Los Angeles Copyright Group Has Famous Artists Reveal The Ups And Downs Of Owning Their Own Labels.

By Moses Avalon

It’s refreshing to hear success stories from long-in-the-tooth artists when mostly they tend to complain about the business stroking them over. November’s California Copyright Conference assembled famous artists who run their own labels to see if they could teach other members of LA’s publishing community a thing or two.

Steve Vai who played with Frank Zappa, Whitesnake and David Lee Roth, was among them and lead off with a sobering comment; even despite his huge fame and track record, “Every label passed on my solo work. The few offers I got really sucked. So– it cost $12 to start my own label. I was making $7 for every CD I sold myself. I sold thousands, made a [Pressing and Distribution] deal with Sony and now Sony has to pay me $7 for every CD they sell.”

Not all panelists were recording artists themselves but rather artists of commerce.Fred Croshal of Croshal Entertainment Group, in Agoura Hills, California, has positioned himself as sort of a “go to guy” for many heritage acts exiting their major label deals.He has set up successful labels for Jackson Browne, Sinead OConnor, Blind Mellon and Collective Soul. “The amount of artists that are seeking me out is at a tipping point.  One major offered to buy our company and I said no thank you.” He thinks major label deals are a trap and pointed out a huge pit fall. “Having an artist go into limbo is the worst thing the label can do to them. The labels never tell you when they stop spending money on you.”

As economics require thrifty solutions to big box ideas, self run labels are becoming more and more common.But the down side is that although they can be more profitable on a unit sales basis than a major label release, you rarely get the same kind of exposure or platform.

Jonatha Brookeformally of the 80s group, The Story, added, “You have to reconcile what success means. You may not ever sell a million so you have to adjust your expectations. On all four records I have on [my major] there was regime change at each one’s release.” Anyone who has ever been on a deal with a large company knows that this can spell death to a project.“So I decided that I could do this myself.” She started Mad Dog Records and sold over 100,000 copies of her second record which was more than she sold of all four major label titles.


One audience member asked the panel what were the most effective marketing strategies and how much they spend.Their answers were almost identical:“the internet,” “the internet” and—“the internet.”Social networks, blogs and the like. Other suggestions were, bundle for value: give away live tickets with a CD; exclusives with retail outlets, and Vai’s comment, “Knowing your audience.”

How much moola does it take? Croshal seemed to be the only one comfortable answering this one, “$100,000.We break even at 25 thousand units.”

With majors looking for new ways to make money we may see this tail wagging the dog scenario more and more.

To see the real economics of this discussion, go to the Moses Avalon Royalty Calculator (MARC).You can plug in the numbers for any record deal and see who much you’ll make and where the break even point is.Click on “Hints” to learn how to set up the MARC for a self-released project. IT’S FREE.

Mo out.


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  2. Jimi says:

    A stupid movie that grossed more than the national debt of many small countries in a single weekend.The “entertainment industry”, People were using CREDIT CARDS to buy tickets, & just burned a huge hole in the economy because PEOPLE ARE STUPID.
    Exploiting the stupidest common denominator is the foundation of most civilations.
    And that is why civilations collapse.
    A quick look at what mindless music tops the charts confirms this.

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