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Nothing is Easy. Part II

Hey folks.  It has been a while since I have posted anything, but I thought compelled to revisit a subject I have written about before, namely, work ethic.  Or, lack thereof.  People never cease to amaze me.

As part of my various ventures involving my love of music, I own a couple of venues which also happen to be restaurants and bars.  I opened the first one about five years ago; the second, four years ago.  I did so not because I truly love music and enjoy making people happy.  Either through food – which I am indeed a foodie – or through entertainment; or simply an environment where people can call home.  I did not open these places thinking I was going to get rich (far from the case).   I did so because I wanted to provide a place where musicians could put their talent on stage, and where people with smiles would hopefully come see said musicians.

What I have learned in the course of five years is that there is a sense of entitlement like I have never seen before when it comes to service industry employees, and least around here.  I don’t know if it is the industry, the location, or the generation(s).  But in all honesty, I have never seen such a consistent lack of motivation; a lazy, complacent attitude, and people needing consistent needling (i.e. “staying on their ass”) just to do the very basic aspects of their jobs.  And I mean these are easy jobs.  Don’t get me wrong.  They are not all like that.  But there are a lot who are.  Many, many.  Let’s not forget thieving, dishonest people too.  There are a lot of those as well.

Let me provide a few examples.  I have had employees ask for a raise after showing up late every single day for months on end.  I’ve had them ask for a raise, simply because they actually showed up to begin with.  I have had folks simply not show up at all, then show up the next day expecting to still have a job.  Then there are the ones that you give chance after chance, and try and coach them into performing their jobs better – who then quit without notice, and publicly spew on social media about how it was not their fault and that their boss is an ogre.

I’ve had people change their electronic times sheets (thinking they are smarter than me – a computer geek) – just to straight-faced deny it when they are called to the carpet and then (again) publicly bash the business that they were screwing.  I’ve had other people who have decided that the alcohol that I pay for is their property to do as they please.  Give it away, drink it, not ring it up and pocket the money, and on and on.  Food too.  Oh yes, lets not forget that.  I mean – it is utterly dumbfounding.  And they will still claim innocence when caught red-handed by the video cameras that record non-stop.  Say wha?

What I cannot fathom for the life of me is why people work so incredibly hard at being dishonest and lazy and bad, when, in actuality, if they worked hard and focused on their actual jobs, then they world would be their oyster, as they say.

And not only that, a job – a chance that someone has extended to them – is not important to them and they move from job to job on a whim, rationalizing that it was the “big bad boss’ fault”, and that they did nothing wrong in the first place.  They move on, incorrectly assuming that it won’t catch up with them.  They are wrong.  Remember what “assuming” does.

Maybe it is just me, but I have always believed if you work really hard and you are ethical, then you will get ahead.  I will never, ever believe anything different either.  Unfortunately, there are those people who are constantly trying to take advantage of people who want to take the high road. Trying to take the short cut.  To cheat.  That’s life, and that is the way it is.  However, I do believe in “do unto others,” and I think that if people stay focused on the good, eventually, the good will come back to them.  Karma.

I’ve said it before.  There are NO short cuts in life.

None.  Zip.  Nada.

Those folks who continually look for the easy way out are going to end up destitute, lonely and without anyone supporting them.  The reason for this is because entrepreneurs like myself look for people who are self-motivated, honest, hardworking and above all, with good work ethic (and ethical in general).  If you screw up, just take the blame for it, learn and move on.  Don’t blame it on your co-workers or make excuses.  Own up to your own shortcomings.  Lord knows, I have.  There have been many mistakes I’ve made along the way.  Still do.  That’s called being human.

But the one thing I can say is that from my very first job, I was not lazy. I took pride in my little carhop job at Sonic when I was fourteen years old (no I did not wear skates).  So much pride in fact that I was promoted to the kitchen, and then night manager, before I even hit sixteen years old.  I have always been ambitious, and never asked for anything that I could not earn myself.  I’ve worked hard to show my bosses over the years that I have ambition and I am smart, and will learn and grow.  In my earlier years, I got fired from a few jobs because I thought I was smarter than the boss (I was – haha – but at that time I didn’t understand how politics of business worked and how to utilize that to legitimately get ahead; I didn’t know how the world worked).  Chain of command.  You dig?

I started my own business(es) because, in all honesty, I got tired of getting fired because I knew of a better way of doing things and my supervisors wouldn’t even entertain the idea for fear of being outsmarted.

But unlike my past bosses in those case – I personally look for employees that are indeed smart and have great ideas.  I may not execute on every idea presented, but the sum of the total is better than the mind of the (one).  I like the idea of surrounding myself with people who are smarter and more creative than myself.  I want them to be motivated to do amazing things – because then my company can do amazing things.

It is important to note – before I got too big for my breeches, so to speak, I was very, very good at performing the basic requirements of the job.  This is key to anything and it is one of the first things I learned in the Air Force.

