made it” once they get the deal?  Why would you want a major label deal when you could make far more revenue selling 50,000 units yourself that you could selling 700,000 with major label??

Worry About What You Are Getting Paid

I was thinking of this after remembering a couple separate business deals that never came to fruition because the artists got hung up on percentages of possible future revenue.  They were laser focused on what they were going to be paying out vs. what they were going to make.  I created these deals to deliver DSC03525-Brevenue only on the back end (mostly because the artists were broke) so anytime the artist was making money, we were making money.  In other words, if we generated $10 of gross revenue, and we each got $5 a piece, then the artist had $5 that he didn’t have before, right?  The common response to this proposal was “I have my heart and soul into this project, I can’t give you 50% to market it, man.  It’s not you; it’s the principle of the matter”.  Currently each of these artist’s principles, along with $2.54 is good for a coffee at Starbucks and nothing else; they have each sold ZERO copies but thankfully retain 100% of absolutely NO pie.  It was funny, one of the artists argued that all his friends, none of whom had ever had a record deal (thus no frame of reference on how that all works), told him the 50% back end percentage was too much (WTF, if I was Warner Bros offering to take 90% they would have all said YOU MADE IT MAN!).  Another artist argued that if he hired me to sell light bulbs he wouldn’t be paying 50% on the back end, which is true.  But then again everyone is familiar with a light bulb and nobody is familiar with this artist.

There is a difference between branding and simple sales, exposure and distribution.  Most artists don’t get this.

Do you?

My advice to y’all is that if you can hook up with anyone willing to work at exposing and selling your CD’s for a percentage on the back-end; that makes your deal “performance based”.  This means that everyone makes money together or you don’t make money together.  Performance based contracts ensure that the entity providing the service is “putting their money where their mouth is” by basing their compensation on their ability to create revenue as very few people will put the time and energy into a project without realizing some kind of compensation.

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How Do You Want To Be Perceived?

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By Johnny Dwinell

 

How do you want to be perceived?

 

IMG_1672Do you want people to see you as a great artist?  A great writer?  Innovative?  Intelligent?  On the way up?  A survivor?  A maverick?  An icon?  Maybe an outlaw?  We artists always think about how we want to be perceived in the very best way; with huge dreams and aspirations.  We imagine ourselves at the top with all the trappings that come with huge success, like money, influence, adoration, etc.

 

 

How ARE you actually being perceived?  What do people think of you right now?  Do they perceive you as you want to be perceived or are you experiencing frustration, friction, doubt, condescension, how do you want to be perceived Bang Head Here Poster imagealienation, and overall lackluster and underwhelming feedback?  Wow, those are heavy thoughts, man, but as artists we are always hardest on ourselves and react to the negative inner voices which are a constant hurdle.  Ugh, it’s a daily battle for me at least, I promise you!

You see it’s the thoughts we focus on consistently and the work we do consistently that determines what exactly we achieve, which in turn dictates how people REALLY perceive us.  We can’t get a reputation based on future possibilities; on what we want to be.  We can only get a reputation based on the work we have accomplished; which is where we are right now.

To accomplish any artistic work we have to be courageous enough to be imperfect and anal (crazy?) enough to constantly search for perfection; quite the dichotomy, no?  We all have to take that first step of faith even though we can’t see the whole staircase; because I 20hISzX7promise you that you will NEVER see the whole staircase!  Think about this, the reality of your existence is never what you planned it would be; any well thought out, intensely prepared effort towards some goal never goes according to the plan.  David Lee Roth accurately described the “Law of Rock & Roll” by saying Murphy completely underestimated the problem!  To be effective at managing the constant change in life (especially the online music business which is a constantly moving target) you have to be smart enough to know that you don’t know (or at least smart enough to know that you did know yesterday, but today the game has completely changed).  You have to be secure enough to admit that you don’t know (to yourself as well as others).  Finally, you have to be smart enough and secure enough to seek and accept help where a change is required to get one step closer to greatness.  Those that don’t, simply get lost in the din and never really rise to a level where they can make a living at the art they enjoy so much.

That’s really sad, but totally preventable!

You have to work harder than anyone else, and truly understand that while creating great art is paramount to your highest dreams, ensuring people are exposed to it is also mission critical too.  After all, it is only after people are exposed to your art that they will develop a perception of you and your art, right?

Re-evaluate your process for creating great art; constantly tweak this.  Then, realize that exposure is the next MISSION CRITICAL step to influencing perceptions.

