Accolades for Larry’s 101 WAYS:
“Even successful artists should read the book to remember their road to success.” – Dan Weiner, Paradigm Talent Agency – May 2017
“5 THINGS” blog featured in Music Think Tank and HYPEBOT.COM’s front page and then in Hypebot’s Top Posts of the Week!
On Monday, May 15, 2017, HYPBOT.COM chose Larry’s Music Think Tank post as one of the top posts of the previous week!
Previously, on Monday, May 8, the front page of HYPEBOT.COM (THE online music biz news aggregator) featured Larry’s most recent post from his www.itallstartswiththemusic.com blog. The blog itself was simultaneously reproduced in full on Hypebot’s MUSIC THINK TANK page. Here’s a screen shot of the front page:
And here’s the “5 THINGS” blog as posted on Hypebot’s MUSIC THINK TANK page.
May 8, 2017
There are at least a hundred ways for every singer/songwriter to improve his or her chances of success, but these are the five I already know that need to be addressed without even seeing your show. They are inherent the performance of virtually all aspiring (and sadly many seasoned) singer/songwriters.
FIX #5: WHAT’S YOUR NAME?
How many times has someone told you about a great act they saw the night before but had no idea as to the artist’s name? Hang a banner in the back, put a logo on the front of your keyboard, have your name in pearl inlays on your fretboard, whatever. Make sure that there’s something on stage that somehow visually embeds your name into the mind’s eye of each audience member so that they will remember you, your music, and your name.
FIX #4: NO VISUAL VARIETY
If all of your songs are sung into a mic standing at center stage, the audience will be bored by song three. Move the mic stand to different places on the stage, sit on the front of the stage, go into the crowd, use a bar stool, sing something a cappella away from the mic and get the audience to sing along. Every song must be presented with a different visual; otherwise all of your songs are going to all “sound alike” to your audience.
FIX #3: TOO MANY DISTRACTIONS
The audience only needs to see your mouth, your eyes and your hands. THAT’S IT! Other than your name on a banner, everything else on stage that may divert their attention away from those three visual means of communication is an unnecessary distraction. That means no flowered shirts or pants, no red boots, no wild hats or hairdos, no white guitars, no musical instrument logos, and above all, no skin.
FIX #2: TOO MANY MID-TEMPO SONGS
Mid-tempo songs are stock in trade for all budding singer/songwriters, but performed live to an unfamiliar audience, they’re boring, boring, boring. The first and best way to get to an audience to respond to you right away is by the FEEL of the first song of your set. An up-tempo song (preferably a shuffle) gets their heads nodding and their feet tapping. Always start and end your set with an up-tempo song.
AND THE #1 FIX EVERY SINGER/SONGWRITER NEEDS TO DO: STOP EATING THE MIC
Again, you have three ways to visually communicate your emotions to your audience – your hands, your eyes, and your mouth. If you eat the mic, no one can see your mouth. Lose the SM58 and get a mic you can sing over the top of. I recommend a Telefunken M80 (women) or M81 (men). (Side note: lose the shades as well.)
The 96 other ways to improve your show and your career are spelled out in greater detail in my newest book – The Singer/Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways to Improve Your Chances of Success – available at Amazon in digital and book form at http://amzn.to/2o4osB8.
Larry Butler is a 40-year veteran of the music business. He currently consults as a live performance music coach based in Los Angeles. This post (and many others) can be found at his occasional blog – http://www.itallstartswiththemusic.com. He also runs insightful quotes from famous rock and pop stars daily on his Twitter feed – @larryfromohio. He can be reached through his website – http://www.diditmusic.com
101 WAYS book featured in POLLSTAR PRO ONLINE NEWS and POLLSTAR MAGAZINE
On Monday, May 8, 2017, POLLSTAR PRO ONLINE NEWS and POLLSTAR MAGAZINE (the touring and live production industry standard) featured a lengthy interview with Larry about THE SINGER/SONGWRITER BOOT CAMP RULE BOOK: 101 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS. Here’s a screen shot and the interview reprinted in its entirety:
HEY KID! WANT SOME ADVICE? By Pollstar’s Joe Reinartz
Larry Butler, the former Warner Bros. Records exec and GM for Bill Silva Management, has been coaching young talent at his Did It Music Management, Consultancy and Publishing, as well as offering advice on Twitter and his blog. He recently released his second book, “The Singer/Songwriter Boot Camp Rule Book: 101 Ways To ImproveYour Chances Of Success” and gave us some tips for free.
