A MUSICAL HUSTLE: An Insight from Experience by James Kirby

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January 20, 2014 by Robb Powell

I wanna write something…

I want to write an insight from experience…

james kirby  3So, did you hear the one of the 20 year old who got conned? Let me set the scene. I’d gone through the highs and lows of chaos that are more often than not referred to as “those teenage years” and survived! I was (more or less) in one piece and recording 12-16 tracks a year. How I got the money to do so god only knows but between temporary contracts and swings of unemployment my guitar stayed with me throughout.

As we all discover in these days ruled by information services that hold the title of www. before their name, if you’re a musician you’ve got to find a place for your product to be heard to get the gigs, fans and da’ money! So you find a site (or a few,) upload some work and try to network like crazy. Or you do for a week or so and then get bored and go to the pub. Okay, just me then.

So one day out of the blue I get a message that states interest in my work, I’m invited for a meeting and (though I was 20) like the child we all are at such an offer I agree to go. I went to an industrial estate 90 miles away to meet the A&R team with my music in hand. There were 6 people in the building and on the first day they said they wanted me and would be emailing a contract. Ego took over. That and many saying “go for it!” and as soon as the contract came through I signed it. They asked for money and I gave it. A label should NEVER do this! If they do it IS a con. I knew that but was reassured by my kin that “it may be a con but there’s only one way to find out.” I couldn’t argue with that and that comment alone created a game to me. Pay, play, learn and analyse. If it indeed was a con no longer mattered and before I knew it I was playing them at their own game. One I now ruthlessly apply to any offer I get made today.

So what did they do with me after that? Well I had a photo shoot (which would have cost what I paid anyway), a weird gig in a warehouse and a gig in a sports bar. And that was it. They never released my single because between me and my producer, we owned it. Plus at that time I only wrote album tracks over 6 minutes. They never got to use my name nor music. But my pride was damaged as well as confidence. The company went into “liquidation” and the label owner was named and shamed in media. So please feel free to point and laugh at me because I sure as hell do. But I learnt and moved forward.

I would dare to guess that there are indeed worse cons out there than what I became involved in but at the same time I am proud of the remaining angst from my teenage years that helped me keep my rights and ownership of my music. The best thing of all is that I can now (and have done) help others when it comes to contracts.

So what should you see in a contract?

• No request of money to the label

• A statement of the fact you are going to have to work hard

• Reference to management, marketing and production

• A get out clause

• A time span

• Notes of exclusivity

• Transfer/management of rights

These are a few things I’d expect but I am no solicitor. At the end of the day imagine a working contract for a nationwide company without the offer of a pension. You get the Do’s, Don’t’s and the “if you Don’t Do this you’re sacked!” There are too many cons these days so my only true advice is forget about the big time. Do music for the love of it rather than the income, because you don’t need to be signed to be a success, but if you become a success then the right signing will come to you.

Words by James Kirby –

You can buy the album Lifeline from iTunes until 23rd January. Click >>here<<.


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