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Last Friday night I was privileged to finally meet a guitar hero of mine, Neil Zaza. Granted, I have interviewed him and spoken with him a number of times and obviously I have been listening to his music for years, but it’s completely another thing to hear the brilliance of a musician live. Neil has a reputation of being one of the world’s finest guitar players and not just because he is a technically proficient player, but because he is an amazing song writer on top of it. Neil has the very rare ability to make his guitar “sing” as if a vocalist was always there and you never miss the vocalist. He is truly one of the most melodic players on the planet, especially in his guitar instrumentalist genre.
Friday night only confirmed what I already knew. Not only did Neil player flawlessly and effortlessly this night, but his songs take you away as the melodies sweep out from his fingers and take flight through the room and astound you that anyone can be so good at playing an instrument and writing music or songs that are so strong that you are literally transported to a soundscape of rich, melodic musings from an un assuming genius that unfortunately, not enough people have heard of. Neil epitomizes what it is to be an instrumental songwriter. I dare you to find one song that isn’t absolutely gorgeous in its composition and melodic content. He is surely up there in the echelons of Vai, Satriana, Timmons and Johnson in his composition, technical and performance skills.
Granted, Douglas Corner isn’t the venue I would have preferred to see Neil in for my first time. The sound check was half a song, the sound system was adequate but not amazing but mostly, the mix was a bit on the poor side. The drums were over powering in the small venue and Neil was a bit lost in the mix sometimes, but that being said, it was still an amazing and brilliant performance that can’t be wiped away but minor issues. Neil captivated from the stage as I sat there and watched audience reaction. One person in particular was literally getting the chills Neil would rip through a fast solo and cap it of with some melodic ending that brought shivers to the fan. I was a bit shocked actually at how well Neil owned the stage and really brought a strong and mesmerizing performance to Douglas Corner considering the small stage, lack of a decent sound check and quite honestly, most guitar instrumentalists put me to sleep while they perform on stage as they stare at their feet and hand but put on no show at all. Neil did not disappoint here. It was a truly awesome performance that Neil should be proud of.
This performance was almost a homecoming in a way even though Neil had never played there before. The place was full of friends and family or “framily” as Neil calls them. They rated his performance with smart phone rating cards, many times garnering a “10” from the locals. Neil was busy before and after the show greeting, sitting and talking with each and every person who came to see him play. He gets it. There was no aura of ego. No “rockstar” persona that acted like an ass. He was gracious, very appreciate of every person who came out and acknowledged it from the stage and in person. Neil Zaza is the real deal.
The one sad thing was the lack of local musicians who always go around complaining about supporting live music. For some reason when a talent like Neil comes to town, which is not often in Nashville, the musicians don’t show up to support let alone, learn anything or be inspired by a brilliant musician. I guess it’s just much easier to sit and complain on Facebook than actually put your money where your mouth is. Luckily, the place was full of Zazaniacs (my made up word) where more than happy to soak it all in and shower Neil with love and praise for his music.
At the end of the show Matthew and Gunnar Nelson of “Nelson” fame came up to perform with Neil. First was Gunner performing “I’m Alright,” a Zaza show piece as well as the National Anthem. Then the brothers played “Love and Affection with Neil on guitar, Matthew on bass, Gunner on drums and country singer Theresa Rose on bgv’s. Unfortunately, the drum microphone was having major issues so some of the harmonies or other vocal parts could not be heard. But it was still very cool none the less.
All in all, I came away with more respect, admiration and inspired by Neil Zaza. He is a very rare, very brilliant and talented musician and songwriter. He is exactly what this genre needs more of and hopefully those reading this review, will take a moment to check him out both on his site and a venue near you.
The opening spot was filled by an Italian artist named Marco Pinna who performed acoustically with his a brand of latin/mediterranean/gypsy jazz that was fun, hip and lively. Marco was joined on stage by Sean O’Bryan Smith on bass, drummer Glenn Williams (both played for Zaza as well,) Lee Shines on percussion and Kyle Natchtigal on acoustic guitar. It was a nice refreshing change to the Nashville norm and this town sorely needs more of this kind of music to be performed live all over. Marco just release a brand new CD named “Amigus” which you can get on his site and I recommend you do.