The book follows the well-received “The Twelve Lessons Of Rock N’ Roll (For Your Career And Your Life)” and is a list (101 to be exact) of what needs to be done to have a successful music career. It gives advice chapter and verse – literally. Each piece of advice is a chapter title (“Your hands and your voice are your livelihood. No screaming! And stop playing amateur sports or doing home and car repairs”) followed by however much verse the reader wants to absorb.
Butler’s résumé is extensive. He played keyboards in Ohio bands during high school and college, serving as band manager and lead singer. He opened for the Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys and The Byrds, jammed with Jimi Hendrix, and tour managed for artists like Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and Isaac Hayes. He was Warner Bros.’ first National College Manager, then West Coast Artist Development Director and, finally, VP of Artist Relations. He spent the next few decades touring with the label’s talent, handling accounting and budgets, and overseeing tour marketing and promotion. At Bill Silva Management he ran Jason Mraz’s publishing and served as day-to-day manager for Robert Francis.
You say this book is 40 years in the making but how much actual time did you spend typing and editing? I have a blog called ItAllStartsWithTheMusic.com that I’ve been doing for a couple years. About a year ago it occurred to me that I’ve been working with young singer/songwriters, trying to teach them how to become better singer/songwriters and … how to become entertainers and I found myself repeating myself over and over again. I thought, “I better start writing this stuff down.”
I just put the headlines in the blog. Last fall I was reviewing all my blogs and I thought, “Why don’t I take these 101 things and expound on them rather than just saying ‘Do this! I don’t have to tell you why!’ like a parent would do?” Initially I didn’t want to say, “This is what you are doing wrong,” but rather, “This is what you need to do to improve.” Writing that down really helped and now I have a whole different philosophy on how to help kids.
Cool format. The left page says, “Do this” and the right page says, “Because.” Exactly! And if you don’t want to know the “because” part, turn the page! Or if it doesn’t pertain to you, turn the page.
In the real world, which of these pieces of advice did you need to repeat the most? The first 10 or 20 are the real personal stuff. And that’s the hardest to get a grasp on with most of the kids and some of the seasoned performers I work with.
You need to eliminate all the other things you do in your life. If you want to succeed you need to focus on this and nothing else. That’s the rule. If you don’t, that’s fine but just don’t expect to succeed. Don’t expect that the world owes you a living. There are another 100,000 singer/songwriters who are doing this, who have eliminated sports fandom, cats, plants, families, marriages, relationships, drinking and vacations. You need that mental attitude.
And you need to be physically fit. You need to eat right; back off the beer and whatever and get some sleep. You can’t just stumble into this stuff. James Taylor said, “When I got famous, everybody who wanted to be like me decided they needed to become a junkie.”
No, don’t do that. Learn how to write songs, sing and play first. Getting your life organized, taking care of yourself, being positive and eliminating the hindrances and the naysayers are important. You also need to eliminate or at least temper the do-gooders who say, “You’re so wonderful” because you’re not!
Everybody skips over the part in Keith Richards’ biography where he writes about the 12-hour-a-day practices, or the 10,000 hours the early Beatles logged in. Here’s a story from my first book: I was on tour with Van Halen, at the height of Van Halen (with David Lee Roth). We’re in Oklahoma City. We’re all staying at the same hotel. We get back from the show; I’m in my room. I’m brushing my teeth.
The bathroom vents are connected to all the rooms and I hear, upstairs, someone practicing this amazing riff. It’s 1 a.m.! Obviously Eddie can’t sleep. I go to sleep and get up at about 6 o’clock and go into the bathroom and he is still up there and he’s still practicing that riff. Four, five hours later – and he’s Eddie Van Halen!
That’s the kind of dedication it takes. He wants to be able to play that riff whether he’s asleep or skipping across the stage. The only way to do it is to get that motor memory, and he knows that. That’s the kind of stuff it takes. Are you ready for that? If not, don’t do this, at least not if you have the expectation you’re going to be famous.
Saving the advice about addiction to the end (“Seek and accept help”) was clever. It was almost as if you were saying, “In case you didn’t think I would bring this up …” That was my wife’s suggestion. She said, “You need to address people who do not have a lot of emotional stability and drug problems and don’t know what to do about it.” I couldn’t turn a blind eye to that.
