Hello there, reddit, my name is Mike Fabio.

From 2009-2011 I worked at Warner Bros. Records, part of the Warner Music Group Empire (one of the big three record labels, for those counting), as Community Director, New Media, overseeing the digital/social media team. I had an amazing group of community managers on my team, who truly deserve all the credit for whatever success we had. Collectively we were responsible for managing all aspects of artists' marketing presence online - from websites to social to streaming to fanclubs.

Just a few of the artists I worked with: Eric Clapton, Michael Buble, Avenged Sevenfold, Josh Groban, DEVO, Mastodon, LIGHTS, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Linkin Park, Deftones, Disturbed, Flaming Lips, The Black Keys, Jason Derulo, Iron & Wine, and a whole hell of a lot more.

After two years at WBR, I decided major label life was not for me. I had the nagging feeling that I really was doing nothing to make artists lives better, and I certainly wasn't doing anything to improve fans' experiences. Sure, we pulled off some pretty amazing promotions, and I walked into the ski chalet every day with a goal of making at least one fan happy, but I never felt my goals were shared by my employer. I left WBR and Los Angeles, moved to Nashville, and have since started several companies and projects, all with the goal of making artists' and fans' lives better:

  • Bandposters - Design, print, and ship posters to every gig on your tour in two minutes or less (we're sponsoring an event with /u/kn0thing here in Nashville tomorrow!)
  • Back Porch Group - A think tank that offers insight, connections and development to creators and disruptive companies building the new music industry
  • I manage an incredible Americana-soul artist named Anderson East, currently raising money on PledgeMusic to fund his new album
  • Tiny Jetpack - A fan-focused digital marketing consultancy

Before all this I did my schooling at MIT (building robotic musical instruments) and I worked at the Google Lunar X PRIZE (I'm a geek, what can I say?).

I have a lot of opinions on the music industry, digital and social media, and entertainment industries as a whole (I do a weekly podcast on this). I believe most fanclubs are broken, I believe ticket pricing is unfair, I believe that recorded music is just one revenue stream, and I believe that music is fucking awesome. And I believe things can, indeed, get better. I also love giving advice to artists at any level (don't ever be afraid to ask).

And yes, this is my personal reddit account. Love you guys.

My Proof:

My old business card (with my cat Mingus, because this is reddit)

An old SXSW badge

And a tweet


6:00pm CDT - I'm going to get some dinner. Keep asking your questions! I'll get to them as soon as I can!

7:45pm CDT - Back for a bit more now. Ask me anything!

10:08pm CDT - That's all folks. I've had a blast answering your questions. If you have any more, by all means leave them here. Hopefully I'll have some time to answer them over the next few days. Thanks to everyone who commented!

Comments: 187 • Responses: 67  • Date: 

rhymingisfun15 karma

What advice would you give to a band/musician trying to get recognized by labels, big or small?

bornenormous29 karma

I'd first recommend asking yourself why you want to be recognized by a label. What's your goal? What type of artist do you hope to be?

For many artists, labels are very much the right choice. They offer money, marketing, promotion, and other services that artists - especially giant artists - really need.

But for a lot of smaller artists, it's mostly a holdover dream from a different era of the music business. Make no mistake: signing to a label has its pros and cons.

If you do believe that labels are the route you want to go, then here's my advice: focus on your music. Put in your 10,000 hours. Practice. Be fucking awesome. Make the best damn music anyone has ever heard.

After that, hone your image, build your fanbase, get some attention the old fashioned way, and weasel your way into some meetings.

Never stop working your ass off.

Angoth-25 karma

What's your goal?

Money. Everything else is handed to you after you have it.

bornenormous11 karma

There are a lot of ways to achieve that, with or without a label.

Greedeater9 karma

What is your favourite behind the scenes moment from a band? Did it reflect on how they are represented as a band?

bornenormous20 karma

My absolute favorite band to work with was The Flaming Lips. No other band on our roster at WBR had the same love for their fans, and probably no band had a more passionate fanbase.

We did a pop-up store and MySpace Secret Show (I kid you not) at the Montalban Theater in LA. We busted our asses getting that thing set up, not to mention running a kickass livestream of the show. I was completely exhausted. Then Wayne comes up to me, gives me a big ol' hug, and proceeded to spend the next four hours or so signing stuff for every single fan. I mean that, every single fan. They actually kicked us out of the theater, and Wayne moved the autograph line out on the street.

Of course, some of my other band stories would probably give you a not-so-positive opinion of them. It just depends on the band.

GFMReddit6 karma

That was my favorite show of all time, and I've also worked various jobs in the music industry that allowed me a steady stream of concerts. Tickets were free, you could bring in whatever you wanted- cameras, guitars, later pointers, loud speakers - and free drinks and candy. 30 minute Q&A where the audience would submit questions via twitter to be answered on stage, the whole thing was just magnificent.

bornenormous5 karma

You, sir, are the reason I got into this business in the first place.

SnarkyLondoner886 karma


bornenormous7 karma

Awesome. Ever gone to the March of 1000 Skeletons?

Greedeater6 karma

By all means, continue if you can. Nothing wrong with a bit of inside knowledge...

bornenormous6 karma

I'll say this: most bands are incredibly lazy, and many have a bad case of entitlement. Few bands are able to balance their need to create with the requirements of being a public figure. In worst case scenarios, this manifests as money-grabs (especially in ticket sales!), and more often than not it just makes for mediocre music.

insinr8r9 karma

Big fan of Deftones, what was it like working with them while they were pretty raw from Chi Cheng's car accident?

bornenormous7 karma

Deftones have one of the most incredible and devoted fanbases of any of the bands I worked with. It definitely was a tough time, but fans stayed strong. I worked on Diamond Eyes, and vividly remember launching our street track "Rocket Skates." Such a visceral response from fans.

insinr8r1 karma

Definitely a great album and a great band!

