Saturday, December 12, 2009

Book review: Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful

Book review originally posted by me on earlier today, under my Amazon screen name Randi Reed "MusicBizAdvice Editor":

Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful

****" Great photography, something for casual or hardcore fans, and even a bit of practical advice for musicians"

How does a band sum up over 25 years worth of career that's spanned more than half their lead singer's life, thousands of concerts, and sales of well over 120 million albums? Not to mention survived more than 8 different music trends (at last count)and umpteen label management changes (10? 12?), while doing their own thing. By Jovi, this'd better be good.

Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful is indeed a very good anthology of a great career. Arranged by subject instead of the more predictable chronological order, it's narrated by the band members themselves and loaded with photos from a perspective rarely seen of the band, who publicly admit to not letting many people into their tight circle. There's much here to surprise the public, and maybe even a few hard core fans.

For one thing, this is not a picture book full of pretty, posed studio photographs of cute guys in the 80's. Although a couple of those are there for scrapbook purposes, the majority of the book's photos are either original, Phil Stern-style behind-the-scenes candids that were snapped for the book and its accompanying documentary (many of these photos are in black and white) or are photos of the band onstage. In both cases, the style and quality of the photographer's work shares equal billing with the subjects, with great results.

As a serious photography hobbyist, the photos on pages 8-9,13,15,43,126-27,and 137 are among my favorites, because I know how deceptively difficult they are to do. Because of this, my copy of Bon Jovi: When We Were Beautiful isn't kept with the other music biographies in my collection. Instead, it resides on a shelf of favorite photography books, between works by Phil Stern and Life Magazine: these are the kind of artist photographs I'd like to achieve.

When We Were Beautiful also contains snapshots from the band members' personal collections, photo session outtakes, and previously unapproved photos. Some of these are hilariously not so great...such as the series of an extremely sleepy/sleeping Jon Bon Jovi on a plane to Moscow in 1989 (page 48-49), complete with large red X's and thick lines drawn on the photos to indicate someone's disapproval (presumably management's or Jon's). Every major artist has marked-up contact sheets of unapproved, goofy photos in their files. Bon Jovi actually lets you see them.

The text shows the expected business savvy, tenacity, and personal growth of the individual band members, as well as their wit (David Bryan, page 59--drinking liquid while reading not recommended). But it can also be surprisingly revealing, such as on page 138. There's even an "Eeeeew"-provoking gross-out moment from, of all people, Jon Bon Jovi (page 142).

From a practical standpoint, for aspiring artists (and their aspiring managers and tour managers), the Backstage section is most helpful, especially Jon's wisdom on page 139. Pages 138-144, 150,152, and 175 are of special note...particularly page 152, which gives the reader something to think about.

Bon Jovi:When We Were Beautiful is certainly not the type of sordid tell-all that publishers and the media like to see from a rock band, so don't expect this book to get much media attention. Nor is it the bare-it-all autobiography a lot of rock fans and celebrity watchers may prefer. But by all accounts, Bon Jovi are guys who deeply respect their families, especially their kids, who don't happen to be in the spotlight. In Jersey parlance, ya gotta respect that. And ya gotta respect the band for doing it their way.

After all, it's worked for 26 years.

Verdict: ****

Want it? Buy it here:

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, and the website sells Amazon products as an Amazon Associate.

Randi Reed
Founder / Editor in Chief,

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Springsteen gets his location wrong, media has a field day? WTF???

You'd think all my years in the music business would make me immune to the stupidity of some of the media, wouldn't you?

Surprise. At times, they're the gift that keeps on giving.

I refer to the media flurry over Bruce Springsteen greeting his audience with the wrong location the other night. The man said, "Hello Ohio!" to a crowd in Michigan. Horror of horrors (!)

For those unfamiliar with unusual punctuation marks, the above exclamation point in parenthesis denotes sarcasm. (Handy little guy, isn't it?)

What the media either doesn't know--or what the media may know full well but may be choosing to ignore in order to create a "story"-- is this:

Shouting out the wrong location happens to nearly every performer. It's an occupational hazard that comes along with faced-paced tour schedules, jet lag, and concert venues that often look a hell of a lot alike and are sometimes even named identically. Shouting out the wrong location doesn't even mildly qualify for my Music Business Blunders column on, simply because it happens to pretty much every touring musician at least once. It happens to comedians, too.

A little embarrassing? Yes. But "left shame-faced", as some of the media, including the Mirror, reported? Puh-lease. "Shame-faced" is what the media should feel for reporting such a thing. (Google "Bruce Springsteen wrong state" and see what comes up: over 71,000 results as I write this.)

