This Article Originally Published December 1999
One of the best discoveries (of many!) we made during the recent trip to Los Angeles was the band Fisher. Though well known already in the music industry, I hadn't had the pleasure of seeing them perform live until the TAXI Road Rally (A free 3 day industry seminar they offer to their members, jam packed with top notch writers, publishers, labels and other music industry pro's who give panel lectures on nearly every aspect of the business.) On my favorite panel called "Business Unusual," they had representatives from some of the largest Internet music companies (such as IUMA, MP3, Amazon, etc.) talking about the future of the business on the net. Though there were some great people involved, it was clear they had little solid and cohesive information to offer the audience.
However, in the middle of it all was Ron Wasserman and Kathy Fisher, the prime components of one of the hottest bands in the world "Fisher." Because they were still unsigned, but were getting very close, due largely to their talent and relentless business tenacity, I felt they had the most relevant and useful advice to offer everyone in the room (which was nearly 1000 TAXI members from around the world)! When I thought of who and what to include in our Holiday edition of Just Plain Notes, I thought some insight from Fisher was a perfect holiday gift to give everyone who is willing to go all out to succeed in today's music business. Even today, December 24th, as I type this, they are working on closing a major label deal that they have been pursuing. (Wow.. someone other than just me is working today!) In fact, it is clear that they practice what I always preach, RELENTLESS PERSISTENCE! But I will let them tell you the rest of the story. Enjoy!
Members: Kathy Fisher and Ron Wasserman Email: Fisher@digitalsound.net
Q1. Brian: For those who still haven't had the pleasure of hearing your work, briefly
tell us about your band 'Fisher,' the personnel and the music you have released to date and how you got from out East to LA, and all this success?
A1. Fisher: I moved here to Los Angeles from West Virginia with $300 and a paper suitcase with my worldly belongings. (This really is the truth.) I stayed at the YMCA in Downtown LA initially. Three years later I was introduced to Ron Wasserman through a mutual friend we had. We instantly hit it off and started writing at a rather slow, unfocused pace. It really wasn't until early '97 that we put together the first batch of demos and sent out a few tapes. This was really the official "launch date" of Fisher.
To date, we've released one full length CD entitled "One" which has now created 3 solid offers from labels. We've been extremely picky and anal about contractual issues while trying to establish rock solid relationships with the people who would make or break the project. We're pushing the envelope in regard to commitment from these individuals simply because we really want to succeed.
Q2. Brian: You had a cut on the "Great Expectations" Soundtrack, something that seems like the best and most used launching pad for new artists of late. How did that come about, and what was the impact on your career?
A2. Ron: One of those demo tapes we made in '97 ended up on Darren Higman's desk at Atlantic Records. He was desperately seeking a final song to round out the Great Expectations CD. Our songs had been sitting on his desk for 2 months so, he finally decided to take a listen. He heard "Breakable," called us, and the deal was done 3 weeks later.
The album was released in Feb '98 and we were on cloud 9. Here at last, was our big break. We received 10 copies in the mail and quickly went to read the liner notes which said "Fisher appears courtesy of Atlantic Records." Fisher an I look at each other and simultaneously said "Ahhh SHIT!" From that moment everyone thought we were signed to Atlantic. Even some Atlantic personal thought we were signed to Atlantic. We had done a one song deal for the soundtrack. So, although we obtained a substantial fan base from that record, incredible press reviews and were asked to play Lilith Fair shows, not one single other record company ever called us. To this day we have to explain there was no normal recording contract with Atlantic.
On the up side, it gave us the incentive to write, record and release our own CD on the Internet.
Q3. Brian: You were both featured on a panel at the recent TAXI Road Rally. What has being a member of TAXI done for you? Have you gained anything through your involvement from them? And though we are big supporters of the work that TAXI does, please answer the age old question from your experience... is TAXI for real?
A3. Ron: Taxi has been helping push Fisher for about 6 months now. One of the labels we've been in negotiations with, (for four months), Taxi is solely responsible for setting up. The 2nd label they were partially responsible for the introduction to. So, are they for real? Damn right they are!
Q4. Brian You have quite a reputation for success on the Internet. At one point you were featured on most of the largest sites. Please tell us which sites you were featured on, and what the impact was. And of course, please share with us how this came about and how you took advantage of the attention to build and nurture your fan base?
A4. Ron: Michael Laskow actually set up the front page features at Music Choice, which to date has been one of our most valuable connections on the net, Liquid Audio, Iuma and a couple of others. All of these sites have helped tremendously. It's very hard to clearly define what the impact is from these sites individually for there is no way to track our website traffic back to it's point of origin. However, our "hits" did increase substantially during the time all those features were running and sales did increase.
