The Apple Orchard
The tour went exceeding well. Tony appeared on several radio stations, plugging his music, did a few local television shows and he did something else that showed a special side of Tony. In every city we went to, Tony visited the children's hospital with his guitar and played music for them. He had sing-a-longs, took requests and his favorite was to take one of the kids name and make up a song about them. I think Tony became even more popular as a result of doing this. The odd thing, Tony never told anyone. We'd show up at a hospital during visiting hours and he would be the blue minstrel.
When the tour was over, Tony went back to school, continued to utilize the school's recording studio and played every Friday night. The agents want him to make albums where Tony prefer single side disc. Eventually the agents convinced Tony to make an album and gave him songs to sing. These songs were not the ones that Tony had written. I had our lawyer look over Tony's contract and by contract he was obligated to produce two albums each year. The contract was to expire upon Tony's graduation.
"Tony, your agent will begin to pressure you to sign another contract before your current contract is up. Don't sign anything till I tell you its ok. Under the provisions of the current contract you are obligated to make two albums a year and they have the right to select the music. I'll make sure that any new contract will not contain any requirements and that you have sole choice of music. They might not like it and in fact they won't like it, but we have an ace up our sleeve, the music department's recording studio. In fact we could build our own and the public will like you just as much. From now on you sign nothing without my approval."
"They're not going to like that."
"So let them yell at me. In fact I'll get the lawyer to draw up a contract between you and me that basically prohibit you from signing any contract without my approval."
"They won't like that."
"Just tell them I'm your personal manager. They are familiar with the term in fact they have assigned one to you right now under the pretense of working for you when in reality he's working for the recording company. If all else fails, we have the shack and Annie's café. We won't starve."
Tony had just completed his second year; the music department put him on a fast track to finish all of his major requirements even giving him credit for the music he composed and the tour. Now Tony had to focus on his electives. When he changed majors, he classified some of his previous major requirements as electives. The bottom line, Tony had 1 ½ years to go to graduate.
The pressure to perform according to the contract was mounting. But Tony just simply told them to talk to me. That they didn't like. Tony did make two albums that year. Although they picked the music, he was able to slip in a few songs of his own. The following year, they wanted him to do another tour. I told them that it wasn't covered in his contract and he had decided to focus on working on his degree. Of course they didn't like that but I showed him there was no contractual obligation to go on tour. His personal manager assigned to him by the recording studio, tried to get him to agree, he'd tell him to see me. It took a month before they got the message, if you want Tony to do anything, better talk to me.
Tony continued with his studies. Thanksgiving we spent on the farm and enjoyed the solitude of our shack. Over the Christmas break, Tony did go on a tour, but not what the agent and recording company wanted, we toured children's hospitals sometimes twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Although we never advertise, I'd call one day ahead and get permission from the hospital administration to perform for 1 to 2 hours. I wanted this not to be a publicity stunt. But even as I tried to keep it low key, the papers found out after we left a hospital, then they started to stake out hospitals trying to find which ones we had on our itinerary. We came close a few times but I'd walk in with a guitar and they would chase me while Tony snuck in. When they realized I wasn't Tony, they would leave.
The result of spending our Christmas holiday with these children paid off in ways that we had never envisioned. The hospitals sent Tony a plaque made by the children thanking him. Of course eventually the word got out and the papers began trying to get a story from him. Tony was delighted with the plaques and I had to take a picture of him holding the plaque to send back to the hospital. The newspapers, Tony left word to contact me.
About 6 months before Tony would graduate; the contracts and the pressure to sign began. Tony just told them to send the contracts to me. I think this irked them to no end. They would bombard Tony with all kind of promises but somehow these promises never showed up in the contract. The other part of the contract I didn't like was the cut the recording studio received plus the agent's fee. I made an appointment with a law firm that specialized in representing artists. I paid dearly for the information I wanted but in the long run, it saved a lot of problems down the line.
Armed with this information, I sat down with Tony's current agent and reviewed his contract. The first thing I did was cut his percentage from 20 percent to 10 percents, the second thing I did was add a requirement that he had to guarantee a certain income from appearances, which had to be approved by me and that I had the authority to overrule and provision of the contract that wasn't in Tony's best interest. The result of that discussion was a withdrawal of the agent's contract. The word soon got out to the other agents. Their next ploy was to convince Tony that they had his best interest and I was preventing them from making Tony a star. That didn't work for obvious reasons. No one could turn Tony against me.
Tony and I took a long vacation, thanks to dad holding done the fort. Although I told Tony it would be a vacation, I had an ulterior purpose. I packed several discs and had some sent to the various hotels I had booked for our vacation. My plan was simple. The discs I had contained only one song, I'd sit at a sidewalk café and play the disc. If someone would ask, I'd give them the disc. It was a simple plan and it worked. We were in Paris and Tony and I were sitting at one of the many sidewalk cafes having lunch. I saw a few kids walking toward us, I pushed play on the small disc player I had. As they came by, one of the girls stopped and asked, "Who was that singing?" I told her that was one of the most upcoming singers from America.
