To Stay In For The Long Haul You Have To Play The Long Game

“It’s been a long long time”

Hi everyone,

As I write this I’m just getting over food poisoning that I got on Christmas day that has now kept me down for 3+ days.  The odd thing is that an experience like that can really get one centered.  When things are going bad and someone says, “Well you’ve always got your health!” it’s easy to be dismissive but there’s something about being doubled over in your bathroom for days on end trying to find any kind of relief that really makes a lot of the hubris of what really amounts to little more than obstacles and daily annoyances fall away.

So now that I’m at a stage where I can focus for 2-3 hour blocks on things I thought I’d get this long overdue post out.  First some overdue clean up:

GuitArchitecture cross polenation

Readers of this blog may dig a few posts that have gone up on my other site, GuitArchitecture more recently.

This post – talks about a musical director gig I got this fall and how it illustrates the 4 steps that need to be taken to to get any gig.

This post talks about being in the moment in life and performance.

This post – talks about how you’re not going to see another Jimi Hendrix (and why that’s not a bad thing).

And finally, I have a yearly post on GuitArchitecture I post on how now to repeat the mistakes of the past that you can find here, but I wanted to talk about a new project I’m working on and about the thinking behind it may help you.



This is a tentative logo for LRAN (Local-Regional Arts Networking), a Facebook page and podcast series that I’ll be doing a soft launch for in 2015 with a specific focus on interviewing artists, and small businesses associated with any kind of arts affiliation (promotion, grant funding,  business development, etc.)

There are several reasons I chose the name I did:

1. While I’ll be interviewing primarily people in my own region, my hope is that the information will be applicable to artists working in any scene.  So, for example, a podcast name like “518 arts networking” limits the audience at the get go because people outside my area code either will have no idea what that means or will never listen because they assume that the podcast isn’t for them.

2. It’s Local-Regional because I really believe that any kind of long term survival requires local and regional support.

3.  It’s Arts for two reasons.  A.  because I don’t want to limit it to any one type of artist (or arts business) as say a gallery owner might have an insight or perspective that could help a local band book better shows and B. because music is really in a funding ghetto in the arts world.  To see what I mean if you look at any arts grant page or residency page you’ll see the percentage of grants and residencies for visual artists versus performing musicians.  Usually, musicians have to sneak in under the guise of a title like “composer” to even qualify for funding.

4.  Networking.  Because I think it’s important to view networking as a verb instead of a static noun.  (I have some related posts about this idea “How not to Network” part 1 and part 2)

Get the focus off the small-small

When I told a friend of mine about the idea he said, “So wait a second.  You’re going to do a podcast that essentially gives free advertising to different people.  What do you get out of it?”

And here’s a paradox.  “What’s in it for me?” is both the small and the large world view.

In the small world view, “What’s in it for me?” means passing up opportunities because you’re more concerned with what you believe you’re due versus what you’re willing to do (Check out my post Due Versus Do for a step by step analysis how I’m applying this to my project with Farzad Golpeygani –  KoriSoron)

Yes, everyone is self serving on some level.  In the case of this blog (and the GuitArchitecture blog), I spend a LOT of time writing posts (hence my long break here for a while) about my own process to help people with their own learning curve.  I do this to give back, but I also do this to establish myself as someone who knows what he’s doing so that when I release a book, (like An Indie Music Wake Up Call) people are more likely to read it.  On GuitArchitecture, I wrote a lot of lesson columns to help people but it also promotes my books that I sell there.

“What’s in it for me?” can also be long term thinking as well.  Because for the audience or for any kind of collaboration – that’s their question to you.  “I already have too many things competing for my attention why should I give it to you.”

“Because I have a pretty song” will fail.  “Because I have a song that’s going to become your go to song for the next year” is going to get more people to invest time in what you’re doing.

It’s about what you do and how it affects other people.

It’s about becoming the “go-to” for someone.

So getting back to the new podcast, I help promote the scene and people in the scene but I also start making contacts and building a (virtual) rolodex of “go-to” people to call when I need that thing.

