Thursday, June 17, 2010

Are you an Outlaw or just another poser with no game?

How to be an Outlaw and INDIE in a MAJOR way.
Being indie in a major way is a concept that caused a lot of grief for me over the years. However, as the machine – or business of music – begins to go through an extreme metamorphosis this concept is taking on new meaning and drawing the attention of more people as time goes by. I often hear music professionals and industry kats say, “What does it mean to be major in an indie way.” First, get it right: INDIE in a MAJOR way.
Quite simply, indie in a major way means to be an Outlaw and go against the grain without any recourse for what others think, but there's more to the formula. To illustrate, the indie scene is gaining momentum and making people recognize it is something to understand or consider when framing one’s business strategy or professional career. I stress that being an Outlaw is great and the rewards are amazing, especially if one is professional and producing commercially consumable product.
To sign, or not to sign….. that seems to be the not so million dollar question these days. I say, “If you win and no one loses, SIGN IT, SIGN IT, SIGN IT, or run the risk of living the 360 disease [as I term it] if you have the skills and politics in your corner.” The 360 disease is better known as a 360 deal wherein the label fronts revenue to the band or artist to be recouped over the course of the agreement or lifetime of the record, and then keeps 360 degrees of all revenue during the lifespan of the product. It can be argued, this type of 360 deal makes you a slave to the grind but for some it is a viable option.
In the land of independence, I had the opportunity to meet and work with the Red Dirt Rangers, whose sound is indescribable and diverse yet oh so entertaining, and they are the embodiment of INDIE in a MAJOR way; these guys pioneered the road for folks like me and the Outlaw Gang. As Brad Piccolo said to me before a press conference in March to announce the Backwoods Bash, “To heck with being told what to do and high falutin’ ways; keep your independence.” John Cooper went on to tell independent musicians, “Value your craft and live YOUR dream; it’s tough but the rest takes care of itself.”
If you dare to be an Outlaw this means it’s time to “Do It Yourself” (DIY) if you want to be successful and follow the footprint that has been left by the likes of the Red Dirt Rangers and many other independent pioneers who do not bow down to the corporate antics and politics of building a revenue stream to monetize your music. John Cooper graciously elates, "Music is for everyone." It cannot be controlled by corporations.... Napster and Limewire are proving that theory in the digital age.
And, more importantly, if you decide to go down the path of independence, you damn sure better “Do It Yourself” and do it RIGHT (DIY_R).
When people find out I have worked in NYC and LA to produce albums on iTunes and other digital distribution networks, as well as placed music in terra based stores, they want to be my friend and get my unadulterated help. As a professional who has forged my own way and helped many bands and producers, there is nothing more despicable than some shcmo giving me a home CD labeled with a Sharpie marker that is illegible and then asked, “Can we do business?” For the love of God people…. have some class.
In regard to album covers, I want so often to ask, “Has your mother seen this?”
And I often times wonder if their mother did see the artwork, did she put it on the fridge with a magnet? Or, is it the other extreme of the spectrum where the musician is so potentially embarrassed of what mom might think that she never sees the album cover design – thus a different kind of failure in design and import. At any rate, the bottom line is album sales and the only way to accomplish success is to FOCUS ON YOUR IMAGE.
Let me stress, image is everything. So, if you are going to use Photoshop or a Windows based image editor to design your own album cover….. please do it right.
I have always advocated and believed that fans, customers, clients or whatever you want to call them need to feel the need to interact with the music and/or product. On some level they need to feel a desire or impulse to “click here” or move their experience through what I call the “Wal-Mart scratch and sniff” test. If the music or album cover doesn’t look or feel like everything else you see in the store, there will most likely not be an interaction or a sale.
One more note on success: relationships. Real-lationships. Do not burn bridges, go out of your way to make amends or remedy the situation. Walk away and ignore those who have done you wrong but never, never burn a bridge. You never know when you will need to cross paths with that person. However, if you do encounter that one individual that is just plain despicable, simply turn the other cheek and remember what the rabbit Thumper said in the movie Bambi said, “If you can’t say somethin' nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all.”
Lastly, yes, my friends, even relationships have to be built and managed by yourself in the world of independent music and they have to be done right (DIY_R). Trevor
During the research and preparation of this article, I came across several interesting articles that may or may not have any direct bearing on the creation of this piece of work. The only piece of advice with the articles below is keep it real and if you’re going to be an Outlaw go out with guns o’ blazing…. The right way!
Clear Channel Killed the Indie Artist: Caught Red Handed?
Indie Success Video?