In basic training, we had to fold our underwear in six inch squares.  No kidding.  I thought, at the time, “this is idiotic.”  But in hindsight, it was all about following direction.

This is key.  To everything.

If you as an employee cannot follow direction, and follow through, then you won’t stand a chance.  This was by far one of the most important things I learned.  Once I figured it out, I was a geeky rock star by the time I got into technology.  I would zing through my basic job – whatever it may be – and then make the extra effort that would afford me the opportunity to get ahead.  And I got promoted.  Repeatedly.  Not because I just showed up and happened to be a warm body.  I knew damn well that I was not entitled.

And herein is the basic difference in the mentality.  If you cannot do your basic job, yet you want to impress someone with your various ideas and try to take the quick way to  get ahead, I can tell you now, it ain’t gonna happen (imagine please my mother rolling in grave because I am using the word “ain’t”).  No supervisor – no real boss, no owner or CEO, wants to hear you tell them how good you are when the basic elements of job performance are not getting done while you are making excuses all along the way.

My simple message – again – is that there are no short cuts.

Again.

THERE ARE NO SHORT CUTS.

You have to work hard for what you want in life.  Guys and gals like me, well, we notice that hard work.  Most people in business will too.  Sure, every now and then you get someone who may not. But myself, growing up basically and entrepreneur since day one, we get it.  We thrive on innovation and ideas, and not having to worry about the basic stuff being done.  I take comfort that I can indeed be creative because I can rely on people to hold up the foundation.  If you are unreliable and inconsistent, forget it.  You could be a rocket scientist and on the cover of Rolling Stone every day of the week,  but if you are unreliable, forget it.

I digress, however.  Not everyone is like that.  I’m fortunate to have a few good people around me in my endeavors that are ethical and who know what it takes.  Folks who have been around for quite a long time, because the do get it.

In the restaurant and bar business – just like music, or ANY business – work hard, live clean, be honest, earn your keep, and don’t think you can just impress people with your shining personality.  We can see through you in half a heartbeat.  If you want to change the world, it is super simple.  Work hard, and prove it.

Peace.

 

Interview with VNUE CEO Zach Bair in Food & Beverage Magazine.

Recently I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Diane Lilli, for an article in Food & Beverage Magazine, about what we are doing with Soundstr.  The headline of the article is spot on:

“The Licensing Revolution:  VNUE’s Soundstr Offers Performance Royalty Reform for Venues and Artists”

Think about that headline for a second.  This is a hot topic, especially as it relates to music streaming – but the gaping hole has been in the “general” licensing category – meaning bars, restaurants, and other brick and mortar establishments.  And yes, radio stations too.

My passion, of course, is bringing fairness to everyone involved, from the artists, writers, and creators, who make the music, to the businesses and stations that play the music. Without reform – and transparency – this cannot happen.  And without accurate tracking, the performing rights organizations – PROs – have no way to really know who should be paid.  With Soundstr, we have the ability to do just that, and we are already working hard on it, with some field deployments to be happening this year.

Read the article below for the full interview, and you can also visit the site here:

F&B Soundstr Article

By Diane Lilli

The next time you enjoy dinner or a drink or a latte, you might just want to thank someone who may be invisible to you but just happens to be changing the very music you hear at public venues across the nation. Every time you spend some quality town in a restaurant, bar or café, or in mall, hotel or casino, you’re probably hearing music, but until now, the way this music is licensed has been anything but transparent – or fair. For the first time, the murky multi-billion-dollar world of music licensing – run by a system that is widely regarded as inefficient at best – is being replaced by a modern, hi-tech, affordable platform that will not only keep your toes tapping while you eat/drink  in public places, but also protect your favorite venue while actually paying the musical artists who created the songs in the first place.

Zach Bair is CEO of VNUE, Inc. (OTCQB: VNUE), a music and technology company creating new revenue streams for artists, and building technology to protect their rights. Bair is an engineer, musician and industry expert who has spent his entire career working in technology, and also as a professional musician and owner of several venues. He said he found out fast how the old-fashioned music licensing system in place today is not only hopelessly out of date but also confusing, threatening and downright unfair to all concerned. Run by “PROs”, which are performing rights organizations, owners of venues sign expensive “blanket license” agreements, which then forced them to pay up big time, or face major copyright lawsuits.

Sounds fair, but the problem with this system is twofold: many of the artists whose music is being played in public places are not getting any royalties, since no one could figure out who was playing which music when/where, and the venues playing the music are being targeted for high fees in an unbalanced, logical way – without any kind of true real-time tracking.

“One day a PRO knocked on my door one too many times,” said Bair. “Their calls and threats were non-stop. I decided there must be a better way to identify songs, and since I was so upset, I literally sat down and wrote up a provisional patent, filed it and started evangelizing it. My idea, which we called the “MiC System” for “Music Identification Center”, came fast, and I was pulling things together along the way. Knowing artists were not getting paid enough – or at all – I started to meet others, like Soundstr founder Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger of Hawthorne Heights, who was not getting paid for his public performances.  It was a no-brainer to bring the Soundstr technology into VNUE.”

