"Dear B. K." or "Help!!"-Part 1 of 3

OK, kiddies, it's primer time again. That's when I get to answer real
questions from real people with real problems. Not from wannabe divas
who don't know what to do when the producer asks her to sing backup for
a change. Or the poor little rich kid who goes out and spends a small
fortune on a brand new Gretsch, and then gets bent out of shape because
I won't show him how to play it. And certainly not for the "gearheads"
among us who get their kicks looking down on and degrading "low budget"
equipment and those who use it.
I figured I'd do something a little different for a change and post some
of the actual letters I get from folks just like you with questions
just like yours. One thing, though. I will not post the names of the
people who wrote the letters or where they sent them from, because I
want to protect them from the hecklers among us who have this need to
point people out as losers who just plain don't know the business, and
most of the time don't really know what they're talking about. So if you
should see your letter in here, remember, it became mine when you sent
it. So here goes:

Dear B. K.,
I am a musician and songwriter, and have been for a long time. I
consider myself to be pretty good at it, and my friends have told me the
same thing, so I decided to record some of my stuff and put it out. I
really think it's ready for the public, and I did it on some very good
equipment. I figure I could get signed to a recording deal if someone
heard it, but I have no idea who to send it to. Who should I send my
master tape to so that it will be heard? Should I copyright my stuff
first or wait until I get a deal? I really would appreciate it if you
could help.

Signed, "Spreading My Wings"

Dear "Wings":
It does my heart good to see musicians come out of hiding and make an
effort to release some new material to the public. I could only hope
that it is for the right reasons. If you are doing it because it is a
righteous contribution to the wealth of musical styles already in place,
I am truly in your corner and will not hesitate to offer support. But I
get a little bit queasy when I hear the mention of "record deals" and "sending
Let me say you were right on point all the way up until you mentioned "get
signed to a record deal". That is the dream of the century, my friend,
and is a no-no simply because of the vast numbers of artists already out
there. These days, getting signed to a label has become less lucrative
(if that's your goal) than starting your own label. There are fewer and
fewer perks as the days go by. One aspect of signing with a major is
that you have no say where your creations are going to wind up. Your
best stuff may wind up as bits on a "sampler CD", which is mostly
promotional in nature. You as a featured artist may be lost in the
shuffle of record company bureaucratic B. S., until such time as THEY
feel you are ready to release something. And then you don't write and
perform because you want to, you do it because you have to, and where's
the fun in that?
After all, you play music to have fun, although you may want to make a
little money in it at some point. But if your main goal is to get rich
in the music business, hang it up completely. As I said, there are now
millions of groups out there doing the work who will never get rich at
it, no matter how long they are in it. I'm not saying give up the dream,
just give up the dream of getting rich.
NEVER send a master tape or any masters to any record company under any
circumstances. Masters are the end result of all your creative work, so
why would you just hand it over to some wig who says he or she will
listen to it and get back to you? Uh-Uh, jack, you listen to it now while
I have it, or I'll release it myself. It may take longer to get it out
there, but at least I know that when it gets there, I'll still own it.
As for copyright, that should be the first thing you do after you
complete the work. It can seem a little expensive at first, but stack it
up next to having your material stolen with you not being able to claim
ownership. I think that twenty dollars a song is a small price to pay
if my music is that important to me. That's what it costs per song, but
the benefit is that any royalties paid on songs copyrighted individually
equal 100%, while "anthology-style" copyrights only pay equal to the
portion of the song as it relates to the group it's in. For example, if
you copyright five songs on one form, the royalty for one of the songs
would only be 20%, unless the entire anthology is played. But in any
event, it is in your best interest to copyright each piece of music you
want to release.
To learn the "working man's" method to starting your own label, log on
to www.dsrrecords.8m.com, and take advantage of the free information and
links to resurces you may find very useful. You will be amazed at how
easy it really is.
Take care, and good luck. See you at the Grammys!!

B. K.


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