The Rise of the Entrepreneurial Producer

by Jim Marcus

Some 30+ years ago, something unforgettable happened in Chicago.

Chicago had long pioneered the manipulation of popular tracks on the dance floor by DJs who were not content to just play records one after the other. They began to mix them together seamlessly, overlay them, and extend part of songs that received maximum support from people on the floor. Club mixer EQs were becoming more unique to the task of mixing dance music, allowing that DJs could drop out or pump the bass up easily, kill midrange sounds or even lose, to a very great degree, the vocals from popular recorded tracks.

This allowed a lot of musicians and DJs to customize how their dance floors worked, and tailor them to a new crop of dancers—people who wanted to lose themselves for long periods of time in an addictive, bass heavy rhythm, without key changes or major movements in instrumentation.

A number of artists, including a large number of musicians of color, stripped out some of the musical complexity from Disco, and turned up the low end to build a kind of rhythmic energy that had never been heard before. Based on the learnings from these deep and continuously moving dance floors, they invented House Music. It came right from the passion and love of the floor, and, In a way, it was a perfect collaboration between musicians, DJs, and those people on that dance floor.

And that had never happened before in history.

The next ten years saw house music explode across the planet, break into various genres to meet specific cities and dance floor environments, and produce some of the most memorable dance tracks of the 80s.

It also saw the strange and disturbing disenfranchisement of nearly all of its originators.

Labels like Chicago’s Traxx Records, for better or worse, took control of the music released and managed how it would be released. Most of the artists involved were black and most had little or no experience in the mechanics of releasing records. But over that decade, they learned.

Top ten dance tracks were purchased for 300 to 500 dollars. Tracks were renamed, artists were renamed, music was split up and released out of order. Artists often had entire albums of music released across different distributors, under different names, with different musicians credited. Many of the musicians involved learned one thing powerfully.

Their own love of music could be used to take advantage of them. In order to be a musician that takes control of your art, you have to be, well, a businessman, too.

And that is a Lesson that Vince Lawrence never forgot. Lawrence was involved in some of the first House Tracks to come from Chicago although few of them ever listed his full name. If he were judged only by the number of people who’ve danced to his music in the 80s he would still be worth an entry in the Encyclopedia of music. But there is more to that tale.

After watching the same story of artist disenfranchisement across hip and, to a lesser degree techno, it became clear to Lawrence that there was an evolving model that could let artists build the value from their work regardless of label involvement. And the reason it may take off is that this entrepreneurial model is a win for labels as well.

Record labels, today, are as vital as ever for large artists. And the flood of smaller, unsigned artists releasing music through various digital means only makes that point more dramatically. For an artist with large scale pop aspirations, a record label is still the answer.

Right now, many of these artists still work in a shallow way, looking to garner label support as quickly as possible. The problem with this is that record labels are not looking to develop artists right now in an environment that is fast paced and always moving. What they need, what they want, is an artist who already knows who they are and is ready to hit the ground running. They want artists who have figured out the basics of performance, interviews, songwriting, and are comfortable knowing who they are wnad whet they want.

One of the core learnings here is that labels do not MEAN to take advantage of artists. Their concern is for their own sustainability and ability to continue to release. An artist who takes to long to figure out who they are, what they can do, where they want to go next, is one that can get caught up in the machinery and churned up. And these same artists CAN’T all be expected to be businessmen and women right out of the gate. Many of them became musicians in the first place because they disliked business.

So an entrepreneurial model is needed. A producer takes the artist and begins to write songs with them, encouraging their own song writing talents to blossom along the way. An easy hand allows the real direction of the artist to come through. The old adage to be followed is “it’s easy to write a great song.”

“First, just write a thousand songs”

In the studio, the artist is allowed to find who they are, what they are passionate about, what they think is important enough to write about. They are encouraged to become performers on multiple levels, to dance, to play, to interview well. They are asked thousands of questions to help them come to terms with who they are as an artist, what they want to be. And when the time is right, they are put on the road.

Touring, traveling, working with other artists, they grow and build their repertoire, becoming a solid and interesting musical act, one that has legs and can capture the listeners’ imagination. And it’s only when they know who they are and what they can do that they are shopped to a record label.

Producers like Vince Lawrence learned the lessons of the past and decided they wouldn’t repeat them under any circumstances. Their new entrepreneurial production model doesn’t rush to deliver musicians to labels like lambs to the kill and it doesn’t require that the artist be a full fledged businessperson along with being a talented performer. They build the artists into someone who can really control their own music and career.

