Can Anyone Explain the Music Biz?

StevenA

Member
Messages
3,978
How do people like B. Spears, T. Swift, J. Mayer go from relative obscurity to mega stars? What are contract negotiations like at each level? Something tells me it's more about their handling than their talent.
 

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,939
There was a thread about Gaga a while back. It said she was just another muso doin her thing, then her "team" cooked up the Gaga schtick and there you have it. Marketing is alive and well in America.

You shouldn't have listed JM though. The topic has the possibility of a good sharing of ideas but now thats out the window by mentioning JM.
 

StompBoxBlues

Member
Messages
19,936
It would be interesting, and very good if we could avoid evaluating the relative "merit" of each named, and stick to the spirit of the OP's question, which is a very interesting one...

So far so good...but I too think it would be interesting to hear. I imagine (and this is pure guessing) that some were "groomed" by the corporate media corporations. Seems like they used at some point the Disney show for a kind of grooming league, from which to pick the ones they could work with to get them star status, while others probably it was own initiative but also outside the "flock" but then getting attention...

But would love to hear from people that know, have the inside stories.
 

rob2001

Member
Messages
16,939
It would be interesting, and very good if we could avoid evaluating the relative "merit" of each named, and stick to the spirit of the OP's question, which is a very interesting one...
Yes....thats what I really meant with my comment but you said it better!
 

Aj_rocker

Member
Messages
1,268
How do people like B. Spears, T. Swift, J. Mayer go from relative obscurity to mega stars? What are contract negotiations like at each level? Something tells me it's more about their handling than their talent.
Generally people are promoted by either their label or a PR firm. They come up with a programme of how they will sell your product (e.g. CD).

1)Most artists start off with getting a contract

2) They then tour and a do spot prefromances all over the world/country. I know of a young MC (here in the UK) who has been on tour for 2 years straight now promoting his CD in the uk alone doing PA's (where you rap/sing over a backing track).

3) When x releases a new CD they do the "rounds" on TV. in the US, stuff like ellen, late show, the late late show, SNL, etc etc.

4) then they build up speed by doing lots of in studio radio stuff, including free giveaways (i.e. tix to the show tonight/etc). this is more about local promotion.

5) luck, hoping that people buy the CD and that people continue to for the next few weeks.


so in short you get somewhere by complete flooding the market with as much free promo as you can, to the point where noone has a choice but to listen and hopefully go buy your CD. but you have a to have a good product to sell in the first place.
 

Alister

Supporting Member
Messages
3,497
Marketing is now primarily 'viral'. That is to say, whatever you're selling is an image or an icon or a 'brand' . The old cliche for this was even "branding." You are no longer particularly selling a 'product,' or even a star or an act.
So, even human beings must now become an idea or a brand -- who they are what they are as people is barely even relevant.

All of the older methods about 'radio play' and exposure are subordinate to this.
Many marketers (most?) now flood the world with free 'samples' before they ever worry about selling. They know they need to spread the virus -- and then they can sell "Lady Gaga"'s products very easily, once the virus has taken.
 

arthur rotfeld

Supporting Member
Messages
7,049
It happens lots of ways. There is an element of speculation and crafting that goes on, for sure.

Regarding the big pop stars, a certain performer that company believes can be a big thing starts to get exposure in a major way. As they build the image and brand, they watch sales--if it grows, more investment is made.

The masses aren't entirely force-fed, they have to want it. Of course it's silly to think that the three or four pop princesses at a given time are the best 18yr old singers in the country. It's just a good enough product that has been invested in and promoted. The mass production aspect of the industry can't create hundreds of these products, so there's a limited number, like soda, cigarettes, or jeans.
 

andrekp

Member
Messages
5,635
I think musicians tend to get caught up in the idea that music is some sort of pinnicle of society and that all involving it should somehow meet a worthiness test before it can be called "Music" and be spoken of as a part of that ethos; that only worthy music should be allowed to stand next to Beethoven's 9th, or Wagner's Ring. When you get too caught up in thinking that way, you start to get confused by people like Brittany Spears, or Lady Ga Ga, or find yourself defending someone whom YOU perceive as being a real musician, but whom others question (such as maybe JM).

However, all of this is just BS premised on a flawed construct.

