“Ivan has been working closely with the Canadian urban community, and with talent throughout the Caribbean for many years…Through his new endeavors, he will continue to make great impact with music in Canada and around the world and become the media mogul we always knew he was!”
– Lisa Zbitnew (President, Sony BMG Canada)
“Ivan is one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry from all aspects of the game, from the label side to management to publishing, and he’s been someone I’ve looked to as a mentor. We’ve worked along parallel paths for more than 20 years, and now to be able to work together with him on a number of joint ventures is an honor for me.”
– Farley Flex (Canadian Idol judge, Artist Manager and Label Owner)
Berry is a winner and he works with winners. The artists he’s worked with have sold millions of records worldwide and have collected countless industry honors, including JUNO awards (Canada’s Grammy equivalent), SOCAN Awards, Much Music Video Awards, Canadian Urban Music Awards and a number of certified Gold & Platinum plaques.
Throughout his career as an entrepreneur, artist manager, record label owner, talent development executive and music publisher, Berry has been a trailblazer, and a model of consistency and success.
In summer 2006, he began blazing a new trail in the world of music publishing when he launched his co-venture with Ole, a global destination for world-class songwriters, composers and management talent. In this partnership, Berry acquires urban song catalogs and develops urban songwriters, which is an evolution of the role that he played as Ole’s Senior Partner International since late-2004.
A proud native of St. Kitts, Berry is actively involved in the development of the music business infrastructure across the Caribbean. Berry is co-creator of the annual St. Kitts Music Festival, which takes place each June and has attracted international superstars such as Kool & The Gang, Chaka Khan, Ludacris, DMX, Hugh Masekela, Boyz II Men and many more.
Berry formally began his career in the music industry in 1982 when he started the BeatFactory brand with his partner, Rupert Gayle. Berry signed the first Canadian Rap artist to an international record deal (Michie Mee) and has signed more Hip-Hop and R&B artists to record and publishing deals than any other music manager in Canada. His efforts have also resulted in more international releases for Canadian Hip-Hop and R&B artists and more Hip-Hop and R&B record sales worldwide than any other Canadian artist manager.
Many of today’s top urban music industry executives, major label representatives and artist managers will tell you that their first job was with BeatFactory and that Berry taught them what they know about the music business. Berry has also been an instructor at well-respected post-secondary music institutions including Harris Institute of the Arts and Durham College, and is in high-demand as a guest speaker/lecturer at various corporate/government events and industry conferences around the world.
As Head of A&R and International for Sony BMG Canada from 2000-2004, Berry was responsible for the development, recording and international marketing of Sony BMG Canada’s domestic roster, including artists such as Keshia Chanté, Wyclef, Shawn Desman, Sloan, Rascalz, Treble Charger, Gino Vannelli, In Essence, The Guess Who, Ryan Malcolm (Canadian Idol), Kalan Porter (Canadian Idol) and many more.
The community-at-large has recognized Berry for his many achievements. In 2000, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Urban Music Association of Canada (UMAC). In 2004, he received the Bob Marley Day Award for his continued success and for his on-going role in the community and the projection of a positive image for youth, and in 2005, Berry was honored with the Music, Arts & Entertainment Award from the St. Kitts Canadian Association.
Berry is truly an industry visionary, and lives by his favorite mantra: “To take advantage of an opportunity, you must first recognize it.”
I want thank Ivan once again for making time for this interview and for his straight forward answers. We did the interview in three parts to fit his busy schedule, and the result is one of the most informative and insightful interviews of this series to date. Ivan is a real visionary and describes a clear image of where the music industry is headed. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did. Aaron Bethune.
Interview with Ivan Berry
How did you get started in the music and entertainment business?
