Music, Biz and Baseball…

As you may know by now by reading my other blog posts, I’m really into baseball. There’s something about building and then playing on your own field of dreams that resonates with me.

When I think of baseball, I think about the business of baseball, and how team owners set up a mechanism to bring players through the system to get them to a point where they were of value to the major league team. I thought of the massive investment owners make and their commitment owning a professional team.

For those of you who may not be aware, there are many leagues in a professional baseball organization. There’s rookie ball, for those who were drafted out of high school or college. Then you have Class A,  for those who performed well in rookie ball and moved up. Then Class AA, for those who performed well in Class A and moved up. Then Class AAA, for those who performed well in Class AA and moved up.

Finally, you have the major leagues. The big time. The big show. The big payoff! This is the goal of every single kid who ever played in little league. They all aspire to play in the major leagues and enjoy the paycheck and notoriety that it brings.

And, isn’t that what we ALL want in our musical ambitions? Let’s admit it. We ALL want to get to the major leagues in our music careers. So, why then isn’t there the same kind of development system in the music business?

Well, there used to be. Back in the days when CDs cost $2 to produce and were sold at $20, the record labels were flush with cash. The labels signed artists whom they thought would bring a return on their investment. However, nine out of ten failed to recoup. That’s OK when you are making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit and have money to risk.

Fast forward to the several years ago, when it became a game of singles. The home run, the grand slams, the 1000% profit margin… those days were gone. When Apple determined a song was worth 99 cents and Napster made music flow free like a water fountain at the local park, the music industry seized up like a rusty gear on an old John Deer. Labels closed their wallets and held on to their precious cash. They stopped signing risky artists, and most importantly, they stopped developing emerging artists.

And that leads us to today. Now, it’s all about the DIY artist. You can find a million articles and videos on how to do your own music business all by yourself. Well, newsflash. That’s a transparent dangling carrot. Let me tell you, if you are a serious artist who is playing 100+ shows per year, you are recording 20+ songs per year, you have people contacting you for shows and events, and you have to handle your social networking…you don’t have the time to do it all. God made only 24 hours per day, and when you wear ten different hats that take four hours each per day to wear.. do the math. It doesn’t add up. Something has to give.

I have a saying, DIY can DYI.. meaning, “Doing it Yourself, Can Do Yourself In.” There is no way humanly possible a serious artist can handle the day-to-day business of running their business while still being creative. For starters, creatives are not the best business people. Their brains do not function in both hemispheres. They are more like Kirk and less like Spock. Kirk was the dramatic, wild-eyed risk taker who came up with crazy plans and then jumped off spaceships (and somehow survived). Kirks are always thinking about the next hit song, the next big album, the next killer tour. Their minds are 6 to 12 months down the road. Imagine if you tried to drive a car and you only looked at the horizon. What would happen to you? You’d crash and burn!

The staff of Nashville Artist Development have experienced this first hand. We’ve crashed, burned, been reborn from the ashes and are flying again! We’ve learned from our mistakes. Now, we are more like Spock (but we still have the creative side of Kirk happening!) In a nutshell, our mission is to help others who are just starting out, or who have been working on their careers for years and find themselves spinning their wheels. We want to teach them to avoid the same costly mistakes we see others making! We’ve seen this time and time again. DIY can DYI. Meaning, Doing it Yourself, can Do Yourself In.

Consider Nashville Artist Development as your coaches. Our approach is simple… we’ll take time on the front end, for no charge, to review and evaluate your content. We’ll see how active you are in your career to determine what class you are currently in. Some will be Rookie ball. That’s OK. Some will be Class A, that’s OK too. Some will be further along and fall into Class AA. Some may even be at the AAA level. Great! Some may be at the major league level and not even know it!

Our role at Nashville Artist Development is to provide an honest assessment of where you are at in your content and ambition and then assign a classification based on our assessment. We’ll then make an offer to you to work with us so you can move to the next level. We know it sounds a bit impersonal, but it won’t be. We’ll be with you every step of the way, helping you first to analyze and recognize, and then act upon a myriad of issues artists need to master before moving up to the next level.

Our criteria will be, quality of content, ambition/activity, live performances, following, and much more. If you are in Class A, we will work with you to move you up to Class AA, then on to AAA. Then, if we determine you are ready, we will present you to the majors. Can you say Ka-Ching?

All along the way, you will be involved in the process. We cannot build your career for you, but we can build your career with you. In the early stages, our services must be retainer based. Every artist is different, so we do not publish our retainer. Some may have an issue with paid management/consulting, but let me explain… When I first started playing baseball, my parents paid for my glove, my bat, my cleats. They drove me to countless games over the years in cars they paid for and filled with gasoline they paid for. They paid for me to me to be able to play in little league, pony league, travel teams and on and on. I paid to go to college to play baseball. (I did have a half scholarship, so that helped!)

It is no different nowadays in the music business. The days are long gone where a label pays for artist development. Now, it is up to each artist to put their money where their music career is. The issue is, whom do you do it with? Lots of choices, lots of sharks swimming out there to take advantage of gullible wannabes. We get it. We’re not that. Our credibility means everything to us, and we guard it with our entire being.

Here’s good news. As an artist moves through our system, our retainer will decrease, and we will move on to a percentage of commission based on income. This is where it gets good! Because the more our clients earn, the more we earn! This is a true partnership. We want to help our clients reach a point where they are making at least $50,000 per year in income. NAD would be paid a reasonable percentage of that income, plus a smaller retainer.

Class AAA would be 100% percentage based, and be for clients earning over $100,000 per year in their music career. We would be compensated a lower percentage of total income. There would be no retainer, no set fee. Totally 100% commissionable income.

As you can see, this is not a traditional management deal, but these are not traditional times. At least not until the AAA level then it becomes quite traditional. Why? Because in the early days of a career, there is little income already being generated by the artist. And any reasonable person can’t expect a professional to devote hours of their time working on spec. Spec work is a thing of the past in the music business.

Labels do not even start discussing a deal unless they know for almost 100% certain the return will be 10X as much as what they put into the artist. And that is only after the artist has proven they are ready, willing, and able to be signed and have a solid track record of shows, fans, and income. The bottom line is this: The music industry does not start an artist’s engine, they turbo charge it.

To sum this all up, there is work to be done. If you are serious about your career, we are serious about you! We cannot spend any of our time working with anyone who is not serious. This is not about signing as many artists as possible to get more money in each month on a retainer. Sure, it helps to keep the lights on, but we are far more than that.

We are 100% about success stories because as our clients succeed, we succeed! It only takes one to hit it big and hit some home runs! We want to help create that next Joe DiMaggio, the next Roberto Clemente, the next Alex Rodriguez. Will that be you? We don’t know until you contact us and fill out our Complimentary Eval. What do you have to lose, other than your time, your money, your career?

The time is right to get in the game and find out what field to play your game on. It is only then that you will know how to play the game, how to improve, and how to move up to the next level. The next step is yours. Game on!

By the way, read my blog post about your field of dreams here.

Keith Mohr
VP of A&R
Nashville Artist Development