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Music Marketing

Posted By Musician Coaching on July 6th, 2013

A blog for musicians and music industry people. It is a free educational resource and it is also the way I advertise my music consulting services. I am an entertainment professional with deep roots in the music industry. Throughout my music career I have been a major label A&R representative, a music supervisor, an artist manager, a reality show producer, a bass player and the head of a digital record label.

 

Posts Tagged ‘Music and brands’

UK Music Piracy, Branded Products and Music, and Zoë Keating News, September 8, 2013

Posted By Julia Rogers on September 8th, 2013

The Pirate Party UK contested the British Phonographic Institute (BPI)’s proposal to create more strict punishment for illegal downloaders. And an article explored four creative partnerships between brands and artists. Also, cellist Zoë Keating wrote an op-ed piece for the Los Angeles Times about how the music industry and her approach to her career have changed in the past ten years.

 

 

The Pirate Party Questioning Proposed Illegal Downloader Database

 

Record labels announced they would be asking broadband providers BT, Virgin Media, BSkyB and Talk Talk to commit to collecting on illegal downloads in the UK, reported The Guardian. And according to TechEYE.net, the Pirate Party is already fighting back.  

 

Broadband providers are being asked to compile a database of customers that illegally download music, films and books for the purpose of disconnecting and even prosecuting repeat offenders. This and other methods for fighting against digital piracy will be discussed by record label heads, the BPI and UK Prime Minsiter David Cameron on September 12 at a Downing Street breakfast.

 

Negotiations between the government, broadband providers, the BPI and the British Video Association (BBC, Hollywood studios) about how to enforce the controversial Digital Economy Act – which was voted into law in 2010 but may not become active until sometime in 2015 – have been going on for months.   

 

From November 2012 and January 2013, 280 million music tracks were illegally pirated in the UK alone as well as 52 million television shows, 29 million films, 18 million ebooks and seven million computer software/game files. Studies conducted by communications regulator Ofcom revealed that 18 percent of Internet users over 12 have recently pirated content, but only nine percent fear the consequences of their actions.  

 

The proposed voluntary agreement signed by ISPs would allow the creation of a database of those that regularly pirate Internet content. Customers would initially receive letters from ISPs saying their Internet address was being used for illegal downloading. The letters might also lay out consequences and re-direct users to legal sites for music, videos and books. Three letters could result in consequences, including compromising Internet connections to slow them down, blocking users from illegal sites, disconnecting repeat offenders from broadband for a set period or legal prosecution.  

 

The Pirate Party and others are worried the database might be illegal under the Data Protection Act, which says that organizations can only collect information about users for commercial use. A voluntary agreement of this type could not only compromise privacy but also allow smaller ISPs to capitalize.

 

Loz Kaye of the Pirate Party UK said the new policy needs to be clarified by labels and the government before it can be enforced:  “The content industry seems intent on turning Internet Service Providers into the music NSA … Having failed with the democratic and legal route as the Digital Economy Act is a lame duck, they now want to skip that and get ISPs to do the policing on their own.”

 

Kaye added that this would be an “unwarranted intrusion” that will not end well:  “The BPI apparently wants to take advantage of Cameron’s current wish to blame the Internet for everything … The government’s digital policy making is in chaos. We need clarity from the coalition … Until there are some answers, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats can have no credibility on digital policy.”

 

Four Interesting Brand/Musician Partnerships

 

Artists and brands have been collaborating for years. But media and marketing site Sparksheet recently presented four musicians that are using brands to help them release new music in new ways in the Digital Age and illustrated why these partnerships are still important to diversifying artists’ revenue streams and increasing sales.  

 

  1. Eminem and Call of Duty:  Ghosts. After taking a break from making music for two years, Eminem opted to premiere his new song in a trailer for the newest version of the first-person shooter video game Call of Duty instead of using radio or MTV. It was his fourth collaboration with the video game franchise, but the first time he used a song that was completely new. 

    Billboard said it was Eminem’s manager Paul Rosenberg that went to the game’screator ActivisionBlizzard this past summer to ask how the two brands could join forces. About 100 million people play Call of Duty, and studies have shown that Eminem is the #1 artist fans connect to the game. The video game and Eminem’s album will be released around the same time in early November, and many analysts have predicted the collaboration between these two brands will help more of both products.

  2. Katy Perry, Pepsi and MTV. Katy Perry recently built a partnership with Pepsi in order to push the release of her upcoming single. Pepsi is a brand that has frequently attached itself to artists in the past, having supported Michael Jackson, Ray Charles and Beyoncé, who received $50 million from the soft drink brand in 2012. 

    Pepsi teamed up with Perry as well as with the MTV Video Music Awards on a Twitter campaign to promote songs off her soon-to-be-released album Prism. The partnership included an interactive voting campaign that allowed fans to song “Dark Horse” was revealed on Twitter by Pepsi and MTV during Perry’s performance at MTV’s awards show. 

  3. Jay Z and Samsung. In July, Samsung bought one million copies of Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail to give away to users of the Galaxy S III, S4 and Note II prior to its official release. While there were some technical difficulties with downloading the release exactly on July 4, the specially-created “Magna Carta” app was used by 1.2 million people. Because of the campaign, Jay Z earned $12.5 million in sales and music rights from Samsung, and the album hit platinum-level sales before it was even released. 
  4. Bob Dylan and Cinemax. The legendary singer/songwriter Bob Dylan joined forces with cable TV company Cinemax to help him market his Tempest album. His new song “Early Roman Kings” was part of a trailer for the Cinemax original series Strike Back. Dylan’s album hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200.   

