Book Preview: Chapter 6 - Music Business

I’ve incorrectly named this chapter. A more appropriate name would be, “Clown Show.” Look, I don’t know much about any other industries or work places. I’ve done some professional cooking and a couple other random gigs throughout the years, but mostly I’ve attempted to stay involved in music. Maybe in other industries there is a high percentage of necessary personnel. Maybe there are tons of people that really deserve their job and have a clue. I’m thinking Silicon Valley, or Hollywood, where everyone is just crushing it. I have no idea what the badass to clown ratio is in other industries (let’s go ahead and call that BA/C), but in the music industry it breaks down like this:

Justifiably Employed = 7%

Badass = 2%

Clowns = 91%

Whoa baby! As you can see from my sophisticated mathematics above, which was carefully calculated after more than a decade of research and sampling, the music industry is made up of 91% CLOWNS.                     

Did you think this chapter was going to be a narrative on record deals and publishing, and how to choose a manager or some bullshit? Were you expecting me to walk you through the ins and outs of the bizzzz? I’m sorry to disappoint. There is a great book you can go check out called All You Need to Know about the Music Business by Donald Passman. That book tells you all you need to know about...yeah you get it. It’s an extremely valuable book if you want to learn about that stuff. Basically you pay $30 for what all the dumb fucks that go to Belmont or USC or Full Sail and major in Music Business pay $80,000 for. Oh wait, they get hooked up with internships so it’s totally worth it. No DUMBASS. Buy the book, learn that shit, start a band or go work for a band, go on tour, and by the time all those kids are done with their four-year university degree in CLOWN SHOW, you might have a record deal and already be making shit tons of money (or tour managing a band like that) in which case you automatically trump their degree with credentials and experience. That’s what I did anyways. Too bad I just wasn’t any good at navigating the bizzz from there.     

I always thought, even before we started touring, that I wanted to work on the business side. After all, I had done our booking, and Colin and I were essentially the business side of the band. Colin was basically all business and no art. He had the personality for it. People liked him. I really liked the business stuff, but in a behind-the-scenes way. I was smart and I could learn and apply concepts easily. I was one of those kids that always tested well. But my personality was rubbish, and I could barely make eye contact with people when I talked to them.             

Amazingly, I found my way into the bizzz and Colin got the hell out. I always suspected he might be smarter than me. Anyway, by way of tour managing after As Cities Burn disbanded in 2009, I eventually found myself managing Emery in 2013 and a few other bands. It was what I always wanted to do. At the same time I attempted to start a booking agency, and I had already done some studio/producer management. Every one of these endeavors was a crash and burn. Turns out, I was a clown as well. I would quit all that shit near the end of 2013.

But at least I knew I was a clown. I don’t know if I’ve ever really talked to Emery about this, but one of the biggest contributing factors, other than the crippling anxiety I was experiencing 24/7 during that time, was that I truly felt that my position in the industry was totally unnecessary. Getting paid to do fake work and act as middleman. It drove me crazy. I hated every fucking email I received from agents, managers, labels, publicists, etc. There were multiple occasions I wanted to reply, “What in the fuck are we all doing? This is pointless and we are all clowns.” Eventually I did start replying to less and less things. And you know what? The tours still happened. Records were still released. The bands did not, as we all suspected, collapse on themselves like a dying star (did I steal this from Seinfeld?  Or from The Office?)                         

The only job on the business side I had that I’ve ever felt was an honest day’s work was that of the tour manager. I really loved TM’ing. There was shit right in front of you that had to be done every day. It was like mowing the grass. You see your work being completed right in front of your eyes. There was nobody else to make it happen. You were running the show. And I was good at it.                     

“One more song? I DON’T THINK SO LOWLY PATHETIC OPENER! Please tell me more about how you plan to fit your epic seven-minute set closer into the three minutes that remains in your allotted time to play.”       

“Oh, you wanna set up a table to spread the word about your non-profit and sell T-shirts? HELL NO. Should have gone through the proper channels ahead of time, newbie.”                           Gettin’ shit done on the reg. But, you gotta be gone constantly to make any money.                    

Now of course there are some major badass players that make shit move. Big time booking agents, managers that hustle and have a clue, and all these guys that had the vision to start labels and take risks. I really have a lot of respect for those that are doing it right. As long as they aren’t total fucking douchebags. Unfortunately, I would have to guess that the badass percentage would be cut in half if you excluded the douchebags.                 

I witnessed one of the douchiest and sad acts on Facebook recently. I won’t say the name of the guy I am about to lay into, cause let’s face it, I’m a pussy and I don’t want to burn bridges for the sake of a book that could literally only make me several hundred dollars. If he for some reason ever reads this, he may know I am talking about him. But I also suspect that he has his head so far up his own ass that he would be too obtuse to get the hint. This guy wanted to manage As Cities Burn a long time ago. Obviously we didn’t hire him, but years later he built some software that now almost every booking agency on earth uses for data entry and organization, and he broke into the industry big time from there.       

 I noticed he was posting status updates that were a direct rip off of a popular twitter account. Things like:

“If your LinkedIn work history predates 1990 and you aren’t currently in a Porsche near a beach, why would I hire you?”

Or, 

“Whenever someone asks how I'm doing, I usually just lie and say 'good', even though I'm doing a lot better than that.”

On the twitter account called ‘Goldman Sachs Elevator Gossip’ (@GSElevator), the owner tweets stuff he overhears at his job. The two quotes above are taken word for word from tweets off that account. This dude was straight up passing off clever tweets about being rich as his OWN on Facebook. How sad is that? The irony is that the GS Elevator twitter account is meant to make fun and expose these assholes. I guess he didn’t get the joke. I got sick of it and left a sarcastic comment about how similar his posts were to that twitter account. He deleted all of the posts he had plagiarized and unfriended me.             

I have obviously become ultra-jaded as far as the music industry goes. And you would be totally fair to criticize me and just say that I’m jealous of those who are more successful. There is some truth in that for sure. But part of me also wondered if I had to be like the tweet thief to make it. And that was depressing as hell. I couldn’t stomach caring about money and status that much. It’s probably part of the reason I prefer San Diego so much over LA. Maybe this ranting and complaining wasn’t what you expected to read when you saw the title of the chapter. Maybe I’m just feisty tonight because I’m on day 18 of some crazy diet with my wife and I haven’t eaten at Cookout or enjoyed a beer in almost three weeks.                               

But I stand by my assertion that probably 91% of those employed in the music industry could lose their jobs and things would just keep moving right along. Keep the badasses, maybe an assistant here and there, all touring and venue personnel, and we have ourselves a ball game. I could be totally wrong and just butthurt that I haven’t found much success in the bizzzz side, but I am so much happier now that I am able to admit that I am in fact, a clown. I don’t have it in me to be a badass power player, making shit happen, starting festivals and taking over a corner of the bizzzz. I also don’t have it in me to be a douchebag. I just can’t fake it. I am proud to say, I am not a douchebag.    

I’m just going to stick to playing the drums and now trying to write this book and being happy.  But please, if you are thinking about getting into the bizzzz, take my advice and just buy the book and work your ass off for a band or something. If you go to school for this shit, you automatically start off as a clown. And it’s hard to work your way out of that when you are $80,000 in debt.                  

Man, I didn’t even touch on the Christian music industry. Talk about a fucked up world. Maybe that’s a whole book on it’s own. Ok, back to the story now...