By Bruce Edwin
Bruce Edwin is founding CEO of the A-list firm Starpower Management LLC, publisher and creator of The Hollywood Sentinel, and producer of motion picture. His services, based on his years of expertise and success in the music and film industry are sought out and used by some of the most powerful companies and stars in entertainment. This article series, a precursor to his upcoming book series, is his way of giving back to models, actors and bands, with knowledge, that in its totality and with its unabashed honesty cannot not be found anywhere else, for free. Whether you want to be a famous model, actor, singer, director, producer, or similar, the following advice will help you in most any chosen area of entertainment.
How to Succeed in the Music Industry
1, Don't do business on Social Media. When soliciting a model and talent agent, manager, producer, or casting director, do so privately, by e-mail or phone call, and address them by their name. If you are 'friends' with them on FaceBook for example, do not ask publicly in front of everyone on the 'wall' for them to hear your material. One musician did this to me not long ago, then started arguing with me when I told her how it would not play for me, telling me how it played for others. in philosophy, this is called the bandwagon technique. I tell you, "Look, it is good to jump off a cliff! See?! All of these other people are doing it, so you should too!" I don't care how many people this person's material played for, it didn't for me, and I asked for it to be sent to me in a different manner. She began grandstanding in front of her 'friends' and my 'friends' about the situation using the bandwagon technique, trying to make me look wrong. At this, she not only did not get me to hear her music, she got un-friended.
2, Have a website with your music on it. Always have content on your website that plays correctly and via all platforms you use to promote it. And if for some reason it does not play for the agent, manager, producer, or casting director, don't make excuses and tell them that 'it plays for everyone else' or that type of line. Simply do whatever it takes to get them the material fast and efficiently for them, that does play, with no blame, and no excuses. Instead of FB, go through the method of e-mail for a submittal, after a phone call. Only use FB to warm up and open up an introduction on another line of communication such as phone or in person. The same goes for any other social media line. Don't do business via social media. Only use it to get the connection, strengthen the connection, and then migrate the communication of that connection to another more viable business communication line such as e-mail, phone, or in person.
3, Promote yourself on all appropriate outlets. In addition to a website with your music on it, you should also be on You Tube, Sound Cloud, Reverb Nation, Twitter, and yes FaceBook among more. And, you must actively promote yourself. These days, labels want to see a strong social media following to know that you can draw a decent crowd to see you live and buy your record and downloads. MySpace used to be hugely relevant to the music industry. After it started flooding users with unwanted and annoying advertising that slowed the site to a crawl, the sites popularity crashed. They then came back and did the nasty move of deleting people's contacts, and after that insane move, no rock or pop star on their board in the world will redeem them. As a result, most consider them, as do I, useless. These days, the above mentioned sites and a few others are more important to a band.
4, Name names. I have stated this many times before, and it needs stated again. Always address the name of the person you want to hear your work. If I get in a mass e-mail without addressing my name from an un-signed band, talent, or even screenwriter, I typically delete it. Find out the name of the person you are submitting to, and use it.
5, Ask, don't tell. No, this has nothing to do with sexual orientation, it has to do with manners. If you want a label, booker, promoter, agent, or manager to hear something, ask us, don't tell us. I have mentioned this over and over, but it also needs stated again, as people keep doing it. Those who can do something for your career are not going to take orders from you and listen to your music or anything else because you told them to. They might, if you are fortunate 'if' you ask them, and ask politely.
6, Follow up. Don't consider that just because you sent something, even if someone said they would look or listen, that your job is done. It has actually just now started. You now have to follow up. I have actually had people who wanted me to sign them solicit me, get my agreement to look or listen, and then get mad because I did not call them back. If someone can do something for your career, you generally need them more than they need you. So, go out of your way and follow up, and don't expect them to. You're the one that needs signed, not them. They are already in business. So if a band is too lazy, incompetent, or too arrogant to persist asking, they could care less.
7, Get an agent or manager. I was recently asked to help a band who told me they were getting stiffed thousands of dollars from their then booking agent. The booking agent decided to bump up their percent without telling the band, and then took months to pay the band tour monies due from the gigs. The band, not wanting to hurt their standing with the booker or even more specifically, the clubs who the booker worked with, was at the mercy of the booking agent, wondering what, when, and if they would ever even get paid. After my management firm got involved, money started trickling in, first a couple of grand, then finally, an agreement to pay the rest, and another thousand and a half paid. A strong agent or manager has no fear of standing up to anyone, no matter how powerful or connected the entity trying not to pay is. Find an honest, top agent or manager who is fearless, and they can not only take you far, they can help protect you. Sure you will have to pay them a percent, but it will be worth it to you in the long run. Trust me, you do not want to do all of the music and all of the business. It is not only not fun, for most, it is nearly an impossible task to juggle successfully, and it is risky to try do all yourself. When someone tells an agent or manager that they don't need representation, that they manage themselves, they basically have just told us that they are too scared or amateur to go for the big time. Get representation.