 

Zoë Keating:  “The Sharps and Flats of the Music Business”

 

Cellist, composer and performer Zoë Keating has become famous for revealing the financial struggles and realities of being a DIY artist in the Digital Age. To commemorate her 10 years in the music industry, she wrote an op-ed piece on September 1 for the Los Angeles Times about how the music industry has changed and how she has had to change her philosophy and how she runs her career in order to make a living.

 

Keating quit her software job in order to make music full time in 2003. A cellist since age eight, she admitted to initially being afraid of performing and to forge her own path to make a living. She noted how perceptions of the “DIY” approach have changed since the early 2000s:  “In previous decades, this unsigned, DIY approach was considered a temporary steppingstone on the way to a record contract. If an artist wanted to grow beyond her hometown, she needed the resources, relationships and reputation of a label. That’s how an artist got on the radio, got press coverage and got albums into stores. Record labels were the gatekeepers, and without a contract, an artist couldn’t get very far.”

 

But when she first committed to making music professionally, the Internet was already reshaping the “power dynamics” of the music industry:  “… The most fundamental shift for me came in 2003, when iTunes opened its doors to unsigned artists. Any artist could sell music and get the same percentage deal from Apple as the record labels. CD distribution was still difficult and the old problem of how to get anyone to pay attention wasn’t solved, but an unsigned artist could now sell music alongside bestselling artists in the largest digital music store in the world.”
Keating credited iTunes with helping her establish herself, and revealed that digital sales have continued to be one of her steadiest income streams:  “Monthly payments from iTunes have been steady ever since, and they’ve made a lot of things possible. They allowed me to buy a house, a reliable car and health insurance, and to take time off when my son was born. It sounds pathetic, but knowing that 60,000 people liked my albums enough to buy them gave me confidence I’d lacked and encouraged me to take my art seriously and make more of it.”

 

Keating continues to be completely DIY. She records all her albums using a laptop, and her husband designs all her packaging, while her sister mails out all her CDs. And touring involves traveling with a rental car, her cello, gear, one sound person and her family.

 

While Keating said her income continues to become more predictable as the years pass, she is frequently concerned about getting too comfortable. Like many other artists, she often finds the process of balancing the business side of her career with making music challenging. And thus, she commits to keeping up with changing technology:  “If I have learned one thing about technology, it’s that disruptive innovations are so compelling, they can’t be stopped … Meanwhile, I’ve also made myself more resilient, improving my live show, getting a booking agent, collaborating with filmmakers and choreographers, and dipping my toe into commercial licensing. Almost half my income is still from music sales, but those other revenue sources are growing.”

 

Still, she added, despite the fact that streaming is starting to take over, “I’ll always be immensely grateful to my listeners. But I’ll continue to urge them to consider buying something directly or to come to a concert, both things I wish streaming services would facilitate.”

 

In terms of the current music business climate, she admitted that it is centered on artists that are constantly touring and releasing music. To be a musician today means never stopping:  “There is no retirement anymore, which makes the music industry like most other industries. Is that so bleak? Not really. Yes, I have to keep making more music, keep touring and keep competing for my listeners’ attention. But that’s what I want to do anyway. The business of music continues to evolve, but the essence of being a musician remains the same: We make music, and we want people to hear it.”

Mastering the Recording Studio

Posted By Musician Coaching on March 14th, 2012

Mike Flannery is a composer, producer, engineer and children’s recording artist in New York City. A classically-trained musician since childhood, he got his start in rock playing in the NJ underground scene in the ‘90s. As a major label artist with LAVA/Atlantic in the early 2000s, he toured alongside major artists including Outkast, My Morning Jacket, LL Cool J and Ludacris. Around this time he also opened his own recording studio in Maine and started honing his craft as a producer, engineer and mixer. Eventually, Mike branched out into advertising and began to compose custom music for several high-profile national campaigns. In early 2012 he opened a new studio in New York City and continues to compose for brands, record with artists and also share his expertise on various music-industry-related topics through speaking engagements.

 

 

I recently got to talk to Mike about his background as an artist and producer and how artists can prepare to do high-quality work in the studio. He also shared some really solid tips for those who want to build long-lasting, fulfilling careers in music.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Thanks so much for taking some time to talk. First of all, how did you get started in music, and what led you to want to make a career out of it?

 

MF:

 

My aunt was friends with Loretta Long, who played the character of Susan on Sesame Street. She got my folks and me onto the set to watch a taping when I was four years old. There was a segment in which “Bob” McGrath talked with some young Suzuki students and had them play violin on the show. I asked my parents if I could play violin too, and they took me out the next day and got me a tiny fiddle and some lessons.

 

I decided to make a career of music not when I got a record deal back in 2001, but when we got dropped and I went back to school to become a lawyer in 2004. I will always remember when a bunch of great lawyers at a non-profit for which I volunteered sat me down and listed all of the reasons why I should not be a lawyer. The intervention worked. Thanks again, LSNJ-LAW hotline!

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’ve produced and played and collaborated with a lot of big-name artists and have enjoyed a lot of your own success as a composer and recording artist. How did your career as a musician segue into and then fit in with your career in recording/engineering/producing?