Friday, June 4, 2010

We Did It Again in Twenty-ten: Backwoods Bash

Dear Friends, thanks for helping Matt and me accomplish the impossible this weekend with an event to celebrate independence, music, and our freedoms to be Americans who can worship in a variety of ways and honor our veterans. A special thanks to the Comanche Codetalkers, Cheyenne-Arapahoe, and Lenape Singers for their contribution to the worship service and support over the years with the veterans ceremony.

Many said we would never be successful without a huge budget. However, a lot of sweat-equity, work ethic, and passion for independent music, set the tone and we did it again in Twenty-ten just like we said we would. I realize the support you have given Matt and me over the years with my Outlaw vision. Matt and I teamed up “Outlaw Style” to formalize our efforts because we saw the realization that Middle America and Oklahoma in particular has A LOT OF UNRECOGNIZED TALENT. As Matt said in an interview last week regarding 100+ national submissions, “The judges voted and the Oklahoma Sound prevailed.” Most of you know that I have been doing music production or promotions for 13 years and have seen just about everything there is to the music business – most recently sitting in Frank Sinatra’s old office with my wife and a good friend in NYC while talking politics about the state of the business; record companies must change to embrace their artists or die. Matt Jostes has 11 years of festival experience and expertise to add to that mix, which is why we can cater to the artists and serve the fans with a wonderful mix of good tunes!

I realized a very long time ago when I started Outlaw Entertainment in 1997 that it was time to go against the grain and not play by the rules yet work within the confinements of industry standards and best-practices. Many people thought it would never work. Then, a few years ago Matt and I joined forces. Under my old record label, I helped produce, develop, and sell 6 out of 7 bands to independent and major labels before taking a “real job” with benefits as my mother would say. This was an average of 1 band every two years. Now, Matt and I are in the business of developing 30 bands a year while providing them with a bona-fide outlet and real industry exposure. The music we have produced and promoted can be found in the All Music Guide as well as on iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, and the Verizon Network.

The past no longer matters because the future of music is here now for independent music and festivals like the Backwoods Bash Music and Camping Festival. Our families have sacrificed and been frustrated with the level of commitment we have passionately put into the Backwoods Bash Music and Camping Festival. This year it finally resulted in what we always knew would happen……………… when music and water meet head to head with friends and family on Memorial Day Weekend. With your support, others are now trying to mimic us and compete. What these people do not realize is this is not a competition and we will stand the test of time. I know this.

The Backwoods Bash is about: Good music. Good people. Good Times.

I am speaking for Matt and am most sure he would agree with everything in this letter. I am also speaking for our friends Damien Hartzell, Sean Claes, Gerald Hacker, Brad Cook, Chuck Taylor, Kyle Heideman, Amadae Clark, Court and JC Egger at Thundermoon Ranch (the midwives as they have been coined), our families, and most importantly, Sean Clark who jumped on board last year to form the three amigos with Matt and me. These friends have been very instrumental in supporting and motivating us when we were down; if I forgot to mention you it is only because I’m exhausted and a bit delirious from heat exhaustion and sleep deprivation. Regardless, I look forward to finding ways to work with everyone again in the future!

Again, thank you all for believing, supporting, and promoting a great cause Backwoods style like a real Outlaw to support the Make a Difference Foundation.

Sincerely, Trevor C Lane