Sunday, May 4, 2008

Will Your Label Last 20 Years?

It’s the 20th Anniversary of Ruthless Records and I’m sitting here listening to Bizzy Bone (Bone Thugs In Harmony) tell a heartfelt story about how Eazy E took Bone Thugs under his wing; how they trusted Eazy and how he believed in them. (see video) How Eazy was with them all the way to the charts as a brother and even a father figure at times. History is a funny thing when you get a chance to experience it as it happens and you feel a connection to it. Watching now as Eazy’s wife Tomica Woods-Wright (who continues the success of Ruthless Records) introduce their (her and Eazy’s) new artists is an amazing thing. From being an NWA and Eazy E fan long before enjoying the Ruthless Records offspring (50Cent, Eminem, Bone, etc.) it’s inspiring to know that there is such a thing as an independent label that truly handles its business. Not only once, but enough to build a legacy. I’m here with them celebrating their 20th anniversary. 20 years! With hit records to show all along the way. How many of today’s independent labels will be here 2 years from now let alone 20?

Lately I’ve been consulting several labels and doing a lot of speaking engagements (I’ve got my 20 years experience). Last week when I was speaking to a room of “new” industry folks, I asked “How many Artists are in the room?” Many hands went up. Then I asked, “How many Labels?” Damn near the exact same hands went up! Quite honestly I don’t expect to see any of these “Labels” here in 20 years. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians; Too many Rappers and not enough Business Men. Ruthless Records comes from a different era obviously, but I would hope that some of the current indie labels would do some research and learn from Ruthless’ history (outside of just listening to the music). Let’s make some Artists and Labels that will be here 20 years from now.
So the Anniversary show continues and I’m watching the stage. Ohh wait Eazy!? What is this ‘ish? As they announce that they are from my city, I’m thinking “Please represent Atlanta well. Please don’t lean and snap the first chance you get! If so, I’m getting up and LEAVING!” The song starts… Damn! There it goes. I’m outta here people.

Coincidence or Not - Gate Keepers

I need your help in interpreting an occurrence and deciding whether or not it was a coincidence.

This is an excerpt from Dj Judge Mental Blog November 2007:
“Which brings me to this sickness that has plagued the rap segment of the music industry; I call it GDS or Gatekeeper Deficiency Syndrome. Artist are jumping the gun and distributing their work to the world without checking with any of the Gatekeepers! Here come the lashings….don’t worry I can take it. Why do we need Gatekeepers you ask? Gatekeepers help you keep from distributing your unprofessional/rough demo to the world before you are ready to be heard…”

This is an excerpt from the myspace page of a new DJ Coalition
“November 1, 2007 marks the official start date of the newest and soon to be nationally known coalition-The Gate Keepers. None other than, Florida's very own C. Wakeley, "The Record Breaker", has founded The Gate Keepers. C. Wakeley has long been known as one of the southeast region's top record promoters and managers. He is now using his expertise of the music industry as a launch pad to better advocate for artists. C. Wakeley has, for his entire tenure in the music game, championed and rallied for the cause of the independent artist. However, this rationale should not be mistaken as an effort to disregard the promotional needs of major artists also. The two aforementioned statements are what led to the formation of The Gate Keepers.”

Now coincidence or not, I would have expected at least a phone call. I have great respect for C. Wakeley and I’m sure he or some of the members are aware of my pleas for the utilization of more industry Gate Keepers. Whether I hear from them or not, I’m glad that they exist and I hope that the artists in their region utilize C. Wakeley and the Gate Keeper’s expertise.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rappers Suffering from Deadly GDS

Question A: Why is it that when a DJ used to get a record from an artist it almost always had an engineered and radio quality sound, but now 75% of what DJs get acoustically sounds like crap? Answer: GDS

Question B: Why is it that DJs currently receive more new music submissions per day than they did per week only a few years ago? And even then, still receive fewer hit potential songs per week? Answer: GDS

Question C: Why is it that the average “Hit” album only has 2 “Hits” on it, and consumers are more interested in downloading a single versus buying an album? Answer: GDS

It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m going through a stack of about 100 CDs handed to me one night (yes ONE night) at a music industry networking event. After listening to the first 20 songs or so, I’m angry at the amount of crap I’ve been handed and told that it was “that next hot shit”. Besides the fact that in twenty songs from twenty different artists they all had the same subject matter (money, cars, hoes, drugs), my biggest upset was the quality of the recordings. Now behind me is a wall of records with hits and misses from various artists ranging from the 70’s to early 2000. Of those records, I guarantee absolutely none of them sound acoustically as bad as any of the ones that I am subjected to listening to today.