I can’t tell you how many bands I have been a part of or worked where people would show up for rehearsal and someone (usually more than one) hadn’t practiced the material to be gone over in our rehearsal time. This is extremely bad when it is music that has been played for years within the band and the members can’t remember their parts or are just involved in to many other projects to take one seriously enough for it to be viable. In my experience it tends to be the same people over and over again. Always with some excuse whether it be work, family etc… but mostly it’s just people who don’t have the drive and discipline to take it serious. They would rather watch their favorite shows on T.V. or go out partying with their friends. This is a major problem within a band and needs to be dealt with immediately.
This Meme popped on my Facebook stream yesterday and it is of course an ageless problem within the entertainment community especially music. I consider it one of the major roadblocks for entertainers to overcome in order to have a decent shot at making it in the business. It is extremely important to deal with this sort of behavior immediately. How can a band or entertainer make it if the people involved are dead set on making it happen. That means putting forth every effort to be prepared. I for the life of me can’t figure out why so many musicians struggle with being professional or understand how completely critical it is for them to be prepared at all times for anything that might pop up. I quit trying to help bands get booked because they were never ready for a last minute gig. Their set lists weren’t done because they only knew so many songs and what was usually the reason? Someone in the band wasn’t learning the material or just didn’t think it was necessary to have a nice set list to draw from.
This eats away at the core of a band. People start to get irritated with each other and stop trusting each other. People will start to develop a “why should I bother” attitude because they get tired of working harder than everyone else but the people who keep letting the band down, expect to be equal partners and get paid the same while doing almost none of the work or having the work ethic it takes to succeed. This is about the most disrespectful behavior you can have in a band. Many of the other members are sacrificing time with family, friends or other things they love to have a real shot at it, but there is always some asshat that just doesn’t get it.
This isn’t a business that pays you for showing up. This is a business that pays you for hard work, work ethic, being prepared and having the ability to act at a moments notice if you are needed to fulfill a last minute opening. This also plays into people working with you. I make it abundantly clear from the get go before working withy any artist that we won’t work bust our ass for an artist that isn’t busting theirs. If this is a problem, they get cut. How can you expect anyone to bust their ass and do all the grunt work you don’t want to do, when you can’t even do the one thing you are brought into do. Learn your songs and put on the best show possible. You can’t do that if you spend all your rehearsal time learning songs that should have already been learned before the rehearsal at home. Rehearsals are for working on song structure, correcting small mistakes, developing set lists and most importantly performance. NOT LEARNING SONGS!
This of course is not a new revelation by any stretch of the imagination but yet things never change. The business is constantly changing, but musicians don’t. Same old story, same old song and dance. It’s a new business kids, gone are the deals, the money and now the people willing to working for nothing to bust their ass for a bunch of lazy musicians. Get with the program or get out.
To all bands and entertainers out there. Deal with this now or you will get absolutely nowhere. If it is a repetitive problem, fire them. Find band members that are willing to give 100% to make it happen or prepare to sit in anonymity for a very long time if not forever.
Title got your attention right? Good. In this ever changing landscape that is the entertainment industry, you have to decide what success means to you and go for it. You have to learn to be happy with what you have achieved and as long as you have given it everything that you have, you have to be okay with the results. What does this mean?
Let’s look at an Olympic level athlete for example. Most American Olympic level athletes are no different than entertainers. They make no money from their profession. Very few athletes make any money and have work a regular job, scrimp, save and try to find endorsement dollars just like any entertainer. The great old United States of America does’t pay for or provide anything for it’s athlete’s like most other countries so it is completely upon the athletes to make do with what they have. They have to become the very best at what they do in the same harsh environment that any entertainer does. They have no money, huge bills to pay for coaches, fees, travel etc… We are talking at least tens of thousands every year just to train and compete only a few times a year to achieve the world wide platform they are looking to get to.
