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Why You Need to Control Your Beautiful Destiny

Destiny Feature MEME

Destiny Pilot Boy MEMEWould you prefer to control your destiny or let someone you don’t know control it for you?

 

 

I’m going to tell you a story about an amazing artist with all the right elements, the right team, and a killer debut record but they never really made it in America because of poor marketing.

 

They did everything in their power (I believe) to do it right but outside forces impacted their destiny.

 

You have so much more control over your destiny today than before, but only if you realize it, take responsibility for it, and begin controlling it.

 

Destiny DNR

 

One of the most amazing artists to come out of the hair band era was The Dan Reed Network.

 

Right now, you’re like, “Who?” unless you’re European.

 

 

 

The Dan Reed Network was a fresh breath of air for the hair band era. They were a unique and interesting mix of Prince-meets-Bon Jovi-with-killer Steven Tyler-Falsetto-screams.  A hair band image and an 80’s rock appeal but funky with great songs.

 

Destiny DNR 2

 

They were diverse musically and ethnically within the band. All total, the group was descendant from these different ancestries, German, Hawaiian, Native American, African American, Japanese American, Jamaican, Italian American, and Jewish.

 

 

They were a Mercury records major label artist with big-time management, a hit producer, a (supposed) major label budget, and a killer record, but they never caught on in America and they’re from the Northwest, Portland area.

 

So, what happened?

 

Why didn’t this band fulfill their destiny?

 

Destiny USA Marketing Failure

A marketing fail is what happened and it wasn’t their fault.

 

 

 

There are a million stories like this out there.

 

Let’s dissect it so we can learn how YOU can avoid this situation.

 

First off, the band put out a self-released EP in 1986 which had a #1 on Portland’s Z-100 (their local) radio station.

 

Destiny DNR Breathless Album Cover

 

 

 

That’s how they got their label attention, by proving their value in advance of the deal.

 

 

 

 

Right there, they didn’t wait for the label to discover them. They made themselves discoverable and the labels called them.

 

They were crafting their own destiny.

 

Destiny Bill Graham

 

DRN formed a management relationship shortly after that with music promoter icon, Bill Graham. FYI, Bill Graham was instrumental in the careers of The Grateful Dead, The Allman Brothers, and Janis Joplin to name a few.

 

 

 

Their #1 single on their local radio station garnered interest from Derek Shulman (Bon Jovi, Cinderella) at Polygram and they were signed to Mercury Records (a division of Polygram).Destiny Mercury Records Logo

 

 

 

 

 

In the winter of 1987, The Dan Reed Network released their debut record which was produced by Bruce Fairbairn (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith).

 

Destiny DNR Album Cover Debut

 

 

It’s an awesome record. I recommend listening to it.

 

Even if you don’t dig the style, it’s incredibly well done.

 

 

 

 

Everything is coming up roses for Dan Reed Network, right? Major label, killer producer, different sound, iconic manager, etc.

 

But here’s how the potholes developed.

 

Destiny Hysteria Album Cover

 

 

 

Mercury Records label mates, Def Leppard, FINALLY released Hysteria which was 3 years overdue in August of 1987; a few months prior to DNR debut effort.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Destiny Pyromania Album Cover

 

 

Hysteria was the follow up to the 10 million + selling Pyromania and the record label obviously had huge expectations on sales. (If we remember that records were grossing the equivalent of around $30/record back then we can surmise that the labels were getting around 50% of that or $15/record. So, they grossed at least $150 million [not including publishing revenue] on Pyromania).

 

 

 

But, Hysteria was plagued by delays and MASSIVELY over budget.

 

On December 31, 1984, Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen lost his arm in an auto accident.

 

Destiny Rick Allen Wreck Image

 

 

The band was over the Mutt Lange tedious production process they endured on Pyromania and chose Jim Steinman (Steinman was famous for writing and credited for co-producing Meatloaf’s Bat Out of Hell) to produce Hysteria.

 

 

 

 

Destiny Bat Out of Hell

 

 

 

Steinman’s approach was to record a raw rock sound that was a definite departure from the polished pop metal sound of Pyromania. Once the band realized that, they sacked Steinman but still had to pay his $2-Million-Dollar production fee.

 

 

 

 

Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott was quoted as saying, “Todd Rundgren produced Bat Out of Hell Jim Steinman wrote it.”

 

They reenlisted Mutt Lange and got to work on the record after scrapping all the previously recorded material but they had to pay Mutt Lange too and this was going to take a while.

 

By the release date of Hysteria, Def Leppard had to sell 5 million copies to break even!

