Thursday, January 6, 2022

The blog has moved to Cashbox and Record World

 Yes as you can see I haven't updated the blog for a long time here. I haven't been inactive though is just that most of the entrance was always published in Cashbox Canada and Record World. In the end I started to post them first here, then on the other sites. Then we changed and everything went on first on Cashbox and Record World. Then many readers moved so updating here was just another thing that I needed to do. I feel it's time to have it all on Cashbox Magazine Canada, Record World International. I won't be updating anything here any longer.

Just follow these links and just subscribe to their newsletter and you can follow me there. Every week with a new story around my life in the record industry.

Cashbox Magazine Canada

Record World International



Sunday, March 14, 2021

Do You Really Own Your Fanbase?

 Let me guess if you are an artist, you don’t have a homepage. Or your homepage is not updated! How can I tell? In the past few days, I have been adding independent artists to both my festival Future Echoes and our radio station Cashbox Radio. And I’m usually surprised when an artist really has a homepage. If it’s updated with the latest, I’m really impressed. Most do not this and it had made my work so hard.

You don’t need a homepage some artist tell you. We have our social media, that is where the fans are hanging out.

There is a problem with this. You actually own a website and you decide how it should be presented and also have the opportunity to collect the fans there. The ugly truth with social media is that you don’t own your followers, they are actually owned by Facebook, Tiktok, and other multi-national companies. They just let you have access to your own fans for a little bit. In reality, they actually let you pay to reach your own followers by paid messages. Think about it, a post in these networks only reaches around 10% of your fanbase, if you pay you can reach more.

“The big artists use it!” But they build their fanbase somewhere else. Let’s take Taylor Swift for example. Her career is over ten years old and people have invested millions of dollars in order for her to be exposed in real media and in concerts to get her fanbase. For her, the social media is already there, whatever new social media that is opening her fans will adopt her on that new social media. You can see this phenomena even with the dead artists that really are not on social media. You will find the Ramones on Facebook even though all of them are dead. That is because they have a real fanbase. The fans create this for them. If you already have a huge fanbase social media is working. Even here, Taylor Swift doesn’t reach as many either with her posts, but her superfans are following and they will spread the word for her. To be honest, she also has so much money she has a budget to pay Facebook to reach more.

To build a fanbase you can’t rely on these networks. They can go down or you can be kicked like Donald Trump. For those of you that remember MySpace or ICQ, artists spent money and time building up a fanbase in several of these networks and then they suddenly close down, and you lose everything. Or you post something and suddenly you are banned.

Even if you don’t believe that Tiktok will one day disappear, these networks really don’t provide what is needed. For example, how do I get your latest bio on Tiktok? Or even a good press picture. Sure, I can send you a message on Tiktok and hope that someone will answer my request. You know what? I don’t have time to wait for your pictures or bio, I just moved on to the next artist where I could easily find it. You just missed your opportunity.

What do you need to own your fanbase? When I spoke to experts, they really pointed off that hard value for companies like Facebook and Tiktok are phone numbers. When you have that you get in the face of the person. You can send a message and it will pop up on their screen. That is why all of these services have an App. It’s not for your convenience it’s to be able to send push notifications right up on your screen. And even if you are paying, they would never let you be able to send push notifications to your fans through their systems. That is exclusive for them to decide when and where you will get this.

If you have the phone number for the fan, that is another story. You can with a message reach them directly. Second best is of course e-mail. Good old newsletters are more efficient than any of the social media platforms, if you want to upgrade you just send a personal email. That won’t be lost, it will go straight into the fan mailbox and that will pop up on their mobile screen.

On the homepage, you can easily set up systems that allow you to get this info. You just get a form and people can get your newsletter and make the format, so you get the essentials like email, phone number, name and what country. That fanbase is owned by you. When you negotiate with a record label or a festival or gig, if you can tell them that you can reach this amount of people in their area you have something to negotiate with and offer. If you tell them that you have 100,000 followers on Facebook they know you won’t even reach the right targets. Yes, I get a lot of artists telling me that if they get booked on my festival, they will promote themselves on Facebook. Ok, so you are telling me you will let my festival be seen bu 10% of your followers and you are from the other side of the planet. Not a good deal.

Yes, you need a homepage. You don’t need to update it every day. Just keep it updated with the latest info that is important and check it when you do a release. What you need on a homepage is bio, press pictures, tour schedule, links to your music and forms for fans to start following you and a contact. Of course, you need to keep these fans happy by sending stuff, but hey you are already doing that work on social media but won’t really get anything out of it.