The birth of it all was in high school. It was 1981…82, we started a school band. Rupert Gayle, who today is one of Canada’s top songwriters, was the vocalist. Halfway through Grade thirteen, I quit because we had an opportunity to go on tour. With my great accounting skills, the tour cost us more money than we were making. So I borrowed $5000 from my mum to pursue this thing called music and the rest is history. I loved it. I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
There was a band back then called Traffic Jam. We made a record, made some money for performing live around town, and we started buying some studio equipment like a phono preamp. One of the first groups that got in was Michie Mee. At the time she was 14 years old. The production company was called Beat Factory. From Michie Mee we had people like HDV, The Pimp of the Microphone, Dream Warriors, Devon and the Metro Squad, Love and Sas and many other acts.
Later on in the late 80s, early 90s, we also created this group called Organized Rhyme, which was fronted by Tom Green. We managed Organized Rhyme for five years. We had a label deal with A&M Records, which today is Universal. The label was called Boombastic Music. We put out Rupert Gayle, Split Personality and Organized Rhyme. Then we left A&M Records and started a new label deal with EMI Records. That’s when we gave birth to RapEssentials and GroovEssentials. We had acts like Kardinal Offishall, Choclair, Glenn Lewis, Julie Black, Mathematic, Mad Locks, Ghetto Concept, The Rascalz. From there, I went on to be Head Of A&R and International for BMG then the merged Sony BMG.
My responsibility was A&R in records and dealing with artists from Ghetto Concept to Rascalz to In Essence. I signed Keshia Chante. Then I left BMG and started managing Keshia Chante myself. Then I left BMG and went on to be “Senior Partner”of this publishing company called Ole with Robert Ott and Tim Laing. We signed big publishing deals with many of our current songwriters, like Haydn Neale from Jacksoul. We signed Shiloh as an artist and songwriter. Long story short, currently we manage artists like Shazelle, Keshia Chante, Dru from In Essence, Shiloh and Massari. We manage and publish Rupert Gayle and Shiloh as a songwriter. We also publish Dru, Justin Forsley and Alex “South Rakkas” Greggs. Our current roster is Shiloh, Keshia Chante, Dru, Massari and Shazelle. My new partner is Daniel Mekinda and so we run Tanjola together. That’s the snapshot of my career.
How has the Canadian music scene and its business changed since you first started a career in it?
It changed drastically, especially in my genres of music, urban/hip-hop and R&B type of thing. When I started back then, there was no TV and no radio that played hip-hop. Look on YouTube and you will see the very early days of Rap City on MuchMusic. But when I started there was no Rap City on MuchMusic, there was no radio stations like Flow or The Beat in Vancouver. There were college and university radio stations like CKLN, CIUT and CHRY that supported hip-hop and that was it. Hip-hop was really a movement, it was either you were cool enough to know or you’re not. I remember back then when Michie Mee was pulling in 3000 people. How many Canadian hip-hop acts can have 3000 people today? It’s not really a movement anymore. It’s pop. It’s pop music. Back then we manufactured 5000 little flyers. We were working the streets, working the parties, the high schools, working the roller-skating rinks. You wouldn’t just hand out flyers to anybody. You would pick and choose who you hand out the flyers to, because like I said it’s either you’re cool enough or you’re not.
I was road manager, for many years, for Ice T. It was a movement. It wasn’t a cause just for blacks but for every culture, every race. It was lyrically driven and it was message driven. We fought for equality, we fought for everything…that was the beauty about hip-hop. You woke up in the morning and it was in your veins. So excited, so passionate.
Today, any fool can get a hit song. It’s all about bling and pop music. It’s not about talent. It’s not about a movement. It’s really about money and greed and decisions made on economics. It’s not about what’s best for the community and what’s best for the movement.
In my thirty years of hip-hop history, and, trust me, I was there from the start with KRS-One and Scot La Rock and Mr. Magic (the world’s first DJ to play any hip-hop song on commercial radio, who worked for WBLS in New York, the prominent hip-hop radio station); everybody from Biz Markie, way before people like LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys; MC Shan, and Roxanne Shante; and Queen Latifah, when she was the world’s dopest female MC. People see Queen Latifah as a big movie star now. I’m proud of her ‘cause she is such a brilliant actress. But most kids won’t have a clue that she was the dopest female MC around. There were people like Michie Mee, Monie Love and MC Lyte, the four dopest MCs, female MCs. I remember when Michie Mee whet on tour with Sinead O’ Connor, when Sinead O’ Connor had her first album out. Here was bald-headed Sinead O’ Connor, touring with Michie Mee who was a rapper, because they stood for the same thing. It’s about a movement.