Bair’s new program, about to go live July and roll out nationally, is a marriage of technology and transparency. With general licensing unfair, and no accurate way to identify and track music played in real-time, Bair’s new system is the perfect storm of practical hi-tech tracking of each piece of music with a transparent program resulting in lower fees for venues and higher payments for musical artists.

“General licensing is unfair because it is so vague and does not protect musicians,” noted Bair. “There is no accurate way to police it. Currently, they send someone in to “spy” on a venue, and when a song is played they threaten the owners with copyright lawsuits. It’s just the wrong way to do it. Soundstr tracks all music played, so it is more like a utility.  You would pay for what you use.”

With about 160,000 brick and mortar bars and restaurants in the U.S., only a small percentage, perhaps 30 percent according to Bair’s sources, are actually licensed properly for blanket license fees. But in today’s hi-tech age, Bair knew he could use his engineering skills to create an affordable and accurate tracking system that will benefit everyone. And, he believes the PROs will eventually embrace it.

With this new model in place, and set to launch July 1st live on radio stations, the revolution will be music to your ears.

To learn more about how VNUE’s Soundstr can work with your venue, please email Contact@Vnue.com

Main VNUE website:  www.vnue.com

Soundstr website (product specific):  www.soundstr.com

Live Recording Websites:  www.disclivenetwork.com & www.set.fm

Anthony Bourdain

This morning I woke up bright and early, excited that today is Friday, and ready to jump onto my site and write a blog about music, since I had not done so in quite some time.  To my astonishment and utter grief, however, I instead awoke to find out that Anthony Bourdain had taken his own life.

I’m not honestly even sure where to begin.  The wind came completely out of my sails today, and it has been hard to focus on work or really anything else.  No, I did not know the man personally.  But as a semi-regular Sunday night ritual, I let him into my home on Parts Unknown, and I always looked forward to the fascinating stories that he told through his charm and talent.  I am simply shocked and beyond words that there are now only a limited number of shows remaining – and that this amazing person, great talent, and obviously very tortured man – is no longer with us.  Just like that.  I really felt like I knew Tony Bourdain.  It is as if I connected with him on many different levels.

The trend of suicide in this country is at an all-time high.  I was mortified when I found out about Kate Spade just a few days ago; recent musician suicides such as Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, and now this.

The CDC recently released a report that suicide rates in America have increase by 25% since 1999.  That is staggering.  And what is scary, more than half of those who died via suicide had not been diagnosed with any prior mental health issue, according to a CDC deputy director.

And, the report appears to be accurate, in that no amount of fame, fortune or success keeps a person immune from depression and suicidal thoughts.  We as humans need to be more aware of our surroundings and our fellow humans, and educate ourselves on what could be warning signs right in front of us.  We never know the amount of distress that someone else might be in.  They may be acting out and/or reacting in a way that could be counter to what we think as “classic depression.”  But if our heads – yours and mine – are not out of our mobile devices long enough to see these potential issues, then it is just going to continue and get worse.

I’m sure that there are close friends of Tony’s who are wondering what they could have done differently, but I’m not sure there is an easy answer.  Sometimes we simply do not know.  But what I do know is that there are many people out there with love in their hearts that want to help; the key is for the person in torment to seek that help and know that there are those that truly do want to be there for them.  Suicide is not the answer.  It is a painful and devastating thing for the tormented soul to do to their friends and loved ones.

To me, in a way, today is “Black Friday” for me in worst possible way.  It just sucks.  There is no other way to put it.  It is my hope that, through awareness, this gifted man will not have died in vain, and we can raise, and continue to raise, the awareness of this terrible issue.

If you are in distress – no matter how silly or trivial you may think it is, or how embarrassing or personal you believe your situation to be – please, please reach out to someone.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great place to start, if you don’t want to call your friends or family.  1-800-273-8255.  DO NOT WAIT.  They provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

And to you Tony Bourdain, I didn’t know you other than how your show brought joy into my home (although I felt I knew you, maybe because of your brilliance), but I am so, so very sorry that you felt like you had to take this final step.  You will be more than missed by your fans and friends around the world, and I hope at least now your soul is at peace.

10 Basic Economic Rules for Cover Bands

Being a musician for most of my life – playing in both cover and original bands – and later, owning bars and venues and of course working in other aspects of the music business, has given me a unique bit of knowledge of basically being on “both sides of the fence” so to speak.  One one side, being in a band that wants to play and make money, and get their name out and build a fan base.  On the other hand, being a venue owner that depends on music to help attract business.

In that spirit, I have put together a list of things focused on the economic realities that will help you if you are really interested in playing in clubs and getting your band out there.  Of course, if you really want to do this, you really must treat it as a business.  Don’t be a drunk idiot, only out to get as much tail as you can get, or see how drunk you can get before you pass out on the stage in your own vomit.  But, I digress.  Read through these ten simple rules, below, and your life will be much easier and you will likely experience much more success in your endeavors.