Anyone who's ever worked backstage at an arena has seen the temporary signage posted by the crew of that night's artist. In the production office, the dressing rooms, on the walls of the hallway leading to the stage, pinned to the fabric of the quick-change tents at the side of the stage, and sometimes even taped to mirrors and telephones are reminders: "You are in Phoenix, Arizona." "This is Buffalo!" "Cleveland!!!"

You can't tell me the media has never seen them.

But for the artist, who's accustomed to being on the road and makes his home on it for weeks or months at a time, it's like anything else that becomes familiar: after a while, you just don't notice it.

There's no offense intended, either to the town in which the mistake occurs, or to the audience. It just happens.

I can't count the number of times backstage when a musician or crew member, in the middle of a conversation, has asked me, "This is [such and such city], right?" Or, accompanied by a nervous laugh, a sheepish, "Where are we?" Most of them were stone-cold sober at the time.

But here's the most important, and in my opinion, the coolest, thing: Many musicians never forget a face, and a lot of them even remember the name that goes with it...

especially a reporter who exaggerates a common occurrence for the sake of creating a story.

(Oh, and psssst! By the way, Reporter, the correct name of the venue, which you bungled in the midst of your railing on Bruce, is The Palace of Auburn Hills. I'm sure the good people of Michigan would like to see that corrected.)


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 Bruce Springsteen shows. Additionally, website (and by extension, this blog) sells Amazon products as an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

6 1/2 hour day for an H1N1 shot

After careful consideration--and a lot of discussion with friends in the healthcare industry--on Sunday morning, with CFIDS* symptoms flaring loudly, I got up at 4:30 A.M. to stand in line to get the H1N1 flu shot.

I don't usually get a flu shot, but this one is different. My reasons for getting the H1N1 vaccine are that I have a double-whammy risk factor (autoimmune disease + asthma), and because I can name four friends of friends who've died from H1N1. Since I'll be be exposed to large crowds at shows I'll be attending this winter and spring, the odds lean heavily toward protecting myself.

(Sidebar: The sickest I've ever been was the day after receiving a handshake from an artist's fan who informed me--after shaking my hand--that she'd dragged herself out of bed with a high fever because she couldn't stand the thought of missing the show. Then she ran off to the ladies' room to throw up. Thank God no one let her anywhere near the artist; it was a fast-acting bug with the power to cancel shows and put people out of work.)

By the time I arrived in line for the vaccine clinic a little before 6:30A.M., there were already a few hundred people in line...enough to pack at least a rock club. By the time the doors opened after 8, there were thousands. I couldn't see the end of the line, as it wound all the way around the block. I couldn't see the beginning of it either, or how far we'd have to walk to get into the building where the vaccination clinic would take place. My best friend, who went beyond the definition by coming with me to stand in line, volunteered for a front of the line reconnaissance mission. One of L.A.P.D.'s finest was standing at the entrance of the building to be sure no one cut the line, with more on hand for crowd control.

The lady in front of me had a cane. There were some elderly people (who came in teams of two, so that one could stand in line while the other sat resting for a while on a low wall across the street), and a lot of pregnant women, and many babies who'd been roused from their warm beds to stand in the California morning air, which, despite its warm reputation, can cut to the bone if there's a damp wind coming off the ocean. I couldn't help wondering what would become of the people who weren't well enough to stand in line for hours that day. There was no handicapped access, though I did see two healthcare workers helping an elderly lady to the vaccination room.

The people in line, for the most part, were not poor; just uninsured, like me, or in some cases they'd come in search of the vaccine because their regular doctor didn't have it yet.

Welcome to the U.S. healthcare system.

Not that I'm not grateful to be able to get the shot at all; I'm currently without a regular doctor and would probably be out of luck if I had to rely on a doctor's office delivery system. But my friends in Europe didn't have to go through this; they simply went to their regular healthcare provider, with no waiting, no fuss, no getting out of bed at O'dark:30 to stand in a long line around a cold football field. And everyone is covered. But I digress. Back to our U.S. vaccine clinic...

After a while, when the vaccine began to run low, pregnant women were pulled from the line and admitted first. The rest of us were asked to fill out questionnaires to determine our medical priority. It began to feel a bit like a poker game: he's 29, she's got such and such, autoimmune plus asthma beats a pair. My survival mode kicked in, and although I answered the questions truthfully, I highlighted the answers that would be most helpful in getting me in by marking them with a very large X instead of the checkmarks I usually use. I also hoped that the low grade fever I'm used to having, but which could bar me from getting the vaccine, would make a hasty exit. It did.