Rethink The Strategy - What The Artist Needs To Learn!


I just saw a local government that is supporting local artists doing another meet-up. This time it was that their local artists should learn social media. It’s nice for the artist that they get a chance to learn something around the business. Still, it won’t help their career. Social media today is so advanced that the normal artist really can’t be their own social media manager. This course will just get them some small tip-offs and people think that they can do it on their own.

Instead, if they were serious about it, they should hire a social media manager. The artist will have enough problems to keep up with all that content that should be produced then be able to follow up on the information they got from that government sponsor meeting. In the end, the information they get is old by the time that meeting is over. To handle social media today you need to follow the trends and be active all the time to find out about the new functions and what is working. That is a professional's job. Either the artist must choose from being an artist or a social media manager. There is a reason even small businesses hire a social media manager.

I see this as a trend in many things. We think since many things now have been pushed over to the artists to take care of, we should educate them in these things. Sorry to say that is really counter-productive. If you have a factory you don’t teach all your employees to drive the trucks. Not all the employees can run all the machinery in the factory and all of them cannot have an economic education. No, the factory is run like a team. You are hired because you are a specialist in something. I see too much of this new Covid stuff is to teach everybody everything which leads to that you just know a bit of everything when you really need the deeper information.

It’s nice that people get information. The problem is that we don’t have unlimited money to build up the industry after Covid. What these artists need is the tool to build their own teams, not learning what the team is doing. The artist is the one that makes the product the music. Which is the essential part of the whole operation. My beliefs are though do what you are really good at. There is a good reason why I don’t write the songs I promote. I am really not good at writing songs. And a two-hour seminar on writing music won’t get me to be the next big thing in songwriting. I will only be good at it if spend hours and hours writing songs and will get better. I had a bigger interest in the music business, so I have spent countless hours learning that and became an expert in that area.

Last week I saw another seminar on how to place your music in movies. Most of the attendees didn’t have the background information of the legal aspects of the quality of the recordings to even send to these supervisors. The same stands true here, there are professionals working in this area. It would have been so much easier to just hook up the artists to them or these services instead of going to the top and try to contact the artist supervisors directly.

In the end, most of the logistics inside the music industry are very personal. The strategy for Metallica looks way different than the strategy for Taylor Swift. By trying to teach something that is just working on the surface is a waste of time. In reality, the artist just looks for someone that can take care of all this stuff that is needed. They want to focus on being artists and getting their expressions out. The idea of teaching people is not wrong but right now it’s aimed at the totally wrong source. You won’t get a better artist on doing this you will just end up with people feeling confused and demoralized that they can’t handle all the things that are going on all the time.

You are not building a music infrastructure in this way. Rethink and do it right. What is needed now is not another course, it is networking. These artist needs to know where they should find the people that can handle these tasks, not learning a small part of the task and think that is enough. The artist needs to learn what they should expect by hiring a professional, not what they are doing. They also need to learn to hire the right people for the right job.

Don’t Fear The Mistakes. Just Do The Right Ones.


One of the bands I work with once said, “Better to do something than do nothing at all”. Another quote is the circus owner Phineas T. Barnum that said, “There's no such thing as bad publicity”. Of course, in the worst situations, there is bad publicity and doing things totally wrong. In most cases, it’s not. And I feel many withhold themselves just by being afraid making a mistake.

Doing nothing is really safe, I can admit that. Progression wise though it’s pure stupidity. Without taking chances you are not going further. My biggest successes have been through mistakes. Also, a lot of knowledge comes from making mistakes. There is a difference between making mistakes and making mistakes.

I sent out a newsletter today. It was very fast because I had just two hours between two different quite important panels and today was the last day we could get the letter out before we got new numbers to send to in our mailing system. Of course, I had to put things together in no time. No chance to double-check. Not even the links and spelling were just through the spelling program.

So, I had a choice. Send it off and see it as a promotion thing. Or just abandon the opportunity to make some noise for my festival?

I was more like, well if there are any mistakes, who cares? it’s just one of the hundreds of newsletters that I send out in a year. And the promotion is more important than the safety of having someone going through it. And in a newsletter that is over three pages long, there will be mistakes, especially when you don’t have time to proof read and just copy and paste and adding things.

Off it goes. And of course, I see an error in the header that is not corrected by the spelling program just as it went off. Well, what the heck it’s not that it can be misunderstood just a wrong letter.