The difference is Olympic level athletes are completely and utterly dedicated to achieving their goals. They get up at ungodly hours, put their bodies through absolute hell training 6 to 8 hours a day usually at minimum, work, have families and all the issues in life everyone else has. They have to pay someone a fee to coach them. They have to pay for all their gear, all their costs just like any entertainer does. “Their families tell them many times, why don’t you just give this up and focus on a career? There is no money in this.” However, you never hear them complain about it. You don’t hear them whining about how hard it is or how no one pays them for being the best at what they do. Ever. Yet every entertainer, most of which are not even close to the best at what they do always complain about not being paid while bringing nothing special to the table.
You see, the special people have a dream. A goal they know is almost impossible to achieve as so very few ever do. They accept it, plan for it and actually put the plan into motion to achieve their end goal. Every day of their lives. No exceptions, no excuses. They put their bodies, families and careers through hell for that 15 minutes of standing on a podium, hearing their national anthem and knowing at least for that little bit of time, they are the very best at what they do and that is all they need.
Almost every entertainer I have met isn’t like this. They whine and complain how no one takes them serious. They say things like “if only I could get some to….” In other words, they want other people to do the real work. The booking, the planing, the social media, the PR…. everything and pay them almost nothing for it. Heck most don’t even know what they average pay is anymore, they still think it’s 1985. This is the most infuriating thing about the entertainment business.
You see for years the entertainers complained about other people making all the money, but the reality is, they were doing all the hard work. They did the work no one else wanted to do and usually fronted all the money. Now we live in a different dynamic. The money isn’t there any more. The entertainers got what they wanted, control of their careers. But that comes with actually having to adapt and learning how to run a business. Doing the things they bitched about having to pay so much money to have other people do. Just like any other business. You have to pay people to work for you and you pay a much higher price for experts in their field. Entertainers haven’t adapted to this new dynamic yet. They still think that people will work extremely hard for no or very little money which I am afraid isn’t going to happen.
You see, entertainers first of all need to do what they love just for the love of it just like the athletes do. Secondly, they have to dedicate themselves to the process of achieving your dreams just like the athletes do. What does this mean? It means getting your ass out of bed early and working. It means, put your money in your dreams not in your local bar or vice of choice. It means figuring out a way to pay for all the help you are going to need because you know you can’t do it on your own and quit hoping that someone is just going to “discover” you. That doesn’t ever happen normally especially now. The entertainment business is like any sports field, only about 2% of the people actually make it to the top. The rest have to learn to be happy with what they did achieve.
So this is my question to all you entertainers out there because in my experience your actions don’t match up with your words. How serious are you? Are you serious enough about your career and goals to dedicate your self with the focus it takes an Olympic level athlete? Or are you just another person with dreams but not the drive to actually back up your words?
Think about this before you pester people for help, before you tell everyone that you are the next big thing and if they would only just take a chance on you that you would prove it. Because, reality says 98% of you aren’t that dedicated to your dreams and goals. Which percentage do you want to belong in?
I wish you the best and I hope this lights a fire! To do anything in life takes and immense amount of work, money, trial and error but most importantly drive. Without this, you have no chance at making it.
Look at your goals and career like your are training for that gold medal and make it happen. You are the only one that can and no one else will put that kind of effort to back you, if you won’t do if for yourself.
One of the great lies I hear from bands that haven’t made in the music business is that promoters don’t promote enough for their shows. Really? A PROMOTER whom by title and definitions job it is to promote isn’t promoting enough? I call a serious BS to this excuse that musicians use to not be accountable for their poor numbers. I have yet to meet either as a musician or a business person a promoter that didn’t promote. We are talking 30 years of playing or working in the business and I have never seen this. Even the small promoters work their fingers to the bone, pay the bands with what little came in and always go home with nothing while the bands bitch and complain and pretty much did no promotion what so ever.
It is my contention that most musicians don’t know what promotion truly is and wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it and they have no idea what is going on in the background. Is this harsh? Yes, but it is my experience dealing with musicians.
So let’s get this out of the way early. Yes, there are exceptions where maybe a promoter is new or doesn’t know what they are doing or maybe doesn’t have a budget but this is not what you normally deal with. Even still people who are promoting an event are usually very excited about their event and will promote it the hilt to the best of their ability which I can not say about musicians. Yes there are a few musicians out there that get it, but the majority don’t and they make excuses as to why they there are no people at their shows.
