Back to the music days
Early forays into production
I had learned a lot about the way things worked in the music business, initially from my father, and later from my own experiences as a playing musician, which further exposed me to the kind of deals, offers, structures etc that could be negotiated with a view to ultimately getting one’s music exposed. At that time (late 60s), big record companies were the giants and they called the shots. They yo-yoed in influence and desirability (from an aspirant artist point of view) according to their artist rostas, credibility, long term artist commitment (to an ‘album’ deal, not just, as was the norm then, a ‘singles’ deal). Also of course, the question of were they ‘hot’ , getting the chart breakthroughs, getting TV exposure (Top of the pops – the virtual hit guarantee TV show), getting on the playlists of the important radio shows ( of which there were only a handful),would they pay any up front money on a deal, what royalty would they offer and how was their international strength. Before Island Records, Virgin and a load of other independent labels changed the game and took on the big boys, artists were normally signed to direct deals with the major labels – such as EMI, CBS, RCA, Decca, Polydor.
The emergence of independent production companies was largely as a result of inaccessibility to the major label’s recording studios. These were either being used by artists already signed to
The labels, or by ‘in house’ ( i.e. payroll) producers who were booking the studios for new artists they had spotted as possible future successes. It was an impossibly difficult circle to penetrate. Sending in your tape (the recording medium of that era) to one or all of the record companies was a sure fire guarantee of that same tape ending up unheard in a storage room. Trying to get to a real person to present your music was virtually impossible. A better way in those days was by trying to develop a relationship with a music publisher, who would try to ‘place’ your songs with artists who needed new material, or might use their connections to get your music heard by the decision makers in the record companies.
Enter the small, independent production houses with links to privately owned studios or some funding to hire them. In effect, the evolution of the independent music production houses became a way of doing a critical part of the record companies’ work for them. It was also of course, virtually the only way to allow unspotted talent to enter the arena. It changed the landscape and opened the door to new possibilities and of course new business deals. Now the record companies had a different option – to license the finished music tracks from the independents, take on the responsibility of marketing and promoting, often with the production companies doubling as managers, on the basis of an increased royalty rate to such production companies plus perhaps an advance against future royalties, in lieu of expensive recording studio time. It was a good, positive development which opened the door to a different business model.
I felt ready to try my hand at production and seeing where it might go. I had been touring, recording and working for quite some time as a musician, with mixed results The combination of creativity and business dealing intrigued me. Fate, as always, moved to encourage the process and a ‘chance’ encounter – the supreme paradox – opened the door to some life changing relationships and friendships that would play an enormous part in my life’s journey. I was moving into a new phase. Exciting yet at the same time frightening -moving into the big boys’ world. And so began the relationship with Charlie Spencer and Rob Young.
Sunny with Occasional Rain
Sunny with Occasional Rain is a blog series written by BKP Media Group CEO, Barry Kirsch, highlighting moments from his intriguing career.