How to Get Signed Series: CEO Christopher Starr sits down with Chloe Zane to discuss the winning factors of making it in the Music Industry.
Zane: Thank you Mr. Starr for taking time out of your incredibly busy schedule to discuss what artists need to do to become successful. It’s very hard to get a hold of you, and I completely understand why. Please tell us a little about what goes on in a typical day?
Starr: From the time I wake up to the time I hit the pillow I am handling business. There’s a lot of work that goes into running a record label. You have to first accept the fact that you do not get to sleep. You have to remain dedicated and that takes really loving what you do. To me, this is not a job, it’s a passion and I put my all into every aspect of what I do.
Zane: Your concept for the label is quite new, and I noticed from reading your bio that you’ve changed your approach throughout the years due to the changing recording industry. Can you explain this more?
Starr: Yes, CSP Music Group is a newly formed label, but we’ve been in the industry for more than 20 years. I noticed that the music industry was shifting during the early 2000’s when record sales started to decline. To stay afloat, we had to be inventive and noticed a change that was shifting towards the independent artists favor. Because of the internet boom, we decided to stop with the approach of only signing artist and decided to also partner with independent artist who were already making a big name for themselves and wanted to remain in control of their own careers. There’s a huge industry of self-promoted artist who are not happy with the new 360 deals that labels had to offer to make up for the lack of album sales.
Zane: Please explain this 360 deal? What does that mean?
Starr: A 360 deal basically means the record label owns everything you do. They take a huge percentage of profits including performance, endorsements, album sales, really anything the artist does they take a cut. Labels had to start doing this because they were no longer making money off of record sales. However, in the past, the only way artist made money was from their performances and endorsements. By taking that away from artist, it almost became predatory lending because artist could not make money. The label makes almost every penny that comes through the door and they still expect the artist to pay them back for the signing bonus, studio time, producers, travel, management, commercials, music videos, etc. Because artists are in a 360 deal, and can’t make money, it makes it almost impossible for them to pay the label back and they become trapped with massive debt. This is what motivated me to take a different approach to working with artists in the music industry.
Zane: Wow…. So this is why you hear about artist one day and then they just disappear the next?
Starr: Exactly. Once in debt, no other label wants to sign you and you have to pay back that debt. You’re pretty much owned by your label and anything you touch, they make a profit because they own your brand and name. This is why the artist Prince once had slave written across his face because he was trapped in a bad deal with his label and no longer owned his name. He started calling himself the artist formally known as Prince in order to make a profit.
Zane: I remember that! I also remember wondering why he wrote slave across his face. But after learning what happens it makes perfect sense. So how do artist avoid this?
Starr: I would say stay independent or work with an independent label. Learn the music business and learn it well. Artists no longer need to get signed to a major label. It amazes me how many people call my office saying they want anyone to sign them. It’s like they have no idea what they’re asking for. There’s a big difference being signed to a major label and knowing the difference is extremely important.
Zane: So let me understand. If you have no money, don’t you kind of need the major labels money up front so that you can get your foot in the door?
Starr: Yes and no. 15 years ago, you had to have a major label because that was the only way to get professional songs recorded, radio play, TV exposure, etc. But today, it’s completely different. You can get songs professionally recorded by the same people the major labels use, radio play on the same stations, TV exposure, and tour dates without the help of major labels. We always use Macklemore and Adele as great examples because they completely blew the cap off the lid with the success they were able to achieve without the help of major labels. This is why artist work with us. They are trying to do what they did and we offer that to them.
Zane: Ok, I understand. So exactly how does your label work?
Starr: We just provide everything a major label offers to signed artist however we also offer it to unsigned artist. It’s that simple. Instead of us fronting the money and owning you, we partner with you. We even offer in house financing to those who can’t afford to invest in their careers and we do this by giving a line of credit to them and allowing them to make monthly payments. We look at ourselves as a business of getting your business in order.
Zane: Okay… okay! I like this whole concept and it really makes sense. I think I’m ready to become a recording artist with you all right now because it’s about business and I like that.
Starr: If you know business and marketing, you are heading down the right path. People who cannot even sing or rap have made millions on understanding this concept alone. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the movie Straight Outta Compton but they utilized those two skills to the fullest extent. Rapper Easy E did not know how to rap -at all- but with the right producer and songwriter, business, and marketing skills they built an entire empire. This is what we offer artist. Production, songwriting, marketing, business know how, relationships, partnerships. This is what leads to success.
Zane: That was a great movie! In the movie NWA was also forming a new label. What are the difficulties you face being a new label?
Starr: It’s strange saying new label when you’ve been in the industry 20 years and have gold and platinum plaques on the wall. However, this industry is different today and we wanted to be on the verge of what’s new and coming instead of what’s dated and behind. So the difficulties we face are that we’ve only been established as an ‘Record Label’ for a short amount of time. So, our track record is still quite new. Even though we have many acts under our belt, they are still under development and it takes a good 3-5 years to really break an artist. In the less than 2 years that we’ve been established, our producers have gained credits on Jennifer Lopez’s AKA album, Chris Brown’s X, Ariana Grande, 2 Chainz, Lil Wayne, Damita Chandler (Haddon), Jhene Ako, T.I., Lo-Key, Akon, and plenty more. We are confident that much more is coming and we look forward to where our label goes.
Zane: Yeah man, that does sound very promising with so much success in such a short time span. So what are the keys to success for artist?
Starr: Artists forget this is the music business! That is the number one most common mistake. If you come in thinking it’s about talent you’re already heading in the wrong direction. It is 95% business and 5% talent. I say this all the time.
Zane: That’s a true statement. Most artists forget about learning the business. Is this why so many artist are taken advantage of?
Starr: Yes, you have to approach this knowing its business first. This means learning and studying how the industry operates.
Zane: So how is it working with celebrity artist?
Starr: We get in and work and focus on what the records about. We check egos at the door and everyone comes in with a humble and confident sense to know what we’re about to achieve. There’s no big I’s and little you’s and I say that across the board with everything. It’s all about teamwork.
Zane: So what advice do you have for artist just starting?
Starr. Not to be cliché, but follow your passion and that will guide you to success as long as you apply perseverance. Find a team that understands your vision and goals and you need to have a great chemistry that allows you to be creative and challenges your creativity.
Zane: Well said, and once again thank you so much for your time. You’ve truly inspired me and hopefully you’ll inspire others as well. I’ve learned a lot.
Thank you readers for checking out our interview. Please check back again for more of the How to Get Signed series on CSPMusicGroup.com.