Do you think some of this advice would be accepted by those of us who may have played around town for 10-15 years? Yes. If nothing else, just step up what you’re doing or at least put a reality on what is going on. If you’re wondering, “What should we do next?” or “What am I doing wrong?” There’s a lot in this book where you’ll think, “Yeah, I should have done that” or “Maybe I should try that again.”
Yeah, but I bet I could name five local musician friends who, if you walked up to them and said, “You don’t have to eat that mic,” they’ll bite back with, “I’ve been around these bars and clubs for 20 years and – I don’t care if it’s an SM-58 microphone – I have to eat this mic.” Yes! It’s my No. 1 thing! I am about to post a blog that there are five things all singer/songwriters are doing wrong. I don’t even have to see your act to know you’re doing these things and, No. 1, is eating the mic.
By the way, it goes all the way to the top. I was watching Ed Sheeran on the Grammys and he was eating the mic. You’re on TV! You don’t need to eat a microphone. There’s no PA feedback problem!
But when I see that, I see a guy who grew up in clubs. Bingo. But for every one Ed Sheeran there are 900,000 guys in clubs still eating microphones. You’re hindering yourself by cutting off the method by which you could be communicating to the audience. You think it sounds better. Who cares?
The audience is more tuned visually to what you’re doing. This is a live performance, not a recording. It doesn’t have to be perfect. They probably can’t understand a goddamned word you’re saying anyway because it’s a shit PA. Maybe they should read your lips; let them see your mouth for God’s sake.
And every artist I’ve gotten to stop doing that, I’ll go back and see them and they’re eating the mic again. It’s just a dreadful habit. I’ve given them microphones! “Here is a $200 microphone! Use it!” Then at the end I have to say, “Give me my mic back. You’re not using it.”
Any other bad habits that are hard to break? My ultimate goal is to get these kids to where they can perform without missing a chord or forgetting the words or shaking. Then, the key is to be entertaining.
The No. 1 thing is not eating the mic but the No. 2 thing is, “Your songs aren’t the secret to your live performance. It’s what you do between songs.” It’s how you talk to the audience and what they see. If at the end of a song you mumble “Thank you,” take a drink of water then go off to the side to tune, you’ve just lost them. Why did you do that? You need to figure out a way that you never lose eye contact with the audience.
I talked to a major Springsteen fan who went to see him in 1975 and he had to admit that he couldn’t remember any of the songs Bruce sang but he remembered everything Bruce said. That’s why he went: he wanted to be entertained. He wanted the connection.
Talk to me. Tell me why you wrote the songs. Tell me about your day. Something I can identify with and thereby become more of a fan. That’s the key. If you just say, “Hello Cleveland” or just wing it, it won’t work. You have to script it, try it out, and correct it. Make your patter as good as or better than your songs. If you don’t believe that, you might as well leave the stage because you don’t belong there.
Unless something happened an hour beforehand and you’re passionate about it. Right, but you need to have experience talking to an audience. You have to have an attitude and a style. And you also need to know how to speak slowly and distinctly. How many times have you not understood a word they were saying? They’re either talking too fast or talking off the mic or mumbling. If the mic is set to a certain level for singing, you need to talk at that level. This is the stuff I teach. You don’t normally learn this until five years into performing. Why not start now?
I’ve done classes, and will again, but they don’t work. There are 15 kids in the class but only three are paying attention because only three get it. It’s so much better one-on-one because everybody is at a different stage.
I was referring to how some bands can’t shut up. The singer will say, “What a great crowd” and the bass player will talk right over it. “Yeah! What he said! Great crowd!” I worked in a band for years with a drummer (who shared the banter) but we had routines, we had scripts. We knew what we were going to say and rehearsed it.
But I don’t recommend that. There needs to be one person leading the band, speaking, writing and singing. That’s the ideal situation for the audience – not to be distracted by others in the band. The other four members won’t agree with it but, from an audience standpoint, it works structurally, visually, and they’re able to remember what went on.
There’s a group dynamic that’s really difficult. It’s a dysfunctional family. One member will have his shit together but you have to speak to all five of them? It ain’t going to work.
Who got all this advice naturally and who never got it and lost their way? Oh boy. The upside of my 20 years at Warner was, if you got on the label, you had to have something going on. It wasn’t a school for artists; either you had it or you didn’t. There were a lot of young English bands that came over during the ‘80s that either took my advice or didn’t.
