Friday, December 17, 2010


This is the BIG question for all of us invloved in the music business and it's not something that's likely going to be answered tomorrow. But I think it's something that's definitely worth discussing because the more we talk about it, the closer we'll get to finding out the answer to this stress-inducing question. I'm talking particularly about whether or not artists/labels and copyright holders will continue to receive any kind of payment for writing songs and producing master recordings in the digital world. There's a lot of interesting points that have been made on this topic and they've been quite diverse, so which prediction(s) will be right when the dust finally settles?

Some propose that music will ultimately be free and that regardless of the fact that there's no revenue being generated, there will still be an abundance of music being created every day for us to listen to; however, the new music being created will be of such poor quality that no one will care enough to download it anyway. They're suggesting that what you'll end up with is a bunch of amateurs and hobbyists making music on their laptops in their bedrooms instead of professional musicians spending real money on top-shelf producers and engineers to create quality music. In the absense of putting a price tag on their music, those who create it simply won't be able to invest the time and money necessary to produce it in the first place.

Then there's the perspective that artists should focus more on other ways to get paid for what they do. For example: live performances, selling merch, ring tones, licensing music for film, television, video games, corporate videos, etc. and DVDs with live performances, behind-the-scenes clips and other tasty extras. With this kind of approach, you're basically treating the music as a loss leader (which can be a bit of a tough pill to swallow for the artists creating it), the way a label like Sony did with the artists they signed to their label.

Sure, if the artists they signed were selling CDs, it was gravy, but more importantly Sony owned a piece of the patent for the manufacturing of CDs and would get a 2.5 cent royalty for every one of them whether they actually sold or sat on the shelves at the retailers collecting dust. Either way, they were winning. RCA was actually losing money on the label portion of their business back in the 1950s, but continued to release albums anyway because those albums were stimulating the sales of the record players they were manufacturing. This is why it's important to understand how a label makes its money if you're considering doing business with them.


Trent Reznor did something I thought was pretty creative a couple years back. He released a deluxe version of Ghosts I-IV at a price point of $300 which included a lot of goodies for his diehard fans. It was a limited edition with only 2,500 units manufactured and signed by Trent Reznor himself and he proceeded to sell all of them. That's a gross profit of $750,000. Not bad.

radiohead Pictures, Images and Photos

When Radiohead released In Rainbows in 2007, their approach was to let the fans decide what the album was worth. "It's up to you," they said. According to comScore, two out of every five people that downloaded the album paid an average of six dollars. They say that there were 456,000 downloads that were actually paid for, bringing the total revenue for online sales alone to $2,736,000. In Rainbows has sold over three million copies to date and this figure includes downloads from, physical CDs, a deluxe 2-CD/vinyl box set, as well as sales via iTunes and other digital retailers.

I think this is encouraging as it shows that if something is truly of higher qualitly, people will be more than happy to pay for it. This is how major labels got themselves into trouble in the first place; releasing records with only one or two good tracks and the rest just filler. After getting burned a couple times paying fifteen dollars for a full-length album only to find that the single you heard on the radio is the only good track, you're going to be a little more cautious in the future.


Try and find social currency in something that is unique about you and/or what you do as an artist. Something you can build on and ultimately create your own niche. More so than just the music, fans are really looking for an experience. Something they can feel connected to. Something that they can own. The band Anvil did an excellent job of this with their story. A DVD documentary entitled "The Story of Anvil" (and it's a must-see BTW) is what brought them a significant splash of success over the past couple of years after flying below the radar for over two decades.

I would love to hear some ideas from you on this. A great place to start is to think from the perspective of being a fan. Define what you love about the bands/artists you listen to and figure out a way to model them in your own original way. I know this is easier said than done, but I believe there's still tons of great ideas out there that haven't been put into action yet. I know this because you're an individual with unique ideas and abilities and no one can possibly be better at being you than YOU!

So now I'm handing it over to you. Where is music going in the digital world and what can you do to maximize your return?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Creating Your Band's BRAND

Last time, we talked about ideas to help improve your live show so that you're getting up on stage and bringing a lot more to your audience than just simply running through a set of songs. This is really just one of the first steps on a much great journey and as I was writing this blog, my head was spinning a little bit due to the enormity of this 'bigger picture.' I'm talking specifically about one of the big buzz words of the day, "Branding."

If you want to be wildly successful with your music career, you have to go beyond your music and brand yourself. Gene Simmons stated in an interview I saw (and probably several more interviews) that KISS didn't want to be just a rock and roll band, they wanted to be a rock and roll BRAND! I know I reference KISS quite a bit in my blogs and it's because I like them a little bit (A LOT), but also because they're such a great success story in so many areas and certainly when it comes to branding.

BUSINESS Is A Bigger Word Than Music

This is where it's imperative for bands/artists to get in touch with the business side of music. Just as a hamburger joint like McDonald's and an automobile manufacturer like BMW have done, you have to determine exactly what you're all about. This is not about selling out. If you view branding yourself as selling out, then every band/artist you and I love would be considered a sell-out. Take a really good look at why you love the bands you love. I guarantee there's some branding going on there. If there weren't, you probably wouldn't know about them. You have to make it clear to your audience who you are and what they can expect from you in terms of the live show you put on, what you sing about in your song lyrics, how you interact with your fans and certainly which musical category you fit into. Consistency is the key.

Imagine if Green Day decided that for their next album they were going to write death metal songs with satanic overtones. How many people from their fan base--that they've spent two decades building--do you think would buy the album and attend the concerts? Probably not very many. Green Day have built a solid brand over the years and we know exactly what we're going to get when we buy a CD or go see them live.

AC/DC is another fantastic example of genius branding. What does AC/DC mean to you? Is there any ambiguity surrounding who they are and what they're all about? I don't think so. In fact, they're one of the most consistent acts to ever exist.

So far I've made reference to acts that have decades of history (or Kisstory) behind them, so let's take a look at Lady Gaga as an example of a relative newcomer (and I say this with regard to her mega mainstream success because she's been around longer than you may know). She has done an extraordinary job of branding herself in the short time she's been on the scene. If you look at what Lady Gaga is at her very core, you'll find that she's a female pop artist who sings and plays piano. If I asked you, "Hey, do you know that girl who sings and plays piano?", would you know who I was talking about? Of course not, because there's thousands of pop artists who sing and play piano; however, I think it's pretty easy to see the difference between Lady Gaga and all the others.

Can I KISS You Just Once More?

Another brilliant move KISS made was creating the KISS ARMY. There's nothing more important than connecting with your fans and one of the best ways I know to do this is to create a community mentality. You're not just another KISS fan in the crowd, you're a part of the KISS ARMY. You're a part of something much, much greater and it gives you the sense that you belong. KISS has always been famous for the KISS Konventions that have been held all over the world by the fans. It's a chance for everyone to come together and celebrate the band and meet other music fans who share common interests.

Another great story from our own backyard, here in the greater Toronto area, is HAIL THE VILLAIN. If you're into this band you're not just a fan, you're a VILLAIN. They're website is very unique and it's fun and interactive for all the VILLAINS who want to be a part of this community. The band's videos have been very creative and like nothing you've ever seen before. These guys have a lot more in store for you so stay tuned!

