It’s not a racing industry story, but at a time when many racing clubs are trying somewhat desperately to “connect” with the new or next generation- and often missing this objective by the proverbial mile- how the Hong Kong Jockey Club has played a role in giving an unknown singer from a small city in Wales- and we’re not talking about Atomic Jones, below- is an interesting one plus shows the eerie similarities between the music and racing industries.
The problem with both industries- and throw in the dying advertising industry- is an internal one.
It has much to do with those without knowing marketing and advertising TODAY and what was produced decades earlier when advertising was relevant and with an extremely sophomoric idea of “social media” being in charge of finding ways to “connect” with a consumer group cynical of all things corporate- and which is, always, contrived and, well, corny.
Burger King’s one-time war cry of “Where’s the beef?” is, today, Where’s The Credibility?
Today, it’s all about consumer-generated content which comes from engagement, and making the very market one is stumbling and bumbling over each other to convince, feel they are part of whatever the end product might be.
From here, THEY become the most potent street marketing team one can have- for free- as only THEY have the power to make something go viral.
Going viral or being effective is not about those relics from the Eighties called “television campaigns” and “television advertising” or the usual cliches in an ad agency’s archaic bag of tricks.
These might wow corporate committees in racing clubs, many of whom are still living in the land of the Bee Gees and thinking John Travolta and Tom Cruise are straight, but have the effect of an ant crawling up an elephant’s leg in hopes of sex with today’s consumer.
These are consumers weaned on YouTube and when Facebook when both were truly relevant and are now ripping off TV series and new movies from Pirate Bay, ripping off music from all the illegal file-sharing sites and laughing their asses off at those trying to “connect” and “engage” them in corporate bollocks that have suffered from that dreaded disease called Over-Thinking, Einstein.
If, especially, a new musician with no proven track record and over-joyed that you’re going to be releasing your first record- or maybe your tenth, for that matter- read the link below, so you can keep your expectations in check.
If willing to keep making music for the love of it with no expectations of financial returns and, often, never having your music heard and receiving bibs and bobs in royalty cheques, what’s written below- and it’s really nothing new- will mean nothing to you.
What you have here is the age old question of how to make money through one’s music and which none of these music conferences tackle head-on as these are for the corporate world and where new artists are not part of the equation of what is a tedious dog and pony show.
It was at one of these con-ferences where Daniel Ek, below, Founder of Spotify, was a guest speaker, that I asked the supposed wunderkind how artists benefit from his delivery system and platform- plus how do they get paid.
Ek nearly became Eeeek. He was stymied. He looked like he wanted to hurl as it sure looked like paying musicians for their art had never crossed his mind as this was that truly stupid era when new musicians were constantly told by dopey music pundits that giving away their music was good promotion. Bollocks.
Start giving away anything for free and you’re stuck with always giving away the same thing for free and with no end in sight other than devaluing your product.
Even a band with the following of Radiohead who asked fans to pay whatever they wanted for In Rainbows in 2007 might have made a very brave move to make a point about being the master of one’s destiny or not relying on a record label to do whatever they wanted with your product, but when remembering today in 2014 that fans and non-fans downloaded the record even on bit-torrent and paid what they thought it was worth- zero, in many cases, I am unsure what we have learnt.
Okay, without plodding through the past, the genie has been set free from Pandora’s Box, we’re still rocking in the free world, making music available for free on twitter, YouTube etc- but, seriously, what for?
For some free downloads, a few “likes”, some retweets and two thumbs up that will give you the “impetus” to keep doing the same thing ‘cos “the fans want it”?
What “fans”- or, to be more precise, how many more NEW fans has one gained?
Great, but “the fans” don’t pay the rent. And then what?
Go to Kickstarter or Pledge and have fans pay for the recording of another new record?
And what happens when, like the other records, it, too, doesn’t sell- except to the fans who invested in it?
Haven’t in some way, these fans been duped, short-changed and let down?
Where is their ROI- Return On Investment?
Ben Semmens is hardly a household name, but here is a singer-songwriter from a small town in Wales who had never left his home town where he was gigging in local pubs.
Today, he is playing to twenty thousand people every Wednesday in the Beer Garden at Happy Valley Racecourse in Hong Kong- and being paid for it.
In fact, this racing club paid for his airfare and accommodation as part of a six month contract to perform at two venues at their weekly mid-day race meeting- the fourth time it has brought the musician out to Hong Kong.
Apart from the venues and a ready-made audience- there for the racing, sure, but who hit the stage area to watch Ben and his band perform- and the band is paid- during those 25 minutes between the races when nothing happens other than horses being paraded around the paddock area.
What else? Being paid to record his music, having the accompanying music videos paid for- all by the racing club-and the music released through Universal Music.
So, what if these downloads- even if his first release topped the Hong Kong iTunes chart last month- make no money?
It adds to the artist’s portfolio while being paid for his art in other ways. Remember those two words: Other ways.
After all, if one way of doing things is taking you nowhere and where one is just recording music and hoping for the best when the best never happens, it’s time to try something new- or find a new career ‘cos maybe- just maybe- you’re crap at what you’re doing, but friends and family are too polite to say so?
As for Ben Semmens, one can say that all this is pure luck. But life is eighty percent luck and twenty percent hard work and for that eighty percent luck to continue, there must be a hundred percent hard work and not taking anything for granted.
As we say, you’re only as good as your last hit and no one wants to hear about yesterday while living in the past.
Luck happens for a reason- but like any winning streak, it doesn’t last forever and what one does with these rare inside runs is the difference between success and failure and about seizing the moment.
Managing Ben and working closely with the HKJC, of course, makes me biased, but, having worked with two music companies, all I can say is that a racing club has done more for an unknown musician and given his career a kickstart and platform for success and that next move more than any person or company or music conference supposedly “saving the music”.
The next step is up to Ben Semmens.
Unusual breaks like these don’t happen every day.
He knows, it’s all about, What’s Next? as What’s Now is good only for right now.
Music has always meant about evolving- from the acoustic Dylan to Dylan going electric at the Isle Of Wight, from mop tops to Sgt Pepper from Both Sides Now to Hejira, from Nat King Cole to the brilliant Sly And The Family Stone, from Hendrix to Miles Davis to Prince to Nirvana and Pearl Jam…
With all these changes that have taken music so far, it’s sad when so many musicians have become lemmings.
It’s sad to see so many believing all they read, following a monkey-see, monkey-do way of looking after their business and, by so doing, turning this business into wishful thinking, living on a prayer while waiting for the kindness of strangers to deliver them from the hole they’ve dug for themselves, and turning the business of music in all its many forms into something even more boring than watching paint dry.