Music, as an expression of bands/musicians beyond their personal circles, is a business. It is designed to get people to pay money to see or hear performers. The more money that can be amassed, the better. It is not designed to better the Earth, or to perfect any genre, or somehow create a better world where Art is perfected. It is a business. It is designed to amass the greatest amount of money for the least effort. Anything that doesn't work toward that end falls away.

Don't take this as me being cynical. I don't mean at all to imply that I think music has somehow been lost to big business greed, or some BS like that. What I am saying is that as soon as the first musician took money to play for others, it stopped being this pure, idyllic form that so many still think it is. It is, and pretty much always has been, a way to make money. That the occassional Beethoven crops up is just the icing on the cake.

Once you grasp that concept, and stop thinking about some fantasy world where only the worthy can be famous, it all makes perfect sense and you are no longer confused by why someone who needs autotune just to speak, can become a multimillionaire "recording artist."
 

Pietro

2-Voice Guitar Junkie and All-Around Awesome Guy
Messages
16,443
Step One. the record companies look for what they already think will sell.

Step Two. They hear you and say "nope, not it".

Step Three. You get a real job and play music on weekends or at church or whatever and you're ten times happier than somebody who's a slave to a major label.
 

epluribus

Member
Messages
9,170
I'm not sure it's a huge mystery. Back in my early days and tending bar on a prominent circuit, I asked a promoter what it was that he looked for. He said he could find talent all day long, and he could teach you the parts you needed filled in. But what he couldn't find was good old hard work, punctuality, , sociability, sobriety (yes!), and reliability. Could the company afford to risk big bucks on you being there on time? He said that was hard-to-impossible to find. (Btw, we ended up putting a band together, me handling the biz end, and landed a pretty competetive record contract. Then our bassist decided he was sick of touring. I'm happy to say three of our guys are still prominent working pros.)

Beyond that, I asked some guys in the entertainment legal and financial (aka tax) fields. The overarching answer was that everybody wants to conquer an overcrowded business without a shred of a credible business plan. Who's your market? What makes you special? Why would I leave my comfy easy chair to spend bucks on you? And will you knock on doors till you sell your act to good producers? Common in the business world, but woefully rare in the professional arts.

A casting director said something interesting one day while we were looking through her Rolodex. Gorgeous people by the truckload. But her Holy Grail? Are you memorable? Do you stand out and will I check out your record rack or look for your tickets? Lady Gaga did a great, if somewhat tired and formulaic, job of doing just this IMHO. Strikes me as excellent polemic, but that's just me.

But then there's the corporate poker game, and IME it's for keeps and it's ruthless. Not cruel or anything, but it's not for fun, it's a really unforgiving market with equally unforgiving dollar numbers. (Like most any mature business, btw. Music is far from special.)

To the uninitiated it's a very nasty game, but those who understand it can navigate it very successfully. That takes experience among other things. The ruthless part is something I'd just as soon not mess with, hence my not being either in pro music or on the corporate hamster wheel. And I think this is where the crowd truly thins out. Is this a game, bruises and all, that you can love, 24/7/365? Some folks do, thank goodness for that.

Anyhoo, not an authoritative opinion by any stretch, just some things I've managed to glean here and there.

--Ray

oh yeah...most of the famous types I knew said being rich was fairly cool, but being famous was mostly a pain in the butt. :)
 

germs

Member
Messages
5,766
see, i was always under the impression that whomever gave the best blowjobs, got to be famous in Hollywood.

too cynical?

okay then, it's about SO much more than "talent". in the examples the OP mentioned, there are several types of successful business models.

some of these people were groomed from early childhood to be a stage star. parents sacrificed their lives in order to ensure fame and fortune for a child. i sort of think it's living as an extension, and the children deserve my pity, if nothing else.

some of the people were just in the right place at the right time after working hard at what they do best.

some of the people were otherwise lackluster and came up with a "gimmick" that could sell, and people bought in.

there's no ONE right answer here, just like out in the real business world.
 

StompBoxBlues

Member
Messages
19,936
I think musicians tend to get caught up in the idea that music is some sort of pinnicle of society and that all involving it should somehow meet a worthiness test before it can be called "Music" and be spoken of as a part of that ethos; that only worthy music should be allowed to stand next to Beethoven's 9th, or Wagner's Ring. When you get too caught up in thinking that way, you start to get confused by people like Brittany Spears, or Lady Ga Ga, or find yourself defending someone whom YOU perceive as being a real musician, but whom others question (such as maybe JM).