After a check of my paperwork by several of the clinic workers, I was admitted to the vaccination line. Autoimmune people are sometimes advised to get the "thimerosol free" version to give our systems less to try to deal with. But the clinic was running low on it, so I was sent to consult with one of the doctors. He said there was still a small trace amount of thimerosol in the "thimerosol free" version, which what with my flaring CFIDS symptoms, scared me a little. Then he said, in the direct manner I use when a client is headed for legal trouble, "You're autoimmune. You need to have this" which scared me more. Ahh, The Power of the White Coat.
Attitude adjusted, and paperwork OK'd for "thimerosol free", I got my shot.

It was 11:00A.M.

*In the U.S., the autoimmune disease I have is called CFIDS or CFS and has a very vague diagnosis and treatment protocol which in the U.S. often focuses more on fatigue than on other, more serious symptoms of the disease. In the UK and Canada, what I have is called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), which has a more specific diagnosis and treatment protocol that focuses more on the serious symptoms such as the cognitive, brain injury and respiratory aspects of the disease. Since writing this entry I've joined the campaign to change its name in the U.S., because eliminating the word Fatigue from its title would help provide better medical care, research, and funding for patients in the U.S., as well as better understanding of the disease by the general public.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Facebook Follies

Arrrgh! Over on my personal Facebook account, Facebook's automatic spam catcher has banned me from sending private messages. It's infuriating because I'm adamant about staffers adhering to CAN-SPAM Act rules, and neither we, nor I, engage in it.

I also don't use Facebook's Friend Find function, nor do I contact random Friends of Friends that Facebook recommends. (Maybe Facebook is pissed off that I don't?) In my opinion, and according to my understanding of the CAN-SPAM Act, THAT would be spam. And, as those of you on my Facebook Friends lists know, I rarely send Facebook messages or event notices, choosing to keep in touch with Facebook Friends by using the Wall / update function instead.

Here's how it happened, so it doesn't happen to you:

The supreme irony is, the Friend requesters contacted me first, not the other way around...

So, rather than just rudely ignoring people, I responded to the Friend requests from people I didn't know by using the "send message" option to ask them to please join me at my business Facebook instead, "as this one is my personal account" and included a link to my business Facebook (the account). I've been doing it this way over on MySpace for years with no problem, and it's led to a lot of great conversation and a few actual working relationships and friendships...which is how social networking was originally supposed to work, right?

I sent 10-12 of these responses today, with a total of a mere 25 since opening my personal account in June. (Facebookers usually find me via my /MusicBizAdvice account, so there's really not much message traffic from my personal account.)

In sending the responses, I was afraid of accidentally triggering the anti spam filter, so I made a point of changing the wording and personalizing each one. I manually entered the captchas properly. Facebook gave me a popup warning telling me to "slow down". So I did. Then Facebook banned me from messages anyway.

(Sidebar: Facebook was the first entity ever to accuse me of being a fast typist, by the way. I'm a decent writer, occasionally even a good one, but a lousy typist. Our staffers and my former employers will have a good laugh at that.)

Simple solution: If Facebook offered a "Confirm friend to other account instead" option in its Friend acceptance options, and allowed the Friend requester to check a box that opted them in to being transferred over, this wouldn't happen.

That way, people could leave their privacy settings open just enough that their actual friends and relatives can find them, thus ENcouraging use of Facebook, rather than DIScouraging it.

Another irony: Over time, for direct communication, I've been gradually using Twitter more and more. (Why send a "message" when you can talk with someone directly, at a faster pace?) At this rate--first Facebook's privacy issues, then Facebook's content ownership / licensing issues, etc.--my Facebook accounts are rapidly headed toward being used simply to garner search engine results, with very little actual one-on-one conversation (kind of like MySpace has become)...which is the very thing Facebook was trying to avoid when it was created.

That doesn't seem fair to those of my family, friends, colleagues, and readers, who do enjoy using Facebook. Who wants to be used? But even more than that, it's not fair to the whole concept of social networking.

Get it together, Facebook.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A vocal so good it needs its own t-shirt!

Overheard in Editor in Chief's office while listening to tracks from various bands: "That vocal's so good it should have its own T-shirt!"

The band in question was Stars Go Dim, the track in question was "Crazy", and the person who said it was me.

Check it out here.

And they're touring their butts off. I love that!

Disclosure per FTC Blogger Disclosure Regulations in effect December 1, 2009: I have no connection to the band or their project, aside from's status as an Amazon Associates music seller. I just liked that particular vocal & wanted to share it with our readers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Random Thoughts About the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs)

Some notes I scribbled down during last night's VMA telecast...

