June 2002

Volume 1

June 4, 2002

Payola

I read recently that it costs 1 million dollars in payola fees to get a song on the air (in high rotation). I would never do that, but my question is, how do you word that in your taxes as a legitimate business expense considering payola is illegal. Do you just take the loss or do some creative accounting and label it as other things like a "DJ incentive program," maybe? I can't help but think of the commercial for a credit card company that runs often.

advertising fees....$100,000

studio fees......$75,000

music video....$300,000

payola....priceless (well, no not really)

Announcer: There are some things in life money can't buy, but for everything else, there's payola. Accepted at radio stations everywhere. 

To the credit card company that made that commercial and DJs, don't get mad, I'm kidding.

Lip Syncing

When a singer lip syncs, doesn't it remind you of ventriloquism. Some people criticize singers who lip sync because they do dance routines. I don't think that's fair to them though. A lot of singers have trouble singing and doing their dance routine without it effecting their vocal performance. I think some allowances should be made.   

British Music Industry

I love Britain and British music. I have since I was a child. According to my parents, the first record I really loved as a child and sang all the time was by a British male solo artist. However, I'm too embarrassed to name that record now, not because of the artist, because he has a very good voice, but because of the title of the song and the fact that I was only 4 years old and should not have been singing that song. I really had no clue of what I was singing though. 

Isn't it great how British artists speak with really eloquent accents, but are able to sing with no accent. I've wondered about that for some time now.   

Sales of UK music hit an all time low this year and for the first time since 1963 there were no British artists in the Billboard Top 100. This has prompted members of the British music industry to call for a British Music Embassy in New York. I think it's a very interesting concept.

They could also give grants to talented acts that would give them recording hours at studios around the UK with engineer, tape and mastering fees included. That would  increase the number of quality artists and record signings in the UK and eventually as imports here. We could use the same program in America to improve the quality of the music here as well.

The problem isn't that America has lost interest in British music. That's not the case at all. The newer executives at American record companies do not know that much about British music or how to market it. That's apart of the problem. 

Another problem is that some British acts do not want to fly back and forth on 8 hour treks, leaving their families behind to promote here and that's understandable.  Think about it, you're flying for 8 hours which is the equivalent of a work day. Some acts have based themselves here for weeks and months at a time and received good results, but a few haven't and suffered in sales because of that. Still there is a way to minimize that and still successfully promote the product.

There have been a few breakthroughs this year, but these artists still haven't reached their full potential here and that is due in part to the labels that signed them here. The companies are doing their best, but if you do not understand the music, you will not be able to market it correctly. The average singer isn't an executive. They do not know the best way to market their music. They depend on the record company to draw out their strengths. So it becomes a  situation where everyone's trying, but not able to communicate with each other properly because of the difference in music culturally.

The type of music is another factor. A lot of the best acts don't make it over here because they aren't commercial enough and as a result aren't getting signed by our labels. Therefore, some of the best music the country has to offer, never reaches our shores. There are British acts that I've loved for years who are not getting signed by US labels because they just don't see their potential.

I mean no disrespect to America or Britain, because record companies everywhere are opting for the quick buck as opposed to quality music. A lot of executives fail to realize that people don't need music. It's not like food or water that can be sold and people will buy out of necessity. It should be of quality because after a short time, certain commercial genres do not last. 

You know the saying cream rises to the top. Over the years I've thought to myself that in music that's not usually the case anymore. Even if you don't have a great voice, it's okay, you can still make quality music. There are so many manufactured bands and uninspired music out there, but because it is youth oriented and the singers are photogenic, it goes to the top of the charts. Though I do believe a band can be manufactured or pre-fab without being put together by a record company/production company or even being a band. I'm not referring to anyone in particular because there are several, but some solo artists have a pre-fab look, sound and style. Which makes some people wish for a sound off button. 