 

This made Mercury nervous. Understandably as the cash equivalent to 5 million records to the label would be around half of the take from Pyromania or $75 million dollars in today’s money.

 

The record immediately shot up the charts in England, but the momentum from Pyromania had faded in the USA and the new record was TANKING.

 

Polygram/Mercury understandably began freaking out.

 

Guess who didn’t get any attention?

 

The new bands that were signed to the label including Dan Reed Network.

 

Destiny Def Leppard Women

It was all-hands-on-deck at Mercury Records. Every available monetary and personnel resource was allotted to making Hysteria at least break even.

 

This dynamic dragged on and on through 3 American singles, “Women”, “Animal”, and “Hysteria”.

 

 

 

The record didn’t begin to sell in American until the fourth single was released, “Pour Some Sugar on Me”.

 

Destiny Abandoned MEMEThe first Dan Reed Network record suffered a painful, slow death because of abandonment.

 

 

The label couldn’t and wouldn’t afford to promote it correctly with all the hysteria from Hysteria.

 

Destiny Q-PrimeSomewhere along the line, the band apprehensively switched management companies to Q-Prime with Peter Mensch and Cliff Burnstein. Q-Prime ironically started with and were still managing Def Leppard (along with Metallica, Queensryche, AC/DC, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and some other huge acts).

 

 

DNR finally got on the road as an opener on the last American leg of Def Leppard’s Hysteria tour but it wasn’t until the 2nd album was released and they toured with the Rolling Stones in Europe that they blew up…over there.

 

Destiny DNR Slam Album Cover

 

 

 

Dan Reed Network is still out there doing it today, man, but they never caught on in America and it was largely due to the circumstances that revolved around the marketing of their debut record.

 

 

 

 

The bigger band with the bigger budget and the bigger fires to put out got all the attention at the big label while the promising baby bands with all the potential suffered.

 

Guess what?

 

That hasn’t changed.

 

Well, it has changed but it’s worse today.

 

Destiny Leverage MEMEWhy would you want to be signed before you crafted some leverage to apply to the deal?

 

 

Especially considering you have the power to construct this leverage today and create your destiny?

 

Here’s what HAS changed.

 

Destiny Target MEME

YOU can do what the Dan Reed Network couldn’t do, define, target, connect, and capture the contact information for YOUR audience.

 

 

 

 

You can grow your audience. It’s not difficult like brain surgery, but it does require work and understanding.

 

Do you want a record deal?

 

Destiny Brat Boy MEMEBring them an audience and you’ll get what you want.

 

Do you want a manager?

 

Bring them an audience (i.e. something to manage) and you’ll get what you want.

 

Do you want a booking agent?

 

Bring them an audience and you’ll get what you want.

 

YOU must do the work and it’s never been easier to reach people, but it does require work.

 

Every show you fail to collect contact data is a wasted opportunity.

Every day that you don’t expand your social media to reach new people is a wasted day.

 

The new music business is all about artists with audiences.

 

Destiny Audience MEME

 

 

Let me be clear, YES, I’m generalizing, but you are NOT going to get signed on your talent alone and frankly, you don’t really want to be.

 

 

 

You don’t want to be the exception to the rule.

 

When you come into a record deal with a decent audience and some cash flow in your business you have power.

 

Destiny Power

 

 

Power bands like Dan Reed Network didn’t have because they didn’t know who their audience was and couldn’t reach them outside of radio.

 

 

 

But you can.

 

You might just get signed on your talent, but the Def Leppards of the world will ensure that you are ignored.

The bigger your audience, the more power you have.

 

How’s that for a goal?

 

Listen, this works.

 

Destiny Daredevil LogoI’ve grown Daredevil Production the same way. I find the audience first. It’s so easy (and FUN) to make relationships with important managers, producers, label executives, booking agents, etc. by bringing them business as opposed to asking for a favor.

 

That’s leverage.

 

Why wouldn’t you want to do that too?

 

Why wouldn’t you want to be in charge of your destiny?

 

 

Stay

 

In

 

Tune

 

 

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Fatal Flaws

Flaws Gun Pointing

The record business is rife with fatal flaws. Even in the heyday there were huge mistakes constantly made by major record labels and those flaws are showing big time Flaws Flawed eggin the new music industry.

 

 If you ask any CEO from any company in any industry on any part of this planet what their most valuable asset is, they will tell you it’s their customer list.

 

 

Yes, their people are important but you can’t pay good people without cash flow from customers.

Yes, their intellectual property is hugely important, but you can’t monetize intellectual property without customers.