1. If you have a band, particularly a cover band – looking for a “guarantee” – don’t bitch if your pay is too low when you only manage to bring a few people out to your shows. Clubs that book cover bands are businesses, and they pay money out for bands who will help bring business into their establishment. They are paying you as an investment to help increase their sales, not as an expense that leads to a potential loss. You *must* bring something to the table.

2. Just because the club lists you in the entertainment guide or on their website, doesn’t mean that you automatically will have a big following. This takes hard work, and all of your band members must participate. You need to promote yourselves to build your following. Stop by every table and thank who came to your shows – yea, talk to them! Flyer the venue. Post ads on Facebook (oh my God yes, that might mean you have to actually spend money!) Use social networking (but don’t rely on it alone). Make an effort. Even if your “following” isn’t as large as it needs to be, I promise you that the venue/club will remember that you at least made the effort. Do what you say you are going to do, too. If you make big promises to the venues that fall through, that’s not nearly as good as underpromising and overdelivering.

3. If you think so highly of your band and you believe you are worth more than you are being paid, make a door deal with the club/venue and waive your guarantee. After all, if you are a bona fide rock star, your throngs of followers will no doubt come and pay good money to see you, and you will make a killing.

4. Don’t get hung up on how the club/venue is “screwing you over” if it is part of a corporate chain. Most corporations have definitive limits on what they allocate for entertainment. It is what it is, and until it changes, that’s the way it’s gonna be. The reason these places exist and continue to exist is because they have figured out the economics so that they can continue to do business. In other words, every time they book a band, they take a risk (see paragraph one). So if they have five proven bands that draw well, and several others that do not, the established economic guidelines help to ensure they don’t lose money over time, and hopefully make a profit. So – if you don’t like it, then don’t complain about what they pay and don’t play there. Find somewhere else to play.

5. If you are a new band, and you have not yet established yourself – even if you have players who have played in other bands – you can’t expect top dollar. Make a deal the first time in. It’s not a sin, I promise. It’s a show of good will, that you understand the club needs to make money.  Of course, there are exceptions, when say there are five guys who happen to play in road bands or who have been around long enough to each have a nice fan base, but most of the time this is not the case. And – by making a deal first time in, you are *not* selling yourself short. You are showing goodwill. I’ve done free shows before and I have no problem making this investment to help get established.

6. Club owners are not impressed with drunk musicians that are being PAID to do a job. Stay off the booze and the dope at least while you are performing, or at least maintain until after all is said and done.

7. For crying out loud, do NOT argue about your bar tab!  I’ve seen this a million times, including back in the day in my own band (said musician was immediately fired). Seriously, you won’t get booked again. Don’t be a douche. And definitely, don’t walk your tab, If you do, call or go to the venue and apologize profusely and pay it! Nothing pisses off a venue more, and at the end of the day, the bartenders/waitresses do have influence – their opinions count.

8. Don’t be so pompous that you say “well I hate this owner” or “won’t ever play there again,” etc. You know, it’s kinda small out there in the real world. You never know if the owner you “hate” might open the next big club, or maybe the manager that “screwed you on your tab” could open their own establishments.  Moreover, most venue owners in a given market know each other and likely talk. There are limited resources in each market – always keep that in mind.

9. If you don’t like the pay scales in your market, seek out venues in other cities. There are plenty of places to play outside of your area that would love to have a good band. But remember – if you do not live in that area, the first time you play you are going to have to make a concession, unless you are Bon Jovi or the Foo Fighters. You will need to make the effort to promote heavily, get a decent crowd the first time in, and make sure you leave the place raving about you, so that next time, your following (and your money) in that market goes up.

10. The Golden Rule. If you are “too big for your breeches” then there is always going to be someone hungrier out there that will gladly take your place if you pass up an opportunity.  Therefore, pick your battles carefully. You can either make a deal and build your reputation and following (sometimes it takes a LONG time), or you can sit your ass home on a Friday night when another band that you think “sucks” is taking “your” slot.  Always be humble and build respect through your actions.  Boasting about how good your band is will not get you anywhere.  Prove it.

These rules should help set your expectations and the realities of working in the music business at the club level.  If you want to get serious about it, you should pay close attention to them.  And remember:  There are many more bands out there looking for good gigs than there are actual places to play.  It is the law of supply and demand, and it is competitive.

Stay tuned… there will be more in this series.

©2018 Zach Bair

It Is Time for Performance Royalty Reform – Soundstr is Here

Last week, my company took a monumental step toward protecting the rights of musical artists and writers, by acquiring Soundstr, technology that, in a nutshell, will help reduce music licensing costs in bars, restaurants, radio stations, and many more businesses, and will in turn also help increase the number of businesses who are licensed.  This has been a passion project for me for some time, driven from personal experiences and my almost lifelong desire to help musicians.  This is the story of the more recent events.

