Blog Archives

Creating An Effective Elevator Pitch

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics For Musicians, Music Marketing For The DIY Musician, and co-author of the new Five Star Music Makeover, has written about giving an effective elevator pitch. He offers us some important tips to keep in mind when creating your elevator pitch, take a look below to read what they are!


00145992An elevator pitch is a useful promotion tool when meeting new industry contacts face-to-face at networking events and conventions. It’s called an elevator pitch because it is intended to grab a person’s immediate attention and hold his or her interest within the time of a short elevator ride.

An elevator pitch must be well written and well rehearsed. While you may have to create a variety of different pitches based on who (booking agents, bloggers, sponsors, etc.) you are pitching, let’s take a look at the essential elements you should include when preparing your pitch.

Provide Your Name With a Memorable Twist: Be prepared to state your personal name and title along with an interesting and memorable twist. For instance, I might say, “Hey there, my name is Bobby Borg. Borg—as in one of the Cyborg characters on Star Trek.” While this is a little silly, it’s memorable and can help break the ice and get a smile.

Flatter the Intended Recipient: Consider complimenting the person that you are approaching. If at a convention, you might congratulate a person on his or her Keynote presentation. Just don’t be over-flattering; you don’t want to sound like an over excited fan.

State Your Title and How You Are Unique: State what you do and how you are unique. Are you a Native American rapper who draws awareness to indigenous rights (like Frank Walin), or a solo jazz guitarist who triggers robots to play multiple instruments on stage (like Pat Metheny)? Whatever makes you unique, just be sure to state it concisely.

Hype Your Career: Include one or two of your most impressive accomplishments in your elevator pitch to build credibility. You might state that you are the recent recipient of The John Lennon Songwriting Competition or a runner-up on the latest season of The Voice.


Read the entire post written by Bobby Borg over at Music Connection.

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Getting the most from your entertainment attorney

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics for Musicians, is back again with 10 tips that will help you get the most from your entertainment attorney! Having written Business Basics for Musicians, Bobby Borg is definitely no stranger to the ins and outs of interacting with an entertainment attorney. Take a look at his tips below and let us know what you think!


00139915Attorneys are necessary to the business of music – and your music career. A good entertainment attorney reviews contracts you receive with your best interests in mind, translates contract clauses and complicated writing into terms you can understand, and knows what issues are most important to negotiate for in recording, publishing, and merchandising agreements.

Once you’ve hired an attorney, you want to make sure that the relationship runs as smoothly as possible. Attorneys are not inexpensive; nor do they have a lot of free time. Keeping this in mind, when you interact your attorney, make sure to get the most out of him/her. The following 10 Tips will help.

1. Be prepared and have a clear agenda

Before speaking or meeting with your attorney, be clear about what you want to accomplish. For instance, you might wish to discuss and better understand specific clauses that you’ve underlined in a music licensing agreement, and then want him or her to negotiate better terms if necessary and practical. Whatever the issue, just remember that an attorney will only advise you about what to do and never tell you what to do. Thus, looking at the bigger picture, be sure to have your values and goals clearly defined.

2. Take notes and/or record the meeting

Be sure to take great notes and ask if you can record your meetings. This way, if something isn’t immediately clear, you can review your notes or replay the conversation later. This is also helpful if you’re in a band and one of the members cannot be present. But just remember that not all attorneys will allow recordings during a meeting. Simply put: a recording provides clear evidence of a misstatement by the attorney, and it may be permitted in a court of law should you ever need to sue him or her. (Believe me, I know from experience).

3. Be on time and carpool

It may be easy for one band member to arrive at a meeting on time, but when all members of a group will be attending, you might consider driving together in one car to ensure that everyone is on time. Your attorney won’t be thrilled to have to repeat what has already been said for a member who walks in the door fifteen minutes late. And you won’t be happy with the bill either.

4. Appoint a band representative

It is a good practice to appoint one band member to serve as the liaison between the attorney and the rest of the band to avoid having every member of the group call whenever they have a question or want an update on a particular matter.