 

Maybe you’re a fan of Chevy, Ford, Toyota, Dodge, Porsche, BMW, etc.flaws automakers

From the perspective of the CEO’s of any company, you are a customer, maybe even a loyal customer.

 

Artist “fans” are called “customers” in every other business.

 

Get it?

Businesses go to GREAT lengths not only to build and maintain customer lists but also to DEEPEN the relationships with those customers.

Think about your Kroger or Ralph’s (grocery store) discount card.  They offer discounts in exchange for information on your buying habits.

 

flaws discount card

They KNOW if you like 1% milk or 2% milk.

They KNOW what kind of beer you like.

 

They KNOW when you prefer to shop, how much you normally spend, and what products you normally spend your money on.

 

Now, if we put a gun to Tim McGraw’s head, Katy Perry’s head, AC/DC’s heads, Jay-Z’s head, or Daft Punk’s helmets, they couldn’t tell us who’s buying their music.

The fatal flaw is they don’t know who their customers are!

 

If you don’t have a customer list, not only is it impossible to identify who the customers are, you certainly can’t contact them.

 

If you cannot directly contact the customers, you have to spend MILLIONS of dollars on what they call “Branding Campaigns” (that’s super expensive advertising in plain English).

Branding Campaigns put an artist everywhere there is to be for a few weeks at a time to plug the new release and continue to promote it.

 

People, Us, Vanity Fair, Country Weekly, Taste of Country, blogs, nationwide radio, Letterman, Fallon, Ellen, Seth Meyers, GMA, Today Show, Newspapers, blah, blah, blah.

 

But what of the artists who don’t have million dollar budgets?

 

DSC_5393

What about the artist you USED to have million dollar budgets?

 

Even with a million dollar brand name (think any former major label artists who no longer have a major label) the sales will suffer simply because the customers don’t know the product is available.

What if there was a way to “capture” contact information that would become a customer list?

 

An artist with an active customer list could:

  • Deepen relationships with customers creating a tribe-like following.flaws iceberg
  • Offer exclusive content to make customers feel like they’re “in-crowd”.
  • Monetize it by changing to a subscribership business model (think Netflix).
  • Inform the customers of new content on YouTube and grow the subscribership.
  • Then Monetize YouTube (creating another cash register).
  • Inform the customers of any contests the artist is having.
  • Inform the customers of upcoming concerts.
  • Disseminate any images or content offering social proof of awesomeness.
  • Cross promote other artists
  • Obtain Corporate Sponsorships
  • Monetize it through sales on the artist’s web store.

Some of you hate this idea but I’ll bet if you were famous you would at least entertain the idea of a clothing line, or perfume scent wouldn’t you?

The tremendous power that direct customer contact will bring to an artist was demonstrated quite clearly by Taylor Swift in 2014.

flaws taylor swift 1989

 

We have probably the biggest superstar on the planet who released a new record but she switched genres.

 

Yeah, yeah some will argue that Taylor Swift was never really “country” but the point is that all Taylor’s previous records were promoted on Country Radio and “1989” wasn’t.

 

 

Country radio felt that Taylor abandoned country music and moved WAY too far into the pop world and therefore refused to promote it by spinning her new singles.

Come to think of it, in Nashville, I haven’t heard ANY Taylor Swift songs on country radio for quite some time which is crazy considering they are continuing to spin every single ever put out by her country peers like Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Carrie Underwood, etc.

Here’s the point, she still had the bestselling record of 2014.flaws social media nails

 

This was true because her fans KNEW the record was coming via her social media.  This is huge because while I’m sure most of you are plugging away at your social media, “Swifties” feel like they have a special connection with Taylor.

 

That’s the key.

 

Don’t fool yourself on the power of her superstardom either, it was the connection.

 

Want proof?

 

George Michael was a superstar stadium act that had sold 25 million albums and 15 million singles with Wham! before he ever got his solo deal with Columbia.  His first solo release was “Faith” which sold a whopping 25 million copies. In September of 1990 George released his 2nd solo effort entitled “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1” (arguably considered his artistic masterpiece).

flaws george michael

 

 

George was sour at the fact that the Sony Corporation had purchased CBS records. He tried to exercise a “Key Man Clause” in his contract once artist beloved CBS Records President Walter Yetnikoff was replaced with Tommy Mattola in 1990.  Tommy took that action personally and detested George’s artistic refusal to appear in any videos to promote the record. As a result, Sony chose not to promote “Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1” and it sold a disappointing 8 million units.

What would have happened if George had been able to contact his 25 million customers?

 

Want to know how you capture this information?

 

There are 2 primary ways (depending on the age of your audience) that you can capture customer contact data and begin to build your list.