So, I hope that spurs you on to some creative ideas and gets things rolling in a new and fun direction. Like I said at the beginning of this blog, it can be rather overwhelming, so don't feel you have to create your brand tomorrow. It takes a lot of time and it should be a relatively slow process, so just do a little at a time. But don't lose focus either. Stay on track and stay committed and eventually, the mere mention of your name will trigger a strong response from the public. :)

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Hey everyone, what do you think of the new layout? Believe me, I'm no graphic artist, so yep, this is just a template. But it's a different template and I'm quite impressed that I even accomplished that.

So now that we've established that I know nothing about graphic design, let's move on to something that I do know a little something about. I want to talk a bit about live performance. I think this is a huge topic and from what I can tell, it's overlooked by many bands and artists who are playing the scene. The most important thing on which you could possibly focus is absolutely your song writing; however, I feel that a well thought out, well executed live show is also paramount in setting yourself apart from the competition and subsequently bringing an ever-expanding fan base through the doors at your gigs.

Why Do YOU Go See Live Concerts?

Think about why you run screaming to your computer to purchase tickets to see the bands you love in concert. You're getting something of value in return for you hard earned dollars. You're being entertained. If you paid to see a live act because you were digging their tunes and then found that their show was kind of lame, you probably wouldn't rush back to see them again. You'd just enjoy listening to the songs you like and leave it at that.

This is not the impression you want to leave your fans with as they're walking away from one of your performances. You want them to be blown away! Visually and auditorily stimulated to the max. Think of a band that you run to see every time they roll into town. What is it about their show that makes you part with your money and spend your precious time going to see them? Really think about this and make a list of all these points so you can determine which of these ideas could be implemented by your band. Maybe it's the way they dress. Maybe they have a really cool stage set with some cool props. You have to be really creative when you're working with a limited budget and with limited space--as most clubs/venues generally don't have a very large stage--but it can be done if you do your homework.

Be Yourself, Only BIGGER!

I always stress to bands, though, that whatever it is you do, make sure it feels natural and it resonates with you. Don't try to be something you're not because you'll just feel self-conscious and it won't evolve into to anything that really works for you. Go inside yourself and look for things that you can accentuate and capitalize on. Let your true personality and character traits come out, but in a BIG way.

Ask Alice

alice cooper Pictures, Images and Photos

Alice Cooper is a great example. I'm pretty sure when he's at home with his family he doesn't hang himself or decapitate himself for laughs, but there's a part of his personality that he's acting out and it's all very real for him. I'm certainly not suggesting that these types of stage antics are for everyone, but because it's such an extreme example I think it makes a clear point.

And by the way, if you get a chance to go see him in screaming to your computer to purchase tickets to his show because it's worth every penny!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interview With Mastering Engineer ANDY VANDETTE

I'd say when it comes to making an album, mastering is the least understood part of the process for most artists. It's also a very important part of the process in terms of maximizing the sonic quality of your music to ensure it can compete with other commercial releases. Many artists will spend a great deal of time tracking and mixing an album (months or even years) and if it's not mastered properly, all that work can be destroyed. Ouch, it hurts to even say that!

I asked Andy VanDette to lend his knowledge and experience to help us understand this crucial step a little better and I'm very excited to share this interview with you as I think what he has to say is absolutely invaluable to anyone who's getting set to have their album mastered.


Like many Masterdisk Engineers, Andy VanDette started out as an intern (Summer of 1984!). By 2000 he was promoted to Chief Engineer, with a growing collection of mastering awards from the US and around the world. Andy started out by supporting Masterdisk's top engineers. Beginning with digital editing and vinyl cutting, he learned the art of mastering from the best. His technical abilities helped him adapt to the individual style of each engineer, and the ever changing demands of the industry. A classically trained musician and "band guy" of many years, Andy draws on his musical background for direction. He enjoys his Strat, PBass, and digi plugin heaven at home whenever time will allow. Most importantly, Andy has got wide-open ears, a wide-open mind, and he knows how to use them. He listens closely to clients' individual needs and looks forward to the challenge of completing their creative vision.

1. How did you get into mastering and how long have you been doing it?

In 1983, I had approached Bob Ludwig about doing an internship at a recording studio. He was an investor in Boogie Hotel-Port Jefferson, Long Island-Foghat’s old Studio. I came to NYC for an AES convention, and had a short meeting with him. I was blown away. I had never met a guy like him. As we spoke, he was cutting vinyl sides, making EQ changes while the 1/2” analog master ran, and taking phone calls. Yet he still had a friendly focus on me. He said he would talk to the studio manager and see what he could do. To my surprise he asked, “But why don’t you want to do your internship at Masterdisk?” I was floored….. “OMG, Bob Ludwig wants ME to scrub his toilets and file his tapes?”, I thought.

By the end of the summer, I HATED mastering. “2 tracks? Stereo Left and Right? That’s all I get???” I thought, “I am a musician. I was born to sit behind the Neve and watch the flying faders”. Being a vocalist and bassist/keyboardist in all my bands (a Geddy Lee Wanna-be), I thought I would sell out early and find a comfy jingle studio. Some of my friends had done demo vocals on jingles that ended up used as finals. The $ound of residual$ $ounded pretty $weet to me.

A couple bad gigs out of college, I was desperate for work. Masterdisk had invested $250k in a Direct Metal Mastering lathe. They kept stringing me along telling me that I would assist Bob with the new lathe, but demand was slow to ramp up. It ended up that the receptionist had fallen in love with a Corey Hart bandmate, and was moving to Canada. When they offered me her position, I jumped at the chance.

I became a full time employee at Masterdisk in February of 1986. Since then I have held every position here except owner and accountant. I created every invoice issued by the company for 3-4 years and supervised the billing after that. I used to book sessions for Bob Ludwig, Howie Weinberg and Tony Dawsey. Tony was nice enough to let me use his studio mornings, nights and weekends. Whenever he wasn’t using it. I was able to build my mastering clientele.

2. Name some other mastering engineers whose work you respect.

I respect all the engineers I have worked with, and would like to think I learned at least one thing from each of them. Among the engineers I haven’t worked with, I like Big Bass Brian. I love what he did on Rush's “Snakes and Arrows” and his work with Dr. Dre.

3. Mastering is a bit of a mystery to most musicians. Can you explain in plain English what mastering is and what the importance of it is in terms of the final product?

I often say a mastering engineer is to music what a colorist is to film. The colorist combines all the shots--whether it is the night shot on location, night shot in the studio or SGI computer generated special effects shots--and turns it into a believable scene when u watch it. I do that….with sound.

Mastering is the last creative phase and the first manufacturing phase of recorded music. At bare minimum, I will put the songs in the correct order with the correct spacing. A studio like Masterdisk has a reputation for being able to maximize a mix’s sonic potential at the same time. Some records can get very complex. When a major artist has five different producers, working at five different studios, it becomes more of a challenge to make all the tracks fit together on an album like a “family”.

4. Describe some of the things you can and cannot do during mastering in terms of altering a mix.

I have lots of gear….and with it I can alter many aspects of a mix. I can add glorious top end, without making it sound brittle. I can spread the stereo image from one coast to the other….but there is one thing if u mess up, I have no fix….. To me 90% of audio quality comes from the definition between the bass and the kick drum instruments. Too much bass, and I won’t be able to get my “hooks” into anything punchy for the kick.

