Friday, October 21, 2011

Artie Wayne vs. the music industry: Can a nice guy finish first?

Reading the Artie Wayne biography, ‘I Did it for a Song,’ readers are moved, nay compelled, to ask themselves two basic questions.

Question 1: Can nice guys finish first in business? Answer: Which business? Response: The Music business.

Question 2: Which nice guy? Answer: Artie Wayne. Response: The answer is up to you, the reader to decide.

Do you know Artie Wayne? If you love rock and roll music, chances are good you’ve heard his name at some point in the last 50 years. And it could be for a number of reasons. Among other things, Wayne is a singer, songwriter, demo guy, promoter, producer, record label executive, nurturer of creativity, messenger of great ideas, and more. He’s more than a Renaissance guy. He’s a futurist, in the best sense of the word.

Most importantly, Wayne’s best skill is having been, and still being ‘the man in the middle’ of some of the best music ever to go from ‘how about this?’ to ‘vinyl is final’ stages. And as Wayne says, ‘he did it for a song.’

Poignantly, that is the exact title of his recently released autobiography, unquestionably one of the best and fastest fun reads of 2011. Have you read ‘I Did it for a Song’ yet? Perhaps you have, if you belong to an elite group of music lovers, who lives and breathes music so much that you haunt vintage record stores and multiple garage sales for that one missing 45 or 33 to define your collection.

Or, you have read it if you’re one of those types to check in often on blogs such as ‘The Pop Culture Addict,’ ‘Forgotten Hits,’ or even ‘Artie Wayne on the Web.’ If so, then you probably scout out treasures on eBay, you have alerts set to find a copy of a song or album that means the world to you. We know you.

You’re also the music lover who reads liner notes and knows the name of the recording studio, the recording engineer, arranger, composer, publisher and who played bass on those Billboard chart hits across the country for the past 50 years, a period in which the genre of rock and roll rose, soared, and crested into the genre we now enjoy as “classic rock music.”

In a Perfect World

In a perfect world, the music industry is an assortment of vibrant personalities, creative talents, unique business and music skills and opportunities to bring all these factors together. When combined, bright people of like minds and commensurate talents find each other, join forces and create great musical works.

Creating a music product that is known and appreciated from Middletown, CT to San Jacinto, CA is usually done for the sheer joy of creation. That’s in a perfect world. But inevitably external variables creep into the equation, introducing imperfections and exceptions, advance sales, chart positions, units moved, power rotations, remainders, returns, pre-orders, gold and platinum certification, the Grammy Awards and who will be nominated for the controversial, dubious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

So, who is Artie Wayne? He’s a man who lives in that perfect world, believes in the basic goodness of others, and has trusted more than a few people to do the right thing by him, particularly when they said that they would in the first place. During his career, within the upper echelon of the music business, he’s found some of the faith and trust he’s placed in others to be well worth his time.

Others have disappointed him in large measure, but he doesn’t absorb the negative energy of their misdeeds. Instead, he figures it’s just a matter of time before they do right by him. A do-right man, as the song goes.

Artie actually entered this world as Wayne Kent, a great name on two levels. One, it’s strong, to the point, and sounds like a guy who’d grow up to be an executive, doesn’t it? Two, it’s gently amusing that both names comprise portions of the alter egos of two cartoon heroes whom people are always counting on to rescue them and in fact, save the world.

Batman, as you know, was Gotham City millionaire Bruce Wayne by day; and Superman, of course, was mild-mannered reporter Clark Kent, he of the Daily Planet. Put them together and you have Wayne Kent. I doubt he ever once thought about that, yet the longer you visit with Artie Wayne, and the more you learn of his amazing abilities to make others’ dreams come true, as he introduces the world to yet undiscovered talents, the more likely you are to search him for a cape and a mask.

Just Call Him Artie

The name switch came from his being bright enough to use his real name, Wayne Kent, for songs he’d written for ASCAP publishing. His pseudonym for BMI songs was Art Wayne. It was not all that unusual back in the day to have a show biz stage name if you didn’t like the name your parents gave you. But he was savvy enough, early on, to know that he could be in both publishing organizations with a little panache and an extra non de plume. His friend and colleague, Ed Silvers, began calling him ‘Artie,’ and hence, ‘Artie Wayne’ became the bon vivant of the music business. He has not let go of the spotlight yet. He owns it. It belongs to him. That, and a few other things are due him.

How and where he’d get into the music business was never a worry. Artie seemed to have a sixth sense and proclivity for being in the right place at the right time. As a young songwriter working on future hits with a great friend, Ben Raleigh, Artie’s natural confidence and magnetic personality took them far up the ranks in short measure, all because of a positive attitude he still has to this very day. It started with Bo Diddley and Bobby Darin.

Going into Bo Diddley’s backstage dressing room before his appearance on Alan Freed’s TV show, ‘The Big Beat,’ Artie was just hoping for an autograph. Instead, Bo showed him how to get his famous ‘Hey, Bo Diddley’ riff, even tuning Artie’s guitar to an open E-chord for him. The lesson ended when (get this) Jimmy Clanton, Jackie Wilson, and Bobby Darin come through the door, interrupting the lesson to play Diddley a test pressing of Bobby’s song, ‘Dream Lover.’

