Calling All Recording Gurus: I’ve Got Nothing to Prove, but I Still Need Your Help (See My Video!)

What do I do now?

In 1991, I released my first record on MCA (or MCI, as my mom always mistakenly told her friends, hoping to impress them). I was bummed, as I had just missed the opportunity to have my face big on an album cover. But vinyl was over, and the CD format (with the long cardboard box–remember that?) was the wave of the future.

Since then, I have been dropped by two major labels and languished on two indies that both went bankrupt.

Well, no one in my world (the music industry) seems to really know what to do. That’s why I am asking you D geeks if you have any ideas.

Right now I have plenty of what I think are really swell songs. Here’s one:

None of my musician friends are mourning the demise of the record industry. Most of us got crummy deals anyway and never saw a penny of royalties. My nephews expect really expensive birthday gifts from me, as they think that I must be rolling in dough, having been on MTV a few times. I always acquiesce, not wanting to tell them the truth.

For us, in this YouTube, long-tail, Kara-and-Walt world, it’s an exciting time. But it’s also confusing. How do I release my next recordings? Do I still put out a CD in the traditional way, or just go digital? Do I send demos one last time to the remaining majors or go indie (this time with a company that lasts longer than a year) and get a, say, 50/50 deal? Do I just finance the whole thing myself–musicians, studio, marketing, publicist, radio, promo, video, etc.? And where do I get the money? How do I pay the rent? How do I support my gambling and morphine habits?

One thing I am doing is working with the guys at QiGO (who presented their invention, a key-shaped USB device that launches a predetermined Web site when connected to a computer, this year at D5). One of my strong points is my live performance (I have heard). I sell my CDs at the concerts, but people who are fans already have them. Plus, some feel that the recordings do not, and cannot have, the fun and spontaneity of a live show. Some artists drag a bunch of CD burners to tape their shows. People will stand in line for hours to get a copy of the concert they just saw. I had this idea with Dan Klitsner (co-founder of QiGO) that we could sell his little USB keys, people could go home and the next day they could download the show. We gave away keys at my last New York show, and everyone seemed to really like it. (We are still working out the kinks.)

Now to the question of how to finance a new album (I still like saying “album”). I once had this idea of asking my fans to chip in and become “stockholders,” sort of like investors in Broadway shows. So one fan could give maybe $100, and a wealthier one could give a grand or more. Once the record breaks even, they would get their money back and subsequently a cut of the profits–if any. And they would all feel part of the success of a smash-hit record–fun! My manager and lawyer were so not into it and discouraged me. They said it would be a nightmare on all fronts. I still do kind of like the idea. Plus, these days, to make a record does not cost as much as it once did. Everybody and everybody’s brother has Pro Tools or GarageBand in their computers. The big-time studios have had to cut down their rates substantially.

Thoughts? Ideas? Comments?


By the way, I don’t have a morphine or gambling problem…yet.