5. What are some common mistakes mix engineers make that can cause difficult challenges for you when you’re mastering their project?

Listen carefully to your mixes. Especially for distortion on the vocal peaks, or just peaks in general. That kind of thing NEVER gets better in mastering--only worse. Any kind of minor distortions become obvious when I do “The Big Push” up to CD level.

6. What advice can you offer to mix engineers to help them maximize the potential of the mastering process?

I try and tell people how depressed I get when I don’t get to be the one to overcompress and add too much bottom. Chances are I have a better brick wall than what you will find in a recording studio. Go ahead and print mixes with whatever you like to achieve something closer to “CD level” for client approval, but then print mixes with out that crap on it for me. And while you are at it, send me one with everything LOWER except voc, kick, and snare.

7. For all the gear nutz out there (this includes me), tell us about some of the key components of your mastering set up.

When Bob Ludwig was Chief Engineer, he specified NTP 179-120 Compressors, Neumann OE-DUO EQs and Sontec Eqs for all the mastering studios, so we could follow his notes and cut lacquer on his projects. When my studio was upgraded from editing suite to mastering studio in 1995, I demoed lots of gear. I would master the same project two days in a row. First day was through the demo gear dream-chain. The second day, through my old favorites. It showed me what great gear I had already! The NTP Compressor is the best rock compressor I have ever heard. Since then I have come across some “must-have” pieces like the GML 8900, the Manley Massive Passive and the Tube Tec SMC 2B.

8. Please tell us about some of the projects you’ve mastered recently that have piqued your interest musically.

2010 has been great for me. I’ve had nine top 10 albums in Portugal. Three of those debuted at number one. I also had a #1 in Germany (Fanta 4), a #3 in New Zealand (Katchafire), and charting albums in the US from Framing Hanley, NeedToBreathe, and Atomic Tom. I continue to listen to albums I mastered for Paul Langlois (The Hip) “Fix This Head”, Florence K “Havana Angels”, and Mother Mother’s “Eureka”. I am impressed by their depth and layers. I hear new parts every time I listen.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Producer/Songwriter MURRAY DAIGLE on Radio Play

Getting your songs played on the radio is one of those little mysteries within the music business that I think has many artists somewhat perplexed. "Why do they play all that shit on the radio?? My tunes are way better than what I hear day in and day out!" I've been guilty of saying those exact words in the past, but now I realize that getting upset about the way things are won't get me any further toward achieving my goals.

The key to unlocking these mysteries is simply a matter of educating yourself on exactly how these things work from the inside out. Ignoring the realities and hoping and praying that one day a music director at a major radio station will realize how incredibly brilliant your songs are probably won't yeild the desired results. So, to help us understand a little bit about how things work in the real world, I've brought in one of my best friends and studio partners, Murray Daigle.

Murray and I have been working together since 1989 and during that time we've written a shitload of songs, recorded and released many albums and toured internationally. Murray has been responsible for developing many acts that went on to sign major deals including Not By Choice, Cauterize, and Outmatched. Most recently his focus has shifted to mainstream pop music and he's written and/or produced several songs with his writing team at VicPark Productions ( for artists such as Aleesia, Adriana Lombardo, and Neverest, achieving a great deal of success at radio.

1. Firstly, to help artists understand where they fit into the equation with their music, briefly describe the end goal that a commercial radio station is in business to accomplish.

Radio stations are in business for one reason… to sell advertising for profit. How they accomplish this is by constructing a “sound” & “brand” that relates to and attracts a specific demographic audience. The true value of a radio station lies in its listeners. The bigger and more loyal the audience is, the higher the ratings and therefore, the more the station can charge its advertisers. What you need to understand is that quality of music on the radio is solely judged by whether or not the audience will enjoy it enough to leave the station on and keep coming back. Most discussions I have with artists/bands that want radio play aren’t aware or willing to address these realities… they just want their music to play, regardless of whether it fits with the radio station’s format or agenda. If you want to be on the radio, sound like the radio. And no, that doesn’t mean you can’t be creative or have your own sound. In fact, I would say you have to be more creative and work waaaaaaay harder to come up with great music that fits within these boundaries. There are exceptions to every rule of course; however, failure is usually a result of people who plan on being the exception.

2. Getting your songs played on radio is not something you just decide out of the blue to do one day, so what steps should an artist take before they even consider trying?

The trick to every element of an artist’s music career is consistency. To even be considered for major market radio play you need all your ducks in a row. Having a great song that fits the format you are after is superfluous…. What you need beyond that is a great website and social media presence and hopefully a great touring schedule. Yes, I said web & touring. The first thing a music director does when faced with a good song by a new artist is go “check them out”--website, facebook, tour schedule, media, Google search (yeah, they know that trick too). If your band looks like a group of high school kids with no real interest from anyone then why would they play you? How are you going to draw the all-important demographic to their station? They are selling the dream and vibe to their fans just like you are trying to do. Once your ducks are in a row with your BEST promo effort and look possible it’s time to get a Radio Tracker on board. They are experts that can help you build a radio strategy. So many things affect a single release including timing, station selection, which markets to approach and how to link radio to your other PR efforts and touring. The earlier you get a tracker onboard, the better. I even use these guys to consult during the writing and mixing of tracks!

3. What are some of the main formats on commercial radio and are there any differences regarding the procedure for getting playlisted?

In relation to stations playing new pop & rock music there is Contemporary Hit Radio (CHR), Adult Contemporary (AC), Hot Adult Contemporary (Hot AC), Rock Radio (divided into “hard rock” and “alterantive”) and Country Radio. Other music sub-genres are all the same chart. There are also other formats including mixed format, community, college, oldies, urban, jazz, classical and talk, which essentially are non-issues for most new contemporary artists because they either don’t play new music or they are rated so low that it doesn’t matter to advancing ones commercial music career. Yeah, I said it, college and urban radio are a non-issue in this country as far as I am concerned. That doesn’t mean that urban music isn’t HUGE in Canada, just that most of the bigger artists in the this genre play on the CHR stations.
One thing to understand is that basically CHR & Hot AC make up what is considered “pop radio”. These stations have another sub-divide referred to as ‘HIT RADIO’… basically that is a station within these formats that will ONLY play the top 50 songs on the chart. It was explained to me early in my career by one music director (MD) this way, “We don’t make hits, we just play them”. Unfortunately for indie artists, these are generally the biggest stations in any given market.
Basically, your tools and approach are the same for all formats. “Sound like the radio“, have great media, web and PR to back you up. Hire a radio tracker that is experienced in YOUR genre and format.

4. What’s the proper way to pitch and submit a song to radio if you’re an indie artist trying to break in?

I always recommend aligning yourself with a professional radio tracker, and the earlier in the process the better. Let them help you get a strategy and pick an appropriate song.