8, Be original. I just got in a query this week from a very talented musician (who did not follow number four), who I know I could get signed and could turn into a massive star. The problem is, he would have to change his bands name, and write new songs. His music is strong, though not greatly powerful. His voice is decent, though not unique, and his songwriting, while not bad, is reductive. In other words, he sounds like he would be a perfect cover band of one of my favorite bands. This even could be tolerable, if his songwriting were unique and powerful enough, but it isn't. I get no emotion from his voice, lyrics, or overall compositions. It is technically good, but soul-less. Why would I play him, when I could play the original he is so blatantly imitating who are hundreds of times better? Add to those problems, the fact that he is not very young, and item four above; he sent me a blind mass e-mail, and I gave him exactly one more minute of my time, sending him a form letter suggesting he should not send a form letter.
If he had been wise, he would have written back immediately, thanked me for my time, apologized, referred to me by name, and started communicating. I was going to sign him if he had replied, been cool, and followed some simple advice. Instead, I did not hear from him again. And I predict, five years from now, he will still be in the same position and I will still not be mentioning who who is because he failed to take my advice. And, I will not be surprised if, one, two or five years from now, he sends me another form e-mail to be signed, gets my same email back from me stating do not send form emails, and then fails to write again. I have actually had things like this happen. Harsh, but from my experience- true. All of these difficulties are easily surmounted by one simple thing- be original, and learn how to deal with the music industry. If you want to be a cover band, fine. But if you want to be an original act, then be unique! This is the computer age. It's difficult enough to get kids off of their butts, and outside to a gig. If you are not unique and original, in my view, you do not deserve a gig. Save the stage for someone who bares their soul, and who has something new, unique, and powerful to add to the world. And, learn how to succeed in the music industry before acting and doing things wrong.
9, Be prepared to make some minor changes for a label, agent, or manager. Look, you need to make money. If someone is willing to work with you if you make some changes, considering doing it. I got a CD in years ago from a great band who I could have made huge. The problem was- their male vocalist was dreadfully off key, and their genre did not fit being off key like some punk rock can get away with. I told him to get some vocal lessons, and during the interim, bring in another singer, who would then become back up after he got trained. He refused to do either, and as a result, they have never been heard from by me -or any one else for that matter- since. Even if the changes are totally not what you want, consider doing it for a short while. You can always try it, and then go back to what you wanted. Wouldn't it be better to make music and get paid for it than not at all? I'm not suggesting you 'sell out,' your artistic integrity. I'm just suggesting that you consider that some people might have better ideas than you about what will make you the most successful, that you may be happy living with in the end. If not, you can always alter the changes. A few changes might not require selling your soul, but could prove beneficial to you in ways that you never imagined- in the end.
10, Get over the idea that record labels are evil. A long standing idea in the indie music scene, particularly in the punk scene, is that the major labels are evil. Sure, maybe some of them are, but that doesn't mean you can't benefit from them! Remember, a company is simply a legal entity that is made up of people who are no better than you are. If it is a big record company, they have resources that you don't in which to sell and promote your music. Many so called indies are either owned by majors, or are big like many majors, so that aspect doesn't matter either. If it's capitalism you are trying to avoid, then go live in the mountains and get off the of the Internet, otherwise, it is nearly impossible to avoid. If you want to avoid 'selling out,' your ideals, then make a list of what you will not change as a band, and stick to it-regardless of how big the rewards offered to you are. But if you want the world to hear your music, you would be wise to at the very least, get a distribution deal through a major label, or at least through one of the big indies.
These days of course, You Tube is now getting into the music business, and with entities like Amazon, CD Baby, and Reverb Nation, you can naturally, sell your own downloads. However, you still should have physical, hard copy CD's, and I suggest also vinyl, which is cool. And so, for massive hard copy units, you need a major distributor to handle all of this physical production, replication, distribution, sales, and commerce. Plus, you need a strong street team and merch support on the road and at your home base online. So, get the idea out of your head that a record label- particularly a major one will ruin your life. On the contrary, I have interviewed tons of major label bands, and most of them have been very happy with their major label, and most of them also do something very important that many un-signed bands I have met do not do so much of, at least not as easily. Its kind of important- its called- eat!
I hope this has helped many of you. As always, you are invited to contact me on the front page of this site at the bottom of the page in the comments section with any questions that you may want answered that you have not found here. Also, be sure to check out the other articles of this series in the Archives section, going to the left of this page at the Table of Contents, clicking on Archives, and then exploring all of the back issues and the How to Succeed In Hollywood Series.
This story is ©2013, The Hollywood Sentinel, Bruce Edwin, all world rights reserved.