I’ve heard you say that newly released albums have only a two-week life span. So how do you increase the lifespan of your album once it’s released?
“It’s virtually impossible. You cannot increase the lifespan of your projects. And that’s highly unfortunate. But what you can do to lengthen the life to being maybe…”
“Three weeks! (laughter) Maybe doing a video. Maybe releasing three singles as opposed to just one or two singles. Doing a lot of media, graphics, a lot of pictures with you in the studio. These things help, but really, two weeks. Do you remember the D’Angelo album? The one called ‘Black Messiah’?”
“We waited for about ten years for D’Angelo to come out with an album. When he dropped it, it was the biggest thing since sliced bread. But two weeks later, we were ready for something else.”
“I’m not sure if I’m surprised (running my own label), but I am impressed with myself. I really never knew that I could do this, but I stepped out on mid-air. I almost got emotional. Stepped out on mid-air when I had a very, very bad breakup with Blaze (myself and Kevin Hedge).
It was a bitter thing, there was anger, you know, rage in some cases. But having bounced from that to where I am today, I’m almost in awe. I can’t believe that I’ve done it and I’m still doing it…”
People are impatient…
“Internet, the machine… It kind of reproduces too fast. So we acquired an appetite for new music too fast. And the quality of the music is sacrificed.”
DJ/Producer Mark Mendoza has a question for you. He wants to know what is your view regarding music consumed predominantly via streaming… Because he feels as though people don’t own music anymore.
“They don’t. And it speaks to the time that we live in. There’s a music executive, a very very popular guy. His son said: “Dad, why are people buying music when you can get it for free? It’s like buying air. Why would you do that?” He just didn’t understand the value of owning the vinyl, reading the credits, getting the history, finding out who played the bass, and all that. He didn’t even care about that. So that was a time… Those of us that are fortunate to have lived through that time can appreciate it.
Artists have got to figure out a different way to make money because record sales are not going to get better. Matter of fact, they’re going to get worse. It’s people like yourself that buy vinyl, buy CD’s, even buy digital. They’re keeping the artist alive, you know, and that life is a very modest one. I’m not going to buy a Bentley on my salary, it’s not going to happen, you know? It’s rough, very rough. There are a few who are doing well. Louie Vega is in that case. He’s travelling a lot, but he’s doing it on the DJ tip.”
That’s how he makes his money.
“Yeah, not as an artist. He’s not a singer or anything. Singers get nothing. Then there are promoters but that’s another story…”
But you don’t use a promoter, right?
“No, I do my own parties. I’ve been around for a long time. I’m old, so I know better. But most artists are waiting for somebody to say: “Hey, I want you to sing at my event. Here’s $400. Come sing!” They’re waiting for that $400 to save their lives, you know? It’s tough. So to answer Mark’s question, streaming – music that you get off streaming sites – kind of stinks. Prince was really smart, taking all his music off streaming sites. Taylor Swift, I think she’s fighting against streaming sites. But at the same time, if there were no streaming sites a lot of people wouldn’t know who I am.”
So it’s a catch-22.
“Yeah. I’m in the middle here. So, yeah, it sucks. Either way I lose. I know a guy who owns a record store. He sells records that are up on digital websites. He puts them on a CD to do so.”
“The artists get nothing. Now sure I can sue him, but it’ll cost me more money to pay a lawyer than I would get from that case. So what do you do? Keep in mind, I’m hardly making any money as it is. I’m not crying broke, but I’m just saying an artist doesn’t make a lot of money.”
You said it’s only going to get worse. So what do you do about it?
“The only thing one can do, is continue to do what he loves, which is why music has to be a love affair. You have to do it for the love, and for the enjoyment of seeing the shine on an artist or the glow on an artist’s face when he hears his music in my studio for the first time. That’s the payoff. Or if I’m performing and somebody tells me: “this song really does it for me”. That’s my payment. Not these few dollars that I’m getting. So to answer your question, that’s all you can do.”
Your label, Honeycomb Music, is now seven years old. What has surprised you in the past seven years regarding having your own label?
“I’m not sure if I’m surprised, but I am impressed with myself. I really never knew that I could do this, but I stepped out on mid-air. I almost got emotional. Stepped out on mid-air when I had a very, very bad breakup with Blaze (myself and Kevin Hedge).
It was a bitter thing, there was anger, you know, rage in some cases. But having bounced from that to where I am today, I’m almost in awe. I can’t believe that I’ve done it and I’m still doing it. My partner Adam Cruz and I have seen a lot of dark days with no money, and having artists with their hand out like, “Where’s the money?” It’s kind of tough having to just be responsible and be a businessman. It’s a big shift for me. My years with Blaze, 30 years, I was an artist, artist-producer. I was not a businessman. Kevin was the businessman, and that’s that. So now that I am a businessman, yeah that was my biggest, as you say, surprise that I can still do it, that I’m doing it, no problem.
I can’t wait to do business now. I remember I used to be afraid to do so. And anybody reading this article, who’s an artist… It’s very common for artists to shy away from business, very common. Artists don’t want to talk about business, they want to do the music. They want to sing. They want to DJ. They want to do the art. It’s what we love. Business… It’s almost like the devil, you know, because it takes the energy, the life-giving energy out of you. You’re talking numbers, percentages. You’ll be like: “I don’t even want to sing now. I’m done!” This is why artists get screwed, they don’t want to talk business. Let somebody else do it.”