June 6, 2002

Indie

Isn't the word "indie" just another synonym for the term "low budget." I really shouldn't laugh at that considering I have an indie company, but it is very funny and for people who have indie companies or have worked at them...don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. It's fun when you make it though, more fun than if you were at a major.


June 10, 2002

Music Piracy

There's a big controversy about an album that was just released which was leaked to music swapping web sites weeks before its original release date. The record company had to push up the release date and give out 2 million complimentary DVDs in an effort to combat the effects of the internet piracy of the CD. I thought it quite unfair that the label had to do all that to try to preserve sales. When the album was released, it sold over 1.5 million copies in it's first eight days of release and with the benefit of a holiday weekend. 

People in favor of music swapping web sites are using the album's high first week sales to argue that the on line leak didn't cost the record company any sales. I disagree. Let's not insult everyone's intelligence. If you can get something for free, you are not going to buy it. That is just not human nature. The argument about downloading serving as a form of promotion or advertising is rubbish. If that's the case the advertising industry should file lawsuits against file swapping sites for stealing revenues from them. 

Why is it that this artist's last album sold 1.7 million copies in it's first seven days of release and his new release sold fewer copies in the same space of time. He is at the height of his fame, his record company is more established and experienced than they were with his last release, his new single is on par with his last album's first single and received a lot of video and airplay. So what went wrong? Why the noticeable decline in sales? That's where those free downloads went. If anything, he should be selling more. I wondered about this and these questions crossed my mind:  

How much would this release have sold had it not been leaked?

Would it have surpassed his last release in first week sales?

Would it have set the new record for the most amount of CDs sold in one week?

What about the 2 million complimentary DVD's that were issued with this release. How does it factor into all of this. It stands to reason, the DVD would boost sales of the CD, yet the first week numbers were still lower than his previous release. Why and what about the extra initial costs?

How much would the CD have sold had it not been leaked, but released without the complimentary DVD anyway and how much would the DVD have sold on its own? Hey, the record company had to author, manufacture and distribute this DVD, so why not ask.

No record company should have to face those questions, but most likely the label has thought of what has been lost due to the pirating of this album. We know for a fact there is a sales decline, but other factors figure into it as well as to how many copies would have been sold in that first week. This shows that this album has suffered a decline in sales because of on line piracy.  

Hypothetically speaking, I would not buy a record that I downloaded for free off the internet (I don't use music swapping web sites).

There's something about getting things for free that appeals to human nature. It's like you feel you've got an edge, an advantage, like you've outsmarted  someone, know more than your fellow man. Sadly in this case, it just plain old theft. No sale, no discount, no bargain, no flea market find, just plain old theft.  


June 11, 2002

Prenuptial Agreements

Why do some people not want to sign them. Why do some people view them as an insult. I wouldn't be insulted if someone asked me to sign one. If you love someone, it would show that you don't care about their money and that you do care about them. Still some people find them insulting and a sign of mistrust and I can see why. 

Still, people change and history has shown when people in a marriage feel hurt and betrayed, they can sometimes be irrational because of their distressed emotional and mental state. It's not always about money either or the commonly used term "maintaining the lifestyle they've become accustomed to." A lot of times it's just revenge. This vengefulness can lead them to want to bankrupt their spouse as payback for infidelity, mistreatment and or abandonment (how sad when it's all three).

There have been divorce cases where spouses have walked away with part ownership of businesses they did not help build nor care about. These spouses then retain significant control and or voting stock and sometimes make business decisions out of spite to make their former spouse's life difficult. 

Don't get me wrong. I do not agree with infidelity, mistreating people or abandonment. I think the union of marriage is God given, wonderful and should not be abused. God takes marriage very seriously and so should we. It's very unwise not to. 

Some spouses have a lot to protect. They have financial obligations and people in their employment that they are responsible for. When you add a bitter spouse to the equation in a business, innocent people could suffer from a war that's really between two people.