Appointing one member to make calls will also make life easier for your attorney, who won’t have to re-explain issues to each band member, and will also prevent the awkward possibility of each member getting his/her own take on a matter. By having a liaison, your group can put together a list of questions, and then one individual can make the call or attend the meeting. As long as your liaison is reliable and effective in relaying information to the other members of the band, this system usually works adequately.

Should the other members begin to feel they’re relinquishing too much control and are at the mercy of the appointed liaison, a band can always request group meetings via speakerphone or Skype so that everyone can listen in on the conversation. A second solution is to have everyone attend meetings in person but to appoint one representative to do all the talking.

5. Keep your attorney informed

It’s important to keep your attorney up-to-date regarding all business matters and developments. For instance, if your attorney is one of a rare breed who shops your band for deals, and you’re unexpectedly approached by an A&R representative from another label after one of your shows at a big convention like SXSW, your attorney should be the first person to hear about it. It makes sense to keep your attorney informed. You hired him for a reason, right?


Read the entire article over at blog.discmakers.com

Shelly Peiken talks about MusicAnswers

Shelly Peiken, author of Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, was featured in the Huffington Post where she talks about advocating for songwriters’ rights. She also speaks about how the songwriting community needs to come together and a new movement called MusicAnswers. Read what she had to say below!


COASS-Final_CVR_152159A few months ago I went to Washington, D.C. to advocate for songwriters’ rights. Consent decrees that were established in 1941 still determine the rates that songwriters are paid and they haven’t been reassessed to take into account the realities of the digital marketplace. It’s been 75 years.

Do you know what the congresspeople told me? They said we, the creative community, have to get our act together. When the tech lobby comes to Capitol Hill it is unified and strong. It speaks with one voice: streaming rates are fine the way they are, in fact, they should be lower; streaming gives an artist free exposure which can lead to monetization in other ways. Creators should be thankful. There’s nothing more they can do about piracy. Don’t break the internet. Bla Bla Bla. But we–songwriters, performers, producers and composers–are divided in our message. And it’s true…we’re all over the place.

For instance, songwriters (and composers) come to Washington to support bills like the Songwriters Equity Act which would set rates at fair market value and remove the provision that prevents the federal rate court from considering relevant evidence when setting the royalty rates for a public performance. (As for the idea that we should be thankful for the exposure…well, the same could be said for eateries: serve free meals that people love and the people will return! How about a free drink too?)

Performers on the other hand, go to D.C. to advocate for The Fair Play Fair Pay Act. This bill states that recording artists should be paid performance royalties when their voices are broadcast on the radio–a no-brainer. Performers have another issue too: record labels receive the lion’s share of revenue that Spotify pays out, and they in turn are expected to compensate their artists. So why do performers receive a fraction of their due? The math remains a mystery. I feel their pain but as a songwriter, I’m fighting my own battle.

Producers have put forth the AMP (Allocation for Music Producers Act), which would create a structure for producers, mixers and engineers to participate in royalties for the songs they work on and allow them to receive direct payment through SoundExchange. Sounds good to me!

Read the rest of the article over at Huffington Post.

Kit O’Toole writes about what made ‘Off the Wall’ timeless

With the Michael Jackson documentary making its way this month to Showtime, author of Michael Jackson FAQ Kit O’Toole, tells us 5 integral elements that made Off the Wall a modern classic. Read below!


Michael Jackson’s landmark solo record Off the Wall is receiving the royal treatment this month, with Spike Lee’s documentary Michael Jackson’s Journey from Motown to Off the Wall debuting this month on Showtime. The original album will be reissued as part of a package bundling the CD with the DVD or Blu ray of the film. Lee’s movie serves as a reminder of the importance of the album, a sophisticated blend of R&B, funk, disco, and jazz that sounds as fresh today as it did in 1979. Artists such as Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Beyoncé still emulate its genre-spanning sound, winning crossover appeal with polished dance grooves.

What makes Off the Wall so effective and timeless that it inspires musicians in 2016? Five integral elements contributed to the making of a modern classic.