 

MF:

 

I’ve approached music from a recording standpoint ever since I installed Digital Orchestrator Pro on my PC in high school. The first Little T and One-Track Mike recordings were all done DIY on that PC. And when we signed with LAVA/Atlantic in 2001, I asked the label to give me the recording budget so that I could piece together a studio and they let me do my thing. The first record that we did was almost entirely tracked in Little T’s grandparents’ beach house on Long Beach Island in New Jersey. Being self taught works out a lot better when you’re learning on your own material.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You ran a successful recording studio for seven years in Maine. Who are some of the artists you worked with there?

 

MF:

 

Most of the money I made in Maine came from New-York-based firms. I did a ton of stuff for the mobile media industry that included TV ads, bulk processing of ring tones and a bunch of video tones that, for a moment, seemed to be the next big thing. But what I really loved about having a studio on Main Street in Bangor was recording the local folks who just came in off the street. There were a bunch of really memorable sessions: One guy was a real estate lawyer in his sixties who came in with his guitar and recorded some incredibly beautiful original songs in this great gravelly voice. Another was an awesome Irish bar band called the Bar Stewards. And then I worked with a Franciscan Friar, who was also a great magician, and wanted sound effects for a few of his tricks. I also recorded a wicked-good blues harpist named Merlan who would stop by when he was in town, and an incredibly charming woman from Quebec who plays accordion and sings old songs from Quebec. (I think she once paid me with a delicious rum cake.)

 

Some notable cats who came through were Nigel Hall, Mark Tipton, Sara Richardson, Ryan Zoidis, The Bay State and Andrew Clifford, all of who have roots in Maine.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

That’s a pretty interesting mix of folks. What led you to make the decision to get a recording space in New York City this year? Which type of artists do you work with, and what are some of your goals for the studio?

 

MF:

 

Aside from my workload getting to be too much for a home recording set up, I think that working on ads and other corporate music projects from my apartment became too insular a lifestyle. I want to work with as many different people in as many different genres as possible and be consistently involved in that great symbiosis between artist and producer that gets me so jazzed about my work. A professional atmosphere is vital to facilitating that type of interaction.

 

That said, being able to crank the subwoofers doesn’t hurt either. Eventually, I’d like to expand out from one room and have a small suite of rooms that I can keep booked.

 

Musician Coaching

 

Because you’ve had a lot of experience composing music for the advertising space and have built brands through music and have also been a major label artist who has worked in a lot of other parts of the industry, you have a pretty unique perspective. What are some of the things you think composers and artists need to be doing to get people in the advertising space to be receptive to their work? What have you seen that has worked and has not worked for those interested in marketing their music in that particular space?

 

MF:

 

It’s important to show that what you do is more valuable than what, say, a music library does. I find that for me this has taken the form of a trust between my clients and myself built over years of working together. They know that when they call me for a job, I will respond immediately. I will not only be open to any and all ideas that they have for a piece, but will also be able to translate those ideas into a musical composition that we can then change and tweak together until it is perfectly aligned to their vision. When I get a call from a client, I’m not just ready to jump when they say, “jump” – I’m already in the air when I pick up the phone. I try to anticipate my clients‘ needs and be ready to meet them as close to the word “go” as possible. Not only that, but the answer is always “yes” no matter what the request. I know that I’ll be able to figure it out after the fact, but during that conversation, I can do anything I’m asked to do and sooner than they actually need it done.

 

What doesn’t work for people who decide to make it in a creative field is a lack of confidence. If you are not totally self-confident and if you tend to question whether you are the right person for the job, well, the next guy is going to get it. Creative directors have absolutely no time, and they definitely have no time for your insecurities.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

That’s pretty solid advice. You’ve obviously worked with a lot of artists in the studio on the production side of things and have done a lot of recording as an artist. I know a lot of bands and artists go into the studio not having a clue what they’re doing. What do you think bands should be doing before starting to work with a producer? Are there specific elements they should have planned out in advance?

 

MF:

 

Artists need to know who they are. I know this sounds obvious, but unless an artist comes to me with a clear vision of who they are and what they want to express, they might end up feeling as though their producer has imposed a vision onto their work that will be hard for them to feel good about owning. It’s important to always have that ideal to fall back on, like a core mission statement.

 

For instance, my kid’s music group, the Flannery Brothers, has a goal in mind when we write and record songs. We are always honest; we only write about things that we actually think about and do as adults. As soon as we start to tread on ground that comes from a place of remembrance – for instance singing about getting a “boo-boo” at recess (ugh) – we throw that right out the window. Since we have this simple axiom against which we can hold up all of our artistic decisions, we always sense when something isn’t right. We will even look at each other in the studio, say, “Is this honest?” and if the answer is “no” for either one of us, the idea gets squashed immediately.

 

As far as the mechanics are concerned – like planning things out or figuring out your ensemble – I find that the process is different for everyone. I do tend to think that it’s important to play songs live before recording them, because they will change and evolve in front of an audience. Also, it’s important to know what your budget is and understand how much you can actually afford to do. If you can’t splurge for renting that 1965 Rickenbacker 12-string, maybe you don’t need that one song to sound exactly like “A Hard Day’s Night.”

 

Musician Coaching:

 

What should bands/artists be looking for when they are trying to find a producer that’s a good fit?

 

MF:

 

Give me a call, I’ll let you know.

 

Seriously though, I think it’s all about personality. Sure you want someone you can trust to give you a great product within your budget – that’s a given. But really, you’re hiring someone to sit in a tiny room with you for days or weeks. If you don’t dig each other, why would you put yourself in that position? There’s one example that comes to mind of the lead singer of a very popular band who needed to get incredibly drunk before singing. If his producer had had a problem with that, the record wouldn’t have been nearly as good.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Undoubtedly, you’ve witnessed some changes on the production side of the music business in the past 10-15 years. What are some of the specific changes you’ve seen as an engineer/producer? Do you feel it’s more challenging to be a producer than it was 10-15 years ago?

