Monday, August 13, 2012

The All Skate Philosophy (Solutions & The Future)

Like most industries when challenged with change to the status quo and the way business is done, they change, they adapt, or they die. Why the music, film and book publishing businesses have morphed to this moment in time has not been by accident, business forces with insight have crafted this new industry for their benefit. While these industries have been declining, there are quite a few players making a lot of money.

Musicians are viewing the open doors to distribution and digital retail shelf space like those many years ago during the many gold rushes. Hardly anyone got rich just panning for gold on their own, but during the gold rushes, many smart people did; they were the shovel sellers and those granting access to areas where there just may be gold!

The people making a lot of money in the present day music business are the aggregators and the publishers. They have many, many items needing only to generate a little profit, by virtue of the numbers game, they get titles from time to time that make a lot of money, bonus time!

Recall the story about the man who worked in the bank, who thought he could supplement his income by skimming the 4th decimal point of each transaction, thinking nobody would miss it and quickly found that all these millions of transactions made him tremendously rich and sentenced to prison. Aggregators and Publishers are working with this business model now, with little overhead for their growing catalog in the digital space waiting for the break out hit.

Musicians who believe in the myth “If I build it they will buy it” are just having fun or investing in a dream, no planning, no industry research, knowledge or education = no return on investment, just the rush to the open door of the digital distribution space, hoping praying and dreaming. By virtue of having your music on the digital services and in the same channels as working artists by no means puts you on the same footing as the touring, grinding musicians who pour their ‘everything’ into trying to grow their music careers. The music itself may be very good but that doesn’t mean you have a career in the music business.

Open doors to Digital Distribution have created one big multi level marketing scheme. Think about who buys most or the sales by new bands? friends and family that’s who. Then after that, very few sales even occur, why? Because the music industry is a business, if you want to sell your musical works, you have to promote them within a plan and have the capital to support that plan. You have to have a long-term view. The music business is not too different from any other business, the fundamentals are the same; you produce a product, and you try your best to sell it over time.

So what does the musician do that really wants to make music their career?

First you have to get out of the All Skate, you have to practice more and play more, dedicate yourself to your career, play the spaces that no one else is in, you have to put yourself in unique niches, (and wait for it,) think outside of the box. You have to be special, separate yourself from the crowd, make yourself a professional skater, not just someone who owns skates and can skate a bit. Michael Phelps and I can both swim, but I am not in the Phelps league, I do not get up at 5am and swim hundreds of laps daily. I don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as him when it comes to water, let alone swimming.

I know the self-esteem’ers reading this will be bummed to find out that life not only isn’t fair by nature, but also, that just because a few friends like my music doesn’t make me an artist on par with someone who does it daily for a living. Musicians thrive on ‘the exception to the rule’ to keep their drive alive, but the exception does not make the rule. Just because some band got discovered on Youtube or iTunes and became a success does not create the new investment model for the music biz.

Most startup businesses of any kind need to have a product or service they believe in, then, they need to put together a marketing plan with a cash flow analysis, followed by securing the capital to give their business idea a real chance to make it. I have always been a proponent of making sure you have a solid concept before asking how much it will cost. Doing it any other way is just grasping at straws and knowing many smart venture capitalists, will never get you a cent of investment.

The music business has shed thousands of jobs over the last 10 years and some really smart music biz people with great connections are out there. Reach out and find them, ask for advice, better still, get one of them to manage your career or consult you, they may charge you but probably will save you more than you will waste mining for gold in all the wrong places. It may cost you more upfront but you won’t waste years of your life not knowing if you are on the right track. And for those who would say, “If you believe in my music, you would work with me for free” step back and think about how ridiculous and arrogant that is. You would never have that test for a mechanic by asking them to listen to your music first and then ask “If you believe in my band you’d fix my transmission for free” or the music store “If you believe in my band you’d give me that guitar for free” the further up the music ladder you get the more things you pay for, look at radio promotion, coop advertising, etc.

Obviously, not all bands and artists are going to be able to approach their career this way because not everyone will have the access to capital, but that goes for anything in life that people want to do, there is always disparity. But once you sit down and put numbers in a spreadsheet you may be surprised by how less expensive it is than you originally thought, and you might just get some angel investment because you are seen to be taking your career seriously.

Ask yourself this about your music, “Do I want it to be my career? Do I want to get paid for my music? Do I want this to be a business?” If the answer is YES, then approach it correctly, set it up as a business, set yourself apart from other musicians and you will find that you will end up achieving more and it will be a lot more fun because the business side of things will be handled correctly.

Remember, you can always take part in the all skate, but when they are calling, requesting and booking you, because people want to see you! Then you know that you have the start of something really special, a MUSIC CAREER.

The All-Skate Philosphy; its problems and solutions for the entertainment industry.

