I occasionally get asked, “What brought you to Fame Wizard®?” Well…a few things. For starters, it is a great company and with an amazing staff. Kind of like the “Dream Team” of the music business. I saw that Fame Wizard® has an innovative concept and business model, Artist friendly environment, and so many other things that I really dug when I heard about it. Another reason that I often don’t mention was that working at Fame Wizard® was a chance to work with extremely talented, professional, and driven recording Artists. Artists who genuinely want to make a career in the business and are busting their tail off trying to succeed!
My life is basically a “made for TV movie” about someone who’s love for music goes beyond being a fan. It would be about someone who has developed such an unconditional love for music that he decided to venture into the realm of the big bad world of the music business. Maybe in a future blog I will chronicle some moments in my life (some I really want to forget) where it is evident that music is such an integral part of whom I am. Moments like when I was 10 and I was a diehard rap fan. I was so enthralled with rap Artists like Big Daddy Kane, that I shaved lines in my eyebrows just like him prior to going to my family’s Passover dinner. But get this, since I had no experience shaving, I did not really know how to make lines. I just ended up shaving half of my left eyebrow off. Imagine my father’s face when I came downstairs for the Passover dinner…WOW. Priceless! Check out THIS video of Big Daddy Kane – I will save a story for another blog about the time I rapped this song for my Talent Show when I was in 6th Grade.
When I decided to pursue a career in the music industry, especially on the business side, I eventually started to meet many, many musicians and bands. Funny thing was, everyone wanted to be a star and get signed by a major record label. They all wanted to tour the world, and have a hit record. But very few actually wanted to put in the required work to achieve this. Very few would be able to last a grueling 6-9 month tour, and almost none would want to do it! Ya, unless you are U2, touring is pretty rough! You gotta get used to the smell of your band mates farts and eating the same stale, pre-packaged cold sandwiches from gas stations on endless highways all the time. It takes a few hugely successful records before the groupies and bowls full of green M&M’s come around. Artists who live in this romantic and esoteric view of making it big in the music business so easily suffer from what I call the “American Idol Syndrome.” Maybe I can coin that term and get a Wikipedia page on this! If Snoop Dogg can get ‘Fo Shizzle’ on there, what is stopping me?? Well, maybe because he is Snoop Dogg!
There are still some Artists who think that somewhere, someone is going to discover them. They feel that someone will hear their “amazing” music, then be so emotionally moved by it that this person (a business person, or manager) would be willing to do all the work for the Artist at no charge to make them successful. The manager/agent will “believe” in them. All the Artist needs to do is sit there and make some great music, and “change the world one bong rip at a time.” Then the manager or agent will take care of the rest. Also, the manager won’t need be paid up front for any of their work. They will just keep their fingers crossed, and hope that in the future, they will make a percentage on what comes in. Well, without going into this further, I always need to ask some pretty fundamental questions. Like how will this manager make a living until said percentage arrives? Maybe the manager could sleep on that Artists couch at their house and have that Artist’s mom cook them meals? Wash their clothes? Well, how else would it get done? Maybe he/she can hold off on the eating, and not wash their clothes or bathe until they make money from that career. Ya, maybe that’s the plan! Sounds like something I would love to do. Would you want work at a job that did not pay you for working? You would only be paid contingent upon how much money is made in the future, if any money is actually made.
Well back to the point, since I digress, which I will probably do many times throughout my blogs. I have worked for many major (and indie) record labels over the last 10 years or so. After my last job at Capitol Records/Capitol Recording Studios, I ventured out into the world as an independent manager and producer. I had all the drive and determination you could imagine. A killer work ethic. Some crazy industry connections and network. I even saved up some money to live off for a bit until income could roll in. But, the one problem I faced was I continually encountered Artists who thought it was the 1970’s. These were Artists who lacked entrepreneurial skills and business savvy. They lacked professionalism, motivation, and enough knowledge of reality to become successful in the modern music business. Over the last few years, the biggest aspect of the music business that has changed is that it has become more of a level playing field among Artists. Almost anyone (to a fault) can record their own material (just because you have an iPhone does not mean you are Steven Spielberg). Almost anyone can release their music online and try to create a following using various Social Media outlets and websites. Everyone can play shows at those legendary and infamous places in LA. Especially if you are willing to pay to play. It’s not too difficult to play The Whiskey, The Roxy, Viper Room, etc. But it is difficult to get people to show up! What makes an Artist standout now is practical knowledge of the business side of music. Marketing, branding, Social Media, touring, networking, etc. So many of the Artists I ran into in those early days (and still do today) when I was looking to build my business, either did not have a clue about the industry from a business perspective, or were just so ignorant about it that they felt someone else was going to do all of that for them. Just as long they had good enough music, that’s sufficient enough. Right? Wrong! Ya, if you build it they will come. Well, if that was the case, how come I have not made the cover of the Rolling Stone magazine?! Maybe the right photographer has not seen my pretty face yet.
