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“Courtney Love, Britney Spears, do they make money?”
Oh OK, for those that don’t wish to go, I’ll give you a quick run down on what she is carping on about: ‘piracy and music’...about record labels taking too much money and wanting all the profit....
She quotes the story about a ‘bidding-war band’ that gets a huge 20% royalty deal and a million dollar advance.....got it so far?
Album costs $500,000 to record. (unbelievable?) Manager take $100,000 for 20% commission on the rest and they pay $25,000 each to their lawyer and business manager.
That leaves $350,000 for the four band members to split. After $170,000 in taxes there’s $180,000 left. that comes out to $45,000 per person. That’s to live on for a year until the record gets released.
Record sells a million copies. The band releases two singles and two videos. Videos cost $1 million in total to make, and 50% is payable by the band, recouped from royalties. Understood it all?
Band gets $200,000 for in tour support which is 100% recoupable. The band are also charged $300,000 on independent radio promotion.
So total it up, the band owes the record company $2 Mill.....
If all the million records are sold at full price then their share at 20% will come to...you guessed it $2 Million. So the band earn Zilch, Zero, Naaada.
That is the quick story. Of course she goes on about her main bitch...that the Record Company own the total rights to the recordings...forever....till the sky falls down (a new quirk in recent US legislation).
The Record Company of course, at the end of the day make (according to Courtney’s figures, which I wouldn’t dispute) $6.6 Mill.
But I am on the side of ‘intelligent thinking through’.
As with all ‘articles’ like this on Web Sites, there is never the other side of the argument or discussion. It is one sided ‘venting of spleen’. OK, I do it myself....but we’re not talking of me now....there is a guy in Australia, as I write this, using the name of my band and using publicity photos of me and my brother, to promote his tour into venues that we play when we visit Australia....am I ‘venting spleen’...I’m spitting bricks...I’m not venting spleen....how do I stop it?
So, back to Courtney:
As with all this sort of ‘rage’ she doesn’t give the full and true story. She doesn’t say who the band is (they never do). She doesn’t say who the Record Company is (they never do). OK, she mentions Polygram but were they directly involved?
So what am I getting at?
All these problems boil down to one thing: “Hey man, I’m too busy writing, travelling, press interviews, sh*gging, recording, sh*gging, clubbing, sh*gging, meetings, sh*gging, rehearsals, sh*gging, doctors (too much sh*gging!)”
You should, very quickly, realise that Making Real Money in the music industry, as distinct from creating boring, self indulgent, 15 years out of date, poetry put to music, takes as much learning as studying to be a brain surgeon....our Business is just as demanding.
It's no coincidence that the second word of Show Business is 'Business' and it is no coincidence that we refer to our business as the Music *Industry*...these points fly completely over the heads of most 'wannabes' or 'used to be's' on the periphery of our business.
Wow...what a contentious statement.
But it is true...for instance:
I was given, at the start of my career, the definitive way of claiming expenses, such that every single cent I spend is directly deductible from my tax....I should add here that my ‘Tax Hero’ is Ross Pero who reputedly pays 6% tax.
That system has made me $fortunes through my career. I have given the system to every person in show Business who will listen. How many do you think use it? Now remember it can make you a $fortune....Answer? No one...not one...Zero.
Does that tell you something about our fellow Hit Songwriters, Recording Deal seekers, performers, musicians?
“Yeah, Dec, my accountant looks after that sort of thing...he’s great!” Oh really? I bet he looks after the check book as well.
Now let’s get back to the nitty gritty.
The Recording Deal:
I can give Real, Genuine, ‘Bin there a million times, seen every conceivable, fiddle, scam, trick there is...but who does a ‘newbie’ go to? You guessed it, his Mom’s lawyer who knows nothing, except the size of the client’s check book.
Every Member of my ‘Serious Writers guild’ has 10am-9pm access to me by phone and 24/7 access by e.mail and fax and I always answer e.mail.
When I came into this business, I had no dreams of $1 Million advances....I believed in my talent. My first Hit was made on a session where I got a session singer’s fee. Advance? What advance?
I was earning my money, putting the food on my table, doing what I did best then, and do best now....’making money from music’...whether ‘live’, session singing...session playing...I played mouthorgan on a track for Phil Everly...wish I could remember which one....I played tambourine on a Stones track...wish I could remember which one...then Georgie Fame, Alan Price....
So how come the band Courtney chomps on about are sitting around living off $45,000 for a year?
My Son, Olli, runs the Students Union at Surrey Institute of Art and Design (largest art, design, packaging University in Europe) he has four live stages there...big recording artists....his view? “Dad, they all come here, six months into their career, the huge advance is spent on booze, clubbing, cars they can’t afford, gear they don’t need, clothes they never wear....they are skint and starving...the rider? They ask for champagne and caviar...I give ‘em a good hot meal and crates of lager...and they love me.”
Back to reality:
When that first song of mine charted.....do you think I couldn’t negotiate a better deal? Come on? Is the Pope a Catholic? They NEEDED me and my band.
We had talent..they knew that...we had mountains more to give...they knew that....they needed us more than we needed them...they knew that also..so?
