How Much Did David Bowie Sell His Music Rights For The New Music Business

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The New Music Business

People like to talk about how the music industry as a whole is. The truth is that the current situation is not a radical departure from historical precedent; In fact, it is cyclical that our industry has its ups and downs. There are old and new reasons for his sorry status, and in my humble opinion he is doing himself a disservice. The painful decline, decay, and warped artist/label relationship has been going on for decades and is now outdated—it’s borderline criminal. A typical “old model” record deal consists of the label owning basically 90% of the world rights and requiring the artist to be perfectly happy with a 10% slice – and that’s accounting for the label – which I’ve always found. Be more creative than music.

In other art fields, there is a fair system that values ​​the creative source and provides incentives on the distribution/advertising side as well. For example, visual arts, it’s a 50/50 model (give or take) – half for the artist and half for the dealer. Call me simple, I understand this split! Art and commerce in harmony… it can happen.

The current decline of the music industry is often blamed on illegal downloads and free peer-to-peer Internet access to copyrighted material. I respectfully disagree with this assumption. There is absolutely no data to back up this huff, in fact more new artists are discovered through these sources as they are able to reach listeners and build their own fan base. New careers are coming due to the simple fact that music is heard. Where else can you find new music?

The good people who oppose peer-based systems are the same people who reject the promotion of inexperienced new artists (usually at the major label level). People always want to hear new music, so stream and download songs. The truth is, if they really find something they love, they will buy it, go to shows, buy merchandise, and everyone will get what they want. In a world where it’s almost impossible to get radio play and very often there are only one or two good songs on any given release, why blame consumers for wanting to hear it before they buy it? You have to try a cologne before you get past its scent, right? The same thing…

Some might argue that sales have declined because the music spoon-fed through monopolized pay-per-view radio is too safe, redundant, and yes, boring. They have a point – quality control isn’t what it used to be. There was a time when I had long, in-depth discussions about music with A&R people at record labels—not numbers, bottom lines, demographics, or cosmetic surgery—about MUSIC. A&R doesn’t actually mean “fear and run” as you might think, but you’ll hardly know it when some scared executives act.

In 2007, I see the main problems in our industry as a lack of vision, intuition and willingness to work with new artists. If a major label signing doesn’t post huge numbers for the company’s shareholders upon its initial release, the chances of a follow-up record are slim. Too much money is spent on the first shot, and if it doesn’t hurt, the money is gone for that all-important second shot. Speaking of pressure… which artists do their best work under these conditions?

For the exact opposite scenario, think back to Warners or A&M in the 70s and how many deserving (and of course some undeserving) artists were given a second, third or fourth chance to prove themselves and build a following. The artists that caught on never stopped selling because they are timely. Great music was born and supported – now huge sums of money continue to be made from catalog sales because the music continues and these companies own valuable copyrights. It’s time to get back to the long view, not just desperate quarterly sales from cookie-cutter trends or year-end superstar releases.

A few years ago, Bono accepted U2’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and urged the music industry to believe in and embrace the artists they sign. He firmly stated that if U2 came out with their first record today, they would quit and have no chance of a career. The same can be said for most recording artists who have long, distinguished careers in the industry.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pragmatic and understand the need for bean counters in any business. It just seems to me that as long as our business is run by fear-based people who don’t know (or really love) music, we have little to expect from music today or in the future. Money management and math are rarely music. So why is the old model music business collapsing? The zoo is run by monkeys!

Call me crazy, but I miss the views I used to have sitting in the big chairs. Where are the passionate, modern record company leaders who had the guts and the guts? You know, the dreamers like John Hammond and Ahmet Ertegun who found unknown geniuses that changed the world. They knew that counting beans counted for quality.

The former president of Warner Brothers Records told me recently that his job has nothing to do with music. For example, he was regularly asked (by the shareholders of his parent company) how many records a particular artist would sell for their next release, when the band hadn’t even written any songs yet!

So why am I still in the game? Am I helping arrange the proverbial sunbeds on the Titanic? Sorry, I say let it sink in. Someone has to stand up for the quality and integrity of the music (as well as the music makers) and I believe it is my duty as an independent record producer to do just that. I know first hand that music providers are treated like bottom feeders. Remember a few years ago when Universal bought Interscope, A&M, Geffen and a few other labels? At that time, I had signed three main projects. In studio time, this amounted to more than a year’s worth of bookings (even on a longer production schedule with pre-production, meetings, etc.). When there was a big merger and one of the labels dropped the artist I was supposed to produce, I didn’t even get a call. Maybe I shouldn’t have been shocked by this… What, did you inform the producer that the project was cancelled? No. I guess they just figured I’d read about it in the trades. hmm…

After all this, I suddenly redefined my role and significantly changed my paradigm. I realized that music never, ever stopped me, so this was the music I was going to serve if I continued. The music business follows the music – not the other way around. No more tail wagging at the dog.

This is when TikiTown studios came into existence. Hit or Myth Productions found a beautiful home on the edge of San Francisco Bay, creating the perfect home away from home for artists from around the world. The building and the museum-like interior offer a feeling that inspires and comforts people who have spent much of their lives in studios that feel like well-appointed caves. Having built enough studios from the ground up, I decided this time to find an atmosphere where music could be born and just load it into gear, which is exactly what we did. By experimenting with different rooms and sounds, we finally achieved the best of both worlds – creature comforts and state-of-the-art acoustics.

Now, after working with most of my musical heroes, I’ve created a company that builds careers with new artists we believe in. These artists are my new heroes. When it comes to music styles, we go with the Duke Ellington school of thought; “There are only two kinds of music – good and bad.” My skills as a music producer allow me to work with different types of artists and types of music. This year alone I prepared a hard rock project, opera and several other genres in between. In our company, we follow and trust our instincts. And as it turns out, our instincts don’t stink!

For new artists, success today means a fighting chance to actually make a living from music. From that point on, it can grow into much bigger and more useful areas. When a new artist establishes themselves in the studio and delivers an incredible product, they are in a strong position when it comes time to bring their work to the masses. Having finished goods and not having a huge payout for the label, it provides the necessary evidence needed to find a fair and equitable deal for distribution.

We are always looking for different artists because we believe they have the best chance to create their own unique career. If someone does something different from other people, then he is an artist who can stand the test of time. If you look at my record, no one stands out as the flavor of the month artist. They are mostly lifers, just like me.

Scott Matthews, 2007

Mill Valley, CA

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