  1. Michael Jackson’s voice. Producer Quincy Jones encouraged Jackson to explore the full range of his voice, particular the lower register. Renowned vocal coach Seth Riggs was hired to work with the singer, and their partnership would continue for the rest of Jackson’s career. From the moment a deeper voice utters “You know, I was wondering” at the beginning of the kickoff track “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” a more mature Jackson has made his entrance, announcing a new era in his artistry. His sensual voice wraps around the words in “Rock with You,” seducing a woman through music and dance. When he half-whispers “Love to run my fingers / Softly while you sigh,” Jackson demonstrates his skills as an interpreter, his phrasing perfectly suiting the mood of the romantic “I Can’t Help It.” If anyone doubted his skills as a vocalist before, Off the Wall immediately put those fears to rest.
  2. Quincy Jones’ production. When Jones met Jackson on the set of The Wiz, they quickly formed a personal and professional bond. Toward the end of filming, Jackson asked for recommendations for possible producers for an upcoming solo album. Jones subsequently suggested himself, a controversial idea at the time. Epic Records doubted Jones, a jazz composer and producer, could successfully oversee a crossover R&B/pop album. Instead, he used his jazz background to create a sophisticated album, drawing upon his vast musical connections to recruit the best musicians available. Artists such as George Duke (keyboards), Larry Carlton (guitar), Louis Johnson (bass, best known as a member of the Brothers Johnson), and Jerry Hey (trumpet) shaped the sound, while Jones protégé Patti Austin provided backing vocals and sang on the duet “It’s the Falling in Love.” Jones surrounded Jackson with seasoned singers and musicians, resulting in a cosmopolitan, polished sound that elevated disco to new realms.
  3. Rod Temperton’s songs. A member of the group Heatwave, Temperton penned hits such as “Always and Forever,” “Boogie Nights,” and “The Groove Line.” Recognizing his talent for blending jazz and R&B, Jones recruited the composer/keyboardist to write songs for Jackson’s new project. He submitted three tracks for consideration: “Rock with You,” “Off the Wall,” and “Burn This Disco Out.” To Temperton’s amazement, Jones selected all three compositions. The first two would largely shape the album, allowing Jackson to fully explore his range as well as his “percussive singing” ability. “Off the Wall” contains unusual, jazz-tinged chord changes in the chorus, and “Rock with You” includes lyrics that perfectly capture the romance (if temporary) of disco. After proving his hit making capabilities, Temperton would go on to write classics such as “Yah Mo B There” by James Ingram and Michael McDonald; “Sweet Freedom” by McDonald; “Give Me the Night” by George Benson: and, most famously, “Thriller,” “The Lady in My Life,” and “Baby Be Mine” by Jackson.
  4. Michael Jackson’s songs. During his time with his brothers as The Jacksons, Jackson had rapidly developed as a songwriter. His first solo composition, “Blues Away,” had appeared on the group’s self-titled 1976 LP; however, he proved his talent for writing catchy songs with “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)” from the 1978 Jacksons album Destiny. When it came time to begin work on Off the Wall, Jackson recorded three demos: “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” “Working Day and Night,” and “Get on the Floor” (co-written with Louis Johnson). The first two tracks reveal Jackson’s love of heavy rhythm, with “Working Day and Night” allowing him to use his voice as a percussive instrument. “Get on the Floor” demonstrates how much Jackson enjoyed recording the album—his laugh and “woo!” toward the end of the song radiates infectious joy. “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” became a massive hit, foreshadowing future masterpieces such as “Billie Jean” and “Beat It.” Jackson clearly had a knack for writing R&B and dance tracks with pop appeal, a technique that would win over fans of various genres.
  5. Paulinho da Costa’s percussion. An unsung hero of the album, da Costa provided the intricate percussion heard on Off the Wall. Originally from Brazil, da Costa was an in-demand musician, appearing on thousands of albums as well as recording soundtracks for movies and television. His style mixes jazz, Cuban, and Brazilian influences, making him a frequent Jones collaborator. In his autobiography Moonwalk, Jackson names da Costa as an essential ingredient of “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough.” Indeed, that track as well as “Working Day and Night,” “Get on the Floor,” the title track, and “Burn This Disco Out” would simply not work without da Costa’s complicated, driving rhythms. He was capable of more subtle work, too, particularly on the Stevie Wonder composition “I Can’t Help It.” Listen to Off the Wall through headphones to fully experience da Costa’s masterful percussive work.

