Today I had the pleasure to sit down with David J. Spangenberg, more commonly known as “Professor Pooch,” a one time Rock and Roll Recording Artist who’s kind of morphed into guiding music business careers for the last 35 years. He has agreed to take us behind the scenes of today’s Music Business World, talking about the state of the Music Business as he sees it, and getting ready for the 2020 version. Welcome, Professor Pooch!
Hi! My pleasure! Thanks for giving me the chance to speak about what’s really going on in the music business – and not what you normally hear or read about.
So you’ve spent 50 years in the Music Business, and I bet you’ve probably seen all kinds of changes over the years.
Oh yeah, when I started out it was a whole different ball game. There were 6 Major Labels with many subsidiaries where they did everything for the Artist. And, then there were the major publishing companies who supplied most of the Songs and except for the booking agencies, and Management – that was it. You had no choice, the large companies basically owned you and controlled your career. There wasn’t any Indie Anything!
Flash forward to nowadays, with all the changes in technology and the Internet you can choose to be and do everything yourself. You can own your own record company for your recordings, and write your own songs and own them through your own Publishing Company – and therefore retain control of the Creative and business sides of your career. Poof! You’re an Entrepreneur. ::laughs::
I definitely want to know how to do that, which I hope you’ll share with us, but 1st, how did you start out in the Music Business?
I actually started playing the violin at 8 years of age. I really sucked at it::laughs:: but I did learn a lot about the music itself, and what all the different instruments did by playing in the school orchestra.
At 13 I realized, “Wait a minute, I can’t write rock ‘n roll on the violin,” so I taught myself guitar and then keyboards. And then I was quote “found” when I was up in New York, arranging Music for a Band that a well-known producer was interested in. He wanted to take me under his wing as a singer-songwriter, rockin’ guitar player. Which sounded like a plan, back then – until I realized they were trying to make me into a Pop Artist, but if you heard my voice – I sure want Pop::Laugh::…
What made you get into Guiding other People’s Careers? Did You go to school for all this?
There were no music biz schools in those days, so I guess you could say I learned on the go… The start of my education was when I co-wrote a song that was coming
out on a major label and I noticed my name wasn’t anywhere. So I realized I had 3 choices, I could either quit the business, continue to get screwed, or I should learn all that I needed to know to proceed safely and securely.
Well, I took door number 3, and at the same time, while I was doing the Artist-Songwriter thing, I had the major advantage of watching, listening and learning from being around some of the top people and companies.
As I learned more and more about all this stuff, people started coming to me asking me, “Yo Pooch what do you do about this” and about that or whatever, and I found myself being drawn behind the scenes, helping other people.
It became the ‘70’s, which was the infancy of the Independent scene, and I was fortunate to be mentored then by music producer Eugene McDaniels who wrote and produced for Roberta Flack, Gladys Knight, Phyllis Hyman, etc. He was a fellow renegade and who introduced me to this whole new world of doing it yourself – being an independent, and the Major advantage of at least owning your own Songs. He himself had gotten screwed by the majors and was willing to pass along what he had learned, as he fought for his independence.
After working way behind the scenes for many years, in 1991 I was asked to develop and teach the entertainment law, music publishing, and management courses for the Art Institute of Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, I had gotten tired of getting people out of messes – so why not prevent people from getting into messes in the 1st place? The final straw was, in 2004, after I had co-written major artists whole next album – and he had a stroke – and that was it. I decided to go full-time into showing people how to get in, survive and succeed in the Music Business – without getting ripped off! As well as how to stay sane throughout the process!
So you’re saying you believe there really is a good way nowadays for people to make a career out of Music, where they’ll actually be able to play their music and earn a good living from it?
Yes, there is a way, But it’s going to take a good bit of effort as well as have a good amount of talent, plus a positive attitude, where there’s nothing going to stop you.
But, 1st let’s define what success really is: to me, being successful, is doing what you love to do and earning a comfortable living doing it.
Nowadays with all this technology and the Internet you basically can do most of what any record label can or will do for you – except for a possible influx of money – major labels are basically banks, nowadays – where somebody might be with a major label and have mega millions of fans – but the record companies aren’t paying any money back to the artist because the artist probably owes them for all the label says they have put out.