1. The VMAs have become pretentious as hell. Over the past 15 years it's become more and more like watching a fashion industry party (actually at this point I think they're probably more fun). It was a lot more fun when the artists treated the VMAs like just another night at the Rainbow: fights over girlfriends, couples bickering in public, artists challenging each other to fights, people being overserved...Good times! :-D

2. Kudos to Madonna for her gutsy speech about Michael Jackson...especially her honest words about the fact that people in the industry turned their backs on him (including, she said, herself) when he was at his lowest.

3. The overall energy of this year's VMA's was very weird. The pacing of the show seemed off too.

4. Lady Gaga in her seat (in uncomfortable looking costume #1) looked like she was suffering for her art.

5. Taylor Swift, you have true class! Shame on the person who tried to ruin Taylor Swift's moment--and especially for his insensitivity in doing so right before she was about to perform.

6. The visuals of Taylor Swift's performance were cool, creatively done, and difficult to coordinate on a live show.

6. On Lady Gaga's performance: Tries. Too. Hard. Fantastic voice, but...

7. Green Day: Loved 'em. No fluff, no muss, and a really good performance. Great energy, tight band.

8. (On Beyonce's performance:) Is anyone else irritated by choreography that makes the artist stop lip syncing for half the song while the backing track continues to sing? Looks awkward. Let's make a decision, people: lip sync and sell it all the way, or nothing.

9. Muse: Good song, but it went on so long I zoned out and started making a mental list of suggestions to send to
@james_a_michael 's Record Club . Unfortunately this will not be one of them.

10. On Pink's performance: Either her singing or aerial work could have been cool, but I think they detracted from each other. When you have Pink's fantastic voice and stage presence, that's all you need. But points for doing something really different, live. Pink is one of my favorite current artists.

11. Beyonce: Double class act for giving up her stage time to Taylor Swift. Moment of the night; not a dry eye in my livingroom.

12. Jay-Z: I wasn't into his song (although I've liked some of his other stuff), but I loved what he was wearing. He looked fantastic! Whomever designed that, Kudos!

13. Regarding the trailer for the Michael Jackson film: Blatant promotion done much too soon. Made me a little sick to my stomach.

Overall impressions on the morning after: When the host is the most rock and roll thing about what used to be a fun and irreverent show, something's terribly wrong. Although the MTV VMAs worked for several years, it's become a litany of artist performances trying to match their videos while trying to upstage each other, resulting in one big, blah blur. All that production money for each performance, and the result is that in the end no one shines. I think what the MTV Video Music Awards needs is a different producer, and a fast-paced show runner to move things along while letting the right moments breathe and shine. (What would Pierre Cossette do? RIP, Mr. Cossette.) It also needs artists who don't take themselves so seriously. It's supposed to be FUN!

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 Green Day shows. Additionally, in the 90's I worked for a major talent agency who represented Madonna and Jay-Z. Since that time I've received no financial compensation or free product in direct connection with the above-mentioned artists.' (and by extension, this blog) sells products, including music, as an Amazon Associate.

Monday, August 17, 2009

It Might Get Loud (Must See Film!)

I saw a fantastic documentary over the weekend: It Might Get Loud. It's absolutely the best music documentary I've ever seen (and I've seen tons of 'em).

It Might Get Loud is fly-on-the-wall insight into the inspirations and creative processes of Jimmy Page, U2's The Edge, and White Stripes' / Racanteurs' Jack White...three generations of rock musicians playing the records that influenced them (yes, we're talking honest to goodness vinyl here), playing music (separately and together), and explaining techniques they used to develop their trademark sounds on their most well-known tracks.

It's the stuff that most musicians get together and talk about and do...only, this is on 11. It's the stuff every guitarist, if they had the chance, would want to learn from or talk about with their idol.

If you think you know music, or you think you know these guys' music, or you think you know guitars, or even if you think you don't like these particular musicians, watch this movie and think again! It's absolutely inspiring. (And I'm pretty damn jaded.)

Highlights: Jimmy Page breaking into impromptu air guitar while listening to one of his favorite records. The Edge going through a box of his 4-track demo recordings and letting us hear some of the tracks that later became U2 songs. The opening scene of the film with Jack White. The three of them sitting in a circle on a huge soundstage with their guitars but making it seem like they're in a tiny room, and that we, the audience, are eavesdropping...bringing home the idea that THIS, the musical interaction of the circle, is what it's really all about.

Best moment: the gleam in The Edge's eyes as he moves closer to watch Jimmy Page play "Whole Lotta Love"...and Jack White's reaction. Priceless!

