The Music Industry Is Dead by Tom Willett

Expert Music Business Advice

The Music Industry Is Dead. Music business advice by Tom Willett

Tom Willett

Tom Willett is a musician, author, speaker and entertainment industry executive. He toured and recorded extensively as a bass player during the ‘60s and ‘70s, served as booking agent and manager for numerous artists in the ‘80s, and worked as an Artist & Repertoire and Marketing executive in the ‘90s. In the ‘00s he co-founded a fully-accredited music school for college-aged musicians and entrepreneurs.

Touring and Recording Bands

Born in Portsmouth, VA, Willett moved with his family to the Washington, DC suburbs in the mid-1960s. While attending Thomas Jefferson High School in Fairfax County, VA, he played bass with DC-area Garage Rockers the Keggs, the Uncalled Four, and the Nightcrawlers, which also featured Gerry Beckley, later of the best-selling British ex-pat band, America.

While completing coursework for a B.A. in Psychology at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC, Willett toured with Brit Rock-Psychedelic outfit Orange, featuring Danny Brubeck, son of legendary Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, on drums.

After graduation in 1972, Willett recorded and toured with the Sons of Thunder, founded by Blaine Smith in 1968 and the first U.S. Rock act to record a contemporary Gospel album for a major label (Till the Whole World Knows, Zondervan). He also played bass for D.C. Folk-Rocker Scott Wesley Brown.

Early Not-for-Profit Work

While pursuing post-graduate studies in the mid-1970s at a commune in the Maryland suburbs, Willett helped launch both the Cornerstone Study Center (Jim and Lorraine Hiskey) and the C. S. Lewis Institute (James Houston, John R.W. Stott, J. I. Packer). He and Santa Rosa, CA-native Julie Atterbury where married in 1978.

Booking and Artist Management

Willett returned to the music industry in 1979 when he launched the Chanan Agency to handle booking and management for DC-area talent including musician/author Brian McLaren and college-circuit favorites, Jim and Kim Thomas (the Carpenter’s Tools, SaySo).

In 1980, Willett joined Dharma Artist Agency in Nashville, TN where he served as booking agent for a number of leading artists, including Leon Patillo (Santana), Maria Muldaur, and Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield, Poco). He later formed Tom Willett Artist Management to provide career direction for John Fischer (Word/A&M), Scott Wesley Brown (Sparrow/EMI), and Marty McCall (MCA Songbird).

Artist & Repertoire Work in Los Angeles

In 1984, Willett was asked to become Executive Director of Artists and Repertoire in Los Angeles for ABC’s Word Records, the world's largest distributor of inspirational music and books. Responsible for signing new artists and overseeing production, Willett managed the creation of more than 50 award-winning CDs and videos, including Grammy™ and Dove™ Award winning records by Sam Phillips, The Choir, Dion DiMucci, Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind & Fire), Randy Stonehill and Bryan Duncan.

While in L.A., Willett founded What? Records, a boutique label marketed and distributed by A&M Records. Working with T Bone Burnett, David Miner, John Carter and Lynn Nichols, What? released four critically-acclaimed albums: IDeoLa’s Tribal Opera, Tonio K.’s Romeo Unchained and Notes from the Lost Civilization, and Dave Perkins’ The Innocence.

Willett’s A&R work saw him in the studio with such notables as T Bone Burnett, Phil Ramone, Charlie Peacock, Booker T. Jones, Little Richard, Tchad Blake, Bill Schnee and Doug Sax.

Marketing, Product Management and Career Development

In 1990, Willett and Epic Record’s Roger Klein brokered a new marketing and distribution relationship for Word with Epic Records and Sony Music Entertainment. After relocating to New York, he, along with Dan Beck (Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, Indigo Girls, Sade), coordinated the release and marketing of over 300 albums that generated more than $50,000,000.00 in revenues. While serving as Vice President of Marketing for Word/Epic, Willett and his team spear-headed international marketing campaigns for such artists as Al Green, Deniece Williams, Shirley Caesar, Phil Keaggy, Soul Mission, Sandi Patty, Petra, and Point of Grace. Through their efforts, Word/Epic artists found expanded audiences, while leading mainstream personalities such as Bruce Cockburn, Wynton Marsalis and Garrison Keillor crossed back over into the Gospel marketplace.

In 1995 Willett moved to Virginia, and later, Florida, to pursue writing and independent marketing. He published more than 50 articles in music and arts journals while helping manage the literary estate of Dr. Richard C. Halverson, former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate. With Beck, he formed ADi, a property development and marketing organization focused on creating unique entertainment, character and lifestyle properties. In conjunction with Peacock Papers, ADi’s products found distribution in Hallmark and other leading card and gift shops. Their recording and touring project, The American Soul and Rock & Roll Choir, went on to tour performing arts centers throughout the U.S. Willett and Beck later co-managed Hip-Hop duo, Scratch Track, and artist/writer/filmmaker, Will Gray.

During this period, Willett also founded Creative Development Network, providing career support to Artist/Producer T Bone Burnett (Counting Crows, Wallflowers), recording artist Sam Phillips (Virgin, Nonesuch), and Internet sensation, Boondogs, the first band signed to a major recording contract based solely on consumer voting during the first wave of downloadable .mp3s.

Music Industry Educator and Mentor

In 2000, Willett was asked to spearhead a feasibility study for the creation of a fully-accredited, 4-month long off-campus study experience for college students interested in careers in the music industry. In conjunction with CCCU’s Dr. Richard Gathro and a committee of college presidents, deans and music department chairs, he created a business plan and curriculum that offered developing artists classes and hands-on experience in songwriting, recording and performance, while training young entrepreneurs in artist management, booking, publishing, record company operations and marketing. Established on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in the Fall of 2001, Willett and the faculty and staff of the Contemporary Music Center have helped launch the careers of more than 600 students from nearly 100 colleges and universities.