I have another question. How do you feel about record companies basically throwing money at anything they can see will be profitable for them, regardless of lack of talent?

bornenormous2 karma

It's a business, after all, and everybody wants to make money. Unfortunately "throwing money at anything they can see will be profitable for them, regardless of lack of talent" tends to be a short term profit strategy, and not a formula for long term viability. Which is exactly why we've seen consolidation among labels, and exactly why many smaller labels have seen enormous amounts of success (Glassnote and XL are two fine examples).

Pomerantz6 karma

You should definitely provide some background on the DEVO cat listening party because, as you said, this is Reddit. And because that was awesome.

Serious comment and question: I was surprised to hear on an early episode of your podcast that at least 2 of the 3 of the co-hosts seemed to find new music discovery essentially a chore, saying that they didn't do much of it anymore, and when they did, they'll only listen to songs for ~30 seconds at a time. Can you help me see a way in which this statement doesn't A) depress me, and B) make me feel like this is a major part of 'the problem with music today?'

Edit: added links.

bornenormous5 karma

Ahhhh yes. Well I'm glad you dug up the video, so I don't have to.

For those who missed it (i.e. most of you), the DEVO Cat Listening Party was exactly what it sounds like. You see, music marketers love to do this thing called a "listening party" which is really just another word for "let the fans stream the record before it comes out. Well DEVO is not just any band.

The album we were promoting was called Something For Everybody and the concept was simple: De-evolution is real, the internet has crushed everyone's soul, and we're all a bunch of cogs in the machine, so might as well make the most average, most focus-group-tested album possible.

And what better way to premiere the album than to play it for a room full of cats, on the internet?

That's exactly what we did. We built a gigantic scale model Energy Dome (covered in carpet for the kitties), filled a room with catnip and toys, hired 25 cat actors (it's LA!), and played the record for them, live, on the internet, for 8 hours.

And your second question..........

A) No, I can't, and, B) this is very much a part of the problem. Music discovery is not an activity that average people enjoy, let alone music professionals. It's sad but true, but I think music discovery has very much fallen into the hands of the diehard music nerds.

And maybe that's not a bad thing. Maybe the nerds are just tastemakers in disguise.

What I do know is that we haven't built algorithms smart enough to do it for us (yet), and we also haven't built trust networks to do the human side of the work (yet). But we're getting there, and I'm looking forward to that.

WerBlerr6 karma

Do you see the music industry collapsing anytime soon?

bornenormous14 karma

Not in a blaze of glory. Not in a phoenix from the ashes kind of way.

The music industry is in a state of transformation. The Davids are coming to take on the Goliaths, and in many ways they are winning. Sometimes the Davids are becoming Goliaths.

Heres' the most important thing: there has never been a better time to be a music fan. I for one am looking forward to a better industry.

stayonthecloud5 karma

I worked in the music industry for a while, but as part of a marketing group that promoted a number of different artists from different labels. And I've worked with tiny labels, but I don't know what it's like to be at a major label. So this is super interesting to me and thanks for the AMA.


  • What DOES a big label like Warner Bros. do for artists, and what DOESN'T the label do? What is completely the artist's responsibility, what is completely the label's responsibility, and where are the grey areas?

  • How close or distant to the team working to promote them are the artists? What are the typical roles of people on the label who make up their managing/promotional team?

  • What do you know about artist contracts? How easy or hard is it for artists to break out of a contract? Are there ever stipulations around behavior---for instance, certain artists in East Asia are not allowed to do drugs?

  • Where does control begin and end for artists? What are they typically in control of about their music/career/future and what is more typically in the label's power?

  • Finally, what's the most radical, revolutionary idea you've heard of (or maybe thought of) to take us into the next era of the music industry? mp3s/iPods/streaming music/iTunes/crowdfunding have all been revolutionary in their own way, what's next?

[Edited for formatting.]

bornenormous5 karma

Tough questions! I'll do my best here...

What DOES a big label like Warner Bros. do for artists, and what DOESN'T the label do? What is completely the artist's responsibility, what is completely the label's responsibility, and where are the grey areas? -

What labels do: money, radio promotion, marketing. What labels say they do: everything else.

Big labels offer up money (usually in the form of an advance) to record and promote a record. This money is recoupable. Most artists never recoup. Labels bet their money just like hedge funds: buy a bunch of music, hope that some of it makes a profit.

Of course an artist can do any of these things without a label, but that really is what labels have to offer.

How close or distant to the team working to promote them are the artists?

This completely depends on the artist and their management team. Some artists work directly with the teams, one on one. Some of hte artists I worked on I never met, never had an email, never heard from them. It all comes down to the artist's comfort level and routine.

What are the typical roles of people on the label who make up their managing/promotional team?

Management is almost always outside of the label. Management teams now have taken a lot of the roles traditionally at labels (like marketing, promotion, etc.) -

What do you know about artist contracts? How easy or hard is it for artists to break out of a contract? Are there ever stipulations around behavior---for instance, certain artists in East Asia are not allowed to do drugs? -

Recording contracts are notorious for a reason. There are truly ridiculous things in some contracts, things you would never sign your name to if you had actually read the damn thing.

That's why labels have their own legal teams. In house.

