Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jordan Tishler on Money, Management, and Licensing Music for Film

Jordan Tishler has twenty years of experience in the music industry a producer, artist manager, mixer, and songwriter. He serves as Chairman Emeritus of the New England Section of the Audio Engineering Society (AES), founder of the Music-Producer's List, and is active in the Recording Academy. Here he gives us the honest straight-talk on how artists can enable their success, and where to put your money so it so it counts most.

1) What's the idea behind your company, Digital Bear? Sounds dangerous.

Digital Bear Entertainment provides artists with recording, mixing and production; artist management; and licensing of their music to TV and Film. DBE has always been a vehicle for my efforts to help artists achieve real careers in music. It's been a natural and organic growth from my own roots as a musician and songwriter, to mix engineer and producer, to artist manager and music licensor. After years of working with major labels/publishers, I saw that the writing was on the wall, and that independent artists were going to be a stronger force. Each step along the way was developed to meet the needs of the artists I work with. At this point we're a well diversified and well-rounded company because that's what it takes to help artists do all that they need to do to be successful.

2) It's hard to achieve a balance between music and business. What parts of the "business" of music do you think artists benefit from hiring others to help with, and what parts should artists be doing themselves?

Well, at its simplest, artists need to do it all. Of course, that's crazy! There's way too much to do, and more importantly there are good ways (and less good ways) to do things, which is something you're not born knowing. Still, all too often artists just want to hand off the "business" to someone else. That may be understandable, but it's not wise. I always keep my artists in the loop with business issues. These are decisions that affect them and their careers directly. I'd be offended if they weren't interested - how seriously can they be taking their career? Why should I then be taking it seriously?

I see my management work with artists as coaching. With my advice and guidance, an artist can make good choices, be efficient with their efforts and their money, employ successful strategies for getting noticed and making money. None of this is rocket science, but you'd be surprised at how hard it is. I make it easier and smarter for my artists.

In addition to effective strategies and understanding the way the industry really works, management should provide connections to other key industry players who can advance the careers of the artist. Whether the artist is at the stage of trying to get better gigs and increase their fan base and needs a booking agent and PR agent, or have achieved a certain le
vel of ticket sales and regional visibility and are ready to approach a label, knowing who can help is a key role for management.

3) Many independent musicians don't have much money to invest in their art. What's the best thing a musician or band can do with their initial monetary investment?

Money is the big stumbling block for nearly every artist. Don't feel bad if you have financial issues, so does everyone! However, you have to understand that it will take some money up front to make a meaningful start. Lots of artists have unrealistic views of how things should work. For example, "I make great art, so people will want to work for me for free." This is a nice fantasy. The realistic artist will recognize that connected, experienced industry people, who want to work for them, still need to feed their kids and keep the lights on.

That said, don't go spending (or wasting) what little money you have too quickly. There are things you should do, in the right order, to get the best effect. Write your songs, rehearse the band, get the look perfected, make sure your stage show is undeniable, play a whole bunch of local gigs before you go record your album. Make sure there's a demand! Promote the band through the ways that are free or low cost like Facebook or Reverbnation. Don't think
it ends there, but it's a good start.

Hold on to your money so you have something with which to hire the right manager, producer, PR agent, at the time when it's going to really help you get to the next level.

4) You license music for TV and Film. What, more precisely, does this entail? Are there steps artists can take to try to get their music accompanying the big screen?

Songsforsync.com is the sister company to Digital Bear Entertainment. Through Songsforsync.com, we work very closely and aggressively with the key music supervisors and producers around the globe to maintain relationship so that they come to us for great, independent music. Our reputation with these important and busy people is our lifeblood. Our catalogue of songs is hand picked to meet their needs in terms of themes, genres, and quality.

In the early 2000s, when licensing became widely known to indie artists, there was a sense that you could get your music placed by yourself. Of course, as with any maturing sector, those days are gone. Occasionally, we hear, as you will, about your cousin's brother's wife's band that got a track in a film because they were played on satellite radio or something, but that's lightning striking. That's no way to operate a business. Now it's really a full time job or two to make and maintain those relationships necessary to get the placements.

For the indie artist, this means finding a company that can get your music in the door. There are various companies like Songsforsync.com out there. The business models are different, as are the requirements of the writers, so look around, read the contracts, and ask questions. I'll be at IMC 2010 to answer questions!

5) You juggle a lot of varying roles, working different aspects of the music industry. Are there benefits or drawbacks to branching out?

As I mentioned above, I wear many different hats in this industry but they all came a
bout organically. It's been driven by what's needed to help artists achieve their career goals. I have found that without tapping into these areas, artists flounder and stagnate. Sure it's demanding for me to be well versed in all these skills, but they flow from each other, so it's really a synergy.

6) What are a few things you wish more musicians did more often, or did right? Hopefully all those reading this can pick up the tip.

Focus on the business. Understand that it is a business and if you treat people with respect for their time and expertise they will really help you. Don't to things just because you can (eg: record an album). Do things at the time and in the order that they are necessary to improve your business (ie make money). Don't be afraid to spend money on your career, but do it wisely and realistically. No successful company was founded without both investment and a sound business plan!

7) What does that IMC mean to you? What made you decide to share your experiences there?

I've been involved with IMC, well, since before there was an IMC. I believe that of all the conferences out there (and I participate in many each year), IMC is one of the finest. The mission is to truly educate independent musicians on how to do it better, smarter, and more successfully. The people Noel imports for acts to meet are truly knowledgeable and dedicated. It's a great opportunity for artists, and the benefit it offers artists is why I keep coming back.

Check out Jordan at his company, Digital Bear Entertainment, for his blog, more tips, or the excellent services they offer. As Jordan mentioned above, have a look around at Songsforsync.com if you have music you want considered for films. Our thanks again to Jordan Tishler for priceless advice from someone who's worked with so many musicians. You can ask any follow-up inquiries at the IMC in November!

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