With so much of the digital-music news focusing on copyright, piracy, royalties and lawsuits lately, the voice of the artists often gets drowned out. Not so for Ice-T, who shared his thoughts on the changing nature of the music industry Tuesday at an MP3 Summit panel with the unwieldy title of "Sound Advice: Online Artist Success Stories and How They Can Work for You."
The rapper/actor kept the crowd hanging on his every - and sometimes profane - word. On major labels: "Major record labels, they've got the money. So they're like the gangstas out here. They're running stuff. Right now, you see a lot of Internet sites called ‘farm this’ and ‘farm that’, and what they're going to do is use the Internet as a farm team to the majors, spend a lot of money and bring it to the majors. Now all these Internet companies think they're going to go up against the majors.
"All you little companies, when you become powerful enough, the big people come to you with an offer you can't refuse. Or else they sue you and make you compromise by threats and squeezing. It doesn't change, it never changes. And that is going to be part of it. So right now, all the little technology that we're doing to get ready will soon be part of Sony and all the other big companies."
On playing catch-up: "As far as success on this Net, if you want to sell your records, here it is point-blank: The Internet, music, MP3, is not going to move until the hardware catches up. The Christmas of the MP3 car stereo, the Christmas of the MP3 home system, the Christmas when the Rio player is playing six and eight hours – when that shit happens, sites are going to be bombarded because people are going to need content.
"Right now, you can't get MP3 two feet off your computer. How many people got their computers hooked up to their stereo system? It's still not really happening. Y'all hold on to your stock, and wait 'til that Christmas. It's the real job of the hardware people to know that people don't listen to records at their computer. They listen to them in their car, they listen to them at their house. When that happens, it's on baby. Everybody, MP3, Napster, whoever the fuck, you're going to need some music.
"I had my record out on MP3 download, but it's stuck on my fucking computer. I'm not burning no fucking CD, I'll go buy the goddamn thing. So there's a lot of catching up that hardware's got to do. But it's all going to come together."
On making a demo: "The cool thing right now, technology-wise in music, is that home-stereo recording equipment has come out. Back in the day, you go to get your record deal, and you'd go in and say, ‘I need some money for a demo budget’.
"I don't know anybody who got a demo budget in the last 10 years, but anyway, you'd go in, they give you the money to make the album, but what happened was they ended up owning the masters. Most people now are bringing in finished, damn-near-mixed albums into the record labels to get record deals. And you know the labels still want those masters?
They want to own the masters. I think that that's the one thing, in the Internet realm, you own your own music at the end of the day. As far as artists out there, protect your masters if you spent your own money to make them, and protect your URL. Don't let them get your name. Unless they put you in a compromising position."
On radio: "Radio is owned by the FCC, therefore you can only broadcast certain things. Then you've got the hardware issue once again. I'll tell you how Internet radio could become powerful, which would be if Internet radio was broadcast through the air so you can hear it in your car. But then you enter Federal airwaves and they shut shit down. How many people listen to records and think, ‘This record sucks’, and then later you're humming the shit? That's what radio can do because there's only a couple of stations. It's still a monster that has to be dealt with.
On selling yourself: "You got to make phone calls, you got to get out there, you got to have your street team, your concerts. Nobody makes a record and it just sells. You've got to work. Get your sister, your mother, whoever you've got. You've got to turn them into your record label. You can't do it by yourself."
On going platinum: "I was at Warner Bros for seven years, and every record went gold, but I would always go to like 800,000. I went to Mo Ostin one time and said, ‘You know, I want to go platinum.’ He said, ‘You want to go platinum, Ice-T?’ and he pulled out some royalty sheets and said, ‘We put your record out, we put out promotion, we shot some video on it, and here's what you made. Now, look at platinum artists. Here's what they made. I can spend your money to make you go platinum if that's what you really want. But it'd be cheaper to go buy a platinum record and lie about it.’
"That's when I learned how much you invest versus how much you get back. Majors spend a lot of your money on you. On the Internet, it's still going to cost money. There's no way around it. If you're an artist, you can be a radio promoter, too, during the day. Call up and get your homies to call up and request records.
"You can create pools of people. I used to have five chicks who would call radio stations. Their job was to call radio stations. Each one, once between eight in the morning and 12 - see, they didn't have a full-time job - but they had to make four calls a day and get in. It was like 100 calls coming in all day long, it added up. They still wouldn't play my shit, but I was trying.
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