Music Biz 101 & More is the only FREE advice talk show in America broadcast & podcast on college radio that focuses on the business side of the music & entertainment worlds. Hosted by William Paterson University’s Dr. Stephen Marcone & Professor David Philp, the show airs each Wednesday at 8pm on WPSC-FM, Brave New Radio.
ACM Records Founder Al Cohen – Music Biz 101 & More: The Podcast
In this episode of the Music Biz 101 & More radio show, Al Cohen, ACM Records founder and William Paterson University MBA in Music Management candidate, talks about the revenue streams for independent record labels, entrepreneurship in the music industry, his lawsuit with the Academy of Country Music (ACM), and much, much more. A full recap of the show is below. But if ya wanna listen now…
…if you want to skip right to the podcast, scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.
If not, enjoy our happy recap right now.
There is banter (that means fun introductions). Then, at about 3:45, Marcone brings up a few current events, including Taylor Swift’s physical music sales. That relates to the huge difference between the sales of a #1 album and a #10 album, which is quite large and quite interesting.
That discussion bequeaths a discussion of the live music industry and how artists need to fully understand the available revenue streams to them.
Then we speak for a few moments about one-time Music Biz 101 guest Chris Butler, who wrote (and played on) The Waitresses Christmas song, “Christmas Wrapping.” We talk about the money that can be made from getting your song on the radio.
At 14.25, Al Cohen, the super guest, brings up the importance of an ongoing education (that’s why he’s going for his MBA in Music Management at William Paterson University).
In the 16-minute mark, Al talks about his time as a guitarist in shows, which leads to a lesson in networking, which leads to him becoming a national touring musicians and, eventually, finding a home on Broadway and in New York City.
“I was the only guy on Broadway at that time with purple hair.” – Al Cohen of ACM Records
At 20 minutes in, Al talks about how he settled in the famous (in Rock circles) Chelsea Hotel (where former Sex Pistols lead singer Sid Vicious killed his wife, Nancy). Al talks about creating a recording studio in his apartment and working with early Rap artists. “Don’t forget, there was artist development back then,” he says.
Once we reach 25 minutes, Al explains the how/why he created ACM Records. Marcone asks him about distribution, both domestically and internationally. Al then explains how he learned to do everything himself.
ACM Records got into the “administration services” business for other labels, even big ones. Al explains what this was.
At 28 minutes in, we have a quick break, which doesn’t affect you now because you end up hearing a cool promo for the show to which you are listening.
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We’re back at the 30-minute mark and we hear some of an early Al Cohen-performed track.
We’re also on Broadway, as Al has his label, his recording studio, and a vibrant career on Broadway, playing everything from guitar to banjo to zither.
34-minutes in, we talk about the evolution of ACM Records (and learn more about how an independent label has to be able to pivot, or die, as market conditions change). This leads to how Al (and his wife, Eve) got the songs in their catalog licensed for movies and TV.
Listen carefully at 37 minutes so you can understand how Al’s company gets its music licensed for shows and movies that have ranged from Brokeback Mountain to MTV’s Catfish. Very important to understand this process.
We take our first tweet then, which gets into a big part of Al’s professional life:
@MusicBiz101WP how did you first hear about academy of country music filing for a lawsuit for your ACM name? and what were your first steps?
— Anthony Yannette (@yannette1212) November 13, 2014
You learn about classes of trade, trademarks, and filing lawsuits against very large companies in the 41-minute mark.
This was a 2-year battle between ACM Records and the Academy of Country Music (ACM).
“I had attorneys in California. I had attorneys in New York. And we had to fund them all.” – Al Cohen of ACM Records
How did Al fight the Academy of Country Music, besides with lawyers? He’s a guitarist and songwriter. He did what he did best and recorded a song.
@MusicBiz101WP Al Cohen, did the lawsuit for the rights to your company name have a negative affect on your brand? Was it worth litigation?
— Barry Belle (@675ec82303d24f0) November 12, 2014
Barry’s question leads to how ACM Records used social media to help their cause against what Al says was “trademark bullying.” Reiko tweets a question next (in the 49-minute timeframe) about how Al got his lawyers. “The more you know about what you’re getting into, the more you can speak intelligently” to attorneys, Al says. When you’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars, the more you know will help save you money.
@MusicBiz101WP What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone who is trying to start their own label?
— Joelle Filippi (@JoelleFlip) November 13, 2014
Al gives a great response. We’re at 51 minutes. Listen.
From there, we give Al a lightning round of questions. Fast questions (all YOUR tweets) and fast answers. He’s asked about his versatility, if his label signs/promotes new artists, his feelings about the industry post-lawsuit, surviving against major labels, career diversification, and more.
“The day you stop being current in the music business is the day you stop in the music business.” – Al Cohen of ACM Records
Lessons of the Day – When you get to 57 minutes, you’ll hear Professor Philp, who is awesome and very handsome of voice, list the lessons of the days.
Then thank yuze are handed out liberally, to Al, to awesome Producer Phillip Gorokhovsky, and master co-host Dr. Stephen Marcone. That leads to a large and fancy adios and our outro of the show, Al Cohen’s (Al Pine’s) “Stand Up! For Your Rights,” a song he wrote and recorded to help him fight the good fight in his lawsuit with the Academy of Country Music. Give a listen, mmmkay?
- Steve Leeds – Sirius/XM Radio
- Karl Guthrie – Entertainment Attorney Extraordinaire
- Dr. Rob Quicke – Founder of World College Radio Day
- Dr. E. Michael Harrington – Copyright/Intellectual Property Expert
- George Dassinger – PR Guru (that means Expert)
- Aaron Van Duyne – Business Manager for KISS, Dave Matthews Band, and more
- Harvey Leeds – Personal Manager for Southside Johnny
- Tom Hefter – Marketing Specialist at TicketMaster
- Elena Lanza – Independent Dance Radio Consultant
- Dr. Dave Demsey – Coordinator Jazz Studies Program, William Paterson University
- Paul Sinclair – Head of Digital Strategy, Marketing, eCommerce, and Product Development at Atlantic Records
- Jane Stein – Performing Arts Presenter, William Paterson University
- Sean Gilday & Rachel Hill – Agents, Blue Raven Entertainment
- Wayne Chernin – Island & Republic Records
- Steve Corbin – WEA & Lupo Entertainment
- Dave Lory – Jeff Buckley/Courtney Love Manager
- Chris Henderson – Guitarist for 3 Doors Down
- Frank Robbins – Guitar Tech/Hall & Oates and moe.
- Howard Freeman – Executive Producer Quick Chek NJ Festival of Ballooning & Rock, Ribs, & Ridges Festival
- Chris Butler – Songwriter/Guitarist for The Waitresses & Tin Huey
- Ron Bienstock – Music Business Attorney
- Rob Fusari – 2-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer
Thanks for listening and, as always, Adios!