Tom Silverman, CEO of Tommy Boy Entertainment and the Force Behind the New Music Seminar Speaks with Kelli about where the Music Industry is Headed.
Kelli: Tom, where do you see the future of music and artistic control of content heading?
Tom: Artistic control. Wow. I don’t like to use the word control when I’m talking about artistic. I think the problem with the business right now is it’s based on control. The old music business was based on control. And you know, we’re starting to build a new music business that’s based on different values altogether … The old business really was based on power and control and coercion… all that “nice” stuff, and the new business really is based on cooperation, community, connection and collaboration. It’s a much different paradigm.
Kelli: Tom, why do you think traditional labels are so afraid to hire new artists and how do you think a new artist can succeed despite these roadblocks?
Tom: … Whenever you have a consolidated business or industry, they become risk averse. The more companies roll up and consolidate, the less risk they take. That’s true in any business. The labels would rather be conservative … it costs a million dollars to roll the dice every time you sign a new artist. It’s at least a million dollars in America even to see what you have. They’re saying,’ let’s sign less artists and let’s spend less money on those few artists that we do sign them, in marketing, and then let’s do 360 deals with them so we have a bigger return’
Kelli: And some artists, the smart ones, aren’t signing those kinds of deals, right?
. … If you want to be signed in the early part of your career, when you don’t have any hits yet and no history, you’re going to have to do a 360 deal – or you’re not doing a deal – that’s just the way it is – unless you go with a small independent.
Kelli: How should a new artist succeed, if in fact, they don’t get signed by a label?
Tom: Okay, a lot of what we’re talking about now is New Music Seminar curriculum. An artist has to do it themselves anyway at the beginning – there’s almost no artist being signed off of just hearing a tape or CD. That’s just not happening any more. They have to have some action – some story – some heat. They have to bring heat to the table before anyone cares about them. Before a booking agent cares about them, before a manager cares about them, before a label cares about them. Think about a label as an investor. If you’re a venture capitalist, you have to have some reason to sign the deal. It’s about managing risk and reward. We can’t get caught up in the emotions of music. It’s just a business reality.
One of the things we’re trying to do is to create a new business reality, an alternative to this. One which would please the artist in the long run, make money for the investor in a five or ten to 1 return on a hit, so that more money can flow back into the business and more artists get signed and more artists have an opportunity to break through. Not that you can’t break through on your own, but I have to say, I’ve done some research … in 2008, there were only 1500 artists that sold over 10,000 albums that year. There were only 200 new artists that had never done it before, and that includes Lady Gaga. So let’s use that number. I like to call it the obscurity level – when an artist breaks 10,000 albums, they’re in the game. So out of those 200, 192 were actually on independent labels; only 8 were doing it themselves.
Kelli: Tom, you relaunched New Music Seminar a couple of years ago (and I’m thrilled to be part of it this year, by the way). Share with the audience more about New Music Seminar. What’s behind it?
Tom: … Our message is a very specific one. The record business is dying. It’s sinking. There’s nothing that’s going to happen that’s going to change that. But there will still be a music business. We just don’t know what it will be, and the purpose of the New Music Seminar is to build the next music business, hopefully a profitable and sustainable music business. So we’re convening the architects and designers of the next music business. I mean, everyone knows how bad the record business is right now, and for the last ten years they’ve known it. We don’t waste a lot of time talking about that, because talking about a bad situation doesn’t change it. We want to be constructive. We’re not trying to fix a broken boat. We’re trying to build a new boat. It seems like other conferences talk about how do you bail water out of this boat to slow the sinking. Do we bail to the left or to the right?
Kelli: Yes, this is all about solutions and hope and a design for what comes next.
You can catch my show every Monday at 5pm PST. https://BlogTalkRadio.com/AllAccessRadio.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
Being able to support great artists and entrepreneurs as they break away from past successes in their lives and embark on the new is one of life’s biggest highs for me. Few performers have had the amazing success and influence of Irene Cara – I had the chance to interview Irene recently and to hear about her new group, “Hot Caramel.” The direction Irene Cara’s sound and life has taken is deeply inspiring. Just to remind everyone about Irene’s lifetime of successes, as an actress, Irene received the Image Award for Best Actress for her work with Diahann Carroll in the NBC Movie of the Week, Sisters. She also received an NAACP Image Award Nomination for her portrayal of Myrlie Evers in the PBS movie on Civil Rights Leader Medger Evers “For Us the Living.”
