Best wishes to all. My name is Dan Reed, formerly from the Dan Reed Network (DRN), and I have had the honor to be asked to write a monthly column for MetalTalk.net.
My history goes back to DRN being signed to Polygram by Derek Shulman in the US back in 1987. We had the pleasure to record three albums with the label, two produced by the very talented and humble Bruce Fairbairn (Bon Jovi, Aerosmith) and one album produced by the incredibly gifted Nile Rogers (Madonna, David Bowie).
Between 1988 and 1992 we were blessed to be the opening act for such bands as RUN DMC, David Bowie, INXS, The Kinks and did full length tours with UB40 in the US and the 1989 European Tour with Bon Jovi and the 1990 Rolling Stones European Tour.
Over twenty years later I have had the great joy of getting back to the big stage with a new band made up of Rob Daiker, Brooke Lizotte, Bengan Jonasson and Robert Ikiz, along with Jimmy Lagnefors and Henka Johansson sitting in as well, performing at Sweden Rock and last year’s Download Festivals.
It has also been an amazing year of performing more private events, house concerts, club events, both solo, acoustically and with the full band supporting the last solo album entitled ‘Coming Up For Air’.
I give this background as a premise for what is to follow and to explain that I have seen the music business from all angles and must say it has been a beautiful yet very bumpy ride and I wish to convey how these modern times may just be the medicine the music business, and the egos in the business, needed so desperately, including my own.
As a recording artist whose career has spanned the 80s into the 2010s I thought it might be appropriate to put into perspective the pros and cons of what many pine for as the ‘good old days’ when bands were getting huge advances, filming $100,000 music videos was commonplace and record company execs where flaunting their company credit cards at every opportunity that presented itself (often recoupable by the artist one would later find out), while also speaking on the benefits of these current times of ‘free downloads’ and the YouTube/Spotify generation.
It is often commonplace to hear artists complain about how much the music business has changed, and even more so hearing former record company executives long for the days of when the music business was ‘big’ business.
There is some truth to the fact that back when bands and solo artists had to get record deals before their music could be heard there was a certain mystique to the whole scene. Before MTV came into existence supporters of musicians had to wait to see them live to even get a glimse of their favorite artist animated. This in turn created legends. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Janice Joplin, The Beatles, to name a few.
Those days are long gone and groups/artists of today often explode on the scene as fast as they fade away online. But those artists that really stick to the soul, to society’s psyche will not only live, but flourish in these times of immediate gratification, that is as long as the artists continue to grow within their genre, create meaningful material, and stay on the road performing live.
This last element cannot be stressed enough. The old fear that MTV and music videos was going to destroy live performance was unfounded, and instead live shows are as valid as ever, if not more so.
There are a few bands, both past and present, that come to mind that are quite masterful on their studio recordings, but when hitting the stage, simply do not deliver the goods. Their vocals are grossly out of tune, their timing on their instruments off, and their careers often short-lived once the audience realizes they have been sold a bill of goods that is not authentic and true.
There was a group called The Thomson Twins back in the 80s that were massive on radio and MTV. One could not escape their music for a few year period. Their demise is often attributed to when they did a live performance at 1985s Live Aid which was broadcast live around the world. The performance was so dismal, bordering embarrassing, that their career slowly faded away. So no matter how great your material sounds in the studio, keep wood shedding until the songs and vocal performances sound as good live, if not better, and your musical path will have a solid foundation to build upon.
Regarding the ‘good old days’, one must wonder how many great artists were never heard from the 1940s up until the internet became the law of the land. How much talent never even got to bat simply because some A&R guys and gals didn’t think they had the goods, or the artists never had the resources to get in the studio and record material to shop to the labels?
With the invent of internet and quality home studio software programs that crutch has been obliterated. Whether you’re Bruce Springsteen or an unknown 15-year-old song writer in the basement of his/her parent’s house, the playing field has been levelled. Every artist from every corner of the world that has internet capabilities has the same access to the entire globe as do established, well-known artists. This is inspiring and as it should be, for the days of big egos has expired, or soon will.
Artists like myself that lived and worked in the booming era of the late 80s/early 90s have a lot to be grateful for. Many of us saw the world and owe our current careers to the time and finances the labels invested in us all. But for those that think it was all wine and roses during that era… after not releasing a fourth album for Polygram/Mercury I received a letter of discontinuing business with DRN from the company.
It was surprising, but not so shocking to learn that after selling over 1.8 million records worldwide over three albums, we were 1.9 million dollars in debt to the label.
Now an artist can sell a few thousand copies if he/she/they work hard enough online and on the road and finance building their own home studio, and survive… so times have changed, but for the better I would argue.
The power of so many record company execs has been decreased, while the power of the artist to design and direct their own career has been increased. In a time when we are truly interconnected, economically, environmentally and electronically, we truly are becoming ‘one’. The borders of countries, and patriotism to ideologies, flags, and religions are melting away, and the arts has always and will always, lead the way in bringing us together.
So if a career in music is your goal spend more and more time and energy on developing your online presence, and loosen the grip on the idea of ‘getting signed’. Most importantly keep writing, recording and playing live. The basics is where it started and will no doubt be where it continues to start in the future.
Thank you for reading, and I wish all who are pursuing a life of creating music good fortune and inspiring performances!
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