Gig Salad CEO, Mark Steiner (right) makes a point while taking a question from the audience, and at least half of his fellow panelists (l to r: Bobby Bobby Borg, Gilli Moon, Aventurina King, and Sydney Alston) thought it was funny!
Bobby Borg is a former major label, independent, and DIY recording/touring artist with over 25 years experience working along side the most respected managers, producers, and A&R executives in the music industry. He served as the VP of Special Events for the Los Angeles chapter of the American Marketing Association, and as Chairman of Music Business at Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, California. A recipient of UCLA Extension’s Distinguished Instructor of the Year Award, Borg teaches DIY music marketing, music publishing, and general music business classes both online and on-campus and he speaks regularly at Berklee College of Music and other distinguished schools worldwide. Borg is the author of Music Marketing For The DIY Musician, Business Basics For Musicians, and over 1,000 magazine and blog articles for Billboard.com, Hypebot, SonicBids, Music Connection, Disc Makers, Band Zoogle, and more. He is the founder of Bobby Borg Consulting, where he assists rising music professionals globally. He lives in Los Angeles.
Gilli Moon is a singer, songwriter, artist, and producer. She has worked with highly respected artists such as Simple Minds, Placido Domingo, Eric Idle, and will.i.am, and is a songwriting award winner in the Netherlands, U.S., and Australia. Her songs have been featured in independent films and network U.S. television programs, and she has released six albums. She is the President of Songsalive! (a nonprofit songwriters organization), CEO of record label Warrior Girl Music, and a certified professional coach. She has three books out, the most recent of which are, Just Get Out There and The 360 Degree Songwriter.
Aventurina King is a singer/songwriter/producer working in both Los Angeles and China. Before moving to Los Angeles one year ago, she worked in China as an artist and TV personality, during which time she appeared on every single national TV platform and graced the pages of Cosmo Bride and the Chinese New York Times equivalent. Since her move to LA, she has written and sung two entire albums for Warner Brothers Production Music, and her songs have been synched in an upcoming Disney movie, as well as a videogame. She just got a cut with South Korea’s biggest girl’s band of the moment, Red Velvet, for their next album under S&M entertainment. Recently, she’s begun releasing her own songs as an artist, one of which was recently featured on Spotify’s “Fresh Finds” playlist.
Sydney Alston has 20-plus years of experience in all facets of the music business, which has made him an in-demand music resource for artists in Los Angeles and around the country. In 2001, he was hired by Disc Makers, the industry leader in CD and DVD Manufacturing, and quickly rose through the ranks and became the first executive in the Los Angeles branch of Disc Makers, representing all the AVL brands including cdbaby, and Merch.ly. Sydney started his career as a touring musician, and then opened a management company where he represents artists and producers. As a manager, Sydney has set up many Major Label and Publishing showcases with companies like Universal, Warner Brothers, Sony, etc. He has been responsible for getting multiple record label and publishing deals. As a direct result of his efforts, he was responsible for developing 16-year-old old Major Myjah, and getting him signed to a lucrative recording contract with Warner Brothers records in 2014. One of the producers he works with, Frederik Thaae, produced a song that won the Eurovision award for “best song” which propelled Frederik and Emily Deforester’s song, Only Tear Drops to Number One in 11 countries.
Mark Steiner is the CEO and co-founder of GigSalad, the most diverse booking platform nationwide. His career in the entertainment industry has spanned more than thirty years, including a decades-long stint booking talent for performing arts centers, festivals, and concerts through the agency he founded.
Sydney, as a manager, if you went into the restaurant here in the hotel after the Rally, and they’ve got a karaoke thing going on in there, and you hear somebody that’s got an incredible voice and a great look. Can you take an artist with a great voice and put them together with the right writing team, with the right producer, and build a team that can help that artist land a major label deal? Is that still possible in today’s music industry?
Sydney: Yeah, you absolutely can do that. I’m doing that right now. I met an artist from Delaware who I moved to L.A. I put her in the studio with Heather Holly, who developed Christina Aguilera, and a couple other really strong people, and we’ve created a record that is really, really good. But you do have to find something special. So with this particular artist, we built a record label built on cryptocurrency, and it’s the first time…
Explain what cryptocurrency is. I’m not sure everybody knows.
Sydney: It’s a Ponzi scheme. [laughter] No, cryptocurrency is basically a currency that is traded online based on assets. So the way we built the assets was with publishing catalogs from some of the publishers who were involved in the actual coin itself.