We are trained to look for immediacy.

But immediacy is a short term game that we have to endure to play for the long game.

Players in the long game look to the horizon.  How does what I’m doing fit into my 5-10-20 year plan?

Long term players work in the now for results later.  Mind you, it’s a balance.  You can’t look too far into the future if you don’t have a roof over your head now, but don’t lose the forest in the tree.

2015 is going to be all about the “we”.  This quote from a post Do you want to be right or do you want to be paid?

Sometimes you have to move past who is right and who is wrong and get to the central idea of weas in coming up with an answer to how do we both get what we need out of this?

Don’t worry if you can’t answer that question right now.  The industry can’t either.  It’s about having a game plan and adapting (i.e. figuring it out) as you go along.

I hope 2015 is your best year yet and I hope this helps (or at least entertains you) in some way.

As always, thanks for reading.


PS – if you’re in the Capital Region of NY, KoriSoron has a bunch of shows coming up in the weeks ahead!  (you can check those dates out here.)


Guit-A-Grip Podcast #17 – Building An Audience Business Panel

Hello everyone!

Episode #17

Guit-A-Grip Podcast Episode #17  is out and available for download/streaming.

Subscription Notes:

  • You can subscribe through iTunes here:
  • You can use this link to subscribe with any other feed based service:
  • or you can right-click here to download it.
  • or you can stream this episode below.

Show Notes:

BuckMoon Arts Festival Panel Workshops

This podcast features an audio recording of a panel discussion from the BuckMoon Arts Festival which was held at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, NY.  There’s more information about this on episode #16 but the “Promoting Your Art – Building An Audience and Building A Buzz” panel with panelists Bill CoffeyMike DiminYvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain.

The event description was “Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?” and the panel went into a number of related areas to how does one get one’s voice heard in the world.  Hopefully you’ll hear some interesting stories and find some things that help you!

Technical Note:

While we did have a feed off of the PA to record audio for the event, not all of the panelists were able to get near mikes and in some cases the audience members audio was inaudible.  Attempts have been made to smooth some of these large jumps out but despite those efforts the audio quality is spotty in places…..

Panelist Bios:

Bill Coffey  was raised in Douglaston, New York where he began, at age 12, working in a local woodworking shop as he went through school. After college graduation and armed with a degree in photography, Bill joined the corporate world. He worked for companies such as HBO, but always had his hands in woodworking as a budding creative interest. Not one for convention, for a two year stint Bill decided he wanted to learn the art of welding and even worked in that industry for two years.  It is here that independent artist Bill Coffey, orchestrates a graceful collision of the old and the new with stunning results. Bill has a passion for the mountains and a keen eye for using unique resources. Each piece he creates is one of a kind and Bill’s work can be seen in galleries nationwide including NYC, Jackson Hole, WY, Telluride,CO and Glens Falls, NY.

Since Bill’s ideas had outgrown his current gallery space, his new studio is under construction and with an anticipated opening Fall 2014 in Northville, NY. You’ll find it at the intersection of Rustic and Contemporary!!

Michael Dimin “wrote the book” on the art of solo bass, through his groundbreaking books, “The Art of Solo Bass” and “The Chordal Approach” and as columnist for Bass Sessions, Bass Guitar Magazine (UK), Bassics, Bass Frontiers Magazines and as a guest columnist for Bass Player Magazine. Mike has taught clinics and master classes at Gerald Veasley’s Bass Boot Camp, The Bass Collective, the National Summer Guitar Workshop, The Detroit Bass Fest and many more. Mike is a clinician for Zon Guitars, EA Amps, Boomerang Music and Thomastick Infeld Strings. “Mike’s taken his revolutionary approach, unparalleled technique and mastery of the instrument and combined it with a sense of musicianship and lyricism that transcends the site of a solo bassist on stage.”

