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Posted: 5/22/2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ] - 1 Likes
Category: Music

1. Why

Why do you want to be a successful musician?

A. Money

There are a lot easier ways to get rich than playing music.  You're better off writing an app, or finishing college and entering the banking sector.  If you're playing music to get rich, you're a chump.  Or else you have no other advantages, no other skills.  And the odds of success if this is true are incredibly long.  It's like being poor and uneducated and desiring to be a professional athlete.

B. Fame

Used to be, music was a good route to fame.  But now it's not incredibly difficult to get on a reality TV series and many people featured on TMZ or Radar have no talent at all.  Paris Hilton perfected this paradigm and the Kardashian sisters have refined it.  If your only desire is to be known by everybody else, it's a full time job leaving little time for practicing and there are easier outlets to media than playing music.

C. Talent

Society is rife with talented people who have not been successful in their chosen fields.  Because success is about more than talent.  It's about hard work and perseverance.

D. Creative outlet

You've got so many ideas inside that you need to express.  You've got a belief that other members of the public will resonate.  That they'll feel the same way or look to you for instruction.  This is a good reason to become a musician.  But this outlook is worthless without musical skill and hard work and perseverance.

E. A desire to prove something

Maybe to your parents or schoolmates, that you're not a loser.  This has got little to do with music, but tons to do with motivation.  And motivation is key to making it.


2. Outlets

A. Television

This is where those with vocal talent and good looks go to seek fame.  Possibly a little money, but fame primarily.  It's anathema to artists, a gold mine to those who don't know what artistry is.  If you go on television many will know your name, it's the easiest way to reach a lot of people quickly.  If you win, or come close to it, businessmen will put money behind your career and try to profit off of it, which will hopefully make you more famous, but may not make you a hell of a lot more rich.  Television breeds instant ubiquity.  And almost nothing which is instantly ubiquitous lasts.  Which is why that guy Screech from "Saved By The Bell" is broke and we had a rush of TV stars holding up 7-11's.

TV makes music look small.  To truly succeed long term, music must look big.  Dave Matthews Band and U2 lose their charisma on television, but they appear giant in person.  It's one thing to utilize television as the cherry on top, to take an already established career to bigger heights.  But if you start on television, your career will probably be brief.  Just like all those acts who made it via MTV videos.  We're used to an endless smorgasbord on television.  We remember the names, but we don't want to see them.

B. Major record label deal

This is first and foremost about money.  For the label.  But they spend to make it and what's thrown off, if they're successful, is fame and money.  So if you're interested in those two, a major label is not a bad way to go.  But despite the spending of money, you might still go unrecognized.  And like every boss, the major label demands control.  True artists are uncontrollable.  So a major label is a bad fit.

C. Independent

If you're a true artist, it's the only way to go.  But success, if it comes, will be slow.  Fame will be limited.  Money will be short.  It's about building, persevering.


3. Choices

A. Kickstarter

There's nothing wrong with raising money from your fans.  But don't expect once you're through with your project anybody but fans will care.  Don't see patronage as a way to build to the next level, but to survive on the one you're at.

B. iTunes

You can't survive on selling music, you can't make any real money, unless people already know who you are.  And this means you've got to give it away for free.  Whether that be appearing on a TV show or streaming your music on your Website or offering free MP3 downloads.  The issue is obscurity.  Before you attack monetary issues, worry about getting noticed.  Today your calling card is your music.  An innovative video is done seemingly every day.  We're implored to check something out ad infinitum.  Unless you've got virality, unless people can check you out for free, you're doomed.


4.  Who makes it

A. Those who desire it most.  It's just that simple.  Major labels want someone who works.  Anybody who's going to invest in you wants to believe you're going to work around the clock.  And if there are no investors, if you're doing it yourself, you must work around the clock.

B. Those pushed by the system.  TV can make stars overnight.  Major labels can get beat-infused acts on Top Forty radio, which a large number of people listen to.  Neither of these paradigms has much to do with music.

