If You Ain’t Learnin’, You’re Dyin’ – Lessons From A Week In The Music Biz Trenches

The title to this is probably a quote from somebody.  I Googled it and did find THIS, so the title ain’t exactly new, or original.  If you clicked on the word “this” in the previous sentence, you’d see that the guy who wrote that article was talking about the importance of continuously growing, absorbing information, learning new stuff.

I have a fear of developing Alzheimer’s Disease at some point (that and dementia run in my family).  I read an article last week that I can’t find now about how, while there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s, one way to combat it early is to keep challenging yourself mentally.  Keep reading, thinking, and being creative.

The last week was a good week for that.  We came in contact with some execs in the industry who offered some great information that we either hadn’t seen or hadn’t thought of.  So here are some tidbits worth sharing with you:

– Let’s start with voice commands.  In the past, you’d tell a device to do something and nothing would happen.  Then Apple invented Siri, which has since been bypassed by Amazon’s Alexa.

RCA Records Co-President Joe Ricitelli (hey – another William Paterson alum) spoke to 16 students, Marcone, and me on Friday about how these smart speaker devices, once they are embedded in cars, will help change how people listen and access music in their vehicles.

If you don’t think smart speakers are changing things, read THIS about comments Universal Music’s chief bottle washer, Lucian Grainge, made recently about how songwriters need to think about how they title songs.   If the song title isn’t in the lyrics, artists may miss out on this impending revolution of how listeners discover music.  For example, Dishwalla’s “Counting Blue Cars” never mentions the title.  Third Eye Blind’s “The Jumper” never explicitly talks about the jumper.  Lennon & McCartney screwed up “A Day In The Life” because they never sing those words in the song.

Grainge is thinking like a corporate titan, as he should.  Artists follow their muse.  This will be an interesting development.

Meanwhile, radio needs to adjust.  As it is, I believe radio is drinking its own Kool Aid and is running out of time.  I subscribe to a daily newsletter about, and by, the industry from Radio Ink.  The industry still thinks its as big today as it was 20 years ago.

Whatever statistics they see are skewed, as Ricitelli said, because younger listeners don’t carry person people meters around with them.  These are similar to pagers, great technology from the ’80s and ’90s that, well, was used in the ’80s and ’90s.  Radio still relies on these things for data about what people are listening to.  Ask a 19-year old college student what s/he listens to.  Chances are, if they listed their order for you, radio would not be #1.

At least THIS GUY gets it right when he claims (pretty correctly) that AM radio is dead.  I can give you a good reason why.  It’s 2019 and AM radio still sounds like it’s broadcasting from 1959.  Wake up, radio.  It’s getting pretty late.  You’re losing generations.

– Move on with me now to A&R, the job that apparently every human who ever heard the phrase “record company” wants.  Both Kate Hyman, VP of A&R at BMG, and Quinn Slattery, A&R Coordinator at RCA Records, spoke about what A&R is beyond signing your favorite artists.

First, do you know what A&R stands for?  It’s an acronym for Artists & Repertoire, the latter being a French word that must be spoken with as minimal an amount of throat phlegm as possible.

We think A&R people find an unsigned artist, love the songs, and sign the artist to a record label.

But then what?

Quinn mentioned that A&R was as much “logistical as political.”  Hyman stated that A&R was “10% finding artists.”  The other 90%?  Here’s where both Quinn and Kate agreed.  A&R includes finding songs for your artist, knowing producing, helping artists get on the right tours, inspiring the rest of the company to keep focus on the artist.  Quinn talked about his first big mistake – he didn’t clear a sample on one of his artist’s tracks.  Why?  He didn’t know he was supposed to.

From L to R: Dr. Esteban Marcone, Kate Hyman, Steve Leeds, Professor David Kirk Philp.

