Adam Rogers Discusses His Imminent Debut Release and More
AAJ: I always try to get folks to weigh in on the record industry thing versus the indie thing. First off, what do you think of these newer bands, particularly the jazzier bands in the jamband genre, that take it from the touring aspect on up rather than the record releasing aspect on up. Do you think that's a good strategy?
AR: Yeah I do, if you have the wherewithal and the energy to go out and tour that much. Then you're dealing with playing your music for people who like it or don't. If they do, you're developing a grassroots following of fans without having to go through a record label. It puts you in a better position as a business person because record companies want people who already have a following. They don't have to figure out how to find them one.
AAJ: It would be difficult for someone who has an established sideman career to make that change.
AR: Yeah, it would take a certain amount of dedication to doing that and it's a grueling lifestyle that can be difficult One has to decide that for oneself. But I like to see that because I like to see artists who are making it around the industry, and aren't depending on labels and the machinations of big industry to achieve success.
AAJ: But it seems like when they get big enough they just let the industry suck 'em right back in.
AR: There are people who I know who don't care about a label, because if you know you can sell records at shows on the internet or out of your van, and a label isn't treating you right, you can always go back to doing it the way you were. If there are people out there looking for your records and you can find a way to get 'em to those people directly, then you have much more juice in your corner. I think it's great that stuff is getting out there.
AAJ: What about the big industry aspect?
AR: I think that the record industry now, like other industries, has become so ensconced in the corporate world it has become less encouraging of creative development than it was at one point. To some extent, by virtue of the fact that very small companies are owned by an ever-growing series of larger companies, it has made record companies more concerned with the bottom line than they were 30 years ago. Look at the difference between'and it's a different era completely' but the difference between an Impulse and a Blue Note then and even the 70's with like, a CTI, or even the majors...they were not huge corporations. Any record label you have now is a subsidiary...like Verve is owned by Universal which is owned by Vivendi, a huge French conglomerate. Every parent corporation is involved to some extent with the smaller corporations that it owns and they're not necessarily interested in developing creative music.. they're interested in selling units. That's something that's colored the industry.
AAJ: Well put!
AR: I mean, the record industry was created by record industry people. It wasn't built by musicians to give musicians money and a lot of creative space. There have been people throughout the history of the record industry, like Alfred Lion of Blue Note, or a Bob Thiele of Impulse who, to some extent, were interested in recording really fantastic music'the Orrin Keepnews or Creed Taylor or Dr George Butler...I don't know what it was like to work with these guys.
For example, my dad was television director in Hollywood for 15 years. When he went to Hollywood he directed Mary Tyler Moore, and Rhoda, and Phyllis. And they were all, if you remember, produced by MTM, Mary Tyler Moore Enterprises It was 'what's the word? CBS was not involved with those shows nearly as much as Mary Tyler Moore and Grant Tinker were. They didn't have corporate intervention. My father would tell me about this, you know, and it was fantastic. They would go and they would do the script rewrites and there weren't corporate guys coming to deal with it...it was her and her husband, who were very funny people, so the shows were hysterical. When my dad went to work for NBC, the corporation was more involved. He said it took a lot of the creativity and the fun out of it and the shows weren't necessarily as successful and to me, they weren't as funny. When corporations get involved in the creative aspect, it's certainly not encouraging of creativity and artistic development and it's not as encouraging of record sales either. I think one of the problems in big record labels is that you have a relatively small number of people deciding what music will be promoted and distributed to a great many people. Inevitably, you're dealing with this small group of people's personal taste and projection of what people will be able to tolerate, be enthusiastic about, and at the end of the day, buy. What happens is because of a huge label you have a small group saying this music is OK, and we're going to sell it to these millions of people. Well, maybe these millions of people might like all kinds of music if you fed it to them in a certain way. I'm not saying people are going to run to the stores and buy Schoenberg in the same way they'd buy Britney Spears, but there's a lot of second guessing that goes on and I think it sells people short. I don't think that there is as much of a population of real music enthusiasts who are working in the record industry as there once were.