Articles, Blog

Learn Music Business with Scott Barkham – Grammy Nominated Manager (Hiatus Kaiyote, Rich Medina)

my name is Daniel Wyatt and I’m here
with Scott Barkham Daniel wife from Mixmaster wide calm and I’ve had a long
Odyssey in the music business and one of my boat mates in this Odyssey has been
Scott Barkham for I want to say I know this is scary
maybe over 20 years that definitely think since 92 or 93 23 years 23 years
and who’s counting I guess we are but anyway Scott is a
successful manager also a former recording artist and traveling musician
and Scott is getting things done in a tough time for the music business and I
don’t mean a tough time that people aren’t having success but the models
have changed and it’s a very much of a moving target so Scott is here to talk
to us a little bit about not what worked in the 90s when we got together because
that was the fraternity of major label music and you know we lit cigars with
hundred dollar bills and ordered sushi three times a day and you know had
million dollar recording budgets and and that was fun and we did it while we
could but everything’s very different now and I think it’s all for the better
for the independent artists so in addition to doing all of his management
duties which he will talk about Scott is now making available his ANR services to
help independent artists get to the next level and the next stage with their
music and also to educate people online internationally live in person how to
make money with your music you know it’s fun to do it as a hobby
it’s fun to have a private collection of songs that only you and your mom get to
hear which is wonderful but it’s another thing to jump into the playing field of
the sport of making music and making money with your music and Scott is
really on the cutting edge of that right now
so he’s opening up online programs webinars that we’ll be posting that
people can come and attend different types of topics and Scott will talk
about the outlines for those today but anyway hi Scott really how are you
after that introduction good good oh yeah I’m fine
I’m good tell us a little bit about how you got started in the music business
and a little bit of how you got to where you are and then we’ll talk about what
you’re doing now well I guess you know music has always been a really important
part integral part of my life ever since I was tiny and you know I could pick up
my mom told me a story that I showed up at nursery school just wanting to bring
records in and talk about music which at the time was Simon and Garfunkel because
that was you know my favorite record in my parents collection but I was just
always obsessed with music I’ve been playing piano since I was about three
I’m not the best piano player ever but I have my thing and I’m definitely
comfortable playing music and I have been for my whole life and I love it and
I just kind of knew as a kid growing up I wanted to do stuff involved with music
and I was also encouraged to do well in school and all that stuff and so there
was that kind of push and pull going on during my childhood and then I went to
college and studied political science so I was like pretty much that had me but I
started interning at heiress to records the summer after my sophomore year of
college and that was like my first foray into the music industry like realizing
wait there are careers in the business outside of just playing music and I
thought that was going to be the wise thing to do so I in turn there for a
couple of summers I interned it was an era
to records and I intern at their office in London when they broke their first
number-one hit which was around the world by Lisa Stansfield which I still
like so ya know it’s a classic yeah it’s a great song so so I that was my first
taste of the music industry but I kind of learned I was doing a lot of radio
promotion work and I knew I didn’t want to do that and I’d see all the A&R
people and the artist development people cuz they actually had two different
departments at RSA at that time they were making so much money they had an
A&R department where they like signed Whitney Houston and you know a lot of
people like Aretha Franklin and Carly Simon like late in their careers and
then they had an artist development department which was totally separate
where literally these guys just to me at that time they hung out with the artists
all day but in fact what they really did was was help mold their careers from a
very early stage and and kind of like it was a nice way of using the term product
management which tends to be the very Unger if I’d term that the main point
person at a record label gets when they’re in charge of a certain artists
release and it’s a very important position because they’re the one who has
to do all the battling for you with all the different departments to get the
artists what they need sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t
I saw in the time that I worked at our stead like some really big successes out
of nothing and I saw some huge failures out of you know high expectations and
that’s kind of like that was my first dose of this is what the business is
doesn’t always turn out the way you want it to even if you do get signed it
doesn’t mean you’re gonna be famous like I kind of walked into the business
understanding those basic tenets which a lot of people don’t get and I think you