Today, we segregate musical things and we put them in genres. Now you have rock radio, pop radio, hip-hop radio, urban radio. In America, it’s even worse, because you have more genres and sub-genres…some of it is based on musical styles but a lot of it in my opinion dictates who could come to parties and who can’t. Whether it is your race or culture or vibe or what, right? Back then it just wasn’t that way. There were no genres. I can remember when radio programming didn’t have a genre. You could hear a rock act, a trash metal act, a hip-hop act and John Travolta singing disco all on the same radio station.
That’s the changes – radio has changed, the movement has changed; it’s not a movement anymore. It’s all for the sake of economy, bling and everything else. Now, did we expect change and commercializing the product? Yeah, because the movement was so people could enjoy this thing called hip-hop. You don’t wish for what you can’t handle. We wished that hip-hop would be the most successful genre in the world. Now it’s the most successful genre in the world and we’re saying “no, we don’t wish it to be the most successful genre in the world.”
In this day and age, where should bands put their attention in order to make a living from music?
Ah, good question. I changed up my business model a couple of months ago and I had to ask the exact question. I think it’s three areas and one area might be stronger than the others. None of my three top areas has anything to do with selling records. Record sales is not as important as putting out records, there is a difference. I think that an artist should decide whether they want to give away music or sell music. Which means that I am a strong believer in not illegally downloading music. So, first thing, any which way – get the music out.
I think the three strongest areas of revenue stream is in no particular order: touring/“live”; sponsorship and endorsement (associating your brand with third parties); and the ownership of intellectual property (music publishing).
As for the marketing of these things, we all know about social media and the online sites like Facebook and YouTube. That is a marketing mechanism for an unsigned band to use because it’s free and you have the whole world at your fingertips. Some upcoming artists can even put their music on services like Spotify, one of the most popular music streaming apps in the world. However, artists need to promote their music so more people can discover them. Some new artists might want to think about whether they want to buy spotify streams for their music to try and increase their popularity. If not, uploading your content to YouTube and different social media platforms is also a good idea.
“Live” incorporates live performance, merchandising, the sale of concert tickets and the sale of your brand. A lot of bands nowadays like saying if you pay extra you can go to the sound check or hang out with the band or maybe go to dinner with the band. You’re basically selling a brand. “Live” to me incorporates merchandising and intellectual property (publishing and third party revenue streams).
I have zero problems with associating my artists’ brands with third-party endorsements or sponsorships, as long as they are the right ones. If Red Bull wants to do something really cool with an act that suits it, no problem. They’re going to benefit from our music anyway, so the artist might as well get paid for it. The reality is urban music made billions of dollars for brands and were not properly compensated. Urban music articulates vocabulary, mannerisms… whether it is wearing baggy pants or using the hand gestures to help communicate. Alcoholic brands, clothing brands, the automobile industry, all of those brands have used urban music to articulate their brand to the consumer, not just by using music, but by using the actual culture.
In the 80s, you could have five people walking down the road and you didn’t know what music they’re listening to. Today, when you see a kid in a certain clothing or talk in a certain way, you know what they’re into. Consumer brands have pimped urban culture and have made billions of dollars. I am happy that those partners are now coming to the table and utilizing the artists and their music to help form strong partnerships that benefits all involved.
In regards to publishing, should a band start their own publishing company or look for an established publisher?
I think a combination of all the above. First of all, a band should start their own publishing company, why not? If you’re a songwriter, then you’re a publisher. If you’re writing your own songs, lyrics, music, or both, then by law you are your own publisher. That’s how publishing works. So starting your own publishing company is just legitimizing that you are a publisher. Just for the record, you’re not losing any publishing income by not creating a publishing company because in this country if you’re unpublished, meaning you don’t have an actual publishing company, your publishing royalties will go directly to the songwriter, that’s how it works. So, whether you start an actual company or not is totally up to you, but you should see yourself as a publisher whether you have a publishing company or not.
