By, Wendy Day (www.RapCoalition.org and www.Rap-Coalition.com)
I’ve seen so many people get jerked in the 17 years that I have been pulling artists out of bad deals. And I have been vocal (for free) about how artists can protect themselves from getting jerked by less than savory managers and production companies, greedy labels, and unscrupulous scammers. Yet, every week it seems I get a new request for help. I’m not quite sure how the “protect yourself” information can be out there, and artists are STILL signing bad deals that steal their dreams from them. It’s most frustrating.
So I thought I’d write a tongue-in-cheek article on how to JERK an artist, and then maybe folks will read it and their bullshit tactics will be exposed. I realize that I run the risk of helping the scumbags jerk more people, but that’s a risk I am willing to take. So here goes….based on the numerous ways I have seen artists get jerked…
First of all, you have to be certain you are working with an artist over 18 who knows very little about the music business. How else will you be able to teach him your version of how it’s supposed to work? He definitely needs to be over 18 so a Judge doesn’t get involved and nullify the contract on the basis of a minor not being able to legally enter into a binding contract.
Definitely sign a male rapper. Yes, you run the risk of him becoming violent when he finds out you’ve scammed him, but by then you should have enough money to either be untouchable or hire security. Also, male rappers statistically sell better on average than female rappers, and if you’re going to stick somebody for their loot, it may as well be as much loot as possible. Besides, an angry female will go to further extremes if you piss her off, remember that last shorty you did wrong? She came after your ass, didn’t she.
A solo artist is less risky than a group, as it’s only one angry person to watch out for, rather than many who may team up for revenge. A younger person is often more naïve, and you can sell him some bullshit about the industry only wanting young artists. If you get him to lie that he’s two years younger than he really is, he’ll feel like he shares a secret with you. The more secrets you have on him, the easier it will be to control him. And if he pisses you off, you can tell the world his secrets and he’ll always be the one who looks stupid. He’ll also be too busy dodging the press, to come after you. If you can secretly record conversations that make him look bad, you can especially damage his career so he has nothing left--just in case he manages to get away from you.
It’s good to remind the artist often that you’re family and you’d never do him wrong. If he thinks you’re all sacrificing now to build something for a down-the-road payoff, you can probably get a good 4 years of loyalty out of the dupe. If you are all persons of color, you could utilize the race card to your benefit reminding him that “Black folks have to stick together because the white man has been keeping us down for long enough.” Some people even mention slavery and other assorted history to further the bond. Some phrases you could use to convince him are:
• We are family.
• I got your back.
• We are (a) soldiers, (b) warriors, (c) a team, (d) fill in the blank.
• We are building an empire
• You’re going to be a star
• You’re going to be rich
• You are doper than (a) Jay Z, (b) Tupac was, (c) Biggie was, (d) Eminem.
• You can buy your Mamma a big house
• I’m gonna make your dreams come true.
• There will be plenty for everybody
• Don’t be (a) a hater, (b) crabs in the barrel, (c) selfish, (d) fill in the blank
Make sure your artist has a “manager.” It will make him feel bigger than he is. If the person he chooses is too savvy, make sure you poo-poo his choice and allude that you can’t do a deal if he has this person in his camp. Encourage family member choices, or childhood friend choices, especially if you feel you can control them later through (a) money, (b) manipulation, (c) drug habits, (d) blackmail. An artist manager who secretly works for you is a priceless gift worth his weight in Gold. The major labels were built on this. What manager doesn’t eventually want his own label? You could dangle that carrot in front of him forever.
When the artist is in a position where he’s feeling secure and he believes in you 100%, it’s time to put that contract in front of him with a pen. Have it open to the last page and show him exactly where he should sign it. Act like you’re in a hurry. A time where you’re about to give him money, or right before a show in the parking lot of the club, or when he’s really high in the studio and hearing his boys giving him tons of “you the man” praise, are all good times to offer the contracts. Don’t worry, he’ll sign. They all do.
If he tries to look at the writing in the contract, or even tries to turn a page, snatch it back from him and act hurt. Remind him that you’re all family and if there’s no trust then maybe you should find someone else to sign. Tell him you could get him a lawyer if he really wants, but it’ll have to be in exchange for that (a) gear, (b) watch, (c) car, or (d) cash you were about to give him. If he really pushes the having his own attorney bit, and you can’t manipulate him out of the idea, make certain he has an attorney with no power. It’s important to let him use someone with some music business experience so they don’t run up the bill with your lawyer fighting for stupid stuff.