Remember the old skating rinks where you would go as a kid to meet girls, hang with your friends and skate. They had a time when only the girls would skate, then only the boys, then the skilled skaters who could skate backwards, do figure eights, jumps, spins and tricks. Then they announced “All Skate” and everyone would rush the rink and it was usually pandemonium. No one really had a problem with having a time when people who really had skills and had worked at the art form could perform.

But times have changed, the philosophy of talent being ‘in the eye of the beholder’ creates problems for the entertainment industries. Why do we need gatekeepers if everyone is theoretically talented? You are considered a bigot if you judge someone’s talent as being inferior, but that is part of a gatekeepers job, you have to be brave enough to make distinctions while trying to find what you also think will be popular even just within a niche. The All Skate Philosophy hasn’t produced greater art it has diluted it and made it all a little more average and unspecial.

In the past the ‘barriers to entry’ are what kept the entertainment industries from being an All Skate. Because of technology these barriers have disappeared in the main and everyone is now a cinematographer, music producer, record label, writer, publisher, author and production house; just by virtue of owning the equipment and being able to produce a finished product. For those who embrace the All Skate Philosophy, it’s mainly a hobby for them rather than their career.

Is it a good state of affairs when the amount of people earning their living in the Entertainment Business has been reduced dramatically? Everyone from people on the creative side, to secretaries, office help, assistants, recording studio staff, etc, they are all gone pretty much. There is a great investment ad where a tennis player is about to serve and people with rackets start running on the court and trying to hit the ball, all hell breaks loose and you can imagine the result. That for me sums up the mess we are in better than anything. It is pandemonium, yet, as we see in what people watch on YouTube there is an audience for that kind of tennis.

If we had healthy industries in Music, Film and Book Publishing then where we are at with the kind of access customers have to the products that these industries create, publish and distribute would be thrilling. But it isn’t and it doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon unless change happens!

The money over the last 15 years has poured into the supply of entertainment to the consumer, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, Hulu, Createspace, Netflix and alike. But what is the future for most of these companies if the quality of the art diminishes as fewer professionals can make a living and commit themselves to their craft. And as the catalogs get older and those whose memories were made with certain movies, music and literature fade, they get less valuable. (Those Young adults in the 1950s are now in their 70s and reaching the end of their lives.) We have actually seen this trend coming, for instance, make a mental list of mega music groups from the 60s, 70s, 80s and so on, look at the list get smaller as the years go on, the same with classic movies and television. There is a direct correlation between lowering the barriers to entry, All Skate and the longevity and quality of the art that is produced and rises out of the crowd.

The music industry has tried to use network and cable television to create an elite status for its top musical acts. Its award shows have received elite status and have been heavily promoted. It shows that the public still wants to be engaged by elite talent.

Shows like American Idol have been used to develop and expose new talent to a prime time TV audience, something the industry never really utilized properly, and look at the ratings! Cleverly they have made the public “all skate” as judges and stay engaged, while the task of picking talent was left to good casting agents. Imagine what the shows ratings would be like if it was purely up to the three judges and the public voting was done away with?

American Idol shows that gatekeepers are still very important and that integrating popular culture, the “All Skate” philosophy somewhere in the chain is today necessary and beneficial. But as these shows start to decline in ratings, where do we now look to elevate certain talent above the masses? Even the networks see a rapid decline in viewership as viewing on-demand channels proliferate and what we watch on TV becomes an All Skate with no filtering.

Reading the numbers on Box Office receipts there is talk of the end of the movie going experience. The physical book is disappearing following the demise of bookstores. So what does the future hold?

Watch this space for Ian Faith’s View of solutions!

Ian Faith is an Independent Contractor and Owner of GCG (Global Creative Group, Inc)

The rise of popular negativity and the fall of music sales.

I didn't watch the Grammy's last night, and over the years I rarely have, even though I have worked for over 25 years in the music industry. I don't like awards shows for art. I love art for its passion when it touches me, not for its perceived value.

The general public's ability to be negatively opinionated and affect others buying choices of music has grown with the Internet age. TV shows like American Idol where the lead, "Simon" is the most negative person on the show, also don't help. In the age of Blogs, forums and product reviews on sites, the filtering process, usually handled by an editor has virtually disappeared and anyone without vetting can be a published critic.

So why is music reviewed?
If you look up the word "review" in a dictionary it is defined as "an evaluation", an evaluation is defined as "to affix a value or worth of" this purports something quantifiable. If anyone wants to post a review saying that a "Dishwasher" is really hard to use, that is an opinion, but it also can be somewhat quantified. The influence these reviews can have on other prospective buyers is not to be underestimated. The reviewer may have no real expertise in the field they are criticizing but because of the reviews being displayed together their opinion in context carries virtually as much weight as another reviewer with expertise.