 

MF:

 

I think the main difference between right now and the turn of the millennium is the quality of production that you’re seeing from home studios. You used to have to be pretty savvy to get a great recording out of your living room. My ProTools Mix Plus rig would have been prohibitively expensive if I hadn’t had label backing, and now my current rig – although probably about one-third of the cost – is much more beautiful sounding and powerful. Also, the options that we now have for soft synths and samplers are just incredible. I’m in love with the new Native Instruments Komplete bundle and find that I use something from it on almost every session.

 

The accessibility of these new levels of processing power coupled with the new way that music is distributed has been a total game changer. A lot of great studios have suffered because of it.

 

That said, nothing can really take the place of a solid understanding of audio.  A common complaint that I hear from my friends who work on records is that the quality of the recordings they receive for mixing and mastering has gone way downhill – sometimes to the point of being almost unworkable. Here’s a tip: When you record digital audio, do it at a high bit rate and record at low levels. Your mix engineer will thank you for it.

 

As far as how challenging it is to produce music, it really hasn’t gotten any easier or any more difficult, and it never will. No matter which equipment you have at your disposal, it will always be about what you do with it not what it can do. The job will always be creating the vision that the artist or creative director, or modern dance choreographer or whoever has in their mind. They don’t care what equipment you have. In fact, most of my clients in advertising have never seen my rig. They just want something that sounds good.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

That’s all really helpful stuff for people to know. Thanks for sharing all that.

 

You’ve experienced being an artist on a major label. What was that experience like for you? If you could go back – knowing what you know now – is there any advice you would’ve given to yourself prior to getting a record deal that you think would’ve helped you?

 

MF:

 

“Mike! Save your damn money and try to sleep with more hot girls while you still have all your hair!” Hindsight is 20/20, Ooh La La…

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I’ve definitely never gotten that response before, but I bet a lot of people who have been in the label system might agree with that if they were being honest!

 

Just one more question, also likely related to hindsight. The fact that you have been consistently working on both the recording side and the performing side of the music industry throughout your entire career gives you a unique perspective. Do you have any parting words of advice for artists trying to build successful careers in the current market? What about advice for those trying to build careers as producers/engineers?

 

MF:

 

There are audiences for everyone- it’s just a matter of finding them.  One of my favorite articles on this subject is called “1,000 True Fans,” by Kevin Kelly. The article describes an excellent way to approach any career in the Arts and is always on my mind in all of my business dealings.

 

Most importantly though, it’s vital to remember how lucky you are to be struggling to make ends meet as an artist or working crazy hours in a studio. We don’t do this to make huge amounts of money or for the fame. That’s a long shot that not many people ever get to live. We do this for the love of the music, and for the great experiences that come out of doing what we love. I’ve met so many bitter, failed rock star types who now teach guitar, work as engineers, work as managers, or book clubs. Every time I have some negative interaction with one of these types, I am reminded of what an awesome thing it is to always create, and to enjoy what I do on such a deep level. If music is your compulsion, then first and foremost, you’d better enjoy it.

 

For more information about Mike Flannery and the work he does, you can visit his website. Also be sure to check out the Flannery Brothers, an original, kid-friendly band he started with his brother, Dan.

Music and Advertising

Posted By Musician Coaching on November 1st, 2011

Josh Rabinowitz is the Senior Vice President/Director of Music for Grey Worldwide. He is also Bandleader of the New York City-based funk group The Second Step, a group that has been actively performing for nearly 20 years. In the past decade, he has written and produced several thousand tracks for brands throughout the world. He has worked on ad campaigns with brands like Cover Girl and Dr. Pepper, and artists such as Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas, Run DMC, Cyndi Lauper and Natasha Bedingfield. He has also worked on music for films including Waking the Dead and Arlington Road. In 2008, Josh created the record label Pantene/Grey Music, which was the first imprint to release music as a joint venture between a brand and its agency. Josh is also an adjunct Professor of Music at The New School and has taught a course on “Music in the Media” at the Steinhardt School of Music Professions at NYU. He is also an occasional contributor to Billboard magazine.

 

 

Recently, I connected with Josh, and he shared the story about his unique journey in the music and advertising industries. He also delivered some sound advice for artists that want to build a solid career in music.

 

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Thanks so much for taking some time to talk to me, Josh. I actually opened up for the Second Step when I was a kid. I was playing in a funk band, and anything with horns ended up on the same bill, often enough. You guys were ska back then. How did you come to be in the music business?

 

JR:

 

We eventually became a funk band. We started out as a ska band. I joined the band in 1987 and then became the leader of the group and took over the business aspect of the band. I booked all the shows. We were a touring band for a while doing 200-plus shows per year for a while. That’s what I was doing for a living at that time, if you can call it a living. During those years, the band was eight or nine people. Now we’re a seven-piece band. We still play gigs occasionally. In the summertime we’ll play on Block Island, in the Hamptons, or play a private party. We enjoy it. And when it’s a hobby, it’s a lot more fun than when you’re depending on all these gigs to pay bills and feed yourself.

 

Musician Coaching:


There are certainly easier ways to make money, no question about it.