Where does control begin and end for artists? What are they typically in control of about their music/career/future and what is more typically in the label's power? -

There's no easy answer to this. It comes down to leverage. If you're Katy Perry, you have leverage (i.e. a zillion rabid fans ready to buy your stuff), and you can use it to force certain things on your label. On other items the label might have leverage (for instance, why would Katy Perry or her team be better suited to packaging design and manufacturing than a record label?).

Finally, what's the most radical, revolutionary idea you've heard of (or maybe thought of) to take us into the next era of the music industry? mp3s/iPods/streaming music/iTunes/crowdfunding have all been revolutionary in their own way, what's next?

I'm looking forward to figuring this out :)

stayonthecloud3 karma

Thanks so much! I appreciate all your answers. Thanks for sharing your podcast info as well.

bornenormous1 karma

You are very welcome.

friedjumboshrimp4 karma

You mentioned Prince, is he really a musical genius. Does he really master all the instruments? What instrument is he best at? I find his guitar work amazing, is he a copycat or is he a legit guitarist?

bornenormous6 karma

He's as legit as they come. Truly one of the few living musical geniuses. Guitar is definitely his strongest instrument, unless you count his voice, of course.

kinkora4 karma

What do you think of music piracy?

I was thinking of just that one question but it sparked off a couple more.

  1. Not too long ago, majority of music artists and record labels were vehemently against pirating music online now but seems to have died down now. Why do you think that happened?

  2. What was the tipping point for the music industry to start noticing that the internet is an important thing for them and instead of fighting it, they had to work with it?

  3. Any awesome or surprising dinosaur/geeky stories about any of the artists you worked with?

  4. What color is your underwear that you are wearing now?

Thanks for doing the AmA!

bornenormous10 karma

First: piracy will never disappear. Second: piracy is not the problem.

I tend to side with Jay Frank on this one: your band doesn't have a piracy problem, you have a demand problem.

Now to try to get your other questions:

  1. Streaming happened. Spotify and Youtube are killing piracy. I believe that's a good thing.

  2. Napster. It was a disaster and everybody knew it. They will never admit it, but that was the biggest blunder in the history of digital media, regardless of art form.

  3. Neil Young was pretty famous for wanting ridiculous Flash websites. No offense to Neil, he's fucking awesome.

  4. Gray.

CrazyEdward2 karma

Seriously? Neil "I don't want to release my music on CD because the sound quality is worse than vinyl" Young wanted a Flash site??

bornenormous4 karma

Yep. He was also into doing SMS campaigns for a while. He's a remarkably brave artist, even if he is somewhat non-tech-savvy.

full_of_empty4 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA! If I pm you a link to an original song of mine would you give a critique?

bornenormous6 karma

I appreciate your asking as opposed to just doing it unsolicited. So yes!

CrazyEdward0 karma

Sweet! Can I send you a track from a band I managed off their latest recording, "The Pipe is Broke?" :p

Great AMA buddy. Have always been deeply impressed by your knowledge of the musics.

bornenormous3 karma

We gotta put that up on iTunes someday.

JayceCantor3 karma

How much do you believe that "stardom" (whatever that should mean to people) is inborn? Or do you believe that it's mostly hard work?

Also, not a question, but, love this: "...I believe that music is fucking awesome." Sounds like you really have a passion for what you're doing, and as a music fan, I agree, music is truly awesome!

bornenormous7 karma

I believe that untalented artists can succeed with a lot of hard work. And I believe that extremely talented artists will always fail without hard work. But true stardom (whatever that means to you) comes from talent and hard work.

Pomerantz3 karma

I believe that untalented artists can succeed with a lot of hard work. And I believe that extremely talented artists will always fail without hard work. But true stardom (whatever that means to you) comes from talent and hard work.

I suspect this is true of most fields!

bornenormous2 karma

No doubt.

Pomerantz3 karma

"...I believe that music is fucking awesome." Sounds like you really have a passion for what you're doing, and as a music fan, I agree, music is truly awesome!

As Smokey Robinson would say, I second that emotion.

bornenormous3 karma

Hey buddy, thanks for dropping by :)

bencredible3 karma

Do you miss space? Is it calling back to you? Why aren't you working in space anymore. The cosmos misses you, Mike. They miss you.

bornenormous3 karma

And I miss you guys too!

HansChuzzman3 karma

If I want to use a particular artists music in a short film or YouTube video, how do I go about approaching a label to do so?

bornenormous4 karma

You don't have to, at least in most cases. Just put the music in your video and upload it. YouTube has a system called ContentID that tags music in your videos. If that content is licensed to be on YouTube (usually by the label or artist), then ContentID claims your video, and usually runs advertising against it to ensure that the artist gets paid.

In the biz, this is called "user generated content" or "UGC." Money from UGC can account for as much as half of a record label's entire revenue stream on YouTube. (Seriously, you'd be really surprised which videos are gold mines for the labels.)

Now songwriters get paid separately from the recording owners, and they get paid through several channels including the Performance Royalty Organizations, Rightsflow or Harry Fox, and YouTube directly (via AdSense or other deals). This is where YouTube becomes an ugly complicated mess.

If your song is not licensed for YouTube, or is blocked in certain territories, ContentID should handle that automatically. Unfortunately this could mean your video is unwatchable, or unavailable on certain platforms.

thewayoutisthrough1 karma


bornenormous1 karma

While that is technically true, almost none of the pubs/writers enforce this. I've posted many songs on YouTube myself without obtaining any licenses whatsoever. That doesn't make it legal or right, but nobody's taking it down either.

Capmcam2 karma

What is your opinion on how revenue flows through channels such as YouTube? Ars Technica Quartz had a good piece about how something like Harlem Shake made the creators nothing and the labels everything.