Off the Wall remains a classic because it sounds timeless, a remarkable feat considering it dates from the last days of disco. Jackson proved that dance music could be sophisticated and incorporate various genres. His willingness to cross boundaries and transcend simple musical labels would serve him well, the ultimate example being the crossover success of Thriller. Not stopping there, Jackson would continue experimenting with classical, rock, hip hop, R&B, funk, and pop throughout his career. The 1979 album would mark a turning point in Jackson’s life, one that officially established him as an adult artist with a unique voice. Off the Wall would provide a template for future artists to follow, challenging them to reach fans through intelligent, multi-genre tracks. When Jackson sings, “I sure would like just to groove with you,” listeners cannot help but obey.

Everything an Artist Needs to Know

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics For Musicians, wrote an article that is featured on the Music Connection website. In it Bobby Borg speaks about Producer Deals and the importance of dealing with an experienced record producer. Read an excerpt of the article below to learn more!


00139915While the proliferation of home recording tools has enabled many talented artists/producers to record quality masters right out of their own bedrooms, there are still just as many talented songwriters/performers like you who need help from an experienced record producer.

An experienced record producer not only understands the technical and creative aspects of bringing a recording to life, they also understand—should you ever advance your career to signing with a record company—how to manage budgets, deal with union forms and get guest permissions to use other artists. In short, they are expert project managers and know how to deliver a commercially viable record on time, on budget and at the desired level of quality.

While the role of a record producer is typically understood by most artists, the business aspects are more confusing. Thus, what follows is a brief rundown of when a producer may first get involved in your career, how the deals are negotiated and the producer’s fee structure.

(The following article has been excerpted from the book Business Basics for Musicians, by Bobby Borg.)

WHEN AND HOW A PRODUCER MAY FIRST GET INVOLVED
A record producer’s involvement in your career may begin at a number of different junctures and be handled in a number of different ways. The most common scenarios include: the barter system deal, the on-spec deal, the do-it-yourself deal, the production deal and the record label deal.   

A Barter System Arrangement
When artists are just starting out and have little or no money to pay for a recording studio and record producer, their first involvement with a producer might exist under a barter system arrangement with a local producer.

A barter system deal is a straightforward arrangement where the goods or services of the artist are “exchanged” (i.e., used as currency) for the goods and services of the producer. Just be sure that the terms of the arrangement are clear and there are no misunderstandings about additional ownership of songs, recordings and/or hourly fees owed.

The On-Spec Agreement
Another scenario for artists at the beginning of their careers is the on-spec deal.

The on-spec deal is a situation in which the artist makes contact with a local producer/studio owner (perhaps one who is a friend, fan or close relative of the band), and arranges to record at no cost under the terms of an informal agreement. Such an agreement may state that if the band gets a recording agreement, they will pay the producer a predetermined flat fee for services rendered and consider him or her as a candidate to record the final product for the label. If the artist never gets signed to a recording agreement, the artist never owes the producer any money.

Another agreement could state that the artist gives up ownership in the master recordings or shares in certain songs for a specific term. This way, when the artist makes money down the line, the record producer also gets paid. [Warning: just be sure to understand the terms of any agreement before signing and to speak with an attorney or consultant if unsure about anything.]


Read the article in full over at MusicConnection.com

John Kenneth Muir discusses The X-Files

Author of The X-Files FAQ, John Kenneth Muir, has reviewed the first episode of the television show The X-Files! Read below to see what he had to say.


00124644After far too long an absence from television, Chris Carter’s The X-Files (1993-2002) returned to television on Monday night with an episode titled, cannily, “My Struggle.”

That title — not coincidentally, I presume — is also the translated-to-English title of Adolf Hitler’s 1925 literary autobiography, Mein Kampf.

That historical fact may prove the key to understanding better this new starting point for the series.

When we consider Hitler and his particular “struggle,” we think immediately of genocide, totalitarianism, and fascism.

We think of a man who destroyed both individual freedom, and the lives of millions of innocent people. That autobiography, written in a jail cell, laid out one man’s mad dream essentially, for Germany and the world.

Unfortunately, Hitler made much of that mad dream a reality before his death.

