Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Record Pool Pimp

At and early age I learned a phrase from my mother that has never lost its truth. Shakespeare wrote “Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing”.

Looks like I wrote an article that hit a little too close to home for a certain record pool “pimp”. My article on Changes Within the Entertainment Industry Vocabulary brought out a real snake in the grass. A certain "pool" director READ 2 PARAGRAPHS of the article, took it personal and decided to have his rebuttal posted within an industry newsletter. This was an unwarranted one-sided nonsensical rebuttal. After reading his rebuttal I haven't figured out exactly what he was trying to say. It seems that my telling the truth has pulled the covers off of his schemes and he now feels that I am taking business away from him. A friend told me today that “…sometimes when you throw a brick people just run straight into it and swear you threw it at them”. This guy should have ducked.

The entertainment industry has changed and new avenues of marketing & promotion have made the concept of record pool’s change. Online marketing of music, marketing of pool dj’s, record pool events and regular record pool meetings is the common norm. It is not hard to deduce that this particular record pool “pimp” can not compete in today’s business environment.
This person has a record pool but does not have a roster of confirmed DJ's that are playing weekly in clubs. He has a reputation of taking your musical cd's or 12" recordings and "running" directly to an independent store in the city where he sells them to live. He has not had a major record in his pool in years for the major labels and the independents that want to reach the masses know not to do business with him. His reporting techniques are sporadic and his charts have little to no meaning for any product that he reports. They do not match any definable or traceable airplay or club play. They have no ability to track sales, either physical or digital. And calling a record HOTT means what exactly?He fancy's himself a record promoter but can't tell you who is working at what radio station anywhere in the state that he lives and works. His claim is that he has been in business for years, but like Janet Jackson I ask WHAT HAVE YOU DONE LATELY? Being in business for years is the reason that today Hollywood Video, Levitz, Sharper Image, Performance Team Freight, Linen N Things, Circuit City, Bed Bath and Beyond ALL claimed bankruptcy. You must change with the times or you won’t be able to compete.

Pool meetings? Where, when, why, none of these can be answered intelligently for they are non-existent.

His snide references to having a college education, shows the depth of his illiteracy. It really isn’t my fault that you never went to school I just hope that you don’t pass on your hatred and jealousy of education and success to your children. They deserve better than that.

And what does your mother have to do with the record pool? She was a fantastic talent when she was alive, you are not.

It is no wonder that he refers to receiving music from “unknown” artists. This gives him the ability to work his “pimp” game upon them. New artists don’t have the knowledge of past events to show them who is honest and who isn’t.
I won't give him the pleasure of naming him or his pool for that would be giving him publicity and if he can't get it on his own than TOUGH. I already understand that attempting to slam me personally is his only way to get attention. It surely isn’t because he has great connections with the record labels or radio stations.

At the end of the day the business is changing rapidly and a few smart executives are making the change with joy, honesty and intelligence. Sometimes it is wrong to think that you have talent when you have never done anything to prove your talent in your life.

It is always wrong to try and fool the people, especially when the people are intelligent and aware.

Industry Standard

Allen L. Johnston – The Music Specialist

In the music business “taking the money” is not always the best way to do business. During the course of my 40 years within the industry I have prepared countless contracts, witnessed numerous deals, and heard about horror stories galore. The normal term used in almost every one of these situations is the INDUSTRY STANDARD. The industry standard has created a major label monster that has hidden transparency, executive clutter and under accountability or no accountability.

Let’s take publishing for example. In the past publishing deals were approximately 2-3 pages long and had basic short clauses listing which rights were licensed and the percentage of revenue the publisher or sub-publisher was entitled to retain. There were one or two short clauses dealing with accounting (50%-100%) and territory (the world) and that was about it. Normally there was NO express termination date. So what happened? Publishers got a signed contract, placed it in a filing cabinet and waited for the money to start coming in. They never promoted the songs they had contracted or felt any need to even contact the writers unless they wanted additional catalog to license. This was the industry standard and horror stories abound based on these contracts.

The life of one of these “industry standard” contracts, based on copyright law, was the life of the writer PLUS 70 years, meaning that a company could easily hold a contract for over 100 years. Because certain writers took the advance from the publisher and signed a contract, they literally gave up ALL of the income derived from the music that they created.

Recently I have been asked “How can I get out of this type of contract?” The answer is not easy at all. The courts have no way of enforcing a contract without an express right of termination unless the publisher has been found to be so negligent in their duties that by their conduct they have indicated an intention not to be bound by the contract terms. As you can see this is not an easy thing to prove, for if the publisher is collecting money they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.