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10 Music Marketing Facts

Music Marketing feature

By Johnny Dwinell

Here are 10 facts for your consideration with regards to the music business, marketing your music, and overall perspective on what some of your favorite stars had to go through to “make it.” Even back in the heyday of the record business, it still required hard work, y’all. You would also be surprised to learn how many of your favorite history-changing iconic records wouldn’t, and almost didn’t, happen because of marketing snafus. Bottom line is that you need more than just an epic record to make it.

10 Music Marketing Facts For Your Consideration

 

  1. Guns & Roses Appetite For Destruction – was released and available to the public in 1987; the firstMusic Marketing American single was Welcome to the Jungle released in October, 1987. The record didn’t “break” until 1 full year later. After 1 year of hard work, the Geffen Records marketing machine wasn’t getting the traction that it wanted partly because MTV refused to play the 1st single video Welcome to the Jungle. This record was just about to be considered “Dead on Arrival” when A&R executive Tom Zutaut pled with label owner David Geffen to throw some weight around and somehow get MTV to play Welcome to the Jungle. David finally acquiesced and got MTV to add the video to their after-hours rotation. It was played once on a Sunday morning at 3am; the phones LIT UP at MTV and the rest is history. If it hadn’t been for the one phone call David Geffen made, that record never would have broken through. This is proof positive that it takes far more than simply recording one of the best records ever made to reach an audience. If you build it you have to TELL THEM ABOUT it before they will come!
  2. Van Halen – recorded a demo that was passed on by every record label –  TWICE!!! Gene Simmons from Music MarketingKiss produced and shopped a demo (with On Fire and Runnin with the Devil from the first record on it) and then bowed out after Kiss’s management told Simmons that they had “No Chance” of making it. Then Warner Bros. label head Mo Ostin and Ted Templeman (who would become their producer) saw them live and decided to take the risk and sign the band. Proof that relationships are just as important as good music when it comes to creating momentum (this would have been the third time Warner Bros. took a serious “look” at Van Halen). This proves that Van Halen’s lane was not in the studio as much as it was a “live” phenomenon. Once they were able to get some execs to see them live, they got it.
  3. KISS – was signed to Neil Bogart’s Casablanca Records in 1973 and released their first effort Kiss in 1974. Music MarketingWhen that record failed to gain traction in the marketplace, they quickly came off the road to record Hotter than Hell also released in 1974. When that record failed to sell well, Kiss was pulled off the road immediately to record their third release Dressed to Kill which contained Rock and Roll All Night and fared a bit better than Hotter Than Hell but still didn’t sell well. At this point Kiss and Casablanca Records were almost bankrupt. The band’s records sold poorly but they were definitely developing a reputation as an amazing live show. So, in a “Hail Mary” fashion the band released Alive! (their pseudo live record) with the intent of capturing the live show on tape. It did just that and not only saved the band but also saved Casablanca Records. Proof that hard work, perseverance, and grit was mission critical to Kiss’ success.
  4. George Michael George was a HUGE multi-platinum (25 million records) international star with the early 80s duo called WHAM! before he shot to superstardom as a solo act with his amazing first solo effort called Faith which sold 25 million copies worldwide. In between George’s first record, Faith, and his second solo record Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, CBS records was purchased by Sony. As a result, his trusted friend and artist, beloved label executive, Walter Yetnikoff, was let go. George had a “Key-man Clause” in his contract with CBS stating that if Walter left for any reason, George’s contract was null and void. Also during this time, George wanted his audience to focus on the artistic quality of this latest effort as opposed to his ass in a pair of jeans. He refused to appear in any videos to promote the record. The new label head, Tommy Mattola, was miffed not only that George wouldn’t appear in any videos to promote the record but also because he felt slighted that George had no interest in even giving Tommy and Sony a chance to work with him. As far as George was concerned, the Japanese and specifically Sony had no clue about “art” and he didn’t want to participate in any business arrangement with them. The result was arguably George’s masterpiece. Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 sold half as much as the predecessor Faith simply because Sony sat on it and refused to market it. HE WAS FAMOUS ALREADY AND FANS LIKE ME DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THE NEW RECORD WAS RELEASED. Again, the lesson is that you need to create great art, and then someone has to tell people about it; which means…it has to be marketed! Gasp!!!
  5. Winger If you listened to our podcast interview with Paul Taylor, you would know that Paul met Kip Winger when they toured together in Alice Cooper’s band. Their demos were passed on by every record label multiple times before Alice’s producer, Beau Hill, agreed to produce the band. BOOM! Atlantic signed them. Proof that it takes more than good music to get that elusive record deal! Work on your relationships!