Yvonne Lieblein uses pedal-to-the-metal curiosity, music (music and more music), and over two decades worth of high-octane experiences as a writer, producer, and marketing strategist to fuel her creative life and passion for helping artists and entrepreneurs flourish. Yvonne’s debut novel, The Wheelhouse Café, will be published later this year and features an 11-song soundtrack. She has produced several music festivals and poetry experiences on the North Fork of Long Island. Yvonne is also a co-founder of theBOOKPROJECT, a novel night out for readers.

As a marketing and communication strategist, Yvonne thrives on delivering innovative solutions and inspiration. She began with a Triple Word Score role at the National SCRABBLEAssociation and then launched her own company, liebleinassociates, in 2003. Yvonne continues to be a champion and compass through her ongoing Mind Your Own Business (MYOB) workshops for entrepreneurs, True-U personal development retreats for women, speaking engagements and consulting projects.


Patrick Longo is an author, keynote speaker, composer, musician, screenwriter, husband and father to two young boys.  He also is the founder of Upaya Productions (ooh-pie-yuh), Upaya Publishing, and Team Earth, an environmental awareness apparel company.  Patrick is a former full-time Creative Writing instructor at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, and currently is a literature adjunct instructor at Schenectady County Community College and Director of Talent Acquisition at Transfinder, a global transportation logistics and location intelligence software company.

A graduate of the prestigious Graduate Creative Writing Program at Brockport College, Patrick majored in Creative Writing, with a concentration in poetry.  He moved from NY to San Francisco where he wrote, directed, produced, and composed music for his second play, The Curse of Funston Munley and played drums, sang, and composed music and lyrics for the band Moe Road.  In addition, Patrick was involved in the writing, production, music composition, and promotion for several short films. After “Funston,” Patrick was inspired to write a sung-through musical based on Cassandra, the cursed prophetess of ancient Troy and after raising $23,000 on Kickstarter, is set to debut a concert version of Cassandra, The Musical at Proctors Theater in Schenectady, NY on September 12thand 13th, 2014.

He is the co-author and editor of Great Salespeople Aren’t Born, They’re Hired, as well as Hire, Fire and The Walking DeadFind Your Spinach, The Just Disease, an illustrated children’s fantasy novel named The AcesJeb’s Wish, a traditional novel, and the play Toast and Coffee with Frank.  Patrick is currently writing and publishing pop music, working on a traditional musical, Oops! I Married a Nazi, continuing to pitch his steam punk screenplay, Chasing the Pigeon, finishing his next business books, Service is a Table Stake and I’m a Sales Doctor, Be Patient!, developing curricula for business culture, and making occasional appearances as a personal and business self-development speaker.


Brian McElhiney has written about music and art in the Capital Region and beyond for more than six years. He is also a musician and visual artist, and is currently the Sunday editor of the Leader-Herald in Gloversville.

Mark Swain is a business and faculty member at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.  Mark earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Brunel University (England), a New York State Teaching Certificate from Siena College, and Master in Business Administration (MBA) from University at Albany. Prior to joining FM’s full-time teaching faculty, Mark worked in business for the first ten years of his career in both in the U.K. and the U.S. After leaving the U.K. in 1995, he worked at General Electric as a corporate financial analyst for several years and moved on to become an Associate Director at MVP Healthcare, working in their model office. Mark began teaching in 2003 which included work at Schenectady County Community College as an adjunct professor and teaching business fulltime at Galway High School.

As always, I hope this helps you with your own goals – or at least keeps you amused until the next time!

See you soon and thanks again for listening/reading!



9 Things Kate Bush’s Recent Record Setting Album Sales Can Teach You About The Music Industry

Kate Bush is on a roll.

Her recent 22 date sold out series (which marked her first return to performing her music live in 35 years!) is by all accounts and artistic and financial triumph.  But it did something even more remarkable:

Last Sunday she was the first woman to have EIGHT albums chart at the same time.

(You can read the full story here).

Even more impressive give that all of the charted discography was more than 25 years old (with the exception of 2011’s 50 Words for Snow)!