Follow-ups: I know that ContentID is ultimately unavoidable, but filler music is out there and even baked in to YouTube's tools. With monetization the way that it is, how much of a cut would someone (ballpark) expect if they were to submit to ContentID for one of their personal videos as you mentioned in a previous statement? That is to say, if someone has a relatively popular channel that they rely on for income, would protected music impact their income in any substantial way?

*edit: making of more coherent ideas and news sources

bornenormous2 karma

The creator revenue streams from YouTube are broken, no doubt, but not quite as bad as most people think. It is very possible to make money from YouTube. Ultimately the question lies in how many people take their cut before the creator.

I haven't read the Ars piece (thanks for the link), but I know about the Harlem Shake story. It works like this:

  1. Baauer and their label Mad Decent put the song into the ContentID system through a Multi-Channel Network (MCN) called INDMusic.
  2. Zillions of fans upload Harlem Shake videos. INDMusic claims them all.
  3. Advertiser pays money to run an ad alongside a Harlem Shake video.
  4. Google takes a cut of the ad money
  5. INDMusic takes a cut of the ad money
  6. Mad Decent takes a cut of the ad money
  7. Songwriters take a cut of the ad money
  8. Baauer gets their cut

This is essentially the same story as in every other part of the music industry: there are a whole lot of fingers in every pie.

How much an artist can make depends on a lot of things. MCNs are set up to negotiate better ad rates, and in some cases they control the ad inventory and sales as well. YouTube AdSense works on an auction system, so each ad/stream pays differently. And labels/songwriters/etc. all have different percentages.

Figure it this way: you put a video on YouTube, and you're going to make $0.001 - $0.005 per view, on average. Ballpark.

Edit: typos.

ubermasterson2 karma

Did you build that saxophone that played Coltrane? (giant steps I think)

bornenormous2 karma

Nope. But I was heavily involved in design and prototyping for this opera: http://opera.media.mit.edu/projects/deathandthepowers/

insaneme12 karma

Who was your favorite band/artist to work with, and why? Also, have any cool/interesting stories to tell Reddit?

bornenormous5 karma

Flaming Lips, hands down. Such a creative and hard working band. I shared a story in another comment, but here's another:

I was lucky enough to witness a reading (in a conference room, of all weird places) of the original concept for the Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots stage play. So surreal to sit in a room with Wayne Coyne and crew telling that story.

Dropdatopz241 karma

Which artist or band in your opinion has achieved the most success with the least amount of talent? Who is the biggest asshole you have ever met?

bornenormous1 karma

Most success with least talent is a huge toss up. I mean, pick a pop star, any pop star. The real needles in the haystack are the ones who achieve great success and have great talent.

Lots of assholes in this business. Most of them are managers (sorry to say it) or executives (lots of really great genuine executives too). Even more unfortunate is that a lot of the assholes are also incredibly smart, and tend to be extremely successful too. I'd love to name names, but this is a particularly small business.

kozmund1 karma

I'm curious if you're familiar with the Steve Albini essay The Problem With Music and what if anything substantial has changed in the label system since it was written in 1993 (aside from the obvious stuff.)

bornenormous1 karma

I haven't read that, but thank you for the link. Albini's rant against paying royalties to producers remains one of my favorite pieces of industry rant ever.

I'll try to answer as best I can without reading the whole article, and it's pretty simple: for every time an artist had an advantage against a label, the labels devised new and clever ways to screw the artists out of some portion of their money, contractually.

Example: when digital downloading first came into the picture, labels would add a clause to artist contracts stating "the royalties from iTunes downloads are to be paid at 10% blah blah." Artists signed these, not realizing that Amazon, Spotify, and a zillion others would someday be part of the picture, and the artists that signed those contracts have never made a dime from non-iTunes sales. This is, of course, an extreme example, but it's indicative of the larger trend.

skeeterou1 karma

What's up Mike! It's Tyler. Good to see you here!

bornenormous2 karma

Hey buddy! Long time no see. Hope you're well.

jimmykees1 karma

Have you ever had an artist come to you that was really super amazing but had to turn them for some reason? I guesz I'm kinda asking what getting a record depends heavily on.

bornenormous1 karma

I was never involved with signing artists, but I definitely saw artists turned away for a variety of reasons - not enough online presence, no touring history, no talent, bad management, bad finances, you name it.

HansChuzzman1 karma

What do you think about smaller labels? subpop... SideOneDummy... Are they as shady as the big three, but on a smaller scale?

bornenormous1 karma

It all depends on the label. Some of them are shady, some are not. Bear in mind that many of the "big indies" have distribution through the major labels as well, so it's another hand in the pie.

W1ckeDxt1 karma

Are you ever "too old" to make it in the music business? Is it possible when your 30 years old but are amazing at whatever instrument of your choice and you write amazing songs? Is there a chance?

bornenormous2 karma

It's not common, but it's not unusual. It all depends on what type of music you play, whether you've built your own fanbase, etc.

At the end of the day, your success depends on your ability to connect with fans and have them love your music. Period. Age has nothing to do with it.

W1ckeDxt1 karma

Great, thank you! Very insightful.

bornenormous1 karma

And good luck to you!

CrazyEdward1 karma

Rdio or Spotify? Or something else? Do you think there will ever be a truly comprehensive music-streaming service that fairly compensates artists?

bornenormous1 karma

Rdio, religiously. I'm a huge huge fan.

Comprehensive: yes, absolutely, so long as the artists get on board.

Fairly compensates artists: yes, absolutely, so long as the paying userbase reaches critical mass.