One band that I had nothing to say to was U2. They had their shit together the moment they got here. I just marveled every night at Bono. Here’s this frontman; nobody else was talking on the mic yet everyone was a distinctive personality. It was a band. It wasn’t, “I’m Bono and here are my three musicians.” They walked that line of group dynamic very well – as evidenced by them still being together.
The ones that didn’t work? There was a young band that was the hot new thing in England. You didn’t need to be a good performer there and they were shoe-gazers. They were on Sire. Seymour Stein signed them and brought them over. They had some college radio play; they were on tour in Texas and working their way to L.A. After three, four nights I was saying to the leader, “This may work in London and in some places in America but when you get to L.A., this isn’t going to work.”
One thing I said was that they needed to downplay the guitarist. The set was based around the singer but he would give undue time to the lead guitarist, and the guy wasn’t any good. “Let the lead guitar part go. We have Eddie Van Halen in town. It’s embarrassing. You’re touting this guy as being wonderful; he’s not.” I also brought up how he’s not talking between songs, looking at his shoes, etc.
This kid went bananas about how wrong I was. He called his manager and didn’t want to have anything to do with me. I got called in to the office and told I was off the tour. I said, “That’s fine. I don’t need to tour with this band.” I wrote my letter of apology and that was that. They got to L.A. They played the show. It got panned. The band disappeared. That’s the last we heard of them.
That’s why I work with kids 16-21. They don’t have any bad habits yet. If they’re over 21, they know everything and their four years outweighs my 40 years. All I can tell them is, “We’re here at Hotel Café and 20 people came to see you. That’s great. Let’s meet here again in a year after the same 20 people come to see you we’ll talk. By the way, you will have lost an entire year wondering what to do next.” That’s pretty much my farewell speech to a lot of performers.
What else? I work with young kids and their parents are generally financing it. They have to; they’re not going to get anywhere without some kind of funding.
Still, I say to parents, “First, I’m going to save you $100,000 because I do not want your kid to make an album. I do not want your kid to make a video and I do not want your kid to tour.”
There are three money pits, right there. Your kid needs to be ready and that won’t be for a while. I’m going to work with the kid for six months to a year, however long the kid can put up with me. At some point you’re going to get better or quit and that’s when you’ll save your $100,000 or then spend it on the album, tour and video.
If they’re still willing to go for it, and ready, where do they play? If they’re going to play out, I don’t want them to play where they will be seen. It’s going to be rough. First impressions are everything and you don’t want to come on too soon, too fast. You want to be in the coffee shop in that other, small town. That’s where you make your mistakes.
No matter how much you rehearse in your rec room and basement parties, once you step onstage with lights and PA, it’s a whole different ballgame. That’s why I recommend you build your own stage in your own garage with hot lights and a P.A. That’s where you’re going to be and you better get comfortable fast.
Anything you’d like to add in conclusion? Yes, and I say it a lot: It’s not about who has the most talent. It’s about who wants it more and is willing to go get it.
101 WAYS book featured on ALL ACCESS NEWS – radio and records online tip sheet
On Friday, April 28, 2017, ALL ACCESS MUSIC GROUP’s online tip sheet news page featured Larry’s THE SINGER/SONGWRITER BOOT CAMP RULE BOOK: 101 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR CHANCES OF SUCCESS as the Weekend Read suggestion. Here’s a screen shot:
LARRY ON PRINCE’S LEGACY FOR KABC-TV NEWS
On April 21, 2016, the world learned of Prince’s passing. Larry happened to be at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles that evening, taking part in the House Of Blues Foundation’s Music Forward concert. As giving new talent exposure was the theme of the evening, Larry was asked by KABC-TV Channel 7 News entertainment reporter Melissa Macbride about how he remembered touring with Prince and the way in which the artist supported giving new talent a break. Here’s an edited version of the piece that ran that evening:
LARRY FEATURED AT HOUSE OF BLUES PANEL SESSION – 2015
Larry participated in the House Of Blues Foundation’s Bringing Down The House panel discussion, which was held at the Live Nation Studios in Hollywood, and Skyped live to other House Of Blues locations. The Foundation’s goal is to bring music to high school students, culminating in performances at HOB locations across America. Here is an edited video of the panel featuring, frankly, only Larry’s segments.