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 the talent agency that represented Jimmy Page and Robert Plant when they toured as Page-Plant, as well as for a concert promoter that presented some of their shows. But cool as that was, for me this documentary upped Jimmy Page's cool factor even more. This is the stuff of why I got into music., and, by extension, my blog, is an Amazon Associates music seller.

Am I too old to buy a Jimmy Page poster??? Just kidding...sort of.

Make your dreams come true!

Randi Reed
Founder / Editor in Chief,
Follow me on Twitter @MusicBizAdvice

C 2009 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Show notice: Hip-Hop and Rock Fans from Across New England Prepare to Honor the Legacy of Iconic Run-DMC DJ Jam Master Jay

We don't usually post show notices, but this one is for a great cause--RR

Jam Master Jay Foundation for Youth Tribute/Benefit

Date: Sunday July 26, 2009 Doors/Red Carpet: 8:00PM
Patrons of the event can enjoy the 8:00 Red Carpet to show off their best adidas®, Run-DMC, and Peace Boston attire!

Show time: 8:01 SHARP until 2:00AM
Location: Harpers Ferry 158 Brighton Ave Allston, MA
Age: 18+
Price: $20 General admission, $15 for patrons wearing adidas®, Run-DMC, or the Peace Boston Bean on the Map teeshirt. Tickets are available at the door or via (full price only)

The Jam Master Jay Foundation and their special celebrity guests will arrive escorted by a motorcycle motorcade!

Scheduled to appear:

* Hip-Hop Pioneer and Grammy-award winning DJ, GrandMixer DXT (Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”) and Whodini’s Grandmaster Dee, Candi Lynn, and EnMotion, Dancers for Peace.

* DJs Cruz, Ill Neil, Koo Koo, Vance, Nestle Quik, Lefty, Ant G, Daz-One, Killer DJ, Act One, and Doc Luv will spin in a DJ salute

* Moe Pope, Agari Crew, True 2 Life Music, Perfekt and Chance, and Melodeego .

* Peace in the Streets artists Tru Indeed, Lyrical, Lisa Bello, Lady Enchantress, Tshombe, Emcee Sutter Caine, Louie Bello, and Mr. Harvey, backed by Velvet Stylus.

* Plus a “Walk This Way” tribute featuring Shaymin and special guest to be announced.

* David H., Real Talk, and DJ Cruz will host.

This breakthrough event will raise funds for The Jam Master Jay Foundation for Youth, a non-profit 501[c]3 organization developed by the mother and brother of the late legend, to continue the legacy of supporting educational and economic opportunities, including scholarship endeavors and awards, for young people ages 6-21, as well as recognize Jam Master Jay’s many contributions to Hip-Hop culture and music history.

Peace Boston will be on site and their Peace in the Streets compilation album and merchandise will be for sale to raise funds for youth violence prevention and family support efforts.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx Hates the Internet: My Response

Update 7/20/2009 2:06PM: A link to Nikki Sixx's response to the Wall Street Journal article appears at the end of this blog post.

Gotta love Nikki Sixx...The man knows exactly what to say to get attention!

Wall Street Journal Interview & Commentary: Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx Hates the Internet

( )

My response, from the Comments section after the Wall Street Journal article (in blue italics here, so I don't have to rewrite it):

"MusicBizAdviceEditor wrote:
Joe in Poughkeepsie or Sue in Roanoke has always "decided when something is a great show".It’s called Word of Mouth. The only difference is that now, instead of sitting around in their living rooms or hanging at a diner out with friends, Joe and Sue are talking to millions of people at once. You just have to keep what you can under wraps, then let Joe & Sue do your marketing for you once the cat’s out of the bag. As for Twitter, it’s long past the "eating a ham sandwich" stage and has morphed into a viable medium for quickly sharing & finding information…as well as an instant focus group."

I do, however, understand Nikki's feelings about trying to maintain the mystique. For good or bad, when fans find out "too much" about their favorite artist, it alters whatever image they've created in their own minds about that person (kind of like meeting an Internet email pal, or--if you go farther back--kind of like meeting a pen pal).

Based on their feeling about what they find, you stand a 50/50 chance of being rejected by them.

But, it can also work in your favor. There's a certain celebrity, who shall remain nameless, that I wasn't a fan of at all (to put it mildly) until I happened upon them on Twitter. This celebrity's tweets---this celeb writes their own-- have continually shown this person to be a fun, cool person with interesting things to say away from the business, who not only cares about their family, friends and fans, but about the planet as a whole. Had I not seen their tweets on Twitter, I probably would have continued to have a negative image of this person.