Orangeamp1 karma

In the record industry was there any firm of favoritism between people to which album would get more attention outside of another ?

bornenormous2 karma

Yes. One of many dirty little secrets. We had a priority list at all times, and records at the top of the list would get more money and more company time. This is one of the reasons I tell smaller bands not to sign to big labels.

MellowJolly1 karma

What would you recommend for those thinking of wabting a career in the music industrt general.

I just finished highschool and id love to work for a music company

bornenormous1 karma

What's your specialty? Are you a musician? Recording engineer? Do you have a knack for marketing? Are you a computer geek? Do you like working with people?

MellowJolly1 karma

I spend my day messing around with my guitar, singing, doing covers, looking to get lessons on writing music...

Id love to study to become an engineer for a studio.

Not sure what I wanna do yet honestly but working as a musician is my 1st destiny.

bornenormous2 karma

You can go to school to study engineering, but I'd strongly recommend you go to the school of hard knocks. If music is your destiny, you need to do it.

MellowJolly2 karma

I kinda see what you mean. Thanks, Ive always wanted to become a musician, its just hard to see any open doors nowadays

bornenormous1 karma

There has never been a better time to break into the industry. As an artist you have the entire world at your fingertips - but it's what you make of it. You have the ability to put your music in the hands of fans any time you want, 24 hours a day. You have the ability to connect with fans personally. You have the ability to make and record music for next to nothing. You have the ability to sell your music, your tickets, your merch, on your terms. You can make money from publishing, from licensing, from whatever.

The only flip side is that there are more artists, just like you, trying to do the same thing.

CrashDerby1 karma

Hi I do a podcast as well with many of the local bands and musicians in my home area. Do you have any advice on how to get more people involved and interested in local music in an area that has a lot of musicians but not people that are interested in their local music?

bornenormous1 karma

As with anything, you need to give them a good reason to care. There are some music fans who prefer local music because it is local. But I think they are few and far between.

If there are great bands, they'll bubble up either way, so long as they have the right channels (i.e. you and your podcast).

It also helps to have a community. Is there a radio station that plays local stuff? Are there other local music bloggers? Great local venues? All those people need to band together. Do co-branded showcases. Have DJs do guest spots on local blogs. Get local bands to do benefit shows with local businesses or charities. A rising tide lifts all boats.

ccchhris1 karma

Hey Mike, I'm currently a student at a creative industries based university in Australia studying Entertainment Business Management. I came here after a year of a straight-up business course that did not appeal to me whatsoever but upon finding this course it appealed to me immediately as music plays such a large role in my life.

My question is, what tips or advice do you have for someone striving to work within the industry?

I haven't fully decided which direction I want to head, but I'm definitely interested in the management, label and booking side of things. Ultimately, money isn't a huge motivation for me either (it is the arts field after all) as I am really doing this so that I can enjoy my work and feel like I am doing something important in life, at least in my own opinion.

bornenormous3 karma

First I'd suggest figuring out which of those things you want to do the most:

  1. Management is like babysitting a child who can drink legally
  2. Booking is the old "dialing and smiling" and you'll have to be cool with that
  3. Label life can be very corporate, depending where you work

Your decision should come down to personal choice - do you like marketing? do you like logistics? do you like wheeling and dealing?

Once you've decided, you'll have a much easier time breaking into whatever you want to do - just go chase after it as fast and as hard as you can.

And remember, there will always be more bands than there are managers/labels/agents, and that puts you in high demand, assuming there are bands you are willing to work with.

ccchhris2 karma

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer my question. I really appreciate what you're doing as it gives me an insight into what it is like actually working in the industry and is helping in making a decision. It also gives me hope that there are opportunities out there for me!

I apologize for the long-ish post to follow as well! I did not expect anyone who could give me some useful advice relating to my future to do an IAMA and am just trying to make the most of it!

As for making a personal choice, I'm not sure how well I'd fit into a corporate environment, I mean there certainly are some independent labels in my town that I would be interested but I'm not sure if the opportunity is there.

Marketing has always seemed interesting to me, though I don't think I'm the type of guy to be working on band's social media pages and promotions, or at least not for the long term. I've always been able to wrap my head around business since the early years of high school, so I feel like I could work well in an environment focusing on logistics, I'm just not sure if it could hold my interest for long or that it would satisfy my need to feel fulfilled.

Ultimately, I guess I'm just having a hard time deciding because I haven't really had any experience in either fields and I'm not sure what's right for me. After reading this I'll be on the lookout for opportunities and insights into both management and booking so I can make a well informed decision.

And with that I suppose I have one more question, how valued are degrees relating to entertainment business fields within the industry?

I know that a lot of people do start out managing their friends bands or just booking shows and suddenly have just broke out and thrived, but some of my lecturers (who still work in the industry in one way or another) have been convincing me that organisations are beginning to value credentials more and more lately and I'm just not sure how true that is.

Again, than you for taking the time to answer mine (and others) questions!

bornenormous2 karma

how valued are degrees relating to entertainment business fields within the industry?

I have two degrees from MIT. And I have no doubt in my mind that those two lines on my resume got me the interview that got me a job at a major label.

With that said, I didn't learn anything about the music business in school. Everything I know is from personal experience and a crash course in label life.

What I did learn in school was how to learn. And that is invaluable. Whether you want to spend the money on college to do that is up to you. I don't regret it for a second (except once a month when I pay my student loan bill).

EDIT: Let me rephrase my answer like this: I don't think a music business degree will do a damn thing for you in your career. What it will do is make you a smarter and better person.

faithplusone011 karma

Hey man. I'd just like to say that its good to see someone trying to change the industry from an institutional level like this. Its very inspiring to me.