And if viewers and critics believe that this new X-Files series doesn’t address those very same issues, they aren’t paying close enough attention.

The title should cue them in.

Specifically, our old friends Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dr. Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) — now estranged — are informed of a terrifying conspiracy by an Internet celebrity and fear peddler: Tad O’Malley (Joel McHale). 

Think Alex Jones meets Glenn Beck, only better dressed.

O’Malley’s story of an “evil” conspiracy in “My Struggle” involves the invasion of America, illicit scientific experiments on American citizens, and the vast expansion of a totalitarian state. 

In other words, the tale concerns a 21st century threat to our freedom not entirely unlike the threat to Germany (and later the Allies) in the 1930s and 1940s.

I have often written of Carter’s powerful sense of anticipatory anxiety in relation to The X-Files, Millennium (1993-1996) and Harsh Realm (1999-2000). In the nineties, he feared that the Clinton Era of Peace and Prosperity couldn’t last. We were so distracted by the Economic Boom created by the Internet that many of us weren’t paying attention to the larger world.

And Carter was right, of course. The Age of Peace and Prosperity — the Roaring Nineties,if you will — came to a crashing end on 9/11/2001.

Read his review in its entirety here.


John Kenneth Muir was also interviewed by Geek Chic Elite. The interview is available below!

 

With twenty five reference books to his credit, author John Kenneth Muir’s latest release is called THE X-FILES FAQ, which explores the 1990’s series that aired on Fox for nine seasons. Recently, we had a chance to talk to John about the new book, the legacy of creator Chris Carter and what his thoughts were on the six part X-Files ‘event’ series.

Were you always interested in writing and how did you move into the world of literary critic?

Well, I began my career as a literary critic, I think it was when I was five years old. My parents had the knowledge or foresight to sit me down in front of a British science fiction series called Space: 1999 and the episode I watched was called ‘Dragon’s Domain’ and it was about the people in the year 1999 encountering this horrible tentacle monster that would suck people into its mouth and spit out steaming bones. I was five years old and this just sort of struck me, the idea of these people of the future, because then of course 1999 was the distance future as this was 1975, I thought the people of the distant future and all of their technology but they’re encountering a monster. It was like science fiction meets horror, high tech meets gothic, it just obsessed me and it started the next decade I guess, in the eighties, I read all of these things about shows that I love like The Outer Limits, Star Trek, Twilight Zone and no one had written a book about Space: 1999 and I thought one of these days I’m going to write a book about this show and the values it had as this sort of gothic show. So I went to college, I studied in film, I had a concentration of film studies and so I kind of learned the language of film through that and then I thought, but what if I could analyze Space: 1999 through film studies techniques and boom, I had my first book. By 1994 I guess I was twenty five, I had a contract for my first book about Space: 1999 using my film study background and I been doing it now for twenty years about other topics I love.

Read more here

Predictions for the music industry: Part 2

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics for Musicians, is back for Part Two of predictions for the music industry! This time, they focus on artist branding, live performances, and new products that might evolve for musical artists. Check them out below and let us know what you think!


00139915Music isn’t going anywhere – we dance to it, graduate to it, and get married to it. But one thing is for sure, the music industry will continue to change and grow. As we head into the bold new musical landscape, indie musicians must keep their eyes on the future.

1. Shifting demographics mainstreamed (Dan Kimpel, Music Journalist)

In making predictions about the music industry in 2020, I envision that the topography of the music landscape will be much more inclusive of artists who are representative of the shifting population demographics.

I believe that Latin artists, communicating in English, Spanish, and “Spanglish,” will be mainstreamed, and that Asian-American singers, bands and producers will become major creative forces. Songwriters will continue to bond together into “writing camps” and will exert an ever-greater influence as shapers of talent and as arbiters and producers of content. Mixers and remixers will become more dominant, as Electronic Dance Music (EDM) continues to unite the globe through worldwide anthems.

What will never change is the power of motivated, forward-thinking creators to configure music to challenge, change, and inspire the lives of listeners.

