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Getting your music out there is easier now, but monetizing it can still be a big hurdle to clear.
“Sure, that’s always been a problem, even in the old days when records were selling a lot. In the ‘80s, if you were in a band that got a gold or a platinum record, you could still be in debt. The ways that deals were structured then were heavily lopsided against the artist. Most things that were spent on a record came from the artist’s royalties.
“For example, if you released a successful record back in the ‘80s and that record is now available on iTunes, and if you had a conventional record deal, for every download that somebody pays 98 cents for, iTunes pays the same to everybody – 72 cents. That doesn’t matter if you're Sony or Steve Vai. But record companies take the language from the old contracts and they apply it to digital downloads. So you get, say, 13 points on retail, which means that the same song at 72 cents has all these deductions attached to it. Packaging goods – they take away 25 percent for that; free goods are another 15 percent. And they cut your royalty in half if it’s new technology. It goes on and on. If the producer gets three points, that comes out of your 13 – and he gets paid before you. So you can sell a million records and be in debt.
“But you can go to a company like TuneCore and open up an account for $20, and you can upload your record to iTunes. It’ll go to all these iTunes stores around the world, and you’ll get 72 cents a download.”
Have you come across people who are talented musicians, and maybe there’s a good songwriter inside of them struggling to come out, but they can’t seem to get out of their own way? Something is blocking them from realizing the songwriter within?
“Yeah, sure. I’ve seen myself as an example. There’s every type: There’s people who see what’s going on in the world, and they say, ‘I get it. I can write music like that. Here’s my Madonna song. Here’s my Styx song. Here’s my Bob Dylan song’ – or whatever. They have a pantomiming ability, and that’s fine – there’s a place for that.
“A great song is a conceptualization these days. What makes a great song? It’s something that resonates with people. The thing that I think gets in the way with a lot of potential songwriters is the fear of failure. Fear of writing something that isn’t good, fear of being criticized, fear of not fitting in – these things can stop you right in your place."