On occasion young artists will come to me and ask me how they can get their careers started. Yesterday a young lady sent me her video for me to critique and then give advice. I told her that she did the right thing in making the video, but the most important part of what she was trying to accomplish had to do with her marketing concept. You might have a great song. You might even have a great video. However, if no one knows about you then all your efforts will be wasted. Getting a deal with a record label will probably not help out much. Labels have a ton of artists already signed to them, but they only promote a small number of the ones they have, thereby using the other signed artists as tax write-offs. I remember years ago talking to a lady who had a couple of hit songs on the R&B charts. Her name was Vesta Williams and she was a “great” singer. We were all riding together in a bus headed to a gig and she and I talked about her career. She mentioned that she was signed to the same label as Janet Jackson. She was a little heavy (but she was very curvy and carried her weight well). She said that she could “out sing” Janet easily (and she was right… She had a tremendously powerful voice that would rattle the monitors onstage). At one point in her life she was a background singer for Chaka Khan. During our conversation she told me that she planned on losing some weight so that she could get some of that “slim girl money” they were paying Janet. She knew the label was investing all of their money behind promoting Janet and she felt that she was a much better singer. However, the issue wasn’t really about singing. Janet already came from a very well known family music name. She was a Jackson, and the Jackson 5 (along with big time brother Michael) was already famous. Janet’s family name was very influential in helping to promote her career. Needless to say, Vesta “did” lose the weight but eventually she still got dropped from her label. Janet eventually got dropped too, but much later down the line after she had already generated millions of dollars from her career. I am mentioning this because too many young up and coming artists feel that their product is all they need to make it big. Young rappers think that just because their lyrics are great that they don’t need much more to achieve fame on a global level. Right now the music industry is struggling. Years ago artists could sell millions in CD and record sales, but with the rise of the internet (and people sharing music files for free) those days seem to be long gone. While it is a bad time to start a record label it is a good time to be an up and coming new artist looking to venture out. Right now a new artist will have much more control (and will be able to make more off the sales of their music) than if they were signed to a label. Labels have taken advantage of many artists over the years. That is why most of them have now disappeared from existence. As an artist you can promote yourself and be responsible for your own success. That is why it is “imperative” for young artists to concentrate on the marketing concept as well as the music. If no one knows about your music then no one will be able to purchase it. No artist will make it on just “talent alone.” Once you become a businessperson then you are on the right road to building your career. Labels are businesses. They are looking to make money. They are not looking to be fair to anyone. Be fair to yourself. If you can’t get radio play then find OTHER ways to promote your career. Think beyond the limitations of the box, and make it all work… Thank you for checking out my Daily Thought, and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.
Janet Jackson onstage with Brett Jolly
I have found that a lot of people honestly believe that when they no longer hear their favorite artist’s music being played on the radio that the artist has virtually “stopped recording music.” While that can be the case in some instances, “rarely” does an artist stop recording music and rarely does he or she even “want” to stop being played on the radio. Since most of the big name radio station conglomerates are practically “owned” by the few big record labels that are left, most of the artists you hear will be ones signed to one of those labels. You have to remember that radio and television are both businesses with the prospect of trying to make money. Labels can have “many” artists “signed” to them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will put all of their efforts and money into promoting “all” the artists they have signed. Some (if not most) of those artists will end up being just “tax write offs,” which means that their “lack of success” can be written off at tax time. Payola (the practice of paying radio stations and DJ’s to play your music) is supposed to be illegal, but it still exists through more “discreet” measures. Just try getting your song played on a big name radio station without money or a connection to a label and see what “doesn’t” happen for yourself. The labels will continue to promote an artist until it determines that this artist is no longer popular or no longer selling. Even though that artist may still be signed to the label, they will opt instead to put their money behind a “newer and younger sensation” who they will consider to be more “marketable.” Thus your artist has “disappeared” from the music rotation and that is when people wonder “what happened to them.” A long while ago I was performing with an awesome artist by the name of Vesta Williams. She was a little chubby, but extremely wild and sexy and when she hit a high note the monitors would literally “rattle” onstage. An ex background singer to Chaka Khan, she was signed to the “same” label as Janet Jackson, and while she could sing “way better’ than Janet the label decided to promote Janet more over her. For the record, Vesta did have a few moderate hit songs (I believe her biggest one was a song entitled “Congratulations”) but still the company would not promote her over Janet. She told me that she decided to lose weight because she knew she was more talented than Janet and in essence she wanted to make some of that “slim girl” money from her label. She knew that the label didn’t care about how great a singer she was. They were only interested in who was more marketable. Janet was a member of a very famous family and her brother, Michael, was the “King of Pop,” so naturally the label went with the “bigger” name. For those people who don’t know, Janet’s hit album was not originally meant for her. Her producers, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, had originally produced the tracks for an artist by the name of Cherelle. She had some marginal R&B hits with Alexander O’Neal. However, once Janet was signed they decided to erase Cherelle’s voice “off” the tracks and substitute them with Janet as the lead voice. That is how her hit tunes “Nasty Boy” and “What have you done for me lately” came to be. This also shows you what can happen to artists “behind the scenes” of record labels. The good thing was that Cherelle was substantially paid for her efforts, but her career kind of “fizzled out” after that. Vesta has since passed away(She was eventually dropped from her record label), and the music industry is still operating the same way. Anyone and everyone is “expendable” to them, and they can “cut you off” at any point no matter how popular you are. If you remember, even Michael Jackson’s last few albums before he died didn’t sell that well. That is because the industry determines “who it wants to be a hit artist.” Michael never stopped recording… They just stopped investing a lot of money on him. Hopefully I have managed to give you just a little insight into the music industry this morning. I thank you for checking out my Daily Thought and as always I wish you the very best that life has to offer.
Janet Jackson and Brett Jolly onstage