So tread lightly, yes, but don't reject the idea out of hand completely...

Especially if you're blessed to be as entertaining as Nikki Sixx, whose old posts from the early infancy of AOL are still legendary!

For those who don't find Twitter "ridiculous" (just kidding, Nikki), or who do but want to give it a second chance, follow me at . I'm not as entertaining as Nikki Sixx, but I have a lot of fun talking with our readers and try to give interesting info.

Randi Reed
Founder / Editor in Chief,

Update 7/20/2009: You can read Nikki's response to the Wall Street Journal article & comments here.

Disclosure of Endorsements/Recommendations/Financial Compensation or Business Relationships per FTC Blog Disclosure Regulations in effect December 1, 2009: In the early 90's I worked for the talent agency that booked Motley Crue, and before that I worked for a concert promotion company that presented many Motley Crue shows. Since that time I've received no financial compensation or free product in direct connection with the band or its individual members. The website, and by extension, this blog, sells Amazon products, including music, as an Amazon Associate. 

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Deja Vous? I hope not...(Michael Jackson / Anna Nicole)

While the world awaits the coroner's report on the death of Michael Jackson, and the cause of his death is purely speculation, details that are coming out in the media seem all too reminiscent of the death of Anna Nicole Smith. Whether that turns out to actually be the case, we do know that Michael Jackson struggled with addiction to painkillers...which is enough, IMHO, for a bit of reflecting on the care (notice I did not say "handling") of addicted clients.
On Friday, February 09, 2007 on this very subject. I wish I'd never have to repeat it again, but maybe it might help someone.
Did Hollywood Kill Anna Nicole Smith?

While the definitive cause of Anna Nicole Smith’s death probably won’t be in for weeks, regardless of the autopsy result, anyone who saw her recent interviews on Entertainment Tonight could see she was obviously impaired by substance abuse. (When someone’s eyes are going in two different directions…) So, I’d like to talk about the addicted celebrity client.

Did Hollywood kill Anna Nicole Smith? Speaking as someone who grew up around chemical addiction in a small-town, non-showbiz family, I really don’t think so. I think the addiction gene or addictive personality (whatever your belief happens to be about the root cause) is either there, or it isn’t.

But, also speaking as someone who’s been in the role of agent, artist manager, and prior to that, as personal assistant, do I think Hollywood contributed to the death of Anna Nicole Smith? Absolutely.

When you have people making money from whatever the celebrity’s status quo is at a given moment, someone in the mix will have an interest in keeping the celebrity in that money-making status quo…Even at the risk of a self-destructive celebrity. (The same status-quo dynamic happens in non-showbiz families too, by the way, but because the motivation is usually more about fear of change than about big money, it’s less overt and is more subconscious.)

It comes down to the kind of people the celebrity surrounds him or herself with. If a celebrity with an addictive personality (or the addiction gene) is surrounded by “yes” people who tell them what they want to hear, that celebrity is going to be in trouble.

I’ve heard some managers and agents say, “It’s none of my business.”

I disagree. It is their business, and getting help for a troubled client is part of being a good manager or agent.

If you work in the industry long enough, you see first-hand that creativity is often borne of pain, and that many clients had troubled childhoods or estranged family relationships and seek fame as a way to fill a void. So to make money off that client and then ignore their need for professional help when that pain (or the attempted numbing of it) gets out of hand is not only irresponsible, it’s inexcusable.

If you have signing privileges (i.e., power of attorney) and can sign your clients’ name on contracts, it’s your business. If you travel in the immediate vicinity with your client (reports say at least 6 people were staying at the hotel with Anna Nicole Smith) or are privy to the details of your clients’ day to day life, it’s your business. If you have keys to your clients’ home, it’s not only your business, you have no excuse not to get them off to rehab ASAP. More than once if necessary.

(And I’m talking hard-core, real-deal rehab like-Betty Ford or Hazelden…not Rehab Lite.)

I’ve heard a lot of people comparing Anna Nicole’s death to that of Marilyn Monroe. I disagree with that as well. Marilyn died in 1962, pre-Betty Ford Center, when very little was known about addiction or even about the addictive nature of some of the prescription medications she was taking.

This is 2007, and we all know better.

Meanwhile, the headlines surrounding the death of Anna Nicole Smith are getting stranger by the minute…The latest, courtesy of MSNBC, is that Zsa Zsa Gabor’s 9th and current husband, Prince Frédéric von Anhalt, says he could be the baby’s father. And it gets even more bizarre: In his press conference today, Prince Frederic (who allegedly essentially bought his title) said Anna Nicole told him she’d always wanted to be a princess, so he’d tried to make that happen for her by attempting to adopt Anna Nicole. But, Prince Frederic said, Zsa Zsa wouldn’t sign the adoption papers. (I kid you not, folks. I saw him say this in the press conference with my own eyes.)