C. Those with great music.  Great music is different from what's out there already.  It can percolate for years before it hits the tipping point.  It might never hit the tipping point.  It hits the tipping point primarily because its fans spread the word.  TV contests are only about voices.  Major labels are only about Top Forty music.  They're not about true artistic greatness, certainly if it doesn't sound just like everything else.


5. Problems

A. Too many people who are not about music are clogging up the system, making it more difficult for artists to be noticed.

B. Major media, although dying, reaches more people than anything else, and is interested in artistry last.  Major media is interested in train-wreck value, hopefully sold by a trusted source, i.e. the major label, the TV network, those with mainstream track records.

C.  There is no filter for artistry.


6. Avenues for artistic success

A. Television, major labels and major media come last.  It's all about building a fan base, which initially no one may recognize the size of but you.  But if you've truly got a fan base, promoters will want to work with you, because they're all about selling tickets and booze, and if you can get bodies in the building, they're interested.  AEG and Live Nation are interested last.  Because they're about the money.  Since you're about artistry, those who will help you will probably be living for the music too, the club booker making bupkes, the person in a lousy job who lives to spread your music.  Enable these people.

B. Since you're an artist, you're probably a lousy salesman.  Focus on the music more than dunning potential fans.  If you Tweet, make it about your personality, your viewpoint, not about selling.  Hook people on who you are, not the fact that you're frustrated you're broke and want to make it.


7. The way it was

A. Used to be major labels were interested in signing artists, believing people would resonate with the music if they were exposed to it.  Radio was open to this artistry, as was print media.  And the public trusted both.  Now the major label is interested in money and money only.  And if you don't believe this is true, you haven't checked out Lyor Cohen or Irving Azoff's salaries, running companies that lose money making millions for themselves.  They could invest this money in breaking artists, but why sacrifice?  The moguls of yore might have been crooks, but they were passionate music people.  And they promoted what they were passionate about.  But today's music executives want to be rich and famous too.  Otherwise, explain to me why Jimmy Iovine gets so much airtime on "American Idol".  Yes, the executives are as bad as the wannabe acts, artistry comes last.  And the public tunes out.  TV shows are not about music, but competition, no different from sports, with winners and losers.  Whereas artistry is never about competition, other than losers trying to illustrate to the rest of the world that they are winners.


8. The future

In order for artistry to triumph, our whole nation must change.  Inner values as opposed to bank accounts must be seen as number one.  But they're not.  Money not only changes everything, it trumps everything.  You can't criticize someone who is rich, you can only be pissed off that you're not rich too.  If you criticize someone's art, the agent, manager and label will respond by saying LOOK AT HOW MUCH MONEY THEY'RE MAKING!  Bon Jovi hasn't written a decent song in decades, he's the biggest touring act, don't you think that's a problem?  Lady GaGa is a big star, but her music doesn't sound much different from everybody else's music.  She's selling the trappings, and shock value.

This history of modern music was written by outsiders with something to prove.  And once they were successful and realized fame and money still didn't solve their problems, once they were anointed by the masses, they just couldn't do that thing that got us all heated up in the first place.  Which is why Bruce Springsteen hasn't done anything of note in decades.  Experience and talent count, but not as much as drive, with a desire to prove.

So if you're entering the music game, honestly appraise where you're coming from, who you are.  If you're truly all about the music, if you're truly an artist, chances are you're gonna starve for a really long time, if not forever.  You may not give up, but the fact that you've worked forever still does not mean you're great.  Greatness comes from the damaged testing limits because they just don't give a crap.  So I'm gonna be homeless and have no teeth and die at a young age?  If you want creature comforts, if you want a safety net, you're probably not going to make it, even though you practice all day long.  Because we're interested in something elusive, from the outside, a perspective that might be in our hearts but that we are unwilling to live.  Can you risk playing original music instead of covers?  Can you risk sounding like nothing else?  And can you be so interesting, so good that people start following you anyway?

Used to be there was a whole system, a whole apparatus there to help you.

Now, you're on your own.
 