2. A focus on exciting music – not the latest technical trends (Mike Gormley, LA Personal Management; former manager of the Bangles, Oingo Boingo, and Danny Elfman)

While the focus in the music business has been on the latest technological trends and delivery platforms, innovative, great music will always be the future and true savior of the industry, whether it be the year 2020 or 2025. When jazz arrived on the scene, it was controversial, exciting, and real – as was rock, rap, and EDM. It propelled the music industry forward and gave it life. But what’s next?

The year 2020 will be marked by a new direction in music that shakes up the world once again and puts the focus back on the art and the talented creators, and not just on technology. Those artists who create something unique will thrive.

3. Extended product lines and stronger brands (Fred Croshal, Croshal Entertainment Group, LLC)

In 2020, music will be consumed virtually everywhere – on platforms that are seen today and others that have not yet been envisioned.

To survive, musicians – more than ever – will have to embrace this technology, but they must also realize that music and the distribution and sales of it will only be a one part of the their revenue pie (and perhaps even the smallest piece).
 
Artists will have to extend far beyond just selling recordings (streams, downloads, CD, vinyl, or whatever new format is discovered), hitting the road, and selling merchandise. Artists will need to grow their product offerings into licensing, sponsorships, production, co-writing, acting, modeling, restaurant franchising, investing, directing, educating, and other new creative ventures unknown today in order to survive and thrive in the new music business.
 
Thus, in 2020, protecting the artist’s true vision, values, integrity, authenticity, and overall brand image is paramount. Those who understand marketing will grow brands stronger than ever – relating to target markets and engaging fans on a far more personal level than they are doing now.  

Long gone are the days of the “mass” broad stroke mentality and narrow mindedness in marketing artists. It’s a new world today and it will continue to evolve in 2020 and beyond. The marketing savvy artist who can grow with it all will thrive.


Read the whole thing over at DiscMakers!

 

Predictions for the music industry: Part 1

Bobby Borg, author of Business Basics for Musicians, shares some insight on what the music business will be like in the future in this two-part interview at DiscMasters. No one really knows what the future holds and the music business and the technology surrounding it are constantly changing.  Here are Bobby’s thoughts. Check them out below!  (We’ll past Part 2 next week!)


00139915 What can we expect in the year 2020? Let’s see what a group of attorneys, music publishers, managers, and music industry entrepreneurs had to say about this. Enjoy.

1. Artists are more like tech start-ups and less like wandering minstrels (Greg Victoroff, Esq.)

In the brave new world of pop music in 2020, writers, musicians, vocalists and producers will be more similar to engineers and inventors, creating new apps and software. For those who innovate and monetize, there is vast potential. For musicians who aspire to just be record label “employees,” income from artist’s royalties alone will be insufficient to support a full-time career. To succeed in the world of digital music now and in 2020, musical artists need to think of themselves more like tech start-ups, and less like wandering minstrels.

2. Success that’s earned on your own: DIY style (Don Gorder, Chair and Founder, Music Business/Management Department, Berklee College of Music)

In 2020, as it is today, the marketplace will be overcrowded with music. There will still be the select superstar whose songs reach the masses through the efforts of a support team, but the vast majority of musicians will need to continue taking on a DIY approach to their careers to get seen and heard.

The good news is that technology will continue to advance and make doing it yourself even more possible than it is today. Successful do-it-yourselfers will continue to leverage the latest social media platforms and analytic tools to connect with their fans and fund their projects, partner with product and service companies for branding and advertising campaigns, license their music for film, television, games, ads, etc., leverage relationships with electronic media as part of their marketing strategy, and book and promote their tours and concerts – all with an ultimate goal of getting their music to the ears of the curators of the outlets for consumption, which will exist in business models that are still emerging.

Cutting through the clutter will continue to be a challenge, but great music combined with an entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of hard work will be the winning formula.

3. Affordable DIY services that capture new revenue streams (Tony van Veen, CEO, Disc Makers & CD Baby)

Many music industry trends over the last years have not been favorable toward artists and songwriters: we’ve gone from selling CDs for $10 to downloads for 99¢ to streams for under half a penny. While royalties in general will improve, it has been more difficult than ever for musicians to monetize their music.