  6. Bruce Springsteen Bruce recorded Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J., his first major label release, for Columbia in 1973. After he slaved over that record and handed in the masters, Clive Davis told Bruce that he didn’t hear any singles they could use on the radio to promote the record and told Bruce to write some more before he would release the record. Consequently, Bruce quickly wrote Blinded by the Light and Spirit in the Night both of which were released as singles (and didn’t do that well, FYI). Manfred Mann’s Earth Band covered Blinded by the Light and it went to #1 in 1977. This proves to me that Bruce, who was young and real smart, knew enough that he didn’t know and went back to the drawing board to give the label what they requested to promote the first record. While it didn’t do much to help the first record, it certainly paid off in the end. You can never go wrong doing a little more work. Ultimately Billboard Magazine named Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. #398 of the top 500 records ever recorded in large part due to the last songs he wrote and recorded for that record.
  7. Sony Purchase of Columbia Pictures Entertainment and CBS Records Wanna know why Sony purchased these 2 hugely expensive assets back in the late 80s? The Betamax video tape format. Sony ignored the first of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, The Law of Leadership; it’s better to be first than to be better. Sony believed that because their Betamax format was (arguably) better than VHS, consumers would naturally pick Betamax over Phillips’ VHS format. Subsequently Sony was not so quick to license and release uncut movies in their original format on the Betamax platform, and Phillips was. For the first time, people could own their own copies of movies but mostly on VHS, so consumers chose the VHS. Sony spent $1 billion dollars developing the Betamax and lost. Buy purchasing CPE and CBS Records, they ensured that whatever new “widget” they come up with next would have plenty of entertainment titles to flood the market and ensure that time-to-market was expedient.
  8. In 1991 Columbia Re-Signs Aerosmith to a $30 Million Dollar Deal ($8 Million Signing Bonus) While the Band Still Owed Geffen Records 3 Releases Wha? That’s right, why would a label exec with common sense make a deal like that? Who knew if Aerosmith would be relevant or even alive after 3 more releases and tours? Answer: the Aerosmith Catalog. Remember Aerosmith’s Truckville commercials for Dodge with Just Push Play? The band received $1.8 million + 1 car for each of the band members in exchange for 1 year of licensing. I don’t even want to know what they got for this Nissan Commercial with Dream On. Cha-CHING!! These are the publishing cash registers. Are you taking advantage of this on YouTube?
  9. Def Leppard’s Hysteria Def Leppard got their deal and released On Through the Night then got some Music Marketingtraction with High & Dry which sold about 250,000 copies on the strength of Bringing on the Heartbreak. Deeply in debt to their record label, they went into the studio to record Pyromania which was a history maker and history changer. They made enough money to satisfy the debt to the label for all three records and make a nice profit. Wanting to move away from Mutt Lange’s lengthy and arduous production methods and Mutt citing exhaustion, the band signed Bat Out of Hell co-writer, Jim Steinman, to produce Hysteria. Then, they changed their mind when they realized that Steinman’s different production methods would alienate their audience and went back to Mutt Lange. Def Leppard still had to PAY Steinman AND Mutt Lange. All this on top of the fact that the drummer lost his arm when he lost control of his Corvette. Bottom line; the band was so in debt just for Hysteria that they needed to sell 5 million copies to break even. Talk about GRIT!!! Hysteria went on to sell more than 20 million copies worldwide and is still their best-selling record to date. BTW, Pour Some Sugar On Me was a last minute addition; it almost didn’t make it on the record. I submit this is as proof that you need to get off the couch and get to work. Even after you get the deal, the “dice are still tumbling”. Could you handle adversity in your artistic career like that?
  10. Zac Brown Band Did you know that Zac Brown had been playing more than 200 dates a year since 2002Music Marketing LONG before he was ever signed? He opened a music club/restaurant with his father called Zac’s Place in 2004 (Zac was the chef so enter 90 hour work weeks plus the band duties). A developer purchased the restaurant; and the band used the profits to purchase a tour bus and get back on the road. The band couldn’t get any attention from the labels who told Zac that he was “too county for pop” or “too pop for country” until they sold a TRUCKLOAD of self-released CDs on their own. Consequently, when the majors started to pay attention, Zac Brown came to the negotiating table with a HEAVY HAMMER and has one of the best record deals in town which includes his own label imprint called Southern Ground. This is how you need to do it today people. HARD WORK is required to make yourself a success. Nobody is going to press the “EZ Button” and do it for you!

 

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