Book Review: Sing To Me L.A. Reid

la-reid-sing-to-me-book-2016-billboard-1000Being employed in the entertainment industry, “Sing To Me” by L.A. Reid was eye opening.  It serves as a story of vision full of failure, success, friendship, and words of wisdom that can guide you through the turmoil of being apart of the performing art world.  The last line in the book said, “I always wanted to be surrounded by the people who were cutting-edge, people who were making what I call aspirational music, people who really didn’t care to be regular.  They didn’t want to fit in.  They always wanted to stand out.”

L.A. Reid created something from nothing.  He realized his talents as a producer and a music business professional through his love of the drums.  His focus and articulation in a passion that developed as a child and nurtured by his family turned him into some who truly cared about the art of music and the artists he helped bring to the top such as Usher, Meghan Trainer, TLC, Toni Baxton, and Rihanna.  I feel connected to him in some weird way.  Granted we grew up in different households and families, but something about his path and journey makes me feel that there is hope for anyone who has a dream and is willing to work hard to achieve it.  Music business man Dick Griffy once said to Reid, “Yoh can make more money by accident in Los Angeles than you can on purpose in Cincinnati.”  People have a tendency to stay with what is familiar.  What is safe.  Never leaving their hometown.  Always contained in a bubble.  Reid forced himself to constantly break out of that bubble from moving to Los Angeles to Atlanta to New York.  Pushing the boundaries everyday with music and moving to new cities to expand his horizons.

Fear can be a weakness, but it can also be a driving force to succeed.  When something bad happens it can paralyze you.  It can stop you in your tracks to the point where all you want to do is lay in bed and shut out the world.  When Reid’s friend Shakir suffered a tragic death via suicide Reid said, “I had to find the strength to do what I love.  I had to pick myself up and get back to work…I knew the road ahead would be much tougher and more complex than anything I’d encounter before.”  Finding the strength to move on and not constantly harp on what you could have done differently.  Thoughts of what you could have done to change it can be a difficult emotion to fight, but in the end, it’s about letting go of the pain and the anger.

We are all looking to make a difference in this world.  To make our actions something of consequence.  L.A. Reid continues to produce and support artists – “to make music that is important, to move people for a higher power.”  His biography is just the beginning of his story and it is far from over.  If you are looking to learn the inner workings of the industry this book isn’t for you, but if you are interested in learning one man’s journey to music business, discovering talent, and finding his way; don’t be afraid to take a peak.

To purchase the book through Amazon – Click Here!

Scooter Braun – Artist Manager for the Next Generation

Ariana_Grande_&_Scooter_BraunHow do I explain Scooter (Scott) Braun in four words? He is the man! He is thirty-three years old, he was named one of TIME Magazine’s 2013 “100 Most Influential People in the World” as well as been on Billboard’s 2013 “40 Under 40” list. He is not only an artist manager, but a friend, confidant, and father figure to his developing young artists. In an interview with The Complex he says, “My job is not to be the all-star quarterback, but to be the coach.” In the music business, at least of past artists I have read about like The Runaways, the Backstreet Boys, and N’SYNC, many managers take advantage of their artists. From taking large management fee cuts (Lou Pearlman) to exposing young artists to situations like drugs and alcohol (Kim Fowley) instead protecting them and being more of an authoritative or parent figure. Scooter Braun seems to be the complete opposite – someone to look up to, to respect, and will put you in your place if you are doing something stupid.

He has high standards for himself, his employees at SB Projects, and for his artists. He invests time, money, and energy in people. Braun has broken more new music acts than any other music executive in the last decade including, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, PSY, Carly Rae Jepsen, and most recently, Tori Kelly. Braun started as a party promoter at nineteen where artists such as Brittany Spears and Ludicrious attended. At twenty, he became VP of marketing at So So Def Records while a sophomore at Emory University in Atlanta. He ultimately dropped out of college while at So So Def and was fired from the company due to a dispute over the direction of the label.

At twenty-four, he started SB Projects. His Company philosophy is that everyone is family. His artists share the same family values and everyone has to get along. He understands that in this business and when managing young people they are going to make mistakes, and since they are growing up in the public eye, those mistakes are more difficult to deal with because everyone has an opinion about it. In The Complex Interview he said, “I’m not interested in the mistakes that people make. I’m interested in how they react to them.” Everyone makes mistakes whether they are kids or adults, but without them we can’t learn and grow.

I think one of the great things about Braun is that he doesn’t put limits on his capabilities. When people tell him that something is impossible he pushes even harder to prove the nay sayers wrong. When he discovered Bieber nobody thought it was going to work because he didn’t have a Disney or Nickelodeon kid’s show backing him. Now, the reach of Bieber’s social networks like Facebook and Twitter can speak to millions of people. According to an article in The New Yorker, in marketing terms, his reach would cost ten million dollars to replicate through conventional advertising methods. Since Bieber’s reach is so high Braun has him communicate and support other artists through his networks. This helps with cross promotion of artists and allows Bieber to have another stream of revenue.

Braun believes in the power of numbers, and the more support, the more potential artists have to be successful. In Forbes Magazine, Braun states, “as a music industry if we remain in competition we die.”  That line is kind of perfect because society is constantly in competition from job hunting to being in line for Christmas to get the hot new toy.  Instead Braun’s approach is support, believing in people, and giving back to others less fortunate through charity with every project and artist he handles.   This business is about getting an artist to say yes, respecting the consumer, making a viable product, getting people to see it, and telling a story that connects with society.  If you have that, success will follow.