 

JR:

But it was an interesting learning experience. My problem was that after I came out of college, I wanted to get into music and was really passionate about it. I just didn’t have any great connections. I didn’t have any family members that were involved in music, and neither my parents nor I had any friends that were involved in the business of music at all. I really didn’t have a foot in the door or a way of getting my foot in the door. That was kind of disconcerting for me.

 

I tried over the years to get a job. And a lot of the experiences I had with taking the band on the road, being a producer in the studio and as a side musician being a trombone player I felt like I had decent real life resume. I had gone to a music and arts high school in Manhattan and was one of the top students. I thought I had some skills and abilities. But I had no way of really connecting them to money in terms of a job. I tried all kinds of things.

 

Musician Coaching:


That’s a door that a lot of guys that are getting older or having families, but still want to stay in the business or play music as a hobby are trying to get through. How have you been able to find success with that?

 

JR:

 

It’s interesting, because I graduated college at 22 and didn’t get a job until I was 31. So, I eventually got through by banging my head against the wall, trying to connect with people I didn’t really know or have great hookups to – just doing everything I could. It was in the age where email wasn’t happening yet. So, it was a lot of faxing of resumes, cold calls and then doing whatever I could to just get by, which was essentially playing in the band, which was my main source of income. I was also a substitute music teacher and a music teacher in a public school. My daughter and son ended up both going there. And I was also a sideman on gigs.

 

I guess what happened was that it came to a point where I didn’t really have any promising possibilities. A lot of people told me, “I’d love to have you working in our A&R department,” or, “I’d love to have you work in our main agent booking gigs,” or, “You should definitely come work in our management department.” I got approached with a lot of things that I felt were really exciting and that would turn into something. But they didn’t.

 

Then, I met some guy, and he said, “I’ve been in the music business for years, and one facet of the industry that seems really interesting is the advertising music sector – the jingle houses.”

 

Musician Coaching:

 

And which year was this?

 

JR:

This was when I was about 30. So, it was about 1994.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

So, at that time, music and advertising wasn’t big yet. It wasn’t cool.

 

JR:

 

It definitely wasn’t cool. And I knew some people that were doing it that I had played with. They talked about how they did these sessions and then got paid session fees. And then they’d go to the union and get some checks. Then, I also knew some people who would just sing in ads and would get crazy money in the mail. I still thought of it as a sell out and not real music. And I was fairly principled, but I did need a job.

 

I didn’t have a way to find out the names of the different jingle houses. Obviously, there was no Google. I would ask people about it, but then finding the phone numbers and information was really hard. I remember once I walked into Barnes and Noble and found a book about advertising. There were a couple pages that listed some of the jingle houses. And I tore the pages out. I think I still have those pages folded up somewhere in a memorabilia folder.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

That’s a great story.

JR:

Yeah. It’s funny to think about now. I found out about some of these places and sent a whole bunch of faxes. And then a guy called me and said, “Why don’t you come in, and we’ll give it a shot? I’m looking for a guy who isn’t really been in the business and hasn’t been jaded by the business.” And point I had borrowed a couple hundred dollars from my sister and bought a one-way ticket to New Orleans. As a trombone player, I figured, if I was going to be a starving musician, why not try to do it in a place where someone at least supports the type of playing I was doing? And even today, it’s amazing how many trombone players you hear about that are coming out of there and surviving doing it. So, maybe I made a mistake!

 

But, I took a job with this guy at a company called JSM. His name was John Silberman. And I worked with him for a few months. Once I got my foot in the door, I said, “Alright, I’m 31-years old. I have to make something happen.” So, I learned the business, which didn’t seem too complex to me. And I met a lot of the people. I went to parties, and I read all the industry trades and saw who was doing what. I was in the business, so it was a good way to meet people.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

It sounds like you really drank it up, unlike somebody like myself, who stumbled into the business early and took it for granted. It seems like you wrung the life out of it and really seized every opportunity once you got your foot in the door.

 

JR:

Yeah. I really needed to. I came from a nice, Jewish, middle-class Brooklyn family of professionals. And although there were some pretty unique experiences I look back on now fondly – in my 20s, it felt like, “Everyone is doing pretty well. The economy’s not doing badly. Why can’t I get a job doing what I love?” Obviously, to be able to sustain yourself doing what you love and playing music is kind of like winning the lottery in some respects; it’s very hard to do it. Certainly, I got pretty lucky and got my foot in the door.

 

JSM didn’t work out very well for me in terms of being long term. But I had my eye on the people who were the big-time hitters in the business. And there was a conglomerate called tomandandy. It was two guys that had a place in SoHo on Greene Street and a place out in Santa Monica. And they were doing some really cool film work and cutting-edge advertising work.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

And when you were at JSM, were you supervising spots or hiring musicians? What kind of role did you start out having when you got into the business?

 

JR:

I was hiring musicians, I was working on projects and was the point person between the music company and composers, engineers, musicians and advertising agency production people.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

So, you had to speak a collection of languages.

 

JR:

 

Yes. It’s useful knowing the language and balancing it with the business practices, and it was just about that and being a good and reliable person; those are all key skills in any business. It was also creating original music. Essentially, I created some jingles with singing in them, but a lot of instrumental music.

 

Then I started working at this place tomandandy, and they were working with “cooler” people and on more creative projects. I was hired as a producer and contractor of musicians and then became the executive producer there. I worked there for several years there. The problem I had with that business was the reality in the industry that if you are a truly creative spirit and have some sort of creative vision and think your work is great, that doesn’t necessarily mean the people you are selling to think it is great. And it was hard for me to swallow that. I wasn’t very good at taking the hits.