5. How long did it take you to get your first song on radio and what steps did you take to achieve this?

As a producer & mixer, I have had numerous tracks on the radio over the past 10 or 12 years, the best reaching mid 50’s on the Billboard US Rock Chart. (The US market is still the biggest, most important music market in the world, and the Billboard Charts are the biggest indicator of commercial radio success). This was the result of the record company’s efforts and I really didn’t play a role in the radio promotion end of things. As a songwriter, the first song I had that made hit status was about 2 years ago. I was heavily involved with the artist in hiring a radio tracker and carefully picking a strong single. We even touched up mixes and added a few things to the track to make it more palatable at CHR. I had already been a full time professional producer and studio owner for 16 years, with numerous major label credits under my belt and literally hundreds of independent projects. I was no stranger to the music industry and had worked with dozens of extremely talented writers in a producing capacity when I decided to shift my focus to writing pop music--and it still took me about 2 years of full-time writing to get my first track to that status! It isn’t easy, but this is a song-driven industry. A “HIT” forgives all other shortcomings; that can’t be said for any other asset of a band's or artist’s career and efforts.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Interview With Musician/Songwriter/Producer ROB LAIDLAW

I got a lot of positive feedback from the interview I did with Liam Killeen last time so here's another great one that will leave everyone with some new perspective and valuable advice. My good buddy Rob Laidlaw won't require much of an introduction here because the first question of the interview will explain who he is and why you should seriously consider what he has to say. So without further ado (I always wanted to say that), Rob Laidlaw!

1. Tell us a little about your musical history and how you fell into the roles of producer/songwriter and studio/touring musician.

I started playing and writing at the age of 14. I started on the six string guitar and picked up the bass at 18. I was signed to my first real record deal at 19 with a band called New Regime (RCA). We toured extensively through Canada ourselves and opened for major acts (David Bowie, Platinum Blonde, Level 42, Billy Idol, Cheap Trick, etc). After three years and two CDs we were dropped and I started touring as a side man with major Canadian acts (Lee Aaron, Kim Mitchell, Alannah Myles, Honeymoon Suite, Rough Trade etc). In 1998 I had come off a world tour and was burnt and needed to recharge. I invested in some ADATS (digital multi-track recorders) with an engineer friend and we started our own production company. We worked with all kinds of indie bands and serious majors. In 2002 I wrote and produced RCA recording artist Blaise Pascal and had three top-10 singles, a JUNO Songwriter of the Year nomination and tons of film and TV placements. In 2004 I was offered an in-house residency at a major downtown Toronto club and began booking and playing there every weekend. This was a great experience as it afforded me the opportunity to hire some serious 80s and current acts, i.e. Mike Reno (Loverboy) Jimi Jamison (Survivor) Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow) the Trews, Steriogram, Blue Rodeo and many more. The 80s acts have lead to great corporate gigs that I still play with to this day.

2. What specific things do you look for in an artist before you’ll work with them?

I look for originality and innate talent. I, like you and your partners, often develop young up-and-coming artists who won’t have experience, but ultimately there has to be a spark, and that is something some people are born with. You can’t fake the ”it“ factor.

3. Are there any common weaknesses you’ve seen among bands you’ve worked with past and present?

Yes there are several, but the most common I have seen is live chops vs studio chops, two very different things. Live players can get away with being fairly good players provided they aren’t completely messing up. The studio on the other hand is all about precise, clean execution with a great feel!! i.e. playing ahead of the beat, playing behind or right on top of the beat. All very important skills that require years of practice and dedication.
Songwriting is a very important skill and a muscle that needs to be exercised all the time. I have seen many bands/artists who think 4-8 minute tunes are the shit, yet they listen to contemporary pop/rock radio and wonder how artists who aren’t as good as them get airplay. There is a formula that exists for songwriting and it works! It's not rocket science. Use the tools available, listen to what goes into constructing a hit or a great song and analyze it. This is the MUSIC BUSINESS! Start with the tried and true examples right in front of you. Access radio or the internet for bands that have it right. It's called pop music because the masses deemed it popular. Having said that, there are always exceptions to the rule and rules are meant to be broken, just don't kill yourself beating a dead horse. LISTEN!

4. We’ve seen bands waste months, or even years, focusing their energy on the unimportant. What kinds of things should they be focusing their attention on to maximize their time?

Bands should spend time collectively working on their songs, live presentation and surrounding themselves with a solid team i.e. producer, management, booking agent, label (indie or major) and hustle their asses off every day. You can’t expect someone to work harder for you than you will work for yourself. PERSEVERANCE AND PERSISTENCE ARE PARAMOUNT!

5. You’ve had a lot of studio experience through the years. What advice would you give to bands to best prepare them for the recording process?

The first record I got to play on was as a sideman. Live I kicked ass on this project slapping and ripping my way through songs. The producer came out and said, "Hell ya! You can play on this record." I spent three fmailto:f%23$%25$%23@!ing hours trying to lay down a basic bass pattern and the producer said, "Thanks dude, but no thanks, you're wasting time and money." I went out and bought a doctor beat drum machine and wood shedded three hours a day for two months, had another shot and nailed it. I never went to the studio again without having my shite together as a player and my gear in top shape. So, long story short, be prepared musically and arrangementally with your songs, 'cause once the light is red, if you're not ready, you're dead (not literally).

6. You’ve played bass for countless platinum-selling artists. What are some of the common characteristics that could and should be adopted by up-and-coming artists who are serious about having a career?

Killer songs, killer live show, killer attitude and don’t take no for an answer. Alanis Morissette was a 10-year overnight sensation. It takes time and the right timing for awesome careers to take off. Work harder than everyone around you and be wise. Surround yourself with people you admire and respect.

7. What projects are you currently involved in?

I am working with a new band from Ajax called 48 Calibre (great pop/rock),
Erica James (Rick James' niece), a killer soul/rock project, Platinum Blonde's new project and I'm heading down to L.A. and Nashville for writing and developing artists in the coming months.

8. Are there any new artists out there that you’re interested in working with?

Ya there are several. It's an exciting time in the industry right now. Everyone has access to more and the world is getting smaller and communications stronger. I am always looking for new and talented people, ya got any for me Sean ol buddy ol pal??? Thanks, and anyone interested in connecting can contact me at

Monday, October 18, 2010


I recently got in touch with a friend of mine to discuss some things relating to the music business and what he does as an artist manager at Coalition Entertainment in Toronto. Liam Killeen was gracious enough to lend his time and insight and I think you'll all get a lot out of this, so I encourage you to take the time to read this interview.


Liam began as the drummer in a pop/punk band you may know called Not By Choice from 2002 to 2005 enjoying a good deal of success in the form of a major record deal, two top-ten singles, a Much Music Video Award and international tours with Sum 41, Simple Plan, Avril Lavigne and many more. He spent the next three years out on the road as the tour manager for Thornley, Metric, Faber Drive, Idle Sons, April Wine and Simple Plan in addition to playing live with Rex Goudie, Cute Is What We Aim For and Thornley. In early 2009 he joined Rob Lanni and Eric Lawrence at Coalition Entertainment and he's currently managing acts such as Hail The Villain, Faber Drive and producer Greig Nori (Sum 41, Iggy Pop, Ludacris, Hedley, Marianas Trench, The New Cities).

1. How did you make the transition from being in bands to managing bands?

When it looked like Not By Choice was coming to an end, I think everyone was pretty burnt out when it came to the industry. I was the only one that really wanted to stick with it and see what else was going on. I started to take on a few sessions for bands that needed a drummer on their records. Fortunately, Not By Choice still meant something and I was able to get some good gigs which got my name out there. At the same time, I started breaking into tour management. Making budgets, dealing with logistics, just putting it all together really interested me. Between playing and tour managing, I was starting to burn out. Developing new talent has always been something I was into, so I was able to go into Coalition with a pretty decent resume. It feels like a very natural fit.