Once you do that, you have two options: you collect a catalog of songs that you wrote and if you have the resources, knowledge and go-getting power to get those songs on all these things that pay you revenue, then great. If not, if you just want to hang out in your basement making music and you’re not into self publishing, you’re not good at that, then that’s where your publisher comes in. A great song sitting in the basement doing nothing is a great song, but is not a great revenue earner.
I hear artists and songwriters saying all the time “Hold on to your publishing, don’t give it up for nothing.” That’s garbage, because if you’re not going to exploit your music, then you hold on to it all you want and it’s never going to get out there…and you’ll make nothing.
What makes a song or catalog appealing to a publisher?
Obviously, the number one thing is the possibility of it being a revenue earner, a song with commercial appeal… and commercial appeal doesn’t necessarily mean top 40 radio like Britney Spears songs. A catalog of songs is very similar to your investment banking. If something is really sweet and paying you 20 percent return of investment, you certainly don’t want to take your full hundred grand and put it in there, but you want a nice mix of safety, aggressiveness and medium.
So, a catalog of songs could be a couple of Britney Spears type pop tracks and also some really obscure stuff that would only work for Tony Hawk’s skateboarding video game, some instrumental stuff, some drum and bass stuff, some dub step stuff, some stuff for TV and film, some composer stuff with some door squeaks and everything else for horror movies. That’s a nice catalog of organized noise, I call it, but it’s gotta be an earner. Whether that’s radio, TV, film, video games, satellite music, background music, it’s gotta fit into a revenue stream earner. In publishing, unless a song is exploited, it doesn’t earn money. It doesn’t earn money sitting in your iTunes folder.
What can a band expect from a publishing deal?
Most bands expect a high advance and they don’t really care what there publishers do after that. I’m not in agreement with that at all. I think the publishing deal is a partnership that is going to do exactly what it says: get your songs exploited in many areas as possible. I believe in my songwriters, I believe in my music. I would much prefer less of an advance and more work towards getting better songs written and getting better songs played. If they only have 50, 000 dollars to spend, most songwriters would say, “Give me $50,000 and I don’t do a songwriting trip.” I would like to say, “Well give me 30 grand in my pocket, and let’s put $20,000 towards a travel budget.” With that travel budget, I would use it to book flights and hotels for my writer to go to Sweden, or go to Germany, or Australia, or New York or LA, and co-write with other established, published songwriters.
What you have is a dynamic stream. If I write with another writer that has another publisher, when the song gets written, and it’s now co-published with Sony on one side and Tanjola on the other side, then you have Tanjola and Sony both fighting for the song to be exploited. Whoever gets the cut, the other publisher/songwriter gets the free ride.
So, what bands and songwriters should be looking for, besides money, is what can the publisher do for you? Are they highly connected in the TV and film industry? Are they highly connected with A&R people and managers and artists around the world? Are they highly connected with other songwriters and publishers globally so that you could send your songwriters and enhance their creativity, enhance their song-writing, and enhance their economic gain by being out there? My artists get cuts in Japan, in Korea, in Germany, in France, in Australia, all over. I made almost $300,000 because a Korean act translated one of our English ballads into Korean and they sold approximately three million records in Korea. Now you’d never see that song on the US Billboard charts, you’d never see the video on MTV, it’ll never be an American phenomenon, but we made a shitload of money.
Do publishers generally promote their artists?