That is the thing, if I feared the mistake there would be no promotion. In today's media, everything goes very fast. I worked for a company that had that problem. The boss was a very weak leader and afraid of any mistakes. By that, we only sent out two press releases a year, of course, went through 20 people for corrections and proofing. The problem was that it never went well because people tended to forget about the company in all these times that went by each message. In the fast lane we live in today you just have to go ahead in more cases than just sit on the break.

Then a mail came in from an artist that has applied to the festival. With just the line “Please spell right”. The funny part is this is an artist we booked for another festival I worked with. He and his so-called manager was a pain in the ass the whole time so we never rebooked him. They didn’t understand jack shit about how the industry worked. He was a running joke in the booking department of old farts that shouldn’t be playing music any longer. He used to be a big artist in his home country, but that was over thirty years ago, and he still thinks he is some kind of star. With 197 followers on YouTube, I rest my case.

Of course, this is a real mistake. Just give me a reason to reject your application and you get rejected. I even deleted his address from the system, so he won’t ever get any mail about opportunities that we give out from time to time.

So I leave you with another line that one of the talented bands I work with wrote “I'd rather be wrong if they are right.”

I Am Missing the Special Bond with the Artists


I have been spending a lot of time on online conferences again. Last year I did over 30 of them and now they are becoming frequent again. But online conferences will never replace the real meetings at an “in-person" conference. One thing has really stood out though during these times. The online world is a much harder place for the artist to connect and get anything done.

Too many of the people I meet at these conferences are doing two serious mistakes. Mistakes I personally also do, so it’s a human thing. Either they contact everyone they just see at the conference, more or less just asking the person if they have an opportunity for them. A hard question since I haven’t checked you out or know what you are doing. The other mistake is just hanging around and really not presenting yourself to anybody. You feel that you don’t have anything to offer so you mainly just sit there and wait for the persons that contact everybody to show up. In the end, the match between these two is non-existent.

This is the backside of online conferences. My best thing has been talking to people finding them interesting and in the end, we find common ground and do some business. This process can take years of meetings and at the end of it, it’s about the chemistry between you and the other person. You have to like the person that you are working with. This element is taken away totally in the online conference world. Here it’s just what you offer and what the other person demands. It’s very easy to get lost in figures or the latest release.

When the conferences were in person you sometimes just found an artist, saw their show and hit them up, and had a good time. You got a relationship going. When you went back and saw the numbers of that artist it didn’t matter too much what they were, you rather wanted to help this person out since they were doing something you liked on stage and were a genuinely nice human being. In the digital world that chit-chat is lost and the first you look at is the YouTube or Spotify numbers and if they are low you just think I will grab it later when it rolls.

It will never roll. Things get rolling because of that meeting where the numbers don’t really matter.

Instead, I’m inundated with different online videos with concerts I will never listen to or see. I hardly see a whole concert with my favorite band Ramones. To ask me to watch a whole concert with an unknown artist that I might like is out of the question. The online conferences for artists are just like a giant playlist of nothing. So why am I’m on online conferences? Because I can talk to people I already know. Be updated on new stuff around people that I already know about their careers. Yes, I also poke around and look at new artists. Play them on my radio show. Still, I can’t feel any of the magic I could experience when we meet in person and I can help you get your whole career going.

I can just imagine this as an artist. I really feel for them. I just hope COVID goes away and we get back to at least interact with people in real-time.

Just A Slick Production Won’t Help Today

Back in the days before the internet when the music industry sold plastic discs at high prices, you could get away with just a slick production. To produce a good album in the 70/80 and 90’s there was a different set of rules. First of all, it was very few releases. Mainly because it was expensive to get the music out. It was pressing, mastering, recording, photographs, or, and much more. In the end, an album could have the same budget as a small independent movie. Of course with that risk, you also needed to be very sure what to pick. You had to choose carefully with songs that should be on there and if they were good.

Back in the days these were called demos. A quick, dirty recording of just how the song really sounded. Mainly it showed if the song was a good song. You always knew there would be a producer that would change the sound and the final recording. I remember in the studio when I was hanging and learning about my first recording session, there was a sign on it that said “You can’t make gold out of cowshit”. Closest I guess would be “You can’t polish a turd”.

In reality, you can’t make a bad song good just with the production. A good song will be a good song more or less with what the producer will do to it. A really good song even a kind of bad producer can’t fail with it actually.The job back then was to find these songs. If you had an album full of really good songs then the choice of studio, producer, mixer, mastering, etc would be an easier job to elevate it to a top-level production. Since almost everybody had to choose good songs what you had to compete with was the production quality. Especially since most home studios couldn’t bring out that clean sound. It cost to have the best sound in the end.