#6 – The Whole Story (1986)

#9 – The Hounds of Love (1985)

#20 – 50 Words For Snow (2011)

#24 – The Kick Inside (1978)

#26 – The Sensual World (1989)

#37 – The Dreaming (1982)
#38 – Never For Ever (1980)

#40 – Lionheart (1978)

The Take Aways

This story has everything you need to know about the music business, book business and any other business where you are creating something that other people buy.

1. Real fans take a LONG time to cultivate.  

2. Fans support artists not products.  

3.  People buy recordings (and go to shows) because of how they make them feel.

4. There is value in scarcity.

5. If you exceed fan’s expectations, those fans will become acolytes who will try to convert everyone around them.

6. Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful force on the planet.

7. There will never be another Kate Bush – Kate Bush was a unique combination of talent, songwriting and Major Label resources to market her product.

8. There will never be another YOU. Do YOU to the best of your ability. Be honest in your art. Make great art. Make great fans. Show the cavalcade of mediocre crap hiding on the charts how it’s really done.

9. Sometimes the good people do come out on top.

As I write this – every major label in the world is trying to reach Kate Bush. I hope she’s enjoying a fine wine and laughing as she says no.

Here’s a classic track of hers that is a great reminder to keep running up that hill and chasing whatever it is you need to do.

As always, thanks for reading!


Another Lesson From BuckMoon Part II – Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found

Another Lesson Learned From The BuckMoon Arts Festival

For those of you who tuned in last time, this is the next in a series of lessons I learned from my involvement as a moderator of a series of Artists Panels at the BuckMoon Arts Festival.  (For those of you who missed the previous post, you may want to read part 1 of this series if you haven’t already.)  You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

Opportunities Are Generally Made Not Found

The BuckMoon Arts Festival had a series of panel discussions that were intended to bring up issues related to monetizing one’s art.  The second panel in the series was this one:

Promoting Your Art: Building An Audience and Building A Buzz”

Panelists: Bill Coffey, Mike Dimin, Yvonne Lieblein, Patrick Longo, Brian McElhiney and Mark Swain


Description: Online access to consumers has given artists more possibilities than ever, but how do you get your voice heard above the din?


In the panels, I’d ask a series of questions which would then be answered and discussed by the panel members and then I’d try to keep the ball rolling with follow up questions, related anecdotes and other miscellany and then open it up for audience discussion.


As part of this particular panel, we got into an extended discussion on the necessity of networking and making connections with other people working in your field and related fields.

I’m going to stress that again.  A key focus of this discussion was NETWORKING.


At the end of our time, the panel had an audience question.  The audience member was a costume designer who couldn’t figure out why she couldn’t get any work as a designer locally.  In response, every member of the panel spent about 2-5 minutes talking about strategies and options and trying to help this person.


While this was happening, everyone on the panel was excited because one of the panelists, Patrick Longo, was there to talk about how he had successfully kickstarted a project for a stage production of his original material at Proctor’s Theatre that was premiering this September.   Before the panel started, Patrick had introduced himself to EVERYONE in the room and gave them a card promoting his event.  So, even after the panelists introduced themselves at the start of the panel everyone there was familliar with what he was doing.


As panelists, we were all thinking some variation of, “This is great!  We’re actually going to be able to help somebody directly today!”  At the end of the panel I asked everyone to stick around for the last presentation and as we took a break between sessions the person who asked the question stood up, walked out the door and never came back.


We were stunned.  Patrick came up to me and said, “I’m so confused.  What happened there?  I NEED a costume designer.  Why didn’t she come talk to me?”


Unfortunately that response to that opportunity was the answer to that question .

In a profoundly over simplified math equation, opportunities are approximately 60% positioning yourself to be in the right place at the right time and about 40% having the skill set (and the wherewithal) to be able to capitalize on that.

You can practice in your bedroom forever, but you’re never going to meet other players / artists / likeminded people and/or people in a position to be able to help you advance until you go out into the world and meet them.

Related Story #2:

I was looking for a drummer.

Unless you already know talented players in your area or are in a position where you’re well known and making real touring money and can attract upper level professionals – this is always a nightmare proposition.