As a consequence, independent artists and songwriters will continue to become more and more conscious of how to leverage their intellectual property into alternate revenue streams. In addition to the companies that already exist, you will see many new businesses offering affordable services to DIY artists to capture performance royalties, Internet royalties, mechanical royalties, YouTube royalties, sync licensing for film, TV, games, and commercials. Each of these incremental revenue streams may be small, but in the aggregate they will become a needle-moving part of the artist’s revenue mix.

 

Read the whole thing over at DiscMakers!

 

Wayne Rogers: The Man Who Kicked Hollywood

Dale Sherman, author of the upcoming book M.A.S.H. FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Best Care Anywhere, gave us a few words on the iconic Wayne Rogers who passed away on December 31, 2015. Wayne Rogers was best known for his role as Captain “Trapper” John McIntyre on M.A.S.H. and he will be remembered always by us all.


 

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While working on the final touches of the upcoming MASH FAQ book for Applause (due in April 2016), I was surprised to hear about the death of Wayne Rogers on December 31, 2015.

Rogers is namely remembered today for appearing in the first three seasons of MASH as Trapper John, but his career was much more than that. Born April 7, 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, Rogers graduated from Princeton University then served in the navy for three years.

He ended up in New York, where his roommate, Peter Falk, convinced him to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. From there, he began getting acting gigs in television, including a regular role in the western series Stagecoach West (1960-1961) as “Luke Perry.” In his hours away from the camera, however, he was also gaining a reputation as a businessman who knew the stock market.

Becoming friends with Ted V. Mikels in the early 1960s, Rogers co-wrote and coproduced two films with the director, Dr. Sex (1964) and the notoriously oddball The Astro-Zombies (1968). He also appeared in several roles on the television series The F.B.I. and popped up in Cool Hand Luke (1968), when he was talked into trying out for MASH. Although initially interested in the Hawkeye role, when told that Alan Alda was about to sign, Rogers took on the Trapper John role instead after being told that the two would trade off on storylines as the lead.

Things didn’t turn out that way, however. Getting off on the wrong foot with series developer Larry Gelbart by reading gag lines different than how the writer wished, Rogers found the Trapper role being diminished in favor of Hawkeye. This irked Rogers especially when the storyline established in the book and film that saw Trapper becoming chief surgeon and a chestcutter (something even established in very early episodes of the series for Trapper) were given to Hawkeye in the series. “They took away Trapper’s credentials, his identity,” Rogers stated later on. “It didn’t bother me that they chose to make Hawkeye more important, but don’t emasculate my character.”

Eventually, Rogers offered to appear in the second season as an occasional character that had more to do in an episode here and there, rather than just be “Hawkeye’s audience.” (“You save money and I won’t feel like I’m wasting my time and I won’t feel like I’m being treated in some half-assed manner.”) He was talked back, but then threatened to quit again as the third season was around the corner. Due to this, Mike Farrell was asked if he would be ready to replace Rogers in the program, and as Rogers was independently making money in the stock market and with other business ventures, it was looking good that he wouldn’t return. Instead, he did, but after the third season, he pulled out.

Fox sued, only to find out that he never signed his contract with the studio. Rogers would go on to appear in the cult favorite City of Angels and had some minor success with a television adaptation of the movie House Calls (oddly enough, a series that faced another situation where a main actor had issues with the production team and studio for personal reasons). He also was a chairman of the board for Stop-N-Save, LLC, as well as having produced plays, including a female-reversal version of The Odd Couple starring Rita Moreno and Sally Struthers. More recently he popped up many times on Fox News to discuss financial matters and co-wrote a book in 2011 called Make Your Own Rules.

In the past decades or so, Rogers publicly made his peace about MASH, appearing in some documentaries about the program, and even admitted at one point that had he known the series would become more character-based in later years, he probably would have stayed on. Even so, it was clear in interviews that he considered the role a job like any other and didn’t feel anything special about a gig he took for three years more than forty years ago.

Wayne Rogers was definitely a man who didn’t find anything magical about Hollywood. Magical about acting, perhaps, but not Hollywood, and had no need for it. In some ways, he’s probably happy that he managed to thumb his nose at the traditional “last call for stars” news and movie channels do reflecting on the passing of actors that always happen at this time of year. To give Hollywood one final kick in the pants by messing up their memorials no doubt would have made him smile.

