I think this is an interesting question. Let’s eliminate the dream vultures – those who prey on the aspirations and naiveté of artists. We know scammers only work for themselves. But the good thing about those guys is that it’s harder and harder to be a dream vulture in this business. The prevalence of social media has meant that a dream vulture’s reputation gets around quickly. It’s increasingly difficult to protect an undeserved good reputation. Fortunately, I think we’re going to see fewer and fewer of these guys. It just stops making business sense when the cost of a destroyed reputation is greater than any money you’re likely to make – especially given the speed of social media and the ease with which we can Google anyone.So, that brings the question down to who do industry professionals work for? Well, I think we all work for ourselves – artists included. The trick is to write agreements and conduct business in such a manner so that our interests are aligned as tightly as possible. In the past, unaligned interests between artists and labels has been a problem. Sometimes it makes sense for a label to hold a release yet still have the act signed to an exclusive deal thus essentially making it impossible for the act to make any money. Meanwhile, the label had plenty of other acts and projects to promote.
Another problem is when industry people write usurious contracts with the artists. This occurs most often when the artist has weak negotiation position and no good alternatives to an agreement with the label. For every hour the act was practicing in the garage the label was paying a team of attorneys to figure out how to keep as much of every dollar of revenue they possibly could and then to write those ideas into the contracts. I believe that continues to occur today, even in the form of the new 360 deals.
So… just thinking out loud here:
One solution to this is for an artist to hire their own team of business professionals and consultants on an as-needed basis. If an artist can get financial backing from an angel investor (just like any other start-up) they can then pay the industry professionals for promotion, PR, artist development, production, distribution and whatever else they need and the artist can retain almost all of their rights (minus whatever percentage they sold to their investor) and they remain in control. I know most artists don’t have the kind of funding it takes to accomplish that, but it might be a better model for the future.
Then, there are the sites like Slicethepie and Kickstarter when artists can go try to raise funding from their fans. In theory they’re just raising funds for recording but they might do better if they reposition it as funding for all aspects and expenses involved in getting an artist from point A to point B. And, just like with any other start-up, the band would need to put a trusted CEO / Manager in place to assure the investors their investment would be properly and wisely managed. These business mercenaries that the artist would have to hire and are readily available and they’re looking for work now that the industry has laid so many of them off.
Please contact me if you would consider being:
1. A salaried band manager with a small success-based incentive fee and continued employment only guaranteed by your results.
2. An angel investor for the right act assuming it were managed professionally.