Q5. Brian You post songs for free download. Many people in are an uproar about "giving" their music away. But you have a different view on that. Please share your approach to the promotional value and fan building you were able to accomplish through these means.
A5. Ron: Every single new technology developed in the 20th Century in regards to music has been met with severe opposition from some artists and most labels from Radio to home tape recorders and guess what???? Sales have increased as promotional tools have become more accessible to the masses. Considering your odds of really making it in this business are nearly zero, why not initially give it away with an option to buy the actual physical CD. Especially when your out of pocket expenses are next to nothing.
This has been the greatest thing for us. We're quickly approaching one million downloads of our material and, if you don't think that record companies take that seriously, think again.
I personally think that the current artists who are afraid of allowing people to download a few of their tracks for free are simply afraid of failure by having no one download their material. Nearly every known/signed act I've spoken with would love to make available a song or two for free. Sadly though, their outdated recording contracts don't allow it....yet.
Q6. Brian On a recent visit to your website, I noticed the home page counter was over 80,000 hits. Pretty impressive to say the least. What other things have you done to build site traffic, and what do you offer on your site that encourages repeat visits by your fans?
A6. Ron: I think the site has a lot to offer and we work diligently at updating
the info with pictures, fan of the month etc. We also interact with fans on
our message board. We work very hard at creating a close relationship with
Q7. Brian: During a lunch I had with Michael Laskow a few days after the Road Rally, I told him, in my opinion, the most valuable panelists were the two of you. One of the most important points was made by Ron. You said that you personally answer each and every one of your fan emails. Not with a form letter sent out by a mail robot or auto responder, but a personally written email from one of the two of you. Tell us about how this one strategy has been more than worth the time and effort?
A7. Ron: It's the absolute bottom line to us. If anyone actually honors us by sending a little note saying they enjoyed the music or whatever, it's our obligation to write back.
I despise how impersonal everything has become in this world and I fear that before too long we will all be only responding to recorded messages "If you like this band,,,,,,, push #2 now." This is where corporate America is failing.
Now, Obviously, (hopefully), a time is going to come where we simply won't be able to keep up with all the mail. I guess at that time we'll only stay in close contact with the hard core fans that have stuck with us and we'll start a chat room thing perhaps 2-3 times a week for all the new people. Whatever it takes.
Q8. Brian: The buzz around the Internet and in the music world is that there are a large number of interested companies in Fisher right now. Is there any current developments that you can share about your career and the next step for the band?
A8. Ron: As I mentioned earlier, we've been raking the labels over the coals and literally not returning calls to some of them. They have been both impressed and a bit shocked with our focus and awareness of how this business really works.
We've been very firm about staying indie until just the right team can be put together.
As far as recent developments, here's something. One HUGE label will literally be working today, Christmas Eve, (It's now 1:02 am), attempting to finish a deal with us. What a great Christmas gift this would be.
Q9. Brian: Because you may be the first real life example of a band breaking big due in part to the Internet and the benefits and tools it has offered, can you share with the other 5200+ members of Just Plain Folks your list things they can do in their career to foster their own success?
A9. Ron and Fisher offer these 7 great tips:
- When you finish the song(s), ask for honest criticism, you'll have to really make people comfortable and gain their faith before they'll do it. Don't ask your family, ask your musician friends. Go to 10 people. If 4 of them say the same thing swallow your pride, go back and perfect the song.
- Learn everything about how this business really works. Remember these label people will be your partners not your saviors. You do nothing special, neither will they.
- Stand your ground. Show no fear.
- Music must be all that you do. You really think Kurt Cobain spent time watching TV?
- Be absolutely honest about everything, label interest, statistics. This business is way smaller that you'd ever believe.
- Remove the weak link(s) in the chain. A great band with a crap manager will go no where, or with a bad drummer etc. Sadly, making a few enemies can't be avoided.
- Presentation is everything. Record companies no longer develop talent. You must be ready for MTV or Letterman immediately.
Q10. Brian: When and where can fans see you perform next, and how can they get your current CD ONE? (Which as of today is officially up for an album nomination in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards by the way!)
A10. Fisher: We are thrilled and thankful to be nominated in the Just Plain Folks Music Awards! Our next show is the House of Blues in Los Angeles on Jan 5, 2000. Tickets are FREE. Go to: http://www.fishertheband.com and follow the links. You can also follow the links to purchase CD's from there. (CD Baby, CD Street and Amazon.)
I want to thank Ron and Kathy for sharing their story with us and wish Fisher good luck today with the (hopefully) final details of their hard fought label deal and look forward to following and sharing their continuing story of success and their relentless pursuit of their dream!