That all these people are coming out of the woodwork with press conferences after her death just proves my point: Anna Nicole needed someone to protect her. If not a good family, then at the least, by very good management…

Very good management does exist, by the way. But unfortunately it doesn’t usually make for very interesting headlines.
Copyright 2007 Randi Reed and All rights reserved.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Name for American Idol?

Wow, must the producers of American Idol be ticked (more specifically, the artist management arm of the show): Just when American Idol had finally achieved a sense of legitimacy within the music industry and we'd almost forgotten the Taylor Hicks debacle...BAM!

No surprises on American Idol's finale tonight, but I am thinking American Idol should be renamed...Here are a few suggestions:

"Rock" Star Lite (with the word "rock" in ironic quotation marks, as shown)

The Guy (or Girl) the American Idol Audience is the Least Afraid Of

The Music Idol of Christian Conservatives

The Guy Next Door Who Can Sing and Had Some Nice Moments but Who Doesn't Have as Much Star Quality as the Guy Who Really Should Have Won

The Guy Who Has Some of the Elements of the Total Package But Still Needs a Little Work on One or Two of Them

The Guy or Girl Most Appealing to Fox

Come on People! Kris Allen is talented, and he has some nice moments. But when Kris himself on the winner's stage seemed genuinely shocked and said, with true sincerity, that it should have been Adam, there's a problem.

As I wrote in our MBADC American Idol Armchair Quarterback column on, of the two finalists, Adam Lambert is the total package: vocal ability, stage presence, looks, star quality, and needs the least development to be great.

Kris Allen has some, but not as many, of those elements. I'm not saying he doesn't have the potential. I even chose him as one of my favorites on one of his performance nights in the early part of the competition. But an idol needs more than potential. It should be there already. Adam already has it.

Idols are supposed to be different than the guy next door. Paraphrasing what Simon Cowell said recently in an interview, stars sparkle like diamonds and should be rare. I wholeheartedly agree.

On the upside, at least Adam doesn't have to sing or promote the winner's song ever again!

Advice to next year's wannabe winners on Idol: Pretend to be an evangelical, and talk about it a lot in interviews. Looking at the show's track record of winners, you'll apparently have a better shot.

(I'm kidding, so relax. I have nothing against religion, just a problem with those who try to make their own religion everyone else's. Believe whatever you like, live and let live, and don't exclude others who don't happen to believe what you do. Excluding others on the basis of their beliefs is what led to a whoooooooole lotta trouble in Germany, among other places.)

Someone, please bring back Rock Star (and its music director and house band with it)...It was sooo much better than American Idol. And a hell of a lot more believable!

Meanwhile, if you want to read our week by week rundown of the entire American Idol season, it's here:

Saturday, February 28, 2009

LIve Nation / Ticketmaster Merger and the Future of Live Music? Stuff Everyone's Forgetting

Lately there's been a lot of back and forth discussion in the industry about the proposed Live Nation / Ticketmaster merger and its possible effects on the music industry (particularly the live concerts end of the business). With the recent judiciary hearing on whether the merger should even be allowed, more of my colleagues, former bosses, mentors, friends, and even foes are piping in.

Do I have a solution? No. Just suggestions. But whether the merger happens or not, there are some points everyone seems to be forgetting:

1. Despite the current economy, Movie ticket sales are up because people are looking for an escape. They could be spending that money on music tickets instead.

Why aren't they? Because just 20 years ago you could buy a ticket to see a top act for only a little more than twice the price of a movie ticket. Now a concert ticket costs more than 10 times the cost of a movie ticket.

Doesn't anyone else in this business think it's insane that in many markets, an airline ticket is cheaper than a concert ticket? (In Los Angeles in recent years, I've seen fares to Europe that were cheaper than the face value on a ticket to see the Stones or Madonna.)

The music business is collectively putting itself out of business by way of greed, and it's gotta stop.

2. Everyone seems to forget the simple concept of perpetual audience growth: new customers across several demographics.

Whether it's Hannah Montana or the Jonas Brothers, or the Eagles or Bruce, when you break it down, the majority of "new" customers at big shows are the kids of parents who happen to be wealthy enough to take them. Since it's the parent buying the ticket, that means in reality, it's actually one demographic for all those artists. (As opposed to what would have been two or three separate demographics a mere 15 years ago.)

