Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Required Viewing for Aspiring Musicians, Managers, and Agents (TV Review: There and Back: Ashley Parker Angel)

There and Back: Ashley Parker Angel should be Required Viewing for anyone who wants to be in the music industry. Even if this thing was 100% scripted, it would still be a pretty accurate portrayal of what happens to an artist after the success, money, and lifestyle go away.

It wasn't that many years ago that Ashley Parker Angel was a member of the boy band O-Town and had a hit single. All that's gone now--former O-Town bandmate Jacob works construction--and the series chronicles what life is like for a musician post-success. Ashley seems like a nice guy (maybe at times a little too nice for his own good) who signed a bad deal that screwed him out of his recording advance, and I can't help feeling for him. The fact that he's clearly a more talented singer and songwriter than O-Town allowed him to show makes me like him even more (so reserve your boy-band perceptions 'til after you've seen the show).

Watching the scene with the meeting with the producers who (allegedly!) screwed him over made my blood boil, because just by looking at them, it was fairly obvious where his advance probably went. (Allegedly!) Hearing them spew their manipulative BS about not wanting lawyers to get in the way of the music had me yelling, "Don't fall for it Ashley!" at the TV. If the scene was real (MTV got a lot of flack last year for allegedly scripting its "reality" moments on other shows) the presence of MTV cameras and manager Larry Rudolph certainly got him out of the situation. And if it was scripted, it was very well done; I've heard those words hundreds of times myself from artists who were ripped off and told the same thing.

Meanwhile, there's life on the home front. On the show Ashley's pregnant girlfriend is about to pop with their first child, the hormones are getting to her, they live with her mom because Ashley can't afford a home of their own, and the resulting pressure of it all is getting to Ash. Meanwhile, he's trying to write an album that financially and career wise, he knows really needs to be a hit.

If you watch the show and think Ashley Parker Angel has it bad on the show--and he does--consider this: at least he has a top level manager, a deal with MTV, and people are taking meetings with him. Most artists in his situation don't, so using the show as a tool to learn where things went wrong businesswise to prevent it from happening to you or your clients is key, along with the knowledge that there's probably not going to be an MTV deal to help out. Kudos to Ashley for his bravery in being an object business lesson for fellow musicians.

Score: ****1/2 out of 5 stars.

Edited 1:28PM January 24 b/c my Grammar check program truly sucks.

Copyright 2006 Randi Reed

Monday, January 23, 2006

Why Are There So Damn Many References to Bon Jovi on MusicBizAdvice.com?

(Written on Sunday, January 22, 2006 but posted Mon Jan 23 due to power outages)

If you go to MusicBizAdvice.com and do a site search, you'll see a lot of references to Bon Jovi or Jon Bon Jovi. Sometimes this irritates managers or fans of other artists, who occasionally send me flame mail. That's OK. Life Lesson #10,049: No matter what you do, somebody's going to be ticked off.

Today's blog entry is actually for those who either genuinely want to know or who say, "You like the 80's or what?" (A question I find a little irritating, because it usually means the person asking it only pays attention to the Top 10 and has little appreciation for album cuts or longevity in the music business.)

The main reason is really pretty simple: MusicBizAdvice.com's readers span 67 countries and three age groups. No matter whom I'm addressing, where they live, or what kind of music they're into, if I refer to Bon Jovi or Jon Bon Jovi as an example of success in one of our articles, that reader knows whom I'm talking about. Given that the average career for a successful recording artist is 5 years, the band's 23 years of high visibility are pretty impressive.

(Sidebar: Bon Jovi is a band, Jon Bon Jovi is a guy. If you're working with or writing about them, it's polite to know this and get it right.)

More importantly, Jon Bon Jovi has the kind of work ethic and attitude I'd love for our readers to follow. Jon's a household name, and is obviously a great looking guy (some would say "stunning" in person). Given that and the way fans react when they meet him, most people expect him to be difficult or unpleasant to work with. But you'll rarely hear anyone who's worked with him say anything but the opposite. Some artists, on the other hand, act like they're entitled to make working together a miserable experience for everyone but themselves.

On a personal level, it's no secret that I've liked the band's music since I heard "Runaway" during Christmas 1983. I heard it long before I knew what Jon even looked like, and it still holds up as a well-written rock song when stripped down to its essence. But my favorite Bon Jovi stuff is well after 1986's Slippery When Wet, and it's the stuff a lot of people other than hard core fans don't know:

Jon's vocal on "Dry County," (Keep the Faith) still gives me chills; if you listen to it on a great system with headphones, you can hear his voice open up on the line "I cursed the sky to open." Richie Sambora does an amazing solo on that track, too.

Jon's version of "Levon" on the Two Rooms CD is still one of the best rock vocals I've ever heard. The engineering and production are so well executed, you can almost hear him breathe. I'm especially impressed by this because it was recorded in Jon's home studio...in 1991, before Pro-Tools became standard.

I often play "Hey God" from These Dayswhen I'm royally ticked off, and "This Ain't a Love Song" (also from These Days) is my favorite wallow-in-it break up song. The first chorus of "Someday I'll be Saturday Night" Cross Road) kept me going during my worst days of a chronic illness ("Hey man, I'm alive, I'm taking each day and night at a time, I'm feeling like a Monday but someday I'll be Saturday night"), and This Left Feels Right's "It's My Life" and "Born to Be My Baby" sound so intimate, when I hear them I feel like I've walked into a room with a closed door.