In addition, there’s the battle over the best material.  Quinn talked about how he’d find a song for one of his artists and then reach out to the publisher for the right to record and release the song (copyright law dictates that the songwriter/publisher has the right to the initial release of a song, after which the compulsory license kicks in and anyone can record and release the song, as long as each person pays a licensing fee).  Sometimes his artist wouldn’t get the approval because a bigger artist would want the song.  Sometimes, he’d lose out to an artist who was on the same label as his artist.

So we learn about the competition for great material.  And what Quinn didn’t talk about was the songs that may include multiple publishers.  Bottom line, if you the artist, or the artist you work with, writes their own material, this situation clears itself up much more easily.

What else can we learn from Kate Hyman, specifically?  Here are some highlights of notes I took during her interview, led by our friend, the respected Steve Leeds of SiriusXM:

  • “Kids” want to do it after only a year.  They aren’t asking enough questions. They aren’t patient.  “I see a lot of impatience. I see a lot of entitlement.” As a result, there are bad signings and bad music.
  • “The only reason to sign a band is when you can’t live without them.”   If someone can talk you out of it, then you shouldn’t sign them.
  • “The big hits tend to be the ones that break ground.”
  • Artists shouldn’t be getting too much $$ in the beginning.  It just raises the pressure. And the label/publisher may drop them sooner because they don’t want to go deeper into the hole.
  • “Current has to be timeless.”
  • “Sometimes your job is to leave somebody alone.”
  • Some artists need to be signed to smaller labels so they receive the attention they deserve.  Artists can get lost in bigger labels.

Finally, a panel at Sony Music that included the aforementioned Quinn Slattery, along with Marcus Coward, Associate Director of Social & Digital at Sony Music Entertainment, and Ejiro (EJ) Enaohwo, International Marketing Manager at Sony Music Entertainment, spoke about how to get internships and jobs inside the industry.  Take a look at these bullet points below:

  • Even if you can’t intern every semester, do things on campus to load up that resume and show that you’re dedicated
  • Your degree guarantees you nothing; you have to show you work hard
  • Have some transferable skills
  • Tell a good story about yourself
  • Don’t come in with a chip on your shoulder
  • Help your friends’ bands
  • Radio show
  • Live and die music

MEANWHILE…

Luke Perry died last week.  He was recently in the CW’s Riverdale but I know him from Beverly Hills 90210, a huge show on FOX in the early-’90s, before FOX got a news channel and all political.

I saw THIS ARTICLE on the LinkedIn social media platform, posted by a marketing maniac at Coca-Cola.  It’s mainly about Vans, moving on from its own venue in Brooklyn and the Warped Tour into pop-up shows with newer artists.  The thang caught my eye because we were talking bands and brands last week on our Music Biz 101 & More radio show with Marcie Allen of MAC Presents.  That’s what she does, connect music with the corporate world.  We’ll tell yuze when the podcast is up so you can take some lessons from the master (her).

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Meanwhile, did you know – Over 200 Music Biz 101 & More Podcasts Are Up?

Yeah.  We didn’t know it either.  We’re at 201.  We recently uploaded our interviews with Jake Posner (see the pic at the very top), Atlantic’s Michael Parker, Live Nation’s Harvey Leeds, music biz attorney George Gilbert, Columbia Records’ Kari Keller, Ultra Music’s Miles Franco, and Catalyst PR’s Jen Appel (leave the last L off for savings).  Go and listen to everything on SoundCloud, iTunes, and/or Spotify.  You’ll be glad you did.

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For full details about the Music & Entertainment Industries Program, including courses, the minor, and our MBA, click HERE.

 

For full details about the WPU Pop Music Studies Program, including courses and audition requirements, click HERE.

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Professor David Philp is Assistant Professor Music & Entertainment Industries and Popular Music Studies at William Paterson University. He is the co-host of the only FREE advice college radio-based music & entertainment industry talk show in America, Music Biz 101 & More, which airs live most Wednesday nights and is available as a podcast HERE every night (days too).  Your favorite professor is also co-author (with Dr. Steve Marcone) of Managing Your Band – 6th Edition.  Reach him at PhilpD@wpunj.edu or find him on LinkedIn HERE.

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