and David Kessel (R) at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Los Angeles. I was born in Hollywood.
You have a pretty interesting family. Tell me about them.
My dad is a jazz guitar player, Barney Kessel. My stepmom,
B.J. Baker, is one of the top vocal background and vocal contractors
in the history of the Hollywood music business. She did records
with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sam Cooke, Ray Price, Elvis
and all kinds of people.
So you were privileged at a very early age to meet some
of these artists and go to some of the sessions.
Yeah, a lot of heavy sessions from a very early age. I went
to jazz sessions and rock sessions. I remember being three
years old in the studio when my dad was recording with Ray
Brown and Shelly Mann.
The story goes, I'm told, that one day your dad took you
and your brother Dan to a recording session with legendary
producer Phil Spector.
Absolutely. My dad had played on a lot of Phil's sessions
and had actually given Phil some really good advice: he suggested
that Phil get into record production. Phil is a very good
guitar player, but when Phil was a teenager, he wasn't sure
what to do. My dad kind of analyzed him and recommended he
be a producer. I guess he wasn't too far wrong, as Phil certainly
was able to do that.
So you and your brother met Phil Spector. What came of
He was just finishing up the John Lennon Rock and Roll sessions
at the time. I was about 17 or 18 then. What's amazing is
that right after the first day, he asked us to stay in the
booth after everybody left. We stayed up all night with Phil
and the engineer in the studioand it was night after night
of that. Then we all of a sudden got a call to bring our instruments
down because we were playing, and so we started playing on
sessions with Phil Spector and the Wrecking Crew. All the
great guysJim Keltner, Hal Blaine, Nino Tempo etc., etc.
It was a really exciting experience. We worked with Phil almost
every day and hung out with him, gosh, for six or seven years
almost every day in a row.
So you became almost like the sons he never had.
Well, that would be for him to say, but we certainly worked
very closely and I consider him a tremendously great friend.
Can you describe what life with Phil Spector is like?
It's an extreme pleasure to deal with a man of such genius
and intelligence. It's also very illuminating to see how a
man with such genius and intelligence deals with individuals
who don't quite get it or might inadvertently obstruct the
progress. I'm talking about what it takes to be a genius and
what it takes to make it happen when you have a vision and
you're trying to get it across on record.
How did your association come about with IUMA, the Internet
Underground Music Archive?
Actually I was introduced by multimedia wizard David Traub
who did the One For the Road CD-ROM with B.B. King and the
Queensryche double CD-ROM. I was into multimedia, and I was
an executive producer on a multimedia disk for Monster Magnet
with my partners Luminare and Chronic. That was for A&M Records.
It was a very nice CD-ROM. That was cool, but I wanted to
take it to the next step. I realized that, for me, the Internet
was the next step. It was where things were going. But when
I went to IUMA, I was introduced to Jeff Patterson (co-founder
and president) and Rob Ward (co-founder, no longer at IUMA),
and after fifteen minutes I diagnosed that they needed a record
label. I said, "Hey I'll do the record label." That really
wasn't what I was into, but it just became obvious that it
had to be done. So within fifteen minutes we agreed that we
were going to do it. That's how the record company association
started. There were some personnel shifts that came about
as a result of the two founders having a difference of opinion
about vision. Jeff asked me to step up to the plate and help
steady the ship. So I became Chairman of the Board of IUMA
at the time. We brought in some extra folks to also help steady
the ship. Then after that was going on, I stepped down from
the chair, remained on the Board of Directors, but my focus
and attention was being President and Owner of IUMA/Offline
Records. Now we have a release, Crunchy Smacks, from
the Internet Underground which is an enhanced CD of some of
our bands. We're working on all sorts of Web promotions and
strategic alliances right now. I'm proud to say that IUMA/Offline
is very happy to have pacted with TAXI and use them as our
first tier of A&R. They obviously can give us some really
serious third-ear input as to what we should consider and
what we shouldn't. I have my own ideas as to what the sound
is, but it's really good to get some feedback when you're
doing something so important as actually trying to break an
act and not merely putting out a CD. Anybody can put out a
CD, but we're trying to break an act and make sure all the
nuts and bolts are there as much as humanly possible.
