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Where There Is Blood In The Streets There Is Money To Be Made!

by Johnny Dwinell

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There is truly more good news than bad news in todays music business for both artists and songwriters. I will get to that in a second, but first lets address a few things with regard to some of the feedback I have already received about my last blog post.

Ok, so some of the provocative responses to said blog post were based from fear, but most people (and I report this next part enthusiastically) were undeterred; motivated even!

Tenacity! I LOVE IT BECAUSE ITS A MISSION CRITICAL JOB REQUIREMENT in this business.

I should clarify a few things for yall though. The last blog entry entitled TERRESTRIAL RADIO IS DEAD was aimed at new artists; not songwriters looking to get cuts. Look, this was not meant to scare anyone, but to LOUDLY emphasize that if your business model as an artist is to get a record deal and break (i.e. get your initial exposure) on the radio, youre too late; its over for the most part. I chose to be this aggressive with the language content because Kelly and I constantly run into people who still think of a record deal and the promise of subsequent radio play as the measurement of making it; and anything outside that box or dream, as it were, is some kind of failure. The reality here is that MOST artists with a Record Deal end up in debt to the label and do not make it; around 90% or so at most labels over the last 40 years. ANY ARTIST who wants to truly make a living playing their music can now do so and guess whatShhhh.you dont need a deal; you just need to be a business person too.

Terrestrial Radio

In this new market the Record Deal and Radio Promotion are rapidly becoming irrelevant; but as humans I guess we tend to hold onto the past as change is always uncomfortable. With the exception of Country music artists, the rest of you will have to break online (like YouTube think Karmin, PSY, or Macklemore) or on TV (either via song placement or popular talent shows like The Voice and American Idol) and THEN terrestrial radio will pick you up AFTER you are already popular, but terrestrial radio wont break you in the rock or pop genres. Moving on to Country music and the old music business model, once again, all the major labels are still running at the industry standard 90% failure rate. Just go to Curb Records artist page HERE and look at every artist

How many of them do you know?Good News Curb Records Image

How many of them have put out a record in the last 5 years?

See what I mean? This isnt just Curb, it has been industry standard on all major labels for decades90% of major label artists fail; their money losers, and in debt. In the old (now dying business model) 10% of the artists were SO LUCRATIVE, that the revenue created would pay for all the other losses.

This phenomenon is commonly referred to as The Artist Protection Program LOL.

So why is this still the dream when the numbers are decidedly horrific AND there is a better, more mathematically predictable way to make a living as an artist??

As of May 1st, Warner Bros Records is utilizing Kickstarter.com to fund record projects; WTF?? You heard me Good News Warner Bros imagecorrectly. Warner Bros is so broke it seems they will no longer be spending their own money on their artists recording projectsthey will spend the artists money for them. In fact, if you are able to start a Kickstarter.com campaign and get 1000 people to back you, you automatically qualify for a Warner Bros Records deal. If you can manage to get $100,000 in backing on a Kickstarter.com campaign you automatically qualify for a Warner Bros Record Deal. Crazy! So for some, this is good news. For the artists or bands that can get $100,000 worth of backing from a crowdfunding source, why get a record deal? You will probably make more money selling 70,000 copies of your own CD (which is SO DOABLE with a little budget) than selling 700,000 under a label. Do the math.and include the numbers you dont know about yet.

SO WHATS THE GOOD NEWS????

Well, for songwriters looking to get current artists to cut their songs, YOU will most likely get on the radio before any new artists do. If Tim McGraw wants to cut your song and the label makes it a single, youre getting paid and youre getting on the radio. Congrats! That will open many doors and launch your career to be sure.