1 way is called a “Squeeze Page”. flaws_Twitter_Squeeze_Page

A squeeze page is designed to “squeeze” the contact information out of a potential customer (usually a name and email address) while allowing the customer to “opt in” to email driven marketing initiatives.

The idea is you offer what my friend Rick Barker calls an “ethical bribe” by exchanging a free track(s) for the contact information.

I mean, you need to know where to send the customer’s free track right?

 

Here are a few links to some squeeze pages we have created at Daredevil Production, LLC. I recommend you experience some of these as a consumer. You can always UNSUBSCRIBE at the bottom of each email address if you want.

  • GiftFromJohnny.com (this is to a free download of my bestselling Twitter Book which you are welcome to have if you don’t already own it)Flaws_Ty_Herndon_Squeeze_Page
  • GiftFromTy.com (this is a free track from Platinum country artist Ty Herndon)

 

 

While there is an art to structuring a squeeze page that will optimize conversions, it can totally be mastered.  Check out companies like Lead Pages to help you capture that info and store it.  (If you have any problems, simply give us a flaws lead pagescall and we are happy to help you set up your own squeeze page.)

 

 

 

A second methodology which is extremely effective for younger audiences (not so much for audiences over 50) is the text capture methodology.flaws call loop logo

Check out companies like Call Loop. They offer the ability for your customers to text a “key word” and receive instant downloads of your music.

Now you have their phone number.

 

Text messages have a 99% open rate.iphones

 

Whoa.

So imagine you’re playing a live show and you own the crowd. From the stage you instruct everyone to “Raise their phones in the air for a FREE track!” and just like that you get 50 phone numbers.

 

Did you rock the house?

 

Did you leave your audience wanting more?

 

Does your show feel like an event?

 

Would they LOVE a text from you 1 week before your next show?Flaws no fatal flaws

 

I’ll bet they would.

 

As an independent artist, you can avoid fatal flaws.

 

Stay In Tune.

 

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10 Worst Song Demo Mistakes

Song Demo Mistakes feature

This week I got the call to produce new record for an artist on a NY label.  It was a rush project as they wanted it “in the can” by 1st week of December in time to ship for Christmas.  Mostly the songs were already chosen, however, at the last minute, the label decided they wanted to add 2 more songs to the project.

We put out the word amongst the writing community here that we needed songs quickly as we were planning on cutting in under a week.  Usually this song request process manifests itself in the form of a “Pitch Sheet” of some sort.  The tip sheet will dictate the kind of songs styles and lyrics styles that are needed for any particular project like “Up-tempo party songs” or “Mid-tempo island country grooves” or “ballads” or lately we have seen a lot of “AC/DC songs with country lyrics”.  The tip sheet will also tell the reader who the artist is along with a few other dos and don’ts about song submissions for that particular artist, etc.  Since we didn’t have time for a tip sheet we personally called or texted every writer we knew with specifics on the artist, kind of songs, melodic ranges, and lyric content needed.

After roughly 48 hours, we received just over 250 songs. I sat down this past Saturday to dig into the task of listening. After hearing the first 2 songs, I knew what my next blog was going to be about. I want to share the experience that I had going through all these songs to give you a perspective from the producer side as we try to do our job. I thought this might help you on your future pitches! The intent here is to reveal what goes through a producer’s mind as we have to trudge through so many songs to cut the list from 250 to 15 or so that we present to the artist who then chooses the final list of songs that will be cut on the record. FYI, this is not the most fun part of our job, this part is busy work that we would just as soon get out of the way as quickly as possible. Every job has this component in some fashion or another.

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As a producer, I am very familiar with the artist brand and voice. We’d better be, right? We understand the vocal range and we understand the kind of songs the artist gravitates towards. Matter of fact, I was so clued in that I predicted the very two songs we thought would make the record out of the 18 that I presented.

