Too Much Pressure

(Happy New Year, everyone! If you missed the 2015 “DGC Annual Report” hop back to last Wednesday to read it. We’re up to $35.75 a week now via Patreon! Almost halfway to the first goal! Cool!! And thank you all so much for your support!! -ctan)

I never understood the expression “it never rains but it pours” until the day I had to have five different meetings, two of which spawned the need to have MORE MEETINGS.

I know. After basically a week of fucking off (or fucking on, if we want to be technical about it) and pretending I didn’t have music business stuff to deal with, all of a sudden I not only had to finish negotiating what exactly I was doing as musical director for Ziggy, but also figure out what was happening with the Surprise Album (working title), sign some paperwork relating to the punk soundtrack, Artie wanted me to come by the office to talk about more promo for Tracks, and I think I’m forgetting something in the list there…

Right. Carynne first. I got up in the actual morning (though not very early in it, just early for me), showered, put on rock star clothes, met her at the place Ziggy liked, and heavily caffeinated myself.

“So how’s your week been other than burning down the house at The Cat Club, accidentally recording an album, doing a soundtrack, and taking an international touring gig?” she asked, while spreading cream cheese on a bagel.

“If you mean me and Ziggy…I’m optimistic we’re not going to kill each other. Which is why I said yes to the gig.” Actually it’s because I loved him too much to say no, but I gave myself credit for at least exercising a few shreds of self-preservation in the process and it looked like that was going to pay off. So, close enough. “But if you’re being sarcastic, yeah, I don’t know. It all just kind of happened.”

She chuckled. She was wearing dark sunglasses. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who celebrated really hard the night before. “Okay, next question though, how much money do you want me to try to make out of all this?”

“Um, it’s not like I have a target number.”

“I guess I mean how hard do you want me to try to get an advance, or major label distro, or… I don’t know.” She was cutting a slice of a plum tomato into pieces about the same size as the capers, and then placing them around the bagel along with the capers like she was decorating some kind of Martha Stewart Christmas thing. “And this is assuming the pending lawsuits don’t scare people off. I’m not even sure where to start negotiating.”

“How about the bigger assholes they are the more money it should cost ’em?” I said. “Joking.”

“Well, but you shouldn’t be.” She sighed and cut a ring of red onion into even smaller pieces and sprinkled them on top of the tomato and then finally picked up the half-bagel, only to press her fingers against the poppy seeds it left behind on the plate and transfer as many of them onto the cream cheese as possible. “I’m just not good at the dealmaking part of this job, Dar’. I don’t know shit about international rights or–”

“So we’ll find out. We’ve got plenty of people’s brains to pick about it. Today, even.”

“Yeah, okay.” She bit into the bagel and my stomach decided maybe I needed something to sop up all the coffee after all.

I ended up with a side order of toast with a side order of hash browns because that’s what I really wanted and having seen me in there with Ziggy two days in a row already they were inclined to indulge me, I guess. I actually don’t remember why Ziggy wasn’t with us for breakfast–he might have been asleep or he might have been out doing something. I can’t remember if he hit the ground running that day or if it was only me.

We went to Artie’s first, where he had the interesting news that the publicity and promo people wanted to see if I could work out doing some appearances while on the next leg of the Nomad tour. We met in a conference room where there was a coffee maker. It was like he had read my mind.

“It’s a two-birds-one-stone situation,” he explained. “They’re going to be booking Remo to various appearances and they might as well do you, too. Bang for the buck, your album is surprising everyone.”

“Does that mean people like it?” I heard myself ask, thinking after my fourth cup of coffee that day I should have been sharper than that.

Artie chuckled. “It means people not only like it, they are going out and buying it.”

“Which means they’re finding it,” I said, which as you know was supposedly a problem on the 1989 album.

“It helps that Tower got behind it in a big way and they’re growing right now. And having hit #49 on the album chart isn’t hurting you either.”

“Wait, what?”

“Did you not tell him this? Did I not tell you this?” He looked back and forth between Carynne and me. “I could’ve sworn I left a message for someone. Anyway, yeah, the Album Rock Chart. It’s not as big an influencer as any of the singles charts when it comes to airplay, but it is for retail. The tail wags the dog, you could say.”

“I’m sorry, my brain is moving at about 15 RPM right now,” I said. “Could you explain that again and pretend I’m stupid this time?”

“Sure.” Good old Artie. Didn’t even join in the joke of me making fun of myself, just went right to an honest explanation. “It’s one of the charts that’s determined by a panel of radio stations, so it’s a relatively small number of AOR stations reporting. Since it’s AOR, they don’t always pick the same single to play, and sometimes they’ll even have more than one from the same album on the same radio station. That accumulates more for each album, though, so even if a single isn’t charting in Top 40 Hits, the album as a whole can make it onto this chart. And retailers care about that because, guess what they sell? Mostly albums.”

“Ah.” I blinked. “So…?”

“So my guess is just enough musicality nerds at just enough of the, oh, say, twenty radio stations that matter most in the AOR panel jumped at the chance to stick some songs from Tracks into rotation to make it squeak onto the chart.”