Then there's the spouse that wants more than they are entitled to out of sheer greed. I believe people should take care of their children. It is a biblical principle. So is alimony, but some petitions are just excessive and unjustified. 

I see why in the Bible God says "I hate divorce."  


June 13, 2002

Tell All Books And Documentaries

Why do people stoop so low. Tell all books are nothing but revenge in paperback or hardcover and tell all documentaries are nothing but revenge on film. The really sad part is so many innocent people get hurt. People you wouldn't expect, like the focus of the exposť's children.

Kids may not acknowledge it, but they do understand. They can sense when something is wrong. Some parents don't give their children enough credit that they understand more than they let on. Knowing that children are hurt by their family's revelations is something that breaks my heart because it's causing unnecessary trauma to them. A lot of the people who do these tell all stories are spouses or family members and are not thinking about the children when they sell these stories. 

It's sad to think a person can be married to someone for years, telling them the intimate details of their life and they turn around and betray them by revealing it to the world. That's a sin and it shows a lack of character. 

Some celebrities date someone, get married or hire a person who then sees a financial opportunity or simply grows bitter towards them, so they do a tell all piece out of revenge. Some people live really risky lives and are easy prey for this, but it is still an invasion of privacy. Some people require employees to sign confidentiality agreements which is a good idea. There have been articles where secretaries overstepped their boundaries and spoke about their employer's private life in a very scandalous manner. It's one thing to clear up  misconceptions about your boss, but it's quite another to tell all their business.

People like to capitalize on the public's fascination with public figures lives. It's one thing to write a good biography on someone with their permission, but a tell all book is quite another. Secrets should remain just that, secrets. There are things I don't want to know about certain singers, actors and politicians because it's none of my business.

Don't get me wrong, I do not idolize people. The Bible says it's a sin and offensive to God. I also think it's sad when a person calls another human who is not Jesus the name god. To call a fallible human being god is laughable. Therefore, I'm not trying to preserve some hero image of public figures. I just don't like seeing people embarrassed, taken advantage of and the private details of their lives made public. Sometimes you are embarrassed reading certain revelations in the paper or hearing it on the news, but more ashamed and sorry for the person who revealed it.

People sell their stories to publishers, newspapers and magazines and accept payment which really isn't an honorable way to earn a living. And they say being a musician or artist isn't a real job.  

When I read about the divorce of a public figure, I think to myself, oh here comes the tell all book, yawn! 


June 18, 2002

Anti-Suicide

People need to value their lives and make the best of what God has given them. Suicide is a sin that costs a person their soul (unless it was accidental). Don't do it. Everything's gonna be okay. I've written songs about it because I feel people need to be encouraged not to do this to themselves. I know things can be really bad sometimes, but God loves you and doesn't want you to take your life. 

It's strange when someone receives acclaim or becomes famous for essentially doing nothing or having very little talent in their chosen field. It seems odd, out of place and incomprehensible...but it happens. Some people are born into honor because of their family's name and or wealth, but really have done nothing to earn the prestige that comes with it. I'm not trying to insult anyone, it just seems unfitting. People in those situations should start careers or do good works for charities. That would be worthy of acclaim and very commendable. Use your name and or wealth for positive means. 

Scratched CDs

A subject of significantly less importance, but worth mentioning is how much of a nuisance it is when a CD gets scratched especially over your favorite songs on the disc. They skip, repeat or just don't play at all. Some CDs I own can't easily be replaced because they are out of print and not even available for sale at specialty stores. The CD scratch removers aren't bad though.

Which makes me think of the times I've spent in record stores since I was about 8 years old searching for good records and CDs. It's especially nice when you find a great song at a great price. It's genetic. My dad's been collecting records for over 40 years. 

A funny joke my 12 year old god brother told me that he read somewhere:

The light at the end of the tunnel is good, just as long as it isn't a train.