There are many new, wanna-be, and fringe (outside of the inner circle that exists in the music industry) lawyers who troll the industry for clients and will give love to whomever is paying their bill (you). They come in all colors and all prices. Just remember, a lawyer makes more money working for a label than for an artist, so most can very easily be swayed to do what you want in the deal, even for a reduced fee, with a promise of future work, even if it’s bullshit.
Lawyers get paid to do deals, not to break them, so they will usually finish the deal no matter how bad it is, rather than walk away from making their fee. They console themselves with the fact they got their client the best deal they could. It is important to find someone with reduced, or no, integrity.
Sign as many artists as you want, promising them whatever you have to, to get them to sign. Don’t worry about putting them out or doing anything at all with them. Once they are signed, you own them. Most artists really just want to be signed to a record label and that will pacify them longer than you think. Be hard to find so you won’t have to listen to their bitching. If they can’t find you, it’s not your fault you’re busy-- after all, you are running a business. If they do catch you, sympathize with them and tell them you’ll look into it, or that they are up next. Both of these excuses only work about 3 times, but if you are good at eluding the artists, that’s at least a year.
Make certain your lawyer worded the contract to sign your artists for no less than 7 albums (not years, as 7 albums is about 14 years really), give him little to no advance, take 100% of the publishing and merchandising, get 50% of everything else as his production company, and make the stat rate at 10X, 75%. Have a separate contract that assigns you as his official manager for life, for 25%. Tell him how big you are in the industry and how you can make shit happen at the drop of a hat, in fact, you left Akon or Diddy on hold just now to speak with your favorite artist (him) because he’s so important to you.
Placate him with the lie that you’re going to put him on tour with (a) Jay Z, (b) Lil Wayne, (c) R Kelly (if he also likes his females young) or (d) Plies, and that nobody else would do that for him. Remind him that with his cut of tour income like that, he won’t even notice your manager’s fee of 25%, besides you’re doing all the work: all he has to do is rap on stage for 20 minutes and get head in the limo on the way back to the hotel by the prettiest female. Tough life.
Speaking of shows, if you are lucky enough to stumble on an opportunity, make sure the artist thinks he’s only getting $1,000 to do the show, while the promoter is really paying you $5,000. Then, when the promoter sends you the first half of $2,500, tell the artist the $500 front end came in, and you keep the other $2,000. Or be a sport and tell him since you’re such a great manager you got the whole $1,000 upfront and keep the remaining $1,500 and then keep the whole backend of $2,500. You’ll be his hero. By the time the IRS sends the artist a tax notice (takes about 3 years) for the taxes he didn’t pay on all the $5,000 shows, you’ll be long gone.
A real easy way to make a lot of money is to book multiple shows for the same night and don’t show up to any except one. You can keep all the front end deposits and do nothing because it’ll be the artists’ reputation in the crapper, not yours. By the time the lawsuits come in, again, you’ll be long gone. Your lawyer can stall the suits for 3 years or better. And it’s free money. You could even book all the shows for the same night at $5,000 each and call back all the promoters the day before to tell them you’ll come to whoever is the highest bidder. You might get double the price, and if you were smart enough to ask everyone for open airplane tickets, you can cash in the ones you don’t use and make some extra cash. Again, it’s the artist reputation that suffers, not yours.
The new 360 deals are a great way for you to make even more money than you should (although it doesn’t much matter what you call the deal, you’re never going to pay him anyway). With a 360 deal you can explain to him that you are building his career so he can make a lot of show money, and then you can tap into a portion of that income. Your argument should be that you are taking all the risk financially, so you should be able to tap into all of the income sources from what your promotional dollars create. If he stalls, remember to dangle an advance in his face so he won’t be able to stall you out for long. Keep other unsigned artists around so he feels that if he doesn’t take the deal, someone else will.
It’s a good idea to keep the artist in the studio as much as possible at first, because once he realizes you’re making all the money, it’ll be hard to get him back in there. The studio is really where he wants to be anyway; he’s most comfortable there. Keep him as high and as drunk as possible. Aside from the fact that it will be easy to control him then, the addiction will also keep him coming back to you. He will want to be in the studio all the time anyway, as he will be gung-ho to make his album. Truth be told, rappers really only want fame and pussy, and when everyone thinks he has an album coming out, the women will surround him, and he will feel like a star (even if his record never comes out).