10 Worst Song Demo Mistakes

  1. Long Intros SUCK – all we are thinking about during the vetting process is the DSC_2314melody, lyric, and vibe of the song; and isn’t that what you are selling?  For the life of me, I cannot understand why ANYONE would have a song demo with a 45 second intro; it seems like a lifetime when you have 250 to listen to. If they all had 45 second intros, that would be 187 MINUTES (just over 3 hours) of time we wasted waiting for the damn songs to start! Think about it! What’s the purpose of a long intro on a SONG DEMO? You are trying to sell the SONG, not blow people away with your producing skills. Why make us wait? This is such an annoyance; we had probably 8 songs like this. Every single one of them pissed us off immediately (because we could tell it would be a long one). To some extent, we rendered a poor judgment on the song before we even heard the first verse. Fair or not, this is what happens; foretold is forewarned.
  2. Crappy/Cheap Production – We did come across a (very) few songs with horrible production, cheap demos. We just laughed and ripped on them. They provided a welcome comic relief from the work load we had to complete. How does that make you feel? I will tell you honestly, that you have to compete and compete intelligently in your marketplace. From the first note of crappy production, we are ripping on the demo before we even get to the song. Poor production certainly colors our opinion. Food For Thought.
  3. Wrong Song – READ the tip sheet or LISTEN to the instructions on what the project is requiring. If the producer asks for up-tempo party songs, don’t send ballads. If the tip sheet has an artist with a limited vocal range, don’t send huge songs no matter how good they are. Who’s gonna sing them? Don’t use an opportunity to pitch a certain song as a vehicle to send the producers every song you have. We don’t care (not right now, anyway). We are only looking for the songs we need for THIS project so we can get on with producing it.
  4. Vague/Missing Email Subject Lines – As you might imagine, in about 48 hours I added 250 emails toSong Demo Mistakes my regular daily allotment. As a sender you definitely want to put the name of the artist pitch into the subject line so your song doesn’t get lost in all the traffic. The subject line is how the receiver will find a song among so many emails. That’s called common sense.
  5. You Didn’t Research The Artist Before Sending Songs – In the case of this particular artist, his songs have a very positive message; they are on the bright side as opposed to darker themes. We came across a couple songs about heavy drinking, sex, and adultery that just wouldn’t be right for his brand. Clearly, the writers that sent those have no clue about the artist and simply wasted our time. This doesn’t make a good impression on us about your songwriting no matter how good the song is. In fact, it makes a bad impression on us that you didn’t listen to what we really needed.
  6. You Chose The Wrong Singer – Choose a pro singer for your demo, NOT someone who is your friend or who is half-price. Unless you’re an artist, don’t sing it yourself to save money. FYI, suitable vocal ranges to the intended pitch are very important. It is really hard to hear a big, high, soaring melody an octave lower. We try, but it really is difficult, especially in the face of a 250-song listening session. Those demos with poor singers or inappropriate singers (with respect to the artist) are ignored immediately. Sorry. I strongly suggest that if your song would work down in a low octave as well as a high soaring vocal performance, demo it twice, or at least cut a second vocal so you have something that clearly represents both vocal ranges.
  7. Your Lyrics Aren’t Strong Enough We listened to some GOOD songs with average lyrics up throughSong Demo Mistakes the first chorus. However, the GREAT songs with KILLER lyrics kept our attention through the second chorus…because we just couldn’t wait to hear what the writer was going to say next. Simple artistic curiosity kept us inside that song.
  8. You Don’t Honor The Purpose Of The Recording – What is a song demo supposed to do for the writer, EXACTLY? It is supposed to sell the SONG – specifically the lyric, melody, and vibe of the song. Anything more than that production-wise and you are doing yourself a disservice and frankly wasting money on your demo.
  9. You Over Produced Your Demo I understand the impulse for any writer or artist to do this. It’s really almost a rite of passage. I guess we ALL have to learn “less is more” by doing it. For writers with very little studio experience, you tend to get caught artistically somewhere between a song demo and an epic album track. Stick to the song demo side. DO NOT OVERPRODUCE your song demo! Put BGVs only where they are obvious to lift the chorus. DO NOT put Oohs and Ahhs and fill in some holes with BGVs. Your taste may not be the taste of the person you are pitching to. Don’t add too many guitar tracks or color instruments; keep it as clean and sparse is possible. You really want to leave room for the producer to do their job and take the song to another level. Remember, this should be a solid blue print for a song, not a production idea for a record. Another good reason not to overproduce is that tastes and trends change constantly. We definitely heard a few older demos (like more than 10 or 15 years) with production that was cool and in style 10 or 15 years ago but not cool now. In those cases, the production choices personally took me out of the song for a second or two. If the dated production values were not present, the demo will certainly be more “durable” over time.
  10. Bad Vocal Tuning – Holy cow we had a demo where the damn vocal tuning was borderline Cher! It’s unbelievably distracting! Hire a pro singer, y’all, it really is the way to go if you are trying to compete with the big boys.

Mistake Twitter

Stay

In

Tune

 

 

PS: If you haven’t already downloaded my free Music Marketing On Twitter book, please enjoy it on me. Go to GiftFromJohnny.com put  in your name and tell us where to send it. It’ll teach you how to get 1,000 new targeted followers every month for just 15 minutes per day.

 

 

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