What is the #1 problem in the music industry? Is it a lack of music talent? No. Is it a lack of creativity or innovation? No. Is it a lack of artist development? No. Is it a lack of smart and competent people to promote and market the music? No. The number one problem in the music industry is: Lack of transparency.
In July of 2015, the prestigious Berklee College of Music released a report entitled “Transparency and Money Flows.” The 28-page report gave details about what it called a “lack of transparency” in the music business.
The report made a shocking discovery: “That anywhere from 20% – 50% of music payments don’t make it to their rightful owners.” In other words, up to HALF of the money owed to Artists is not getting to them.
Why is this happening? The reason is because the music industry is “not transparent” when it comes to business and money. What is transparent? Transparent is when you are able to see through a thing. Transparent is when something is easy to notice or understand. Transparent is being honest and open.
Transparent is not being secretive. Transparent is being free of deception. Transparent means information is visible or accessible concerning business practices. From the Latin words “Trans” + “Parere” = To show oneself.
So if the Music Industry is not transparent, then what is it? The Music Industry is the opposite of transparent. When something is not transparent it is described as: cloudy, hazy, imprecise, murky, nebulous, sketchy, vague, illegible, undecipherable, unreadable, ambiguous, cryptic, enigmatic, mysterious, not obvious, obscure, unapparent, unclarified, unclear, incomprehensible, unintelligible. And as the rapper Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest would say: “Music Industry Rule number 4,080: Record company people are SHADYYY”
Is this lack of transparency intentional? Are music industry people trying to keep things unclear, on purpose? Why is it rare to find “errors” that go in favor of the artist? Why do “mistakes” with money usually benefit the record labels, managers, lawyers, everyone but not the artists? Regardless if it’s done on purpose or not, the end result is the same. By keeping business matters unclear, it makes it easier for an artist to be taken advantage of and not get their money.
Robert Greene, the author of 48 Laws of Power and The 50th Power, is famous for writing books about power, politics, and getting ahead in cut-throat environments, by any means. His books are extremely well researched, spanning hundreds of years of history, different cultures, and countries. Mr. Greene was once asked what he thought about the music industry. His response was:
“There is not a single more Machiavellian environment than the music industry, on this planet. It makes Hollywood look like kindergarten. It is ruthless. It is the Game of Thrones times five… it’s a shark infested environment.”
He’s right. It is hard to survive financially in the music industry. It’s like a horror movie. Monsters and vampires. Vampires out for your neck! The vampires I am referring to are manipulative people who drain others of their money and fulfill no apparent purpose. Vampires nourish themselves at another’s expense: One person gains, and the other person loses. The vampire metaphor describes a person who takes another’s energy to sustain their own life. Vampires must prey on others.
The first step to Protect Ya Neck in the music industry is to recognize a vampire when you see one, and deal with them accordingly. You must be able to identify an enemy in order to win the war. This enemy is no different. You must know who is attacking you, so you can be able to mount an effective defense. Many of these vampires will give you material things (recording advances, cars, jewelry, drugs) to keep you in debt and make you feel you owe them something. These are traps. These material “gifts” are very attractive, but you will ultimately find yourself paying way more than it’s worth. What they take from you does not compare to what they give you in return. Just like the rapper Drake says, these are enemies, a lot of enemies, a lot of people trying to drain you of our energy. Vampires are thirsty for blood. And the life blood of any business is cash. In the music industry, artists are getting their blood (cash) drained out of them by these vampires. So what do you need to do to Protect Ya Neck?
What Is The Solution To This Problem?
If shadiness, lack of transparency, and darkness is the problem, then what is the solution? Vampires need the darkness, the shadiness, the murkiness, to do their attacking. Vampires can’t attack you in the sunlight. The one thing vampires fear the most is sunlight. Sunlight is the solution.
Across many cultures sunlight is a symbol of knowledge. And in this case, knowledge is the only thing that will protect an Artist. The vampires in the music industry can’t attack you, and drain your blood (cash) if:
- You have Knowledge of how the game is structured
- You have Knowledge of how the game works
- You have Knowledge of what duties and roles people play in your career
- You have Knowledge of the most common ways vampires attack
- You have Knowledge about how to implement your goals
The Light of Knowledge is your defense. Artists without knowledge about the Music Industry get exploited and drained of their money. It’s that simple. The vampires draining an artist are not, all of a sudden, going become transparent on their own. Why would they do that? They have no incentive to change or be transparent. The only way to get results is if you know what you are looking for, if you know what to ask for, if you know what you are entitled to get, and if you know what steps to take to get what you want.