I reached out to a drummer’s group on Facebook, posted some video and audio and asked if anyone in the area was interested.  One person contacted me to say that he was interested but really busy and probably didn’t have time to play before he went back to the school for the summer. (I’m still baffled at the point of that correspondence).

Another second person messaged me with a contact information and I contacted him.  We played phone tag and finally talked about what I wanted to do and about getting together to play.  He wanted to hear more of my material (he didn’t have any recording of himself – which is always a bad sign) so I sent him some and then I never heard back from him.  So I sent a few followup emails that weren’t returned and about a week later, I called to see if he got the material.

Drummer (Sheepishly): “Oh yeah – I got the material….Uh you’re really good.  I didn’t know if I could play with those odd time signatures.”


Me: “Oh…that’s too bad.  If we had gotten together we could have tried it out and if it didn’t work I would have just played easier material to see if there was a decent chemistry and see if there was something else we could do.”


Drummer: “Oh!  Well I guess we could get together next week.”


Me:  “Sorry.  If you can’t follow up now at this stage, it just tells me that you’re probably going to flake later, and I can’t spend my time hunting people down to find out where they are.  Good luck though.”


That wasn’t said with any snark whatsoever.  I truly did wish him well, but I wasn’t willing to let him take up any more of my time.

A few takeaways

One thing that EVERY artist is guilty of at one (or many) points in his or her career is getting in their own way.  They’re often prone to second guessing themselves and being afraid to open the doors in front of them.

Here are two observations that I try to be mindful of myself

  • Opportunities are made not found. They are made by putting work into developing skill sets and positioning yourself (i.e. being conspicuous) so people can experience what you do.
  • Networking is based on sincere and legitimate connections to people.  I think of it as developing friendships instead trying to capitalize on something from the get go.  If you do have a internal question question when you meet people, make sure it’s  “What can I do for this person?” instead of “What can this person do for me?” and that’s because….
  • It’s more about who knows you than who you know.  My knowing other players won’t get me a gig.  Other players knowing me and knowing what I do (and more importantly what problems I can solve for them) is what will prompt any discussion between people that includes “oh hey let’s get that Scott Collins guy for this”

As always, I hope this helps!

Next time – I’ll talk about lessons I learned from mistakes that I made in setting up the panels!

Thanks for reading!


Lessons From BuckMoon Part I – You Can’t Cross A Burned Bridge

The Dread Return Of The Podcast

First a bit of housekeeping.  I’ve been cleaning up the audio from the panel discussions that I organized from the Buckmoon Arts Festival and I expect to kick off the podcast with a few of those over the rest of the summer.

First a huge thanks to all of the people who participated in the panels:

Bill Coffey
Mike Dimin
Jean Karutis
Yvonne Lieblein
Patrick Longo
Brian McElhiney
Mark Swain

As well as Mahmood Karimi-Hakak for the screening, Elahe Golpare and Afshin Katanchi for stills video and all the staff that pulled the event together.

You can read about the panel discussions and the festival here.

The following illustrative stories comes from those workshops.  Story #2 will be in a followup post.

Story #1:

There was a lot of back and forth with multiple people to try to get them on the panel discussions.  It was a big ask for everyone involved and I hope it set the groundwork for future collaborations, projects etc.

Trying to organize and run something like this with – what seems like an infinite number of variables (an unfamiliar room, an unfamiliar PA, no idea how many people are actually attending, coordinating with all the different people that need to be in place to make sure that panelists are relatively happy)  – is particularly stressful the day of the event.

The only way to manage that stress in any way, shape or form is to try to eliminate as many loose ends before the day of the show as possible and put extra work in well in advance of the event and communicate clearly to everyone involved.

In this case, managing one loose end involved contacting everyone on the panel and making sure that they would still be there and giving them a “one page” of day of event information – directions, food, etc.  Everyone confirmed they would be there but there were two panelists that indicated that they had prior commitments and would have to leave by 3 pm.  That was no problem.