The good news for artists is that while you may or may not become famous like the rock stars of 20 years ago, but you can absolutely make a living at itright now. We (at Daredevil Production) have a couple artists who just 2 or 3 years ago were writing in town, with day jobs, broke, trying to make itsound familiar?? Now, WITHOUT a major Good News DDP imagerecord deal, they are making a living. Touring over 250 dates a year, with a band, selling 6,000-10,000 CDs per year from the stage (Thats enough to afford to make another record, people) making money and living the dream. Just without a jet, and stadiums for now. Once these artists get their heads around how to match their live CD sales with online CD sales, they will make even more money; thats the rub. Btw, these kinds of artists, the ones who have profitable, successful small businesses are the artists most likely to get signed by a major label these days, or most likely to get a big money backer. Its about the business not about the music to them. I get it, I get it, I was an artist too back in the day, it about the music NOT the business to you!

Artistic Communication

Let me give you some food for thoughtMusic is about communication, right?

Communication is defined by the information RECEIVED, not the intent behind the information. Think about that.re read that line.say it out loud and listen to the words.

If you are a true artist and write KILLER songs but your lack of business skills keeps the world from RECEIVING the information are you communicating?

You may be lost in the delusion that back in the day it was just about the music and not business; thats BS. All the artists read from the same talking points to make you believe that OR while they were busy believing its all about the music, someone who was doing the necessary business was ripping them off. It is about the music, but without business no one hears the music. So its about the business. And if you truly have music that will profoundly touch consumers, then your business is now about EXPOSURE.

Big money investors like to see and invest in profitable small businesses. They like to see artists that can take care Good News Big Money imageof themselves; not artists who are detached, inaccessible, and a mess. Big money will come to back your project in 1 of 2 forms: Private investors or Major Record Labels. Both would like to add financial fuel to a fire that is already stoked. Get it? You gotta make waves, man, you gotta have a BIG buzz about you first. YOU HAVE TO BE DEVELOPED because they wont develop you; they cant afford it and even if they could, theyve lost touch with what that even means anymore or how to do it. Which means if you can develop yourself, you have a far greater chance of getting a deal, and you can actually make a living.

So the #1 headline of GOOD NEWS for artists is that if you are smart enough to know that you HAVE TO BE AWESOME in this market, if you are willing to hit the road and outwork everyone else, if you can surround yourself with a team of people who believe you, if you can run a small businessyou are going to make wavescertainly a living. Period.

YOU CAN MAKE A LIVING PLAYING YOUR MUSIC!!!

I managed to do it when I was an artist 20 years ago, but it is SO much easier now!

If you just want to be famous, that space is now relegated to reality show stars; Warhol was right. So common sense says if you need to be famous go for the reality show. If you live to play write music, then go for making a living; common sense again!

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TERRESTRIAL RADIO IS DEAD

Johnny Dwinell

What’s your plan to expose your music to the world? I mean EXPOSE people to your music NOT “make it available for people to find”. You really need answer this question honestly and then get on board with the business of learning how to make that happen if you ever plan on making a living in the music industry because terrestrial radio is dead.

If your plan is to get a record deal and get your music on the radio, you might as well work at McDonald’s; because Radio old timey radio imageyou’ll make more money. Radio, that is terrestrial radio is dead. It is dead to any new artists to be sure. There are virtually no new artists that are “breaking” on the rock and pop formats of terrestrial radio; in fact it might be ABSOLUTELY no new artists!! Country music radio is actually still breaking new artists with the format but that will die soon as well.

Want proof? Do you truly understand these statements?

Name any NEW Rock or Pop artist that truly “Broke” on terrestrial radio in the last five years (from 2008 for the mathematically challenged). I’m not trying to be condescending here, but sometime I feel like the meat and potatoes of this matter is lost in the sound bites and headlines…this means any new Rock or Pop artist who’s FIRST record came out on or after 2008. Yes I know, I know, you all a couple artists who started their careers (in the public eye) after 2008 but where did they break?? Where did you FIRST hear about this artist? It was either from a friend OR TV.

Was it The Voice?Radio The voice image

American Idol?

David Letterman?

Jay Leno?

Jimmy Fallon?

Jimmy Kimmel?

Craig Furgeson?

Was the band like the Script where their song was featured on a hit TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” and that broke the band THEN radio had to follow??

Yes, of course, some of you are most likely going to come up with a couple exceptions to the rule, but you are missing the point…15 years ago, EVERY rock band broke on radio….there were a few bands that didn’t but they were the exceptions to the rule.