About two years ago, I had simply had enough.

It seemed like every other day, my venue was getting calls, letters or even visits from every single one of the three major US PROs – performing rights organizations.  The message was clear:  agree to a “blanket license” and pay a large sum of money every year to each of the three major PROs, or face a potential copyright lawsuit claiming tens of thousands of dollars in damages.  As many bar and restaurants will tell you, this is a heavy-handed tactic that has been literally going on for years, and scares the hell out of most owners and even puts some out of business (yea, that helps musicians).  But unlike many of my fellow bar or restaurant owners, I’ve been working in the music industry for a long time, and had a good bit of knowledge about rights management, through my work with DiscLive.  So the first question I asked these folks was “how do you know what songs are being played on a nightly basis, and how do I know that the money I am paying actually goes to the artists and writers that deserve it?”  The answer was always “that’s not my department,” or something along the lines of “we have a formula that calculates that.”  In other words, they have absolutely no clue.

And that’s not good enough.

As I learned, there is and was no way for the PROs to truly know what is being played in these businesses, so they just go for the throat and demand a blanket license, which means that the business must license that PRO’s entire catalog in the off chance that a work under their stead is played.  As noted, this is already a huge issue with business owners, and several organizations such as the Fairness in Music Licensing Coalition, to which my company VNUE is aligned, are working to change this.  An even bigger issue, I learned, is that artists that I personally know and associate with have not been paid for public performances of their work.

At. All.

So, already frustrated about the repeated calls and harassment by these organizations, I used my technology and process engineering background, wrote a patent for a system to solve this problem, filed it with the USPTO, and set about starting to publicly evangelize the need for a change, all while working on the technology design for our solution.  Along the way, I was introduced to the FMLC (above), and in turn, they introduced me to Soundstr.

Soundstr is a Cincinnati-based startup company that was started by Eron Bucciarelli-Tieger, who gained notoriety by being a founding member of platinum selling band Hawthorne Heights.  Amazingly, much like I had approached this issue from frustration of how my venue was being harassed, Eron had approached this same problem from a different angle – from that of the artist – and had in fact already come up with some nifty devices that go in venues to track music plays.  He found out he was not being paid from his public performances.  And, frustrated from the “non-answers” he was getting, he also decided to do something about it.

Call it an alignment of the stars, or possibly a burgeoning rocket sled that cannot be stopped, but after several months of work, Soundstr is now part of the VNUE family, and we are about to seriously blast off with a combination of the Soundsr Pulse™, pictured below, and the additional system designs and processes in our patents.

image-placeholder-title

Soundstr Pulse™

And all of this gets me very excited.  Not because this is going to be ridiculously big – and it will – but moreover because I know that we are about to inject a massive change into an industry that hasn’t budged in 50+ years.  In fact, the basic “general licensing” model has been around since 1847!  According to research conducted by Soundstr, in that year, French composer Ernest Bourget, along with other composers, witnessed their music being used without compensation in a popular cafe.  They successfully sued and won a royalty settlement.  In 1851 they founded SACEM, the world’s first PRO.  In 1914, one of the first big American PROs was founded, ASCAP.

Now there is no question that PROs do a good thing, by helping to protect artists rights.  However, there is a lot of murky accounting that no one really knows about and a big part of that involves general licensing royalties ($3B globally by the way).  Remember – this is what the PROs charge for playing music in music venues, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops, etc.  And this needs to be updated to 21st Century standards.

Here is a great example of the problem.  It stems from the main issue that if the song is not being actively played on the radio and/or the artist is not in the top touring artists list as published by several industry trades, the songwriters and artists won’t get a royalty for their music being played in a venue or business (again, murky algorithm alert).  Soundstr recently conducted a small study to highlight the problem.  They surveyed 12 businesses over a two week period, to see what music was being played and identified almost 3000 songs.  They compared that data to Nielsen radio charts for the same time period.  Only 19% of the music being played in the venue was actually getting any radio airplay at all (this is also not weighted data, mind you).

This means for the whopping 81% of the music being played in the businesses, the songwriters and artists were not being compensated.  And some of these were big artists.

Study

The problem extends further too, into radio itself.  Most stations are not actively monitored, and some PROs only take a small sample of data every quarter to justify the blanket license fee that is paid by the station to the PROs.  This fee can be up to 3-4% of the stations gross revenue – a huge figure in some cases (as in five figures or more).  The issue is that without knowledge of exactly what music is played, combined with the exact percentages of each song controlled by the PROs, it is highly likely that the PROs are charging for music they may not control and therefore justifying a higher rate to each station.  This is particularly true in the case of new, innovative PROs popping up taking market share away from the more established ones.

And, like the problem with venues, these fees are not properly applied to the songwriters and artists who deserve it, and stations are in some cases vastly overcharged.  We recently signed our first radio deal, and expect to roll out in July.

