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The Bottom Line: Butts In Chairs


I bought a book at a yard sale Saturday. I thought I’d add it to my Music Business Library (it’d be Book #3), but now I’m not so sure.

Hight “The Mansion on the Hill,” it purports to be a history of how rock ‘n’ roll lost its soul to the record companies. What I’ve read of it is a history of the marketing guys who seized on rock music as a potentially salable commodity, and proceeded to sell it. I’m not sure “soul” had anything to do with it. It is true that the music business has since passed out of the hands of people who were passionate about music and into the hands of people passionate just about selling—but that is the way of sales organizations, after all.

It has passed, too, from an “I can sell this” attitude to an “I can sell anything, so the product doesn’t matter” one. It’s a hubris similar to that which brought down the Big Three automakers (who not many years ago were the Big Four)—at some point, people will figure out a way to buy what they want rather than what you’re selling. That’s happening—that’s why sales of commercial CDs are plummeting. But I don’t think “soul” has anything to do with it. We’re seeing simply the failure of a hubris-based business plan.

Myself, I am inclined to ignore the record industry and its problems. They’re concerned about the sale of CDs, because that’s how they make their money. I don’t. What money I make off music is directly related to performance. I’ve sold CDs—sometimes it feels like I’ve sold a lot of them—but every one has been sold at or as a result of a performance. If I want to make money in music, I need to perform.

(Of course, I’m not really a performer. I’m a writer. I have simply learned how to be a performer because until I get way more famous, nobody’s going to be performing my material but me. It’s a means to an end, in other words. Can’t forget that.)

But I’m not making much off performing. The key there, I think, is I have to get known by more people—enlarge the fan base, in other words. Performing more helps; folks who have heard me once do tend to come back. All the networking stuff helps, too, but it’s got to be tied into performance, I think. I’ll use the Internet as a publicity tool—I don’t see any way I can make money off it, and I don’t think I’ll try. “Butts in chairs,” as one accountant put it, “is the bottom line.” (And that accountant might even have been me. I don’t remember.)

I hear a lot of talk these days about a New Business Model, or at least the need for one; what I just described is actually a very old business model. I think it’s still valid.

How does that translate into a work program? Well, I wanted to take some classes this fall; one of them ought to be in Website design. The local community college is offering one, and like a lot of classes these days, it’s on line. I haven’t had much luck creating a Joe Website on my own, but I need one—a central location that can link to everything else: the blogs, the music, the videos, the “joelist,” &c.

And we go after some gigs—solo and with the band. The band is scheduled to play at the “Rocktoberfest” 10 October (still need a lead player), and I’ve messaged the Neskowin Valley School about their Harvest Festival benefit; I’m trying to get a solo gig at Border’s in Beaverton (and I have the Urban Grind gig Sept. 19 and the Burlesque Show Sept. 26). All (or any) of those will cross-promote each other, and the more I have, the more I can promote.

Did I mention jobs? All of the recent job applications have been local—two at the Library (one full-time, one part-time), one at the school district (to be part-time assistant speech coach)—and I’ve got one more to turn in, to be secretary for the new Fire District. I might really get to be a homeboy. (I get to keep my soul, too.) That would be cool.



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