Why Some Record Labels Fail, While Others Succeed?

What I Learned Working with a Label That Failed

 

In early 2015, I was invited to join a “dream team” of music industry professionals.

This team consisted of a former VP of a major record label, a manager from a “major” indie artist, as well as an assembly of top-notch graphic designers, publicists and assistants. Our mission was to work with a brand new record label and assist them in acquiring a larger fanbase and overall develop their brand.

From the surface we succeeded: Social media numbers skyrocketed, we garnered healthy press coverage, and we even had two of their artist chart on radio. Not to mention, we had some official showcases, as well some fun opening spots.

However, despite this, the label ended up folding. Some of their (very talented) roster still operates with them, but what I assume is just until their contracts expire, or they recoup their recording costs.

So, how did this happen? They had the talent, a good team, and not to mention the capital, so… what happened? And more importantly, what can artists, labels and managers learn from this?

 

Baby Steps

The New Artists Were Treated Like Vets.

Their artists were talented, very talented. One issue I found was that the label wanted myself and my team to completely take over the artist’s social media channels. However, they weren’t ready developmentally for a team to just completely take over their brand and social media.

Come to think of it, even my major artist clients don’t have a team handling their social completely. You might have someone schedule certain portions of content or maybe offer an extra set of hands during a tour, but for the most part, as an artist, you need to showcase your brand online.

Especially when that brand is still being developed.

This led to the artists feeling as if the label wasn’t “portraying their brand” appropriately online. They felt as if tweets went out in a tone that wasn’t “their voice”. And well, yeah — because it wasn’t their voice. Their brand was still too green for someone else to handle it.

These guys were still finding their voice as an artist, so they needed to tweet, do videos and interact on their own. Because they were still growing.

In today’s digital era, your online footprint — your imagery, your tweets, your ‘gram posts — are just as important as your music. You can have a dope track that’s getting radio play, but if your fans aren’t sharing it online, then it’s going to just fizzle out. You can have a team help you out with this, I recommend it, but handing it off completely to a third party — is a bit dangerous.

But social media really wasn’t the problem…

We did well on social media. The pages grew, and we got some great online traction during releases. However, when an artist doesn’t feel as if they have control of their art — the energy stops. You don’t need this, especially from a young artist. I already spoke on how the artist is the CEO, even with a label. You certainly don’t want “too many chefs in the kitchen” spoiling this. You need to give your artist’s room to grow.

However, let’s also talk about this from a growth standpoint. One of the guys on the “consultant team” was an industry vet of 30+ years or so. He’s also the manager of an artist that’s been the indie king, before indie was practical. He’d often gruff that our artists haven’t “paid their dues” yet.

And while that may seem like something any vet would say to a rookie — it’s actually a valuable piece of insight.

By putting a new artist on a pedestal, you’re selling the artist a lifestyle that might not actually come into fruition. The artist needs to be spending time networking, and remaining active on social media — rather than thinking: “The team will handle it”.

This is a major way to set an artist up for failure — by giving them illusions that they’re on the road to success, when their brand still hasn’t matured.

This was ridiculously summarized one week when we were on the road. The artists went out to a few clubs the night before a key performance. The label’s “A&R” pushed them to go, labeling it as “networking”. But in reality, it was just an excuse for them to stay out all night. Did they network? Maybe. But I do know that the only thing to come from their “network outing” was two artists oversleeping, with hoarse voices the day of their major showcase.

Another quick observation was the naivety that a track was going to go viral on it’s own — or the fact that we’d have thousands of pre-orders for these relatively known artists.  Sure, the artist is good — and might be popping in your backyard, but we have to ensure that we have a working platform before we can expect to see massive results and brand awareness.

 

Wheels.

We Confused Movement with Progress

I want to be very clear about the dynamic of this partnership, and the dynamic of any client-agency relationship. It’s your duty to tell your client what their doing a bad idea. In this circumstance, the CEO of the label hired us because he was rather green when it came to the music industry.

However, the CEO would often go against our advice, a lot of this centered around pay-for-play.

The CEO wanted to ensure the artists saw movement, he wanted his artists satisfied because they were playing “during” SXSW, they were being posted on blogs, or they were opening for acts. While this is true, you need to keep your artists happy with movement, that movement isn’t always progress.

We bought onto gigs, which was a great experience for the artist — but didn’t really result in new fans or even moved merch. Especially when the line-up was jam packed with other folks who paid to play.

