WORDS TO THE NOT-SO-WISE
Thank you, thank you, thank you, L.A. Weekly, for your timely, relevant article on the exploitation of talented bands and their undoing by greedy, ill-managed record labels [“The Music Grind,” March 26April 1]. As a devoted follower of Mary's Danish from their inception, I was amazed that this rich, diverse, eclectic band with a strong fan base did not garner the fame and cash they deserved. Now I know why. Morgan Creek deserves to be slammed to the wall and their bottom lines squelched. Maybe then they can learn from what they did to Mary's Danish and other bands.
Many thanks for your astute journalism, and for the bravery of Mary's Danish to step up and tell their story.
As a struggling musician, I have tremendous sympathy for the travails the industry put Mary's Danish through. On the other hand, this will continue to happen as long as bands continue to sign exploitive record contracts (essentially, all of them). Whenever someone I know starts talking about the great record deal he or she has been offered (invariably described by the manager or lawyer as “the best he's ever seen for a new band!”), I have three questions: How many CDs do you need to sell to break even? How many bands on this label sold that many copies last year? What is the label going to do to ensure that you're among those bands? To date, no one's been able to answer even the first of these questions.
Sarah Luck Pearson's interview with “The Suit” is a masterpiece. Not only does it explain what I've been trying to say for years to umpteen bright-eyed hopefuls as they clamor for me to “get them signed,” it reads like the central interrogation scene of a best-selling cop thriller.
I've sent the URL to a lot of people, but The Suit needn't worry. He has an unshakable army of allies in my bright-eyed friends, who are even now smirking at Pearson's article and muttering, “But we're different.”
A friend of mine turned me on to Sarah Luck Pearson's article on Mary's Danish (I don't live in L.A. anymore), and there but for the grace of one decision go I.
The same night KLOS-FM first featured Mary's Danish on its “Local Licks” show, it also featured one other artist: me. Morgan Creek came for me after they signed Mary's Danish, and while their A&R execs liked my work, it was ultimately rejected by the same Mr. Robinson who spews about the “failure” of Mary's Danish. (He claimed I sounded too much like Michael Penn. Maybe so.)
Seems to me I got the better deal. I'm still here, even if I am still plugging away in the indie leagues. But hats off to Mary's Danish. They were a great band, and I miss them still. Maybe with the advent of mp3, we'll see them come back on their own terms.
I am certain that it will rain letters like mine in response to your music exposé. First of all, I want to say thanks for clueing everyone into the hellish business prospects of the modern-day musical artist. I've already gotten calls of sympathy from friends who “never knew it was that bad.”
One of my favorite masochistic pastimes is to compare the financial rules for actors and musicians. Actors are paid up front, and allowed to survive disastrous projects and continue working. Musicians are paid last, if at all, and generally pronounced dead after the first bomb — and kicked out of the business after the second bomb. They go from the hottest new band to yesterday's news in about two years.
I can think of several things that might have helped the plight of the modern musician, like an effective SAG-modeled union. But it is way too late for that now. Any business that balances its horrible research-and-development decisions on the backs of artists that it pays 8 percent of net profits while drawing fat seven-figure executive salaries deserves to rot in the lowest rungs of hell. I intend to dance on their graves. As a musician, I would rather make my living shoveling shit with a wooden spoon than lend my creative talents to propping up such a despotic racket. Next time you see a musician, give him a hug. The business has already fucked him.
I have played drums and worked as a songwriter in this city for 15 years, and have been burned over and over again. But I have made a shitload of money from advances, too. Sure, the â industry white suits want to use you, make the money and spit you out. Just don't expect anything more than that. So many bands like Mary's Danish just didn't get the business side of it. So many artists think the world owes them a favor or something for jamming and writing songs. Yes, it is very important to the industry that they have writers who write as many “pop songs” as possible, because that's how the business makes money. Not off some eclectic music jam.
AND FROM THE OH-SO-WISE
Re: John Payne's interview with Robert Fripp [“The Rules of the Game,” March 26April 1]. Fripp understands the model of the record business as it will appear in the very near future. As the playing field shrinks with mergers, attrition, etc., alternative means of getting product to the market will become commonplace and no longer a source of apprehension. More power to Fripp — and hang on, 'cause it's gonna be a bumpy ride.
The story by Marc B. Haefele on the county's re-engineering efforts by Mr. Finucane [“Nine Out of 10 Doctors,” April 28] hints at the sad failure of this program. It started out as the “Re-Engineering Revolution,” with promised savings of $300 million, and ended up with savings of a few thousand dollars and no revolution. County health services are paralyzed by overmanagement, the strangling of employee initiative, the inability to get rid of useless employees because of protectionism by the unions and the civil service, plus the disarray in management and leadership of the county Board of Supervisors. The county is now in debt to the Fed for several hundred million dollars, and the hospitals that used to be leading teaching hospitals are now bureaucratic messes. That the doctors had to unionize to protect themselves from ignorant and overweening bureaucrats is no surprise.
A sad situation all around, and those who suffer are the needy patients, who, as always, need expert and caring health care.
Re: Robert Lloyd's Matt Groening interview [“Life in the 31st Century,” March 26April 1]. Did Mr. Groening happen to give his opinion of why The Simpsons is no longer funny?
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