music morsels scott turner August 2006 


From Under Which Rock Did This Artist Emerge?

Scott Turner
I've heard that statement many times during my career. A new artist will nail down a spot on a national chart and a lot of people, even a few in the industry, will think that an artist arrived in Nashville on a Sunday - recording on Monday - got a record deal on Tuesday - released the record the following week - and hit the national charts 3 weeks later. Sorry, not so! Most artists start out by working 6 or 7 nights per week in a nightclub in their hometown. This may go on for 4-5 years, then, possibly a person might come along and furnish enough financing for the act to do a session in Nashville. The hunt then starts for competitive material (if the artist isn't a writer) and in some, but not all cases, selected publishers may show the artist songs that have been turned down by many major artists and that's a dumb way to run a business because they fail to realize that if they give a great song to a new artist, and it hits, where is the artist going to go first to get new material? You got it!! The firm that gave them their first hit.

Now after the session, the artist or the backer tries to land a meeting with a label executive. Once this happens and the reaction is positive, the label will want to see the artist in person so that's more money from the investor. If the label execs, for some reason, don't like what they see and the artist is determined to try and make it, they must try to land a job and the line is long because of many hopeful acts trying to land that same job.

If the act is lucky and they finally impress a demo service enough to let them do some demo vocals, that may shorten their journey a little, if, by chance, an A&R person hears a great song delivered by a great singer, the act may land a development deal which might commence by using the act to do demos for the label's affiliated publisher until such time a spot opens up on the label to start the artist's recording career. Now let's see, that's 5 years in the nightclub, possibly 2-3 years doing demos, another 18-24 months in development and finally....and it's a definite/maybe. This "no name" hits the national charts and the "from under which rock" etc. starts, but the public doesn't know about the prior groundwork.

I recall being at Tree Music one day many moons ago when Sonny Throckmorton (an ultra-successful writer and a former act of mine) played me a cut by a new artists and Sonny was raving about him. His name...Ricky Skaggs who had emerged from a well-known independent traditional label Sugar Hill, a label who gave many acts who eventually landed major deals, their start. Ricky is one of the most talented people who is both vocally and instrumentally adept.

On the other hand, there are so-called "one hit wonders" who had one charted record and that was it. They faded out of sight. I won't name them because you know about whom I'm referring to. Well, I will name one of them. After hockey practice, I noticed a concert across the street from the arena and it cost 50 cents admission. The main act was Johnnie Ray who had many #1 records ("Cry", "The Little White Cloud", etc.) and the opening act was a young kid named Jimmy Boyd who had a monster of a hit titled "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and Jimmy blew me away. He was a great country singer and years later, he landed a deal at my former label Liberty/Imperial. Jimmy had some ultra-commercial records, but this now grown man couldn't shake-off the "Santa Claus" factor and had to do that song at every concert. I even suggested to the A&R Department a name change, but that didn't fly.

At any rate, the next time you see or even hear a so-called new act, do a little research and you'll discover that it was quite a complicated road leading up to the act's success.
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