Lawrence says,”We can make sure that a musician is the best representation of their art, knows exactly what the steps are, and is secure in what to expect before they ever talk to a Record label executive,” And that is the value on both sides.

There’s no way to go back to the past and fix what happened. Life doesn’t work that way. But the artists in the past who lost control over their own art can change how the future works. By changing what the word “Producer” means.

And they’re doing it today.

10 things terrorists want us to do right now:

My Jewish Grandfather taught me that one of the goals of other Jewish men and women who had survived the Holocaust was to not allow Hitler even the smallest victory.

That grandfather was one of the kindest men I ever knew and I recognized that this was the very first way he found to disallow Hitler any small victory at all – by remaining who he was at the core, without change, without reflecting the madman.

I think about that today and about what the terrorists in the news really want. I consider what it would take to be as strong as my grandfather and give them none of it.

10. They want us to act and live in fear
That’s possibly the biggest win. If we change our everyday lives for them, look over our shoulder constantly, react in a hyperaware way at all times, in fear and concern for our well being, they get to stop us in our tracks. Fear doesn’t build things, it destroys. Fear won’t make great businesses and brilliant media, captivating music, remarkable medical advances spread across populations. It doesn’t make joy. If they get us to act in fear, they get us backed into a cage.
9. They want us to live in the past
One of the most unique parts of this battle is that it is with a group whose ideology points to the past rather than the future. It serves their purposes if we embrace the past as well. If they can convince us to ignore our desire to be on the right side of history, to believe in the future, to build a better, more free future, they win. When we consider how to behave, behavior that invokes the aggression and tribalism of the past is their preference. This is their infection.
8. They want us to kill innocent people
The story they want to tell the Muslim world is that the US is a murderer. Every time we engage in an act of collateral damage, we tell that story for them. If they can get us to act like murderers, they have a clear moral obfuscation that can help them to recruit. And they are not just recruiting fighters. They are recruiting investors. When we kill, they get paid.
7. They want us to hate Muslims
If we take this opportunity to hate the Muslim world, we do their job for them. Every person of Islamic faith we unfairly reject and treat badly becomes someone they believe they can target to recruit. And while the overwhelming majority want nothing to do with them, it still splits us off from potential allies- people who AREN’T killers and destroyers.
6. They want us to turn away refugees and fear outsiders
When we turn away the very refugees that they have scared and traumatized, we victimize them again, in partnership with the terrorists. And we keep telling their story, an America that doesn’t care about most of the world, that wants them to die. They want us rejecting people that they can begin to pull in as supporters. It’s a long road to becoming a supporter of real evil but the first step may be feeling like no one else wants you.
5. They want us to spend money on death. And here’s why.
Out of all the things we could spend money on, they want us to divert it to killing. And it’s not just because killing satisfies their story- the tale they are telling new recruits. But for another shockingly simple reason. When we spend money on art, on science, on medicine, education, etc. we move into the future. They want the whole world to live in the past and are terrified by each movement in our chosen direction. Spending money on death slows our passage to the future.
4. They want us to stop focusing on what’s important
The minute we focus all our energy into anger, directed at them, we let other “plates” fall. The welfare of children, veteran’s needs, feeding people in need, Building our infrastructure, etc. If you had a personal enemy, they would love to see you so obsessed and upset that you forget to eat. We can’t forget to “eat” and take care of ourselves.
3. They want us to move to the right
This organization is a profoundly right wing organization. It is regressive in every sense possible. When we move to the right, in fear, we look like them. We begin to curtail freedoms, we begin to operate in fear, we begin to engage tribally, we backslide, failing to fight for the rights of women and GLBTQ people, we become warlike, intolerant.
2. They want us to fight at their level
The US is the hub of a world that finds success through media, science, reason, good will, intellect, art, beauty, and appeals to our better natures. An American made film that captivates the world, draws in understanding, builds bridges, makes money, puts us all in the same room- this is a huge win. We fought very hard to operate at this level. It’s a level that has a unique set of satisfactions attached to it. It’s a level that is joyful and expressive and builds mental welfare. People don’t suffer from PTSD because they’ve made an amazing piece of art that people can love or have drawn in the world with their impassioned work. They DO, however, suffer PTSD from killing other people. One of the privileges of being an American is the right to play on a battlefield that we are uniquely suited for, one that is just right for us. Terrorists would love to take that away from us.
1. They want us to invoke religion
They know that religion inspires passion. Once we make this a religious battle- one religion versus the other- it becomes unwinnable. It earns them allies and alienates us from potential helpers. It also causes us to act irrationally.

