|Featured, Indie Focus Published: August 15, 2012 |
Valet – Something ‘Bout Them Boots ft. Kurty Durty
Check out the new song from Valet – Something ‘Bout Them Boots ft. Kurty Durty
Tell us about where you are from and how you got to this position today.
Originally, I’m from Bakersfield, California but have transplanted to Las Vegas, Nevada via Los Angeles, California. In 1999, one of my best friends from Bakersfield was in a rap group but was making a name for himself as rap battler. At one of his shows, he invited me on stage to battle another MC and that changed my life in that I could use things and objects and create rhymes freestyle. From there, I began learning how to make beats and putting my own flows together. In 2002, I had a chance meeting with an Army sergeant named Cisco Logan, a songwriter and former rock band member, at an UCLA music conference and we clicked.
Both of us saw that the industry was changing in its business model, so we decided to form a partnership where he would handle the business processes and I the production. By 2004, we had a hot release “Only Human” without major airplay and attendance at the 2005 Grammys. In 2006, I increased my production knowledge obtaining my Audio Engineering degree from Musician Institute and Cisco retired from the Army after 22 years and earned his MBA to handle day-to-day drive of Lo-Down Entertainment. And here we are today, 10 years later, standing independently strong with our seventh project.
Tell us more about the current song you are promoting to everyone.
I’ve always felt hip-hop is about having fun, especially since I’m partying at some of the worlds best known clubs and a lot of the unknown underground venues. It could be here in Vegas at the Palms’ Rain Nightclub or at Austin’s 6th Street Klub Krucial. All in all, I want everyone to like and enjoy the music I produce. So, I tailored my music to be more upbeat and party related. Not really departing far from my 2003 debut project, Park That Azz, I continued to infuse some samples into my music. Danger Tape is my seventh professional release with “Something ‘Bout Them Boots” being my first video single release back in March.
With all of the projects I put out, we feel we have several songs on each that fans could get more bang for their buck from one album. It seems that a lot of major labels limit their artists to two or three good songs for radio airplay, thus stretching the album’s promotion over two or more years. In the past, I’d always relied on the strength of my music alone to promote itself, as it did with Park That Azz (350,000 initial releases and still selling today). However, today, with more and more unsigned artists pushing the envelope with YouTube and other online services, my business partner saw the need to keeping us out front in the public eye. So, Danger Tape is our first project with video support.
Tell us about one of the hardest challenges you had to face in the industry?
Being approached by major labels is one of the hardest challenges. You feel very excited to even be considered for a slot on their roster. You’ve worked your butt off putting out a good product, getting shows, getting airplay, getting sales, and now the best feedback of being recognized by a major label. But in the back of your mind, you’re now wondering how much do you as an artist have to give up. Especially when you’ve laid all of the ground work for them. They are throwing a boat load of money behind you in the radio airplay and promotions, but that’s an investment that they are looking to make a decent ROI (usually 150%) before you (the artist) really sees anything tangible. Popularity put you on the map, but getting very little in financial returns doesn’t appeal to me.
I’m sure most of your readers are up-and-coming artists and they’ve heard about the “360 deals” many labels are offering. Simply put, the label earned a piece of the pie for everything from your product (check out VH1: Behind The Music: TLC). If it was 50/50, I would sign on the dotted line in a heartbeat. But to bleed an artist dry doesn’t give the label or artist much in sustainability. In the last few years, you’ve seen artists come out of nowhere only to disappear within three to four years later. Artists, like Prince and Will Smith, have taught me to be a little more selective when dealing with industry peeps.
What was one of the biggest set- backs in your career and how did you bounce back?
Missing out getting featured on a film soundtrack. A rep from a major film company had seen one of my shows in Hollywood and said one of my songs was a fit for their new film. At the time, you are taking a risk of your song being attached to a movie that may not do well at the box office. Though we would have gotten a boost from the initial promotions, the sales of the soundtrack that movie produced (400,000 with airplay) would have hurt us getting attracted to other films and deals. At the same time, the numbers offered failed to meet our satisfaction. Over the years, we were able to do small independent films that didn’t get much in budget, but got recognition at Sundance and Cannes. That helped us to stay afloat in international markets.
What are some things artists need to be careful of?
First, I will say to new artists, try to always know you who are dealing with and have someone you really, really trust who knows something about the music business or business in general. Lawyers are expensive when you have retainers, so use them when you have something concrete. An artist at their career beginning can be hit by all sides at once if they have a hot product and can easily be confused and taking advantage of. By my business partner having had that experience as an artist himself, he was able to shield and guide me through that maze. Secondly, get it in writing, no matter how small the matter is. From songwriting rights, productions rights, to publishing rights, to booking a performance, having a simple contract will save you from many, many headaches. You do not have to be a huge mega-star to have a contract. If a promoter, producer, or other industry operative is not willing to sign a contract, run!
What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?
As I mentioned earlier, I use some samplings in my music. The reason is that I’m not as well known in certain regions of the country as I would like to be. I’m better known in Asia than in the U.S. for some reason. So, I try to give the listener something they’ll recognize, but will be totally in my taste. If you use samples, get the rights to use them and avoid the heartache. Secondly, if you are seeking a major label deal, remember that for them it’s all about numbers: sales, airplay, show attendance, and now, media impressions. Lastly, that the music business is a cut-throat industry. Have a good team that supports you and your music and be able to take and accept constructive criticisms.
Sometimes, we feel the music we put out is the hottest thing since slice bread when it really isn’t. I’ve heard the average music fan question recently how a song ever made it to radio. It was someone who pumped a whole lot of BS in that artist’s head that it was hot. And that’s why I kept my circle limited. They will tell me if something isn’t hot or if it needs tweaking, especially Cisco.
What is one of your favorite ways to promote yourself and your music?
Though the use of social networks have been my favorite way to promote, especially with YouTube and Facebook leading up-and-coming artists where MySpace was just 10 years ago. We have at least one page on each of the major sites with over 75,000 views on our three YouTube pages.
Another way we promote is having our fans and other artists become part of our indie label as our independent agent. They earned a commission and other perks when they successfully help us out on tour. Sometimes, when you’re on the road, things do not go the way they are planned and cancellations happen. Our fans will either provide us with a lead to another promoter/venue to perform at or assist in booking a show in a nearby city or college town themselves. Sometimes, it’s another artist or group that’s out there looking to bump up their gigs and we’ll exchange shows. We open for them and they’ll, in turn, open for us.
This is what led my main man Cisco to create the LDE Co-Op. Artists seeking doing a show in Austin, San Antonio or L.A. contacts him and he sends them a package with all the details. By leveraging us on pushing the public relations and publicity side, the artist/group makes a small investment in themselves, while gaining publicity locally and regionally. Also, they maintain all revenues generated from sales of their merchandising. This way, I continue to perform live, new artists are able to get under our umbrella and gain exposure, and we help fans get introduced to new music. When that happens, it increases my visibility and I’m grateful to all who has helped me keep it moving and passing it forward to the next generation.
Where can people visit you?
We’re all over the place on the web. The best place is to Google search: Valet: Lo-Down Entertainment. However, always visit me at the www.LDEMusic.net site for the latest music and tour info.