We paid to get onto blogs, which the artist thought was cool, but at the end of the day,they were mid-tier and some top blogs, who rarely even shared the article on their social outlets. It was found on the website sure — but it wasn’t on the main page, or on their social media. So, who saw it? Aside from the fans we shared it with.

And yes, we boosted on social and more, but the key to PR is to make connections with journalists, not pay to be on a blog that isn’t even promoting their own article.

Similarly, why spend money on paying for shows, when you could be spending time pitching talent buyers and building relationships with venues. Or even spending time genuinely connecting with other bands, so those other artists invite you on as an open act. Organically. Without paying a dime.

One thing we did well was radio. Our guys were great on the microphone, and we had them on the road, going to stations spinning their work to do interviews. This led to more airplay, and it even led to a few music festival opportunities. Did it cost money to send them across the country doing press? Yes. But did it result in more authentic reach? Yep.

Our radio campaign was a great example of using leverage, to further a message. While, all of the paid work, was us moving without progression.

I guess I should also note that we likely relied too heavily on a radio promoter. After some time, we should have stopped outsourcing it, and brought the radio promotion in-house. Since we were already making connections, and we already sunk a pretty penny into the artists radio campaigns. This could have simply been us paying too much for a promoter, rather than a bad marketing move.

Watching a promising label sink a lot of money into pay-for-play, and pay-for-post opportunities, to the point that they were hurting financially, is why I’m such a vocal component of authentic PR and booking strategies.

However, we wanted to move. The wheels were spinning, but we weren’t really going anywhere.

The key here is leverage.

If you get a blog post, that blog post better be posted on the outlet’s social media, and be a genuine write-up, not just a copy and paste.

If you open up for an artist, there needs to be good marketing via the venue, and you need to ensure you’ll have a chance to connect with fans and move merch.

Sure, you can move, but you have to grow and progress as well. Simple movement isn’t enough, you need to go somewhere. Not just turn your wheels.

In this case, the CEO was paying big money to move our wheels — which later led to the label’s demise.

Cookie Cutter

We Tried Using a Cookie Cutter Approach

The label had four prominent artists: One was an R&B act, two were rappers , and lastly, the label had an indie rock group, to round things out.

While the label kept pushing to use one marketing approach for all artists, you simply cannot use a “copy/paste” view when looking at these three artists. For instance, one could think you can lump the R&B artists and two rappers into one category, however, not so much.

The R&B artist was young and still really appealed to the 13-17 year old demographic. Whereas the two rappers had lyrical content that mainly dealt with sex, drugs and partying.

But even the two rappers were incredibly different — one was more of a lyricist, who had a very “mainstream” vibe to him. While the other had more of a rough image, a focus on production and had lyrical content that was a bit more “in your face” than the other rapper.

Despite having these very different artists, the label insisted they be booked at the same showcases, which, weren’t too bad. Until you remember, oh damn, they had an indie rock band, too!

Yes, the indie rock group was scheduled to play at a hip hop showcase in Austin, Texas.

That’s the thing, the team had in-depth experience surrounding hip hop, and the indie rock group suffered from it. The  group was also incredibly talented, and actually had the most fan interaction on the label. They also (since there was 4 of them) seemed to take a lot of marketing initiative on their own.

The booking issue also came to a head when they were trying to book the rapper, who had a radio single explicit about sex, to play a high school tour. Because it worked for the R&B singer. Luckily, we convinced them to not go that route.

But the differences are more nuanced than just booking decisions. For instance, even if the two rappers were both “hip hop artists” things such as radio stations, press outlets, and even advertising keywords were going to change.

 

Contracts

The Artists Needed Development, Not Contracts.

I’m not a legal expert, and I tend to refer my clients to folks that know more about contracts than I do. However, I do know that an artist shouldn’t have to be held to ridiculously high recoup costs, when there isn’t really a platform yet.

The label seemed to have these artists under agreements that some may consider standard industry fare. However, the label was brand new!

The label/artist relationship is symbiotic. For the artist to make money, the artist has to recoup the money that the label invested. So if the label spends 15K on recording, then the artist won’t see any money until they recoup that 15K. That’s on both of the label and artist to work towards.

However, the label wasn’t at a place in which they had a system to make money, similarly, the artists weren’t at a place where they had popping fan bases who were willing to consistently buy an artist’s product. Sure, this seems a bit a Chicken-Egg situation, however, these artists didn’t need record label – bank loans, they needed to be taught how to carry themselves as artists. And instead of the label depending on the artists to really bring in revenue (miraculously), they needed to spend more time developing their booking, licensing and sales systems before signing various artists.