The other alternative is to reach a new voluntary agreement with the publisher based on some of the following concepts. Creation of a specific termination date established on a shorter time frame that sets specific duties and obligations for the publisher to perform centered on that specific termination date. This can probably be accomplished if the writer is still current and has new non-published material that can be offered for a new contract. Royalty rates should be the first thing to be renegotiated for “industry standard” contracts gave the lion’s share of the royalties to the publisher.

Record label and artist contracts are even worse. The normal INDUSTRY STANDARD contract only gives the label or artist a maximum 18% revenue AFTER taking out deductions for advances, marketing, promotion, video, studio and manufacturing. Once again artist and labels are “taking the money” up front as an advance and are not seeing any return on the real profit made on their creations.

Historically major labels have made deals with independent labels, ultimately taking their acts and doing with them as they please. After the initial advance and the marketing, promotion, video, tour support, publicity and packaging deductions are calculated many acts are left in a negative cash position. The new “standard” has become a label deal where the major funds the label startup costs. Very few companies have been able to stay afloat from this type of deal based on the inability to run successful office structures and the change within the industry itself. Artists get the label deals but in a majority of cases, the artists’ management created the direction, marketing and promotion that caused the major label to present a deal. Once this direction is gone so is the act.

Major labels created a system that was run by executives who promoted music to radio chains, sold music to record chains and utilized videos on television. This system made huge amounts of money for the system and NOT for the music makers. Today’s industry has almost totally eliminated this system for the majors and has absolutely eliminated it for the independent.

One of the first things I noticed as I ran my own label was that radio, store and television people ALL told me when they decided that my record was over. Many times I heard people tell me that the song I was promoting was off their list or too old for them to work. I never listened to any of this nonsense and continued to work my records to the public. I was extremely successful in building a story for my music and delivering sales for my company. This is where the industry has gone back to today. The advent of the Internet coupled with ALL of the new technology is making radio obsolete. Television audiences are drying up and we ALL know what is happening at the store level. Options are popping up at an alarming rate, via iPhone, iPods, DVD’s, mobile phones, online social networking, p2p, b2b and many others. No longer is it necessary to deal with an industry standard for the standard has disappeared.

Today you can now reach the consumer directly through a multitude of different avenues and ONLY the independent artist or label will know who their market is. Major labels will still be looking for that HOT independent label but now you no longer need them to be successful.

Changes In The Entertainment Vocabulary

Allen Johnston – The Music Specialist

I want to tell you today about some changes that have occurred without notice within the music business.

RELEASE DATE - Once upon a time this was a cherished word ultimately meaning that a date had been planned when your music would be released to the stores for sale. To make this happen there would be thousands of dollars spent in marketing plans, sales programs, advertising and salaries. Tour expenses had been approved and the artist probably al ready had a major budget video shot with airplay and TV advertising run.

Today the Internet has made the term Release Date virtually disappear by offering direct access to the consumer. Most independent artists are trying to get as many songs as possible in front of as many people as possible so they can start selling themselves doing shows, merchandise and anything else that can make them a living. Sales programs have been regulated to the major 4 stores, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Target & Best Buy and this doesn’t even take into consideration iTunes and the Internet.

INDEPENDENT PROMOTER - This is a real lost to many within the recording industry. Here were the Kings & Queens of the record business. The people actually dealing directly with the radio station personnel and making the deals that would get records played, promoted on-air and eventually place the artist in the market doing a show. A good record promoter could command a 6 figure salary for themselves and a 7 figure budget for the promotion of the product. These were the Knights Templar of the recording business not only bringing airplay home to the major labels, but also being able to rectify problems between artists, labels and radio.

Consolidation, National & Regional consultants, corporate advertising and governmental politics made this job start to dry up. Add onto that the unscrupulous individuals that take your money promise you a group of stations or an individual radio station and then find reasons to say that you are at fault for making the song NOT get played. The Independent promoter is now history totally ineffective at creating radio spins on any major chain of radio stations.

RECORD POOL –Pools were created to receive music FREE from the record labels and charge the DJ’s to have access to the music. As part of the service of being the mediator from streets to corporate the record pool had each one of its members give written feedback on every song that they attained. For this the pool directors were treated royally by the record labels, given trips, free admission to conferences, and other perks.

This phrase has not disappeared but only morphed into something entirely different than its original context. Now record pools charge the RECORD COMPANIES to place their music within the clubs of the specific membership. Record pool directors and upper echelon pool personnel have become quasi Independent promoters and are charging enormous fees to place music on radio mix shows and occasionally on the air for a limited time. (Make it or Break it) This is really a travesty for many of these people have no business acumen, formal training or scruples.

CHARTS – A sacred word among major label executives and a magical word for independent record companies. Being on the charts meant that you were popular, making spectacular sales and probably had a record that was destined to give the artist the ability to perform in regional and national tours. The bible of the Industry was Billboard with R&R running a close 2nd.