have to understand them in order to be able to stick through them and not be
discouraged by them and just continue to you know stay with your guns and do the
best you can and continue to try to grow so that was my first job and then when I
was in my senior year of college this guy that I knew told me that the lead
singer of Steely Dan who had not performed live since the mid-70s and who
had not released an album in 15 years that he was a working on a new
album be opened up a new studio and see like playing these little gigs on the
Upper East Side in New York City so I went to one of them when I was on like
Christmas break and I remember shaking his hand and other than the fact that it
was like the weirdest handshake that I have never experienced in my life I
realized he was just a guy and I’m like I could work for this guy and it his
name is Donald Fagen he’s the lead singer of Steely Dan and American
classic classic rock blue blue chip stock yeah it played every day all day
long all across our country and all over the
world so ya know people a lot of people’s favorite bands at one time it
was mine and I thought you know I want to be a record producer that’s when my
head that’s where I was I want to like play and I wanted produce records so I
was like let me try to get a job at his studio and I went over there with my
resume and the manager at the time like kind of laughed at me buddies like
you’re still in school why don’t you finish school and give me
a call so I did I graduated and you know like the day that I got home back to New
York after school I called the studio and I’m like so I’m done you have
anything he’s like do you want to paint the studio starting Monday and I was
like great what does it pay he’s like $50 a week and I’m like done and you
know because internships didn’t pay then either they don’t pay no um so my
parents almost disowned me they’re like we just paid for four years of an
expensive private college and this is what you’re doing but I was like no no I
know what I’m doing I know what I’m doing and over the course of that year I
got to know the owners very well and we became friends and they started to trust
me and and I started to feel comfortable enough around them and then there was a
point where I got pulled into the office to help the person who started managing
the studio and he went on vacation at a crucial time where there were huge
sessions going on and I just kind of did it
I had never done it before I’d kind of heard it being done on the phone but I’d
never booked huge sessions with really well-known session players and just like
coordinated all sorts of equipment coming in and filling in all this
different stuff and I just ran with it and I did it and I think a light went
off in both of the owners minds like let’s get Scott to run the studio for a
very low price but I did it and and like it was cool and I think I had been
running the studio less than a year Danny when I met you right um because
there was another singer named Phoebe Snow who was looking for soul musicians
to work with and the guy’s a giant step recommended that I come to SOPs and
check out repercussions which was your band so I went and I was blown away and
so was Phoebe but I was really blown away and I remember calling your manager
at the time and saying like oh my god can you send me a tape and like in an
hour a cassette was on my desk and I made the mistake of giving it to my boss
like immediately and he just kind of like showed up at the giant step party
the next Thursday night where I went also for we were both there for the
first time there’s at this little basement of a fancy restaurant on Union
Square called metropolis cafe which still is there believe it or not yes and
the basement isn’t what it was but it was just a smoke-filled booze filled
room with pretty amazing music that was a combination of DJ and live musicians
and vocalists and neither of us had seen anything like that the next thing I know
you and the rest of the band are flying out to LA to meet with the president of
Warner Brothers who then signed you guys an side group collective the guy isn’t
the guy who signed prints yes the guy who signed prints the guy whose side
prints the guy who I mean you can’t run a worker is a legend in the music
industry like he’s like you can’t even just say one thing like he did so much I
like it’s kind of crazy yeah and so yeah I mean but at the same time I became
friends with you and I became friends with other people in the band I think
you and I particularly became good friends at that time and just really
yeah man we needed board player and I’m like I want the gig
can i audition I’m like the bass player came over and taught me the songs and
then I sat in with you guys and somehow got the gig so I wound up you know
running this studio playing in this band playing on a lot of the record and doing
a bunch of tour dates and we had a spinal tap moment with a hit record in
Japan but like Lenny had quit Warner Brothers by the time the album was
released yeah so that so it didn’t go anywhere in the US and got dropped and
that’s just another but I I don’t think either of us were like distraught by it
we were disappointed but we just kind of were like okay we’ll keep building yeah
I think we knew was a long journey and it was a great stone and yeah and and
the fact is our first release that Lenny Warner Kerr coordinated for us was a
tribute song for a cover song of Curtis Mayfield from Curtis Mayfield let’s do