My team didn’t deal with the artist’s contracts, and more tried to get the label to a place in which they were profiting. However, this showed a naivety that exists in a lot of young labels. Folks think “if they build it, it’ll come” but… no, you have to build it well. You need a solid foundation and solid revenue strategy before signing on multiple artists.

As consultants, as labels, as managers, as publicists — we forget this simple fact that bares repeating:

We are assisting artists in promoting their creation. We are helping an artist bring light to their art.

There’s nothing sexy or cool about this — actually, it’s a lot of pressure. You’re ensuring that you are framing, protecting and promoting an artist’s vision. That’s heavy. Before you delve into any artist relationship, you need to ensure you are properly equipped to give them the spotlight that they deserve.

 

Concluding This.

The above four “reasons” were integral in this label failing, but at the end of the day — the major reason we failed was capital. If we were to have taken our time between each artist, we might still be trucking along on this. But we spent a lot of money turning wheels, and promoting our acts very quickly and rapidly.

Also, there was just a lot of foundational issues that still needed to be addressed and repaired. Those restorations could’ve taken quite some time.

But at the end of the day, despite the label folding, this was one of the most memorable projects I have had the privilege of working on. The “dream team” of consultants have gone on to do many successful and fun projects, and the guys at the label I still have an incredible amount of respect for. Not to mention these artists are still incredible musicians, and I’m sure they’ll find ways to succeed and prosper very soon.

 

Thanks @wtylerallen for this insight…..

As a music marketing strategist, Tyler Allen works with an extensive array of artists, labels, music tech, and music retail entities. Tyler began his music industry career with Sony Music Entertainment and RED Distribution, as well as the advertising industry. He is dedicated to giving veteran artists the tools to preserve their legacy, and new artists the tools to begin theirs (as well as everything in between). Learn more at wtylerconsulting.com.

WELCOME TO 2015! LET’S START WITH SOME GOOD NEWS…….globalFEST is here!!!

I’d Like to Welcome You to 2015….and Some Good News and Opportunities for Your Band and/or Project!

2015 is the year of innovation, creativity, and partnershipsGLOBALFEST does all three, providing up to 50K in tour support and future opportunities to up and coming artists from all around the world.

It’s Going Down TODAY in NYC!

Globalfest, International Music Showcase,Puts $50k in Tour Support on the Table

Globalfest, International Music Showcase, Puts $50k in Tour Support on the Table

The importance of a buzzed-about show at Globalfest should not be underestimated. When the twelfth annual international music showcase kicks-off this Sunday (Jan. 11) at New York’s Webster Hall, the stakes will be high for artists such as Kenyan “disco-funk-house” group Just a Band, Columbian rebel Cumbia group Puerto Candelaria and the electro-influenced Emel Mathlouthi from Tunisia among the dozen artists performing.

Each year here, amongst the sold-out audience, are hundreds of music agents, curators and promoters in town for the annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference. With the power of the purse for a large swath of the nation’s performing arts centers, these music industry professionals are looking to fill-out their 2016-2017 seasons with sounds from across the planet. A hot show here can mean future bookings at music halls from Cincinnati to Little Rock to Fresno and beyond.

While many Globalfest artists have gone on to larger U.S. tours, the non-profit festival itself is doing its part to ensure world artists can tour their unique sounds across the U.S. Over the past four years, thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation, Globalfest has awarded nearly $50,000 to Globalfest alumni as part of its Globalfest Touring Fund (GFTF). Such artists as Brooklyn Qawwali Party, Debo Band, Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino, Red Baarat and MAKU SoundSystem have been able to hit the U.S. roads with grants between $1,000 and $4,000 which for bands traveling on slim margins can mean the difference between profit and loss.

“Brooklyn Qawwali Party was the first band we funded and it was really interesting for us,” says Isabel Soffer of Live Sounds, one of Globalfest’s three volunteer co-producers (along with Bill Bragin and Shanta Thake). “They were touring in New York State and they’re a New York City-based band, but there are twelve of them. Just to rent vans to get upstate, pay hotels–they just didn’t have enough money from the venues to even cover those costs. The bandleader wasn’t even paying himself and didn’t even take into consideration that the group should be including an artist fee in the budget — which was sort of a shock to us. We actually ended up changing the criteria for the Globalfest Touring Fund because we wanted to make sure artists were actually paid. It was really a wake-up call to see how difficult it is for artists to travel — even within one state.

Soffer, Bragin and Thake along with a three-person panel of arts presenters from different regions and arts spaces score the applications based on “financial need, artistic excellence, the importance of the events and the potential impact on the career of the artist.”