 

Then I thought, “What can I do next in this business? I can start my own company. But I can’t take the hits very well. Or, I could move over to the other side and be the person who’s hiring people to do the music. Maybe I can soften the blows and try to make some cool things happen.” And the advertising agencies were already my clients. So, there was an opening I’d heard about at one of the big ad agencies called Young and Rubicam (Y&R). And I connected well with them, and got the job. I ended up working there for seven years. That was probably 1998. And at that point, people were starting to license music a lot more for ads.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Right. Well, the Cadillac commercial with Led Zeppelin was in the late ‘90s. It’s the one I always think of as blowing the doors wide open.

 

JR:

 

Yeah. That was an important one. There were a few in the late ‘90s. Sting had one where they used his song “Desert Rose.” He licensed it gratis to Jaguar. They used it, and it actually really helped boost his record sales. Moby was also starting to get in on it, and there was a great deal of attention around him. It was almost like you were clicking the remote to your TV and seeing classic rock radio station after classic rock radio station. But it was mostly famous, well-known songs, and not songs from emerging artists. Eventually, of course, it became about emerging artists.

 

When I got to Y&R I was responsible for specific accounts and the music used in those accounts, including creating original music – which was almost the entirety of it – and some licensing of existing songs. And I got lucky enough to work with a bunch of artists, because this was a time when artists were seeking revenue opportunities and getting paid pretty decent money to be part of an ad, whether in the ad itself or writing the music for the ad. I got to work with an array of people, like the Black Eyed Peas before they were famous. I worked with Run DMC, LL Cool J, Celia Cruz, Mark McGrath, Macy Gray – there were a bunch. I also did a spot with an artist named Alana Davis who was critically acclaimed, but not necessarily a huge name. We did a spot where they put a chyron on the spot that listed the name of the artist, the song and where you can download it. We also did a synergized deal with Sony Records where we released a CD single of a version of a Crosby, Stills and Nash song that was on an ad. It got a lot of attention around the time of the Super Bowl.

 

Fortunately, I’ve been involved in some projects that have been bucking the trend and ahead of the curve. So, I’ve been able to get some press and create a name for myself. Eventually, there was an opening at Grey, where they wanted someone to head their music group and bring some mojo to it. They hired me about six years ago. At Grey, we’ve done a bunch of cool things, and I’ve had some great opportunities. I’ve been able to do a lot of moderating of panels and some op-ed work. I was a columnist at Billboard for a while doing a column called “With the Brand.” I’ve done a lot of extra-curricular work.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Another reason I wanted to talk to you is because you’re very good at managing your own personal brand, which these days it’s good for every musician to be able to do. You’re someone who is paying real attention to how you’re perceived in the modern era. And that’s important. It’s not just self-preserving; it’s self sustaining.

 

JR:

 

I think of it as self-sustaining. That’s totally the phrase I use. In any field that’s associated with the media, entertainment and music, you have to be self-sustaining in appropriate ways. There are inappropriate people who are completely self-serving. The way I look at it is, it’s very hard to survive doing any kind of music work consistently. And certainly, with the way the economy is, it’s just becoming incredibly challenging. We are all feeling the strain.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’ve been a musician concurrent to your executive career, so you have a unique perspective. How is the business changing, and what should musicians be doing in order to get their music licensed? It seems like there are just so many options, because you can sign up with so many aggregators, etc.

 

JR:

 

If I were an artist trying to get my music licensed, I would be networking as much as possible, going to conferences and meeting as many people as I can. And then obviously if you’re an artist, after feeling like you’ve developed a decent sense of who the good and reliable people to work with are, get someone to represent you, or just be entrepreneurial and represent yourself. The DIY thing is in full effect. I feel like unless you’re just such a prolific creator that you just don’t have time to multitask, sell your own work and create your own matrix of connections, do it yourself. Create your own website. Create meaningful relationships. Do things on spec. And really show your value, your creativity and your reliability.

 

There are people that are completely entrenched in their work and can’t step away. I’m always jealous of those people, because I’ve never been able to do that.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

Nor have I. It’s too much left brain and right brain for me too, which is how I probably ended up on the business side of it.

 

I’ve had a taste of what you’ve been talking about a little bit, though not to the extent that you have. I had a “desk where dreams go to die.” And as such, it can be really overwhelming and hard to give people the attention people deserve. I always try to put it into perspective for people and say that if they go up to someone like you with two albums and you have Sony on the other line calling with all of Western music, it’s not really a contest. Do you have any advice for artists that are approaching music supervisors like yourself?

 

JR:

 

What gets my attention – and there are just so many things that sometimes I can’t even begin to handle it – is if somebody knows somebody I know, and if that person is somebody I like and respect. That’s how I will connect with somebody and at least give their music a listen – how they become a blip on my radar. For me, that’s literally what it is.

 

There’s great music out there. I created playlist after playlist of songs in my early years that I thought were the most creative and interesting songs to me. And I would kill to get that artist involved in some type of work I was doing. And I also have favorite artists from my experiences over the years and a gazillion friends I grew up with. I grew up in New York, so I just know a lot of people. But it’s not always the stuff I like that will get the air.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

You’re ultimately beholden to each client’s needs, I would guess.