So WHY is this happening? How is it that we can predict Country music radio will follow suit?

The answer is choices

When people have choices, they take advantage. Let’s look at the history of broadcasting to really see the social proof you need to change your business model if it’s dependent on radio. Some of you, or maybe a good portion of you are too young to remember when there were only 3 TV networks; ABC, NBC, CBS. Network news was TRUSTED and the respective network news shows represented a HUGE portion of network revenue and profits. Why, because Americans only had 3 places to go to get their TV network news. Think about it, 250-300 million people had only 3 choices.

Then the cable TV format came out in the 80’s. EVERYBODY in network TV LAUGHED at the idiots who really believed that the American consumer would actually PAY for something they already get for free. Pay they did, in mass droves!

Why?

CHOICES

Now network news is a joke and since the 330 million Americans have umteen choices to choose from when it comes to TV news, the viewership has SIGNIFICANTLY shrunk at NBC, ABC, and CBS. If the viewership shrinks, they cannot command the advertising dollars they used to, so the revenue has also significantly shrunk. I mean, you didn’t ever really believe that TV news was about the news did you??

So with terrestrial radio, we see the same thing happening. 15 years ago, if you wanted to listen to any new music (music you didn’t already own a CD for) you listened to the RADIO….that was your only choice. With terrestrial radio playing roughly 12 songs per hour (to make room for advertising…you didn’t really believe that radio was about music did you?!?!?!) and many songs in “heavy” or “Moderate” rotation (meaning they are played several times per day) the listener was forced to listen to the same crap AND forced to WAIT to hear their favorite song.

Now there is no waiting. Now you have the entire history of music at your fingertips. Now all new model Radio Blake Morgan imageautomobiles are coming equipped with WiFi of some sort…Pandora, etc. choices. We don’t have to listen to crap anymore. Country radio will die too.

What you should be focusing on is internet streaming. Focus your energy on that.

Read this Huffington Post article here on Blake Morgan who is an artist who had 27,900 + streams (spins) on Pandora and received a royalty check for $1.92. This is your future. The free market will prevail, but not without your help.

So screw the record deal and the radio, at least at the early part of your career.

If you do your job right, and create a profitable small business based around your music, believe me, the record labels will come to you, my friend; and the deal will be far better than any you would have received as an unknown artist in “the glory days”.

To quote the great Bob Lefsetz (love him) musicians are like the circus side show that are kissing the asses of the elephants that are shitting on them.

P.S. if you/re smart you will subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter. You can subscribe here: http://www.lefsetz.com/

P.P.S please share this post if you like it!

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Studio Shopping

Studio Shopping List Feature image

By Johnny Dwinell

Studio Shopping

Every singer/songwriter/artist comes to a point where its time to record your songs and you are relegated with the task of finding the right place to record or studio shopping. This can be very daunting, especially if you have little or no experience at it.

What should you be shopping for?

What Studio is a good studio?

Do they have the necessary gear?

Will they work within my budget?

Should I go online studio shopping or should I use a tangible brick and mortar studio?

How can I get the best recording for the cheapest price?

Should I be overdubbing track-by-track or should I record a live band?

The short answer to all these is that there is no right or wrong answer per se; it depends on what you are recording and whether or not you have a band or need a band, etc. Although, if you are engaging a studio in the possibility of spending money with them, they will make an argument that will focus on the advantages of the type of recording THEY can deliverwhich makes sense, they want your business.

I thought maybe we could address some of these questions with regards to a full band or a track by track approach, and the type of recording you are trying to get.

So lets dig in.

STUDIO SHOPPING: ONLINE DEMOS

Studio Shopping http image

Some of you may or may not be aware that there are Online Studios that offer virtual recording services for Studio Shopping studio pros imagesongwriters and artists. Some of the bigger players are Studiopros.com, onlinerecordingmasters.com, supremetracks.com, and I am sure there are many more. Pricing for these online studios typically ranges from about $1,000-$2400 per song depending on the site, how many musicians are required, and any ala carte services like producing, mastering, and consulting, etc.

