Friday, January 26, 2007

Rich or Famous?

When I meet with potential music clients, I have a threshold question:

Do you want to be rich or do you want to be famous?

How they answer tells me volumes about what they really want to achieve and which route they want to take.

There are many right answers and a few wrong ones.

A rapper who tells me all he wants is a major deal has pretty much ended the conversation. I will give him advice and tell him the horror stories (who doesn't remember the TLC "Behind the Music" where they showed on-screen how 10 million records netted them each $150k? or the regional tale of Lil Flip). Often, he'll stare at me blankly and think I don't know what the hell I am talking about when I tell him getting signed as an unknown individual artist to a major is unlikely at best and, if he is able to do it, it will be for 1/20 of the amount he thinks.

Few people understand the struggle of making it in the industry. The concept of "making it" differs depending on your goals. I have one client who just wants to buy a van and tour with his band. To him, that is success -- enough money to have his bandmates quit their crappy day-jobs and spend 4 months on the road building their audience. For another, the goal is selling platinum in the first week and expanding his career into movies.

I remember meeting with an artist a couple of years ago . . . it was a favor for a friend, a VC who was bored and looking to dabble, after meeting a rapper who talked a good game. The artist brought his producer and some other guy to the meeting. I knew about 5 minutes into the meeting that this would be an unmitigated disaster: they hired a publicist in LA (we were in Texas) before they finished their album. They had no other steps done. No booking agent. No management. No marketing. No plan. But, they were so excited that they hired and paid this publicist $15,000 who said she could help them get on the radio. The naïveté still astounds me! (I think I assigned him reading The Musician's Legal and Business Guide before he talked to anyone else.)

I only try to take on one or two new music artists a year. I have learned, over time, that I prefer entrepreneurial artists who are willing to invest in their own careers. If you think that signing with me means your future is guaranteed, then we are not right for each other.

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