First and foremost, promoters are not in the business of losing money. Promoters are in the business of making money. They aren’t into taking chances and throwing away hard earned dollars by throwing an event and not promoting it. That is just plain stupid and not even close to reality. If you as a musician have met a promoter that is into throwing money away and you worked with them, then that is your fault for making a bad business decision. Hopefully you have learned form it and know what questions to ask next time.
As far as promoters taking advantage of local bands again a load of BS. If you are a local band, and you were lucky enough to get a spot on an event that has money behind it, you are already getting more than you are worth in advertising and promotion alone. It builds your brand, your credibility and if you actually drew in the minimum of 30 paid tickets you should be drawing in, then you will be remembered and brought in again and again as long as your work your butt off and keep brining in numbers. This does lead to getting paid and much better opportunities for you. If you are a local band opening for a A level or B level band, you are getting paid by getting in front of the audience that paid to see the headliner not you. This is a crowd that would never normally come see you. Understand the opportunity that it is, the opportunity you couldn’t normally afford to pay for yourself and make the most of it.
I can’t tell you how many times I stood in front of Bridgestone arena during a big concert by myself handing out promo cards while not one of the band members helped or how many times I was out ever day hanging posters and no help from the bands. 3 times I had a tiny bit of help hanging posters from 1 musician who did one small area of town with me and 2 others where a model and a friend helped me to 2 square blocks. Everything else was me every day hanging posters and hitting a previous area again every third day. The bands always had an excuse as to why they couldn’t help.
Promoters have their events listed on all the known event websites. They get their events in all the local entertainment rags. They set up radio interviews and advertising. They do email blasts over and over again. They have social media accounts that they promote on. They hang posters all over town over and over again because posters are always pulled down. This more promotion per event then most bands will do in a year for themselves let alone for just one event. What do musicians do? Maybe a couple Facebook posts or tweets and call that promotion.
In a perfect world, each event will be promoted to the hilt by the promoter, venue and bands. Will this happen? Maybe, maybe not. The reality is this. Each musician or band is responsible for their success and the success of each event no matter what anyone else does. You can never rely on someone else’s promotion for your business. YOU have to kill it each and every time. YOU cannot let excuses creep into your thought process. People pay to see bands that are good, the pay to see an experience. If they aren’t paying to see you, it’s not because of a lack of promotion by the venue or promoter. It’s because you aren’t giving them what they want yet. They don’t see anything worth paying for. YOU as a band have to learn how to separate people from their money. YOU have to learn how the become the EVENT that makes them put other things off and come see you instead of a movie or handing with friends.
As a promoter we have to do the same thing however, promoters learn quickly usually and bands seem to languish in poor work ethic and lack of creativity.
Bottom line is this. YOU have to toot your own horn and not expect anyone else to. YOU have to learn the skills to make this happen. YOU have to have a band that is dedicated to putting together a strategy to promote effectively. This means everyone in the band has to participate and quit using the “that just isn’t my thing” excuse. If you are in a band and you find that you don’t have the drive or the time to make this happen, then it is time re-evaluate your business and maybe step aside or just be comfortable with being a local band. There is nothing wrong with that. Getting up and playing music for any number of people is it’s own reward.
The music business isn’t the same as it was 20 years ago. There is very little money it, especially for bands that haven’t made it. Musicians wanted control of their careers so they could make more money and not get screwed. Well guess what, you got it. Now it is all your responsibility. The real work, the hard work is now up to you and you live and die by the sword.
Now you know why, bands had contracts that paid other people so much. They were the ones making you successful. They did all the hard work, the grunt work. They were the ones taking the risk and fronting the money so you could be a rock star.
Time to make a decision. Either you want it and will do everything as a unit possible to make it or you won’t, but quit blaming others for what you are not willing to do for yourself.
To all the bands that are doing it, keep it up! Never give up! Take the reigns of your business and do your best to dictate your success!
The entertainment business is incredibly tough to be in. We all think we are amazing talents and think we should be paid for all of our hard work and what it takes to put on a show of any kind but that isn’t the reality. The reality is it’s hard to separate people from their hard earned income and with all the entertainment being thrown at them from every angle now days, it’s very hard to capture their attention.