Dick Rowe (the then boss of Decca) slipped the receipts and all evidence of the payment for our ‘session singing’ services out of the filing cabinet and replaced it with a proper contract.
We knew our business....we learned it...we listened to the guys who had done it before...we asked the questions and we got the answers...
Exactly what I tell guys in my Guild who want to make hits, want a recording contract, want to perform, want to make $Millions, want to be a Britney Spears.
So back to Courtney Love and her anonymous band:
How come they didn’t know this stuff? How come their lawyer didn’t know to negotiate? Maybe they hadn’t a big enough check book?
I was skint, broke, starving for Goodness sake...but I knew that here was the time to change the arrangement...AND THEY DID!
I bet her guys go everywhere by Limo.....who pays? The band does!
One of the biggest scams in the Industry.
I paid ONCE....then I realised....whehhh! Didn’t take me long to learn.
Biggest Rule in your Show Bizz Life:
Never use a Limo unless someone else pays
$200,000 in tour support:
....who ever sold them on that plan?
When we hit big...we were a money making machine....opening a new shop? No problem, so long as the press are there when the crowd crush forward and break the store windows...and by the way, an envelope with $30,000 in my back pocket please.
‘Top of The Pops’ TV at 7pm, a quick P.A. at the local Irish Club....packed to suffocation, girls crushed, more publicity, couldn’t even get to the mics. to say hello....we still got that envelope. ‘Johnny Carson’, same deal....If you appear at venue ‘D’ there are always venues ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ on the way.
Visit a factory, more press, back a truck up to the loading bay and fill it with goodies...play a small night club venue as a surprise, back up the truck at the booze loading bay....made for a very good Christmas.
I bet that band never even dreamed of merchandising?
A sheer license to print money....Courtney, you mention touts selling stuff outside venues. Tried it ONCE with us...Birmingham Hippodrome....One of the touts’ cars was found in the middle of a river.....never happened again....think I’m kidding? Think again....
Every Live Gig I go to, today, I am shocked and amazed at how bad the merchandising is....Robbie Williams....the concessionaire selling a few crumpled tee shirts at a filthy stall...come on...get real.
OK the Big Money:
When we had our second, third, fourth hit, nation-wide tours (more lovely merchandising), Festivals, record breaking TV shows (yes, Ed Sullivan) do you think the Decca Record Company would not re negotiate? Do be serious....they couldn’t wait.
We told them we would allow them to distribute for us, but we now would record everything ourselves, using their studio facilities as before. We would own everything, in perpetuity. And by the way, did we hike the royalty?
So Courtney....where are your band’s heads? "Oh my lawyer takes care of all that stuff.” Oh really! He’s doing a fine job so far, you haven’t even got enough to buy your Mom a holiday, with how many Hits?
To a lawyer you are a check book, to an accountant you are a check book, no more, no less.
It’s YOU that has to have the knowledge.
“But I like to write the songs, I like to record and do the creative stuff” (and sh*g every rat in sight) “I’m not into all this ‘business’ stuff. I’ve never understood it.”
Well, dear boy...starve! I have no sympathy for you.
So Courtney’s guys lost all their copyrights, all their money. WHY?
The real reason is : THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO MANAGE THEIR AFFAIRS.
Ain’t that the top and bottom of it?
How come I’ve ended up as the most knowledgeable guy around. I control every bit of my property. I control all the finances, with my brother. Even after all our old Hits had their day, they could all be recorded again in Total Digital Sound, in MY STUDIO with ME producing...how can you go through a career like mine and not learn to be the best producer around? I learned from the best. Courtney’s guys were most probably at the pin ball machines, reading mags. or ...OK, I’ll say it again: sh*gging.
Yes it’s hard work, learning, doing, producing, writing, publishing, touring, merchandising, designing...but hey....if you don’t want to do it then you WILL GET RIPPED OFF. I release my 60th album next month. that’s the difference. Recording the 61st. now......
I don’t blame the Record Companies, Publishing Companies...they only take advantage of those who are there to be taken advantage of...that’s business.
I never begrudge being beaten in business by a guy who gets up earlier than me...Does that make sense? And the Britney Spears thing...
Will she be a new Madonna? Madonna the $Zillion music Empire. Has Britney got her arms around the cost of everything? That Courtney band paid $500.000 to record an album? Does Britney pay for limos? Does she re negotiate her contract each year?
Does she have a ‘hands on’ interest in her merchandising? Does she ring the pressing factory everyday to get the returns? [I did]
Does she call the Publishing Company every day [Irving Berlin called his publishers every working day of his life...he told me when he called me in New York when I had his song ‘Marie’ at Number 5]
Learn the business....like Rod did, like Mick did, like Phil Collins did, Elton John with his ‘Rocket Records’...heck like I did! Garth Brooks? Tom Jones? R Kelly? Dr Dre? Timbaland? Craig David?
And if you are a writer who is so, so interested in just the writing, then don’t EVER complain when you are ripped off...it’s a tough business, a cruel business, but WOW...
What a Business!
Dec’s advice? If you like my style (and you'd be mad not to) then link now to www.makehits.co.uk [application page] to join this elite band of successful songwriters.
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