Which is like Bitcoin or Ethereum?
Sydney: Exactly. So the price of Bitcoin has been raging. I got like 10,000 shares worth $2.50. Now it’s worth $25,000. It’s one way of building it up. And as a result of that, we are now in talks with a major label, because it’s the very first cryptocurrency that was developed for music in the music industry to develop artists. So with that, getting that label together with the cryptocurrency and speaking to a major label. We are in talks, and hopeful we can close it before the end of the month.
Do you think that part of the fascination or attraction is that there’s a story there? It’s a marketing story because of the cryptocurrency?
Sydney: It’s absolutely because of that!
So can the artist maintain and sustain a career if the cryptocurrency story loses its shine, no pun intended?
Sydney: Well, she’s got really great songs because of these great producers that we’re working with. And I think that that’s always the most important. You’ve gotta have great songs.
I think so many songwriters feel discouraged. Am I crazy for having noticed this over the last few years that pure songwriters just feel like, “There’s no hope for me. I’m gonna do film and TV.” Because the only way to get your stuff cut by a major artist on a major label is if you are part of the artist’s writing camp, and you hang out with them, and it’s all political. So, is there hope? Can you still get a song cut without having 13 co-writers?
Sydney: You can.
"They are always looking for great songs, and maybe that’s how you build a relationship that could develop into something more."Gilli Moon
How does somebody who’s a really strong, great songwriter get into a camp?
Gilli: I had it happen a month ago. Whether it’s a hit song or not, time will tell. But here is what happened. The first question you said was, how do you get signed, or can you get signed? Or as a songwriter get a hit song with this camp of the record company?
A month ago, I had a one-on-one with a very big A&R manager at a very big major record company. The way I got into that was through somebody who knew somebody, and somehow I was able to get that meeting. Just that alone can be hard. When I first came to the U.S., my uniqueness was my Aussie voice. So I was able to get into the offices because, “Oh, an Aussie, yeah sure.” And I’d say, “I’m only here for a week,” and they would actually let me in. There were a lot of majors back then, and I would go in, and at a certain point I decided to take the path least traveled and set up my own record company.
Recently I’m like, “You know, I’m gonna go back to those labels and show them what I’ve got.” So I got into the meeting and found out they were about to sign a 19-year-old Instagram-influencer who had 1.5 million followers. I could not compete with that, and that is their focus. They are taking influencers on Instagram, signing them, packaging around them, and it so happens that this person can sing, and they are gonna do that. Now they need the song. So then I said, “OK, I’m not gonna get signed by you because I’m not 19, and I don’t have 1.5 million Instagram followers, but what I have is on my phone. And so I played three songs—the best three songs. And fortunately, he said, “I love your writing; I love your voice—I would like you to write me three songs for this artist, and I’m gonna give you the tracks.” So he has his posse of people that write tracks, and I toplined for them, and then delivered them, and we’re talking right now.
The point is, that they are always looking for great songs, and maybe that’s how you build a relationship that could develop into something more.
I agree, great songs are still in demand. And while everybody thinks that you’ve got to be part of the camp and in the posse, major labels still run listings with TAXI. They are all always looking for that one this is the song of the year.
Mark, creative people generally despise selling themselves. I’ve been in the industry since I was 19-years-old; I’ve never met anybody other than Bobby Borg, maybe, and Gilli that love to sell, that have the artistic thing going on and love to sell. So booking your own act for shows on your own takes selling. Many people give it a half-hearted attempt, then throw in the towel.
Your company, Gig Salad, takes most of the selling burden off of their shoulders. I love people that flip the business model like you did. Tell the audience how it works…
Mark: I was working for a small, boutique, booking agency in New York City. We did primarily big bands, jazz, and nostalgia artists, and I was the middle broker. I was booking acts that sold themselves, all established names. I would call up a performing-arts center, a concert series or a place that was booking types like that. It was a really simple call: “Are you interested in the Glenn Miller Orchestra or the Count Basie Orchestra?” or whoever. It was really simple; it was either, “Yes, we are, but not now,” or “Yes, we are right now,” or “No, we’re not.” But I didn’t have to explain who they were, so I’ve never been in the development business. I was never working with acts that I had discovered and that I was developing or out there hustling and trying to sell.
