Recognize your shot and don't blow it!
By Chris Standring
courtesy of A&R Online
We are living in a producer's world right now. With the major labels looking to sign future Christina Agulieras, Mandy Moores and Britney Spears, the record business is looking at the big producers to deliver the goods. Some of my oldest friends just happen to be members of what is probably the hottest production team right now; The Matrix. I used to tour in (Matrix writer/producer) Lauren Christy's band when she was signed to Mercury back in 1994. So consequently I get a good earful when stuff is going down at major labels and the behavior of bands and artists they are working with. I hear it all first hand and the stuff I hear is simply amazing to me.
Lauren came over to my house recently and we were sitting down having a nice cup of tea, something English people seem to do best! She proceeded to tell me about a project they were working on and a band they were working with. Now what I am about to tell you is fascinating but let me tell you, I have heard this time and time again, not only from her but from many other sources, particularly producers. I will leave out names as it's only fair to do so...
At the time The Matrix were producing a band for a major label, putting the finishing touches to an album that would be slated for the near future. Here's how it went...
The band is fronted by a young girl and a young guy. The label are excited and they have all sorts of press and publicity planned for the upcoming months. The Matrix have once again turned in a few surefire radio hits and the label are convinced they have another hit on their hands. The problem is the young male singer. Let's call him "Axe-2-Grind". He is as feisty one and difficult to say the least. The band is a somewhat manufactured situation. The Matrix have put the songs together and crafted a sound and found two young singers to front the project. This is a situation where the producers are calling the shots. The band has to suck it up and fit in as best they can. Why? because the label have invested half a million dollars.
The label are organizing press and TV spots for the two front singers. The problem is Axe-2-Grind is being particularly difficult about his image. The label and stylist wants the band to look a certain way to reflect the music on the album. Axe wants to wear what he wants to wear, and frankly it is not representative of the rest of the group, and certainly not fitting for what the label wants. Over the weeks the situation gets worse. Axe forges deep resentment for the label and the label are getting very worried thinking he might be a loose cannon. Finally the producers say to him: "So Axe, if it meant that the label insisted that the band dresses a certain way how would you feel about that?" Axe says" I won't do it, I wanna do my own thing." Finally the producers say, "So if it meant that you had to work with us the way we needed you to or you backed out of the situation altogether what would you choose to do?" "Well if that is the deal then I will have to back out!".
And so it was. Axe had his marching papers. Gone. Disappeared off the face of the earth. He was replaced within days.
I am astounded when I hear this, it happens all the time when artists get signed. For some bizarre reason, once they get a shot at stardom they seem to think they can call the shots and if things go horribly wrong it's no big deal. WRONG!! Why is this so bad? Because the chances are this guy's shot will NEVER come again. Not only will The Matrix not work with him again but it takes years to get a break in this business and the next time he gets a shot he will probably be too old for labels to take him seriously. It's simply not worth it!
What's the moral of this story? Don't blow it! It's just too damn hard to find a situation that could lead to huge success in the music business. Don't blow it now, if you absolutely have to, blow it later! Call the shots when you have some credibility, until then you have none and if you are in a producer driven situation, understand that THEY call the shots and not you. If you want to call the shots 100% then front your own band and do your own thing. Be an indie artist and do grass roots promotion. Trust me nobody will argue with you.
You may not want to hear this but the major label music business wants surefire hits and they are looking at the bottom line ONLY! They don't care about artists, they care about money! Who is responsible for making money? Big name producers who have hit after hit after hit. The odds of disaster are lessened so they will defer to them every time. THAT'S NOT YOU!
Now, if the project in question is a band signing and the label have signed a preexisting sound then of course this is a completely different scenario. I am talking about producer driven pop only.
Learn to be diplomatic. Voice your opinion but don't blow it. It's not worth it. Recognize your shot, the chances are it will never come around again!
Chris Standring is the CEO and founder of A&R Online (www.aandronline.com). He is also a contemporary jazz guitarist presently signed to Mesa/Bluemoon Records. The music is marketed at NAC and Urban AC radio. For more info on Chris' recording career go to his personal website at www.chrisstandring.com
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