 

JR:

 

Yes. It’s a totally collaborative process. So unfortunately, my vision isn’t always the vision. However, I am the one who’s guiding the process and trying to sell the work to all these different participants, whether it’s a specific client, the creative directors, art directors, producers or the account director on my side. Sometimes there are about ten cooks in the kitchen. But I am the one who is ultimately responsible for the music, so I am in control of the process to an extent and try to manage it well. I try to make it work. And what making it work means is that it’s not always about the thing I think is the greatest; it’s about what collectively everyone involved thinks is the greatest. I’m managing expectations of people and trying to give the group what they want. It’s great when it’s just one person I’m working with who is the ultimate decider, but that’s not necessarily the case.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

I would imagine that especially with the size of the accounts that Grey handles, you’re constantly having to placate a number of different entities.

 

JR:

Yes. And everyone loves music. Everyone is passionate about music – or at least 95% of the population, especially people in the creative and media-related marketing fields. Music is such a powerful thing and so subjective.

 

I remember reading The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test,  by Tom Wolfe. And there was a word – “intersubjectivity.” He said when people took drugs they came to this intersubjectivity. That’s kind of what I do. I try to create an intersubjectivity where everyone is liking something.

 

Musician Coaching:

 

That is politically not an easy portal to keep open, is it?

 

JR:

It’s very challenging. Now, if I have a vision for something, and I think it’s going to be just groundbreaking, or if I’m involved with a project, and I can tell something is going to get a lot of attention and be positive towards my brand and great for the brand we’re working for and the brand of my agency, I’m going to fight. I try not to give up. And those instances come up occasionally. But there are some projects you work on that are impossible to make great and satisfying. It’s not necessarily what’s they’re about. It’s about scoring a concept or a story or underscoring or creating a bed for something – to steal a line from Brian Eno – that’s “as ignorable as it is interesting.” So, it’s not really about making a huge statement.

 

Musician Coaching:


Sure. Not everything’s going to be an iTunes commercial.

 

Your story is definitely an interesting one that a lot of people would like to emulate. Do you have any parting words of advice for musicians and young music business professionals?

 

JR:

 

Try to create a meaningful relationship with someone like me that is a gatekeeper to music, or someone who can actually get you paid some money for your work. To me, it’s about having a deep pool of connections and not just pinpointing one or two people. What’s great about the business I’m in is that there are a lot of really interesting people. So the journey in terms of creating meaningful relationships with these people is a fun journey. You’re going to struggle, but it’s not like working in tax law or computer coding, where it’s arduous, detailed work. It’s fun and creative. There is a lot of music flowing, and a lot of people who are as passionate as you are to make their art happen and to monetize that creativity. In that journey, you’re going to meet a lot of interesting people. You’re also going to meet some freaks and have some disappointments. My problem was that I wasn’t enjoying the journey enough at some points because I was getting too tense and stressed. It is ultimately fun if you can enjoy it.

 

To learn more about Josh Rabinowitz and his work, check out JoshRabinowitzMusic.com.

More about Music and Brand Integration

Posted By Musician Coaching on December 6th, 2010

Marcie Allen is the president and founder of MAC Presents, a sponsorship and fulfillment company that specializes in aligning brands with music.  Prior to founding MAC Marcie was a marketing director for Cellar Door Concerts, worked at William Morris Endeavor and owned a successful booking and events company.  Recently Marcie became a Billboard Women in Music honoree.

Music Consultant:

Marcie, thanks for taking the time to speak today.  I remember when I first met you that you were booking college dates and promoting major festivals like Dancin’ in the District, The Voodoo Music Festival and DC Sessions.  What made you decide on sponsorships?  Was it just observing a shift in the marketplace or certain opportunities that arose?

MA:

I wanted to focus on what I felt I did best, which I think is really important. That was selling.  I felt that I’d been in the music industry for five years and I had been around it my whole  life, and wasn’t making any money.  For the first company I started- I wanted to get out there and fill a niche, which was booking colleges. Then when I started my second company in 2004, I realized I had a knack for connecting artists and brands and figuring out an authentic way they could be in business together.  That’s why I started Mac Presents, which stands for Music and Companies.

Music Consultant:

What are some of the deals you have put together since founding MAC presents?

MA:

Deals I’ve worked on are Tim McGraw and Faith Hill with Jeep, John Mayer and BlackBerry, John Legend and E&J Gallo Brandy, Lady Antebellum and Brita, Keith Urban and Kingsford/KC Masterpiece, Frito Lay and Tim McGraw, Drake and BlackBerry. We’ve had a good year…

Music Consultant:

When you’re sourcing deals like that are you going directly to management to broker this kind of deal after the brand has become your client?  How does that usually work?

MA:

I work with pretty much anybody that pitches me the artist.  It can be a manager, an agent or a record label. It’s whoever calls me.

Music Consultant:

Tell me about the genesis of the pitch.  How do these collaborations come about? Is there a certain type of pitch beyond “I think Tim McGraw should be in a Jeep commercial”?  Brand and music integration seems a lot more sophisticated than it was several years ago.

MA:

It depends on the deal. With Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and Jeep, they had a story. They were out in one of the production guys’ Jeeps when they decided to get married, so it was a natural story to tell:  the progression of their relationship over the past ten years to the new four-door Jeep, because now they have three girls. So the Jeep now seats five. It’s about telling that story that’s really authentic and fits with the artist and the brand. When we pitched it to Jeep, it resonated perfectly.

Music Consultant:

That’s clearly one that’s an authentic alignment.  Sometimes you see integration that can be creepy and weird. But that’s a good one. Are there other examples?