Do you think that a band or musician who has their own
website really has a shot at success on the Internet, or is
there more to the picture that they're not seeing? If you're
a band in Peoria, can you simply put your stuff out on the
Internet and expect to sell 10,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 units?
I've always contended that the Internet site is part of what
we call the "synergistic package." By having a website, you
have a centralized location to direct a fanbase, to create
a fanbase, to give information, and to sell product to a fanbase.
You can put your URL on any sort of promotional materials
you send out. I think by having a website you eliminate costly
mailings of CDs and all of these colored pictures and brochures
that you think you're going to send to somebody that actually
go in the trash. What you do is you can send one card that
says: "Check us out, we're hip, we're cool, we're neat, here's
our website and URL. If you like what you see and you want
more, give us a call." That way, if somebody is really interested,
you save yourself all of that mailing stuff. You save yourself
the hassle. And you also have the chance to put it on flyers
when you play clubs, on posters, on matchbooks, on anything
that directs people to a centralized location. But it doesn't
take the place of having good tunes. It doesn't have to take
the place of having your act together or trying to work the
band in any way you can. It's a beautiful opportunity to have
as an add-on to direct people to get a sense of who you are
and to get a database and fanbase.
How many hits does the IUMA site get?
We're creeping up toward 400,000 hits a day.
Isn't it far more advantageous for a band to be on an existing
site that pulls 400,000 hits a day, versus having their own
If you have "Joe's Garage" website, at least you've got a
website. You can direct people to it in a town where you're
playing a clubget in touch with 50 or 100 people. At least
you've got something. It's better than nothing. When you have
IUMA, you have a dedicated site where people are specifically
going to look for bands they haven't heard of. We go out of
our way to feature the new bands that come on and say: "Check
these bands out, they're cool." The thing about IUMA is you
know you're going to have the traffic, and you know that people
are coming there to look at unsigned bands. Obviously the
traffic is important, and the fact that people are looking
for things they don't know is important. That's what IUMA
provides. A garage type of website is certainly better than
nothing, but you've got to have traffic. And if you don't
use it as part of your overall publicity program, it's a waste
Do you think that the Internet is going to decimate the
record industry as we know it today, or is that overblown?
It's in the progress. I think that the record companies that
alter the structure of how they're articulating their business
models will succeed. That means the goals are the sameselling
music and breaking acts are the bottom linebut there will
be new channels and improved channels. Obviously, if you have
a Blockbuster and you have a Kmart, you're going to have some
CDs in there, but it's really going to be at the discretion
of the consumers how they choose to buy them. But more and
more and more people, as the statistics indicate, are buying
online and by mail order. And when we have electronic distribution,
this will change the industry, but the function will be the
same. The delivery systems are changing.
How will that be different for signed bands versus unsigned
bands? Let's look ahead five years in the future, and say
records are being distributed online, not only in the CD form
that we're familiar with now, but electronically. You can
put a CDR in your recorder at home to buy a certain record,
you download and record it. Then it sends you an album cover,
and you shove that in the jewel case, and you've just saved
yourself a trip to the record store. How might that be different
or the same for an existing famous act with a brand name versus
an act that doesn't have a name yet?
One of the things I see is that for a signed act, when their
contract is up and after they've made itmaybe their first
two albums are deliveredthey can maintain electronic distribution
rights because all they have to do is go into the studio,
produce it themselves, and sell it digitally. They don't need
the record company if they have their fanbase. What they might
do then is license the tape to the record company for the
archaic in-store stagecoach mode of selling, which there will
still be. You will still have those tray lots, whether it
be at the car wash, or the market, or the Kmart or wherevermaybe
a Top-10 rack or something like that. It gives you leverage
to just sell direct to your fanbase. For instance, if U2 has
a new album coming out, they can tell their fans go to U2.com
where they can download the new album. Then if they have 5
million people come and download the album, then it's just
been direct-marketed to their fans.
In the New York Times, there was an article stating that
the Artist Formerly Known As Prince is releasing his new record
only on the Internet. He is no longer signed to a label because
EMI went out of business. He is going to take orders for 100,000
units before he presses it.