Try to get him to make as many albums as possible, but don’t tell him that’s what you’re doing. Tell him the songs he’s making don’t fit his image, or the production is inferior, or that he is so much better than what you’re hearing. If you tell him it isn’t commercial enough and needs to be more radio friendly, which is the oldest label trick in the book, you may get some static as artists may see this as “selling out,” which will hurt his core beliefs (core beliefs are hard to sway). You may need to lock him out of the studio or cut off the supply of money and drugs, to get him to come around. Once he does though, you can get a good 10 or 20 more songs with this one excuse.
If he has a lot of knuckleheads around him whispering in his ear, or savvy industry folks around him all of a sudden, send him to a studio more than a ten hour drive away. This will instantly put a stop to that crap, and being in a strange place will force him to go to the studio because he’ll have nothing else to do. You can easily control him with money (keeping him waiting a few days for money when he’s broke and hungry will take the fight out of anyone). Never give him too much at once. The stress of bills and starving are excellent incentive for him to act right, especially if he has a baby’s mama and a kid or two. Great incentive. By the time the paternity suits and child support cases roll in, you’ll be long gone.
If you do put out a record for the rapper, keep him on the road as much as possible. Aside from the show scam being a great source of income for you, it keeps him from begging you for money constantly at home. Be certain he has his boy as his “manager” (preferably with no business or music industry knowledge or connections), and has a tour manager that you assign, control, and pay, that will report back to you immediately if there are any suspicions that you aren’t doing what’s right. When you hear rumblings, fly to whatever city he’s in and spend time with him. Buy him little gifts and get high with him. Remind him he’s part of something bigger. Strip bars in any city are perfect locations for meetings. Hookers afterwards are appropriate gifts. You should be seen at all times to be taking care of his needs, especially publicly. This will attract hoards of other artists to scam.
Things won’t get rough for you until about 9 months after his record comes out and he realizes he’s still living with his Mom. If you have multiple albums done, it won’t matter as his “fame” will keep him promoting the subsequent albums. He won’t want to lose that. Without fame he’ll lose all the free stuff, all the gratuitous pussy, all the attention, all the free drinks and free blunts… Fear of losing all this will keep him in line for awhile. Rarely be kind to him. The harder you are on him, and the harder you are to please, the harder he’ll try to please you. Kindness will only be taken as weakness and he’ll control you.
Artists are not loyal. They jump to wherever the money is. If he’s more pimp than whore, he will eventually find other ways to make money: (a) appearing on other artists’ albums for $10,000 (b) shows behind your back for $5,000 which is more than you’re booking him for, (c) bootlegging his own album, or (d) selling T-shirts or drugs at his own shows. If you don’t have subsequent albums to release, it’s important that you keep him broke so you can get him back in the studio as soon as possible with the promise of money--his next advance. If he’s a man destined to be pimped, he will most likely jump ship to another camp with the same game, willing to give up a bit more upfront cash incentive to him. Have a super sharp litigator on board to sue the other company immediately, and either they’ll toss him out like a used condom or write you a fat check to let him go. It’s up to you, since you legally own him.
In general, only give your artist what you have to, in order to get him working. If you give him too much he’ll disappear til it runs out. For the second album, if you promise half now and half when he finishes the album, it’s all gravy. And if you’re slick enough to use the studio excuses again to get even more songs out of him, you’re a star! By now he knows the necessity of radio hits, so that “music needs to be more radio friendly” will go a long way. You can even entice him by getting tracks from his favorite producers, and getting artists he admires to work with him. Both of these options require an outlay of money, but you can trick multiple artists on your label with the same track or the same guest appearance opportunity. Also, you’ll sell more records in the long run, and make more money that way, so it’s worth it. If you have signed more than one artist, you can pit them against each other for maximum effect. They’ll even sabotage each other with little effort on your part. You can sit back and enjoy the show.
If you’re an artist and you’re reading this, don’t get pissed off because you got beat. For 17 years, I have offered numerous free resources that teach you how to NOT get jerked, but that would require time, investigation, and reading skills on your part, and that just always seemed like too much work didn’t it. With the plethora of info out there, and the availability of trustworthy professionals to choose for your team, if any of you do get jerked, shame on you. You have no one to blame but yourselves. You’ve been warned. Enjoy that blunt…