MA:

Every deal is done differently. Sometimes the brand comes to us and says, “We’re launching a new product.” Sometimes, like with BlackBerry in 2007, they were predominantly a B2B brand, and they were looking to reach that consumer space in the 18-34 demographic. So as we sat down and analyzed a list of artists.  John Mayer was perfect because he was already an avid BlackBerry user. And it was a way for BlackBerry to reach this desired demographic, which was the same as John Mayer’s fan base. And that’s how we did the deal.

Music Consultant:

What about developing artists? Are you seeing anything going on in this space for them? I see occasional placement in commercials that are just syncs, but I don’t see any bigger placement, except for maybe FreeCreditReport.com.

MA:

Yes. Those guys are from Canada. I’ve read that story.

Music Consultant:

Examples of small artists partnering with brands are few and far between.  Is there anything you have seen in your space that would help people partner with a brand or are those opportunities just a case of lightning striking?

MA:

It depends on the brand. It’s difficult for me to say, “Yes there are opportunities” or “No, there are not opportunities.” When I did the deal with Lady Antebellum and Brita, Lady Antebellum only had one single on the radio. This was in 2009, and it was renewed twice because it was such a great partnership.  They only had one single, and the album hadn’t even come out yet. There are opportunities, but I’ve never actually done a deal with a completely unsigned band. I’ve done deals with bands that are making $5,000 per night, and then they’ve turned around and made $10,000 with a sponsorship. It’s a great way to continue to build their fan base, especially if the brand comes to the table with advertising dollars.

Music Consultant:

Can you elaborate on how these brands integrate? I know it’s more than just digital signage or slapping a logo on things.

MA:

It’s about content and creating a memorable experience for the consumer. It’s not just about signage at all. It’s about what they can do, whether it’s have the artist’s video, where someone dances in front of the green screen and they’re able to be superimposed in front of the green screen and then pushing that out to social media via Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. There are a lot of different ways fans can interact with the artist’s music, which is important to the brand and the artist.

Music Consultant:

What are brands coming back and telling you they want from artists? Which kinds of content and which kinds of involvement?

MA:

Mostly it’s an exclusive song or an exclusive version of a song, or a meet and greet, or “Here’s a chance for you to have dinner with them before a concert, whether it’s a sound check party or something else.” The traditional meet and greets aren’t as exciting anymore, so it has to go a little bit further. As far as content goes, content can be music or B-Roll footage of life on the road with the artist. There are all different kinds of content. But brands are looking for more authentic ways to connect with the artist’s fan base and their consumers.

Music Consultant:

Is there a certain trait that is common among artists that get more placement with brands or more interactivity with brands?  For example, how did Lady Antebellum become associated with Brita?

MA:

With Lady Antebellum, we knew they were a green band that was looking for a small way they could give back. So, as we sat down and figured out different brands we were going to approach, Lady Antebellum was getting ready to head out on tour with Kenny Chesney, and Brita was a way they could cut down on their bottled water use – not eliminate it, but cut down on it. It was just a perfect partnership and a small, authentic deal that started in a way where it grew into a larger endorsement deal over the period of twelve months.

Music Consultant:

Are there a lot of offline components? Are people still wrapping buses and doing banners on stage? When we first met, when an artist got an endorsement, that usually meant that Jack Daniels gave them a Jack Daniels guitar and threw up a banner behind them on stage and artists were paid for such product placement.

MA:

It’s totally changed now. Banners are gone.  Every deal is different. You can do a deal where you are a social media ambassador for the brand. We didn’t even know what that was five years ago.

Music Consultant:

I’m not even sure I know what that is now…

MA:

It means you’re tweeting about the brand, partnering up with them for a charity initiative of launching a new product. Social media ambassadors are becoming very widespread now, especially more with celebrities.

Music Consultant:

Do artists have to announce somewhere publicly that they are receiving a paycheck for endorsing products in this manner?

MA:

Yes. They have to disclose that.

Music Consultant:

What about the future? Do you think brand integration as it’s becoming more common will trickle down to mid-level and smaller artists as opposed to just artists who are icons?

MA:

I think so. The bottom line is, it takes a lot of time and energy to get deals. A lot of people think, “I can just call the company, and they should be happy to be doing business with me.” That’s not  the way it works. There is so much time and energy that needs to be put towards it. So as an artist is building a career, if they have the time and energy to put towards it, or their management team or record label or whoever it is who is helping them out has the time and energy puts something towards it, great. But sometimes it takes me six to nine months to close a deal with an artist and a brand. I think that’s something that’s misunderstood in the industry. They think, “Oh, we can close something in three weeks.”

Music Consultant:

I’m guessing there are dozens and dozens of layers of approval and many companies that are involved in the overall brand strategy:  the advertising agency; the product itself; the brand; that kind of thing.

MA:

Exactly.

Music Consultant:

As somebody who worked with a great number of developing artists and now works with some of the bigger artists on the planet- do you have any generic advice for artists that want to pursue partnerships of this kind?

MA:

I would say, especially if bands are unsigned or starting to build their story, do your research, figure out what you can do for the brand. So, if they are a product that is trying to reach a college crowd, and you’ve been playing different college bars, and you feel you have a way you can help them reach their desired consumer, don’t just call the brand and say, “This is what you can do for me.” Figure out what you can do for them, and how you can help them achieve their marketing goals. I think that’s one of the biggest problems with the approach of many artists out there.  It’s important to know that there are some brands that are very experienced in the music space, and there are some brand managers that have never done anything in the music space.  There’s no such thing as a bad idea.  The brand may not like your idea but that’s a different story.

—–

To learn more about Marcie and her company check out MAC presents.