Posted: 5/18/2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ] - 0 Likes
Category: Movies

 

The entertainment industry is mobile, technologically clean, and capital and labor-intensive, making it an attractive business to many communities. Film production incentives by federal governments, various states and other local jurisdictions are enacted to encourage economic growth, build infrastructure and promote job creation. Aside from sales tax exemptions/refunds and hotel tax relief, cash rebates, tax credits, up-front and backend funding are the types of production incentives used to lure motion picture and television production companies to a specific country or state. Although incentive programs can change with ebb and flow of political tides, many are at an all-time high.

To determine which state has the best incentives for a production depends on the answers to a number of questions relevant to the specifics of a particular project.

Is there a cap on the amount of eligible salary for each individual? Are non-resident wages included, or does the state only allow the salary of residents to qualify? Is there a sufficiently large and qualified crew base, or will crew need to be brought in, adding per diem, transportation and housing costs to the budget – costs, which may or may not be considered qualified costs for a particular state’s incentive.

What type of production qualifies for the incentive? Again, depending on the state, a feature film or television series may qualify while non-traditional programming like a talk show or sporting event may not.

What are qualified production expenditures? To name a few, these expenses may include: set construction, wardrobe, makeup, photography and sound synchronization, lighting, editing, lab services, facilities and equipment rental, vehicle leases, food and lodging, special and visual effects, and other direct costs of producing the project in accordance with normally accepted industry practices.

What type of incentive – a rebate/grant or a tax credit – is offered? Rebate and grant programs are similar. After program requirements are met, both rebates and grants return cash payments to the eligible production companies. No income tax return is required.

Tax credit programs provide the production company with several different types of tax credits: refundable/nonrefundable, and/or, transferable /nontransferable. In jurisdictions offering a refundable tax credit, the production company must file the appropriate tax return claiming the tax credit. A refund will be issued if the production tax credit exceeds the company’s tax liability. With a nonrefundable tax credit, the production company must either apply the credit against its existing tax liability in that state, or transfer/sell/assign the credit to a taxpayer that does have a tax liability in the state. If a project is unable to use a nonrefundable credit, it is imperative to allow for the discounted value of the credit in the budget as well as the cost to transfer the nonrefundable credit.

To make the best financial decision for any production, it is important to stay current with production incentives. A new incentive program may offer a more beneficial incentive to attract business to a state, while last year’s top program may have added a cap or sunset clause to their program.

Michigan

Some of Michigan’s generous film incentives are facing proposals to be pared back by the new governor and the partisan shift to the right in the state legislature. As of this writing, bills H 5844 and S 796 offer 30%, 40% and 42% tax credits that are transferable and refundable, but can’t be carried forward. Labor credits of 40% are allowed for resident below-the-line, and all above-the-line personnel regardless of residency. An additional 2% credit is allowed when filming in certain “core” communities, such as Detroit. Non-resident below-the-line labor receives a 30% credit. The crew base has grown exponentially in the last couple of years with both aggressive training programs and migration of film workers to the state. A screen credit and CPA audit are required of program participants. The minimum spend is $50,000.

Because of the proposed $25 million cap, the film office only has $14.4million in tax credits left to distribute in the current fiscal year. Only a handful of tax credits have been approved for 2011. Incentive applications, such as the one for season two of Detroit 1-8-7, are currently under review, pending new legislation, but any decision is premature as ABC has not yet announced if they will be renewing the program for a second season. Under the Michigan Film Office’s new policy, the approvals require review by the Michigan Economic Development Corporate Committee. In order to stretch the fund, MFO seems to be approving low-to-medium budget projects. Higher cost projects like the $58 million sequel to Mr. and Mrs. Smith, while not rejected, chose to take the project elsewhere prior to receiving a decision. All 38 of the projects that would like to film in Michigan would cost nearly $124 million, substantially above the cap amount. Since the incentives took effect several years ago, approximately $648 million dollars have been invested in Michigan’s economy by film, digital media and television projects. In an attempt to convince the Michigan legislature not to downsize the economic-boosting industry of the past three years, film industry lobbying efforts are heating up, so check with the film office for the latest news.