Meanwhile, an Independent person simply needs to provide what people would call a niche audience of maybe 20,000 real fans who are hopefully on their mailing list – that’s their money list. Giving them 2 years, which is really like no time, all you’re asking is that each of those 20,000 people just put out a hundred dollars towards recordings, merch, etc., over a year in time – and that equals $2,000,000 – that’s all yours!
And if you have a real, coordinated plan of action, there is no reason why you can’t get that many fans within 2 years. And the greatest part about it is you will have control of your own career, creatively and business-wise.
And, the Truth is, no matter whether you want to go with the majors, be an Indie, or anywhere in between, there’s only one way to do it that actually makes sense – Musicians will have to start a “Small Business”::shudders:: You see, no Major Label, Manager, Investor or anyone’s gonna take you seriously unless you prove to them you’re a business, up and running,. Reason? They gotta see that you’re serious about having a long-time career, otherwise, to them, you’re just treating it like a hobby…
The big picture: If people will put real effort into their career, with a great, a really good living so they can just do what they love to do their music, by they think they can just sit home and do nothing play video games and expect to be found there gonna get nowhere, fast.
People can check out a good description of what I believe is the only logical way to do it, in my “Free Library,” at my site, professorpooch.com, where I’ve been for 18 years. It’s called the “3-step Music Business Career Plan of Action.” By the way, most of the stuff on my site is Free and in both text and audio.
In short: Step one – get the person/company’s business and legal contracts and stuff together, so that in Step 2, you can use those papers and info to properly register your stuff so you’ll get both paid and protected, so that in Step 3, you put together a coordinated Plan-of-attack, where you’ll be able to go out in the world and do your thing knowing that if you do your part, you’ll have a good chance of earning at least a good living.
And, if you have done your stuff, and you’re creating a buzz all around you, a Major person or company may come to you, and then you’ll be able to deal with them more on Your terms – and only if you really want to. Because you may have to give up a lot of control, no matter what. But if it’s worth it to you, and you have a trustworthy person/Attorney to look out for you – go for it!
You make it sound so simple. So how would you describe your role in all of this?
I look at my self as the Janitor::laughs::- I fill holes – whatever anyone needs info-wise or otherwise through my guidance and legal/business knowledge and experience. Typically, it may start with, “Pooch, help get me out of this mess”. My
school of hard-knocks training and my insane mind makes it so no one else needs to spend as many years learning and experiencing as I did.
In a nutshell, I guide people’s music business careers. I handle the Creative, business & legal ends – everything but the technical end. I suck at that stuff::Laugh::
I remember at the Art Institute, they wanted me to teach audio. I told them I couldn’t. “But you’re a great engineer?” “Well thanks, but I don’t know why it works, how it works, and truthfully, I don’t care – I just twiddle the knobs until I get Pooch bumps.” ::laughs:: and when that happens I know I got great performance and a great mix
The last question, After all these years, have you ever thought about retiring?
::Laughs:: From what? You don’t retire from the music business, you die. ::Laughs:: Heck, I’m having way too much fun to even think of retiring. But seriously, one of my main goals nowadays is attempting to train enough people to be out there to carry on what I do to help others. I just really enjoy helping people, really enjoy teaching, and I really enjoy putting a smile on people’s faces.
As a matter of fact, I’m probably busier than I’ve ever been, just trying to keep people safe, and sane. Actually, one of my latest books is called “God Didn’t Create Alarm Clocks” and its main purpose is to keep people sane while they’re dealing with their life, as well as their career.
And, I might as well add, I’ve put all my learnings and experience into a complete music business curriculum, including 3 books and 4 courses covering everything someone who wants to get into the creative or business sides of the music business needs to know about. And yes, I do keep it up to date and they’re available in both text and in audio versions through my site.
I’ll leave you with how I govern my life and my career: “Have fun and be professional.”
If you’re not having fun, you and your product will look and/or sound dead. But really, if you’re not having fun – why are you doing it in the 1st place?
And, most importantly, you have to be professional. I describe what professional is in one word: “respect.” Respect for yourself and others, especially respect for your art – where you can put your heart and soul into it, and when it’s finished, you can honestly and proudly say, “Yes, this is Mine!”
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