To be clear, our goal at VNUE is not to go to war with the PROs, but rather, introduce technology that will provide a much needed end-to-end transparent solution to this problem.  In turn, the goal will be to reduce operating costs for the PROs, reduce licensing costs to venues, businesses, radio stations, etc., and further, by having a lower price point based on actual usage rather than a blanket fee, encourage more businesses to become licensed.  And most importantly, ensure that the proper writers and artists are being paid.

It can be estimated that probably only about 20-30% of applicable businesses are properly licensed, even though the PROs typically claim more market share.  What that means is that there is a huge amount of revenue out there for songwriters and artists, just waiting to be tapped.  Our solutions will help to drive this additional revenue, and hopefully, remove the antiquated method of threatening lawsuits to become properly licensed.

In theory, Soundstr should be treated like a utility model – just like the gas, electric or water, which is a pay-per-use system.  Music is intellectual property and if it is a service, it must be paid for – fairly, and the same way: on a per-use basis.  But those who create it MUST be compensated, and there MUST be transparency.

So if any of you musicians or writers are reading this, keep this in mind:  If you have a song that was once on the radio, or popular enough for other bands to cover it, guess what?  You probably aren’t being paid.  Even if you have songs that play on the radio frequently, there is a good chance you are not getting paid.  Do you think the writers of “Mustang Sally,” notably probably one of the most covered songs ever, are getting paid properly?  Probably not.  But we don’t know for sure, because there is zero transparency.

To facilitate real change, you musos need to be vocal about this problem, because even with our technology, and our evangelism, this is going to be a mountain to move.  We must move it together.

You will be seeing a lot more of Eron and I in the coming months, as we continue our quest to get that mountain on the move, and I hope to hear your voices add to the chorus.

For more information about the Soundstr tech, and how it could help you as a musician or a venue/business owner, you may email “contact” @ “vnue” dot com.

Graphic source:  Soundstr

 

Revisting Steve Jobs, who changed my life

PREFACE

Recently I ran across my op-ed that I wrote in the Commercial Appeal, back on Oct 16, 2011 (the crunched up newspaper photo, above).  This was a mere week after Steve Jobs’ passing, which was on Oct 5th of that same year.  I was going to simply repost the article (copy and paste), but I could not find a digital copy anywhere, so I was forced to re-type everything that I had written almost seven years ago, word-by-word.  And I’m glad I did.

When I wrote this article, I was genuinely devastated, much as if you had lost a loved one or a close family member.  It was a strange feeling, never having even met the man in the flesh.  Yet this guy impacted my life so much, in almost every way, that it was truly painful.  Because of him, and his ideas, motivations, and his philosophies, he shaped most of my adult life (after I had the common sense to eventually find a purpose).

Those who know me will know that I am incredibly picky.  I think through everything, probably to the point of overthinking.  I walk into one of my venues, and instinctively, I turn the chairs to exactly 45 degrees facing the front and make sure the chairs are matched up because it drives me nuts.  I don’t even notice I do it, but I am, of course, teased about it.

But this is part of the value that Jobs instilled in me.  Nothing less than perfection, as much as possible, is acceptable.  It is paying attention to the details that make all the difference in the world and set you apart from your competition, and the rest of the pack.  For example the fact that even in early Mac apps, they all basically had the same menu (file, edit, view, etc), so that as you learned one app, you could fairly easily pick up another.  This was brilliant, and it was due directly to Steve Jobs’ penchant for demanding perfection.  And those menus still exist to this day.

Further to that point, since his passing, I’ve borne sad witness to many bugs that would have been completely unacceptable when Steve was among the living.  Bugs in the MacOS, in iOS, and hardware issues, as well as stupid moves like slowing down the OS for older phones for the sake of a battery bug (yea, right).

Mind you, none of these issues are earth shattering, and Tim Cook has absolutely done a good job in attempting to fill Steve’s enormous shoes.  But even these very small bugs are an indicator that the man whose grand vision spawned nothing short of a revolution in technology is no longer at the helm.  Its sad.

So as much as it drives those who know me absolutely batty, I can assure you that I will still subscribe to Steve Jobs’ philosophy, and most assuredly you can bet that if someone tells me that I cannot do something or “it’s not possible,” then I am going to go out and do it just to prove that they are wrong.  I will continue to be picky and demanding, because that’s what it takes to be the best.  I won’t settle for second best.  I may not be Steve Jobs, but his spirit definitely lives in me, and drives almost every decision.

So again, even seven years later, thank you Steve for your impact on my life.  I haven’t changed the world quite yet.  But I will.

Read the below original article…. I hope you enjoy it.

JOBS’ BRILLIANCE GAVE ME MY LIFE AS I KNOW IT
(from the Commercial Appeal, Sept 16, 2011)

Steve Jobs saved my life.

Now, I’m sure you say those are some pretty strong words, coming right out of the gate. Especially given that I never knew the guy personally.