Washington DC

Washington DC passed bill #B 583 that made into law rebates of 42% of qualifying direct production expenditures subject to D.C. tax and 21% of expenditures that are not subject to D.C. tax. The 30% rebate of qualified personnel expenditures applies to resident above-the-line and below-the-line compensation. 50% of qualified job training expenditures and 25% of the base infrastructure investment are also rebated. The minimum spend is $250,000 with no cap, and funding is determined on a case-by-case basis, subject to the availability of funds. There is no sunset, but an annual review by Dec. 31 of each year determines program funding for the fiscal year concluding Sept. 30. No screen credit or CPA audit are required. Before production commences an application must be submitted. Response time varies.

New York

New York State passed bills #S 6060, #S 7798 and # A 9710 that offer a 30% refundable tax credit for each below-the-line resident and nonresident with no minimum spend amount or per project cap. The state has a generous annual cap of $420 million. A robust crew and talent base, plus extensive production and post facilities keep New York a top filming location. There is a screen credit required but no CPA audit. The sunset date is December 2014. New York City, enacted bill #S 6060 that gives an additional 5% refundable tax credit to each below-the-line resident and nonresident, also with no per project cap or minimum spend amount, but an annual cap of $30 million. Again like the state incentive, a screen credit is required but no CPA audit. The sunset date is December 2011.

Illinois

Illinois has enacted bills H 2482 and S 1981 that give a 30% qualifying local spend and 15% resident wage tax credit for employment of residents in geographic areas of high poverty or high unemployment. An experienced crew and talent base as well as access to facilities and services, primarily in the Chicago area, add to the appeal of filming in Illinois. On March 30, the Illinois Senate passed a bill, SB 398 that replaced the five-year sunset proposed by the House with a 10-year sunset. The change is expected to be passed by the House and signed into law by the Governor. This action preserves the current tax credit program until 2021 and benefits television series in production. The credit is not refundable, but is transferable and can be carried forward five years. A minimum local spend is $50,000 for projects less than 30 minutes and $100,000 for productions over 30 minutes. A screen credit and CPA audit is required. Application should be submitted five days before filming with a response in about 1-2 weeks.

Louisiana

Louisiana passed a similar bill # 478 that gives a 30% base of qualifying local spend including the payroll for residents and non-residents and a 5% wage tax credit of resident payroll up to $1,000,000. The credits are refundable, transferable and can be carried forward 10 years, with a minimum local spend of over $300,000. A screen credit and CPA audit are also required. Jefferson Parish in Louisiana passed bill #110061, that gives a 3% rebate on a minimum spend of $150,000 (with a per project cap of $100,000, and an annual cap of $1.5 million). It also requires a screen credit and CPA audit. Louisiana is a right-to-work state with a crew base that is 8-9 deep statewide.

Alaska

Alaska enacted bill S 230 that gives a 30% base tax credit with an additional 10% on resident wages, plus a 2% credit for expenditures in rural areas and a 2% seasonal credit for expenditures between Oct. 1-March 30, for a total credit of up to 44%. Tax credits are not refundable, but are transferable and can be carried forward three years. They require a minimum spend of $100,000 in a 24-month (36-month) period with no per project cap. The aggregate tax credit is $100 million, which sunsets July 1, 2013 or when the funding cap is reached. Like so many others, Alaska requires a screen credit and CPA audit. Companies should submit incentive applications before production commences. Expect a response in 2-4 weeks.

