The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

December 21, 2013

Build a team to build a career

The Daily Star

---- — People love music because music is that magical means of communication that never fails. The music industry is going through some rough times, but it is not going to die because music is a basic, central need in everyone’s life.

The old model of music creation and distribution that centered on an all-powerful recording company, however, may not survive, at least, not in its present form. Record company income had been greatly reduced due to illegal downloading of music, and the balance of power in music distribution, in making music available, has shifted from record companies to consumers. For better or for worse, this has changed the music business forever.   

At its most basic level, the music industry needs great new talent to produce great new music. In the “good old days” 20 or 30 years ago, a hit record could experience sales of 500,000 or 1 million albums. Since record companies often made 50 percent profit on the sale of each album, there was plenty of money earned to allow investment in the support of new artists and songwriters, most of whom would not make a profit during the early part of their careers. Record company support allowed musicians to hire a much-needed team, including a manager, an attorney and a publicist.

In more recent years, record companies are struggling to stay alive and musicians must prove their ability to attract audiences who will attend their concerts and buy their CDs before record companies will even consider investing money in that artist’s career.

To learn how musicians are building their careers despite greatly reduced support from record companies, I spoke with Mike Scala, an accomplished New York City-based musician who has taken his band on two world tours and who has started his own foundation to help young people in need. Mike built his success without significant investment from any corporate group. He works tirelessly to compose new music and set up tours that earn enough to pay his travel expenses. You can visit Mike’s website,, and hear Mike and his band on their most recent European tour at

Mike has taken the important step of hiring an effective publicist and he was cautiously hopeful that he had found more help when he was approached by a lawyer who sent Mike a written offer to “confirm a business relationship to promote and pitch” Mike’s band and to use his “best efforts” for the “purposes of securing a recording agreement or other lucrative contract.”

The lawyer did not ask for any retainer or other money in advance for his work. Instead, he asked for 5 percent of net revenues for “business opportunities” gained as a result of his work, including collaboration with Mike to develop a press kit and other promotional materials. The promotional materials would be used to secure a record or publishing deal, or to sign a deal with a manager or agent or other “revenue producing contract.”

The agreement included assurance that either party was free to “walk away” from the agreement so long as no business opportunity had been reached as a result of that relationship. If Mike wanted to walk away from the agreement after a business opportunity had been obtained, the business relationship would remain “only for those business opportunities that had already been secured.”

The lawyer’s offer is a sign that Mike’s career has reached a level that has brought him to the attention of professionals in the music business. This is also a time, however, when Mike needs to be sure that he does not enter into a binding business relationship that will be difficult to sever in the future.

Musicians need to build a team to support their work so the musician can have time to compose and perform music. The musician and the support team need to trust each other and have fun whenever possible, but part of the musician’s responsibility as a professional is to have the team’s relationship to the musician clearly defined in a written agreement drafted by an experienced music business attorney.

Musicians can support their art by giving some thought to their business.

Dr. Janet Text ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText ColorNepkie is a member of the music industry faculty in the music department of the State University College at Oneonta. Her columns can be found at