With such an ultra-targeted demographic (whose kids are off to college soon, and whose 401ks have imploded) how can there possibly be growth?

Hannah Montana and Jonas Brothers fans grow up. And God knows I love the Eagles, Bon Jovi, and Springsteen, but however much we'd like them to, they can't tour forever (though I'm starting to believe Bruce and Bon are part Energizer Bunny). Who's the next round of arena acts, and who will go to see those next acts? Remember what's happened to symphonies in the US during the past 20 years? The audience is literally dying off without a new audience coming in.

3. More on audience growth: In many areas of the US we now have an entire generation and a half of kids who haven't had music programs in their public schools. (I know a lot of you reading this have kids in private schools with great music programs, but your kids get tickets for free, so we're not talking about them.) How can you generate interest in something that doesn't exist?

Ask the average 17 or 18 year old who goes to a public school what was the last concert they went to. (Or better yet, if they've ever even attended one in their life.) I stopped asking intern applicants "what's the last concert you went to" long ago because most haven't been at all.

And in case anyone hasn't noticed, MySpace and Facebook are actually a passive, as opposed to an active, way to enjoy recorded music. It's thinly disguised as active, but the main attraction on MySpace isn't the music; it's how many Friends kids rack up to become "famous" themselves. (If music were really the main attraction, wouldn't they be called MusicPlace or MusicBook?)

4. Do we really need a new damn arena every 10-15 years???

New arenas = higher venue costs= higher ticket prices. Yes, in many cases fans voted for them to be built. But fans are concerned with economic prosperity for their towns, not show expenses. That's our job.

And now that some of the banks from those branded arenas have imploded, now what?)

Suggestions for dealing with the challenges

I don't have a solution, but I do have suggestions. At first glance some of them may look like the ship has sailed, but in the right hands, I really don't think so. Everything comes back around, just in a different way.

1. Figure out a way to get back to basics: Music. Not ring tones (Muzak is dead, won't ringtones, which are essentially the same thing on a different device, die too?). Not texts. Not games. Not anything that doesn't put the music at the forefront.

2. Hire people who start in music and work their way up...
Not former telecom execs, not computer guys, not your brother-in-law who worked at HBO...not people from other industries. Hire people with a passion for music and for making money at it. I'm not saying don't hire business-minded people. I'm saying, hire business-minded people who want to make money in music, not just make money.

After all, isn't that the secret to Irving's success? Regardless of what you think about him, the man knows music and the people who perform it.

Remember the first piece of business advice successful people always give to someone who's tying to figure out a career goal: "Follow your passion, apply hard work, and the money will follow."

And what about Clive Davis? The man worked with Bob Dylan 1963 and is still a name in the business because he gets the music.

3. Remember the concept of "Sell to the Masses if you want to wear a Rolex". We've gotta find a way to keep ticket prices at bay so more people can afford an escape.

Selling to the masses worked for Ebay. Selling to the masses also got our current president elected.

Some artists are doing their best to try to keep ticket prices at bay. But there's a hell of a lot of pressure to make those Boxscore numbers so people will keep hiring them, and it's become a vicious circle.

4. Work with team owners and city officials to find alternatives for building new arenas. Empty arenas would be everyone's problem, so everyone needs to be in on prevention.

5. Have more respect for the fans. Remember back when you were a music fan? (If not, I'm sorry, but you're in the wrong business.) Fans pay our salaries, so the least you can do is be grateful. If not for the fans, none of us would have ever had a music industry job in the first place.

And I'll let you in on something: more than ever, fans are aware of their importance. Why do you think over the past 15 years fans are more likely than ever to sue if something goes wrong at a show? It's because they resent the flat-out greed they've observed in the industry over the past 15 years.

We've gotta stop holding music fans hostage with ticket prices before we lose them completely.

6. Think like the entertainment moguls did during the Great Depression.

The media is filled with people comparing today's economic crisis to the Great Depression. Yet despite the unemployment rate of 25% in the 1930's, the entertainment business was booming. Expensively made movies were kicking *ss at the box office. It was also the dawning of the Big Band era, which ushered in commercial radio and the recording industry as we'd come to know for nearly 60 years.

In fact
it was only a couple of decades ago that the entertainment industry was still thought to be one of the few industries that was "mostly recession proof" because people would always need an escape.

If people in the '30's took advantage of the opportunity to develop business models and multiple new technologies that created demand and made live music affordable for consumers, why can't we?

I haven't said anything in this we didn't already know. It's just time we remembered it.

Randi Reed
Founder / Editor in Chief,
c 2009