Last month I had a flurry of calls from members lamenting that they'd
had several tapes forwarded, but nobody had offered them a deal yet.
These members sounded like intelligent people. They were rational. They
weren't particularly nasty or iratejust frustrated.
I can feel
your pain. Really, I can. I'm not trying to be funny.
I get frustrated
easily. Nothing, or nobody moves fast enough for me. I could be the
poster child for instant gratification. I'm an incredibly impatient
person. It even drives me nuts when people employ too many pauses when
speaking to me. You know ... people who like to ... think ... or ponder
... or maybe pretend to be more thoughtful than they really are before
they spit out an entire sentence. It makes me want to scream, "Spit
it out, you ponderous, pseudo-intellectual oaf!" But I don't. I've been
working hard to become more patient. It has its benefits.
But this article
isn't about my character flaws, or anybody else's for that matter. It's
really about ignorance. I know "ignorant" is the right word for what
I'm about to describe, but it always sounds so harsh. It conjures up
visions of that toothless, banjo-pickin' kid on the front porch in "Deliverance."
The kind of
ignorance I'm talking about though, is the lack of knowledge on a given
subject. And let me tell you, some of the folks who have called me are
ignorant of the way things work in the music business. But they're not
I can understand
the frustration of submitting one's latest and greatest material to
TAXI, having it forwarded to a VP of A&R at a major label, and then
not hearing anything back from them. A quick reality check could eliminate
A little homework
would show that it's a gross oversimplification to expect that your
tape ending up on a couple of desks should produce an instant deal.
Most people who get deals have had their tapes on the desks of many
executives before they got their deal. Most have spent years trying
to get their deals. It rarely happens overnight.
There's a lot
more to it than just getting your tape on somebody's desk. There's more
to it than just getting a deal. If you are in fact "signable," my guess
is that it may take delivery of your tape to between 12 and 20 A&R people
before you get your break.
All kinds of
things can keep an A&R person from signing you. The most obvious of
which is they just don't go nuts about what they hear on the tape. Another
reason may be that they are already in progress on another signing and
they can't sign anything else in close succession.
might include: they already have a similar artist on their label, the
last thing they signed went "lead," causing them to be overly cautious
about their next signing, or they might have loved the tape, but when
they played it for their colleagues the response was cold. No matter
what the reason, it seems that most deals come as a result of persistence
Once you have
"the deal'" it's not as easy as "Hey world! We're signed and our record
is out. Come and get it." Think about it. To get a deal, you only have
to convince one person that you're great. To have a hit, you need to
convince a million! If memory serves correct, a couple of years ago,
the RIAA reported that 94 percent of all records released by major labels
DID NOT break even. That means that only 6 percent of all records released
that year made a profit.
than not, the artists you hear breaking on the radio today have been
trying to "break" for years. Frequently, many, many years. How about
Grammy Award winner Shawn Colvin? She's been a signed artist for about
twenty years, but many people perceive her as a new artist who stepped
in to the spotlight in 1997. Her friend, Sarah McLachlan, has been signed
to Arista since 1989. But once again, it took her eight years to finally
Did you know
the Wallflowers had an album out four years ago? Neither did I, but
they did! Yet, for most of us, they seem to be a relatively new band.
So does Chumbawamba, but in fact, they've been around for fifteen years.
Heard of the electronica band Prodigy? They've been around for about
ten years, but most people didn't know of them until last year.
And how about
the woman who popularized the word "bitch" more than Leona HelmseyMeredith
Brooks. Doug (our VP) remembers seeing her play a live show in 1985,
yet she didn't have her breakthrough hit until last year. And how long
did it take her to get her "deal"? Truthfully, I'm not sure (If I were
a real journalist, I'd do the research). But I'd bet that it took many
tapes ending up on many desks until she found the person who understood
her musical vision, and was willing to bet the farm on it.
Hang in there.
I did, and it paid off. I've built a company that I'm very proud of.
I don't possess some magical power that you don't have. I just kept
working hard when other people might have thrown in the towel. It can
be a hard road. It will most likely be a long road. But it's certainly
not an impassable one.
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