By Hans Ebert
So, you’ve recorded some songs. Great. Creative outlets always lead one away from darkness and into some form of shining light. But what do you plan to do with these songs? Even with a record label behind you, what can they do for these songs? Really. And if you’ve managed to convince some benevolent fairy godparent to invest in your musical project, what next? What’s the payback? It’s not easy being a fairy godmother or fairy godfather these days. It’s a full-time paying gig and like Shylock, they’ll return for that pound of flesh. Bet on it.
Do you even own what’s been recorded? You know, the Rights? All. The. Rights. No one’s going to foot the bill for something and not own it all. All. Everything. It’s what, surprisingly, many who’ve been making music for even decades, still don’t understand. But they’ve happily jumped the gun and are pursuing the fame game by shooting blanks. Even Mother Superior can’t jump the gun.
If where we are right now with our art hasn’t reached such a critical impasse, the arrogance of these ignoramuses would be laughable. It’s why it’s been said here over and over again: read the fine print. For homework, read up and understand how and why the music industry happened. Wonder why some of the biggest artists in the world have ended up broke and in mental tatters, and how we’ve arrived to where we are today: Songs that have been recorded, but with nowhere for them to go, nowhere to run, and nothing that will give you a return on your time and investment.
What’s sad and amusing and also damn annoying is trying to work with music companies and music publishing houses and coming up against one road block after another. Both want money- but for doing nothing. They’re like a Dire Straits song on Repeat. One would think that an industry in tatters would want to make peace with those creating and giving them the content to continue being an industry. But maybe they’ve made their money, they’ve lost their passion and any signs of compassion, and all they’re doing is waiting to jump into that last empty carriage and just escape. The devil’s work is done.
They’re Crosstown Traffic going in one direction and refusing to see what’s coming at them from the other side. It’s called revenge. Because right now, every musician- famous and unknown- who have been screwed by these Shylocks and Slylocks and Goldilocks and their band of Music Mattering nattering hamsters, humpsters, and scamsters, should be pissed off for years of being given false hope, contracts that had no transparency, no accounting or accountability, and a system that was flawed from the beginning.
It was a system created at such a fledgling stage of the music business, which many of the earliest artists to make records never questioned. All those Mississippi Delta Bluesmen wanted to do was make music and for people to hear their music. And they were screwed- Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf. Screwed. All of them. Just like every great Motown session man. Berry Gordy might have given the world the Sound Of Young America, but he screwed many of those who made that sound. Royally. And that old system of ten for me and one for you has been allowed to continue under so many different guises it’s hard to know truth from pulp fiction.
No one knew any better and so just went with the flow until we’re now all about streaming and pretending to know what this all means. No one does because it’s all smoke and mirrors and technological bullshit owned and manipulated by that small but exclusive star chamber council comprising Apple Music, Spotify, artist management companies, and all the Rights holders of the content that’s the most popular.
How many artists even know where the money goes? For THEM selling YOUR art. Why are they rich and getting richer while you’re still hustling for a buck and a dime? It’s an illegal legal system that must be investigated, found to be corrupt and abolished. There’s no other answer.
Recently, my company asked for approval to Remix- at costs to us- an original recording belonging to one of the majors. This was a recording that is over FIFTY years old and which the recording company executive from the local office brought in to negotiate the deal had never even heard of. It was a track sitting in their vaults gathering dust. Still, they had to make things difficult. It was the usual obligatory tactical warfare.
Instead of even trying to work out some form of fair partnership where both parties could revive something lying dormant in their back catalogue that could lead to something bigger, the music company not only wanted an exorbitant licensing fee for the original track, it wanted also to own the Remix- and for which we were paying. Having once worked for this music company, I mentioned the stupidity of what was even a deal, let alone logical, and similar projects we had approved and released only six years earlier for artists like Gorillaz, Placebo, Robbie Williams, Bowie, John and Yoko etc.
His comeback: “But today, everything is digital”. Wondering about the current hiring process of music companies today, and just how much the “digital world” has created a world full of grey online laws, where approving anything is fraught with caution and insecurities, it’s pointless wasting time talking to those with no power to make even the most simple decision.
So, what next? For the Remix, the request and rant about his troops’ stupidity has gone straight to the Chairman of the music company. If there’s no joy from him, the same email will be sent to the Chairman of the music company’s parent company. It will be a relentless attack on stupidity and decades of very few calling out on the dealings of music companies with artists possibly bordering on being illegal. As my legal counsel says, “Sue the bastards. In the court of Public Appeal, they will lose”. Gotta love lawyers.
As for what to do with music after it’s been recorded, of course there are the usual avenues where to plonk them down- Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Spotify, iTunes etc. The problem is that millions are doing the same thing and all this has created is clutter and more clutter. It’s not exactly original thinking, but what’s the other solution?
Those currently running the music industry should be quaking in their boots thinking that America is looking at a President Donald Trump. One important thing Trump did during the lead up to the American Presidential Elections was that he didn’t and refused to play it by the book. He knew the book had no beginning or end- just a fatuous middle. And being in showbiz, he could see the vapidity of showbiz politics which had been allowed a free pass.
He’d probably been waiting for three years for this day. He painted Obama as being weak, indecisive and ineffective. He opened up the Hillary Clinton can of email worms. He had a bombastic anti status quo message and it resonated with white, largely male blue collar workers angry with elitism. It didn’t matter what Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel or all the other talk show hosts said. It didn’t matter what Jay Z or Madonna or Lady Gaga said. Donald Trump played the bully and no matter what the other side did to try and bring him down, he stuck to his gut instinct game plan.
He was the antithesis of all that Yes We Can shuck and jive. He saw right through it. He read the mood of the people who didn’t buy into hashtag politics, #blacklivesmatter and appearing on Carpool Karaoke. He wanted Change. Real Change. Not will i am or David A Stewart writing some fawning crappy song for him. He head butted with elitism. He brought racism- and racism works two ways- to the forefront of American consciousness along with about sixteen years of dumb politics under Bush and the vapidity of the Obama presidency.
Sure, he might have ulterior motives for everything he’s done, but as an American businessman, I don’t believe he will want to see the ruination of his country. Will he “make America great again”? Who knows? Someone with the clout of Trump needs to come along and kick those running the music industry into the ground in the nuts and change the status quo.