I just finished spending two weeks in the LA area for the licensing/production retreats I co-hosted with my producer, Gary Gray. It was an amazing two weeks. It was so great to meet so many people that I’ve worked with online and on Skype, in person.
In addition to meeting all the musicians who attended the retreats, I finally got to meet one of my “star students”, Eddie Grey. Eddie has taken several of my courses and has gone on to parlay the information I teach, as well as what Gary Gray teaches about music production, into a thriving career as a TV composer. I had a chance to go to Eddie’s home studio in Sherman Oaks and see what he does in action. It was really cool to see him working behind the scenes. He’s a super hard working guy who is crushing it right now with licensing and syncs. I’ll be bringing him back on my podcast soon to share what he’s up to.
In addition to the retreats I hosted, I also managed to record three new tracks with Gary, meet up with five different people in the industry who I previously connected with via my podcast and had a chance to meet several new music supervisors and publishers. It was a jam-packed two weeks of working, recording and networking.
I left LA with a renewed sense of focus both about the business aspects of what I do related to running my website, as well as a new sense of purpose and direction related to the music I make and license. I probably learned more about the music licensing business and music business in the last two weeks than I have in the previous two years. It was really that great of a trip.
As excited as I am about my trip and as excited as I am about the future, there were some slightly discouraging conclusions I came to about the music business as well during this trip. Some of these conclusions aren’t necessarily new, but were simply reaffirmed based on different things I was told and heard during my recent trip.
One of the great things about connecting with people in person is they tend to open up and give you a more unfiltered take on things. Although I was super inspired from most of the people I met and connected with, there were some people I met in the industry that were more than happy to share some of the darker sides of the music business with myself and Gary.
Most industries have a dark side and a certain element of corruption and politics if you dig deep enough, but the music industry, due I suppose to the nature and economics of the industry, has a particularly high degree of corruption, shady people and pitfalls to watch out for.
I won’t name names, but I spoke with a well connected and respected publisher who told Gary and I numerous horror stories about behind the scenes deals between supervisors, elements of payola in the licensing industry, stories of artists buying spotify streams and youtube views to artificially boost their popularity and on and on.
Of course, none of this is really that surprising to me, but it can be a bit depressing to hear about if it catches you off guard. Here we are, in this already incredibly difficult and competitive industry and then come to find out, it’s not even a fair or level playing field. WTF?! We pour our hearts, emotions and money into our music and yet there are people out there willing to take advantage of us if we’re not careful. Life can be so cruel.
But, then again, is it really surprising? I wasn’t born yesterday. I’ve been around the block a few times. I get that life isn’t always fair and that not everyone has our best interests in mind. This isn’t really news to me and I doubt it’s news to you either.
So, what do we do about it?
Well, here I go about to get all philosophical again….
There is a yin and yang to life. There is a bright side and a dark side. But, we get to choose where we shine our light and what we focus on. We get to choose where we direct our energy. We get to choose what direction we go in. We get to choose which doors we open and which doors we close. Don’t like what’s behind door #1? Turn around, close it and open another door.
It’s incredibly easy to be cynical about the music business right now. There are plenty of things to get down about. It’s incredibly competitive, it’s not fair, there are shady people, there are elements of corruption and on and on and on. If this is all you focused on, it would be very easy to quit making music out of frustration.
Sometimes I ask myself, why I am even working in the music business. That, by the way, is a really good question to ask yourself. When I see so many obstacles in front of me, I sometimes have to step back and remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place.
For me, the reason I make music is really, really simple. I. Love. Music. That’s it. That’s why I do this. I love it and I prefer to do things I love, as opposed to things I don’t love. It’s a simple life philosophy that makes decision making extraordinarily simple.
Of course, I don’t love everything about the music business and there are plenty of things about the music business not to love. But, back to the yin and yang idea, there are plenty of things I do love about the business. That’s where I choose to focus.
There were some depressing behind the scenes stories about the music business I heard over the past couple weeks. But there were even more inspiring and encouraging things I heard and experienced. I met and connected with so many writers, publishers and producers all excited about the industry. I connected with people more than willing and eager to share what they know and who wanted to help in any way they could.
For example, I emailed six recent guests on my podcast based in LA, before I came out, asking if we could meet up. Five of the six said yes. There was a schedule conflict with the other person.
I met great, talented people working in the industry willing to share their contacts and expertise and help in anyway they could. For example, I spent almost two hours with songwriter Jimmy Dunne (Whitney Houston, Kenny Rogers, Take 6) at his beach club cabana in Pacific Palasiedes. Throughout the conversation I could feel Jimmy trying to find ways he could help me. It was as if he was searching for information he could impart that would help me. I walked away with several great ideas based on the conversation we had and what he shared.
I stayed for free for two weeks at my producer Gary’s house. Gary drove me around LA from meeting to meeting and place to place. He never even asked for gas money!
I made friendships and connections I hope will last for years to come. I met an amazing singer and vocalist named Elza who gave me one of the best vocal lessons I’ve ever had, for free!
I could go on and on with stories like this.
The conclusion I came to and the point I’m trying to make is this: There are plenty of things about the music business to get down about if you want, but there are an equal amount (if not more) of great things about the music business and the people working in the music business to get excited and inspired about. Both are true, the good and bad things, but you get to decide which you focus on and where you shine your light.
I’m not sure about you, but I choose to shine my light on the bright side.
The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.