The day of the event, after the opening presentation, I was helping set up the tables for the panel discussion and checked my phone and saw that an unfamiliar number had left me a voice mail a minute or two earlier.  It was one of the panelists who had confirmed attending earlier in the week but had a prior commitment later that day.  He was now calling to cancel his appearance 15 minutes before the start of the panel.  He said he’d gotten sick the night before and that he wanted to try to ride it out to see if he could make it in and now decided he couldn’t and that he didn’t want to get the other panelists sick.   He was sorry but ended the call with, “I hope you’ll keep me in mind for other events in the future and if you know anyone who needs PR services that you’ll send them my way.”

I remember looking at my phone and thinking, “What is this – high school?  I can’t go to class?  My dog ate my homework?”

Particularly for a person who works in Public Relations – I can’t imagine a way to handle that more poorly.

You can’t invite someone over a bridge you just burned.

For those of you starting your music business endeavors, here are some takeaway points:

1.  Communicate early and frequently.  People get sick.  Things happen.  People generally will work with you for whatever problem you have, but you have to communicate early and not leave people in a lurch.  As an organizer, calling me 15 minutes before you’re supposed to be there is only marginally better than not showing.  Also when you’ve already told me that you have a family function later that day that you have to go to, the sick excuse seems spurious at best and doesn’t really cut it.

2.  If you do ever find yourself in that situation, follow up with people.  Had he contacted me the following week and said, “Hey I feel really bad that I couldn’t make it.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.  How did the panel discussion go?” it would have been a completely different discussion and at the least it would have added more legitimacy to his story.

The fact that he couldn’t be bothered to make a simple followup call or email just told me that he didn’t want to be there.  But as the person runs a PR company, they should be acutely aware of how badly they just burned that bridge.  I don’t always want to do my own PR.  I need help sometimes with things.  But as a potential client, how can I contact you for my project if my experience with you is that you bailed out on a commitment at the last minute and then didn’t follow up?

When you’re a professional, your professionalism will be measured by your actions.  If you don’t conduct yourself in a professional way, you won’t be viewed as professional by others.    It doesn’t always mean that it’s fair.  But it’s how it is.

(The odd exception to this is that if you’re independently wealthy, you don’t necessarily have to be professional as you can pay people to take on those services for you.  But in those cases, people only work with you because they have money and when the money’s gone, typically so are they.)

If you operate in the public eye you need to act like someone is always watching you.  That doesn’t mean being paranoid but, for example, you need to assume that if you’re inebriated in a public place and making a loud fool out of yourself, that video footage will show up online somewhere.

Conduct your matters with honesty and integrity. If you act unprofessional, you can’t expect a professional reference.

In the next post, I’ll tell another story from the Festival that highlights almost everything that’s wrong about how musicians navigate the music business (and it has nothing to do with file sharing or spotify).

As always thanks for reading!


Strong Opinions Are Like Strong Odors Or Speak Softly And Carry A Thick Skin

Hi everyone! In keping up with a semi-regular output, I thought I’d share another excerpt from my Amazon Kindle book, Selling it Versus Selling Out which may have a perspective that’s helpful for you.



If you’re a musician, it’s easy to forget that you probably listen to music differently than non-musicians (i.e. most people).  That’s not to say that other people don’t listen to music passionately. It’s more about the fact that the number of times you need to listen to a piece of music to learn it is substantially more than it takes to merely appreciate it.  Learning parts to a song (guitar parts, vocal parts, etc) and getting those parts right requires a learned type of obsessive attention to detail that is alien to many casual listeners.

Consequently, you may find that you have a number of strong opinions as a result of familiarity with the subject matter.  You might know why you like a particular act or musician that your friends can’t articulate.  If you’re the type of person to strongly focus on one thing, you may be prone to carrying that focus over into other areas.

  • If you do something a lot that you care about, you’re likely to have a strong opinion about it.
  • If you’ve studied something intensely, you might have a strong opinion about it.
  • If you have a certain code of conduct that you adhere to and other people tell you to chill out; you might have some terse words for them.

Strong opinions are like strong odors.  Your friends won’t tell you that you’re rank, but your phone won’t ring either.

