“I don’t tell artists what they want to hear, I tell them what I know to be true.”
Allen Kovac – Manager
By the end of the Eighties and the early Nineties, Motley Crue was an arena band. By the beginning of the two thousands, the arena crowds of the Eighties and early Nineties had withered down to the loyalist crowds of a club/theatre act. The change of musical climate didn’t help matters. The change of lead singers during this period also didn’t help matters. The polarizing “Generation Swine” album and the B grade “New Tattoo” didn’t help matters. Cancelled tours and shows also didn’t help matters. As a fan, you had a sense that the glory days of the past were over.
But little did the fans know that in 1994, Nikki Sixx cleaned out the old management team and in comes Allen Kovac.
“At the time, they were very dysfunctional. I said (to them) I wasn’t going to take them on unless they had an operating agreement that allowed us to make decisions in a more businesslike way, with shareholders meetings and board of directors meetings. There’s still plenty of chaos in this band, but because of the operating structure, they succeed.”
Nikki Sixx was given a tie-breaking vote. From then on, Motley Crue was reborn and the decisions made during those years came to fruition in 2003, when a newly reformed Motley Crue started to play sold out shows around the world. It’s important to note that two very important events also happened during this 9 year period.
- In 1998, Motley Crue got control of their recorded masters and publishing. This was unprecedented in the recording business as all the income the record labels derive is from exploiting the recorded masters, however Motley Crue pulled it off and a few years ago so did Metallica.
- In 2001, “The Dirt” brought a worded element to the visual and audio shenanigans that is Motley Crue.
“Without owning their own masters and publishing, I don’t know if there would have been a Mötley Crüe in the lean years. It’s part of having multiple sources of income for your business, not just one.”
“That book became a tent post. We marketed it like a record and we dropped a greatest hits album with it. Some people said, ‘This book could be career suicide for you,’ but it has connected with so many people.”
In 2005, after 25 years of Motley Crue, Nikki Sixx wanted to do other things.
“We had to face reality. I told Nikki the truth: out of all of Motley, you’re the least known. The guitar player [Mick Mars] was in all the guitar magazines, the drummer [Tommy Lee] had been a celebrity for decades and the singer [Vince Neil] is the front man. We had to think creatively to get over that barrier.”
To get over the barrier, Kovac encouraged the book and music release of a journal that Sixx kept from 1987. “The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star” was released in 2007. The rise of Nikki was beginning. Kovacs then pitched the idea of a radio station on iHeart Radio. Sixx Sense arrived in 2010.
“Nikki now makes more money from his radio show than he does in Motley Crue.”
The radio franchise gets half of the generated ad revenue.
And guess what Sixx AM are doing next?
Yep, that’s right, they are releasing a double album in 2016, months apart.
Allen Kovac tested the waters of a double release with Five Finger Death Punch a few years back to great success. In 2013, Kovac pushed to the band to record 2 albums worth of material and release them only months apart. Then he put them on the road supporting Avenged Sevenfold, which saw less money in appearance fees but more money in from merch sales. In 2015, “Got Your Six” was one of the biggest selling metal/rock albums for the year.
“I met with Jeff [Kwatinetz, FFDP’s label boss and former manager] and said, look, I can make Five Finger a global arena band, but there’s no way to do it if the label deal keeps taking merch and touring income so aggressively. Eventually, he agreed; it became a true partnership.”
People can jump up and down about streaming payouts or piracy.
Others just move on to other revenue streams. They adapt.
In music it’s always been about the art (song writing/music) first and money and commerce is a by-product of the song writing.
When the music business was controlled by the record labels, it was booming because of the income derived from CD sales and block buster albums. So the advances/budgets were huge and people were conditioned to believe that it was all golden brick roads forever.
The truth is, music is still booming. There is more money in music right now than there has ever been. However the labels don’t control the distribution. There are other key players. Instead of the brick and mortar record shops, we have online music shops. Instead of ownership we have access.
Tell me how many anti-piracy laws have been passed over the last 50 years and then tell me how many of those laws have had an effect on piracy. Think back all the way back to when cassettes came out.
In my view, the legacy players have no desire to stop piracy. It is an excuse they use to take back control of the distribution of music. The record labels want it be like the old way, where the only way to create quality music required expensive studios and the only way to be heard was to sign a recording contract stacked in the record labels favour. So what is an artist to do where exploitation is the name of the game when it comes to music?
Arm yourselves with information. Don’t buy in to every headline that reads “Piracy decimated the music business”, “Spotify decimated the music business” and so on. Read more and read far and wide. Google is at your fingertips.
If you start to make money, surround yourself with people who challenge you and tell you the truth. And be prepared to adjust your vision time and time again and be prepared to fail as well because if failure is not an option, then neither is success. I think Seth Godin said that once. Because in the band that created “Dr Feelgood” also created “Generation Swine”.