I realize, or maybe remember, that when you are starting out in the great adventure of being in a band that the music business is a great mystery. It seems to be this magic city on a distant hill and the road to go there is nowhere to be found. Gee ain’t I poetic?
This is reality for most musicians and it can be intimidating and disheartening. How the hell do you break into the music business? These people fly overhead in gold plated jets while you slog away gigging in the mud. Right?
Well, not exactly. Let me pull away the curtain and correct many misconceptions. This should help you understand the music business and gain access to people.
First major misconception; the record labels and agents and producers are in the music business and you are not in the music business. This is utter crap. If you play in a band you are in the music business. If you play a show, anywhere, you are in the music business. If you write songs, you are in the music business. The fact that you don’t make money at it doesn’t mean you are excluded. The vast majority of musicians make little or no money from playing at different points in the life. The people that are commonly thought of as being the music business people are PARASITES that attach themselves to bands and music. They don’t play, they don’t write, they don’t perform or tour or practice or anything. They only exist to attach themselves to other people that make music. The people that make music are called MUSICIANS and they are truly the heart of the music business.
This may seem like a minor point but it’s not. If you play in a band; you and your bandmates are the real deal not the turd sitting at a desk in the record labels southeast distribution division. Keep that in mind at all times. Don’t let them intimidate you.
Now, those that know me, know that I actually like and even admire some of the characters that inhabit the music business. It’s true there are a few good people but they are rare. When you meet the good guys in the music business you will know them. They will stand out from all the turds. Always remember that you can’t polish a turd.
Next, I’ll give you a tip. You have access to a huge library of reference material that contains the names and some of the contact info of the people in the music business that you are trying to reach. You may be stunned to discover that your main research library is not the web. It is the stack of CDs piled next to your bong.
I remember being 15 and reading the back of the Yes album “Close to the Edge”. They listed the band members and there was a listing for a guy named Eddie Offord. He was called the producer. I thought ‘what the hell is a producer?’. I was pretty stupid when I was 15. (I haven’t blossomed with genius in the past 38 yrs). Then I noticed that he was named on an ELP record as well. There was even a song about him called “Are you ready Eddy?”. I slowly dawned on my clouded teenage brain that this was the guy that recorded the band’s records. This revelation passed for genius when I was 15.
Your CD and vinyl collection is a treasure trove of info for you. If you take you ten favorite records and read all the little notes in the CD booklets you will end up with a list of music industry names that are involved with your favorite bands. Often you’ll see references to managers and booking agents. You’ll see the names of roadies and girlfriends. You see the names of other bands that the band pals around with. These kind of notes are most common on a bands earliest CDs. When a band finally gets a record deal they feel like they have to thank everyone that helped them get to the top. So they list all their names on their first release.
Gee, let’s think about this for a minute. You have a list of people that helped Joe Schmoo and the Dickfucks climb their way from a basement in Joplin Missouri to a deal on Crackhead Records. You love Joe Schmoo and the Dickfucks. You even sound a little bit like Joe Schmoo and the Dickfucks. You are a young band that is part of the new Dumbfuck Rock movement that Joe Schmoo started. Wait a minute… I feel a flash of teenage brilliance coming on….I’ve got it! Maybe a few of these people could help your band climb out of the swamp and become a star! They did it once they could do it again.
The dirty little music business secret is that people in the business are always looking for the next great band.
Over the past three decades I have seen scores of “Guide to the Music Business” scams. You give some ass $400 and they send you a poorly printed list of all the major record labels and all the major agents. These guides are worth about $4. This blog is worth a hell of a lot more if you actually want to find your way into the music business. You can make a much more current and useful guide by digging through the notes of your CD collection. (for those of you that have a collection that consists of 50,000 ripped songs with no art, or CDs you are shit out of luck. You can ask your buddy that buys the music of the bands he loves if he will let you look through his collection)
In the old days most records had almost no names of music business people on them. This has changed. Since we now live in a culture that seems to be “all about me” the people at labels push hard to have their names included in the CD booklet. The bands usually hate this. Any band would rather put their cat’s name in the CD booklet than second assistant asshole from the label.
If you want to take this to the next level find copies of your favorite bands indy releases. These always have tons of info on them. Sometimes they will even put their manager and booking agents phone number in the booklet.
Once you start this list it can quickly become the heart of your black book that contains the contact info of everyone that could possibly help you in any way. Every bit of info helps. For example you may see a reference to another band in the thank you section of the booklet. That band may very well still be hunting for a deal and as a result they may play small clubs. It will be easy to figure out a way to bump into that bands road crew or manager and they may become fans after you give them the gift of your music.
In the next blog I will explain how you can use this info to open a few doors…….
© Brad Morrison/Billiken Media 2013