“Even though Considine hated it.”

Artie rolled his shoulders. “Maybe because Considine hated it. More likely because he saw fit to mention it.”

“Huh.” So Bart was kinda right about that.

“And now that the buzz is getting around about what went down at The Cat Club, who knows, maybe it’ll climb the chart a little? When the other radio stations who aren’t playing it see it on there, they might jump on the bandwagon. It could happen. Even if it doesn’t, if this is the peak, it’s still pretty damn good.”

Carynne cleared her throat before she spoke. “Do you think you’d be interested in a quick followup project?”

“You mean another instrumental album?”

“We’ve got another album in the can, another solo project–”

“It’s not really a solo project–” I tried to interject, then shut myself up. Last thing I needed to do was undermine my own manager’s pitch, right?

“Daron not only wrote all the songs, he sings them, too. But I don’t mean it’s like a folky singer-songwriter thing…” She flailed, trying to describe the Surprise album and I didn’t blame her.

I didn’t do much better myself. “I’m playing some electric, some acoustic, with cello and synths and big drum sounds.” I fell back on what Ziggy had said. “It’s almost prog rock, but alt prog rock. It’s kind of hard to describe, but when you hear it, you’ll like it,” I finished, feeling like that was a highly inadequate sales pitch.

“Send me a demo?” Artie said with his hands up. “Worst thing we can do is say no, right?”

“I’ll have Trav send one over,” I said.

“Wait, you don’t mean the OKC Hardcore soundtrack?”

“Um, no, this was another thing I did with Jordan.” I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to tell him I’d recorded it this week also. I made up some bullshit: “I, um, didn’t originally think I would be the best singer for the material.”

Carynne suddenly jumped in. “The reason it’s urgent we get a deal in place is because Daron’s new solo act is going to open for Ziggy’s world tour.”

“Ah. That’ll definitely be some exposure,” Artie said. “You have a name for this act?”

I tried not to make it seem like the lack of a name for the project, band, whatever it was, was a liability or like I was just too dumb to think of one. “That’ll depend on, um, what you think’ll market best. A band name or my name. Assuming I keep the right to keep using my name?”

Artie rubbed his graying hair thoughtfully. “We should check what the option clause in your contract says. I’m pretty sure we signed a one-off with no restrictions on your future projects, given how sore you were over what BNC was putting you through and given that the tracks came originally by license from JC Entertainment. But let’s check to be on the safe side.”

My impression of Artie as someone I could trust was maintained.

From there we went to another office a few blocks away, to discuss the paperwork regarding the OKC Hardcore soundtrack rights and participation. This was actually some kind of publicists’ offices, but I guess they did a lot of dealmaking, too–Hollywood this, indie film that–and I guess they were under the impression that I was going to waltz in there and sign whatever they put in front of me. A balding guy in a polo shirt and dark green leisure jacket plopped what looked to be a thirty-page contract in front of me.

“Do me a favor and just sign it,” the guy, who was just an agent or go-between of some kind, said.

Yeah, right. “I already did the director a favor by recording a soundtrack with no contract,” I said. “My manager will read it now.”

I handed the pages to Carynne, who after looking through it for a couple of minutes said, “Yeah, no, not to be a dick about it, but you’ve got to be kidding me on this boilerplate.”

“That’s the standard deal,” the guy insisted.

“Uh huh, and only a sucker ever signs the standard deal. You’ll need the rest of the guys to sign off on this, too, you know.”

“I was hoping we could do it by fax.” He was looking balder and older by the minute. Or maybe he was just reminding me more and more of Digger.

“Maybe we can,” Carynne said sweetly, putting the contract into her briefcase and standing up to show we were leaving. “Once we’ve made a few little changes.”

“All right. All right. Number’s on there.” The guy waved goodbye to us and let us see ourselves out.

We went to lunch then, some bar and grill not far from Madison Square Garden, and Carynne spent much of the time on the payphone while I tried to eat a burger and read a copy of the Wall Street Journal someone had left behind. My stomach wasn’t liking the burger, but I ate the fries with no trouble and ended up washing them down with some kind of beer they had on tap.

When Carynne came back she told me Jordan had news and we should drop by Electric Ladyland. So we did, where Jordan not only told her to rip up the boilerplate the guy had given us–he’d send over a better pile of legalese he’d worked out with his friend–but that he had drummed up some interest in the Surprise demo from Relativity and Interscope.

“The only band I know on Relativity is Scruffy the Cat,” I told him.

He grinned his Cheshire Cat grin. “Joe Satriani and Steve Vai are both on there. I figure if they’re trying to collect a full set of guitar gods they need you next. As for Interscope, it’s basically whatever Jimmy Iovine wants. If he loves it, it flies.”

“Relativity is Sony and Interscope is A&M?” Carynne asked, meaning which of the massive conglomerate major labels distributed them.

“Yeah,” Jordan said. “I have a couple more cards to pull out of my Rolodex, but those are probably my top two when it comes to playing matchmaker for this.”

