This Article Originally Published May 2000

by Kenny Kerner

Here's where I get crucified, guys. I'm going to make a few statements that will offend most of you. Yet, I believe them to be true—now and forever.

On a personal note, I will almost always work (as a Personal Manager) with an artist that has a strong, marketable image. On an industry note, the A&R Community is, for the most part, afraid of image-acts, believing they use image to as a smoke screen to hide their mediocre material.

I believe that acts with mediocre material and a strong image have a better chance of making it big in the music business. OK? Start throwing those rocks, people!

I remember my thoughts when I first took a look at the original KISS publicity photo that was enclosed with their demo tape. The word "gimmick" never entered my mind. I swear. I thought it looked cool. I said, "yeah—fans are gonna love this. It's totally different. It's unique. It's controversial. It's new." And it was.

So while a handful of people "got it" immediately and turned KISS into international superstars, the rest of the world argued about the adverse affects of their image. We laughed all the way to the bank! Some thirty years later, we're still laughing and people are still arguing. Ya see, KISS knew all along that they were in the entertainment industry and that their jobs were to provide music and entertainment to their fans.

But KISS wasn't alone—the Beatles knew it, Alice Cooper knew it, David Bowie knew it, Elvis Presley knew it, Madonna knew it, Michael Jackson knew it, New York Dolls knew it, Elton John knew it, Poison knew it, Hanson knew it, Spice Girls knew it, Marilyn Manson knew it. Well, you get the idea.

Keep in mind that this is not a new concept. Image and marketing has been around forever. Fans screamed for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Frankie Avalon, Bobby Darin and later, for the Cassidy Brothers—David and Shaun. Good looks, a rowdy image, a controversial stance—it all adds up to attention.

Do you think that the songs on the Marilyn Manson album are great, well-written, melodic songs? Or, is there just the slightest chance that fans gobbled up the CD because they were swept away by the entire package?

The point is this: We are in a business where almost 97% of all the records that are released fail to make back the money it cost to record them. We are in a business where the competition is fierce. We must aspire to greatness and must always do more. Our reach must exceed our grasp. We cannot settle. And part of "settling" is believing that just writing songs without trying to concoct a marketing plan or honing a unique image—is enough.

One of the great things about the music business is that there is room for everyone—fat, thin, glasses, mustaches, beards, long hair, short hair, no hair. Each with his own image and each with his own music. So, rather than looking in the mirror and thinking that you are too fat to be a star—think that you will become a fat star! Combine your material with who you are (or in some cases of image, who you want to be) and go for something totally new and fresh and marketable. Learn how to sell yourselves.

[The above was excerpted from the book "Going Pro" written by Kenny Kerner and published by Hal Leonard corporation.]


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