This is why is so incredibly critical that word of mouth spreads about your show the entice people to your future shows. It almost always takes lots and lots of shows before you start to see the crowds you want but there is a strategy to doing it and most importantly, it has to be an experience they will remember and always talk about.
The other day, Dana White of the promotions company UFC came out and said “If you want to get paid, you don’t want people doing the wave during your fight.You want them talking about you on Monday and Tuesday and that isn’t going to happen if they aren’t paying attention to your fight” (paraphrased.) This is completely true of any form of entertainment. If you can’t get people to talk about how completely amazing your show or performance was, you are not giving the audience the experience they are paying for and hence, you don’t deserve to get paid no matter how hard you worked nor should you expect them to. This isn’t an hourly paying gig based on the hours you put in. Lot’s of people work hard (most likely in the wrong areas) but may not be talented enough, visionary enough or a good enough producer to put on the entertainment experience of a life time.
This is the truth. Hard work doesn’t determine getting paid. Buying gear doesn’t determine getting paid. Nothing determines getting paid other than your show putting butts in seats no matter how hard you work or talented you are. This can be a very long and arduous process for any entertainer but it is usually the most common road. Time, effort, talent and an amazing amount of patience are absolutely necessary in the entertainment business. If you aren’t giving the public something that makes them want to part with their money, then you have no one to blame but yourself. You don’t deserve to get paid just for showing up.
Along with talent, planning, intense amounts of practice and the vision to make your dream happen and to also deliver something the public finds value in comes the actual real work that most entertainers don’t want to do and hope others will do for them before they are big enough for anyone to want to. The promotion, booking and business end of things. Somehow the entertainers have to be able to do all of this. It’s obviously very hard and if it was easy, every one would be doing it but they aren’t. However it can be done and there are plenty of examples in the business to prove it. It comes down to will, determination and talent not only to perform but design a show that will provide and experience, not just another so-so show that the public usually gets. They deserve much better than average if they are going to spend money on a ticket plus any other expenses such as drinks, dinner, parking or babysitting etc.
I would estimate that about 95% of what entertainers are putting out there in their performances or shows is completely average or below, yet all I see are entertainers demanding that they should get paid. Paid for what? Mediocrity? I won’t pay you for that. When you send in your material and tell me how amazing you are then that is what I expect. If you aren’t that, if you don’t deliver on your words of your live show, if you don’t put butts in seats or increase your crowd on average over time, then you simply are not as good as you say you are. That is reality. That doesn’t mean give up though. It means you need to re-evaluate your show. Take the time to make adjustments, improve in the areas that need it and learn to put on the show that people wan’t to see. If you don’t, you can’t complain about people not wanting to pay ticket prices. You aren’t providing the value to make it worth the price to them.
You want to sell tickets? Provide the experience that people can’t stop talking about. This means the most well rehearsed, professional dedicated performance you can deliver and it must keep getting better. Until then, you will be mired in mediocrity and low ticket sales and letting the business jade you for your perceived slights. No one owes you a living. In this business, talent, hard work, creativity and vision are all you have. Bring it or go home. Don’t complain about people not coming to your shows when you aren’t giving the very best for them to see.
This is the reality that haunts us all. You and me alike.
Earlier I was looking at my numbers for this blog and was completely amazed at how well it was doing the last couple days based on one CD review for the band Maragold. Yesterday when I released it it was already doing double it’s average daily but then around 11:00pm CST the band posted it on Facebook and holy crap did it explode. It his had more views by 10 times the amount of any other CD review or musician spotlight I have written. Here is the key, each one posted it pretty much on their personal and band page on Facebook. Most bands don’t do this. They maybe post it once on their band page and not on their personal pages and they interacted with their fans about it. When I released it in the morning two of the band members and the band twitter account RT’d it once and that was it. For further reference on this please read my blog “Creating The “Buzz,” It’s Your Responsibility.”