My limited engagements in the industry are confined primarily to a couple of multi-state tours with a few bands and a lot of session/studio work in the East Texas/Southern Louisiana area. In my time I've seen that the truth about the industry is that the vast majority of the people on the bottom have absolutely NO idea what it means to even have a realistic expectation of success.

I've had 30 year old country singers that I barely know cry in front of me about how they're afraid they're too old to pursue their dreams and how they don't understand why they haven't "made it" yet. I've met bands who still insist upon shipping and shopping things out to recording labels in spite of the fact that it seems pretty clear to those "in the know" that they haven't a shot in hell. I've seen 50 and 60 year old jaded worn and tired blue-collar musicians trade war stories and I've seen the pain in their eyes when they admitted that for some reason or another they fell short of getting the success and the money and the fame they craved and that this regret has destroyed their lives.

Today's music industry is as you've said it-its both easier and more difficult to obtain success. With the internet and its wealth of resources available, my band based in the Southern U.S. has sold albums in Scandinavia and even parts of Africa without a record deal. So have many others, mind you, but the opportunities for success for a truly independent band have never EVER been greater, and things are only getting better from here.

Recently (and upon considering the suggestions of friends of mine) I've gone as far as to consider starting some sort of music business consulting company just so that I can feel like I can help some of these people who don't understand the way things are simply by changing a few minds. The old industry dream of waiting until "Prince Charming Records Inc." comes along and whisks you away and turns you into the next Miranda Lambert or Justin Beiber or Taylor Swift or someone and all of your dreams come true is just at the very least not something you can plan for, and I'd like to go about ensuring that, for the sake of good music and for the sake of the hearts and minds of a lot of people who really crave success and have the means to get there.

For the industry to really start making strides I feel like the hearts and minds of the artists themselves need to be changed. I want to do some good by helping them. My question is this: Is my idea of a small-scale consulting and artist development company (keywords: NOT management. I don't have time or patience for that, more like guidance or assistance towards the preferred goal of an artist being able to self-manage) a bad one, a good one, and/or would it be welcomed by those trying to change the industry like you?

bornenormous2 karma

You are not crazy in wanting to build a consulting company for artists, but as someone who has done just that I will tell you it is exceedingly difficult. The sad truth is this: if you're trying to make a living by consulting for artists, you will have no choice but to work for artists with money, and unfortunately those artists are probably not the ones you are interested in helping.

Artist development and management are growing increasingly one and the same lately. But I think you're right in wanting to help artists grow without being their babysitters. Artists need to run their business like a business.

You're extremely eloquent, and I'd love to include your comment in a blog post if that is alright with you. I wish you all the best in your endeavors, and if you ever need any advice by all means hit me up.

bornenormous1 karma

You are not crazy in wanting to build a consulting company for artists, but as someone who has done just that I will tell you it is exceedingly difficult. The sad truth is this: if you're trying to make a living by consulting for artists, you will have no choice but to work for artists with money, and unfortunately those artists are probably not the ones you are interested in helping.

Artist development and management are growing increasingly one and the same lately. But I think you're right in wanting to help artists grow without being their babysitters. Artists need to run their business like a business.

You're extremely eloquent, and I'd love to include your comment in a blog post if that is alright with you. I wish you all the best in your endeavors, and if you ever need any advice by all means hit me up.

SnarkyLondoner881 karma

Hey, dude. Welcome to Nashville. Tell me--what part do you see traditional terrestrial radio playing in the future you envision?

bornenormous3 karma

Terrestrial radio isn't going anywhere anytime soon. It's still the biggest driver of sales, though it's hard to say for how long that will last. The future of music definitely includes terrestrial radio, so long as it can adapt to changing behaviors and changing customer needs.

The only major problem is I don't think their current business model can survive. Radio stations don't act as tastemakers, they simply act like a repeat button, playing the songs most in demand on endless repeat until another song bumps into the playlist. As mobile connectivity becomes more pervasive (and it already is), we're going to have less and less need for that.

I think that radio is in a unique position to adapt to listeners changing habits and tastes. I think the format system is broken (seriously, does anyone really differentiate between AC and Hot AC?). And the whole thing is being crushed by new players like NPR getting into the music game and switching up the formula.

I think for radio it's gotta be change or die, now or never. I listen to terrestrial radio exclusively in my car, nowhere else. And as soon as I have a decent sounding bluetooth connection to my car stereo, or better yet a data plan in my car, I doubt I will ever listen to it again.

Kirbybajerby2 karma

If auto makers no longer installed FM radios in new cars, do you think FM radio will die?

BTW I use this bluetooth adapter to my car stereo and it's awesome!

bornenormous1 karma

Auto makers will continue to put FM radios in cars as long as Clear Channel and the like continue to pay them to do so. And for what it's worth, FM radios are dirt cheap so there isn't much incentive to not install them, especially when you can pair it with a multi-source unit (i.e. AM/FM/XM/Bluetooth/Aux) for not a lot of money. The stereo is probably the biggest profit margin item in a car (fancy stereo? we'll add another $3000 on the sticker price).

All that said, if FM disappears from cars, then yes FM radio will die.

RockoBOOM1 karma

As a Rock guitarist, how can I help myself be seen by a major label?

bornenormous1 karma

Do you play with a band? do you sing? what genre of music?

