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As I sit here and type this I am listening to Traffic, a sixties, white soul band featuring Stevie Winwood. You may have heard of him. HE IS FAMOUS. This may sound obvious. You may not have heard of him but I assure you that he is very famous. He played in a bunch of super groups, had numerous hits and even, against all odds, came back after twenty years to make more hits in the eighties. Great voice, brilliant musician. Good looking cat.
If you wish to toil away in obscurity, maintaining the purity of your music then this blog is not for you. Go away and read something else. Thanks. Now for all of you that remain I will be talking about how to make yourself successful in the music business. Why do I get to do this? How do I know these rare secrets? Well I did it for people for a long, long time. Ever hear of a band called Phish? I thought so. That ends that argument.
Success in the music business is based on being famous. People must talk about what you do. They must pay attention or you will get nowhere. Here’s a story to start us out.
In the late nineties I was producing a band called Bully. They were a run of the mill Alt rock band. We had cut all the tracks, done the overdubs, mixed the record and were in the studio putting together the sequence so the record could go off to be mastered. I got up that morning and the news from New York (they were a new york band) was all about some little kid that had been hospitalized. It turns out he had been beat up by bullies on the playground. Eureka! I thought the band had a shot at the top. I immediately cornered the band and told them that they should do the following:
1.Release their record using the title “Your mother’s worst fear!”
2. Rent an expensive, more than they could afford room at a swank NY hotel
3.Send out a notice to every NY beat reporter saying that they were holding an important press conference covering the topic of the bullying of children in the NY schools.
4. Show up at the press conference dressed in the most outlandish fashion they could manage and declare that they were there to defend the bullies!
This idea come solidly from the Malcolm McLaren school of rock management. He managed the Sex Pistols. The Sex Pistols weren’t really a band they were more of a traveling insult performance.
The band was appalled. They talked about how they could never do such a thing. That they didn’t believe in supporting bullies etc. In short they were wimps. Needless to say they didn’t do it and they missed the boat. Every hear of Bully? Do you think the Sex Pistols would have missed this chance?
Here’s story number two:
In 1994 I was managing a band from upstate NY called the Figgs. They were a great three piece alt rock band, kinda a mix between Elvis Costello and the Beatles. I produced them for a few years waiting for them to grow up and for the bass player to actually graduate from High School. One day I decided they were ready. I signed them to a management deal and set up a single showcase. The showcase was at a rehearsal studio and they rocked so hard that the A & R guy called the label owner on the spot. The next day we had a meeting with the boss Terry Ellis, ex manager of Jethro Tull and Billy Idol, founder of Chrysalis Records. So we go to NY, enter a skyscraper, take the elevator to the top and are immediately shown into a huge conference room overlooking Central Park. Terry was drinking espresso off of fine china and eating fresh fruit flown in from god knows where. We went through the usual niceties, bullshit really, just feeling each other out. Then Terry says to Mike Gent, the leader of the Figgs..”So why should I sign your band?” I held my breathe and hoped he got it right. He was on his own.
Mike smiled looked him in the eye and said ” Well Terry in ten years your daughter will be playing my songs on your piano at Christmas dinner.”
‘Jackpot! ‘ I thought.
“Have your lawyers call me. ” he said and then stood up and stuck out his hand. “Welcome aboard!” he said to the band.
Three weeks later they were on a theater tour with the Cranberries.
So if you walk around and talk about “all you want to do is make a living playing music” then you better think about studying computer programming. The music business is looking for the band that wants to be the next Stones, the next Zepplin. Ambition is key. If you don’t want to be famous then you don’t want to be a rock star…………………………….
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Copyright Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2010