Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A backyard BBQ and who brought the potato salad?

Supporting the arts isn't an easy thing to do. You do it in two ways (or maybe more): One, pay for it at the counter or two, be a cheerleader. Either way you're gonna pay for it.

Paying for pieces of visual work or music or a play or a book, shouldn't be that hard to do for anyone. BUT there's a new problem now, people don't want to. They want it for free. And where does that leave the artist, writer, the actor - penniless. Why have we become a freebie world? When did we decide who is better than the other? Why is it so hard to explain to others not in the industry? And how we can change it? 

OR worse: Can we change it...?? 

I think we can. We can at least move it sideways to try and reach a balance of sorts. Taking the actual art plus all the elements to create a better theory would be great. I think there will always be folks that have to do things with no money or grassroots style, and they are truly the ones we learn from. So why they are left on the corner busking? 

I am a 20 year old music industry veteran who is in the publicity world. I am on the front lines for the musical artists everyday fighting to get them some attention. Attention for what? For their musical endeavors and their shows so they can sell their art after they've played it for an audience. This attention comes at the mercy of the media: newspapers, TV, radio and various glossy magazines. It involves a lot of ground work to make it happen. A LOT. Do I have to dress them up in clothes and teach them dance moves? Thank God, no but what I have to do is come up with some pretty spiffy ways of spinning my sign on the corner... you know those things - either it's about a sandwich or an apartment complex. 

I was told by my boss, that back in the 1970's, the record label would take the media folk up in their private jet with drinks and food and play the forthcoming CD from their roster. NOW that's cool. It's like entrapment in a way but cooler than being thrown in a trunk of a car. 

A spiffy way of working a new angle or a story that everyone can relate to - is all the rage now. It's the new way of doing things. Everyone wants to be like everyone else, which is funny cause aren't artists the cape crusaders of being different? I've suffered from severe burnout just thinking that I had to think of something different to get the attention of the media in order to get the music across. But when in reality - sometimes the basics is all you need. A plane, a drink and some questionable people. 

So, why have - we - as an industry become so satisfied with this. This, desperate notion that we have to give stuff away in order to win people over to buy something. It does the reverse effect... it keeps them coming for more free stuff. In fact I see bigger PROS then me, asking for free stuff all the time - contacts for the media. I hate that, I mean every once in a while... it's OK, but man I had to look up everyone I have in the database. I just wanna scream, LOOK IT UP YOURSELF. NOW I know I ask for updated media lists and that's to help out the promoter that helps out with their show that involves my client... but I don't go begging - "Hey does anyone know how to call ABC news?"  "Hmmm try 411."

(OR here's a tip: the way that a lot country singers are staying a float is to be a co-writer with the master crafters for that's a gold mine there and they might not be in the room while the song is being written BUT they will get their free cut soon. Cute huh?) 

So things like thank yous from the Grammy podium, word of mouth recommendations and personal testimonials need to be earned. People will always help each other, it's what we do but don't complain when you don't see your name on the wall. It really doesn't mean anything. So buck up and drink a raw egg. I survive on the ones that surprise me or out of the blue. I have to earn that freebie.

Some have told me, I keep others off their backs so they can do their job... which is a total secretive section of the music industry - where you have to know too many handshakes, own a gun and talk cheap. I've been in there... it's very smokey.. bad for asthma sufferers. So how long will this drought last for? I think forever man, so we have to jack up the prices of tickets, tee shirts and other merchandise to break even. It all goes back to the dollar bill, George or Ben, it doesn't matter. So if you can't afford a plane or a ticket, at least buy the music, because someone like me is gonna pay for it... when I can't figured out a way to get a CD campaign be different for my client and then I lose the client, because you wanted everything for free. 

As I close:  I remember a client of mine calling me one day and then hitting the ceiling cause his art wasn't being taken care of the way he thought it would've been. With tender loving care. 

And you know what - he's about right. 

(NEXT WEEK: we will tackle the art on the wall - do you buy a Velvet Elvis or not) 

(Then the next next week, artists supporting each other..where's the love? Like when the Rolling Stones had Muddy Waters open up for them.)