Do I like the 80's? Yeah, they were OK. But I like the evolution of the band even more. And if you're an artist or songwriter, I wish it for you as well.

C 2006 Randi Reed

Disclosure of Endorsements/Recommendations/Financial Compensation or Business Relationships per FTC Blog Disclosure Regulations in effect December 1, 2009: In the 90's I worked for a concert promotion company that presented many Bon Jovi shows. Since that time I've received no financial compensation or free product in direct connection with the band. I have, however, interviewed their recording engineer for MusicBizAdvice.com, and the MusicBizAdvice.com website sells Amazon products as an Amazon Associate.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dread and the Client Drop (or How to Work with Others)

This week, I performed one of my least favorite tasks: notifying an artist I won't be working with them.

Contrary to popular belief about managers, agents, A&R people, and other music executives, it's not something I ever relish or look forward to. Although I will admit to sometimes feeling a sense of "good riddance" if someone's been a real pain in the bleep.

I mention it because the artist made a key mistake you'll want to avoid in your own career: we're dropping the artist from our radar because the artist is too difficult to work with. (To protect the artist's privacy, I'll change the details.)

"Difficult" isn't bad in itself. Frankly I worry when someone blindly follows everything I tell them without question, because it means they can't say no (which leads to other problems later on).

What matters is the degree of "difficult."

State your case, and defend your art. But pick your battles. You can be hands on without being a bleep. If you're paying someone to advise you--especially when you've contacted them for help, not the other way around--don't argue with everything they're telling you. Artists who do are exhausting to work with, and people go out of their way to avoid working with them. (I once had a client who once spent 45 minutes arguing with me on the placement of a comma in his bio...Even after I showed him the entry in Strunk and White's Elements of Style and an English textbook. True story.)

Let me give you another example: Getting someone to redo some seriously off-pitch notes that are prominently heard in a chorus shouldn't take the band, a producer, an engineer, myself, and ten rocket scientists from Teledyne an hour to convince them. (OK, I exaggerated on this one. But close...)

And that's just one chorus, of one song...Of an entire CD. (Can we say expensive studio time?)

I don't claim that it's easy taking criticism, letting others into the process, delegating, or dealing with control issues. But we all go through it, no matter what we do for a living. It's all in how you handle it.

Assuming you have good people working with you, at some point you have to relax a little and let people do their jobs. Otherwise you're wasting your money, and their time. (Not to mention the time of everyone else who's working on the project.) If you can't trust them enough to let yourself relax a little, either you haven't done your job in hiring people you're comfortable with, or you're having trouble with control issues.

It's sad, because this artist is talented, and I'd really like to see them succeed.

But it ain't gonna be with me. Nor the previous other people who tried to manage them...Is it any surprise that the more successful the artist, the easier they are to work with?

©2006 Randi Reed

About Your Friendly Editor, and What I Do

Welcome to my blog! Make yourself at home. (The Food's to the right, the bar's to the left, and non-alcoholic beverages are there too...)

Frankly I'd rather dive right in, but should probably tell you something about myself...

I'm the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of
MusicBizAdvice.com, and a music business consultant. I started as a singer-songwriter in a band, hated it (those of you who are reading this with a sore throat from last night's gig or recording session, I salute you), and discovered that although music was (and still is) my passion, I liked the behind-the-scenes aspects a lot more than performing.

I won't tell you how long ago that was, but over the years I've worked in artist management, booking, and concert promotion at the national level. Along the way I was also an assistant manager at a record store, a personal assistant to a platinum artist, and was the editor for another platinum artist's official fan club newsletter.

The most adamantly anti-business artists (why you're reading this I don't know, but welcome) say I think too much like a suit. The most business-minded non-creatives (ditto to you) say I think too much like a musician. Often on the same day. I can live with that, because balancing the two isn't easy. But I can tell you that I'm fiercely protective of my clients, even if I don't always tell them what they want to hear. (Sidebar: A good manager should tell you what you don't want to hear. If you're surrounded by yes people who only tell you what you want to hear, you're screwed.)

MusicBizAdvice.com came about when I lost my job at a major Hollywoood entertainment firm after getting a chronic immune system disorder. It affected the part of my brain that controls math functions, reading, and writing, and was so bad that at one point I couldn't read a calendar, dial the phone, read, or use a computer because the numbers and letters scrambled in front of me. (Really conducive to booking bands, right?) My sensory perception was also affected, so watching TV or listening to music made me dizzy and nauseous. (Remember how you felt during the worst drunken episode of your life, when you felt sick and the room wouldn't stop spinning and you felt like you had to hang onto the floor so you wouldn't spin off? That's it.) I was confined to bed for quite a while, and coming back was a slow process.

During my convalescence I started outlining ideas for projects on a legal pad from my bed. In 1997,
MusicBizAdvice.com was one of them. So, here we are. I hope it helps you get where you want to go in your career, helps one of your clients, or is helpful to that research paper you're writing.

As for this blog? This is where I get a little more personal, a little more editorial, give kudos to people I like, and rant about those I don't. Here's hoping it's entertaining

©2006 Randi Reed