What do I mean by acoustically bad? At some point the records behind me were a) recorded in a studio with quality equipment, b) mixed by someone with mixing experiences, most likely a professional, c) tweaked by an engineer, and d) mastered by a professional. The songs that I am critiquing now sound as if they were recorded on the cheapest microphones with no signs of an audio professional assisting with the mix down, engineering, or mastering. Yet somehow, these artists have created songs, pressed it (to CD) and are mass distributing it to the public by hand and over the internet. No, I’m not amazed by the process; technology is one of the greatest things that has happened to the music industry. I’m amazed at how even though artists CAN record a song and distribute it to the masses without anyone else’s opinion, that no one has told them that they shouldn’t! Sure you can debate me with a YouTube/Soulja Boy story, but even then I’ll tell you that he didn’t have commercial success until someone stepped in to make the song sound better than it did when he recorded it himself (believe me, I heard the distorted original.) OH WAIT, MAYBE I’M MISTAKEN….are all of these CDs just DEMOs? Demo, what the hell is a demo you ask? In case you forgot, the demo was the best recording that a struggling artist could make in order to give to a label executive that may possibly give them a deal and put them in a real studio. If these are all demos, fine, I ain’t mad at ya for the crappy recording. Just don’t expect major label treatment (club play, radio play, etc) when you have “demo” quality.

Which brings me to this sickness that has plagued the rap segment of the music industry; I call it GDS or Gatekeeper Deficiency Syndrome. Artist are jumping the gun and distributing their work to the world without checking with any of the Gatekeepers! Here come the lashings….don’t worry I can take it. Why do we need Gatekeepers you ask? Gatekeepers help you keep from distributing your unprofessional/rough demo to the world before you are ready to be heard. They help keep you from spending your entire budget recording and promoting an album all year that is not worthy of an old-school cassette walkman speaker, let alone a radio broadcast. I guarantee out of this stack of 100 CDs with poor recordings, 10 of the groups have wrapped promotional vehicles and thousands of dollars spent on promotional material like flyers, CDs, and posters.

To understand how this disease is ravaging the industry and why artists NEED Gatekeepers, let me give you some examples of whom some the Gatekeepers are (somewhat from the bottom up):

  • The Ears (producers, mixers, engineers that say whether or not the music “Sounds” right)
  • The DJs – People who (are supposed to) have an ear for good music and give honest opinions about bad music
  • A&R Execs – People who filter out the good to find the best. Then take those and develop them into a complete package both musically and visually
  • Executive Producers – those that make sure that the music has all of the right elements before presenting it to the public (tracks, writers, quality recording, etc)
  • Other Label Execs – whoever cuts the check when and only when all of the gatekeepers below him think that it’s time to “push the go button” on a project.
  • (Notice I did not include, your momma, your family, your smokin’ partners, your home boys, or your girlfriend/boyfriend. Trust me, they will lie to you because they care about your feelings more than your career)

I’m a professional DJ/Producer. Despite the fact that I am one of the most progressive and current DJs on the scene, I have been a DJ for a long time (I’m not however ready to admit, how long). I am a Gatekeeper. I care more about your career than your feelings; therefore I am usually labeled as Brutally Honest by my peers. By listening to all of these CDs today I will let a couple through my gate. In my case, that’s FM Radio and Mix CD exposure. The more Gatekeepers who review the music before me, the easier my job is. The more CDs that I and other DJs review, the easier the job for the Gatekeepers after us. Point being, any song that gets past any gatekeeper has proven to be a better song than those left behind and that artist will have a much more successful trip through the music industry.

Artists that suffer from GDS, choose to bypass all Gatekeepers and distribute directly to the public. If you are an artist you’re probably thinking: Yeah I have a right to skip Gatekeepers and go straight to the consumer. However if you think along the lines of being the consumer, how would you feel if you turned on the TV to watch an NBA game and all you saw were a bunch of high school kids who thought in their mind they were as good as Michael Jordon so they decided on their own that they are in the NBA. Or better yet, you go to the doctor and he says “No, I didn’t go to school and no one approved my skills as a doctor, I just got up this morning and decided that I’ve watched enough ER and Scrubs to do what doctors do…so get undressed please.” Do you get it now?

If an artist suffering from GDS does manage to earn a career, it is as short as the money they will make. Don’t get me wrong, an artist can luck up and make a hot song, maybe even without a gatekeeper, but even then, he/she won’t luck up and make a hot album. Can we say “ring tone artist” boys and girls?

Artists take your time. Develop your craft. Seek the opinions of true Gatekeepers. We are here for a reason. Consumers, the next time some new artist hands you a CD or a link to their website that has bad music, offer them this information or simply donate to the National GDS Society to save Gatekeeper Deficient musicians. Now I must go. I’ve got 80 more GDS suffers to attend to.

Written and Ranted by the Honorable Dj Judge Mental

Please feel free to re-post this (with proper credit of course) and please respond with your comments on the subject.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Police Log: Popular music genre, Rap tried to commit suicide

Music Industry insiders say that the 33-year-old music genre - Rap, who was hospitalized Sunday after police responded to a report of an attempted suicide at its Atlanta home, should continue to enjoy entertainment success once it completes rehab. Reports suggest that Rap has made many attempts to kill its self in recent years; however its recent attempts have been the most threatening to the superstar’s existence.