Chart position today is a farce at best, not signifying massive sales. For example this weeks #1 album in the country sold 166,000 a far cry from the weekly sales of over 600,000 common just a few years ago. The #5 record on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart only sold 55,000 and has a grand total of 551,749 for 18 weeks worth of sales. I don’t even know anyone outside of a major company that evens subscribes to any of the trade magazines. But even more critical is the concept that new artists still believe that if you are on the charts than you will get some type of preferential treatment within the entertainment industry. There are now Chart Promoters that will take your money and promise you position on a major record chart, even though you don’t deserve anything. Please don’t think that your record is the only “hyped” record on the charts and this helps make the charts useless.

The business is changing rapidly and a few smart executives are making the change with joy and intelligence. Sometimes it is wrong to think that you have talent when you have never done anything to prove your talent in your life.

It is always wrong to try and fool the people, especially when the people are intelligent and aware.

Gangsta Rap

Allen Johnston – The Music Specialist

Today I read some of the most foolish stuff I have seen in years. 50 Cent has said "I don't like people who don't like me ... that statement changes my perception of Alicia Keys totally. It's just not really a bright comment,” OK bright comment; let’s look at what this controversy is really about. Alicia Keys made a statement that Gangsta Rap was a ploy to convince Black people to kill each other. She is completely right in her statement but DUMMY 50 Cent thinks that she has disrespected him. Here’s a little known fact, but the first rap group to identify themselves as “gangster’s” was the Beastie Boys (strange how that was never an issue). Gangsta Rap came about as an offshoot of the anti governmental, socio-political rap created by East coast Boogie Down Productions and West Coast NWA. Very few people today recognize that rappers in the 80’s were talking about killing the police because they were killing Black people without justification within the Black neighborhoods. The concept of the strong Black male being a threat to the constant police state that was and is found within the Black communities was something that the government both regional and national did not want. What transpired was music that Black & White American and International teens understood and bought in massive quantities, completely upsetting major record labels and governmental agencies. To change this movement first the government fought the artists that made the music both on the street and within the media. FBI Assistant Director, Milt Ahlerich, strongly expressing law enforcement's resentment of NWA’s Fuck The Police published a public letter condemning the music. Gangsta rap made Capitol Hill and Senate investigations started, while certain members of Congress wives began placing pressure on major record labels to change the lyrical content. What I witnessed next was the change in the major label marketing and promotion to put more emphasis on music that carried lyrics of promoting homophobia, violence, profanity, promiscuity, misogyny, rape, street gangs, drive-by shooting, vandalism, thievery, drug use, racism, and materialism. The message that Black communities were under siege by the police and other governmental agencies was completely lost to the teen generation. Radio was coerced into playing the music that the major labels wanted played, not the music that the communities wanted via massive promotions, marketing dollars and payola.Media manipulation has become an art and no where in the world is it more prevalent than within the United States. So media started promoting homophobia, violence, profanity, promiscuity, misogyny, rape, street gangs, drive-by shooting, vandalism, thievery, drug use, racism, and materialism. There was a chance that this circle of media manipulation would cease within the African American communities, but along came BET and the minds of young African Americans and eventually teens around the world were presented videos promoting homophobia, violence, profanity, promiscuity, misogyny, rape, street gangs, drive-by shooting, vandalism, thievery, drug use, racism, and materialism. 50 Cent is a businessman unfortunately his core business promotes homophobia, violence, profanity, promiscuity, misogyny, rape, street gangs, drive-by shooting, vandalism, thievery, drug use, racism, and materialism. Tim Winter. President of the Parents Television Council, conducted a study in partnership with the Enough is Enough Campaign. This study has shown that daytime music video programming on BET and MTV bombarded teen viewers with sexual, violent, profane or obscene images once every 38 seconds. "BET and MTV are assaulting children with content that is full of sexually charged images, explicit language, portrayals of violence, drug use, drug sales and other illegal activity," said Winter. "Not only that, but we discovered that some offensive words aired only in muted form in December 2007, but as recent as March 2008, these same words were not muted.” Gangsta rappers often defend themselves by claiming that they are describing the reality of inner-city life, and that they are only adopting a character, like an actor playing a role, which behaves in ways that they may not necessarily endorse. At least this is what they say when you place them in a room with REAL gangsters. The illusion of power, wealth and control is a factor that many so called Gangsta Rappers desire and flaunt. The reality of power, wealth and control lies within world corporations and governments.

Alicia Keys, keep on saying the truth, regardless to how the media spins it intelligent people know what’s REALLY happening. 50 Cent add me to the list of people who don’t like you or what you stand for.