AlienAJ1 karma

Theres an argument that is made against copyright that states that because of Copyright and the restrictions placed on copyrighted material, the ability for creative content that would improve or stem new and better material is being suppressed, and therefore is hindering artistic progression. - Do you think this is true? and furthermore do you think institutions like Creative Commons are doing enough to help?

bornenormous5 karma

Great question. Personally I agree that copyright, as it's written, tends to stifle new creative works. I'm a believer that all creative works are, in some respects, derivative. Unfortunately the only way to change this is through legislation. I love Creative Commons (and I release most of my own creative content with a CC license), but it's an opt-in license agreement and does nothing to change the underlying problems of copyright laws.

steve18791 karma

The music world seems to be split on this, but what do you think of the explosion of EDM in America? Do you think it's a fad that will pass rather quickly?

bornenormous3 karma

I grew up on Electronica. Remember that? Yeah. I, like everyone else, thought it was going to be the next hip hop, the next rock and roll. It wasn't, and it's just popping up again as EDM.

Don't get me wrong, I love electronic music (well, some of it), and I think there's an enormous amount of money to be made in it (from an industry perspective), but I really can't foresee its staying power. Only time will tell.

I read somewhere the other day that Richie Hawtin is 43 years old. Let that sink in for a second. Plastikman is 43 years old now. EDM isn't a new craze, so I guess in that respect it's kind of always been here to stay.

foolofsheet1 karma

Do you have a favourite band or artist?

bornenormous5 karma

My personal all time favorite artists include Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Nine Inch Nails, Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Philip Glass, John Zorn, and Björk, among many others.

bornenormous3 karma

Oh god, I forgot Frank Zappa. And Prince! Fucking Prince! There really are too many to name.

minos161 karma

I'm of the opinion that the music publishing business should just give way to artists hiring marketing companies or arranging a fair deal.

For example, why does the music publishing need to collect the huge fees from streaming and the artist gets it from concerts. Why can't a popular artist just say "F*** it" and collect all revenue while splitting it with a marketing company on fair terms?

bornenormous1 karma

The reason for this is because songwriters and artists are not always the same thing. An artist may record a song they did not write.

Publishing represents the song, the notes and words and melodies that make up music.

Labels represent sound recordings, the bits and plastic that make up reproducible audio.

Each of them operate under different laws, and those laws are different in every country on the globe.

Each of them collect money in different ways, usually dictated by the aforementioned laws.

Also remember: 1. Artists don't get paid for US radio plays 2. Songwriters DO get paid for US radio plays 3. Artists and songwriters are entitled to different revenue from streaming, and this is different in different countries. 4. Both artist and songwriters get paid for live performances - artists get money from ticket sales and beer and merch, and songwriters get paid through a performance royalty organization for the performances.

iamnegrolegion1 karma

I've spent the last few years researching becoming a talent manager and agent with the intent of building my first label. Do you have any information or advice for someone else who is trying to open the worlds view on music?

bornenormous3 karma

Never give up. It's a hard road to travel.

The hardest thing in the entire music business is breaking a new band. Period.

If your goal is to build a label, my best piece of advice is to start signing artists for zero dollars, with zero recoupable. Give them support with marketing, promotion, etc. Outsource the distribution, or go pure digital (lots of cheap options). Sign a bunch of bands you believe in. Give them the upfront labor for free, but take a cut of sales. You won't make a lot of money, at first, but before you know it those artists will grow, and your business will grow with it.

Whatever you do, make sure you have a monetizable asset (either publishing or recordings or whatever you choose) that you can own in perpetuity.

iamnegrolegion2 karma

All insightful tips. I've been looking forward to an IamA like this for ages and you've made the wait worthwhile. What's the hardest part about working with new artists in your opinion?

bornenormous3 karma

Hardest part about new artists is they have no idea how the industry really works. They have no idea how hard it is. They don't realize how big the world is, and how few people give a shit about their music. They don't understand what it means to work. They don't understand that being a musician is more than just playing music. And they get upset when you tell them their music sucks, and let's face it a lot of the time it really sucks.

That said, it can also be the most rewarding job in the entire world, especially when you work with artists you are truly passionate about on a personal level.

iamnegrolegion1 karma

Thank you so much for your inside look into this cesspool of an industry. Hopefully I can get this dream out sometime soon.

bornenormous2 karma

Good luck!

rix0r1 karma

Is there a good resource to find out which labels (big or small) would want a particular style of music? Like say, my band: http://tenantband.com/track/winter

bornenormous1 karma

Your best bet is to find out which labels represent your favorite similar bands (iTunes/Wikipedia/back of the CD). In the progressive metal world there are labels like Century Media, Sumerian, and a bunch of others.

im_not1 karma

I'm an intern for a music/culture magazine and I want to work in the music industry in some capacity, whether it be writing or working on the executive side such as yourself.

All I gotta ask is what are you guys looking for in an entry-level candidate and how can I make myself stand out?

bornenormous2 karma

Experience is everything. Meet as many bands as you can. Work for free. Build your resume the old fashioned way. If you're interning, I assume you're still in school? Start your own blog! Manage your friend's band! Organize concerts for your school! Take a part time job as a talent buyer at a club! There are a whole lot of options, but in this business everybody starts at the bottom. Gotta work your way up, and every single piece of experience looks good on the ol' resume.

im_not1 karma

I wish I was still in school :( I graduated in May and this is the 2nd editing gig I've had, and my third internship overall. I got the chance to interview some awesome artists and I've built a great portfolio of writing/editing/managing experience, but....either the job market is really bad or there's something about my resume that doesn't inspire confidence in employers - because I've been at it for the last five months and I've gotten nothing full-time yet.

bornenormous3 karma

PM me a link to your resume. I'd be happy to look it over.

audiotaco1 karma

Hey Mike! Can you talk a little about artist communities and bands you think that are doing it well. Do you see a future for community managers at a label?

bornenormous1 karma

Hey there! (Hope you're well)

My stance has always been that artists who manage their own fanbases are the best. But as we all know, that's not always possible. Which is why I think there's a future for community managers at labels.