Incredible Breaks, Breaking Records

Wayne and Darin became good friends, with much in common as two Bronx boys who loved music. Darin encouraged Artie in his songwriting and is responsible for not only starting Artie’s career as a songwriter, he kept it from ending. Artie shared with Darin his excitement, as he was about to sign a management contract with Alan Freed. Darin knew something that Artie (and most of the rest of America) didn’t, that Freed’s house of cards was soon about to come down with the revelation of the payola scam. Darin suggested to Artie that he go see a publishing friend of his who was officing at 1650 Broadway.

What an incredible break that was. Turned out the company was Aldon Music, and the friend was Don Kirshner. And thus began Wayne’s career. His book of 70 chapters is chock full of star-studded stories like this but the funny thing is, Artie doesn’t think of himself as a star and perhaps he’s not. He’s actually a starmaker. He perceives himself to be a regular guy, born under a lucky star, and never does seem to be affected by all the glitz and glamour that were once a part of his daily life.

Without giving the whole story away, Artie’s career went from songwriter/singer, to demo man, to producer, to (with partner Kelli Ross) running Quincy Jones’ New York publishing companies. And he didn’t stop there. At the pinnacle of his career with Warner Brothers Music, his title was General Professional Manager, and Director of Creative Services.

He ran the ‘New York, Nashville and L.A. offices out of Hollywood,’ and represented the ‘songs of Badfinger, Jackson Browne, Bob Dylan, the Faces, 5th Dimension, the Kinks, George Clinton, Gordon Lightfoot, Mahavishnu Orchestra, John McLaughlin, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Graham Nash, Randy Newman, J.D.Souther, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian, Sly and the Family Stone, Carly Simon, Jimmy Webb, Allan Toussaint, Donny Hathaway, Neil Young, Glenn Frey, Don Henley, and Dick and Don Addrisi.’ He was the chief ringleader of a group of brash boys of bravado, ‘The Warner Raiders’, seven stalwart songpluggers whose mission was to know every single song in their catalog and find artists and producers to record them. Their successes were legendary.

Wayne was also known as performer Shadow Mann, and he is a songwriter who co-wrote ‘Midnight Mary’ with friend and songwriter, Ben Raleigh and wrote ‘3000 Miles’ recorded by Brian Hyland, just to name a few. Wayne recorded on 'Tomorrow Records and worked on Morris Levy’s Roulette Records, the home of music of Tommy James and the Shondells. Now, you know who Artie Wayne is. Right?

You Don’t Know Artie Wayne at All

Artie Wayne is not some paragraph on a long-ago resume of one whose life was lived on the backs, shoulders, or coattails of a bunch of rockers. Not by a long shot. Artie is one of those guys who made magic happen.

By being in the right place at the right time, he was able to draw upon a huge catalog of songs he managed, controlled, or knew a guy who did, and make certain that the right producer, the right singer, the right instrumentalist, and the right industry bigwig heard it all and, more importantly, bought it and signed on the dotted line for it. Future security for virtually everyone but Artie himself.

It’s not much of a stretch to think that he truly believed, in his heart of hearts, that if he took care of the business, the business would take care of him. So far, it hasn’t always worked out that way. But here’s Artie Wayne, ever the optimist, certain that he can get those in charge to see the light and make things right. That remains to be seen, but after talking for an hour with Wayne, you are convinced that he’s right.

Sharing Wayne’s story is best left to him to tell. The untold story is here, and in it is the question: ‘Does the Music Industry really take care of its own?’ Artie was so busy doing deals for other people that he failed to write himself into contracts where he could have. Innocently or naively, you be the judge, he was counting on people to remember him ‘later,’ yet only a handful of people did.

Among those who he considers great friends today are songwriter Alan O’Day (‘Angie Baby,’ ‘Train of Thought,’ ‘Undercover Angel’) and Allan Rinde (of Cash Box and later Columbia Records), who have remained his lifelong friends and trusted associates. There are others but sadly, some have already passed away.

The Royalty Statement Said ‘What’?

The biggest, most important ‘do right’ question came to light this week when Wayne opened up his royalty statement and was shocked to see that: ‘This last quarter is the first time in my career that I didn’t receive one penny in royalties as a songwriter or publisher. What is even more devastating is the big Michael Jackson payoff I was expecting from having two of my songs in four different posthumous releases fizzled out. Supposedly, only a few thousand units were sold…but I don’t believe it…do you?’

The two songs Wayne co-wrote are ‘Touch the One You Love’ and ‘Little Christmas Tree’ and they’ve been re-released since 2009. You can imagine the skyrocketing numbers of posthumous sales of any recording by Michael Jackson in the past year.

