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How To Kill An Artist


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Let's see..... I sign an artist whose biggest successes have always been songs he's written. I tell him I don't like any of his songs. I force him to record songs other people have written. I pick a producer who has nothing in common with the artist. When that combination fails, I pick another producer. When I don't like the finished product, I refuse to release it and blame the artist, who's now spent a year of his life and $250,000, to be deducted from his future royalties, recording the wrong songs with the wrong producers. The artist is now stuck on my label, and put on "suspension" for failing to deliver an album I deem "suitable for release". He can't record for anyone else, and I won't record him.

I move on to my next artist, while artist one is left to languish in purgatory indefinitely. Eventually, realizing his career here is over, I will force him to buy his way out of his contract. That means that if he finds another label interested in recording him, they will have to pay me to let him go. That payment will then be recoupable against his future royalties at the new label. I may insist on not only a monetary payment, but also a percentage of his future royalties on his new label.

I use the opportunity of his next release for his new label to release a "Greatest Hits" package on my label. I now get to collect all the royalty money from his previous hits on MY label (the ones HE wrote) because he owes me $250,000. At an average royalty rate of 18%, the artist might actually receive 60 cents per album. It takes a long time to recoup $250,000 at 60 cents per album. He will now have to sell enough records at his new label to recoup not only the budget of his new record, but also the buyout payment his label had to pay me to let him go.

This pretty much insures that I will eventually recoup my $250,000, since I'm already taking over 80% of the net profits from each record sold, and now I get the artists 18% as well. It also pretty much insures that the artist will only make money if his next recording, on his new label, is a smash hit that goes platinum. Anything short of that, and he will remain unrecouped to BOTH labels.

Nice, huh?

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Me too Hollies, that's criminal what he did. I've seen similar things in my industry. It's one of the reasons I started my own company..I wanted to have the freedom to treat clients right, in all circumstances.

There are a lot of bastards out there.

The guy needs to be smacked some way, at least so he thinks twice about doing it to the next artist..

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That is a spirit breaking experience without a doubt.

But there is the moral tale of the rattlesnake.

A rattlesnake is sunning himself on a rock near a stream. A woman comes to the stream to cross and is startled by the rattlesnake. The snake says "if you pick me up and carry me across the stream, I promise I won't bite you." The woman agrees and carries the snake across. Just when the woman reaches the other side, the rattlesnake strikes her. She drops it and cries out "you promised not to bite me." The rattlesnake calmly replies:

"You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Why do we trust someone with our dreams, goals, and creativity? Because we have ambition and drive and we make big leaps of faith. It is horrendous when the one you trust isn't there to catch you. And takes your money.

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The problem is, it's not just one guy, at one label. By the nineties, the guys who ran at least half the big labels operated like that.

And then you have the problem of attorneys. There are a few big firms, and one in particular (I'm not naming names) that represent hundreds of the top artists in the music business. Unfortunately, they also represent the heads of many the labels, as well as the labels, themselves. And they often represent many of the top agents and managers.

These firms are known as "dealmakers." That means they don't really do any litigation. Their entire practice is just making record deals and publishing deals and deals between artists and managers and artists and agents.

Very often, they represent two or more parties in the deal. Let's take an example. Billy Joel hires Law Firm X to negotiate a new record deal with Sony. Billy assumes Law Firm X to be working in his best interest to get him the best deal they can. However, Law Firm X ALSO represents Sony Records, and the CEO, president, vice president and head of promotion for Sony. Sony wants Law Firm X to get them the most advantageous deal with Billy Joel. So, in who's best interest does Law Firm X negotiate?

Billy assumes it's him, but he's wrong, because as big an artist as Billy is, he's just ONE artist, and Sony has HUNDREDS of artists. Artists come and go, but record labels are forever.

So, while Law Firm X is negotiating for Billy, it's also negotiating for Sony Records and, when it comes right down to it, Sony is more important to the firm. Law Firm X makes a deal Billy can live with, but the advantage in the negotiation goes to Sony, because, over the long haul, the firm is going to negotiate hundreds of contracts for Sony, but probably only a dozen for Billy. Each negotiation brings a percentage of the deal to Law Firm X. So they get 10% of Billy's advance on his new deal, and they ALSO get paid a handsome fee from Sony Records.