Now by this time, a crowd started to gather around. "Would you like to have this disk?"
"Yes, will you give it to me?"
"Sure here," as I took the disc out of the player and gave it to her.
She thanked me and her group of friends started to ask her to play it. Of course on the disc were Tony's name and the picture of the Blue Minstrel. All through France, Germany and England the same thing happened, the kids liked the music and wanted to know where they could buy it. Before I left a city or country, I would send one of the discs to the radio stations.
With such luck, I extended our trip to include Spain, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Scotland and Ireland. By the time our vacation was over, the requests for more information was flooding the music school at the university. Tony went and picked up the letters and my job, as I was told, was to answer each letter.
"I'll answer each letter but you need to get to work as well. I need single discs, I think you can make a master and then make copies from that, right?"
Tony said yes that would not be a problem. "Good start making them, I'm going to send a disc with each response and them I'm going to contact some outlets and ask for an order. I'll also include in each reply the name of a distributor in their country. Let's see what happens."
As the mail began to pile up, I realize that this wasn't going to be a cheap plan but the payoff was going to be huge. Tony went to school and started to make the copies. He would come home with a few hundred. "I think you'll need more than this."
"That took me almost 8 hours to make those. The machine is slow."
"Why don't you hire one of the music majors to do that for you? You could pay them for each disc they make."
The next day, Tony brought back 200 hundred discs. "I've hired two students to make the discs. Will see how many I bring tomorrow."
"You should test them to be sure they are ok before I send them out."
"We do test them, one student makes the disc and the other plays it in five distinct areas. It's automatic, all one needs to do is to place the disc in the machine and then remove it."
"Good tomorrow morning we'll take these to the post office and mail them."
Tony picked up one of the mailers, "What is this Blue Minstrel Inc.?"
"That's name of our company. I have included in each package a brochure from your US tour and the name and address of our company. They do need a way to contact us. I also included a few newspaper clips."
"I'm glad you're my personal agent."
"Well we can't sit back on our haunches, so I have scheduled you to be interviewed on several radio shows and two national television shows."
"That's great. You'll be there with me, right?"
"I've told you, turn around and there I'll be."
Our first big break came from London, a gentleman who booked acts into one of the prestigious music halls wanted to know if we would be interested in doing a concert. I wrote back indicating we would be interested, please send a contract for our review.
The contract arrived 2 weeks later. The terms were simple; we'd be guaranteed $5000 dollars plus expenses for a 2 hour show with a provision that we'd be paid 500 dollars for 15 minute intervals over the 2 hours. If there is a demand for a second concert, we'd be paid 6000 dollars with the same proviso, a third concert we'd be paid 10,000 and no provisos for overtime.
There was a note, for subsequent concerts in Great Britain; we would earn the money from the ticket sales, minus expenses incurred by the theater and a 20 percent commission based on ticket sales. He would handle the bookings, advertisement, ticket sales and lodging.
Tony and I had a long discussion about the first proposal. "Tony you need to check with your band. How much would you pay the band, 40 percent of whatever you earn? How many are in your band?"
"I have a drummer, key board, bass guitar and a bass fiddle."
"So if you get 5000 then you would need to split 2000 among the four which would be 500 a piece plus expenses for the first night. That would leave you with 3000. The overtime of 500, what did you have in mind for that?"
"Even split, 100 each. I'll have to sell them on the bigger picture."
"Check with them and then get back to me so I can answer this guy. Don't forget to mail these."
"There's a name for what this guy wants to do, what is it?"
"I think it's called an impresario. It comes from an Italian word meaning to impress. They normally do what this guy does."
Another week and the mail kept coming. I called a distributor telling them that I'm getting these letters from people in their city asking for this music disc. We agreed I'd send 400 on consignment and then we'll monitor sales. When I called a distributor in London, I mentioned that we're considering doing a concert there. The result was another 400 on consignment. Along with the a sample disc was a form asking them to sign which stated the selling price and a proposed distribution costs as a percentage of the selling price.
Traveling with Tony on his US tour, I learned a lot about this business. I was seen as a love interest and not someone who would challenge their position. I took the opportunity to ask a lot of questions, I noted the answered in a note book I always kept with me.
"I mailed those mailers; it costs a lot of money."
"Let me have the receipt, this is a business expense and is tax deductible. I need 800 discs to send to distributors. What did the band say?"
"They're all for it."
"That's great news. I'll send a disc to that guy who wants to book us into London with some comments."
"My old agent called and I think he was a little upset when I told him I had a London booking."
"He's probably regretting how he tried to take advantage of you."
"That's ok I think your doing a great job and the money he would've had is staying in house. I'm looking forward to the London trip. Our vacation was great; I never thought I'd travel to Europe."
"Europe today and Japan tomorrow."
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