Saving The Music Business

Want to save the music business? Manage a band. Nurture talent. Do everything in your power to get it exposed. Don’t sit in front of your computer dreaming of new schemes of distribution… You’ll never get the rights!

Talent. That’s where the business is focused today.

Kind of funny if you think about it, because talent has never been so confused. Do you follow your own muse, or deliver the Top Forty hit the major label wants? Do you record other people’s material? Do you try out for "American Idol", hoping to be rocketed to fame? Do you believe your parents and girlfriend when they say you are good, or are you willing to go to an independent expert for a more honest appraisal?

Come on. If you want to be in this business, you know what’s good and you know what sells. Put your time in. Don’t try to piggyback on other people’s efforts, they don’t need your help. Foster new music.

Believe me, Doug Morris doesn’t need your help. Your distribution paradigm is worthless without a ton of cash to pay Universal and the other label groups. And, they’re not going to let you do it your way, no matter how good you think your idea is. They’ll cripple you from the outset. You’ve heard of Apple, right? And MTV? The labels are so fearful of being screwed, they’ll kick the tires forever. And mandate a governor on your engine.

AEG and Live Nation? If you want to go be a pawn in their game, be my guest. It’s like working at the label decades ago. Start at the bottom, and if you’ve got a good nose for what sells, if you can make them money, you might move up the food chain. Don’t start your own promotion company. Unless you have little financial ambition. You can promote acts that will never break through in venues no one wants to play in, but if you want name talent, the agents will cripple you, put you out of business. And, if you manage to have a successful show, said act will suddenly be in business with Live Nation or AEG…

As for management… Irving Azoff will make a deal with you every day of the week. If you come in with an act. He doesn’t need some brilliant twentysomething to teach him how to revolutionize the business, he’s already revolutionizing the business. By neutralizing power, by getting the big boys to play into his hand, play his game. He did this by leveraging talent. Where’s your stable of talent?

You might criticize Front Line and so many of the big management companies for not developing acts. Hey, these guys could be your parents, they want to make money, first and foremost they’re businessmen. They risked decades back. Now it’s time for you to risk!

Finding good talent is the hardest job in this business. Exposing it, breaking it through, is almost as difficult. But this is where the opportunities lie. There will be a new Irving Azoff, a new David Geffen, but he won’t start off working for a public company, an established player, he’ll work for himself. He’ll have an eye for talent and a cunning personality that bonds said talent to him. He’ll see the talent as number one. Not radio, TV or the retailer. That’s why there’s such an opportunity. The major labels are not about talent first, they’re about money first. They’re about keeping up their relationships with the infrastructure. Acts come and go, but the infrastructure remains. Their goal is to eliminate risk, not enhance it. Whereas you must be all about the risk.

There is no easy way out. If you’re looking for someone with copyrights to help you make your millions, you’re a sorry-assed loser. And, a hint, just in case you go this route. Steal the music first. That’s the only way you can get the majors to make a deal. Can you say YouTube, MySpace…

But really, that’s the past. The future is new acts. Maybe niche, maybe more mainstream. You determine this, not the crusty old infrastructure of yore. Utilize new communication/word of mouth techniques. Use technology to your advantage. But bring us more great acts. That’s what we’re lacking, not business insight.

This is a read-only blog. E-mail comments directly to Bob.