People generally meet strong odors and opinions with strong reactions rather than indifference (particularly in regards to opinions as they often feel threatened by strong opinions that aren’t their own).

My advice is to start building some calluses.

The difference between strong opinions and odors is that getting rid of an odor is much easier than getting rid of your opinion.

The good news for artists is that people are looking for strong opinions.  Audiences are moved by people who have a need to express something so strong that they need to physically manifest it.  I have collected music for years.  I have 122 gigabytes of mp3s from CDs I converted.  The last I checked, this is about 3 months of continual music without repeats…and  I still look for new music.  Even though I could never mark out the time to continually listen to all the music I already have!  I still look to be excited by what other people are doing, and many other people do as well.

People searching for something new is generally the market you want to reach as an emerging artist.

One problem many symphonies face is the demographic that had traditionally supported them is older and shrinking.  On one hand, showcasing new music (like the video game live tours) brings symphonic textures to a new audience.  The problem is that audience doesn’t want to pay $100 to hear Bach in a concert hall (which is something the people who are willing to pay that kind of money often want to hear at a symphony).  The people with money who go to the symphony generally want to hear the tried and true pieces that moved them in that (or a very similar) symphonic hall years ago.

Symphonies have a real battle in balancing contemporary programs with safe gentle pieces that won’t rattle the dentures of anyone sitting in the expensive seats.  Given the astounding production costs of maintaining an orchestra and performance hall outside financing (underwriting, etc) becomes increasingly important.  Even with fundraising, many orchestras have to tighten the belt and turn to alternative revenue streams and more diverse programming to try to get the bodies in the seats.

And now a word from Mr. Ives

You’llll have to search to find a non-vhs copy, but I highly recommend that you see a film called, A good dissonance like a man, which is a biopic about Charles Ives.  In addition to some excellent acting, the script is based on accurate historical research and comes across as a telling view into the life of a true maverick (Before people scoff at the term “maverick” – real mavericks almost never refer to themselves that way and instead let history make that distinction for them. Charles Ives was a true maverick.)

Ives also had a lot to say both as an artist and as a human being.  His comments below regarding consonance (versus dissonance) predate some sentiments expressed in this essay.

“… Consonance is a relative thing (just a nice name for a nice habit). It is a natural enough part of music, but not the whole, or only one. The simplest ratios, often called perfect consonances, have been used so long and so constantly that not only music, but musicians and audiences, have become more or less soft. If they hear anything but doh-me-soh or a near cousin, they have to be carried out on a stretcher.” from Charles E. Ives: Memos

Artistically, there’s no value in being all things to all people

Everyone wants to be accepted, and some opinions and ideas are confrontational and polarizing by their very nature, but by watering down your opinion, you also water down your message.

Watering down your message

(to paraphrase another Ives quote);

disappoints the artist, it disappoints the art and ultimately it disappoints the audience.

This isn’t to say that you should never compromise.  While some amount of compromise is necessary just to be human (much less an artist) you should recognize the difference between compromising and selling out.

When that little voice in your head says that people are uncomfortable with what you’re doing, you should take a long look to see if you’re doing something wrong or if other people just need thicker skin.

That’s a really difficult conclusion to come to objectively, but it’s certainly one worth investigating.

If you like this post, you may like two of the Kindle e-books I currently have out, An Indie Musician Wake Up Call and Selling It Versus Selling Out.

Deciphering What’s Actually On The Page or Don’t Believe The Hype

Sony Records sent out a press release today that will surely set the internet a flutter.  Here’s the AP (In this case – Alternative Press) Story Line:

Middle school metal trio sign $1.7 million record deal with Sony Music

Boy that sounds great!  Here everyone is talking about the record industry tanking and Sony steps up and signs Unlocking The Truth with a big-ass old school record deal!  $1.7 million huh?  Time to get those middle schoolers in your house some lessons and up on a stage so you can get that Middle School Metal Money.  (I’ll give credit where it’s due – I can’t come up with a better catch phrase than Middle School Metal.)