2. What do you and your partners at Coalition look for in a band before you’ll take them on?

Songs. I know that sounds so simple, but it’s not. I get pitched on 10-15 bands a week, all of them with a gimmick, or good fashion sense, or a good work ethic etc etc. At the end of the day, if I’ve listened to your demo once or twice and can’t remember a particular song the next day, or even the next week…you’re not ready. Everyone seems to focus on the aesthetics of a band, and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it plays a part…but you can teach someone how to dress, you can’t teach them to write amazing songs. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on the recording, or who you got to produce it… just make sure that at the end of the day, you’re confident about the music. Dedication is a close second. You need to realize that you’re not going to make much money, and potentially going to live in a van for a few years. If I can tell that to an artist and they don’t flinch, it’s a good start.

3. Are there any new artists you have your eye on?

I’m working pretty clocely with a band called ‘Incura’ from Vancouver . My partners and I saw them at the Junos in 2009, and it was mind blowing. I haven’t seen confidence in a band like that in YEARS! The band is originally from Lethbridge, Alberta and made the move to Vancouver together. It’s great to see a band that’s willing to re-locate, basically, risk it all for their music. They’ve been writing for the past year, and there should be a release in 2011.

4. Obviously the industry has changed vastly in the last 10 -15 years and the old business models are just not working anymore. Are there any words of encouragement that you can offer to those who are frustrated by the increase in piracy and reduced record sales?

It’s pretty obvious that it will never be like the ‘old days’ again. It’s a waste of time to complain about it. I’m not against people downloading music illegally, but I think there’s a responsibility that comes with it. When you buy a new car, you get a chance to test drive it. If all of the car commercials turn out to be smoke and mirrors, you’re able to figure this out on the drive, and you don’t buy the car. This is what artists and labels used to use singles for. The artist recorded 3 ‘hits’ and phoned in the other tracks. If you wanted those hits, you had to purchase the entire record. I think that downloading allows you to filter out the artists that aren’t making a truly great album. Now, that being said, I believe that if you really do like the album from front to back, you should support that artist by purchasing the record. If you’re not going to do that, go to the show and buy a shirt. Believe me, it helps. I feel that artists should take this as a challenge to just “Be Better”. You need to be as creative as possible to compete these days, and I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. If you’re passionate about your product, you’ll succeed. People are still buying music, and despite what Live Nation will tell you…they still go to shows. As long as you’re constantly working as a group to make better music, improve your live show, and connect with your fans…they’ll stick with you.

5. I think everyone who’s in the music business probably hits a particular point in their career when they start to ‘get it’ and they gain a great deal of perspective on how this complex industry works. Can you pinpoint a time period or single experience in your career when the light came on for you?

As strange as this may sound, it wasn’t until I was out of the band. It seemed with Not By Choice, we were always busy doing stuff. Whether it be touring, personal appearances, rehearsing, we didn’t really get a chance to sit down and think about it too much. Management would send out our schedules, and we’d do it. I don’t think there was too much thought, with me anyways, about what went into making all of that happen. As a tour manager, I got a chance to work a lot more closely with managers and labels. When you’re not in the band, you get a pretty good perspective on just what it takes to make all of this work, and keep working. I won’t name the band, or the label… but I was out with an artist in the Fall of 2006 on a large-scale national tour. Their album had been out for a few months, and this was a fantastic opportunity to ‘connect the dots’ (people knew the song on the radio, but couldn’t put a face to the band). To be very blunt, the record label didn’t care. There was zero help, minimal press, and not a lot of presence from the reps at the venues. Management was doing all that they could to help, but without everyone working it together…it was doomed.

It was one of the most depressing things I’ve ever witnessed in this industry, and showed me that everyone has to be firing on all cylinders all the time to make it work.

6. Where do you see things going in the next five to ten years with regard to how music makers will be paid for their craft and how music will be used and distributed?

It’s sad to say, but the CD is dead. I’m sad about it because I feel that going out and buying the CD was part of the whole ‘experience’ of getting to know the artist. I used to buy an album, read the liner notes from cover to cover, and play it from start to finish again and again. Before my generation, people did the same with cassettes, and before that it was LPs. While I love the packaging, artwork, and everything else that goes into the physical CD, I really am intrigued by Drop Cards, QR Codes, and Flash Drives.

The benefit of these new methods, is the savings to the artist on the packaging. With spending less on packaging, you can offer your product for a lower price. Let’s hope that labels figure this out.

Artists will still make their money from songwriting, but merchandise, live revenue, and song placements will help keep them afloat.

7. What advice do you have for musicians/artists who are determined to pursue a career in music?

As cliché as it sounds… you have to be prepared to lose it all to gain it all. If you put one hundred percent of your time and energy into your art, you’ll lose money, relationships, more money, sanity, and more money. You will live in a van surrounded by (hopefully) some of your best friends, for the one in a million shot that you will be able to do this as a full-time job.

If you’d like a practical example of what I’m talking about, I urge you to check out an artist named ‘Billy The Kid’. I should preface this with the fact that I don’t work with Billy, and this is a completely unbiased opinion about an artist that I have a great amount of respect for.

Billy used the internet to her advantage by seeking out producers that she wanted to work with. Her persistence paid off and she got to make a record with Raine Maida (Our Lady Peace), and even got Garth Hudson (The Band) to participate in the project. Once she was armed with her music, she hit the road and hasn’t stopped. Playing show after show to build up a fan base has paid off HUGE for her. Odds are, when you first get to a town and no one knows who you are, you have to make an impression. You’re typically playing for friends of the other band, and the bar staff. Some artists will phone in these shows as they don’t know the importance of the ‘Tell Two Friends’ system. If you’re unfamiliar with this, it’s where you put on such a good show, that one person from the show will tell two friends that weren’t there. If you were good enough, this person will try and get these two friends to your next show. You repeat this several times in the same market, and you’ll see your numbers increase.

Billy would finish her set, unplug, and head right over to her merch set up. She met every single person that would meet her, and would SELL SELL SELL!

She’s just starting her new tour this week, playing good venues for good money. She’s able to do this because she has great songs, she’s able to sell her product through her confidence, and this is what makes people become a true FAN.

She was prepared to lose it all, and her hard work is starting to help her gain it all.

If the above paragraphs didn’t scare you, call me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving weekend, I know I did! I really love this time of year. I get that inspired feeling of a fresh start now more so than on New Year's Day. Not sure if that makes any sense to anyone else, but it seems to work for me.

You know, I really enjoy doing this blog and I hope everyone who's been reading has gotten something out of it. And if you have something to add or if you disagree with any points I've made, don't hesitate to join in and get the conversation rolling. I also want to learn from you.

Having said all that, I want to take things a step further and invite all bands/artists to come by my studio for a chat if you're feeling a little overwhelmed or stuck in a particular area. I'd like to offer up whatever advice I can to help you get unstuck and stay on track toward your goals. I don't claim to have all the answers -- and I don't believe anyone does as much as we'd like to think sometimes -- but I do have a lot of experience in many areas of the music business and if I can help you make some hard decisions or clear the fog from your view of certain issues with which you are currently dealing, then it's all good. I never really had any kind of mentor throughout my journey and consequently I've made tons of mistakes, but I've learned a lot from the mistakes I've made and if I can pass that on to someone else to save them years of wheel spinning, then it's worth it.