For Flashdance alone Irene won 5 major awards, including Top Female Vocalist-Pop Singles and Pop Single of the Year. As a songwriter her talent earned her an Academy Award, 2 Grammys, a Golden Globe and a Peoples Choice Award for Flashdance. She was also the first African American female to win an Academy Award since Hattie McDaniel in 1939, plus the first Hispanic female since Rita Moreno and the first bi-racial female ever to win in any category – pre-dating Halle Berry by nearly 20 years.
Here are a few excerpts from our interview. You can hear the entire Q&A at https://allaccessgroup.com/articles-and-resources/blog-talk-radio.
Kelli Richards: “You know, Irene, there’s just so much to say about the amazing career you’ve enjoyed. Your list of awards is long and impressive. If you’re able to choose just one or two, what have been the most shining moments in your career that you’ve been most proud of?
Irene Cara: “I think this new phase is really the most important thing to me now. I mean, I don’t like to look backwards. I like to live in the present and look forward – to look toward the future. I started in the industry as a child … and I did a lot of work as a 5 year old, 6 year old, 8 year old, 11 year old. You know, I did Electric Company when I was a child. I did my first movie at fourteen, a highly acclaimed, pretty much is considered an African-American classic called “Sparkle.” At the time that was unique, because that was during the whole black exploitation genre of films. There were very few films about people of color.
Of course, Roots was iconic classic television series that started the whole miniseries genre. I played Alex Haley’s mother as a young girl. I started my entire career as a child and then into my teens. And then, you know, Fame and Flashdance were pretty much the end of an era for me. Pretty much the highlight of a 20 year career for me…
So now, this is the stage where I consider the beginning of my adult career. It really embodies who I truly am as an artist.
… I’ve been a working artist since childhood, and this is the first time where I’m now free to express myself as an adult artist the way I see myself … not fulfilling someone else’s vision of what that is.
To learn more about Hot Caramel’s new double CD, visit https://irenecara.com/cdbook3.html
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
Gregg Allman has always been a guy who colors outside the lines, in my opinion. There’s no question that The Allman Brothers Band has serious staying power. Probably best known for “Sweet Melissa,” Allman is a bluesy, jam-band pioneer who practically invented Southern Rock. As most followers of Allman Brothers music probably know, Gregg has had a long career that began with he and his brother playing together when they were only in high school. They followed what is now an almost a non-existent route to success – they were signed by a label. Although the sound of the album they produced was definitely not what they wanted, it did begin a lifelong, winding success story for Gregg. (Sadly, his brother passed away in 1973.)
Allman would tell you himself that he’s been way up in his life, and he’s definitely been down. Last year the 63-year old musician had a liver transplant AND a new album in the works. Released just a few weeks ago, “Low Country Blues” was produced by T Bone Burnett. In it, Allman covers music from some of the music that most influenced his own life and voice – from Muddy Waters and BB King, to Buddy Guy and Magic Sam. Low Country Blues is definitely one of those “up” moments in Gregg Allman’s remarkable body of work. It’s rich with passion and implies a deep understanding of those highs and lows that life throws at all of us.
It was T Bone Burnett who brought Allman the initial idea of a cover album. Said Allman in a recent interview, “He told me some guy gave him a hard drive, it has 10,000 obscure blues songs… He says, ‘I’m gonna pick out twenty of ‘em and send ‘em to ya and you tell me what you think.’ He said, ‘They’re old, like Billie Holliday old, and when you listen to ‘em, I want you to think about us gettin’ in there and about bringin’ ‘em up to today.’” The recording process was amazingly easy and electrifying, said Allman in his easy southern drawl, “If it works right, it all turns real magic, and that’s what happened this time, more so I think than anything I’ve ever recorded. We got 15 masters in 11 days; let me tell ya, they just went Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop!”