I believe that it’s in our best interests to remember my grandfather’s lesson. Afford Hitler not even the smallest victory. Let’s afford these terrorists not even the smallest victory. And if that means calling them Daesh, I’m totally down with that, too.

Jim Marcus

Social Media Playbook

Following you will find a list I have gathered that I think will help in our current “social situation”. These are tactics I have found to be true firsthand (actual “experiments” conducted myself/data collected from other projects) or information fed to us by leaders in the field. I include these as ideas for things that we can do to give Matt a boost. I will start by first identifying key categories or “Channels” for social media. By approaching each of these we hope to gain affinity. Following that I have created a “TOP TEN LIST” of steps that I think we can take to create growth.

Channels for Social Media Based Opportunity

Social Networking
Photo Sharing
Virtual Worlds
Productivity Apps

Social Media Playbook. 10 steps in social media – Identify, Invent, Invest

Succeeding in social media is all about the right content in the right place, at the right time, with the right focus to the right people. This means that social media managers need to be artists, joke writers, administrators, analytics experts, and more. all at once. These ten steps can make it easier to manage.

1. Identify the audience
First, take a look through the group of people you really want to reach. In all honesty, you can’t reach everybody. Remember that you can be sort of liked by large groups or passionately loved by smaller ones. And the passionate lovers will be the ones who really connect with you and care. Put together a profile of 2 or 3 users that you most want to talk to. Base them on real people and name them. This helps you filter content you post moving forward.

example: Will Harmany (an active MLG fan who has attended events and responded to social action calls) like this?

2. Identify the opportunities
Once you have an idea who the people are to whom you are speaking, take a look through the makeup of the various social sites to find out where your social sites should be. Don’t rely just on where you BELIEVE your audience to be, but do some actual market research into penetration numbers. The most important thing is that the audience you identified is there.

Make a list of the social sites you will service.

3. Identify your resources
What do you have at your disposal to work with. Do you have albums for giveaways? Do you have a fan club to help? Do you have gift items that can be used to entice interest? Do you have access to a news source, to a series of free downloads? To sound files, video files, etc.

Make a list of all the resources we have have.

4. Identify your times and days
Each platform has times and days that are highest engagement. Each audience also does. Are they in work? in school? working with the engagement times of the sites and the people help us find good times to post.

Put a calendar together of times to post.

5. Invent your story
Your story includes your own personality and where you come from. If you are supporting an artist, know about that artist, what does he like, what does he care about. writing up the story makes sure you don’t forget it. Put together a long profile of the principal and find the things he/she loves. Remember, well rounded people don’t just love one thing. Is the principal a musician? He can also love science fiction, star wars, women’s rights, animals, and gadgets. If the social platform is just about talking about him and his music the entire time, people will get tired of it.

6. Invent your franchises
Now that you know what the principal loves and cares about, develop your franchises. If the principal loves women’s rights, music, animals, gadgets, and sci-fi, maybe the franchises look like this.

Monday: Women on top: post great moments in feminist history
Tuesday: Studio Insider: a new rough mix from the studio, video, story, etc.
Wednesday: Animal therapy: a cool story about animals to help make the middle of the week better
Thursday: Want!: a great gadget that you really want
Friday: Song Story: The story behind one of his songs or one that he loves
Saturday: My favorite moment in sci fi: a clip from a sci fi movie that you love.

You can post images, video, text, but mix it up. Make sure to post many of them in question form, trying to build conversation. A franchise list like this makes the principal sound like a real person who is really interesting. And it lets people who love sci-fi, for example, to love him.

Brainstorm a list of franchises.

7. Invent your routine
Now that you have franchises, a model for how to respond, and the best times and places to talk, put together a schedule, week by week, that works, You can use this as a template to record how well each franchise and time is doing, for later evaluation.

8. Invest in the conversation
It’s important to keep on responding when people do, turn the conversation around, engage, incite. Many people will respond for the chance to interact and they shovel get that. Remember that each response creates a higher edgerank, ensuring that people may see you in the future.

9. Invest in the respondents
This is where you have the chance to bring to reward respondents. Dole out the things you have identified as reources, ask them about relevant things, tag them when possible, when talking about the things they love, too. Keep an ongoing record of common respondents and brainstorm ways to reward them. Keep a list of the things they care about, who they are, etc. Promote THEM when they need it.

10. Invest in other media
When possible take your content and move it toward other media. A piece of content that lives in more than one media is one that i shared well Franchises can be syndicated if people love them. As long as they are clearly labeled as coming from YOU, you will win. Make a list of other media that support content like yours.