I was just reading an article on Lenny Kravitz in Guitar One Magazine and even he said “you need to learn the business.” Many times when I either see an interview or read an article about a major Artist, when it gets to the point where they offer advice to up and coming musicians they always recommend learning as much about the business of the music industry as possible. Since coming to Fame Wizard® I was able to meet and work with many Artists who actually take their careers seriously. One’s who don’t have that romantic and esoteric view of the music business. Artists who understand that to become successful in this industry, just like any industry, it is essential to learn how this business works. That it is up to YOU to succeed in the music industry. Not some outside person who will make success for you. The outside people can help, but they can’t do the work for you. It’s your career. You are the sole proprietor of your music business. Recording Artists’ must be able to adapt to the changing climate of the music industry. It’s not the 70s, 80s, nor the 90s! You don’t just “get discovered” anymore. And honestly, I don’t think Artists ever really did get discovered in the fantasized sense dreamers describe it as. It’s not that easy. If it was, everyone would be able to do it. Everyone could make it big and have fame and fortune. Historically the Artists who “got discovered” were the ones with those horrible contracts we heard so much about. Reason why is they never had proven themselves prior to getting a deal. If a label is taking that big of a risk signing an unknown Artist, then they are going to do everything they can to protect themselves and write-up the contract in the labels favor. Why? Well they are the one’s taking all the risk. One thing to remember is the definition of success is very different today. There is a smaller piece of the pie for labels, management, and agents to break their piece off from. Why? Well you could probably answer this yourself? When was the last time you bought a CD at a store or a full album online? That was a core area of the industry’s profit. It was relatively common to sell 100,000 copies of your album. So it was pretty easy to recoup a loss during those days because you made money on album sales, which in turn would cover a loss. But today it is very different. Since the core consumers don’t buy music, they stream, download illegally, or burn their CDs from one another; labels and management don’t make enough money to have the luxury to invest on an unknown Artist. They can’t take those risks anymore and just roll the dice on an Artist without a successful track record. Unlike about 10 years ago, today you can’t recoup a loss from a failure on the revenue from other Artists who had made a profit. In order to have a label or management firm invest money or man power in you, they need to know they will be able to recoup that investment in you and make a profit. Remember it’s called the music “business” for a reason. First you have to prove you can make the money back for them. How? Well, that’s where the work comes in. And that is the work many, many Artists just refuse to do. They either don’t know how to do it, won’t do it because they feel it is someone else’s responsibility, or they are just not willing to take the time and investment to learn how to do it. Now imagine if this view was prevalent in other industries? Like in medical field. How many doctors would we have if med students refused to go to medical school or to spend years doing a residency? Or if they refused to pay the enormous fees involved with going to med school. WOW, can you imagine what it would be like today in modern medicine? Since coming to Fame Wizard® I actually get to meet some Artists who want to learn the business. Artists who are willing to work their tail off, and not look for some magic shortcut or someone who will make them a star. The thing is, although there are really no shortcuts on the road to getting to top of the music business, there are some highways that can help aspiring recording Artists find success more quickly. Fame Wizard® is one of them.
The most recent Artist I signed up that I feel fits that category of an Artist that is not only talented, but willing to work hard, and learn the business is Tommy Tierney. Or better known as “Tommy Spase and The Alchemists” (cool name huh!). When I interview potential Artists who want to be part of Fame Wizard® and gain the benefits we offer Artists, one of the first things I look at is their attitude and expectations of the music industry. I talk to around 20 Artists a day. Many are extremely talented, but few actually have what it takes. Having amazing music is only half of the equation. As Stephen King said “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
My first call with Tommy was great. He is a unique, talented, and creative Artist. Tommy was very professional on our phone interview. He never once said he expected things to be handed to him on a silver platter. Or that he wanted a manager to work for free. He also never mentioned the ever so naïve statement that he wanted to get “shopped” to a label. Listening to his music is an experience, to say the least. Tommy is a showman! He entertains both musically and visually. His music is very theatrical, but at the same time with an aggressive edge! I definitely recommend checking out his Fame Wizard® link, or his website.
During the Talent Scout Interview, Tommy asked all the right questions. He genuinely seemed to want to learn what he needs to do to make his career as an Artist a successful and profitable one. After the call he asked to take a couple days to consult with his band about it, and decide what membership would work the best for them. A few days later I received an email from him and another member of his band, also named Thomas coincidently. They both were super excited about coming on board just needed to decide when and what membership. Thomas and I exchanged a couple of emails and he had a list of great, straight forward questions. None of questions were along the lines of who are the “stars” we have. He mentioned to me that he was new to the business, and knew very little about it. But Thomas did say something that stood out to me. When pre-framing the questions he was about to ask, Thomas mentioned how many Artists might shy away from asking certain key or “tough” questions. He said, “these questions were left for the managers and agents, but since the industry has changed and now we, the Artists, have to be everyone wrapped up in one, it is up to us to ask these questions…” I was really impressed by that statement. I told him that although he felt he was very green to the biz, just knowing that and understanding the new ways of the music business, puts him in front of the pack of so many other Artists. Understanding the business of the music industry, and applying it to your career is one of the basic factors that set apart the Artists who succeed, with the long list of Artists who don’t.
I am excited every time I sign up a new Artist to Fame Wizard®. It is a chance to watch the evolution of creativity and confidence develop in some great and unique minds. Some that might have the potential to be the next Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Whitney Houston, or 2Pac. I get to be an integral part of someone following and achieving a lifelong dream. I get to hear some phenomenal music that not many people have had the chance to hear yet. Recording Artists need to be nurtured and developed. Not exploited. Artists need to realize that in order to succeed in this industry you have to bet on yourself. Put your destiny in your own hands. It is too competitive to sit back and wait to be discovered. This is your career! Your music! No one will ever want you to be a success as much you want it for yourself. As much as the music business is currently in a state of flux, it can actually be a more fruitful time. You can record your own music the way you see fit. Have complete ownership of it. You can release it on your own. Market it yourself. Develop your own shows and tours. Hire the people you want and that you see fit to work for you. Think about it, you literally can do whatever you want. You just need to be willing to learn how.