However, all of this is just BS premised on a flawed construct.

Music, as an expression of bands/musicians beyond their personal circles, is a business. It is designed to get people to pay money to see or hear performers. The more money that can be amassed, the better. It is not designed to better the Earth, or to perfect any genre, or somehow create a better world where Art is perfected. It is a business. It is designed to amass the greatest amount of money for the least effort. Anything that doesn't work toward that end falls away.

Don't take this as me being cynical. I don't mean at all to imply that I think music has somehow been lost to big business greed, or some BS like that. What I am saying is that as soon as the first musician took money to play for others, it stopped being this pure, idyllic form that so many still think it is. It is, and pretty much always has been, a way to make money. That the occassional Beethoven crops up is just the icing on the cake.

Once you grasp that concept, and stop thinking about some fantasy world where only the worthy can be famous, it all makes perfect sense and you are no longer confused by why someone who needs autotune just to speak, can become a multimillionaire "recording artist."
Well...again, couldn't we put the value judgments, and the arguments as to why the values don't see the big picture into another thread?
What are the mechanics of a star going from unknown to a star?

Aj_rocker did a great post...only problem I think is we all probably want to know what got to even before that, "1)Most artists start off with getting a contract" ?
 

Simto

Member
Messages
4,386
Nice thread.. i don't have any real input since i'm not that far in the biz right now, but it's a nice read.
 

lhallam

Member
Messages
17,036
Possibly a side note.

Even Frank Zappa purposefully used promotional techniques with the "out there, outrageous" image. Written on on his 1st lp, there is a letter that says when The Mothers play, someimes there is trouble. He knew the rebellious bad-boy image would bring in fans just like it did with Elvis and The Stones.

Alyce Cooper was written up in the paper for killing a chicken on-stage. Frank called him and asked him if it was true. Alyce said "No" and Frank answered well don't tell anyone.

Once again, allowing rock myth to float about causing a stir. I recall a few of them such as FZ eating **** on stage, Ginger Baker setting himself on fire and Jimi Hendrix peeing on the audience.
 

KRosser

Member
Messages
14,176
All of those people mentioned in the OP work very, very hard. I think this is the thing most people are pretty ignorant about.

Lady Gaga does not sit around on silk cushions waiting to be told what to do by 'handlers'. Granted, many of the things they work on - especially promotion - don't interest me as much as just keeping my mouth shut and playing my instrument, but thier daily work schedules probably put most workaholics to shame.

You gotta remember, at this point Lady Gaga is the CEO of a very successful international corporation, to say nothing of the hunger and drive it took to get there and the competition for her spot is ruthless. That's not a job for the thin of skin or weak of heart.

It's a tempting self-flattery to think that all you'd have to do is be hot-looking and completely without integrity and you could be as successful as one of them - fact of the matter is, most of us would be eaten alive.
 

Teleplayer

Moder8er
Staff member
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
19,709
A couple second-hand stories......

I used to play in a band, and one of the bass player's close relatives was a very very senior person at WB records. He also used to work at Capitol back in the day. He was talking with us about the industry, and where we could possibly go at our ages (everybody in the band except the lead singer) was around 40.

He laid out a very specific road map. No doubt that he could get our demos to the right people. But he also discussed the hard work, touring, etc. And at that point we all had families and/or responsible jobs. He also discussed the "glass ceiling" we would be facing because of our ages, and that we would never make it "big" starting out this late in life.

He discussed evertything from the marketing and market research road map, to recording, production, songwriting and on and on. It was highly interesting.

Second story -- I was looking at an acquisition deal recently with a fellow that used to be a very senior person on the logistics side with one of the major labels. We were talking about the company's desire to secure and track containers or CD shipments. And he mentioned that it wasn't because of the value of the plastic CDs themselves. Rather, if the containers of CDs were stolen in transit, the record label would lost time in getting its product to market - a product for which it had likely spent millions of dollars recording/producing/promoting/etc.

As with the first story above, it was highly interesting to look at the pure business side. And make no mistake about it, it IS a business.
 




Top