Publishers generally promote their top songwriters, the bottom ones get fucked. They tend to try to promote as many songwriters as they possibly can. If you’re hot, then all eyes are on you. When Timbaland, as a producer, is the hottest shit around, it doesn’t mean he’s the best shit around, it means he’s the hottest shit around. So what tends to happens is every artist, every manager and record company goes to him for a song. While there may be somebody in the basement of their house and have this hot-ass song but the hot-ass song will never get heard and will never get cut, because we live in a world with branding. A too-hot song, the one that’s going to do the best is the one that is going to bring additional branding. If the producer is Timbaland, and he’s branded, and everybody wants to hear the next Timbaland track, then that’s the track we’re going to go with. So when David Foster is on a writing streak, then everybody wants a David Foster song and if you’re David Foster’s publisher, then it’s like anything else. You’re the top dog, and sixty percent of the company’s focus is going into David Foster and the other forty percent is going to be split over the next twenty songwriters. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just reality. If I have ten artists I’m managing, and one of them is making me ten million dollars a fuckin’ minute and the others are developing, who do you think I’m going to spend most of my time on? Not to say I am going to ignore the others, but certainly the money makers pay to keep the lights on for the developing artists.
How do you find out about new music?
A lot of people send me demos and stuff like that. I have never found a great song or a great artist by a demo. I listen to some of them, most of them actually. Never had luck with demos. I have had luck with word of mouth. I know everybody, everybody knows me: people send me YouTube links, audio links; a friend of a friend that knows this great artist, other people say you should check it out. Shiloh is a perfect example. We manage Shiloh because one of the chum radio stations guys called us up and said “you gotta check out this girl. She’s an awesome vocalist.” Keshia Chante, this friend of mine called me and said, “Yo, there’s this young kid in Ottawa. She’s awesome. You gotta check her out.” I did. An entertainment lawyer by the name of Miro from Chris Taylor’s office called me up and said, “Hey, I represent an artist. His name is Massari. He’s looking for management… So it’s references, word-of-mouth, now and again you get a link, et cetera.
I can’t think of a demo tape that I’ve listened to where I said, “This is hot,” because most of the demo tapes that come to us are ok but don’t give enough information about the brand we’re attempting to wrap our head around. You just get depressed. Who knows? There might be some great demos in the box, but you end up not listening to all of them, because you physically don’t have the hours in the day to do that. I get twenty CD albums a week. I got a business to run. I can’t spend my time with my headphones listening to songs, when I’m trying to mix albums that are of my own acts. I’ve got to listen to my own music to see if it’s the hottest shit I’m about to put out.
Are there any specific online resources that you pay more attention to when looking for new artist?
I don’t really search for new artists. New artists find me. I have a staff and they find new artists, et cetera. I can’t say that I honestly sit there and Google and whatever else and check out new artists and stuff like that. I’m more at the point where my staff finds the new artist. They might have the initial meeting with the artist, go check them out at a performance or something like that and they come back and say, “Yo, Ivan this is a good one.” I’m like, “Cool. Let me go check out a show.” Then I go check out the shows, because live is important to me. No matter which artist you are, I think live is a very critical component. If I like them, then I have a meeting with them, because you’re investing in a relationship. It’s like a marriage; you’re investing in time and effort and money. I want to make sure you’re not a crack head; I want to make sure you’re not a fluke; I want to make sure you’re multi-skilled. You’re a singer; you’re a songwriter; you can perform live; you have a head on shoulders; you can articulate your brand; you have some sort of look to you that I can create a brand out of you. You’ve got to be multi-faceted, because the idea of “What a great fuckin’ vocalist, let me get some hit songs and sell a whole bunch of records” – that’s not good enough for me. You’ve got to be able to articulate yourself in interviews, you’ve got to be able to become a brand, you’ve got to be able to write some songs, so when I put you out there in six revenue streams, and we’re making money from three or four then great.
From a label’s perspective, what are some of the main elements that would make you want to sign a new artist?
In my humble opinion, I have to believe they’re talented. I also think they have something very special as a brand. Something that I think is multi-age, and multi-demographic; something that I think young teenagers can enjoy but also middle-aged people could also enjoy. More importantly, and it’s impossible to explain it, I know it when I see it, is you’ve got to be something special. You’ve got to have what I call the “It” factor and my “It” factor is quite different from your “It” factor, but when I walk into a room and say, “Now there’s a fuckin’ star,” I don’t have to hear them sing a song. If I didn’t know who Michael Jackson was, if I didn’t know who Prince or Bono was, and they walked into a room I would say: “Now that person is special.” That’s the “It” factor. Whatever it is. It could be grimy old Lil’ Wayne or it could be really polite, introverted Michael Jackson. But it’s that “It” factor. I think a lot of people can make a lot of money, millions of dollars from having success, but that doesn’t mean they have the “It” factor. Madonna has the “It” factor. I think you could get really lucky with one or two albums and sell millions of records and maybe make millions of dollars. But it’s impossible to have a career that spans 10, 15, 20 albums unless you have an “It” factor.