It's pre-sales. I've advocated pre-sales as well. For instance,
if someone downloads the album digitally, but also really
wants to buy the hard copy for whatever purposemaybe they
think it's sonically different, or for nostalgia or whateverand
you know you have an order for 5 million units, then you press
5 million units. The band makes all the money. You sell it
direct, and that's one on one. That's different than the record
company model as we know it. So I think what record companies
are going to have to do is start negotiating for the electronic
royalties or options on electronic royalties even after the
contract expires on the next two albums that might come out.
They will want to have an option on the electronic distribution
because they've taken the time to break the band.
far as an unsigned band, if there is a demand for their music,
they don't have to press up the CD if they don't have the
$2,000. It sure saves some money for Top Ramen and spaghetti.
Say they've got a song that's starting to click. They might
have a hit digital single. Everybody in the neighborhood gets
turned onto it, and they tell a friend, and they tell a friendit's
just some kind of hip song. Well, all of a sudden, they go
to an Atlantic Records or somebody, and they say: "We've just
sold like 75,000 songs at 99 cents apiece to 75,000 people."
That is a database that says these people have an audience.
We should invest in them further as far as promoting them,
getting them maybe with a booking agent. I think the record
company role is really going to be in aligning with the booking
agent and really being a tag-team. By the band going out and
working, they're going to sell more units. If they're selling
more hard units and getting bigger, that's one way to make
up some of the royalties. Maybe the record company can also
underwrite the tour, maybe for a percentage, and start getting
in the tour business as well a little bit, because they already
are underwriting things.
You're a board member of IUMA Online and obviously a big
proponent of music on the Internet. Why did you start IUMA
Offlinea record company that has the word "offline" in ita
curious thing for a guy who is so involved in music online?
Where did that come from?
Well, it's a play on words. I thought it sounded cool.
Yeah, well I figured that part out for myself Dave...
Oddly enough, with all of this talk about electronic distribution
and everything, we do have units of CDs available. You know,
the idea of CDs going away is not going to happen for some
time. DVD is coming in, which is going to be great. Let's
face it, there is going to be some kind of hard copy for quite
a while. The deal with having the record company is to have
product that comes from online. If we have some IUMA bands
that are really cool, and we put them out, then it's product
that came from online to offline, which is how it got in your
hands in the first place. That's opposed to electronic distribution,
which is sort of online/offline. But this is offline from
being online. [laughs]
But the record label is not exclusively a relationship
with IUMA Online? Your bands don't only come from IUMA, right?
No. We certainly give it priority, and any bands we do find,
we will put on IUMA. That's a prerequisite. That's absolutely
100-percent a fact. We're just escalating the label, getting
into full swing with various promotions, distribution arrangements,
and webcasting chats to help promote some of the artists.
Rumor has it that some major labels have already approached
you about buying an interest in IUMA Offline. What is your
feeling about that?
Well, I've been approached regarding some business arrangements.
I'm not opposed to offering high-level distribution to our
artists. Don't get me wrong, I'm not anti-record-label. I'm
just anti-misuse-of-record-label. I like it when you can take
an act and really get it to where it needs to go with the
right promotion dollars and that kind of thing. One of the
models that I'm looking at is maybe doing some distribution
deals with a few different labels. One label in particular
is talking about more of an elaborate relationship. It's not
out of the question, and I welcome the opportunity to make
more exciting opportunities available to our artists.
I would think the companies who are showing an interest
in buying a piece of IUMA Offline are really looking at buying
a piece of the future.
They are interested in buying a piece of the future. Also
in buying an A&R resource, which is absolutely outrageous.
We have boxes and boxes and boxes of tapes submitted, which
is another reason that I'm really happy with our relationship
with TAXI. It gives us an opportunity to utilize their expertise
and give everybody what I consider at least a fair shake to
be heardgood, bad, or indifferentand saves me the time
and gives me third-ear feedback as to what maybe I should
be listening to. It's impossible to listen to all of the tapes.
Even if I listened to all of the tapes, I don't think I could
do anything else with my life.
Anybody interested in buying a piece of IUMA online?
Gee, you're nosy!
It's my job.
Yeah, we've had some very serious interest from entities wanting
to invest in a piece, and that's all I can say.
What is your prediction for where the internet will take
the music industry ten years from now?
Digitally downloading music from satellites directly to the
consumer's brain, and completely getting rid of everything
in the middle.
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