On the scene in which the nearly dead Rap was found were several clues as to the methods by which Rap has been using in its attempts to commit suicide. In Rap’s possession was an arsenal of unregistered firearms upon which finger prints were found that belonged to Rap’s closest accomplices. Prints were traced and found to belong to Rap assistants residing in nearly every state in the US. Although all weapons had finger prints, very few of them had actually ever been fired.

The floor of the scene where Rap was found was covered in single one dollar bills as well as photographs and videos of Rap fornicating with thousands of (apparently fatherless) naked or nearly naked women. The evidence indicates Rap’s lack of respect for these women, however these women are being listed as accomplices to the attempted suicide due to their willingness to whore themselves to Rap and thus lead to Raps near death experience. Despite the evidence of extreme and frequent sex acts in Rap’s presence, no prophylactics or prophylactic packaging were found at the scene of the suicide attempt, suggesting that even though Rap had no regard for its own life, it did intend to create additional fatherless children to continue its legacy.

Finally, several types of drugs popularized by Rap were in Rap’s possession and had evidently been ingested in large quantities in Raps suicide attempts. Testing found that in recent weeks Rap had popped pills, smoked extreme amounts of marijuana, and drank every type of liquor that it has managed to promote for free in the recent years. Empty bottles were found of Patron, Hennessy, Grey Goose, Tanqueray, and Cristal with no evidence of contract or sponsorship. Members of the corporations behind these products were contacted but would give no comment.

Friends of Rap originally suggested that Rap simply had been partying hard the night before and went a little too far, however further research into the matter has found that Rap may have been in a drugged and dazed state due to its recent recognition it its poor financial state. With the exception of a few of Raps potential beneficiary’s, very little to no money is truly left in Raps possession. Despite the riches that Rap earned well into the mid 90’s, in the past decade those close to Rap report that all of Raps money had been frivolously wasted on candy painted cars, sneakers, clothing, jewelry, drugs, strippers, and rentals (houses, rims, and exotic cars).

When Rap was asked for a comment on its suicide attempts it issued this brief though nearly incoherent statement: “see Shawty, I’m a Hood Nigga, I’m So Hood, I Get Money, You Know What It Is. I’m stanky rich, I got Big Things Poppin so I’ll just get Stronger. Even if this ridiculous lifestyle kills me, I’ll die with a very Freaky Girl, My Drink N My 2 Step, on that Patron so get like me. Yuuuuuugh!!”

Reported by
The Honorable Dj Judge Mental

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Is MySpace Enough??

Recently a publicist asked me how I felt about new artists sending me a link to their MySpace page rather than having a real website or a professional EPK (electronic press kit.) I responded:
In any industry and especially the music industry, when it becomes too easy to get in, those in power establish more barriers. Not so much to keep good artists out, but to filter out the weak and talent lacking. Back in the day an artist had to get the backing of a major label to afford to press a record or mass produce cassettes. At one point, not just anyone could mass produce CDs. The point is an artist had to be good enough to convince someone to spend a lot of money on them before the world would know about them. This was the filter! It reduced the amount of non-talented, weak hearted artists from mass marketing and distributing themselves. Now with mp3s and MySpace anyone can record a song on their computer and distribute it to the world within hours without anyone's approval, critique, or criticism. This has watered down the industry way too much. Filters are necessary. Now back to the question... Eeeevvverrybody has a MySpace. You're not special and haven't necessarily paid any dues just because you've got a MySpace page. MySpace will not set you apart from the pack of millions of artists. It lands you dead in the center of them. Sure, major labels make MySpace pages for their artists, but you can bet the recording was mastered first, a marketing department is pursuing other avenues, and someone has made personal contacts with DJs, Program Directors, and Music Directors. So no...the bubble has burst. You're no longer going to impress anyone with a link to your MySpace. Get a real publicity plan, well recorded music, and maybe even a "real" website if anybody remembers what those look like. Get one of those and you might actually separate yourself from the pack. That would be impressive!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

10 Ways to Make Me Think You are a Wack Rapper

1. Say "I'm not ____________(enter favorite rappers name)" but I ______________(enter that rappers song title/vice). Example...I'm not Young Jeezy, but I'm a Go Getta.

2. Name a bunch of other songs in your song. Example..."I got big things poppin, so I lean wit it rock wit it, got money in the bank, so I'm beatin' down the block wit it." (don't bite my lyrics (lol)...see number 3)

3. Bite lyrics from another rapper as if it were your own. A one line tribute is cool (if the song you bit from is a classic and not still on the damn charts)

4. All you can rap about is your rims, car, how much drugs you do, or how much money you have. (shout out to the fools throwing their rent money and child support at strippers)

5. You curse more than 2 times before your first verse even comes in.

6. You have no vocabulary (see also number 5). Read a book!

7. At an open mic night, don't blame the sound system or the DJ for your lack of professionalism. Even professionals run into technical difficulties, but they know how to work through it. Learn to.

8. You are too cheap to get an original track.

9. I can tell within 1 verse who your favorite rapper is.

10. You need 10 other dudes on stage to make you look hype.

Others to come....