PROS:

  1. You Can Choose The Musicians This is cool as you can actually shop for the players you are looking for. This is particularly beneficial when it comes to matching singers and their styles to a particular song you have written.
  2. Convenient to Use You can access these sites from anywhere in the world.
  3. Service Typically all these sites offer quick turnaround times
  4. Talent All the musician and engineering talent will be stellar on these sites. Again, You know exactly what you are getting.
  5. Interactive Experiences some of these studios offer live video interactivity so you can watch your song come to life (with a live band) from anywhere in the world. This allows you to feel present and still avoid the costly trip to another city where the studio location is, like Nashville.
  6. Live Band Online Recording There are some services that offer live band sessions where all the players are in the same studio at the same time. Many of these companies offer real time interactive access allowing the writer to participate in the session without actually being in the studio.

CONS:

  1. No Live Tracks Typically (almost always) these online studios will have great players track your songs, but they are not in the same room at the same time. Some online companies boast live tracks that utilizes some pretty incredible technology (that amazingly avoids mission critical latency issues during the recording process) which allows musicians to cut a track simultaneously from remote locations. Personally, I feel the musicians all have to be in the room for the magic to happen. The remote thing I find fascinating and creepy at the same time.
  2. No Studio Magic this is virtually impossible for an online studio to create. There are countless times where, as a producer, I have a very specific arrangement and vibe in mind for a song before we record it. Then, while the musicians are messing around with the arrangements (as they always do before a take) they stumble on some other vibe, beat, feel, or arrangement that is just undeniable; everyones face lights up…you know the look….it’s like “WOW, THAT WAS COOL”. When this happens, its always amazing.
  3. Disconnect there often is a certain disconnect that occurs with regards to the energy of the track. It sounds more sterile, more contrived for some reason.
  4. Elevator Music I often hear writers complain that the tracks have low energy and sound like elevator music to them. To a degree, this is somewhat predictable if you take the time to logically dissect the process. Typically drums will get tracked first, then bass. The pro drummer and bass player will almost HAVE TO deliver somewhat sterile/bland arrangements to ensure they are not stepping on any guitar arrangements or any color instruments that will be tracked after their respective takes. Essentially, without everyone in the room together, you definitely are opting for more sterile arrangements, vibe, and energy on the track. Keep in mind this may not be an issue if you are just recording the song for posterity.
  5. Communication Log Jams Most of these companies (understandably) prefer to keep the musicians, engineers and producers away from the clients, so there is only 1 contact for you to use. Typically this contact is called a producer but they are an office person at the company. They then are telling the producer and/or musicians what you want so the proverbial telephone game can ensue; thus, diluting the message and lines of communication. Quite simply, it can sometimes be a drag telling someone to tell someone to tell someone what you want or what you are “hearing”
  6. Not as much fun Whats more exciting than hanging in a studio with the players and watching it all go down LIVE, man???
  7. Pricing I think there are better prices out there for someone who is willing to shop.
  8. Band Recording How exactly does this work if you want your band on the tracks? It doesnt.

SUMMARY

I think the online recording studios can be pretty effective with regards to song demos that a writer plans to pitch or songs a writer wants recorded for posterity or vanity reasons. I dont think they are very effective for an artist trying to cut a custom record or artist track. Artist tracks in today’s music market need to be AMAZING. Amazing really requires a producer and in my opinion, a real relationship between the producer and the artist; this really fosters the necessary creativity from both that is required to elevate the track to a competitive and iconic level. Since music has become essentially free, it is disposable; therefore, the song and track have to kick mortal ass to garner any attention. Period.

STUDIO SHOPPING: LIVE DEMOS

Studio Shopping Live Band image

Lets break down the pros and cons of finding a studio that cuts tracks with live musicians in the same room.