But back in the mid-1980s, I was as lost as I could possibly be. I had served in the Air Force, and after my stint, jumping from job to job, mostly in the “hair net and name tag” category.

Back then, Jobs had yet to invent the iPhone, much less personalize the world of technology and music. It was the “dark ages,” and we were excited to just have beepers.
But he did invent the Mac, and shortly before I decided I had had enough of “Do you want fries with that?” and returned to East Texas to go back to school. I managed to procure a Mac Plus, with a 10MB hard disk, and a whopping 1MB of memory.
Of course, I really had no idea what I had. It came in a little black bag that I could lug around, which I thought was cool.

I finally took my Mac out of its bag when I arrived back in East Texas. I plugged it in, turned it on, and along with the “bong,” it smiled at me! From that moment on, I was hooked.

I’ve always been a visual type of person, by my prior classes in computers had been righteously boring, and because my particular school (which shall remain unnamed) seemed to be stuck in the stone age, involved things like punch cards and green screens. And I don’t mean like the green screen you would get when you run-of-the-mill PC crashes.

So needless to say, until I pulled that little tan computer out of its hip little bag, I seriously had no interest in computers at all. But all that changed, literally in an instant.
I became a Mac-phile. An apple “fanboy.” I read every Apple article I could get my hands on, and I grew increasingly skilled at every aspect of the Mac. I saved my hard-earned fast-food pennies and bought a truly amazing invention: An Apple LaserWriter. Forked over five grand for that baby! Was the first in my town to own one. Such a proud moment!

Soon I was supplementing my meager income by typing up school papers for other kids, and it dawned on me pretty quickly that I was relatively good at graphic art, too. That evolved into the creation of ads for local publications, and at the same time, I pursued my “geekdom,” and became certified in Apple technologies by the “mother ship” so I could actually consult.

Soon I bought a copier and was running my own little design, print and copy business right out of my one-bedroom apartment directly across from the college. I would have so much gear running at one time, every light in our building would go dim. It was wonderfully joyous.

This eventually led me to my first “real” position outside of the burger-flipping world: art director and a columnist for the Galveston Daily News, and the caretaker of all the newspaper’s Macs. It was a big move – going from little old Nacogdoches, Texas (fondly called “Nacanowhere”) to the big city of Houston.

There, I took care of the News’ computers and convinced them to go digital prepress, something that very few newspapers were doing at the time. It was very exciting, and I was the textbook Mac Evangelist.

From there, I moved on to various positions in Houston and then Dallas, most of which involved Macintosh and Apple equipment.

I continued to soak up everything Mac, and at the same time had to learn about PCs because they were so prevalent in the corporate world. And that taught me something very important:

Steve Jobs’ genius is what separated the Mac from all of the other PCs. These were elegant machines, superbly engineered and well thought out – adhering to Apple’s famous “Human Interface Guidelines.” The same company that made the hardware also engineered the operating system to rigorous standards. It was brilliant.

Between then and now, I’ve started and run several companies, all of which ran on Macintosh technology. I became interested in technology in the first place, because of the Mac. I have my career because of the Mac, and Mr. Jobs’.

I’ve been in the music business about 10 years (with a heavy technology side) and almost exclusively use Macs for everything from recording and production, to design and virtually every other imaginable task.

I owe it all – my life as I know it – to Steve jobs and his brilliance. He not only allowed me to find my talent, but also give me the inspiration to “think different” and push boundaries, to be foolish and to not let people tell me I could not do something just because it had not been done. I’m sure he has touched countless others in the same manner.

As Steve said, and I’ll never forget:

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…the ones who see things differently – they’re not fond of rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things…they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

Thank you Steve Jobs, for everything.

Yes… It CAN be done!

I was reading the news today, about how a billionaire by the name of Isaac Larian and a couple of other investors are pledging $200 million to try to save around 400 of the remaining Toys “R” Us stores.  According to Larian, “This is an American icon that needs to be saved.”  Apparently they have set up a GoFundMe page, which is here.

Larien is the CEO of MGA Entertainment, a successful toy making company behind such brands as Bratz dolls and Little Tike.

What struck me as interesting about this article was not just the act – which is pretty cool unto itself – but the drive and passion behind his decision to do this.

What caught my attention, however, was one of the comments that he made:

“During my life as an entrepreneur, I was often told that something couldn’t be done, that no doll could challenge Barbie.  And we’d still get it done.”

That statement really, really hit close to home.  I wish I could count the number of times I have been told that throughout my life.  Myself being creative and driven, it was frustrating to me when I would present an amazing idea, and that idea would not be embraced, but instead would be shot down because either (a) the person didn’t think of it, (b) because they were afraid to rock the boat, or (c) they felt threatened.

I recall working for EDS (Electronic Data Systems) in the mid 90s.  As a tech guy, I had been a contractor for some time and eventually they offered me a full time job.  I ended up taking it, working as the sole employee reporting to a mid-level manager who was in charge of something called “Infocenter.”  This was an internal electronic bulletin board system, that you could probably compare to AOL at the time, which allowed information and files to be shared across EDS’s tens of thousands of employees.  It was actually pretty innovative at the time.  I became the administrator of that system.