June 19, 2002

Art

Art. What is art. Some pieces you look at and think is it art or is it fart (yes very tacky I know, not a word I use frequently, but I thought it appropriate in this instance).

I've heard garrulous speeches on pieces of art, while I'm there thinking to myself, that's a picture of a little boat with trees in the background. Tell me how it's worth $5,000,000. I mean, for $5,000,000 paint me a detailed map and security plans and access codes of a gallery that holds million dollar paintings or a thriving bank. I'm kidding, I do not condone robbing galleries or banks. I think it's wrong.

I understand the historical aspect of certain works, but if a painting doesn't move you, why buy it. You're only buying it because people tell you it's art and you're supposed to like it, somehow convincing you even though you really don't have the foggiest clue as to what you are looking at. Now that's what I call a good sales pitch. If I convinced you cow manure was good, would you buy that as well. Aisha remembers Miami doesn't really have farms, limiting the supply of manure. Never mind. If I lived in Georgia, that business idea would have been feasible, farms everywhere. Anyway...

Then there's the story of the mom in Strasbourg that discovered her son was stealing art. Outraged at his behavior, she destroyed and dumped 1.4 billion dollars worth of works and items that belonged to galleries and private collectors around the world. The thought of that is mind boggling. 1.4 billion dollars worth of works destroyed, that didn't even belong to them. 

Then there's the hoax perpetrated by a singer and an author where they created a fake artist that was supposed to have been a close friend of Picasso. Surprisingly many critics lied to save face by saying they had heard of the artist and knew his work, not knowing the artist was a fictional character created by the singer and author. At the book launch in New York commemorating the fake artist's work, they revealed that it was a hoax much to the chagrin of several prominent art connoisseurs. 

While some people genuinely love art, there are people who do not and say they do just for show. I read about counterfeit paintings that fooled many people in the art buying world and I thought about that. That incident alone is proof that a lot of people do not know what they are looking at, let alone appreciate it. Since many of them at that level can't tell a counterfeit, doesn't it make you feel better that you didn't know much about art anyway. 

I buy art. I have a few contemporary pieces (pardon the pun) but I prefer to paint pieces as opposed to buying (no I'm not cheap). You get to customize your art to reflect your tastes. It's much more personal...and a lot cheaper (no, I'm not cheap). 


June 20, 2002

Disbanding

Why is it some bands can't stay together. They struggle to establish the group, become successful...then spend their time fighting. Then a few years after the break up and things aren't the way they thought it would be, they say they shouldn't have broken up. It's happened so many times in the industry, but people don't learn from others mistakes.   

It's usually one member that sparks the break up and out of a desire to go solo. They see the band's present success and feel they can sustain it...but on their own as a solo artist. It's not fair to the other members, but it happens. Ironically, these solo careers start off well then fizzle out shortly after. 

Sometimes it's out of jealousy. The band were not working as a unit because one member felt another member was getting too much attention. Sometimes their complaints are correct, but sometimes they are not. Other times it's out of exhaustion. Some people can't take the pressure and wish to leave the band to spend more time with their families.    

After the break up (and unfortunately sometimes before) some fall into alcoholism, drug use and some commit suicide, which is never the answer. I encourage anyone thinking about suicide not to do it and anyone facing addiction to get sober. Even pray and ask God to give you the grace to resist taking drugs or drinking.

Sometimes record companies don't help. They sign bands they know will not have long careers, but for the quick buck they give them a deal trying to capitalize on the latest trends. It's a good financial decision, but not a good business practice. When you read the stories of what some people go through after these bands, it's very saddening. It's a difficult adjustment, but none the less, one they have to make. 

Regardless, it's one thing to sign a band you think will do well and have longevity, but it's not right signing a bad that you know will be through when the current trend is over in a couple years. But hey that's business, right...maybe. Some executives feel these acts are adults and they are giving them a chance to live their dreams and make money, but what about when it's a teen act in a genre that has a fickle audience.    

   

 


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