PROS:

  1. No Elevator Music The tracks will naturally have more energy in them as the band is all performing and communicating together at the same timethere is a certain magic that happens here as musicians get instant inspiration from what the other musicians are playing and feeling; they “vibe” off of one another.
  2. FUN!!! There is just no replacing the amazing experience (which still gets me to this day) of watching and hearing a full band transform a song from a work tape reference to an amazing live track right before your eyes. It’s truly an indescribable experience.
  3. Optimal Communication the writer has direct access to musicians and producer. Since you or your producer (or both) are in the room with all the musicians, communication is instantaneous. The writer can insure that he/she is getting exactly what they want; make changes on the fly so-to-speak.
  4. Clever Arrangements It is much easier to facilitate more clever music arrangements when the whole band is tracking at the same time. Happy accidents can happen and you are there to say, I LOVE THAT. When you over dub every single track (like the online studios do) the professional musicians will HAVE TO deliver somewhat bland arrangements as they cant hear what each other is doing (especially the first tracks i.e. drums and bass) to ensure they do not step on any other parts that havent been recorded yet.
  5. Band Punching This is great for a last minute arrangement change. Simply punch the whole band as a unit. Impossible to do with an overdub type recording model; it would require a major editi.e. major surgery. Think about it, if you had a 16 bar musical break or solo on the work tape and at the last minute decided to cut that to 8 bars, this is easy with a “band punch”. If you are in an overdubbing situation, you can do the surgery but the context and flow of the solo will often suffer, making the surgery sound obvious.
  6. Pricing Depending on your negotiating skills and your contact list, there is definitely ways to get your songs cut in the most inexpensive fashion this way. NOTE: the pricing will be better in areas where there is a bigger market for these kinds of sessions (like Nashville), thus, more competition. In smaller towns or areas where there isnt much competition for full band live demos, it actually may end up being more expensive.
  7. Service Live demos definitely facilitate quick turnaround times; the band cuts the tracks all together.
  8. Band Recording If you have your own band, this is the only way to really get it done.

CONS:

  1. Speed Things tend to go fast in this environment. A writer or the producer needs to be on their A-game to ensure you are getting the vibe that you want. Pre-production is really important here. Especially if you are attempting an inexpensive artist track as opposed to a song demo. NOTE: This isnt really an issue when you are in good hands with a capable producer, but writers who find themselves at the helm with little experience tend to get swallowed up in the chaos.
  2. Producer is Necessary 5 or 6 musicians at the same time is a lot of traffic to direct. Someone has to be at the helm. Also, when you have 5 studio musicians, this will be a tight team so an outside personality offering instructions or direction can often be a challenge; especially if that outside person is less experienced, that band will smell that like a dog smells fear! This challenge ensues because these musicians will undoubtedly have communication scars that come from the many newbies or rookie writers and artists who dont know what they want and dont have experience to articulate their desires. This communication barrier is often difficult to overcome for a writer or artist with no relationship to the band; thus, a producer or engineer that has a working rapport with the band will champion any ideas the writer or artist has ensuring the message is getting received by the players.
  3. Proper Recording Studio This is a necessity. Some studios simply dont have the bandwidth (computing power, I/O infrastructure, or cue system) to handle all those tracks at 1 time in a live session. Additionally, some studios dont have the space or enough isolation rooms to facilitate such a session.
  4. Access To Talent Clearly you need access to a huge talent pool to assure that a complete and capable band can be put together. Lets face it, most people do not have access to the kind of talent that is readily available here in Nashville.
  5. Non Studio Musicians Live recording in a studio with a full band of studio musicians is quick and quite awesome to see. However, if you are a self contained band, this can become costly as everyone in the band needs to play their respective parts perfectly to make this work. If your band doesnt have a ton of studio experience, then this could become problematic.

SUMMARY

The live band recording is much more advantageous to any singer/songwriter/artist that is looking to cut artist tracks. This is just the best way to record any music that requires players of some sort. Trying to cut your album with an online studio can be a bit sterile. However, if you are recording POP music, certain kinds of R&B, or Rap music, these genres typically involve programming and a band is simply not necessary; aside from the occasional overdub of a color instrument of some sort. Additionally, for songwriters, there are places where you can get GREAT deals on song demos with a live band.

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