it again and it was a tribute album for him and it’s kind of amazing if you look
at who was on this oh yeah I was like check back and hold on here’s hear this so the record deal
that’s Scotland but it’s got got us that Scott got us this was our first
commercial release and I I was a musician and one of the producers and
did a lot of mixing on this too so this was our first this is from arts Scott
and I’m eating this was our first commercial release as an unknown band so
it was us which was repercussions and Curtis Mayfield and he actually sang on
our production the first time he had son since his accident his accident so we
got him singing it again our production kind of amazing but here’s here’s the
company we were in for our first release Gladys Knight Steve Winwood Curtis
Mayfield Lenny Kravitz Whitney Houston Bruce Springsteen Eric Clapton the Isley
Brothers Branford Marsalis and the impressions Tevin Campbell Aretha
Franklin BB King Rod Stewart Michael Narada Michael
Walden Phil Collins Stevie Wonder and Elton John and the sound sounds of
blackness so that’s how we entered the game and yeah not a bad start by any
measure so anyway from there it set the vibe the
the bar pretty high so you know I continued to manage the studio for a
while and work on my own music which I did a lot of Danny at your studio yes
like a lot of the time and played on a lot of stuff that you were working on
yeah and you know that went on for a bunch of years and then Gary left the
studio to start a record label called Jake records and I went with him to do a
NR and also just kind of run day-to-day for the label and like we signed Digital
Underground that was like the one release we did and it’s kind of ironic
now looking back cuz like 96 997 that was kind of like the best era of hip hop
in the history of hip hop and the album that they did wasn’t the best album of
all hip hop but we had a good time I think like he went like shocked even
wound up working at your studio the temple of soul for a good period of time
and that that album cover was even shot with strippers yes in your studio yeah
there was a naked lady if you can find that album cover on Google someone have
it uh-huh but yet for a whole day it was just us
in the studio a stripper covered with green goo I don’t know what did that was
yeah dreams it was fine yeah it green slime lying over like a really fancy
console it was amazing yeah I mean I think Big Pun was on the
record here on care one was on the record like there was some good some
good guest MCS on the album absolutely but it wasn’t a great album and it
wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t like it wasn’t digital underground best album it
didn’t have who got the humpty-hump no you know so anyway um that label kind
of ran out of money and when that happened
I was on my own I got offered a job in California but I didn’t want to move to
California at that time and I just kind of trying to figure out my next move I
was up for a couple of a in our jobs that I didn’t wind up getting and then I
got work in television and it led to me being a talent producer vh1 for about a
year and a half and then it fused which is another us-based music network that
was an offshoot of much music Canada and I was there like head of on-air talent
for like five years and it was great it was great to get a steady paycheck and
like benefits that I had never gotten working in studios and as a musician but
I felt unfulfilled in many ways because I wasn’t working on the music side of
things and I would see these bands come in and I would meet them and talk to
them and talk to their management and I’m just like what am i doing and I
think there was a point where a bunch of interns at the station that the network
wanted to talk to me because I worked with all the DJ’s and all the on-air
talent and they wanted to know about my past because people had told them that I
worked with Steely Dan and whatever so I talked to them about it and one of the
kids asked me so would you stop doing television and go back to doing just
music and I was like absolutely and then I kind of knew I had to leave um and
then I’m like oh wait I think oh seven was when I left fuse I think it’s hard
the older you get the faster time goes by the harder it is to be like specific
about years in your past but I think it was like June of oh seven when I left
fuse and I started looking for artists to manage right away and it was not easy
I found a band from London who I really loved and started to get some labels
interested and this was like towards the end of the music industry having money
to spend there’s a whole other part where I will talk about why it’s so hard
to make money in the music industry with recorded music because it’s important to
understand the business and why it is the way it is today so you can
understand how to work around it but at that time you could still get a really
good record deal and I found this band and they were in London and I was in New
York and I thought that and they had money
for a PR person so I called somebody that a friend recommended and they wound
up bringing their partner to come see the band and stole them away from me so
it was a good lesson in the business I was really hurt and upset and
disappointed and just completely you know dejected by it but I didn’t give up
and I kind of just did whatever I had to do which included temp work whatever I
