Loren Weisman explained why many local groups aren't getting noticed during a Sept. 22 talk at New Grounds Roasting Company in York.
Weisman speaks to crowds large and small all over the country. As a touring drummer and producer, he's seen both sides of the industry.
Now, he shares his knowledge with aspiring musicians and their girlfriends, promoters and managers.
I took notes and so did Shablis Glover, who manages the York hip-hop group Team B.A.D. Glover, a York College student, had no management experience, but wanted to help her cousin's group. So far, Team B.A.D. has released a mixtape and made it through the first round of a talent competition in New York City.
Weisman, who recently moved to Harrisburg from Seattle, shared anecdotes and advice, which I'm now sharing with you. Consider it band boot camp.
Ask questions - lots of them
"It's important to choose who you're going to listen to," Weisman said. Make sure he or she doesn't think it's 1990, he said.
Don't trust anyone who balks at giving direct answers. Look up people's backgrounds. (If someone doesn't have a website, they either aren't legit or they are still living in 1990.)
"Don't shortcut," Weisman added. That is where most bands run into trouble.
And musicians who sign a contract without reading all the fine print or seeking legal advice will get screwed.
Focus on making a living, not making millions
Weisman knows musicians and producers who are able to make $50,000 a year. That's enough for a comfortable - not extravagant - lifestyle. The days of popping Cristal in pimped-out cribs are over, he said.
Bank on all the people who are crucial to a band's success - photographers, managers, producers - taking a percentage of profits.
Forget Cinderella stories
Record labels are dead. At least in the traditional sense, Weisman said. The music industry is now primarily controlled by executive management groups.
Weisman said most music stars are manufactured by clever marketing. That includes everyone from Nirvana (which Weisman said had early financial backing from two conglomerates. I knew it!) to American Idols (not as shocking).
Even so-called "viral" stars like Rebecca Black are usually financed by rich people and savvy PR.
Be smart when social networking
Weisman has 62 social network pages. He only has to update two, which aggregate content to the other sties. Bands should do the same.
Groups need a uniform presentation on every site and should keep each professional - personal details are for personal sites.
MySpace isn't dead. It might be in America, but Weisman said one band he worked with got attention from the Japanese site.
Don't get blocked
Weisman suggests bands create a one-sentence tagline and streamline everything else they send out.
Make it as easy as possible to view and navigate websites and press materials. Don't fill a press kit with huge photo, audio and text files. Those clog inboxes and get deleted. Use links, instead. Limit audio clips to 30 seconds.
Any group should be able to compare themselves to at least three other well-known acts. Delete "original" and "unique" from band bios.
Think outside the box
One band Weisman worked with offered to fill in on Conan O'Brien's show if another group canceled. They got a call back.
Local bands should try sending songs to companies, shows and movies. Look into music foundation grants as a way to get started. Record song samples without audio and dub lyrics in different languages. Some bands are unknown in the U.S. and huge in Europe.
Drop the bad-boy/girl image unless a band member actually has a criminal record. Groups with good reputations go far these days.
Real success - in any industry - rarely happens overnight.
Bands should be able to adapt, since no one knows what the music business will look like a few years from now, Weisman said.
Groups that analyze feedback, audience size and other acts will stay a step ahead. Grassroots efforts work.
"The future of the music industry is about the education and empowerment of artists," Weisman said.
PopEye is a bi-weekly column focusing on the ever-changing landscape of popular culture. To reach writer Erin McCracken, call 771-2051 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Online For details about Loren Weisman and his new book, "The Artist's Guide to Success in the Music Business," visit www.lorenweisman.com.