So when I started getting contacted by entertainers and performers that were looking for representation, or looking for gigs, or looking to be listed on my roster because they saw all these other names, they wanted to be a part of that. But it wasn’t my business model. So what I was trying to do was tell these folks—because I had been a starving artist at one point—that [they] don’t necessarily need representation right now. Really, what you’re looking for is opportunities, and I happen to be getting contacted from the other side of that: event planners and people that are looking for entertainers and performers. So we created a directory, a very simple database. So I put myself out of business. As a booking agent, I was saying, “You don’t need me anymore.” Using Gig Salad, you can be a performer; you can be out there gigging instead of being a barista while you’re waiting to get the record deal, or get the big contract or whatever that thing is. These are real money gigs; this is not showing up at a club and playing for the door, but these are corporate events or wedding gigs or those sorts of things.
"The TAXI Road Rally is a really unique place, because I don’t get the sense that you all are necessarily competing. It feels very supportive and seems to be very collaborative, a lot of synergy."Mark Steiner
And you guys help performers of all types, not only musicians, right? Magicians, balloon artists… the entire gamut, right?
Mark: Absolutely! Because my bio was so short, I’m gonna take two minutes to interject something, if you don’t mind. I’ve been to a lot of conferences, conventions and trade shows over the past five years. As a bootstrap company, the only way we can get our name out there is out there hustling, right? I want you people to know that as a community—and this is in fact a community—it’s a really unique thing. Joey and I got off the plane, and before we were on the shuttle to get here, people were shaking our hands and introducing themselves, assuming we were coming here. The TAXI Road Rally is a really unique place, because I don’t get the sense that you all are necessarily competing. It feels very supportive and seems to be very collaborative, a lot of synergy. Every person that has come up to our booth has been really awesome, very warm. You’ve done a great job, Michael. You guys are amazing. [applause]
I lost my train of thought. Bring me back. What was the point?
I wanted you to just explain how Gig Salad works, because I love the fact that you flipped it. People are already buying when they come to your site and start looking for talent.
Mark: So we started off as strictly performers, entertainers, and speakers—people who do what they do on a stage. Then, later on, we added other event-services providers, so we now have photographers and bartenders. We have 600 categories on the site, and about 49% of them are music- related. So those of you that do perform—in addition to songwriting—if you’re out there and you are looking for the house concert or the coffee shop or the country club brunch or happy hour, those sorts of things, corporate events or weddings, on and on, it’s a great resource for you. You know, I didn’t want to come up here and shamelessly sell it; that’s not the point. But just know…
But, I asked you to because I think it’s cool, Mark!
Mark: It is that difference between if you go out and you want to treat a gig almost like a practice, and not have the studio thing. And in this growing gig economy where we’re out there trying to just put all the pieces together like was mentioned—you do a little bit of this and do a little bit of that. We want to give you the opportunity to do something more of what you love, as opposed to just going out there hustling for the buck. You can meanwhile be doing something that you are passionate about and talented at.
How do you bring in the “buyers”?
We’ve never had national campaigns for marketing budgets. Every time somebody joins our site, that’s new content and it helps. That’s what the buyers are searching for. At this stage today, we have about 115,000 members on our site across the U.S. and Canada, and every month, two or three thousand new people join. And every time somebody joins and is a juggler in Peoria, that hopefully is what somebody is going to be looking for in due time. I think a lot of our growing popularity has to do with the fact that we are very liberal with our T-shirts, and people wear them. So wear the T-shirts we gave away! You know, we wrap some vehicle and we go up and down highways and byways. It’s very much guerilla marketing, just grunt work, out there hustling and spreading the word. Because we happen to believe that even if you’re not a potential member on Gig Salad—somebody that’s getting gigs off of us—every single one of you are potential event planners. We’re all getting married—we sometimes get married twice or three times—everybody’s gonna have a birthday and an anniversary. It’s for all the things that we do, that’s what we have. So the next time you’re thinking, “Hey, maybe we should have, instead of spinning discs, we’re gonna…” Wow, that just dated me. Instead of streaming the music, or instead of putting in an eight-track, you’re gonna call up a singing guitarist and have them play at the dinner party, or the picnic that you’re throwing, or the whatever. We are trying more and more to be a lifestyle company, where we’re encouraging people to bring more live entertainment into their lives and events.
Well, I think it’s a great concept. I’m really proud that you guys are sponsors of the Rally. I probably spent two hours on your site. When I first found out about you guys and went on there and checked the acts and stuff, I thought it was brilliant. So congratulations, you guys are doing a great job. [applause]
Don’t miss Part 3 in next month’s TAXI Transmitter!