Music, like all art is not something that is quantifiable, its evaluation is purely personal opinion. For instance, I detest the Dixie Chicks, but they have sold more records than most artists I do like. So why should a negative review of them, from me, be permitted to color other people in a personal assessment of their music. We the buying public have more ability to assess music with free downloads, 30 second clips and different media exposure than we ever have before. So why do we now need the personal opinion of someone who we don't know?

Go onto or iTunes and read some of the mostly negative reviews, "I hate this!" or "This sucks!" is published, then "Yeah, I agree they do blow" is added, piling on the negativity, the reviewers may never have even heard the music, let alone purchase it. This tells us next to nothing other than someone's personal opinion; so why should that remain as a published public review? It serves no purpose! I would say similar about many other artists, but who cares? The trouble is that negative reviews spurn more negative reviews, people love to pile on and for the industry that leads to less overall music sales.

To me it is no surprise that when the public at large finally came around to digital downloading of music, leaving their negative reviews in their wake that music sales started to fall, why would you want to buy something that everyone else pans? And the greater trouble is that it is becoming pervasive of music overall. It is a human trait that it is far easier to be negative than be positive. Negativity is also something that spreads like a disease; it hits a tipping point and floods the environment.

If you look at early season American Idol shows they basks in the negative cutting people down in public. Those are some of the most watched shows. The Grammy's and other awards shows don't help music shake the public critics as they reinforce that music can be somewhat quantified or else how could there be winners and losers?
So, I implore all music sales and download sites especially the bright spots like and iTunes, (the saviors of the music business - that put a 24/7 music store in every home) to do away with reviews or hire full time editors to really get a grip on this epidemic. Itunes saw a sharp decline last year in downloads, I am sure it coincided with a sharp rise in the amount of negative reviews. Let the public choose what music they buy with their ears and emotions, not influenced by the personal opinions of malcontents. The infection of negativity is growing and the choking music business is being throttled even faster by the noose of negativity.

When Being An Independent Musician Becomes Detrimental

Ah the joy of being indie, that's right, an independent musician, free to do whatever I want, on my terms, whenever I want to. No fear of being screwed or told what to do by distributors and record label executives. It is so bracing!

But here I am, talented, charismatic and slowly building my fan base and getting exposed to the industry. It feels though, like they have shut me out because I want to do this myself, I don't get it! Why can't they just let all us indies have the same chance the sell outs on the major labels do? We are better than those fake singers, manufactured from some TV show. For us it is our life, we live and breath it, we are real. But I am getting so frustrated that I can't seem to move my career forward.

Ah, the life of the independent musician.

Many successful people in this world, Steve Jobs included always point to their career being filled with no's. They understand that to make anything successful you are going to have most people say no to you. A guy told me that music was easier for musicians back in the day! I told him nicely, he is full of shit! The Beatles for instance had a ton of turn downs including the infamous "Don't give up your day jobs". Recording was costly and difficult, 4 tracks! You get more tracks in better quality via an App on your phone today. Touring, think of the motor vehicles back then, the cost of equipment, poverty was way more oppressive than today, printing, communications, viral marketing, the freakin world wide web, international distribution and a record store in every home connected to the web. Easier, in what way?

I think people see it as easier because it was simpler, more restrictive, less people doing it, so it seems like it was a less painful process. People talk about the way fans loved music more back then. They probably did, because what else did they have?

Many indie artists don't take rejection well, they don't work well with others in their industry, they don't take the time to understand how the other areas of the industry work. I had an artist back in 2002 who wanted me to help get his indie CD in stores, I asked him"How much are you going to sell it for?", "$20" was his reply. "Ok, that's more than most CDs out there, why is it worth, $20?" he told me "because it has 14 songs on it and it's great!". I let him know to his shock, that a lot of the new releases had 16 or so songs on them and they were $13.99 tops" he didn't know that. But then came the stunning realization about how out of touch he was, he wanted me to arrange distribution of his CD, try to retail an unknown artist for $20 and he wanted $15 per CD in return! I let him know that if he wants a retailer to sell it for $20 they are going to return $10 to the distributor who wants 20% and then our 15% how can that get him back $15? He was fuming and thought this was some kind of rip off! He just didn't get it because he wanted things to work they way he imagined them to and not the way the real world works. And why did he feel so entitled to have everybody work for him and not get anything for doing so?

Being independent means the following, you need to do an awful lot more than musician's who are willing to sell their rights. You have to educate yourself more, network with people in all areas of the industry to build a database of contacts, understand how the business works, pay all the bills yourself, find the future funds you need and then make it to rehearsal so you can be good enough to step foot on a stage and ask punters to pay to get in to hear your music.