So please contact me any time to set something up and we'll go from there. You can contact me through facebook, MySapce, Twitter, email or phone, it doesn't matter. You can find my email address and phone number in the 'About Me' section of this blog page and there are links to all of the social networking sites I mentioned above. I'm looking forward to hearing from those who are interested and if any of you know someone who'd benefit from such a thing, please tell them about it and have them contact me.

Monday, October 4, 2010


If someone walked up to you today and asked you, "so how's the music thing going?" How would you answer? Your answer to this question will have a huge impact on the impression of your band this person walks away with. I think most people would probably just respond with something like, "pretty good," or "okay I guess." Or even worse, they may start rhyming off all the things that have been going wrong lately and how it's so hard to get ahead in the music industry.

If you want to attract opportunities for success then you've got to readjust your attitude and your own personal perception of what you're doing. Always keep things positive and always speak about your band and your music with complete confidence and passion. People will respond to this in a much more positive way and if you and everyone on your team is exuding this kind of enthusiasm, it will be contagious and others will react accordingly. It always starts with you. You decide how the rest of the world is going to perceive your band and your music.


Waaaaayyyyy back in 1993 (if you can remember that far back) my original band PAIN experienced some ups and downs and when we would be in a bit of a slump, the negativity would creep in and we would start complaining about the industry, the people in it, other bands and so on. This wasn't doing anything for us in terms of getting out of our rut and moving forward, but I guess in some perverse way it made us feel better to bitch and moan about it.

After dealing with the hard times in this manner for about a year or so, we came to the realization that it was rather counter productive and decided to adopt a different attitude. We looked around at bands that were successful and noticed how they conducted themselves differently from ourselves. One huge thing we noticed was the positivity that would come across when they did interiews. You won't find too many interviews where the artist(s) says something like, "yeah, we're not really happy with our album because we were butting heads with our producer in the studio and this tour that we're currently on is just one headache after another. We keep getting the short end of the stick from the headliner and we're pissed at our label because they didn't give us enough in the budget for a bigger van."

Usually bands are very positive and upbeat about the opportunites they've been given. They express gratitude to the team of people at their record company and to the producers and engineers who helped record their album and so on. This is the attitude that will attract more of the good stuff. Like the law of attraction states: like attracts like.


Once we fully adopted this attitude, within a year we attracted a manager who helped us secure our first record deal in Japan. Our drummer left shortly after this and the three of us who remained started and new band called EMERALD RAIN and within two years we had record/licensing deals in Japan, U.K., Italy and Canada. We also started our own publishing company and signed two sub-publishing deals, one in Japan and one in Italy.


I did an album for a band called FARENHEIT (who you now know as HAIL THE VILLAIN) a few years back. I had been working with the singer, Bryan, prior to that on his solo album and I noticed something very different about him compared to most other artists. He was a big thinker, he believed in himself and his abilities and he had a clear vision of what he wanted to do and the ambition to do it. His enthusiasm and passion for the project got me right on the same page with him and I was just as excited as he was about the music we were working on. His clarity and determination attracted three other like-minded individuals and this was the beginning of FARENHEIT.

It was a pleasure to work with them because everyone was very clear about what we were trying to accomplish and everyone had a positive attitude throughout the process. Whenever they talked about what was going on to anyone on the outside, they gave off an aura of success. They were working on something that was great. Something that mattered.

It was this attitude and positive energy that got them involved with producer Darryl Romphf to begin working on the debut HAIL THE VILLAIN album entitled POPULATION: DECLINING which is now available through Warner Canada and Roadrunner in the U.S.


People are attracted to success and everyone wants to be a part of something great whether they're your manager or a die-hard fan who comes to all of your shows. Make sure when you're out networking that you're doing all you can to create a successful and professional image. Remember though that this has to start with the band first. If you can infuse your band to the core with the idea that everything you do is important and that there's always great opportunities surrounding you, you'll have a much greater shot at turning that into your reality.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I came across this post through a tweet from Reverb Nation ( ). The link is and it discusses some options that would greatly benefit musicians on their journey to success. Please give it a read and see if it inspires you in a direction that you hadn't thought about before. You may want to click the link now before reading the rest of my blog.

I think it's always important to stay on top of all the different issues and trends within the music industry and to keep educating yourself on an ongoing basis to accomplish this, but what about approaching things from a different angle and looking at other educational options outside of the obvious ones that are within the music realm?

The more you know and the more skills you possess in areas that relate directly or indirectly to what you do, the better prepared you're going to be to make good decisions regarding your career. It's no secret that things are vastly changing and more and more the change is leaning toward the DIY approach which is a good thing, because it puts you in control. But it's only a good thing if you're in a position where you know how to take control and get things done.

For anyone who is still holding out hope that one day a major label A&R rep is going to swing into your life with a cape and save the day, here's a short video to check out for a little dose of reality. Don't let the message in this video discourage you though, allow it to empower you instead because the truth is you can do it yourself if you really want it!

Monday, September 13, 2010


I wanted to talk a little about the importance of putting together some solid plans to achieve your goals bit by bit. A little planning can go a long way. If everyone in your band or on your team is really clear about what has to be done and why, then you're going to accomplish way more over less time. It's simple.

Many times people will look far into the future to the point where they've achieved all their goals and they're at the top of the mountain and that's definitely a great thing to do. You have to know where you're going and visualizing yourself being there is an extremely important part of the whole process. In the initial stages of taking real action though, I think it's equally important to set smaller short term goals. This helps to create momentum and give everyone involved the sense that these steps are very realistic and achievable. Big dreams are all accomplished by taking little steps one day at a time. All we have in this life is right now, so do all that you can in this moment and don't overwhelm yourself with thoughts of what's going to happen next week, next month or a year from now. No matter how much you plan for it, it'll probably play out quite different when it actually happens anyway, so why stress about it?

I'd like you to have a look at this video featuring one of my faves, Bobby Borg. He's the author of "The Musician's Handbook" and a music industry veteran with decades of experience. In this video he talks about some things you need to think about that will help you get clear about your direction in this crazy biz. Really listen to what he's saying and maybe jot down some notes as you watch. I'm guessing it will inspire some new ideas and help get you rolling in the right direction.

I'd also love to hear any feedback from you about goals that you've set for yourself and have since achieved. Even if it's a goal that you haven't fully realized yet, but you're closer to it than you've ever been before. Here's to your success!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Songs are what it's all about. If you don't have good songs, and I mean really great songs, then you've got some work to do. You've got to get focused and get right down to business creating those masterpieces. Most of us have a pretty good idea of which songs we love to listen to--tunes that really light us up when we hear them--but what is it that these songs have in common? Are there some similarities that we can become aware of and apply when we're writing our own material? Absolutely! Here's an excerpt from Bobby Borg's "THE MUSICIAN'S HANDBOOK" (Another fantastic book that is a must have for career-minded musicians) that outlines some of the commonalities among hit songs.