So, as Wayne states, he ‘called to ask for a $5,000 advance,’ and the corporation could expect to recoup that based on Jackson’s longstanding popularity. They didn’t give him the $5,000 but they did give him $2,500. The next period, Wayne said the corporate statement, stemming ultimately from the conglomerate music entity, had not recouped the advance. Hmm. Interesting. So he waited a while and asked for another $2,500 advance. They gave him $1,500. Even more shocking as Wayne read the statement over the phone, he’d been credited with earning $40 in that quarter, and the company wasn’t going to pay out until the sum reached $50.

Let’s do the math. As cowriter Wayne would earn $.02 on each sale/download whatever. Earning $40 means that only 2,000 units were sold that quarter. The $4,000 advanced by the company to Wayne was not charity. It was an expectation of something Wayne contends is the reality, of the elevated status of any new, unreleased, rereleased items in the Michael Jackson catalog. Does that 2,000 units look right, in a quarter that hung in the precipice between the announcement of Jackson’s death and this month’s national news updates of the ongoing criminal trial for Jackson’s death being considered wrongful vs. accidental?

We’ve Already Been Down This Road Once Before

Just like Steve Popovich, the late industry promo genius of Columbia Records, had to do, it seems like Wayne is destined to don his cape and mask one more time and see if he can’t win it for the little guy, the good guy, and the guy by himself. Popovich created a web site that hundreds spent more than a few hours reading a few short years ago. The web URL, inactive today, was, ironically, The industry lost Steve Popovich earlier this year and not only did grateful musicians write their own Internet tributes upon his passing, so, too, did Artie Wayne remember Steve in his ultra popular blog, ‘Artie Wayne on the Web’.

Popovich is another of those names that more insiders than record consumers know. He was the guy, to read what Clive Davis said in his biography years ago, who lived on Tab soda (remember that?) and bags of chips, slept on his couch at Black Rock headquarters in New York, and was on the phone working records 24/7 across the country. He’d be the button puncher with his car radio dial preset every where he went, listening to hear where and when his songs were played.

Good-natured Steve worked records into a frenzy and created buzz, wrote the buzz, kept the buzz going and was a licensed hitmaker. The man turned good little songs into solid gold pieces of history. And he’s gone now. He won his fight with Sony, and now he’s gone. It’s a crying shame but he’s almost forgotten, except by those who remembered where they came from and the names of all the ‘little people’ who he made their path of gold for, all without ever singing a note or playing a piano.

Is Artie Wayne destined to become another Steve Popovich? They have a lot in common: indefatigable, wide-eyed lovers of life, who live, breathe, love, consume any air filled with music. Plus, they were raised by their families to do the right thing. When Popovich won, in the settlement over ‘bookkeeping’ for his sales at his own Cleveland International Records (rereleasing Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell on CD was the centerpiece of the issue), it took all his energy to fight that fight. No one knew publicly what he made off the settlement, and the records were apparently sealed.

For Artie Wayne, it’s déjà vu, all over again. And who knows, his big label conglomerate might surprise everyone, and decide to do the right thing...eventually. Artie Wayne, at age 69, isn’t getting any younger. He still thinks and talks like he’s 25 years old, but you know how long things like this can drag on. And, let’s face it. It’s just not right.

You Decide Whether or Not a Nice Guy Can Finish First

So how can every reader decide whether nice guy Artie Wayne can finish first? The answer is right on your computer. Buy his book. For $9.95 you can get his e-book in any format you want: iPad, Kindle, e-Book, Word doc, it’s there. More than just buying his book, you’re sending him an affirmation that you support his efforts to go back to the mountain one more time to see if corporate conglomerates can rediscover their lost bookkeeping.

If you are a singer, songwriter, entertainer, producer, DJ, blogger, or music lover, even if you haven’t met Artie Wayne, send him your message that he’s not alone. It’s a pretty isolating business when you’re no longer in powerful positions. A lot of the friends who you think will remember you...may not. If you go up against a behemoth, you find out who your real friends are, another hard lesson to accept while you’re fighting a bigger one. The e-book is the best, fastest reading you’d ever hope to enjoy. In his you-are-there style of writing, you really are under the strobe lights, the spot lights, and the stage lights of the best days in the music business ever. They’re gone now. Sadly. Today's big music labels overflow with executives, lawyers, and folks who have gone to Wharton who tell you how many units you need to sell before they’ll sign you. It's taken all the fun out of making music for some.

We don’t any longer have those independent hustlers who moved records out of the backs of their cars. We don’t have the guy who will give you $20 cash because he knows you haven’t had a hot meal in a week while you try to get your band a gig somewhere. You have YouTube videos to showcase your work instead of being able to go live to prove yourself and develop a following. It's convoluted, confusing, and there's plenty of room for change available to bright minds willing to get in there and be a part of the solution and the future of music creation and delivery.

Classic rock lives. Artie Wayne has faith in humanity. Show him that you appreciate his spending 50 years in a business trying to help musicians achieve their dreams. At least post on his blog ( and let him know he’s not the only one who cares about this. He asked for nothing for himself so many times that he helped others. For the love of music and love of people, he did it for a song. Rock on, Artie. Rock on.

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