Only problem there is that the line has been blurred (or destroyed) between community managing and digital marketing. And I think this is a gross misunderstanding (typically corporate) of what each role entails. Ultimately it's a play to downsize staff by increasing responsibilities, and I think it's a losing strategy.

That said, I lean more every day toward in-sourcing community management to the management companies, and letting labels and the like handle digital marketing. This allows the community manager closer relationships with the bands, which I think makes for a much better fan experience all around.

fntd1 karma

What stuff have you done for linkin park? I always thought they handle their stuff pretty much with their own people like adam who was a big person in the lpu and who did a lot of social media stuff for them.

bornenormous2 karma

You are correct. LPU is one of the few fanclubs that I think really gets it right. They have their own staff, with access to the band, and they're passionate (and paid!). Any money that comes into the fanclub gets spent for/on the fans, as opposed to winding up in the artist/label's pockets. And Adam is great.

The work I did with LP is mostly on the strategy side, and to be perfectly honest it was quite limited. The band and their management does an incredible job of handling a lot of this stuff themselves, and we some great in-house people as well.

biodude871 karma

from one MITer to another, hello! You should come back and visit your alma mater! What dorm were you in (if Bexley, sorry it just got torn down)? And how did you get into music as a career? I usually don't think of music when I think of MIT though we do have some excellent composers.

bornenormous1 karma

I lived at TDC, and I'm actually coming back next week to visit!

I get a lot of funny looks when I tell people I went to MIT. I get even more funny looks when I tell them I was a music major (one of three in class of 2004, if I remember correctly). I spent most of my time at the Media Lab, though, and did my grad work there. Ultimately it didn't get me ready for the music business, but it certainly was a hell of a lot of fun.

MightywarriorEX1 karma

I'm a graduate student in a top 10 entrepreneurship masters program (undergraduate degree in civil engineering). I had a project designing a business and "reinvented" the recording studio and blew away my professor and some other entrepreneurs judging the project. Looking for employees? I'm tired of my engineering job :-)

bornenormous1 karma

We're not hiring at the moment, but I'd love to hear about your reinvention of the recording studio. Care to share?

MattBlumTheNuProject0 karma

You commented on piracy not being the problem. I recently saw David Bazan do one of his living room concerts and he had a much different take. He said that he used to tour 3 months a year and that 60-75% of his revenue came from album sales and now he has to tour 6-8 months a year and albums sales make up only 5% of his gross. Unless his music took a dive, which I'm mostly positive it did not, it seemed to me like piracy, Pandora, Spotify, etc... has made it so that musicians have to tour all the time in order to get paid. In his case, this means leaving his family to do so.


bornenormous4 karma

Hey Matt, good to hear from you! Hope all is well.

The point of my argument is mostly that human beings have finite attention, and they have to decide how music fits into that. Increasingly our attention is being taken by computers, video games, and other forms of media, and decreasingly by music. Piracy isn't the problem, attention and demand are the problem. The reason David Bazan has fewer record sales isn't due to piracy, it's because people are spending their dollars and time elsewhere.

The only reason touring revenues are up is that concerts are an experience, a one-time event that people find value in.

Value is the key to the entire thing: give people a reason to spend their money on your thing (whatever it is) instead of somebody else's thing.

ExclusiveG-1 karma

Thanks for the AMA! A few questions:

What's your opinion on 'good looking' guys with alright voices being marketed to prepubescent girls ? Ex. One Direction, n Justin Beiber...boy bands in general.

In your opinion, what percent of their success is actually due to their talent, and how much of it, is marketing?

bornenormous5 karma

There's a place for it, just like everything else. Just because a zillion teenage girls are buying it doesn't mean you have to. Selling music with sex is nothing new, but pairing it with talent is increasingly rare. That's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Elvis did it. The Beatles did it. They both happened to be really great artists too. I worked with Michael Buble and Josh Groban, both of whom I think fit that category as well (although they tend to have a much much older audience). It's not impossible.

Boy bands have been around forever (girl bands too!). Sometimes their success is driven by talent, sometimes it isn't. But that can be said for almost all music.

steezysagisi-1 karma

Can I get a job?

bornenormous7 karma

I don't know, can you?

steezysagisi0 karma

Yup, I can.

bornenormous2 karma

Then I think you just answered your own question.

bilbo_shwaggins-2 karma

Hmmmmm. Lemme try.

Will you please personally hire me for something? As my skill set is many-tiered and quite frankly, awe-inspiring.

bornenormous4 karma

What have I got in my pocket?

gnualmafuerte-8 karma

I believe most fanclubs are broken

Fan clubs are a truly stupid idea, part of this modern support-group 12-stepping bullshit we've been sold, that manifests both IRL and through other stupid crap such as facebook, twitter, etc. If you enjoy something, awesome! you don't need a stupid support group for that.

I believe ticket pricing is unfair

I have never paid for music, and I go to a lot of concerts, so I find ticket pricing to be great! Most expensive ticket I've ever paid: ~500 dollars.

I believe that recorded music is just one revenue stream

Recorded music shouldn't be a revenue stream.

and I believe that music is fucking awesome.


And I believe things can, indeed, get better.

Lou Reed died yesterday. Roger Waters is thinking about retiring. Music have only been getting worse since the 90's

bornenormous6 karma

Did you have a question?