Should FM/AM Radio be Paying to Play Music?

Radio-mic-imageLegal and by the book mumbo jumbo has always resinated with me.  I like being in control, having the ability to plan for mistakes as well as having the time to fix them without being in emergency mode.  It drives me nuts when people don’t look at the long term affects when making decisions.  Thinking twenty to thirty years out when making a major decision is key to making that decision a smart one.  Will that decision always be successful?  Absolutely not, but at least you can see where and why it went wrong.

Recently, I was reading in Billboard Magazine that the government is in the process of making changes to the copyright laws for music.  One of the topics that are up for discussion is if FM/ AM radio stations should have to pay royalities to play music on the radio.  As I read this, I thought this could potentially bring in another revenue stream for the artists and record labels from the continuing declining music sales, but couldn’t it also hurt the artists and record companies long term?

Record labels and artists usually do some type of radio tour to promote music that they have coming out.  During those radio promotional tours the radio stations will be playing said music all week in preparation for the artist to be in the studio.  This not only promotes to listeners throughout the day to tune in on said day that the artist will be in the studio, but it gives the labels and artists a continuing roll of publicity throughout the week.  Will the radio station be charged for playing the artist’s music during the promotional week to gain listeners?  If the station is charged with a fee every time the artist’s song is played during that week what incentive does the radio station have to play their music instead of just doing a verbal promotional plug?  This could decrease the amount of air time artists could be receiving during a heavy promotional time when labels are pushing fans to buy tickets for tour dates.

The independent promotors (i.e. the indies) who are paid by the labels to get station managers to add particular artists to their playlists could increase their fees.  In turn the station mangers who make arrangements with the indies could request a higher annual sum to play said artists.  I know it’s illegal for stations to accept money to play music, but I’m talking about the promotional support the stations are given by the indies such as gift cards, give away money, and trips to utilize for game prizes on the station.

Finally, four companies own 62% of the top 40 market (according to musicbiz.com).  This could create more wide spread playlists so the radio stations wouldn’t half to pay as much in royalties to one artist or one label, which could create a greater chance for more artists to get radio play time.  This could change the top 40 game since radio is key factor in getting music heard by the general public.  I know what the generation Z is going to say “who listens to the radio when we have iPods, streaming, and YouTube?”  Those adults that sit in traffic going to work still listen to the radio, or the millennial generation who have their favorite talk show hosts that have introduced them to new music since the late 90s such as Ryan Seacrest and Elvis Duran.  What about people who listen to stations for the give aways?  Radio stations have power to get music heard around the world through promotional tools.

I think the royalties would be great as another revenue sources for the artists, but I also think it is a double edge sword.  It could cause increases in fees for not only the labels which in turn could affect what the artists actually receive, as well as increase fee requests from the indies and station managers.  What do you think?  Is this potential change a catch 22 for the artists and the labels, or is it a partial solution to the decreasing sale revenue?

 

The Power House That is John Janick

recordsBehind every favorite band their is an artist, and behind every artist there is a fan.  Fans are what drive the music industry’s success, but without the blood, sweat and tears of the artist the music would never cease to exist.  John Janick, current CEO of Interscope Records, started off as just a fan of music and rose to the business executive he is today.  In 1996, as a young college student at University of Florida in Gainesville, he started his own record label with Vinnie Fiorello (drummer/ lyricist) from the band Less Than Jake.  The clever man that Janick is, he named it after the one food that every college student eats because they are broke, and in his case really broke because he invested every last dime he had into the label.  If you guessed the food was ramen you were right.  The label is called Fueled By Ramen.  In 1998 the company released an EP that broke the success of the label by a little band called Jimmy Eat World from Arizona.  The success didn’t stop there.  In 2003, the label released an album called ‘Take This To Your Grave’ by a Chicago group called Fall Out Boy.  A few years later Janick and Pete Wentz (Bassist) from Fall Out Boy collaborated to start Decaydance Records (rebranded as DCD2 in 2014) which became connected with Fueled By Ramen.  Decaydance Records and Fueled By Ramen success continued by the release of albums by signed artists such as The Academy Is…(2004), Gym Class Heroes (2005), Panic! At the Disco (2005), and The Cab (2008).  After eleven years of success, Janick signed a distribution deal with Atlantic Records and moved Fueled By Ramen to New York City where it still lives today (1).  Even though Janick is now CEO at Interscope his legacy lives on at Fueled By Ramen where it all started with a kid’s love of music and a dream.  So don’t give up on your dream.  Continue to fight for what you want, and do everything in your power to build connections and knowledge.

Wanting to be involved in artist development, I am currently reading a lot of books on music business, reading liner notes from albums, and stalking music history of bands online.  I have come to realize that everything is interconnected in the music industry and that almost every band I listened to as a teenager, and in my early 20s was because of this guy.  So, I guess you can say that this post is a thank you letter to the man that is John Janick.  Thank you for caring enough about the music and not the money, thank you for understanding that an artist needs to be involved in all aspects of their identity to have success, and thank you for introducing me to punk inspired rock/ pop that put me ahead of the curve in college.

Click on Spotify Playlist for some of my favorite songs and artists that John Janick had a hand in developing and releasing as Co-Founder at Fueled By Ramen.  As Janick said in an interview for the book It All Begins With the Music, “No Food, No Sleep, Just Music.”

(1) All date information was found at www.FueledByRamen.com