could do to get paid as I tried to figure out my next move and then I went
to go see a band play in Brooklyn called the pimps of joy time with some friends
of mine and I thought they were great and I’m like wow these guys could do
really well in the jam band circuit and was able to find a booking agent who
really specializes in that part of the music industry and they’ve actually
already knew about the bands and so wound up booking them and I was with
them for about two years and we got to the point where they were able to make
money on the road which is not easy to do and that’s another thing that I’ll
explain so that you understand you know in my webinars what it’s like to tour
that it doesn’t necessarily mean at first that you’re gonna make a lot of
money but that like and then it’s a lot of work but that if you can do it and
see it through for a couple of years you will start to make money and build your
audience so I went from them to managing a couple of electronic artists to then
getting a call from B et to be a talent director for a new DJ based reality
competition that they were gonna run called master of the mix which was in
partnership with Smirnoff and I thought that was really interesting a because I
love DJ culture and I love DJs and I would ask often I would prefer to see a
really good DJ than an okay band I loved really I love people who can play music
that I’ve never heard before or play music in a way that I never thought it
could be play so and then also I thought it was really interesting that a brand
was underwriting a television show because I’d heard about it but I’d never
seen it in practice so I thought it would be really cool to get involved
with the show and I sat down with the producers and I was like so what DJ’s
are you considering and they showed me the list and it was just
legendary hip-hop DJ’s just like people in the house and hip-hop world who I
used to go see play and love means their music and bought their music so I was
like please give me this job I can do this job next thing I know I’m living in
a big mansion in the Hollywood Hills and for about three weeks with all these DJs
and kind of went through this ride with them and one of them is named rich
Medina and he became a very good friend of mine and I’ve been managing him now
for like six years so it kind of like led me to a client
who’s like one of my cornerstone clients who really he’s a DJ who’s
world-renowned he’s part of the Rock Steady Crew and probably the first DJ to
ever really play afro beat in North America for a dancefloor he’s also very
versatile but not as hot forty guy plays funk and soul house music dance classics
Danny stuff that you would really like sure acceptable we used to here in Tokyo
and that club they like to yes so I started working with rich and through
rich I started to meet all these other musicians who worked in that electronic
and soul and hip-hop like classic hip hop sort of influenced world and that
ultimately led me to get a blogger a blogger from Paris sent me a link to
check out this group from Melbourne Australia who hadn’t really ever
released anything called hiatus coyote their bands who they had not even
dropped their album on VanCamp yet and I just happened to hear it and I was blown
away and then I clicked through and I heard a youtube link or two of a live
performance and it was really well shot and I could hear everything and they
could really play like these songs which are not simple songs they not only
pulled them off live they made him sound better live than they did on the records
which already sounded amazing and they had a cool look and they were young and
it was progressive it was the kind of stuff that I personally like but it was
stuff that I thought would have appeal to other people and I looked on their
Facebook artist page which had maybe a thousand fans at the time at the most
you know click like and then look at their contact sheet and of course they
had a manager but I’m like fuckin I’m gonna just contact and excuse my
language okay and ie and I emailed him and I’m just like hey here are the
people that I work with maybe you know like I don’t I’m totally blown away by
these guys if you need my help don’t hesitate and he hit me back immediately
was like hey you want to get on skype and we started skyping regularly and
then he wanted me to meet the band and then I met the band and what’s in about
a month and a half we were all informally working together with Nico
managing the bands and that was in so I first heard them in March of 2012
started really managing them and by May of 2012 though I was really playing them
for people right away they just like things started to take off
people like Questlove and Erykah Badu and prince tweeted about the band’s
before we knew it um the lead singer and the guy who manages the band with me
who’s based in Melbourne still they came over to New York to do some cmj shows
and by then we had interest from a major booking agent who books the roots and
the next thing we know we have major interest from a bunch of record labels
most especially Salaam Remi who had started as executive vice president of
A&R at Sony really wanted to sign the band he’s the guy who first really he
was like the main producer who ever worked with Amy Winehouse he worked with
her on everything she ever released he didn’t produce a lot of the biggest