What does this mean? It means that Maragold has found a way to reach it’s audience like no other band I have reviewed for or spotlighted. It means “true” fans not Facebook likes are extremely excited about them. It means they have actually offered up something the public wants. They did this in spite of having never released a CD and the only member of the band with a real name is was co-founder Greg Howe who is a well known guitar instrumentalist. Well known being relative in the world of music. Yes most guitar players know who he is, but the world doesn’t. Please note that Maragold didn’t ask me for a review. I just did it because when I listened to the CD it was so good I really had no choice.
Everyday on Facebook I see bands complaining about how hard it is or how the industry keeps people down etc… That is complete bunk. Is it hard yes but most bands don’t work hard enough, give the public something they want to buy or shoot themselves in the foot with poor promotion and bad social media skills. Is it anyone else’s fault you can’t make it? No. For whatever reason, Maragold has touched an audience with no prior CD, no real history of gigging, nothing but the past success of guitar player Greg Howe and each other individuals past endeavors. They made it happen without anything other than hard work, determination, incredible talent and most importantly at this stage knowing how to build up a release. Now because of this, hopefully with continued hard work, the songs which are amazing, will be the deciding factor in their long term success.
This audience interaction is what every band should be striving for, for without it, you have nothing.
Pre-order the Maragold CD here: http://www.maragoldband.com/
A couple years ago I wrote a blog on artists of any genre to include music, acting, variety, writing etc…, using social media as their soapbox for the personal political or religious beliefs and the possible cost of doing so. Now I am writing a new one to help clarify the importance of being professional especially when hot political and religious topics like what we just went through with marriage equality. Today I received an email that a financial backer would not fund a project because of a certain artists rants on Facebook. This has cost 20,000 dollars in funding for the project. This morning when I woke up to the email saying basically that they will not fund a show with someone in it with such an obvious hateful stance on something we believe in so if I wanted the funding I had to get rid of that artist and replace him with another or they wouldn’t fund it. Now this may not be fair but it is business. It’s their money, they don’t have to freely give of their hard earned cash to something or someone they don’t believe in. These projects are opportunities for artists to not only get paid, but hopefully grow their fan base and brand as well as gain crucial experience in the industry. This is an artist that I have to talked to before about this many times and now it has comeback to not only bit me in the ass, but the artist and possibly every other artist involved with the production. You must remember, that people use Google to research what they are funding! Don’t think people won’t notice what you are saying. Never put yourself in the position of losing funding if you can at all help it.
I know you all think we have free speech and we shouldn’t be censored, but with free speech comes responsibility. If you are an artist of any kind of entertainment and you feel so strongly that you should be allowed to speak your mind at anytime because you have free speech, then by all means feel free to do so. Just do it on someone elses dime. Once you decide to work with other people, you have a responsibility to them and anyone else involved to make sure whatever you are working on becomes successful, not to cause controversy. Take a look at what has happened to Michelle Shocked recently for a sarcastic comment at a live show. All her tour dates where canceled in response because of her free speech. Now certainly Michelle has the right to free speech, she has every right to support her beliefs however she wants, but there comes a price with it. Now she is holding “sit-ins” in front of tiny clubs that canceled her with tape across her mouth saying “silenced by fear.”
What about the Dixie Chicks? They got nailed for one comment on stage. Of course being in a foreign country and slamming your President is never a good thing but they didn’t see anything wrong with it and the result was radio stations across the country quit playing their music for years and huge loss of fan base. They had a slight comeback but they never achieved the same level of success. There are many more examples of this I am sure.
You see, this is a BUSINESS. Promoters, venues, financial backers or whomever have their own personal beliefs and if they don’t line up with yours and you say something controversial then don’t be surprised when you loose the gig. They may do it out of fear of losing ticket sales or they may just want to not support your beliefs and outspoken way of handling the issues. In Hollywood it has never been a secret that if you favor one side of politics it could be much harder to get roles. This is nothing new whether it is right or wrong. People are people and they like to work with people they feel they have things in common with and understand them.
I have seen so many artists or promoters on Facebook fail miserably at Kickstarter programs or have lagging ticket sales and they are always starting controversial topics on social media. Do they ever wonder why no one backs them? Good chance part of it at least is your rants about your beliefs let alone the quality of show being provided. I have even been emailed about some of these people asking me to talk with them and I have nothing to do with them. I don’t work with or represent them in any way shape or form.