Pop is the right word – the album definitely has chops. It has a unique, deep bluesy sound, easily recognized as pure Allman, and backed by a troupe of A-listers in the music world. In addition to Burnett and Allman, Doyle Bramhall II also played on guitar. The rhythm section was comprised of upright bassist Dennis Crouch and drummer Jay Bellerose, and the lineup included a brass section led by trumpeter Darrell Leonard (whose resume extends al the way back to his work with Gregg’s late brother, Duane Allman). Finally, the sounds of Night Tripper, Mac “Dr. John” Rebennack, completed the pack on piano. (Rebennack co-wrote “Let This Be A Lesson To Ya’” with Gregg on The Gregg Allman Band’s 1977 classic, Playin’ Up A Storm.) To add to the overall collaborative effort, the album’s one original composition, “Just Another Rider” was even co-written with longtime ABB guitarist Warren Haynes.
A gypsy at heart, Gregg Allman is both a traditionalist and a non-traditionalist. He is eager to get out and tour the new songs, kicking off in New York on March 10th at the historic Beacon Theatre and then winding his way around the east coast and then through Europe – landing back on this continent late in September with two dates in Canada. You can find his entire tour schedule at https://bit.ly/GreggAllmanTour and definitely pick up the album – at under twelve bucks; it’s a million-dollar participation in the voice of a true American music giant. https://amzn.to/GreggAllmanAlbum
“Places you been, things that you done, and somehow you’re still on the run,” Allman sings on the original song “Just Another Rider.” I think we’re all glad that this guy is still out there on the run, entertaining and inspiring the rest of us to do the same.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
Like much of the world, I’ve spent the last week thinking about John Lennon and the anniversary of his death on December 8th. It’s honestly hard to believe that thirty years have passed since he was taken from us in a single moment’s insanity. In fact, most of the time, it’s hard to believe that John’s really gone at all. His was far more than the voice of a generation – it was often the voice of our hearts and our conscience.
And as unimaginable as it is to hold space for the thirty years of unspoken words and unwritten songs, what I truly cannot get away from this week is the rest of John. As great a man as he was, and as truly generous a soul – especially to his fellow musicians – for two men out there, John Lennon wasn’t a Beatle – or an icon – he was simply Dad.
I met Julian Lennon for the first time several years ago. I was struck with how gracious he was and how engaging – how much he reminded me of his father and how strongly he had aligned with his Dad’s passion for peace and conservation. But I was also captured by the deep sadness he seemed to bear, just under that gracious surface. I remember sharing with Julian how sorry I was for his loss – and recognizing how he had lost his dad, twice really. It was a deeply heartfelt conversation and a genuine connection. In a career filled with world=renowned musicians and many celebrity relationships – it is one that has stayed with me at a core level.
Julian has his own voice of course. His new album “Everything Changes” should be out by next year, and in October he helped his mom, Cynthia Lennon, publicize the John Lennon Peace Monument in Liverpool. And Sean has found his own path as well, now co-leading a band with his musician / model girlfriend, Charlotte Kemp Muhl (Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger.)
But all successes aside, it’s still Julian I think of often – and Sean. How the thread of their lives with their dad, John Lennon, was forever cut short by something so senseless and beyond comprehension. I have always been struck by how much Julian looks and sounds like his father – in the way that only fathers and sons can. In fact, one of my career aspirations has always been to create a benefit concert with Julian and Paul McCartney around John Lennon’s music. To use the talents I have to honor how much was left unsaid, by one of the people who most deserved to hear it – his son. Julian embodies his own gifts and talents along with his father’s.
I suppose that is really my attempt to make sense of these things – this loss – to find some deeper meaning. To find some thread of understanding that will provide some peace – for Julian and for the rest of us. To knit a golden thread through time and space and recapture one of the greatest voices of humanity, and to simply risk listening and hearing what we MIGHT some day achieve – if we would only imagine. John’s greatest gifts were surely his music and his wish for peace and love which inspired and sparked a generation. And we are truly fortunate that his legacy and grace endures and burns most brightly in Sean and Julian.
Kelli Richards, CEO, The All Access Group, LLC
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