Mark Clark reviews Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is here, and Mark Clark has seen it!  You can read his review below and learn more than you ever imagined about the Star Wars franchise in his book, Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to know About the Trilogy that Changed the Movies


At last.

The wait is over – not just for the start of a new cycle of Star Wars films, but for a Star Wars movie as satisfying as the 1977 original film (retroactively subtitled Episode IV: A New Hope) and its exemplary sequel, The Empire Strikes Back. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, which officially opens today on screens across the U.S., is not only far superior to the misbegotten Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005). In many ways, it’s the picture that Return of the Jedi (1983) might have been.

00122914As I recount in Chapter 19 of my book Star Wars FAQ: Everything Left to Know About the Trilogy That Changed the Movies, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, during contentious story conferences for Return of the Jedi, repeatedly pushed for a darker, more mature story – essentially, a continuation of brooding yet lyrical approach he and George Lucas had taken to Empire Strikes Back. Among other things, Kasdan wanted the story to feature the death of a major character, and to climax with a planetary assault (on the imperial homeworld – then known as Had Abbadon, later renamed Coruscant). He was rebuffed at every turn by Lucas, who was adamant that Jedi be a lighter, more kid-friendly, and provide a fairy tale happy ending to his space saga.

Kasdan, who co-wrote The Force Awakens with director J.J. Abrams, resurrects many of the ideas Lucas rejected for Jedi, and grafts them onto a thinly disguised remake of the original Star Wars. Not only does the plot of The Force Awakens – which I won’t recount in detail here – mirror that of A New Hope, but the story hits all the same emotional beats of the original film, in roughly the same order.

None of this should suggest that the new movie is a simple rehash of the original. In fact, the most impressive thing about The Force Awakens is that it focuses almost exclusively on a clutch of new characters – ex-stromtrooper Finn (John Boyega), mysterious scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley), hotshot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), and aspiring Sith Lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) – all of whom are well-sketched and convincingly brought to life. With the exceptions of Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), the major cast members of the Original Trilogy (even, surprisingly, C-3PO and R2-D2) are restricted to cameo appearances. The story does not revisit any of the familiar environs of the previous Star Wars films. Yet, the rugged, frontier aesthetic of the Original Trilogy returns. In fact, the Star Wars galaxy seems to be an even more ramshackle and unruly place than ever before. Plus, Abrams goes out of his way to make this look and move like a Star Wars movie, rather than a J.J. Abrams film (sorry, lens flare aficionados).

These were, for me, the two things that The Force Awakens needed to accomplish to be successful: Give us engaging new characters, and return to the proper look and feel of the Star Wars pictures (the Prequels missed on both counts). I took for granted that Abrams and Kasdan would deliver top-quality visual effects and stirring action scenes – space battles, light saber duels, etc. – and they do. Those sequences are brilliantly designed and executed, and deliver the thrills audiences expect. Overall, this is the best-written and best-performed Star Wars film since Empire. Ridley, Boyega, and Isaac make an appealing triumvirate, and worthy successors to Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher. Composer John Williams delivers another rousing score, one that leans heavily on his cues for the Original Trilogy but incorporates some major new themes which figure to recur through this Sequel Trilogy.

The Force Awakens has its limitations. There are lapses in story logic, but (as I cover in Chapter 24 of Star Wars FAQ), these have dogged every film in the series. At times the story hews perhaps too close to the original movie (Kasdan and Abrams seem to recognize this, and try to mitigate it by having Solo crack inside jokes). In general The Force Awakens spends a great deal of time establishing characters and plot lines that clearly won’t be resolved in this movie. It feels, a bit too overtly, like the opening chapter of a longer story and that’s a minor letdown, even if everyone on the planet knows Episodes VIII and IX are in the works. Also, be warned that this movie is rated PG-13, rather than PG, for a reason. Some content is unusually strong for a Star Wars film, and may be too intense for younger viewers. (I regret taking my son, who just turned 7, to see it.)

Bottom line: If Star Wars was never your thing, The Force Awakens isn’t going to convert you. But if like me (and millions of other people) you love Star Wars, The Force Awakens is the movie you’ve been hoping for, and a promising restart for the franchise.