Now it’s the opposite in many ways. The plugins and mics are much better. The tapes are replaced with hard drives. Getting a clean sound with the same echo as the dome in Cologne is a piece of cake. Still, people think that if you can do a perfect production you are safe. I get a lot of songs, not demos, I don’t think demos exists any longer. Today you have the same tools as the big studio on your computer. Yes, you might not be as experienced to put the sounds right as the people working in the big studios but you still can use the same tools. Also that whatever you do is not a demo it a ready song. The songs today people are so much into the production they are in fact trying to polish a turd.

Right now I got one of those in my mailbox. The artist here has been studying a couple of music production schools in the world. Not bad schools. You can hear in the production that this is really slick one. Still, the song is totally useless. Mainly because it is not a good song to start with. You can hear how the producer has put in breaks just because not because it fits. You can hear that this song has never been tested on a live audience since the breaks and configuration just makes you dizzy. The lyrics are something you think they just used this poem writing program.

You lost the feeling!

This is the main problem today. Not all people are good songwriters, but almost anybody can record stuff. You can see the same happening to TV right now through YouTube, suddenly everybody has a camera and they can do an easy TV show, even broadcast live. With that said, yes the quality of TV has been reduced. The big productions you need to pay extra for on Netflix. Still, you have over a million homemade TV programs on YouTube you can watch and also accompanied with almost equally bad shows on the free TV networks. Then sometimes a star is born and someone that has a natural talent to do shows turns up and you start watching that. Then suddenly the quality of the picture is not that important, the important stuff is how this person tells a story.

I think we have lost a lot in the music industry. Songwriting is a piece of art. Today we have schools that try to teach how to make art, in reality, it’s in you and you just have to practice over and over again. Today people jump too quick into production than actually work on the basics over and over.

The original text on Cashbox Canada

Friday, February 5, 2021

A Good Picture Says It All!

I guess many of us that work in the music industry are failed musician. My first band was not even a band. We were incredibly young and started a band even though we could not play any instruments. Instead, we played air instruments to our favorite songs. Cute yes, but there is one thing here. The first thing we did before we even rehearsed with our air instruments, was to take a band picture. To be honest to get the right location and background and pose took so long that we missed our first rehearsal and we had to get home before curfew. And the second rehearsal we looked at the pictures and the girl that sang was not pleased because the guys in the band looked better than her. In the third rehearsal, we went to take new pictures. 

I have just gone through 100 applications for my new festival, Future Echoes. I started to see a trend. Many of the pictures were blurry or out of focus. Another thing was that the artist was not in the whole picture. It was like a gallery of modern art. A place where you really don’t know what the art is, or if you are staring at the radiator and no art at all.After a while, I became really annoyed. All the pictures that were posted of the band really sucked. I was so frustrated that I promised myself to book any artist that had a real promo picture that was a good picture in the next fifty applications I checked out. Sorry to say, that I didn’t book anything. Either they were blurry or taken with a mobile camera and then added a crappy filter from Instagram. The worst ones were blurry, no lighting and with the band logo in 30% of the picture, you can’t really use that. 

It seems this is the trend of today. The artist does not have decent promo pictures. Does it matter if you book them for the music? At the same time, you also know if they don’t have the picture now, they won’t have it later and you need that picture for social media, homepage, and posters. Yes, but when you have the amount of several hundred artists the picture it can be the thing that makes your decision. That can be the thing that makes you go “wow I need to hear this!”  It happened to me a couple of years ago. Same procedure, I was going through hundreds of artists and suddenly I stopped on a guy with feathers and a big beard. The picture just talked to me. I needed to listen to this band. I did and just fell in love with the music and booked them. Here is the picture if Capitano that grabbed my attention:

Just because of that, I needed to listen to “Gypsy on a Leash” with Capitano right now. That picture just made a huge difference. And Capitano is very artsy, they do strange pictures and promo, but they are professional enough to send the really good studio pictures when presenting themselves.
It seems like the artists of today have forgotten what a picture can do. It is your best promo choice. Don’t get a crappy “indie” blurred picture. If you need to be artsy then do it with a big thought and also combine it with good promo pictures. My guess is that my team actually spends two working days out of five looking for promo pictures for their stories. And then they get shit from the artists when they have chosen the wrong one since the artist didn’t bother to update their homepage with a good promo picture. 
 Actually, it is very easy to stand out today in the music industry. Just have a good promo picture. And now I think back in the days past.  We didn’t know how to play any instruments, but we were professional enough to at least start with a good promo picture.