hits which were produced by Mark Ronson but he was an integral part of her
overall career and they were like best friends and she was somebody who we
respected deeply he produced The Fugees and nas and Miguel and I mean just so
many people so many classic albums it’s kind of astounding and we just really
respected him and he immediately got it like what our vision was for the band’s
what we were hoping to achieve with the label partner and what they did was
license the album that we had released on Bandcamp
um and then the band recorded a new album which they released in March in
May of 2015 and they’ve gotten two Grammy nominations since then one from
the first album which had a single that featured q-tip and then from from a
tribe called quest who’s another artist Danny who you and I bonded on yes is
very big yes and then the second album they got nominated for another Grammy
for Best R&B performance for the song breathing underwater so they’ve done
really well for themselves and they now tour and play venues in United States
that are a thousand and up and sell out and have a rabid audience all around the
world they’ve sold out the Sydney Opera House I don’t know if you can google
that place and have a look at pictures it’s like the Statue of Liberty when you
think of Sydney it’s pictures of that building and they sold out the biggest
theatres there which is like 2500 people but we still have a long way to go and
we’re still in it and it hasn’t been easy all the time but I know what it
takes to see through a situation and I’ve been through it with these guys on
the road and in the studio and I understand how hard the work is and in
the time since I started working with hiatus I’ve also started working with a
number of musicians and producers actually ironically the whole band
basically that played on the hit songs that Mark Ronson produced for Amy
Winehouse I either managed or am involved with their careers in some sort
of integral way like literally all five people that like playing on Back to
Black and we have all that stuff those guys are people that I work with every
day and they produce and they write they have publishing deals they don’t tour
that much they prefer to be in the studio and they have their own labels
and they have lots of people looking to work with them all the time and I’m
there to make sure that they do the best business they can do and they came to me
because of what I do and I was attracted to working with them because I really
respect their work and you know okay so I think that’s an incredible accounting
and description of the Odyssey really from day one
bringing records to kindergarten to where you are now
Grammy nominations managing sort of two ends of the coin here a real band you
know who play real instruments and a turntable is absolutely a real
instrument but but an organic band and also a DJ so you can’t you have a hand
in both worlds and I know those worlds they blend a lot as well but I think
that gives you a unique perspective to speak on both kinds of economies the
economy of one guy touring who’s a DJ and and another economy of a band but
let’s do this so anyway that was a fantastic sort of storytelling of your
story let’s shift gears for a second and if you could now talk a little bit about
these upcoming webinars why what inspired you to do them who you think
would benefit the way you’ve structured them just if you could speak a little
bit about what’s coming up live online from you over the next couple months
here sure um the first webinar that we’re gonna be doing is called well it’s
it’s gonna be how to make money with your music I’m not sure what the name is
gonna be but essentially it’s gonna give you ideas on ways that you can hopefully
generate income out of your music you know one of the beautiful things about
where the music industry is today for people who make music is whereas back
when I started at a recording studio you really had to be in a studio to make a
record but now you don’t you can have a really good computer and some good
modules and the ability to make good sounds and you could make beautiful
music on a computer without ever having to pay for a studio that’s a beautiful
thing so it there all of a sudden we have a
lot of producers all over the world you never would have been able to do that 25
years ago and now not only can they do it it’s like most Mac’s come with
GarageBand and you can make some good sounding music just with that so it’s
it’s pretty amazing and and so what I want to try to do is
walk you through ways that you can take your music and start to make money with
it whether it’s creating music specific for commercials whether it’s creating a
library that could go into like and into a place where they licensed music for
lots of different purposes like websites or people’s on independent films or
whatever and you submit your music and then they choose it and then they pay
for it and you get paid every quarter that sort
of situation or putting an EP together and selling it on Bandcamp or trying to
get it onto some of the more DJ oriented dance music sites or raising money to
make music all of these things are really important it’s and it’s crucial
to understand what your goals need to be as you pursue these different avenues
because it’s not as simple as it seems and sometimes understanding like oh if I
do this I can act and I have a but enough options like this it’ll actually