Do you think someone would be successful if they opened a car dealership, with no knowledge or understanding of that business? It takes more than being able to drive a car to run a successful car dealership.
To be successful in the car dealership business, a person has to have Knowledge of how a car dealership works.
Same thing with the Music Industry. You may love music. You may be really good at playing an instrument, singing, or rapping. You may be able to produce an amazing beat that gets everyone in the club dancing. Does that mean you are now also equipped to be successful, as a business, in music? The answer is clearly no.
Having talent in music does not translate to talent in business. Just like talent in business does not translate to talent in music. It’s tough to be successful in any business, when you are not informed about that specific business. It’s tougher when the people around you, whom you have hired to be help you run your business, are also not informed. It’s even tougher when the people you hire to advise you, are not giving you advice that benefits you. It’s most tough when your business partners are not being transparent, and not giving you the money that is rightfully owed to you.
Protect Ya Neck is an effort to shed light and advise artists on how to protect themselves from shady business practices in the Music Industry. Artists with knowledge about business get better deals. Artists with knowledge about business are better able to find, hire, and keep, good quality people around them. Artists without knowledge about the music industry:
- are targets for vampires
- have Advisors not looking out for their best interest
- get abused by their business partners
- get the blood (CASH) drained out of them
Protect Ya Neck! is a guide to understanding important business aspects of an artist’s career. Protect Ya Neck! will provide you tips to survive and thrive in the music industry. Protect Ya Neck! is an investment in yourself. If you plan on working in the music industry, you have to stay informed and knowledgeable. If you don’t stay informed and knowledgeable you are walking into a dark cave, full of blood-thirsty powerful vampires, with no defense.
Record labels, music publishers, managers, talent agents, and other players in the music industry have some of the best business and legal minds working for them on their contract negotiations. These guys have very smart, sharp, aggressive lawyers and business executives on their team. And there’s usually more than one of them. This is who an artist is going up against. You may think the music industry is not a competition. But I guarantee you that someone else does view this as a competition, and they will use whatever tools they have to win.
The vampires come in all forms. And they are usually closer to you than you expect. It has become normal to read in the news about artists suing their record labels, suing their managers, suing their business managers, suing their own family, because of abusive business practices. The proof is in the headlines:
- “Rihanna sues her Accountant for $35 Million for mismanaging her money”
- “Beyonce fires her Manager for stealing money from her tour”
- “Lil Wayne files $51 Million lawsuit against his Record Label for unpaid royalties”
- “Eminem is suing his Record Label for miscalculating digital sales of his music”
- “Ronald Isley sues his Booking Agent for taking $300,000 in concert deposits”
Are you prepared? Is your team prepared? If you are not in this to win, then why are you playing? Inevitably, an artist without knowledge of the business will get abused. They will have their money drained. They will cry to the world “I got screwed over by the music industry!” Playing the victim role is lame. It’s never good to be a loser in a game. It’s cool to be the winner. The music industry is no different.
In the information age, the side that is more informed, wins. The winner gets the prize, which is financial freedom. There are a lot of people making money from the work of an artist. As mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, 20% to 50% of money due to an artist goes to someone else. If you are an artist and worked so hard to create your art, don’t you want the money that is rightfully yours? To be one of the best in any business, you must be informed and you must have a strong team on your side.
The most successful artists are the most knowledgeable about the business side. Smart Artists know how to keep the best advisors around them. Smart artists know how to select business partners, they know what those partners are supposed to be doing, and they know how to keep everyone accountable.
Protect Ya Neck! Music Industry Survival Guide will be available for purchase on March 20, 2016.
Christian Farrad is a Business Manager, specializing in music and entertainment, at Wealth Management Associates LLC in New York City. He provides financial, accounting, and business management services for high-profile singers, rappers, songwriters, rock bands, music producers, managers, records labels, and executives. Prior to working at Wealth Management, Chris served as General Manager for independent rap record label Slip N Slide Records in Miami, Florida. As GM, Chris was involved in all areas of record label operations, including contract negotiations, recording budgets, marketing budgets, royalty statements, and coordinating with major label distributors, to generate multi-million dollar global sales.