(Or When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Make Copies)
You now have a winning mix in your possession, and you want the world to hear it.
What do you do?
You could shop your stuff with some major labels by sending them a copy of
your hard work on a tape or CD, and sit at home waiting for that call or
that letter telling you that you have the next Grammy-winner. You could daydream
about some A&R person to contact you about getting signed to a contract.
You could envision being on stage performing your songs, wowing crowds, doing
some whirlwind tour opening for a headliner at the Garden or the Apollo.
Is that what you think?
Let's visit that concept awhile.
On the average, A&R (artists and repertoire) reps flag about 500 to 1000
tapes and CD's a day. Many by artists just like you with visions of stardom
and fame. It's not a bad thing to dream about that, Really. It's just that
the competition out there is increasing exponentially, and the chances of
your music actually reaching the ears of a major record label favorably are
slim to none (more like none to none). Your hard work winds up in the drawer
along with 100,000 other hopefuls. And believe it when I tell you, as good
as you know you are, there is ALWAYS! someone better, and their chances are
as slim as yours.
Not only that, but if you send your music to a label and it gets turned down
(more than likely), the word may get out about you, making it harder for
you to shop your stuff any further. If it gets sidelined, you may as well
stop right there. Your name is MUD after that initial brush-off.
Some moderate success has been achieved by using a music Attorney to shop
music for an artist, but then you have to remember, Attorneys Get Paid for
what they do, and your budget is already grass roots.
Record Companies are in the business to make money, never forget that. If
you by some slim chance have something they can use, don't congratulate yourself
just yet. There will be loopholes in the contracts they offer, when they
offer them. Such as the money they take out for things like Promotion, Radio
Airplay, Booking Expenses, Studio Time (there's that ugly monster again),
etc. Then there's the composing requirements, having to create so many songs
in a given time (and they have to be hits!). There's the contract duration
clauses to deal with, the "Exclusiveness" clause (you can't write or perform
for any other company), the "Extension Options", Management Fees, the list
Then there's the heartbreak of heartbreaks. You don't own your music anymore.
You Give Up All Your Copyrights To The Company. That means that when your
contract runs out, you can't perform or record any of the songs you created
for them without getting their permission!
Ain't that a gas!
As Prince (you know, formerly The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) says,
"If You Don't Own The Masters, The Masters Own You". He got jammed real hard
with Warner Bros. behind the masters to his material. But he was smart. When
his contract with them ran out, he was set up to claim all that back,
Even His Own Name!
But there is a way around all that hoopla. It is risky, but the music business
always has been a risky undertaking.
Ready for a laugh?
We know the major labels don't really care about you, the person or you,
the artist. They care about you, the asset. Your music is important to them
only as long as it's making money. But the risk factor is on their side the
whole time. So there can be only one solution to the problem of who's going
to put out your music.
Stop laughing! It's easier than you think. The only way you can be absolutely
sure that a label is going to market your music is for you to
Pick yourself up off the floor and pay attention!
The first thing you need is publisher affiliation. You need to license your
music for public performance. A music licensing organization like BMI, or
Broadcast Music Inc., licenses works to be publicly performed on stage, on
the radio, on TV, in the movies, you get the drift. By becoming a publisher
and a writer affiliate, you own all the rights to your material, and then
people have to ask YOU for permission to perform YOUR songs. I could waste
space telling you how they work, but it would be easier for you to ask them.
To get to their Web site, go to http://www.bmi.com (or ASCAP - http://www.ascap.com,
The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers).
You will find the address to write and get all the information you need to get started with them.
Once you are registered with them, you are a bona fide publisher, holding
genuine copyrights to all of your music. There is a fee to become an affiliate,
but the fee is so small, you will be amazed at how simple it really is. It
may seem complicated at first, but in a short time you will fully understand.
Now to become a record label. This involves getting in touch with the
American Federation Of Musicians, the Union (http://www.afm.org). There is a fee there too,
a little larger, but when you are done there, you are virtually a bona fide label. The only
thing you need to do is come up with a name for it.
After consulting with and signing with these two organizations, you will
be an independent record label. Check with local and state laws, you may
be required to obtain a business license. Don't sweat it, though, when it's
over, you'll be glad you went the distance.
OK, you're a composer, musician, publisher, and a record label owner. Time
to get some air play happening. You go to your local hit radio station with
your published music in your hand (note: your music MUST be published before
a radio station will even look at it). You talk to the DJ (or try to anyway)
to play your song. He laughs in your face. You walk away feeling like the
biggest fool God ever put on Earth, Relax. You didn't do anything wrong.
The fact is that most local DJ's in these hit radio stations demand money
to play songs by unknowns. The popular term for this is "Payola", and it
is a common thing among popular DJ's. Personally, I think they are lowlifes
to do something like that to people who support them and treat them like
stars. But unfortunately it's not illegal, just frowned upon. They don't
care, they just want to get paid. And most of the time the amount is ridiculously
high, and they only play your song once, during a time they know no one's
listening. Pretty low, huh? Well, think about that the next time you hype
your favorite local DJ as the best thing since sliced bread.
They're bigger crooks than the record moguls.
But you still want your music played.
How do you do this?
There is a vast untapped resource out there that no one pays much attention
to because they underestimate the listener base. You ready for this?
COLLEGE RADIO STATIONS!
There you go laughing again. While you're busy wiping the tears from your
eyes, let me explain the logic.
First of all, in most college stations, any DJ, or radio personality, who
engages in payola is usually kicked out of school, or at least out of the
program. You see, these are students majoring in communications, and they
are doing it for a GRADE! Almost all of the time they are on the air, they
are eager to play some local stuff. They solicit responses to local artists'
music, sometimes playing it several times depending on the response.
Talk to the program director!
They are the people who set up the play list
for the jocks. Get them to listen to your stuff. Remember, they are probably
around your age, or at least have some of the same musical interests you
have, and most of all, it's free. If you do by some chance get turned down,
it won't be because you didn't pay them off. Often a turn-down could be the
result of something as simple as time constraint, or incompatibility. But
they usually have different types of music playing at different times of
the day or week. Plus, there are a lot of college stations around. If you
live in an area with such a school, take full advantage of their communications
Well, this has certainly been work, huh? But believe me, the pointers I've
given thus far can go a long way if you just stick to a plan of action, and
don't let yourself be taken by the crooks in the business claiming to be
in your best interest. The person best suited to determine what's in your
best interest is YOU!
WELL, at this point, there is not much more that you need to know that you won't
find out through experience in the field. You will undoubtedly have questions
of a particular nature that we didn't cover in this article. If so, I invite
you to write to me and ask whatever you want. If I can't answer you, I can
direct you to someone or to a site that can.
I wish you the best of luck in your musical venture, and much success in
Before you leave, though, please sign the Forest Pro guest book and let me
know what you think about my little mini-class. You can send me e-mail at
P. S. Merry Christmas!!!
Email Me At - email@example.com