So here are my recommendations on how to handle this if you are an artist. First of all don’t post anything controversial on your social media pages especially business ones. If you have a personal one with your “stage name” and you post a ton of business on it, it’s now a business page. Either focus on your business page for marketing or hide your personal one from the general public and Google search engines and make it for friends only so your personal “opinions” don’t affect anyone working with you but you and you still get to stand up for what you believe in. If you are in a collective group of any kind say a band, acting troup etc… make sure you talk and set some ground rules so one else suffers from someone’s rants on Facebook. If you are “political” artist then I assume you already know the consequences of your actions and that is fine. If that is your vision go for it. Just make sure you are open about it with everyone you work with. You have every right as a human being to voice your opinion, you don’t have the right to ruin someone elses chances with your opinion. Be responsible with your free speech and you will benefit from it. Once you are big as U2 you can say what you want, because now you can afford to live if everyone ends up hating you and never buys another ticket to a gig. Remember especially here in America, the country is very polarized politically and if you alienate one half of your possible audience with your own personal political views, you are in for a very long hard road to success. The beautiful thing about social media is you can’t post what ever you want, it’s your page, your right to do so. The bad thing about social media you can post what ever you want.
If you are a newer promoter, venue, talent buyer etc… avoid artists like this like the plague. Hire only professional artists that understand it’s a business and want to make sure that every event they do comes off as professional and successful as possible. You can’t afford to loose ticket sales on artists that don’t care about anything but themselves. As a promoter check with an entertainment attorney to see if you should have some recourse to come back at them and sue them for damages if an artist causes you to loose money like this. Have set guidelines for your events and make sure the artists are clear on them and also make sure you research the history of the artist. I made the mistake of trusting someone to be professional and it has cost me.
I have said it before and I will say it again, as an artist trying to make it in the very, very hard industry, you can’t give anyone a reason to say “no” to you. Do you really want to lose possible ticket or merch sales just so you “rant” on social media? Why work so hard to make it then if you are willing to take such risky chances? This business is already way to risky for most to even try it and now you want to add to the risk? Your marketing, performance, attitude, media savvy should all be top notch. You more than likely don’t have a PR department to “spin” your free speech or questionable actions so you have to be able to do all this yourselves. If you aren’t willing to be professional at all times with your brand there are plenty who are and will take your spot on the roster or gig.
I know you won’t all agree with me and that is OK and I certainly support free speech, it’s a matter of knowing when to exercise it. If you are going to exercise it, do it responsibly, not in anger or hate, refrain from pointing fingers at one side or the other. Just make a nice, solid statement that isn’t inflammatory and leave it at that. Don’t go posting on everyone’s time line that doesn’t agree with you, or posting those sarcastic photo’s everyone seems to like to create. I have learned from my mistakes and will handle things differently with artists. Artists won’t be costing me money anymore.
When you look back at people who have made a very successful career at entertainment and are still going strong decades after launching it’s hard to think of many still around especially one that is still a marketing dream come true. This is where Elvira (aka) Cassandra Peterson excels. Elvira was launched in 1981 by Cassandra and to this day is one of the most iconic characters in entertainment. She has created a brand that encompasses 400+ product licenses, the most sold Halloween costume ever, music CD’s, books, pinball machines, guitars and the list goes on. Finding truly iconic characters these days is hard work. Most are known for their personal problems not their originality. Tell me the last time you heard anything negative about Elvira? Her success is due to her originality, extremely well defined character and marketing.
Why do I bring this up? Because it could be you. You could be the next Elvira, Kiss, Alice Cooper, or whomever you can think of that are still around 30+ years later even after their hay day. Sometimes these things happen by accident. Cassandra probably wasn’t thinking that Elvira would turn into this iconic character, but she did and Cassandra took full advantage of it. Now I have never interviewed Cassandra. I did know her sister back in Colorado Springs however. She hung out a bar called “The Gardens” that I worked back in the early 90’s. I remember talking with her. How proud she was of Cassandra and all she had accomplished. Cassandra hit a gold mine with her character, probably had a decent team behind her to capitalize on her character and today Elvira is as big as ever and her cult legacy lives on. She is all over Facebook, Pinterest and anything Halloween.