California

California has bill #AB 15 until June 30, 2014 that gives a 20% tax credit for a feature film with a total budget between $1M and $75M; a MOW or miniseries with a budget of at least $500,000; a new series licensed for original distribution on basic cable with a minimum TV season budget of $1 million. A 25% tax credit is available to television series, without regard to length, that relocate to California or “independent films.” To be considered an independent film certain criteria must be met: the qualified expenditure budget of a production must not exceed $10 million; the production cannot be owned by a publicly-traded company or a publicly-traded company does not own more than 25% of the producing company. Both below-the-line resident and nonresident labor is qualified. The tax credit is not refundable but is transferable for Independent projects and can be carried forward five years. Non-Independent projects may utilize the tax credits against their state tax liability or sales and use taxes; it can be utilized by an affiliated company. There is no per project cap, but the annual cap is $100 million. All program projects require both a screen credit and a CPA audit. Despite a lower percentage incentive, major benefits of filming in California are the deep crew base and available support infrastructure. Applications are accepted on June 1 for the start of the next fiscal year’s funding July 1. Pending credit availability, applications are accepted year round, however with the amount of filming normally done in California, it is best to apply early since the incentive is administered on a first-come, first-served basis. Principal photography must begin no less than 30 days after the date the application is submitted, but no later than 180 days after the date of approval (credit allocation letter date). If filming in San Francisco, California bill #162-09 gives additional refundable rebate of 1.5% on wages and all city costs. The per project cap is $600,000 and the annual cap is $1.8 million with no minimum spend amount. Currently available until June 30, 2012, legislation has been introduced to extend the credit until July 1, 2019. There is a screen credit required but no CPA audit.

Washington State

One of the most appealing aspects of Washington State’s incentive program is that it is a cash rebate as opposed to a tax credit. The unappealing aspect of the program is that it is scheduled to sunset June 20, 2011, if the legislation is not renewed. The Washington State legislature enacted bill SB 6558 in 2006 which created the incentive program and the 30% rebate. There is no per project cap but the annual cap for the program is $3.5 million. There is a minimum spend of $500,000 for features, $300,000 for television series and $150,000 for commercials. Only resident labor is qualified. There is a three-deep crew base statewide and a crew directory is available online atwww.WashingtonProductionIndex.com. Prior to the start of principal photography, the production company must apply for and receive a Funding Letter of Intent and enter into a contract with Washington Filmworks (WF). Principal photography must begin within 120 days after receiving the Letter. Funding is based on the economic opportunity for Washington communities and businesses. Each production that receives WF assistance is required to complete a survey within 60 days after the completion of principal photography. There is a screen credit required but no CPA audit. Enhancements to the Washington Motion Picture Competitiveness Program were introduced through HB 1554 and SB 5539 in January 2011. The bills have been amended in committee but the legislation to maintain the program continues to be considered.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma has a 35% cash rebate for films and non-transferable income tax credits for construction of OK film/music facilities (10% to 25% credit). An additional 2% rebate is available for documented expenditures if a production company spends at least $20,000 for the use of music created by an Oklahoma resident and recorded in Oklahoma or for the cost of recording songs or music in Oklahoma. There is a low annual cap of $5 million, but with the minimum budget for films set at $50,000 with a local spend of over $25,000, the incentive can be appealing to indie filmmakers. Qualifying labor includes below-the-line wages paid to Oklahoma residents and salaries for resident and nonresident above-the-line personnel paid to loan out corporations or limited liability companies registered to do business in Oklahoma. No more than 25% of the total rebated amount can be compromised of qualifying above-the-line salaries. Two crews deep for smaller non-union independent films (under $10,000,000), but because Oklahoma is a right-to-work state, there are limited union crew. Applications must be submitted at least 60 calendar days, but no more than 180 days prior to the start of production and all documents must be submitted no more than 90 days after the payment of all Oklahoma expenditures. The sunset date is Dec. 31, 2014. Rebates will be paid out immediately after all requirements have been met with no fiscal year delay. Oklahoma also offers a point-of-purchase (POP) sales tax exemption for sales of tangible property or services to a production company for use in an eligible production. However, the production company is not eligible to receive both the rebate payment and an exemption from sales tax.

 

Posted: 5/2/2011 - 0 comment(s) [ Comment ] - 0 trackback(s) [ Trackback ] - 0 Likes
Category: Creative

How Teachers Can Save Our Kids

 

Josh Linkner's Blog   

 

Josh Linkner  According to researchers, creativity among kids has sharply declined over the last 15 years.  Instead of rising to meet the challenges of the day, our outdated and bureaucratic school systems are busy "teaching to the test."  Instead of "No Child Left Behind", they are all being left behind and are ill-prepared to succeed in the new era of business...and life.