LARRY’S RULES TO BETTER STAGE PERFORMANCE
The PollStar Magazine interview – 2015
Larry Butler, artist manager, author, and former Warner Bros. Records VP Artist Relations, knows a thing or two about working with established stars and working with rising ones. So when a friend called and asked him to travel from Los Angeles to Santa Cruz to see a singer/songwriter who might have the goods, he drove up the California coast to check her out.
Larry talks about connecting with the audience at the back of the room with Santa Cruz-based singer/songwriter Taylor Rae.
“He came to me and said ‘I’ve got this girl singer/songwriter out of Santa Cruz that I’m looking at, and thinking about managing, but I’m not really sure,’” Butler told Pollstar. “’There’s something missing. Would you come take a look at her and see what I mean?’ and I said yeah, sure. We went up to Santa Cruz and took in a show. “I told him what she could be doing better and he said, ‘Listen, I’m going to bring you in. You’re going to be part of my management team, and you’re going to work with her and show her what to do.’ I said, ‘Sure.’”
That was six months ago. Butler coached Taylor Rae in live performance, and she’s now out of the beach-town, bar-band scene and doing jazz-styled showcases around Los Angeles for reps and record label execs, taking the first step toward establishing a professional music career.
That’s the catalyst for Butler’s latest entrepreneurial effort. He’s putting out his shingle as a live performance consultant, taking in clients with musical chops and a passion to make a career of it. “There’s a whole school for kids to learn how to sing, and play, and do them at the same time,” Butler said. “To a certain degree, they’re taught how to put on a show, but I’m not sure anyone teaches them the specifics of it.”
“It” is the art of becoming a seasoned commander of the stage; connecting with an audience, knowing what to wear, what to say and how to move. How to stand apart from thousands of other artists who want to be stars, too. Most importantly, how to sell tickets and inspire fans to buy them again and again.
Larry coaches former American Idol finalist Didi Benami on the finer points of live performance.
“I’m working from the point that someone can sing, can play, can write songs and make demos of them; then what?” Butler explained. “What you have to develop is a live act in order to take your career to the next level. Everything you do from here on out in your career is going to revolve around how good your live act is. Up to the point when you’re 70 years old, and you’re still Mick Jagger, and you’re still on the stage doing your live act. And it better be great.”
Butler points out that the greatest record ever made won’t break a career today – because the big money revolves around the live show. When an artist breaks, the radio stations first ask when she’ll come to town, play in the studio for listeners or perform at the local radio show festival. Even finding representation is more difficult without a live show to back up the music. “That’s all radio wants right now is a live act,” Butler said. “If you don’t have a good live act, or any live act at all, you’re not going to get on the radio.
Without radio, and without a live act, you don’t have a career.” And a budding artist had best possess at least some fundamental musical proficiency by the age of 12, Butler insists. It takes a couple of years to learn to play and sing at the same time. The Beatles were a band by the time Lennon and McCartney were 18, Butler points out. But they’d been learning instruments and playing for years before that. Of course, this means that Butler’s client base includes parents. “I don’t have issues because they are funding it, and it is their son or daughter,” Butler said. “The parents I’ve been working with so far – even though they’re really concerned – know absolutely nothing about the music business and I have to break it to them gently as to what it really is about.
Larry instructs singer/songwriter/actress Katie Garfield as to his pet peeve – mic technique.
“I need to tell them I’m not going to lead them down a garden path, but tell them this is what we’re faced with – not only is this going to take time and money, your kid has to get motivated and dedicated! Your kid is not going to summer camp,” Butler said. He adds that the most important factor in turning a budding performer into the next Taylor Swift is funding, and in amounts parents alone almost certainly can’t afford. Butler won’t be providing that, but he says his goal is to develop a musician into a performer able to attract the attention of someone who will, preferably at a record company.
“I would say to the parents, ‘I’m not the most expensive thing you’re ever going to see. If you think I’m expensive, you’d better rethink this career. The next level up is real expensive. The level we’re working toward is getting out of your bank account and into somebody else’s. And the way to do that is get this showcase together so we can attract the industry and work on songs and work on demos and get all our ducks in a row so that when that opportunity strikes, you’re ready. You’ve got everything you need.”
Butler’s blog and website, Diditmusic.com, includes “How to Become A Successful Performing Artist in the New Millennium.”