Having all this control and responsibility is awesome and a ton of endless work, but it becomes detrimental when you are still in dream mode! Wake up, get your ass out of bed and get to work, oh and by the way, there is no end to your day because as soon as you have learned how it all works, you find out it is all changing and have to relearn and meet new people over and over again. Part of waking up is learning that you can still be an indie and shake hands on deals with other people and companies and hand over parts of your career to others to caretake. Indie doesn't mean "an island" it just means you get to make the decisions.... all of them!

Ian Faith

Negotiating Gigs Like a Pro Booking Agent

So you want to go and start playing gigs, taking your music on the road, touring the country, taking your sound to the masses and building a fan base of admirers who are going to help you to reach the heights of a music career....STOP! ....You have to get your first gig.

So you go into the club and ask if you can play there, the bar back tells you you need to speak to the manager who tells you that they make the decisions with a promoter and they want to know if you have a press kit? You tell him you are a new band and don't have a press kit. So the manager informs you that there is a cost of his business to put on a live show, it involves having more staff, sound guy, maybe lighting, extra security on the door. He wants to know how many people will come and see you live? Well, I think we can bring 50 people, you tell him, he laughs and says his capacity is 250 so you are at best going to fill a fifth of the room? At this point you tell him you'll be back after thinking things through.

Now, how to do this properly. First, define the geographical area you want to play, let's say you are going to find venues within 1hr drive of your home. This way your early supporters can take a little road trip also. Secondly, research and find venues that already do live music and are small, a place where if you bring 20 people the owner loves you, especially if they are also drinkers. Also smaller venues who already do live music will be more willing to give you a chance without it costing them too much money. Third, put together a press kit with 3 songs on a CD that show your style or get the booking agent a link to check you out online. Make sure your contact info is clearly visible. Keep it simple.

Once they book you for a date start preparing right away.

The most important relationships in a musician's career are these ones, the club owners and staff are so vital to you, never treat them like a doormat. You never know where they might end up down the road, bigger club, A&R rep, etc. Have an honest relationship with them.

Important Rules:
1. Never lie about your following or over promise.
2. Talk to the venue several times leading up to the show, asking if you can do anything extra to promote your performance with them? They may have a coop ad in the local paper a web site that needs a pic in the listing, flyers or other things.
3. Don't do nothing or you will be sure to not be invited back.
4. Be professional. Practice, perform, entertain and then thank them, including the sound guy.
5. Treat the venue with respect, the owners love to help musicians, you will be stunned how many owners know other owners and promoters, they can be a great resource for you.
6. Never leave immediately after your show. Buy a drink for the owner or promoter even if you made nothing that night, it will lay a great groundwork for the future.
7. If you have a little money for promotion place a coop ad with the venue in local papers, so even if you have no crowd the venue will at least know you tried, and that goes a long way.
8. Ask the owners and staff for referrals of other venues you cold play and make sure you leave them your contact info so they can follow up with you.
9. Keep the sound level not too loud that the bar staff can't hear customers and do their job. Be aware of being too loud.
10. Leave quietly so not to disturb neighbors.
11. Follow up to book more dates until your crowd is too big for the venue, then you move up to bigger venues and with that kind of crowd you can start naming your price!

Once you have this mastered, you will be booking gigs like a pro booking agent. You will have a network setup and a name and reputation that promoters will want to work with. Remember it just has to make sense, for the band and venue.

More advice from Ian Faith go to

The Disconnect Between Artists and Labels

Many artists wonder why record labels and industry executives are not courting them, they put it down to not having the right influential lawyer, manager or knowing the right person. "It's who you know!" I keep hearing this from unsigned acts but it really should be "Who knows you and what do they know you for?"

"We have great songs" - to paraphrase (and twist a little) Chris Rock "You are supposed to have great songs". Why would you be in a band if you didn't have what you thought were great songs? You are also supposed to have a fan base and some semblance of an image that will attract fans.

Artists treat getting signed by labels like getting accepted into the school hip society, they make it way too emotional when they should look at the relationship for what it is - a B2B or Business To Business relationship. These relationships require you to ask 2 simple questions, 1. What do we want from them? and 2. What do they want from us? The answer to question 1 has been addressed about 1 million times each week at band meetings across the globe but I bet question 2 has rarely if ever come up. Question 2. What do they want from us? This is the key to making deals in this and every industry. If you provide another company with what they need to make them money, then they are going to want to make a deal with you.

For those looking a little puzzled right now here are a few things a label will want from you. Volume of shows in different markets, touring, can you put bums on seats and sell to these people. Show a commitment to touring, don't expect to stay at the Sheraton, for the first few tours sleep in the van or under the stars, you are going to end up smelling a bit, this commitment is what it takes. Sales - how many records/downloads can you prove you have sold? Buzz - are radio stations, retailers, promoters, or press - who is talking about you?

If you are still reading - you have a shot cus maybe you get it. If you start thinking this way and expand from here you will see them gravitate to you. Remember What do they want from us?

Ian Faith