Songwriting is probably the single most important skill for artists to master. But what makes a hit? Ralph Murphy, vice president of ASCAP in Nashville, conducted research in conjunction with Belmont University on eighteen #1 hits and found the following common characteristics:

1. Style/Genre: pop or country
2. Subject: romantic, sad/heartfelt, or humorous
3. Lyric: tells a clear story and/or relates a strong opinion
4. Person/Tense: in first person (I/me/my) or second person (you/your)
5. Melody: linear melody (very few chord changes) in the verse, growing to
a soaring melody (significant chord changes) in the chorus
6. Structure: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, out
7. Tempo: mid- to up-tempo
8. Time Signature: 4/4 time
9. Introduction: up to 13 seconds long, but no longer
10. Authorship: co-written between the artist and another professional

Visit Bobby Borg at his web site

Notice the last similarity of hit songs in this list. Hit songs are almost always co-writes. Now most bands will usually have more than one contributing songwriter so essentially the songs that they produce would be co-writes, but I believe it's important for a band to consider stepping outside of their boundaries and bringing in an outside writer. This can really help you grow as musicians and songwriters. It can get the creativity flowing in a new and exciting direction and open up a whole new world of opportunities. Even the networking aspect of this alone can prove to be invaluable.


I think this is an exciting time for music and songwriting opportunities. There's so much great indie music being made right now and the playing field has clearly been leveled significantly. When it comes to bringing in an outside writer, don't feel that it has to be someone seemingly untouchable like Diane Warren or David Foster. Just look around you--there are plenty of great writers who are making some serious noise right in your own backyard. Look around at other indie bands who are getting their songs used in film and television or are being played on mainstream radio. Maybe you can contact these people through the social networking platforms that you use everyday like facebook and MySpace.


I think every band that is currently at a stage where they feel they've done all they can on their own and want to really step things up should seriously look into this. Really give it a fair shake too. Don't have one bad experience and say, "well that didn't work." If it doesn't work out with one writer, try another and another until you find the magic. Remember the list of common characteristics among hit songs from above; if you co-write with others you'll increase your chances of having a hit.

Monday, August 30, 2010


One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog is because I believe most musicians/artists know very little about the music business and I want to do my part to help change that. You don’t have to have a degree to be a rock star, you simply declare that you want to be one and Poof! you’re on your way. For this reason, I believe most don’t bother learning about the business beyond what they are learning from videos, documentaries, live concerts and other barely-scratching-the-surface media. Let’s change this so we can take control over our careers and make more informed decisions and always be in a position where we’re dealing with reality instead of these falsehoods that we are constantly being inundated with.


I have to give kudos to record producer/author Moses Avalon who’s written a couple books I’ve read (and re-read), “Confessions Of A Record Producer” and “Million Dollar Mistakes.” His books are a real dose of reality and a must-read for anyone who’s looking to sustain a career in music. A very interesting observation he makes in his book “Million Dollar Mistakes” is the fact that, as a society, we know very little about what it costs to produce an album or a music DVD or to put together a concert tour for an artist. But we do know that it costs hundreds of millions of dollars to make a film like The Titanic or the Terminator movies. The film industry spends millions of dollars every year making sure you are very much aware and knowing this makes us laugh at the nominal ten dollars we are charged to go to our local theatre and see a movie. Conversely, the music industry spends nothing educating us about the cash value of making and delivering their product. And to make matters worse, think about many of the music videos that are created to promote artists’ music. They often depict artists as being quite affluent with images of fast cars, even faster women and men, lots of bling, etc. to help portray an image that appeals to the masses in hopes that it will stimulate CD sales.

A lot of musicians I've dealt with are shocked to learn what it costs a major artist to produce a full-length album and that many artists who seem to be doing very well financially are actually living below the poverty line. On average it costs about $250,000 to make a record and that money comes out of the artist’s pocket (it’s recouped through the artist’s share of royalties received from CD sales/downloads, publishing, merch, etc.). If an artist has a gold or even a platinum selling album, (gold is 50,000 units in Canada and 500,000 in the U.S. and platinum is 100,000 units in Canada and 1,000,000 in the U.S.) they can still be un-recouped with their label.

In short, if you don’t go out of your way to educate yourself about this complex business, you’ll continue to know very little. What you don’t know can hurt you. Make sure you know what you are getting into and where you are going with it. I think it’s very important to aspire to great things, but don’t disillusion yourself and set yourself up for disappointment.


Here’s a little excerpt right out of Moses Avalon’s “Million Dollar Mistakes” that I thought was great. It’s just a direct comparison of what we’ve seen in the movies and on television and what the actual reality is. Please visit Moses at his web site as well and check out his blog entitled, "Moses Supposes." Enjoy!


Artists record their albums and sing in the same room and at the same time as the band.

Not since 1965. Vocals are almost always recorded in separate sessions. You're lucky if the singer shows up at all for tracking the instruments.

No bar, backstage area, or social situation is too informal for the signing of a binding, long-term recording contract. Lawyers need not be present for these meetings. It's all about trust.

Contracts take months to negotiate. No respectable label would ever let an artist sign a contract without legal representation. It could void the entire deal.

Record executives all have the same interior decorator who lines the back walls of their office with platinum records, shag carpet and a fully-stocked bar.

At big labels, the office of a major label A&R executive is about 10' x 14' and has little more than a desk (covered with CDs) and a stereo. He gets a window if he's had a good year.

Hit songs are usually recorded in a single take, after which the producer yells, "Cut, that's the one, baby!"

If only it were true. It usually takes many hours and many overdubs. For most of the process the producer is not present. It's done by the engineer as per the producer's instructions. The artist is rarely there for most of the process.

Albums are recorded and then released a few days later.

They sit on the shelf for months before the marketing department decides whether or not to release them at all.

Artists go from a one-bedroom flat to a mansion shortly after their first album hits the charts.

It takes about two years before royalties are paid from a first hit. During this time, artists do not usually quit their day jobs. Some manage to negotiate a "special advance" that pays rent on their current flat.

Every female pop star is an unstable bitch who verbally abuses her staff and clings to her amphetamine-pushing manager like a long lost father.

Most successful female artists participate significantly in their business matters. They don't have time for drugs, especially if they are mothers, as many of the ones over twenty-seven are.

Tour buses are pimped-out rides with bathrooms that never fail. When picking out a tour bus, extra sleeping space is allotted for groupies, who are inevitably picked up along the way.

Most are so cramped that there is barely room for the act itself. In fact, unless it's a very successful act, the "bus" is usually a van.

Every pop star comes from a working-class home where mom is a simple-minded suburban housewife and dad just sits in a chair and listens to an old television. Both can't wait for the day when their kid will give up this "music thing" and go back to dental school.

It's amazing how many successful pop stars come from money. After their run, many do retire to a family-owned business--software development, media, entertainment, oil, feminine hygiene products--or live off their trust fund.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010



So here's part 2 of the Internal Agreement blog. I'm basically just scratching the surface on many of these points to bring some awareness to you about what needs to be addressed and why. If you're going to act on this then I'd recommend digging deeper into it with an attorney or maybe you can ask me specific questions and I'll be glad to share everything I know. I should make a disclaimer though: I am not a lawyer by any stretch, so this is, in no way, proper legal advice. Seek out an entertainment lawyer. Lol


Control is a different matter from songwriting splits and the way the partnership is divided up percentage-wise. The amount of control a member has over decisions can directly correlate to his or her percentage of the partnership but it doesn’t have to. Many times there’s a ‘key member’ or two within a band and it’s common for them to get two votes while a non-key member gets one vote. This can help to avoid a deadlock where there are an equal number of votes on either side of the fence. If you do split things equally among a band that has an even number of members where a deadlock is possible, make sure to assign the job of breaking the tie to a third party like a manager or an attorney. Whatever you do, don’t make it the gf/bf of one of the band members because things will get ugly. Lol


How many votes does it take to fire a band member? A majority vote or a unanimous vote?