But the numbers here mean nothing.  Look at my underlined quotes from the AP article.

“Brooklyn, New York based middle school metal trio, Unlocking The Truth, have inked a record deal with Sony Music potentially worth $1.7 million, according to a report from the New York Daily News. The band are guaranteed two albums, with a $60,000 advance on the first, and up to $350,000 for the second. If the efforts prove fruitful, the band could reap the full benefits of the six-record, million dollar-plus contract. “

So here’s how I read this:

Unlocking the truth signed a record contract with an OPTION for 6 records.

I will bet dollars to donuts that they signed a 360 deal with Sony – which means that any revenue streams generated by the band will find a percentage going back to Sony.

That $60,000 advance will be recoupable – which means the band won’t make a dime of the record until they pay back the label for the money that the label spent on them.  You’ve seen the spotify stream articles.  How many digital plays and downloads does it take to pay back $60,000?  A lot more than any other band playing in this genre is getting right now.  Hell, probably more than EVERY other band in this genre is getting right now.

That’s IF the record comes in on budget – which it won’t – you’ll have to factor out the producer’s percentage, the lawyer’s percentage and anyone else getting a cut from this as well.

Oh..and then there’s the video.  IF the record gets released, the label will demand a video to help promote it.  That’s also recoupable against album sales so, again, the band won’t see any money from the record until that gets paid back as well.

They’ll have to tour to promote the record.  The label may offer tour support but if they do – it’s also recoupable.  That’s also problematic because if they signed a 360 deal (and I don’t think there’s any way the label would sign them and not demand a 360 deal) – the label is taking additional cuts on top of any money being made.

So in the past, tour support might be renting a tour bus and paying for the PA – but (in addition to whatever percentage of the door you got) whatever shirts or other merch you sold you got to keep.  In a 360 deal – your small percentage on shirts or ANYTHING else you have to sell – just got a lot smaller.

Note that the article says that the label will pay UP TO $350 K for the second release.  That also means that they could pay nothing and then the band is screwed because they won’t be able to record with anyone else until that release comes out.  That also means that the label could record the album and then just refuse to release it.

Guess who sits in limbo unable to do anything else with anyone else until that happens?


  • IF the first record makes enough money to warrant making a second record that gets released and
  • IF the second record can be recorded and makes money

Then the label MIGHT pick up the rest of the releases with advances (i.e. money that mathematically can never be paid back) that MAY make up to 1.7 million.  Again –  IN ADVANCES – not in income.

So for the type of music the band plays –

I’m betting that this is solely a PR move.

It’s smoke and mirrors.

Sony’s gonna ride the publicity on this, record an album and then push the novelty aspect of that.  “Middle School Metal” is easier to get press on than “Middle Aged Metal”.  Then like every other novelty (“Pac Man Fever” comes to mind) it will fade.

This irritates me for two reasons:

1.  From the “news” angle – it’s irresponsible hype that sends the wrong message to people about the state of the industry.  People look at the headline and come to a conclusion that has no basis in reality for artists.

2.  Malcolm was a student of mine, very briefly, at a music summer camp I taught at.  If you see him sweep-picking something live –  it may well be a form I taught him.  He’s a nice kid and I dig his energy and enthusiasm.  I dig that he’s gotten the press and gigs that he has and I don’t want to see him get taken advantage of.

But is it a bad decision?
Oh, probably not.  But really it depends on what you think the outcome is going to be.

If approached as a money-making venture – yes, definitively it’s a colossally bad idea.

But if this is an exposure play…if this is just a springboard for them to do something else POST Sony – it might not a bad play because right now they’re 13 years old.  They don’t have to make money because they have a parent (or parents) who will make sure that they’re fed and have a roof over their head.

In other words, they’re in a radically different situation than the average band.  They might be able to afford to be indentured to a label for a couple of years.

But for the average band – the last sentence of this: which does a great job of breaking down real money for major label acts…. is where they’re really at.

Public Service Announcement:

Friends Don’t Let Friends Sign 360 Deals.