After reading Loren Weisman's new book, The Artist's Guide to Success in the Music Business, this Examiner reporter contacted the author with a few questions about his book and the music industry. Loren Weisman was not only kind enough to answer, but provided such detailed answers that, in turn, required me to break down this article into the following four parts:
EXAM: Is a band or performer's success solely about the "sound', songwriting and performance? Your book provides many other aspects performer's have to excel at to be successful so obviously the answer to the prior question is no, but how important is a band's sound compared to all of the other aspects you detail?
LW: The sound is the root and the base. I love music. I think some people find themselves lost in the business side or the music side. Though music is first and the main thing, there has to be a mix. I am always first and foremost about the song, the album and the performance. The stories, the lyrics and the message are what ring true and really is why we are artists and do what we do. However when I am working with a band I really like, I will push more toward the aspects of business to make sure that band, those songs and that sound get out there.
It is a foolish person that believes as soon as a song is heard or as soon as this person or that person gets a hold of it, fame and fortune will be all downhill. Hell, take a listen to half the stuff that is mainstream and popular. It is there because the business end was taken care of.
Unfortunately there is no rule saying only the good bands or the good songs will make it. But if you mix that sound, those songs with the best business approach and the most professional marketing and promotion, you have a better shot.
I think it is just as crucial to divide the same energy you put in to the song or the sound as you do in getting that sound and that song heard by as man people as possible.
EXAM: Aside from reading your book, what are two or three of the tops things that most artists aren't doing that they should be doing to become successful in the music industry?
LW: Hell of a plug Stefhan, thank you. I think the main 2 things that artists aren’t doing consist of the following.
1. Patience. Artists rush too fast to send out a package, cut corners and try to make things happen before really getting everything organized and in the best order to be able to solicit or share themselves or their materials for shows, for labels, management and so on. Bands sign contracts too fast, skip the fine print and miss the details which can come to bite them in the ass later.
2. Lack of understanding. Many artists are still on the same track and linear mindset that as long as they create the best music and they get signed or get a manager or get representation, everything else will be taken care of. They are stuck in this plastic bubble that does not have a single ounce of reality. These artists are unaware that when some one else or some other company is doing something for an up and coming band, they are going to be paid back plus a large percentage since they took that chance on the artist. They understand what they believe inside the dream of success but many do not ground themselves with the education and understanding of the realities and the facts of what is happening today.
Yes, bands from 20 years ago got signed and signed similar deals like today, but it is those bands that got screwed over with more cash coming in at the time. 20 some years ago, if a band grossed 200 million in a year including all the bells and whistles and deep in their contract they were only making ten percent, the band still walked with 20 million. These days, many of the contracts are the same, many of the stipulations are the same, but the money coming in is much less. So that band today that got the deal and maybe only grossed 2 million is only walking away with 200,000.00. Then if it is a four piece, they are each seeing 50K. Now that is at a higher level and 50K is something you can live on, but many of these bands on an independent level are only making 200K maybe and then they walk away with 20K and split between four people? Well that is why you have these bands that can do amazing mid range sales, great sold out mid line shows but still have to come home to a day job since each of them only made 5 thousand a piece on a bad contract.
The main idea is that artists that can understand what is going on, learn how to maintain the greatest percentage as well as find the most avenues of revenue to create consistent and realistic profit will allow them the best chance in today’s music industry.
EXAM: What motivated you to write the book?
LW: At first it started as a blog, then I wanted it to be a guideline and required read for any client that wanted to work with me so they could understand the spectrum of all the details that many do not think about. It was easy to write a little each day on a different subject and I found the information, inspiration and then just watching the industry, clients I had at that time and the experiences I had as a drummer, as a producer and the situations I learned about as a consultant, the material just kept coming. There is nothing here earth shattering or ground breaking or for that matter even new. It is just a collection and organization of the ideas and approaches I believe can make an artist achieve realistic sustainability in the music industry.
EXAM: Do you feel shows like American idol perpetuate many of the myths of the music industry like the myth of "being discovered"?
LW: Yes, American Idol is a perfect example of that. Look deep at the contract they have to sign, look at what actually is happening to these artists and what is taken away. Yes, there is a chance for fame and you may get to that profit level where even if you are being screwed, you are still making a lot, but the lack of understanding the public and even the musicians have about it is astonishing.