Sometimes as entertainers we take ourselves to seriously. I read on Facebook the other day a band posting about how they were “real” and they didn’t care about image etc… So just shoot yourself in the foot why don’t you. This is a lame excuse for people to not put in the work for thinking outside the box, finding something original and running with it. You can do this and still maintain your sense of you or who you are without sacrficing your “realness,” whatever the hell that means.
Everyday people say, “if people would just get behind me, invest in me then I would prove that I am worth it.” So what exactly are they getting behind? What are they selling? Are you sellable the way you are now? Why would anyone want to invest in your brand if you don’t really have one? What is going to make you stand out from the millions of other entertainers looking to get noticed? We are looking for stars, not our next door neighbors.
Now I am not saying you have to go get “gothed” up to be noticed. I am saying that you need to be original, marketable and dedicated to working you butt off. If you want longevity in this industry, which from what you all say about how you wish you could do it full time and that it’s all you want to do, then you need to be willing to put in some development, take some risks and forget what every other lame ass next to you is saying because they will only tear you down especially once you start having success.
Be bold, be brave, be energetic and works twice as hard as you think you need to. You see, you need to be ready to move on to the big time like Cassandra was. Elvira was born out of a need for a character for a classic horror “B” movie TV show that was being brought back to life. Cassandra had one character already and merged it with the “Elvira” concept to fill the TV show need. Once the opportunity knocks, you need to able to act on it. Cassandra did and look what happened. This couldn’t have happened without Cassandra’s creativity to come up with the original character. Once you get there, it only get’s harder and busier. You think you are busy now? Just wait…. Take the time to “develop” yourself into something the public will purchase. Don’t you think Cassandra thought it was worth it?
Find out more about Elvira here: www.elvira.com
@lowryagency Great post! XX
Every once in a while I like to recognize at least what I consider someone who is doing everything they can to achieve their dream. Someone who I see constantly striving to be the best they can be and pushing new limits for themselves. This time I am recognizing illusionist Sammy Cortino. Now to be fair, this is only about work ethic. I am not talking about his show as I haven’t seen it other than a few video clips and the one illusion Sammy did for a show of mine last year. This is purely based on how hard I have watched Sammy work over the last four years.
I found out about Sammy Cortino on twitter four years ago and we became social media friends. Since then, Sammy has moved to Nashville, TN and is carving out his niche as a master illusionist around the country. Rarely have I seen someone give so much of themselves to their dream and try so many things to see what worked and what didn’t. Most just stay the same, never trying anything new, not listening to advice and wonder why over the last few years nothing gets any better. It becomes everyone’s fault but their own and the reality it is simply the world didn’t want to buy what you had to offer, at least not in the way it was presented by you. Sammy is becoming so good at learning to change things up and re-branding his image when necessary. He sinks his money back into his career, most importantly in the things he actually needs, not necessarily wants. For those entertainers that complain about travel and how much they have to take, try being an illusionist. Set up and tear down time is much longer and usually 1 – 3 people doing it not 4 – 5 like in a band.
Sammy tries to fusion things that have rarely been done before or are original, another trait lost on many. Keeping a show fresh and something you can sell over and over again to the appropriate talent buyers or promoters is incredibly important and Sammy seems to understand this. This isn’t to say Sammy has figured it all out or is always gigging. He hasn’t and he isn’t, but he is working harder than just about anyone I have ever worked with by far. Sammy is always coming up with new photography, videos, illusions and tons of other content to try and keep himself fresh in the worlds mind. Sammy also understand that image is everything. You can decry it all you like, but it’s the truth. It’s the first thing people see and it determines whether or not they will click anything to check you out.
Whatever you may think of Sammy Cortino’s show or talent is up to you, but what you should take away from this is no matter how talented you are, if you are not working as hard as someone like Sammy is, they will take your spot on the bill or the stage just based on their work ethic alone.
Well done Sammy Cortino. I wish you all the best in your endeavors and success in what ever way you deem it.
Note: The Lowry Agency is in no way affiliated with Sammy Cortino.