“Does alt prog rock exist?” I asked.

“It does now.”

By the way, you know how close I was to Jordan Travers, so meeting with him wasn’t like a meeting-meeting, but nonetheless, having an entire day of meetings like that meant that by the time we actually sat down with Barrett my nerves were shot.

I hate meetings. But there was no getting out of them. Yeah I hated meetings, but I hated feeling like I had no control over my career even more.


(P.S. We’re hitting 9200 comments on the site which means at some point this year we’ll hit the 10,000 mark. What should we do to celebrate the 10,000th comment? Ideas? -ctan)

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Comments 3

  1. s wrote:

    Omg Daron, your future looks so exciting! It’s got to feel like you’re coming out of the dark days with all the stuff happening right now. Congrats, man!

    Sounds like you and Carynne both learned some valuable lessons. That bitch known as Life sure is a good teacher (if you’re paying attention). Definitely good to be involved and make your own decisions. Meetings suck and reading contracts sucks more. Legal-ese gives me an instant headache. Glad you have Carynne and Jordan to help you out.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I dunno. I feel good but at the same time all these meetings start to feel like it’s just more and more swords hanging over my head waiting to fall from a thread.

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Now there’s the ‘optimist’ I know and love ;)

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Heh. Will I ever outgrow waiting for the other shoe to drop? *shrugs*

    [Reply]

    s Reply:

    Probably not but given the kind of people you have to deal with on a regular basis that’s probably not a bad thing. Watch for the other shoe so it can’t kick you in the balls. Just don’t let it hold you back.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Jan 2016 at 11:44 am
  2. Bill Heath wrote:

    One of the MBAs I mentored several years ago runs a successful music publicity firm. She sends me contracts from megafirms (household name television and movie studios, two of the big four megaconglomerates, etc).

    I am not a lawyer and do not do a legal review. I simply do a business review. Boilerplate is “heads I win, tails you lose, and if the quarter rolls away you owe me twenty-five cents.” One of the megaconglomerates finally caved and now asks my friend to send her own boilerplate. An entertainment lawyer friend of hers and I put it together in an hour at no charge.

    You can fight the industry’s big boys if you know what value they’re getting out of the contract, let them keep every dime they’re rationally owed, and refuse the stuff that simply denies the performers any of their minuscule profit. The only pushback in the last six months has been at an administrative fee for late payments. We caved, but they were on notice that late payments would NOT go unnoticed and have paid on-time for the past four months.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Yeah, everyone knows never to sign the boilerplate but they always fucking try to get you to do it anyway. Annoying thing is you get them to make changes in your favor, then they don’t follow what the agreement says — i.e. pay you on the wrong terms etc — because then nobody fucking READS the actual contract and assumes you’ve got the same deal as every other schmuck, and so when you try to enforce the actual deal you actually signed they can clam up and say “fine so sue us.” They know unless you’ve got six figures or more in losses you’ll never sue because it’ll cost you 10 x as much to pay your lawyer to sue them than what they’re screwing you out of. But I should stop now before I give away any details of the lawsuit bullshit yet to come. Ahem.

    [Reply]

    Bill Heath Reply:

    Sue them in small claims court for a single album sale – one album. Use a contingency fee attorney. If they cave on the single album you’ve got precedent. And, the attorney simultaneouslypre-emptively sues for an unspecified amount to cover the plaintiff’s legal costs, with a cap equal to a significant percentage of the prior year’s corporate net profit. I’ve used this with clients who are now taking four months off every year to spend time at their condo on Maui.

    The other approach that works well is to pre-emptively file a class-action lawsuit in Madison County, Illinois. Juries there return punitive judgments well into eight figures. Companies far larger than anything in the music industry fold when they know they’ll lose on the merits.

    I pulled a one-time sucker punch on a corporate attorney by having my client’s attorneys report him to the state bar for unprofessional conduct in defending a suit his own client couldn’t win on the merits, claiming the fees he was billing were malfeasance of duty to his client.

    A representative of my client’s customer brought an attorney to a meeting once and regretted it. The rep had a personal stake in getting an unearned bonus from his employer if the attorney followed his direction. I reminded the guy’s attorney that his client was the guy’s employer, not the rep, and that if he chose to work against his own client’s interests in favor of an employee of his client he was violating professional canons.

    Yes, I play dirty. And I love every minute of it.

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    I’m under the impression that all lawyering is playing dirty and that’s what you want in a lawyer. But maybe I’m biased.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Jan 2016 at 12:40 pm
  3. chris wrote:

    Just be glad that webex hadn’t become a “thing” yet… if you think face to face meetings are bad, just wait until the era of the Power Point conference call….
    Can’t wait to hear what the “Opening Act” is going be called!

    [Reply]

    daron Reply:

    Dunno. If I can mute my end of the phone and practice guitar in my pajamas it’s not so bad. But I suppose I would never do contract negotiations that way.

    [Reply]

    Posted 05 Jan 2016 at 3:57 pm

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