Jay-Z’s career can’t be based on luck and just talent; there had to be an “It” factor to that career. Mick Jagger’s career. You can’t luck out with ten albums. It’s about understanding business; understanding economics; understanding that your team is as important as you are; meaning your manager, your booking agent, your lawyers, your business managers, your financial managers, your accountants, your record company, your publisher, your photographer, your publicist that cleans up your mess after you make it. All of these people are your team and you’ve got to treat your team properly. You’ve got to take some criticism and you’ve got to take some solid advice. So there’s a lot that goes into having a career.
Drake is a perfect example. I respect Drake. He’s having a nice ride right now; certainly is super-talented, great album, hot. What he hasn’t proven is that he is a career artist because he doesn’t have the experience to prove that.
Eminem is a perfect example. There were two major white rappers: Vanilla Ice was one, he lasted one fuckin’ album; Eminem is a guy that’s not just talented but also really smart and driven by the shock factor, whether it is in the song-writing, production or whatever he does. Smart enough to know, “my career is slipping, let me get Rihanna to sing a hook and get back on track” and now the song is number one. Did Eminem sell out his credibility? No, the song is fuckin’ hot. So that’s what I look for.
How do you give value to music?
That’s a personal decision and each situation is quite different. If you’re coming up on the ropes, you’re trying to get your name out there and if an opportunity comes around, such as “here’s five grand, I want to use your song,” then great. If an opportunity comes along and says, “I want to use your songs for free” but you’re going to get fifty thousand dollars worth of exposure and media out of it, then I’m fine with that too. Real simple: cash is not king to me. What’s king to me when I’m managing an artist or songwriter is opportunity. The one thing that nobody can take from an individual is the equity in their brand. For instance, if I give you a million dollars, that could be ripped off… but if I give you a million dollars of branding? I can’t rip you off. How am I going to rip you off of a brand? If everybody in the world knows who you are then you could leverage into economy long after you fire me. To me, the value of every artist is not calculated in cash flow but in brand power. Puffy is a perfect example; he hasn’t had a successful record since he was a 100 years old. However, Puffy’s brand is making him millions of dollars every year with or without a hit song. If, for instance, Puffy was signed to Universal Records and let’s say as an example, Universal was so-called ripping him off, and ten years later he’s still making millions of dollars off his brand.
Put the money and put the equity into your brand, because nobody can rip you off of your brand-power. Your brand-power is your equity. It is similar to renting a house versus buying a house; you having to invest construction costs into a rented house, versus a bought house. It’s real simple. I don’t care how much money you put in me, I care about where you put it and how you put it.
Where does an artist’s largest stream of revenue come from these days?
It differs for artists. Some artists do really well in selling records. A band like U2, I would say their number one revenue is touring. Other artists, like Bjork, I would expect that a lot of songs in TV and film and video games and stuff like that… Tony Hawk’s videogame that had AC/DC in it, “TNT…dynamite..”They made a shitload of money off a fuckin’ video game.
So it really depends. That is the beautiful thing about the music business now, that it’s about the brand business. There is no one revenue stream that is the sole culprit of money. Every artist has a different sole culprit. One artist could be all about touring and putting out music to activate the tour. Other artists don’t tour, can’t tour, are not a great live performer; they sell records. Other artists do this obscure dub-step stuff, so never get on radio, and never see record sales, but are in the TV series CSI. There is no one thing – it depends on the particular artist.
What are some of the best ways for artists to reach new markets, ideally away from their hometown, or even outside of the country?
