Interview w/Wendy Day
By: Justin Rizzio
Edited by: Tom Williams
First off I just wanna say that Wendy Day is good people in my book. Just when I thought this interview might never happen, she hits me up with a phone call and then follow up emails. Very professional. That's how she is. Wendy has worked behind the scenes with some of the biggest names in hip hop, so this interview is for artists as much as it is for the fans. Wendy knows all the ins and outs of the music business and took the time to share some of her experience with us. So you should take the time to read it ... you might actually learn something.215:
You've done a lot over the years as far as securing deals & managing artists, but what are you currently doing?Wendy Day:
Ya know, 19 years have passed, and I'm STILL doing the same things: pulling artists out of bad deals, educating artists about how the industry works and what's fair and acceptable, setting up labels for folks with proper funding, and negotiating deals for artists. The deals are different, and instead of just teaching in person, I’m also teaching over the web—but basically, same stuff; different day. I just finished my book “The Knowledge To Succeed,” and it teaches artists how to put out their own music and make money independently. There’s an educational website that will be attached to it and I’m putting together a large music conference in Atlanta this Fall.215
: I'm going to give you 2 scenarios, and you fill in the rest according to your knowledge of the music industry:Scenario 1
- A rapper has been performing locally for about 10 years & still hasn't made it out of his own city. Your advice to that rapper would be?Wendy Day:
Honestly? Get a job. Not everyone is meant to be a rapper. Plus, this game already has so many older 30+ year old rappers in it that are having trouble eating….if you hit 30 and you’re still not supporting yourself with your artform, it’s time to try another avenue. This industry needs managers, marketers, web designers, film makers, writers, etc. I know that’s not a popular answer, but sometimes you have to accept the bold truth. Think about how many people have heard you rap in ten years and you aren’t selling CDs on your own? No merchandise? No shows?
Can’t support yourself or your family?
Nah, it’s a wrap, homie. I love you enough to tell you.Scenario 2
- A rapper sells records, goes on tour, but still goes home to his day job. Your advice to that rapper would be?Wendy Day
: Keep it up, love! You’re doing all the right things. Keep expanding your fan base and keep interacting with your fans one by one. Make sure you maximize that tour by selling t-shirts and CDs, and collect every email address from every fan. Build your data base and market directly to your fans. Have an undeniable web presence!! Treat your fans with respect and they will love you forever! Maybe do a sponsorship deal or endorsement deal with a company interested in also reaching your fans. But regardless, maximize your potential. Grow it fan by fan.215:
In your opinion, what's the best way for an artist to market themselves in today's industry?Wendy Day:
Have great music. Have great commercially viable music that fans are willing to support and then get that music out to the fans by any means necessary. Perform everywhere (for free at first), build relationships with DJs and street teams and your local industry. Send out press releases to the media, blogs and websites til you can afford a publicist and then let them do it.
Tour and work the streets with your music within a 5 hour driving radius from home. Build that regional buzz.
Have an internet presence that’s unavoidable. Grind like your life depended on it, because it does. The minute you relax, there are 100 rappers coming to fill your slot. The industry is waaaay oversaturated. You need to stand out from everyone else. And it’s harder now than ever.215:
What's your opinion on "360 deals"?Wendy Day:
I hate them, but they are a reality of the current state of the music industry. I wrote a killer article that explains what they are and why it is horrendous for artists to give up a percentage of all of their income streams in entertainment.Here’s the article:http://wendyday.tumblr.com/post/3552780343/360-deals-are-todays-rec...
It’s rare to see a deal today offered that is not a 360 Deal. But I have to say that I believe it’s easier to find an investor (to put out your own record) than it is to find a record deal. Fuck a 360 Deal!215:
A lot of independent artists out there are just as talented & marketable as some of these mainstream artists. What do you think is the reason they're never able to cross over?Wendy Day:
Most don’t understand what drives the industry or how it operates. For example, it’s not about talent. It’s NEVER been about talent. It’s about finding an artist that the masses will like and who will buy his or her music. Most artists make music for themselves or what THEY like. Very few have learned that this is a business, and the minute you start SELLING music, it becomes about the sales of that music. Especially if someone else is putting up money to market and promote it. Ok It’s the music B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S! Not the music artform, or the music museum, or the music hobby. The goal for any label is to make as much money as possible while spending as little as possible to do so.215:
You worked with Ras Kass in the past. What do you think the biggest downfall of his career has been?Wendy Day:
Ras is my favorite lyricist. I think in the past he’s been too deep and too intricate in his rhymes, words, and schemes for most people. I’m fortunate that he’s my friend. When I hear him say something I don’t understand, I can call him and ask him what he meant. Most people can’t do that. Plus, I don’t think most people would—people don’t like to feel stupid.215:
Looking back, what would you say your proudest accomplishment in the music business has been?Wendy Day:
Changing the contracts to be more fair to the artists in the 1990s, and then teaching artists the indie route in the 2000s when the internet leveled the playing field.215:
Ever assist in deals for rappers that you knew were just awful?Wendy Day:
Absolutely. For me, the goal wasn’t about the artform. This is a BUSINESS. For me it has always been about the business and getting fair, ownership deals for artists. Besides who’s to say who’s awful? It’s all just our own opinion. My nephew told me the other day that Justin Bieber is awful. But The Biebs has sold more music than anyone in recent time, so is he REALLY awful if so many people like and support him? No, we all have our own opinion. And we vote with our dollars by purchasing who we like. I would NEVER force my opinions on others as to who to support and who’s awful. My goal is to have fair deals and artists who own their masters and control their artform. Fuck what I think is good or bad.215:
A lot of rappers in Philly say that this is a tough city to gain exposure. Your thoughts on that?Wendy Day:
Philly has always been tough. It has always lived in the shadow of NY. I’m from Philly. I had to move to NY in 1987 to get out of the shadow. Here we are almost 25 years later and it’s still hard to get on in Philly. But ditto for Detroit, St Louis, NC, SC, Iowa, OH….see my point?
It’s hard everywhere. If you build a regional buzz, you will get noticed….no matter where you are from. Some places are just harder than others. It’s not like the labels say “oh, anyplace but Philly” ... it’s that no one from Philly really kicked in the doors and took this bitch over.215:
I'm gonna name some rappers or people in the music industry & you give me the first thing that comes to mind-
-Ras Kass: dope lyricist
-Dante Ross: awesome finder of talent
-Baby from Cash Money: great marketer who needs to learn to pay his artists
-Waka Flocka: huge buzz in Atlanta and tremendous energy
-Odd Future: huge national buzz, standing out by walking their own path215:
Last words?Wendy Day:
Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. Do the research. Learn how the industry works and who the players are. Work hard and your dreams really can come true. I’m living proof of that. To reach me, send me a tweet. I’m @RapCoalition. I’ll talk to anyone and everyone.