How many votes does it take to hire someone like a manager, agent, or attorney?

What if someone wants to quit the band? Generally if someone’s unhappy in the band, it doesn’t make any sense to force them to stay through a contract. If you’re in the middle of a tour, however, you can’t walk away from the promoter and if you’re signed to a label you can’t leave the record company.

Things can get pretty crazy here so pay attention! If you’re signed to a label and there’s a ‘key-man’ clause in the contract and he or she wants to leave, the label has the right to just drop the band all together and carry on with the ‘key man’ as a solo artist. There will also be a clause in the contract that will state that the label gets first crack at the departing member’s solo career. So they would have to refuse the solo artist before he or she had the right to shop anywhere else. This is where things can get sticky. They may also decide that royalties earned by this solo venture will be used to replenish the band’s deficit (if the account is unrecouped). This can also work the other way; if the key man’s solo career is a bust and the remaining members of the band have kept things rolling along successfully, the label has the right to dip into the band’s earnings to replenish the solo artist’s account. Please, don’t shoot the messenger!

What if a member dies or becomes disabled? In this case, there’s usually a ‘buy-out’ and you’re treated as though you quit the band or were fired.

What happens after you’re fired or you quit? You will keep your percentage of the work that you were involved in when you were in the band (record/songwriting royalties, royalties for DVDs or television shows, etc). For future activities that you are not involved in, you get nothing.

If the band has accumulated a lot of equipment that it owns collectively then you’ll get bought out of your share of these hard assets. ‘Hard’ assets are any physical things that you can touch and feel as opposed to ‘intangibles’ (the band name, record deals, etc). Generally they’ll calculate the book value of all the hard assets and buy you out based on your percentage of the total.


Your percentage of the total book value of hard assets is paid out to you over a period of two years. This protects the remaining members from having to come up with a huge chunk of cash immediately. If you were owed $25,000 (25% of $100,000 worth of equipment) you would receive $6,250 six months after your departure from the band, another $6,250 in twelve months and so on until the entire $25,000 is paid.


When you are ready to sit down with an attorney to go over the details of a band agreement, you should understand that if the whole band is dealing with only one lawyer, there’s a built-in conflict of interest. It means that the lawyer is representing two or more clients that are on opposite sides of the fence. So it’s unethical for the lawyer to take sides under these circumstances. He should bring this to your attention so you can determine if you’d rather choose to have every member seek independent counsel or just go ahead with one lawyer for all. Quite often bands will use one lawyer to just act as a secretary to draft up what the band has agreed upon among themselves. In this case the lawyer will get you to sign a Conflict Waiver which states that you are aware of the conflict of interest and are willing to go ahead anyway.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

So here's the first official blog on this page. I've split this one up into two parts, so there'll be more on this next week. Please feel free to add anything or ask any questions. I hope you get something out of it. Enjoy!


The first thing any band is going to think about when they first get together is creating music and getting it out there via live performances, sound recordings and videos. The one thing most bands neglect to think about is the business side of things which, unfortunately, can have some serious consequences.

The first and most important issue a band should tackle is drafting up an internal agreement that outlines the finer details of this complex business relationship that has been entered into. The fact that this kind of thing so often gets ignored is perhaps a big part of why most bands are unsuccessful at the end of the day. They don’t bother dealing with these important business issues and subsequently send a strong message to themselves and others that what they’re doing musically or otherwise really isn’t that important. Don’t be like this. If you think you’ve got what it takes then start taking your music career very seriously and you’ll notice how you and everyone else around you will begin to act accordingly. It always starts with you.


One of the first and most important things you have to look at regarding your agreement is your band name. Who owns it? What happens with the name if:

The band breaks up?
The singer leaves the band?
The main songwriter leaves the band?
A member who doesn’t write songs leaves the band?
Half, or more than half of the members leave?

There’s an infinite number of ways these issues can be dealt with but it’s ultimately up to the individuals involved to decide how things are going to be. In a situation where one or two members are clearly contributing more than the others, it can be common for those members to maintain ownership of the name and also to have control over important decisions that need to be made creatively and business-wise. If everyone involved is contributing a relatively equal amount of work toward the project then things can be a little more complicated. You can decide that as long as a majority of the band members are still together, they can continue using the name. If there are four members and two of them leave to start something new and the other two begin a new project as well, who can take the name? There’s an even number of members on both sides of the fence. This is where things get sticky; if there’s no written agreement on the table then now is the time to do it when everyone is getting along and thinking clearly. If there’s nothing in writing then the government will decide that it is an equal partnership and every one of you has the non-exclusive right to use the name in any of the above scenarios. This sounds pretty ridiculous doesn’t it? The only thing more ridiculous would be the legal cost involved in cleaning up that mess. Figure it out NOW!


Next on the chopping block is splitting up the proverbial pie (if there is a pie to be split that is). The first order of business is to understand the potential revenue streams that exist for you. Here’s a few of the obvious sources.

CD sales/digital downloads
Touring income
Songwriting/publishing royalties

It’s important to understand these revenue streams because how the money gets divided may differ depending on which source we’re talking about. For example, you may have uneven percentage splits for songwriting royalties depending on who contributed more to the song in question and conversely, you may have equal splits when it comes to touring based on the idea that everyone is putting their energy into bringing the rock to the kids night after night. Again, however you decide to divide things up is totally up to you. Anything goes.

Whenever this subject comes up, I always feel that unless someone in the band is doing absolutely nothing to contribute except playing their instrument, that things usually work out the best when it’s an even split. When you look at a band like KISS it’s easy to see that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are the ones driving that bus, but in the beginning with the original four members, they all got an equal cut of record sales, merchandising and touring (songwriting royalties are quite often subject to who wrote what but they can be split equally as well). If it didn’t go that way quite possibly one or more members may have gotten their nose out of joint and the band’s rise to success would’ve come to an abrupt halt. When we look at KISS’ career in hindsight it’s easy to see they would’ve all been BIG losers. Remember, a smaller percentage of a big pie is quite often much better than a bigger percentage of a small pie.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Welcome To My Blog

Hey everyone! I've set up this new blog with the intention of sharing information with you on a frequent basis and to encourage feeback from anyone interested in the topics and discussions here. As the title suggests, this blog will be about all kinds of things relating to the music industry. I hope to educate musicians/artists on important topics relating to the business and recording realms and I hope to learn more myself as well.

I've blogged a bit in the past but I'm relatively new to the blogging world so I'm hoping to improve my blogging etiquette as I go along. Any advice from you would be appreciated. Also, when it comes to this whole internet thing, I'm a little out of my element so I'm not great when it comes to setting up sites and dealing with html and all other forms of web speak, so bare with me.

I will be posting my first official blog on this site within a couple days so make sure you check back soon. I'm very curious and excited to see where this goes, so thanks for taking the time to read and I sincerely hope this contributes to your musical endeavours!