By George Howard & Jeff Price
(follow George on Twitter)
FOR THE MUSIC INDUSTRY:
1) BE TRANSPARENT – No more hiding behind complex royalty calculations. Man up. Be honest. Provide clear and accurate accounting. The digital world makes it easier than ever to do this.
This applies to labels, distributors, ASCAP, BMI, SESAC and anyone else you can think of. They can all be transparent if they choose to be. Right now they choose not to be.
2) PAY ON TIME! – No more artificial royalty accounting periods. Returns and co-ops are a thing of the past. Pay out and account on one way no return sales that you have been paid in the same month you get them.
The only reason to hold on to the money is to make bank interest on it. If this is what you are going to do, see #1, BE TRANSPARENT and tell artists you are doing this.
3) NO MORE SUGARCOATING AND HIDING REALITY – Seriously. Stop promising things you know you can’t deliver. Not everyone is going to be a star. Be honest, tell the truth,. Let the musician and artist know the realities of the market so they can have a better understand of what needs to be done to succeed or why things are not going the way they want them to.
4) ACKNOWLEDGE YOU WORK FOR THE ARTIST, NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND – Without the artist none of us will have jobs. They are the ones with the talent. They create culture and write songs that have an impact on the world. They are allowing us to serve them, not the other way around. This philosophy and culture must permeate everything you do. Turn this industry from one that “exploits” the artist to one that serves the artist.
5) ONLY OFFER SERVICES YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO – No more asking for rights or income from things you can’t contribute towards. If you are a label and want more money from other areas (i.e. merchandise, songwriter income, gig income etc) you actually have to provide a service that does something to earn that right. There are others out there that are specialists in these areas, can you do what they can?
6) UNDERSTAND THE ARTIST NOW HAS CHOICE – Unlike the old days, artists can now succeed without you. Labels have gone from a “must have” to a “might need”. Be clear in what you have to offer and create a fair and equitable deal in exchange for the services you are offering.
7) COMMERCIAL RADIO AND MTV NO LONGER SINGULARLY BREAK BANDS – It used to be that print, commercial radio and MTV were the three ways to break a band, no longer. Fans themselves have this power via social networking. Find ways to speak to fans directly and don’t use a middleman. Empower and excite them and they will follow.
FOR THE ARTIST
1) STOP ASKING FOR BIG ADVANCES – Understand that the economics of the business have changed for both the artists and the labels. The goal for artists and labels must be the same: create sustainable working relationships for both parties. Disproportionate advances only add tension (economic and otherwise) to an already tense dynamic. Create financial working relationships based on realistic expectations of ROI.
2) EDUCATE YOURSELF – It’s no longer acceptable (or charming) to be the un-informed artist who doesn’t know the difference between a mechanical royalty and a mechanic. You can’t claim that you’ve been taken advantage of by anyone at this point; the information you need is out there, and it’s not that hard to find. Learn it, once you have this knowledge you can then make informed decisions and decide if the other entity is doing its job. Not to mention, the labels etc already know this info and so should you.
3) TAKE RESPONSIBILITY – Stating that there is any person or thing standing in the way of you and success is a cop out. No longer can you say, “If only my records were in stores, people would buy them,” or, “If only people could hear my music they would love it.” The gatekeepers have vanished; the gates are open…go through them.
4) TAKE ACTION – Waiting for a booking agent before you tour? Waiting for a producer before you make a recording? Waiting for a label before you distribute or promote your music? Guess what, someone else isn’t waiting for anyone, and he or she is leaving you in the dust. The worst thing you can do is nothing.
5) SELL – Get over the fact that you’re the artist, and asking people for money in exchange for your art is awkward. The reality is that if your work is good, people will want to compensate you for it. You must not only give them the opportunity to do so, but make it easy for them. Be clear and transparent, and tell your customers that your music is valuable, and that if they want to ensure that you are able to keep creating the music that they enjoy, that they must pay for it. Then give them a wide variety of things to buy at different prices.
6) GIVE WITHOUT ASKING FOR ANYTHING IN RETURN – It’s not all selling, of course, and we are all in this together. Look for ways to help other artists. Share information, share resources. This is not a zero-sum game; the overall pie can expand, and we will all benefit proportionately when it does.
7) DEMAND ANSWERS – if you don’t understand something, ask. If the person you ask can’t give you a clear, understandable answer then he or she is either clueless or trying to hide something. Demand a clear, understandable answer or walk away from the deal.
8) MARKETING DOES NOT ALWAYS EQUAL SUCCESS – The major labels spent hundreds of millions of dollars marketing and promoting bands. Only 2% of them succeeded, the other 98% were deemed failures. If marketing = success, they would have had a 100% hit ratio. The reason an artist succeeds is because the music caused reaction.
9) LEAD TIME FOR STREET DATES MATTER LESS – It’s not like the old days where you only had a limited time for prime real estate in a retail store and if the CDs did not sell they would be returned. In the new model you can release music today, and market later, with little detrimental impact.
10) IT’S ABOUT A CONSTANT STREAM OF MUSIC AND MEDIA, NOT A ONCE A YEAR ALBUM RELEASE – The new world moves fast. The best strategy is to roll out songs, videos, pictures, blog postings, tweets and anything else you can think of on a constant basis. This keeps your fans engaged and stops you from losing momentum and going stale.
11) IT’S GLOBAL – The new music industry is a global one. At the click of a button your music is available to buy, share, stream and download around the world. Keep this in mind when you think about where your money is being held, generated and how to get it.
12) YOU ARE NOT POWERLESS – Music is not food, shelter or clothing, but everyone likes it and needs it. The music industry currently generates around $30 billion dollars a year. The entities and people getting this money is shifting from the legacy companies to you. Within another five years the collective power of you will be bigger than any of them. You have the power to change things, and you already are.
As just one example, in the past two years, TuneCore Artists have earned over $170 million in gross music sales and have sold over 400 million songs by paid download or stream. TuneCore Songwriters have earned over another $120 million dollars.
As you sell more, they sell less.
13) DEFINE YOUR GOALS – Know what it is you are tying to accomplish. Are you looking to be the next Vanilla Ice or just sell some music without touring? Is your goal corporate sponsorships or having others cover your songs? Whatever it may be, have a goal in mind and then work towards accomplishing that objective. With that one conquered, you can move on to the next.
DON’T EXPECT SOMETHING FOR NOTHING
It’s going to take work to make things happen. Either you need to do the work or you must hire someone else to do part, or all of it, for you. If you understand your rights, how money is made, and how much you should make, you can make educated decisions.
Got more rules? Post them here!
George Howard is the former president of Rykodisc. He currently advises numerous entertainment and non-entertainment firms and individuals. Additionally, he is the Executive Editor of Artists House Music and is a Professor and Executive in Residence in the college of Business Administration at Loyola, New Orleans. He is most easily found on Twitter at: twitter.com/gah650