Certainly, the obvious like social networking, that’s brilliant. One of my artists, Massari, has over 360,000 Facebook fans and we have 35,000 alone in Egypt. Certainly social networking sites are still a great tool for reaching market and probably still the biggest tool for reaching cross-border markets. Touring is still an active tool, radio, certainly television, et cetera. A perfect example is people right here in Canada, Cascada and Dead Mau5. They’re Canadians but their music is in the dance sub-genres of music, so their market is really about the UK and Europe. How did they get out there? They hustled, they did a little bit of traveling but I’m almost sure that the social networking sites were a big part of how they built their fanbase.
What are some of the most common mistakes people make when pursuing a career in the music business?
The common mistake is “I have a great song, I’m going to get a record deal, it’s going to go on radio and I’m going to get millions of dollars.” It’s very difficult to get a hit. Listen, nine out of ten records fail. Real simple. Maybe even 19 out of 20 records fail. The ones that do have success, however, have great success and earn beyond a better living. It’s a lottery ticket, right? Why do lotteries become successful? Because you know your chances are next to nil, but there is such a big upside that you can’t help but buy that ticket It’s the same as the music business. Number one.
Number two, you gotta love it. You are a fool if you think you’re going to join the music business if you don’t love it. The thing is, would I be doing music business if I didn’t make a dime a day? The answer to most successful people is “yes.” If we didn’t make a dime, we’ll still be doing music business, because it is a passion, it is a lifestyle. We live it. We dream it. We can’t do without it. We’re not giving up when times are tough. We’ll go work 5 jobs to support doing music. The get-rich-scheme – that is the common mistake of the music business. There is a lot of work, a lot of luck, a lot of timing, a lot of strategy, and when you’ve got all of that, all the stars still gotta line up. So, you’ve got to do it for passion. If you’re not doing it for passion, quit right now. It’s as simple as that. I’ve made millions, and I’ve lost millions, and I’m still doing it.
What changes do you foresee in the future of the music business?
Great changes. I think we are in times of a shifting paradigm. I think the music business is inside out right now. Everybody is trying to figure out what’s the new step. It’s an extremely exciting time. We don’t have all the answers, but what my company is gearing up for is multiple revenue streams. We call them 360 models. I am taking note of other successful entertainment industries, the sports, TV and film industry. I’m becoming brand partners with my artists. I’m not just your record company, I’m not just your management company, but I’m your brand partner… the name, the title, the interest, the photography, the songs, the video, et cetera. I bring the expertise and the finances, you bring the talent and we’re brand partners.
The way it was set up before, your record company is your agent to sell records; your manager is your agent to advise and counsel; your publisher is your agent to publish your songs. There are too many hands in the pot in that model. In this brand partnership model, we get rid of these people from the ultimate decision making process. We sub-license. We figure out who our partners are and we tell our partners exactly what expertise we want them to bring to the table and what remuneration they’re going to make.
So moving forward, what you’re going to find more and more is brand partnership. You’ve seen it already, but in my humble opinion, it’s been done wrong. You’ve seen it in companies like Live Nation, where they sign an artist like Madonna for the entire brand. The problem with that model is that they’re given large advances for use of their brand and Live Nation doesn’t offer any expertise in other areas outside of their core business, which is touring and ticketing and merchandising.
In my model, for an artist’s touring and merchandising career, you should have the staff with expertise in touring and merchandising.
It’s like the NBA signing Shaquille O’Neal. They’re brand partners. When these sports guys show up for a press conference, they’re all well-dressed in their suits and ties, because they’re not just representing their brand, they’re also representing the NBA’s brand. They can’t just show up in a track suit to the media. As they invest in your brand, you invest in their brand and you make a shitload of money together.
From a management perspective, what you would look for in a publishing or label deal?
The same thing that an artist would look for is the same thing a manager would look for. A publisher that really wants to be a partner. For a label, its to get my songs on as many radio stations as possible and my physical record to be in as many physical stores as possible, and my digital songs to be in an as many legal digital download sites as possible. That’s the job. The label is not interested in marketing the brand because in most cases they don’t make any money from all the other revenue streams of the brand.
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