Now let's fast forward ahead three years.

Billy is beginning to think he might not have received the best deal. He realizes the conflict of interest and he's not happy, so he goes to his manager and says "Why the hell did you accept these terms?" The manager says "Well, that's the best I could do. They wouldn't offer any more."

Law Firm X ALSO represents Billy's manager, who made the deal with Sony. Billy sues Law Firm X, and his manager, for failure to negotiate in his best interests. They settle out of court for an undisclosed sum. Sony gives Law Firm X the money to settle the suit, under the table.

Billy is just one of 400 artists represented by Law Firm X. Most of them will never figure out the game.

Law Firm X makes millions. The labels get advantageous deals with all their artists. The artists never know they could have done better. They thought they had the best attorneys in the business working for them. They DID have the best attorneys in the business. They just weren't working for THEM.

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Perhaps then it would be a good move to take a page out of Joan Jett's book and have formed your own record company so you end up being your own producer, arranger, manager, etc. But does that work for everyone - you never know - who will guarantee buying the product at that point. It's a crap-shoot.

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Hope you don't mind...I conveniently moved this from another thread wink

With "Winter Dreams", you finally achieved total artistic control, albeit on a budget. It just begs the question, if someone gave you a blank check and total artistic freedom, do you have another album in you? You never know, I could hit the lottery...

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That is a spirit breaking experience without a doubt.

But there is the moral tale of the rattlesnake.

A rattlesnake is sunning himself on a rock near a stream. A woman comes to the stream to cross and is startled by the rattlesnake. The snake says "if you pick me up and carry me across the stream, I promise I won't bite you." The woman agrees and carries the snake across. Just when the woman reaches the other side, the rattlesnake strikes her. She drops it and cries out "you promised not to bite me." The rattlesnake calmly replies:

"You knew what I was when you picked me up."

Why do we trust someone with our dreams, goals, and creativity? Because we have ambition and drive and we make big leaps of faith. It is horrendous when the one you trust isn't there to catch you. And takes your money.

Give a listen...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_ZBqpEUbik

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As per usual, a very concise and insightful peek behind the curtain from EC. The irony behind the "hypothetical" Billy Joel example, is that on top of his record label legal battles, his manager at the time was his brother in law who was stealing from him. Talk about a reason to be jaded. He was already scheduled to be dropped from the label if "The Stranger" album didn't ping. He only cut through the crap with the undeniable and insane number of hits he composed. Think of all the 3 hit wonders that didn't have the gravity or clout to push through, and were consumed by the system.

Like EC, the kids today don't get Billy.. the only ones that think he's just a piano balladeer, ain't ever seen him live.

Also, how many covers can you find in his extensive library.. oh yeah one, some group called the Beatles.. Composers are the forgotten souls in the souless industry, let alone composer/artist.

"If he want to have a hit, you got to make it fit, so I cut it down to 3:05"

S

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Wasn't Billy's ex-wife Elizabeth also his manager (presumably with her brother)?

I remember reading Barry Manilow's autobiography "Sweet Life" and he had discovered that he was nearly bankrupt only when he wanted to buy a house in CA. His manager, accountant, etc. etc. etc. invested his money none too wisely. So while he was creating, performing, traveling and sacrificing a personal life, he didn't have the money to make any of it worthwhile. (this happened twice if I recall correctly.)

How can you, as an artist, keep your fingers on the pulse of your career, creativity, finances, family, friends, trends, and integity of the professionals you MUST work with??????!!!!

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"...if Karma was not doing it's job, you'd be VERY tempted to inflict some type of discomfort to the bastard."

In Vegas this kind of thinking goes on everyday... A lot of "inflicting discomfort" goes on here... sometimes the end result is the looser nose down in the desert.

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"Honestly...that would would have me thinking creatively about retribution"

"...if Karma was not doing it's job, you'd be VERY tempted to inflict some type of discomfort to the bastard."

This kind of thinking scares the hell out of me... makes me want to go someplace else to play.

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