The music business used to be big. It was beyond big; it was huge, gargantuan. “Larger-than-life” personalities. “Rock-and-roll lifestyle” excesses. Money, extravagance, superfluity, glamour and flash. Arena concerts. Tour buses and limousines.
A long time ago (it seems), record labels invested in artists and shepherded them along, into and ideally through a career that benefited both or all parties involved. Lopsided though the distribution of money may have been, labels supported musicians. Then, video killed the radio star.
Hardly anybody who listens to music or even who aspires to making music for money has any clue about the machine that is the music business—and never really has. In the early days of the record business, it was mostly black artists who were ripped off. Executives figured the artists had no idea about the amount of money their records made—and they were largely correct in this assumption: easy marks for whom a pittance seemed a fortune. Somewhere along the way, even though they became aware of how much they were being ripped off, artists of many origins, if not most, were willing to be ripped off for their chance at recognition and maybe even the proverbial brass ring. Today, there are as many different stories of success and the paths to getting there (or not) as there are musicians.
In a new series for Making a Scene, I’d like to feature up-and-coming artists in and around Los Angeles. I’d like to start by telling you a little about myself and therefore my credentials.
Though a flutist and singer from childhood through college, I never aspired to be a performer. I love music, I love writing, and I love making things happen for musicians by working behind the scenes. My very first paycheck job out of college was at the then-largest recording studio complex in Chicago. I had landed my dream job at 23 years old, and would still be there today had the technology not changed in a way that made my position obsolete.
Through the years, I have worked in booking, artist management, event production, marketing, publicity, live mixing, and studio production, as well as serving 12 years as a jack-of-all-trades for Tower Records. I was writing online product reviews, editing four monthly genre-specific email subscriptions, and researching/writing the Main Listening Station squibs when the ship went down in 2006. I spent years transcribing, arranging, producing, and performing a tribute album of sorts, featuring mostly the music of Bela Fleck. Yes, I transcribed Bela Fleck’s music by ear, note-for-note. https://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jengiessvoila
When Tower disappeared, I was forced into a different career field for almost 12 years. To keep myself in the game, though, I started producing house concerts (another post, to come, about house concerts!).
I love both recorded music and live music, however, and was soon invited into a venture called Gigable, which started exclusively as “crowdfunding for live-entertainment events.” Think GoFundMe, but the goal is to bring your artist/speaker/comedian of choice to your town, having “pre-sold” enough tickets to convince him/her/them to make your town a destination. Your show. Gigable has expanded its capabilities since 2013: in 2014, we started producing house concerts. Showcases and songwriters’ rounds followed in 2016; also, its Apple-compatible mobile app was launched in July of 2016. The Android version is scheduled for May of 2017.
Here’s where it all comes together. I’ll be writing about artists whose music you can sample on Gigable.net‘s mobile app. But this is not just YouTube or Pandora. What Gigable does is focus on the emerging artist, self-starters, DIYers. The struggling, unknown, independent artist trying to make a name for himself of herself. The app user gets a custom playlist, based on preferences he or she enters. The device’s GPS tells the user who’s playing shows nearby and allows the user to buy tickets–all in one fell swoop. So fans of live music, people who want to find some new music to discover and support in their hometowns or in cities they may be visiting, can get out of the house and experience live music they might not otherwise have discovered.
The column will focus on the artists. But if you have questions about Gigable or want to host a house concert (an artist you choose from our roster, an artist who wants to develop a fanbase in your area, or anyone you can think of–we’ll try to get them), you can contact me, and I will be glad to explain everything and get the ball rolling for you. [email protected]