 

Today, we live in a world of dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and ruthless competition.  We can no longer rely on the models of the past in order to win.  Today, we need an entirely new approach.  Unfortunately, the rigid and formulaic educational system is robbing the next generation of their competitive edge.

 

So what can we do about it?  Most of the problem lives in the system, not in the passionate teachers who desperately want to develop hungry minds.  In fact, we should honor and celebrate teachers, as there isn't a more noble profession.  Even within the stifling factory system, teachers can break free and liberate the minds of their pupils.  These concepts are top priority, and can be embraced immediately:

 

1.       Teach creative problem solving over rote memorization.  How to reach an answer is far more important than making the right choice on a standardized test and then forgetting the concept the next day.

 

2.       Teach kids to challenge assumptions instead of accepting things "as is."  Success is no longer about following an operating manual.  It is about imagining the possibilities and real-time innovation.

 

3.       Teach that mistakes are not evil, and should not be feared.  Make sure kids learn that mistakes aren't fatal - they're simply the portals of discovery.

 

4.       Drive diversity of thought over conformity.  World progress occurs by challenging conventional wisdom and approaching problems with fresh perspective.  Following the herd is a surefire path to mediocrity.

 

5.       Forster imagination and curiosity.  No longer optional, creativity has become the currency of success for us all.  This applies to CEO's and soccer-moms.  Musicians and military leaders.  Engineers and educators.  

 

Developing the Creative Class mindset will allow kids to win in the future instead of falling victim to a broken system.  If we don't make the philosophical shift to teach critical thinking instead of rule-following memorization, our very status as an economic superpower will soon be in jeopardy.

 

While we're at it, why stop with kids?  Funny enough, these are the same principles needed for any organization to thrive.  Let's learn from the deficit facing our children.  It's time to empower our teams, colleagues and ourselves with the same mission-critical ingredients for success.

 

In the words of Charles Barkley, "Anything less would be uncivilized."

 

The statistics are alarming.  According to researchers, creativity among kids has sharply declined over the last 15 years.  Instead of rising to meet the challenges of the day, our outdated and bureaucratic school systems are busy "teaching to the test."  Instead of "No Child Left Behind", they are all being left behind and are ill-prepared to succeed in the new era of business...and life.

 

Today, we live in a world of dizzying speed, exponential complexity, and ruthless competition.  We can no longer rely on the models of the past in order to win.  Today, we need an entirely new approach.  Unfortunately, the rigid and formulaic educational system is robbing the next generation of their competitive edge.

 

So what can we do about it?  Most of the problem lives in the system, not in the passionate teachers who desperately want to develop hungry minds.  In fact, we should honor and celebrate teachers, as there isn't a more noble profession.  Even within the stifling factory system, teachers can break free and liberate the minds of their pupils.  These concepts are top priority, and can be embraced immediately:

 

1.       Teach creative problem solving over rote memorization.  How to reach an answer is far more important than making the right choice on a standardized test and then forgetting the concept the next day.

 

2.       Teach kids to challenge assumptions instead of accepting things "as is."  Success is no longer about following an operating manual.  It is about imagining the possibilities and real-time innovation.

 

3.       Teach that mistakes are not evil, and should not be feared.  Make sure kids learn that mistakes aren't fatal - they're simply the portals of discovery.

 

4.       Drive diversity of thought over conformity.  World progress occurs by challenging conventional wisdom and approaching problems with fresh perspective.  Following the herd is a surefire path to mediocrity.

 

5.       Forster imagination and curiosity.  No longer optional, creativity has become the currency of success for us all.  This applies to CEO's and soccer-moms.  Musicians and military leaders.  Engineers and educators.  

 

Developing the Creative Class mindset will allow kids to win in the future instead of falling victim to a broken system.  If we don't make the philosophical shift to teach critical thinking instead of rule-following memorization, our very status as an economic superpower will soon be in jeopardy.

 

While we're at it, why stop with kids?  Funny enough, these are the same principles needed for any organization to thrive.  Let's learn from the deficit facing our children.  It's time to empower our teams, colleagues and ourselves with the same mission-critical ingredients for success.

 

In the words of Charles Barkley, "Anything less would be uncivilized."