I wish to make an observation or several about the music industry and the amateur bunch of hopeless halfwits that make up a large part of it.
Someone close to me is in an apparently successful band. Their Myspace plays top 2.5 million, their fanbase is huge and they are about to embark on an almost 8 week long tour in the UK and the US - headlining the UK leg and supporting in the US. To all intents and purposes, they are successful. Their album is selling well - nothing earth shattering, but, based on the scant information I have, I've roughly calculated that its turned over something in the region of US$100 -120,000 so far. There's also the apparently steady stream of merchandise sales, the value of which I have no idea - but again, judging from the fan comments on Myspace, plenty of kids have hoodies and T-shirts etc.
Please forgive me for being unspeakably naive, but I think that by now the band would have been paid something by their record label? Not a penny.
Are they being ripped off? Definitely. Is there fraud involved? Quite possibly. The real problem lies with the industry itself and every component contributes to the problems bands face in getting the money they so richly deserve for using their talents.
The bands: Musicians are generally far too laid back. They are more concerned with their craft and their relationships than they are with money. Sure, there's the "one-day-we'll-be-rich" dream, but they don't often connect the dream with the reality of actually earning the money. They are too buddy-buddy with everyone, and also quite simply too young and inexperienced to know what to do. They cannot spot a conflict of interest even when it is of gargantuan proportions. What they need is a manager.
The Manager: My opinion of band managers (and I'm referring here to the managers at the bottom end of the market) is this: They are often failed or 'retired' musicians who still love the music industry. They have a little experience and maybe a few useful contacts in the music press. But do they have any genuine management skills? No. Are they capable of fighting really hard for their band's interests? No. Sure, they can arrange the odd interview, the occasional magazine spread and perhaps some tickets to an awards event. But grow the band's income? No chance - at least, not the band/manager combination I'm thinking of. In fact, he's a major drain on their resources and in this case has an outrageous conflict of interests, happening to also own the band's record label.
The Record Label: The naivety of most bands leads them to believe that being signed is still a good thing. Not necessarily. Being signed to a good, honest, innovating label would be good for the band. But few are honest or innovative. In this day and age, record labels have to be able to fight really hard for sales. They need to be good - really good - at marketing. They need to create purchase demand for CDs and downloads. They need to fight the illegal downloads business. And they need to simultaneously explore ways of recovering lost music sales by replacing them with merchandise etc. Instead, what I've seen is just plain hopeless amateurism. The label I'm thinking of has a pretty good stable of bands. That is their main strength. They are closely linked to a reputable distribution company - another box ticked. They have links with a major US distributor. Wahey! But they have apparently, no accounts department. No one in the band has seen a statement of CD sales nor iTunes/download sales. Nor any other music sales data. Nada. Not a sausage. And then there's the merchandise. Same problem. Unbelievable!
Concert Promotors: Now here is where I get really beady. It is absolutely staggering how appalling these little cretins are (again, I generalise but exceptions are very few and far between). Millions of pounds are spent every day of the week by people attending gigs. I'm not referring to the big shows only. I'm talking about the little gigs in pubs and clubs and most of these gigs are orgainised by 16 - 20 year old kids. Want some pocket money? Put on a gig.
The bands, who need the exposure are prepared to play for very little - sometimes nothing. But when they are due to be paid, there is more often than not, a problem. The kid has excuses - door takings weren't that good...someone stole the money...yadda yadda. Bullshit!
The problem with these promotors is that they are clueless and lazy. They don't understand the first thing about promoting a gig. They believe that putting up a flier on Myspace is all that is needed. Really? Well, no wonder the door takings were hopeless.
They also lie. I have in the past called the bluff of a very stupid young promotor who invited me to search him for the cash that he said he didn't have to pay the band. His satchel was the first place I looked and there, predictably, was a wad of cash. I counted out the band's share (in front of one of the other bands who were also unpaid) and then left the poor kid to face the music with several other people.
What I have written about is nothing new. the music industry is a food chain and until bands make it really big - and I'm talking Muse or Coldplay - they are at the end of the line. The last to be rewarded for the work that a whole long, greedy line of thieves, swindlers and chancers depends on. It has always been thus and will continue to be until the musicians grow some balls and take proper responsibility for themselves.
The band I'm thinking of is too scared to confront the coke-snorting, fat tick of a tosser who manages them. They don't want him to boot them off the label. They seem to value his "skills" more than their own. Boys, the only skills he has is milking your talent for cash. Demand a full set of figures. If you've been ripped off, make it a police matter: it is STEALING!
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