|SIR SLY band|
@ The Casbah
There is no part of the music industry that isn't an absolute shit show in 2013 (except maybe publishing) but as someone who primarily interfaces with that industry as a record label partner, I am particularly fascinated by the world of music management. Historically, succesful managers moved became record label owners- two primary examples being David Geffen and Irving Azoff. Here is a quote from Frederic Dannen's national best seller, Hit Men- which is about the music industry during the halcyon days of glory (i.e. the 1980s):
"Though artist management had made them rich, it was only a matter of time before Geffedn and Azoff leaped the bargaining table to become label presidents. Almost all top managers and lawyers in the record business secretly hanker to run a label. However powerful the artist representatives may be, the label bosses are the ones who hold the check book."
"Lawyers and managers never forget, meanwhile, that their power is tenuous. Artists may fire them or, even more likely, fall from the charts. The average career of a rock artist is cruelly brief- five years is an achievement, and twenty years is a miracle." (pg. 141-142.)
These days, the traffic is 100% in the other direction, particularly since record labels don't hire anyone ever these days. On the other hand, there are plenty of ex-A&R types working as managers. The difficulty of being a manager is that you don't get paid unless the Artist gets paid, and the Artist isn't going to get paid unless they are very, very successful and even then...if you get them after they hook up with an indie label- poof- there goes a huge pot of money. So I'm never surprised when a manager comes between a label I work with and a band they are releasing- that is the natural order of things. It's like being mad at Nature for the weather- your time is better spent trying to understand it then being angry at it for what it does to you.
I'm bringing all this up because the only reason I went to last night's show is because I was curious about "what it takes" to get picked up by Monotone Management- and Sir Sly is the most recent act to be picked up by Monotone Management. I'm always curious to see what people who are actually successful in the music industry are interested in, and what they decide to spend time and energy on. Monotone Management of course, is the home of Jack White, Vampire Weekend, The Shins and Foster The People.
First up at last night's free show was Los Angeles indie-folk act Miner. Miner essentially treads the same sonic space as Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. Now, they aren't original, but man- think about the potential upside- FM radio and actual record sales for one. It's not too hard to draw comparisons to Grammy Album Of The Year Winner Lumineers or Mumford & Sons. It's not music I listen to, but I literally saw dollar signs on top of the heads of the gently swaying crowd.
As I've said before, originality in music is highly, highly, highly overrated- what you want is a twist on something with an established sales track record, and when you are using Edward Sharpe, The Lumineeers & Mumford and Sons as your benchmarks the upside is unlimited. Maybe they make it, maybe they don't but it's hard to imagine that one could lose money putting out an LP on Miner. Actually, it's impossible to imagine losing money on such an LP.
They should consider changing their name to something like the Miner Family Singers though- so it's more obvious to casual music listeners what they are about. Miner sounds like a band on Dischord.
Headliners SIR SLY lost about half the crowd that was there to see Miner (score a point for Miner.) They are a five piece- singer/guitarist, lead guitarist, bassist, drummer and key/synths guy- all dudes. To say that they are they are polished is a mild understatement- they are slick like a California freeway after the first rain of the year. The focus of SIR SLY is clearly the singer/guitarist who fronts the band- and the sound has obviously been crafted for maximum impact on alt rock FM radio. Paul Lester of the London Guardian called them a "Chillwave Coldplay" but you could also just call them a super pro synth pop act and leave Coldplay out of it. Maroon 5- also a comparison made by the London Guardian and also apt, although the singer will have to ditch the guitar and pop off his shirt to really merit a comparison to Adam Levine.
All told it was pretty darn easy to see why Monotone Management is fucking with SIR SLY- they sound exactly like the kind of band that gets signed to a major label in 2013. I'm sure both bands have a viable future ahead of them due to their combination of professional grade sound and performance chops. I say, "Good luck on your journey gentlemen, and may the odds be ever in your favor."
Oh last thought- having a live drummer play drum pads instead of actual drums seems like a solid move in 2013- like the drum break in Phil Collins In The Air Tonight:
You can't go wrong with that sound.