News From The Woods - May, 1993


By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published May, 1993

"The Arkie Goes To California - PART TWO"

What I Learned from the Music Business by Going to California

Well, if you read last issue's column, you no doubt expect to find the answer to that burning question, so here are a few things I learned in the Sunshine State.

Items: California is a nice place to visit … no one out there is any better off than we are here (perhaps worse). There are more good-looking babes in the Saint Louis airport than in all of LA. Never go to California on business during Grammy week (or Oscar week, or any week with a Monday in it). Just because you spent $300 on phone calls to record execs who said "No problem, come on out and we'll talk" - that don't necessarily make it so. Most A&R professionals are too scared of losing their jobs to address any "new" music; they prefer to play it safe and follow trends. If you seem too savvy in the ways of music, you cannot be easily exploited, therefore you are a risk. Most A&R people must think everybody is wealthy. Are you familiar with the expression "shine on?" Well, you will be when you go to LA. It never rains in Southern California, but girl, lemme warn ya: smiling faces sometimes tell lies.

Now don't get the wrong impression. I did make some good contacts and connections in the business. And I did not expect to come back home with a record contract in my pocket, but it would have been nice if all the record company A&R representatives made good their promises to meet with me after I had travelled all the way out there.

One of my good friends at Polygram Group (whom I had known before the trip) told me that was the way it worked out there and recommended that I retain the services of a management company to represent me as a producer/engineer. Y'see, it doesn't matter how good the material you represent is if they don't recognize who you are. You cannot represent yourself or your music without a music attorney present. Even though I have had a publishing company since 1972 and had tapes showcasing some of the best talent around, none of them would even keep appointments or listen to the music because I was a "nobody" as far as they were concerned. We're talking Catch 22 here folks.

The best advice (again from my friend at Polygram) I got was that I stood just as good a chance of "making it" in the business if I kept doing what I was doing here in Arkansas and that eventually one of "my" groups would get a deal and I would be in on it. She said my chances were just as good as if I kept going to LA banging on doors like 10,000 other deserving people. So I am taking her advice and, while still sending material to the coast and checking into this management thing in Hollywood, I am perfectly content here in the Ozarks just doing my creative thing with Cedar Crest Studios.

My audio recording business has doubled in the past year and many of my regular customers are recommending the studio to other groups who have not yet found a comfortable place to record. If this trend continues, Cedar Crest won't need the "big time" at all. I'm quite frankly happier to be involved in the creative process of recording and producing good music and leave the BS of the music business to the cigar-chewing, loud mouthed, know-it-all, fax-sending, "please hold," "where's your lawyer," "if only you were more like.." types!

And on a happier note, let me enlighten you about Crossroads '93, which was held April 15, 16, & 17 in Memphis. According to advance PR, "The 2nd Annual Crossroads Cross-Cultural Music Exposition is designed to show case the best emerging talent that America has to offer. For three days, music industry players and journalists from across the country, England, and Europe will descend upon the Bluff City to conduct business, network, and check out new talent."

Literally every genre of music was represented during those three days. Participating clubs on Beale Street included B.B. King's Blues Club, New Daisy Theatre, Rum Boogie Café, Jerry Lee Lewis' Club, The Band Box, Joyce Cobb's, Alfred's, and Six-1-Six. There were panels, seminars, workshops, clinics, and social events, but for me, the best part was getting to check out all the artists and groups.

My primary reason for going was an invitation from Cold Ethyl to come to Memphis and party with them. I had just completed a CD project for the Dallas-based band here at Cedar Crest Studio and it was one of my "favorite" sessions, plus, I thought it might be good to go schmooz with the record company types to see if I would get a better reception than I received in LA.

For a mere $7 one could purchase a single night wrist ticket that got you into any of all those participating Beale Street clubs. All acts were allowed a 30-minute set. If you started ten minutes late, you only played a 20-minute set. There were hundreds of performers featured. We would just walk by a club entrance, look on our schedule for the name of the act, and, if we wanted, go in and catch their set. If not, we just walked a hundred feet or so to another venue and so on.

On Thursday night we caught great sets by Wholly Moses, Bobby Whitlock, Johnny Neel, Black 59, Bill Haymes, and dozens of other good artists. Friday night we enjoyed Wonderview, Jeff Graham, No Good Boyo, The Cosmic Giggle Factory, The Chosen, and of course Cold Ethyl, who closed the Friday night show at New Daisy Theatre. Saturday night we saw sets by Greg Hansen and the American Reggae Band, Richard Johnson and Jud Martindale, Martin, Barton & Sweeney (and a "hi" to Dick and Suzanne Renko!), Bang La Desh, Arkansas, Punkinhead, and many more. These are just a few of the acts that I knew or can remember their names.

I saw and met more record company reps at Crossroads in three nights than during the entire week in LA … so there you go! I will not miss this event next year and advise all serious musicians (and music lovers) to check out this event next year. You shan't be disappointed. I received info by writing Crossroads, PO Box 41858, Memphis, TN 38174-1858. Or you might try (901) 526-4280 by January, 1994. When you register ask about the Party Pack, which entitles you to just about everything going on.

Well, I'm on my way to the Tenth Annual Walnut Fork Open House Festivities down in the Oark National Forest for a weekend of fun, food, and playing music out in the forest. But I dare not miss Peter's deadline or I've wasted my time at the word processor.


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