However, once I wrapped my arms around it, I was shocked as to how low tech that the system was actually being rolled out to the users.  Instead of capitalizing on EDS’s state of the art intranet – a network that spanned the globe and connected all of the EDS offices – my superior had been distributing the software via diskette and then mailing it.  I couldn’t believe it.  This company was spending, or rather wasting, no doubt hundreds of thousands of dollars a year instead of just sending the required software digitally.

Well, being the disruptive and slightly rebellious but nevertheless innovative person that I am, I of course brought this to my boss, who was terrified of trying anything different.  In fact, he had a complete meltdown after I showed him the amount of money the company could save.  And when I mean meltdown, I mean bad.  And, needless to say, I got the boot.  It was a hard lesson learned, but I knew that I was right.

Fortunately, a later engagement at Sabre/American Airlines was better.  I joined that company in 1998 or so, as a network engineer, helping to roll out the network they were building to airports and travel agencies.  It was a significant job.  During the course of my work, I discovered that the method in which they were accounting for TCP/IP addresses and really the entire methodologies for deployment was very manual and many processes were needlessly repeated.  So, I took it upon myself, on my own time, to write and design a web-based application that I dubbed “Warped,” for “Wide Area Router Production and Design”.

This is where things started to change for me.  Instead of being booted, my superiors at the time saw this benefit and not only blessed the system, but promoted me.  After the ordeal at EDS I was shocked, but very happy about it obviously.  And this is where my life completely changed.

One of my fellow engineers suggested that this system was so good, that I should take the invention, patent it, and go raise money.  At first, that seemed lofty.  As you can imagine, there were many folks telling me “you can’t do that.”  Which of course pissed me off and motivated me to actually do it.  So I took the idea to my director, and he actually thought it was a great idea.  I ended up negotiating a deal with the company so that I could try and raise some money.

Although still a long shot, I decided to try it.  I put together an investor deck, and when doing so, read an article in the Dallas Morning News about a venture capital fund based in Dallas called HO2.  They had recently raised a fund and in the article were talking about how they were looking for innovative startup ideas.  On a whim, I cold called them and sent them an email about my system, which basically automated the entire process of deploying Cisco and other types of routers and network equipment.

In a matter of days, I received a call, and was invited to present my idea to HO2 as well as an entire group of investors at a local incubator called StarTech.  I was floored!  Someone was actually listening to me!

I remember the day I arrived at StarTech to do my presentation.  Nervous does not even begin to describe the feelings I had when I walked into a completely packed conference room to deliver my pitch.  When I say packed, I mean there were maybe 12 chairs at the conference room table and probably 25 guys in the room.

Nervously, I gave my pitch, went through my slides, and did a quick live demo.  Once the demo was over, I took questions.  One of the first questions that I got was “Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this?”  I thought for a second, and simply said “Because they haven’t.  Someone had to come up with the idea, why not me?”

And the rest is history.  Less than three weeks later, I had $600,000 in seed funding, and started to build a management team of guys who were 15 years my senior and some of whom had held executive positions in Fortune 500 companies.  Three months later, and we closed a $12 million Series A venture capital round.  And at that moment, my life changed. I had crossed over to what I call “the dark side,” never to return.

Although reference to the dark side of course is a joke, in reality what it means is that at that moment I became a full-on entrepreneur.  A space where the words “you can’t do that,” serve only as motivation to actually go out and get it done.

That company, my first venture backed entity (Voyence, at first known as PowerUp Networks) was my catalyst to continue to pursue things that other people say can’t be done.  If you speak to any entrepreneur, believe me, those words are an absolute driver for their motivation.  That motivation is driven by passion.  Passion for creation, or for positive change.  Disruptive market ideas.

Since that first company, that I was told could not be done, I went on to start another tech company, Immediatek; took that company public; commercialized DiscLive; created the first “instant” DVD; sold that company to Mark Cuban; started more companies, two music venues, etc., and in every single instance, there were naysayers along the way in my ear saying whatever it was couldn’t be done for whatever reason.  Um yea, whatever.  Watch me.

So if you have something you want to do, just go out and try it.  Don’t listen to the people that want to shoot your idea down. You’re probably going to get fired from a job or three, like I was.  That’s because you are a leader and an innovator, not a follower, and you have real ideas, and others feel threatened by it.  And in the days of social media, yep, you will no doubt get your “haters.”  If you do, hey, that’s a sign you are doing it right!  Wear it proud, as a badge of honor!

If you think there is a way it can be done, then push hard, stay focused, and prove it.  That’s pretty much what has to be done if you want to be successful and cross over to the dark side.  Because, if you want it bad enough, and for the right reasons, and you have the passion, then yes.

It CAN be done.

 

 

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