“We try to make it a simple process, “says Soffer, “because artist aren’t used to writing grants or asking for a money. Artists don’t put together budgets and there’s a bit of a learning curve when they apply for a grant.”

Started in November of 2011, the Globalfest Touring fund has funded 17 groups, totaling of $47,060 enabling artists to reach 86 U.S. cities or towns and 54 new markets. Three GFTF recipients Billboard contacted for this story unequivocally endorsed the GFTF and the touring opportunities it afforded them. Martha Redbone said the grant allowed her to “perform in parts of the country we wouldn’t have been able to reach due to prohibitive travel expenses” and the ability to “return to these markets on our own steam.” The Debo Band’s Danny Mekonnen spoke of bringing “diversity to culturally homogenous places like Butte and Cedar Rapids.” And Scott Kettner of Nation Beat was able to add an extra date and two workshops to his group’s tour. “It enabled us to do community outreach workshops for underprivileged children,” he said.

While Globalfest itself lends support to its touring fund through crowdfunding efforts on Indiegogo and Kickstarter, the operation would not be possible without the support of the Ford Foundation, which this past September renewed its commitment to the program for the next three years.

“On a practical level, given the expense and challenges of crossing borders, it makes sense to build on that investment and make possible touring — giving more US audiences a chance to hear from these brilliant artists and giving artists more opportunities to make a living,” says Roberta Uno, the Ford Foundation‘s senior program officer for arts and culture’s Freedom of Expression Unit, by email. “Globalfest is building on their considerable curatorial and presenting expertise to provide an innovative model that will benefit the arts sector and beyond.”

There is a larger way, too, of looking at Globalfest’s — and indeed music’s — ambassadorial role in bringing different cultures and people together who otherwise wouldn’t step near each other. It’s a dynamic Uno is well aware of. “We’re living in a time when it’s critical to learn more about other cultures and people,” she says, “not just from an older model of cultural exchanges of national pride (our orchestra, your folkloric dance troupe) which are also important, but from a more urgent, contemporary place of how culture, aesthetics, people, ideas are living in communities across the globe. Globalfest is that snapshot in real time of the current moment and future on its way.”

In terms of Globalfest’s future it’s worth noting how the non-proft, 501c3 organization has expanded over its twelve years of its existence. It now regularly hosts a stage at Bonnaroo and SXSW, hired its first time employee in Nicole Merritt of International Society for the Performing Arts who will start in February and next year is mounting its first GlobalFest on the Road Tour called Creole Carnival. The tour is being produced in association with Columbia Artists Management International and will feature Casuarina from Rio, Emeline Michelfrom Haiti and Jamaica’s one-stringed guitar virtuoso Brushy One String.

“Putting artists on road, paying them very fairly and getting more international music into venues really gets to the heart of what our mission is ” says Globalfest’s Soffer. “We want to make sure these global music groups are in all types of venues across the country and develop touring careers along with fair pay and exposure to different audiences.”

MAKE SURE YOU ARE A PART OF GLOBALFEST 2015-2016 

 

 

Thanks to Billboard.biz for this post – By

Wish Creative’s 2013 Entertainment Events Calendar

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URBAN ENTERTAINMENT EVENTS CALENDAR

January 2013

February 2013

  • 7th thru 10th – Texas Gospel Music Excellence Awards (Houston TX) –
  • 8th thru 9th – South Florida Gospel Music Awards (W. Palm Beach FL) – www.sfgma.com
  • 14th thru 17th – Millennium Music Conference (Harrisburg PA) – www.musicconference.net
  • 10th – Grammy Awards (Los Angeles CA) – www.grammy.com

March 2013

April 2013

May 2013

 June 2013

  • 1st thru 2nd – Free Press Summerfest (Houston TX) – www.fpsf.com
  • 10th thru 16th North By Northeast (Toronto CA) – www.nxne.com 

July 2013

August 2013

September 2013

  • 8th – MTV Video Music Awards (Los Angeles CA) – www.mtv.com

October 2013

  • TBA – Dove Awards (Nashville TN) – www.doveawards.com
  • 3rd thru 6th – Atlanta Black Theatre Festival (Atlanta GA) –
  • 4th thru 6th – Bayfest (Mobile AL) – www.bayfest.com
  • 10th thru 12th (Tentative) – A3C Festival (Atlanta GA) – www.a3cfestival.com
  • 15th thru 19th – CMJ Music & Film Festival (New York, NY) – www.cmj.com

November 2013

December 2013

Check back with us soon..we update list often!