help me place one of my pieces of music so I get paid at the end of the day you
can make the best music ever but if people don’t hear it you know it’s just
for you and you want to make music that people will hear and you want to make
music that will help sustain you and so that you can live off the income that
you make from your music and that’s not easy to do today so I’m gonna try to
give you ways tools and ideas that will help you go back to the drawing board
and build your libraries in a really strategic way so that you can try to
grow your art to the best possible place it can be but also try to grow your
commerce at the same time and be mindful that the two when they meet that’s
really where you’re in your sweet spot so so the first webinar make money with
your music or as the working title and we can think of something more subtle or
not is going to be a little bit of best practices of looking at the different
current modern avenues to create revenue with your music so that’s the first
webinar and I’m sure that one will be repeated for obvious reasons the second
what the second one is more of an a in our focus could you talk a little bit
about that yeah it’s an our artists direction and the idea is it’s a
two-hour webinar and we’re gonna limit each webinar to ten to ten participants
only the reason why is everybody who participates is going to be required to
submit one piece of music whatever you think your best the thing you’re most
proud of the thing you’re happiest with that’s what we want to hear and we’re
gonna listen to it each so we have two hours that’s 120 minutes we have 10
people so we’re gonna spend minimum of 10 minutes on each person song which
includes playing the song and then talking about it talking about the
things that work really well musically talking about the things that still
needs to be improved talking about how to hone what you’re doing so that it
works better and and trying to give you encouragement so that you can go back to
the drawing board and feel inspired to create a whole batch of new music based
on the input that you’ve gotten but also all the students who are participating
will be able to chat in and and send their comments on the music because I
think it’s important like you I’m not I mean I know what I know and Danny you
know you know but I think everyone has a valid opinion and everyone might have
something really positive to say or something really constructive to say
that could help a fellow student improve what they’re doing and make it the best
it can be at the end of the day if you take that ANR seminar or any seminar
that I do I hope that you’ll walk away with a lot of ideas and inspiration to
go back to the drawing board and create and create with a purpose so and and it
wants people go through the webinars they start to see the way you think
about things some of the things that you’ve tried that worked some of the
things that you tried that didn’t work that you would say that doesn’t work
like this anymore or it doesn’t work like that ever if
people want to have an ongoing private mentoring in our management relationship
with you that’s now possible absolutely I mean
I can do either half hour or hour long sessions where we could really go
through if you’re at that point where you’re actually trying to get noticed
and you have what you think is a quote unquote press kit let’s go through
everything let’s let’s look at all the links that you have let’s listen to your
music let’s look at the promo pics you have if you have videos let’s let’s see
those let’s hear the work you’ve done with other people and let’s try to
analyze it and help you focus at the end of the day I don’t think I can make
every artist a great artist but I think I could make pretty much any artist
better than they are I can help them improve what they’re doing I can help
them find an excitement for the future and I think that’s a lot of what
inspires people to just keep creating and I know that I can help people do
that and I want to have that opportunity okay
we’re very excited about the upcoming webinars I’m sure many people are gonna
want to take advantage of a very unique situation to get a direct contact and
feedback from you managers are notoriously busy and our people are
notoriously busy and flaky it’s impossible sometimes when you’re
independent and not well-known to get access to real information and this is
not real information of something that worked in the 90s and God bless us for
getting things going in the 90s you know we did and that’s where we also we
started this this journey but but you know best practices now is a moving
target technology is changing really quickly what was true seven years ago is
not true today and yet there are certain classic routes
that I think you’re going to show with sort of the modern branches of how to
get stuff done and with to current Grammy nominations world-class touring
DJ a world-class celebrated touring band I think you’re in a very unique place to
help people and to help people get to the next to the next level so thanks
Danny yeah I really want to do that too I
really want to help everybody out there you’ve been doing it for decades and you
helped me so get me started and along the way so thank you Scott for taking
time today to tell us your story and what you’re
cooking up for everybody okay and you know we look forward to seeing everybody


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