Willett’s work has been cited in Rolling Stone, Billboard, Musician, the L.A. Times, Entertainment Weekly, CMJ and the Hollywood Reporter, while his articles encouraging excellence in music making and marketing have appeared in Image, The Wittenburg Door, CCM, Release, The Other Side and Prism.

Selected Credits

Agent, Manager, Career Development

• Boondogs

• Scott Wesley Brown

• T Bone Burnett

• Gary Chapman

• Jamie Owens Collins

• John Fischer

• Richie Furay

• Marty McCall and Fireworks

• Brian McLaren

• Maria Muldaur

• Leon Patillo

• Sam Phillips

• Jim and Kim Thomas

• John and VicciJo Witty

Executive Producer and A&R

• Philip Bailey, The Wonders of His Love, A&M

• Philip Bailey, Triumph, A&M (Grammy)

• The Choir, Diamonds and Rain, Word

• The Choir, Chase the Kangaroo, Word

• The Choir, Wide-Eyed Wonder, Word

• The Choir, Circle Slide, Word/Epic

• Bruce Cockburn, Dancing in the Dragon's Jaws, Word

• Dion, Seasons, Word

• Dion, Kingdom in the Streets, Word/A&M

• Dion, Velvet & Steel, Word/A&M

• Bryan Duncan, Anonymous Confessions…, Word

• Bryan Duncan, Mercy, Epic

• John Fischer, Between the Answers, Word

• John Fischer, Casual Crimes, Word

• Mark Heard (iDeoLa), Tribal Opera, What?/A&M

• Benny Hester, Benny from Here, Word

• Benny Hester, Through the Window, Word

• Leon Patillo, I'll Never Stop Loving You, Word

• Leon Patillo, The Sky's the Limit, Word

• Leon Patillo, Love Around the World, Word

• Sam (Leslie) Phillips, Dancing with Danger, Word

• Sam (Leslie) Phillips, Black and White in a Grey World, Word

• Sam (Leslie) Phillips, The Turning, Word/A&M

• Sam (Leslie) Phillips, Recollection, Word

• Rhythm House, Rhythm House, Word

• Randy Stonehill, Celebrate This Heartbeat, Word

• Randy Stonehill, Love Beyond Reason, Word

• Randy Stonehill, Wild Frontier, Word

• Randy Stonehill, Can't Buy a Miracle, Word

• Randy Stonehill, Return to Paradise, Word/A&M

• Tonio K., Romeo Unchained, What?/A&M

• Tonio K., Notes from the Lost Civilization, What?/A&M

• Tonio K., Olé, Gadfly

• Various Artists, Adventures in the Land of Big Beats &

Happy Feets

• Various Artists, Twelve New Faces

• Various Artists, Voices

Product Management and Marketing

• Acappella, Acappella America, Epic

• Maia Amada, Maia Amada, Epic

• Anointed, Spiritual Love Affair, Epic (Dove Award)

• Philip Bailey, Family Affair, Epic

• Philip Bailey, Best of…, Epic

• Helen Baylor, Highly Recommended, Epic

• Helen Baylor, Look A Little Closer, Epic

• Helen Baylor, Start All Over, Epic (Dove Award)

• Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Live with Friends, Epic

• Rev. Milton Brunson and…, Through God's Eyes, Epic

(Grammy Award)

• Shirley Caesar, Stand Still, Epic (Grammy Award)

• Shirley Caesar, He's Working It Out For You, Epic (Grammy,

Dove Awards)

• Glen Campbell, Favorite Hymns, Epic

• Bruce Carroll, Walk On, Epic (Dove Award)

• The Choir, Circle Slide, Epic

• Bruce Cockburn, Christmas, Columbia

• Bruce Cockburn, Dart to the Heart, Columbia

• Jesse Dixon, I Know What Prayer Can Do, Epic

• O'Landa Draper and the Associates, Above and Beyond,

Epic

• Bryan Duncan, Mercy, Epic

• Bryan Duncan, Slow Revival, Epic

• First Call, Human Song, Epic

• First Call, Sacred Journey, Epic

• The Florida Boys, A Taste of Heaven, Epic

• Al Green, One in a Million, Epic

• Al Green, Love Is Reality, Epic

• Guardian, Fire & Love, Epic

• Guardian, Miracle Mile, Epic

• Guardian, Swing Swang Swung, Epic

• Kurt Kaiser, The Lost Art of Listening, Epic

• Phil Keaggy, Beyond Nature, Epic (Dove Award)

• Phil Keaggy, Blue (Crimson and Blue), Epic

• Garrison Keillor, Garrison Keillor and the Hopeful Gospel

Quartet, Sony

• Wynton Marsalis, In This House, Columbia

• Babbie Mason, World of Difference, Epic

• MidSouth, Lessons of Life, Epic

• Mighty Clouds of Joy, Sing and Shout, Epic

• Mighty Clouds of Joy, Pray for Me, Epic (Grammy Award)

• Cindy Morgan, Real Life, Epic (Dove Award)

• Michael Omartian, The Race, Epic

• Sandi Patty, Another Time, Another Place, Epic (Grammy,

Dove Awards, Gold)

• Sandi Patty, Finest Moments, Epic (Gold)

• Sandi Patty, Le Voyage, Epic (Dove Award)

• Sandi Patty, Find It On the Wings, Epic (Dove Award)

• Petra, Unseen Power, Epic (Grammy Award)

• Petra, Wake-Up Call, Epic (Grammy, Dove Awards)

• Petra, No Doubt, Epic (Dove Award)

• Point of Grace, The Whole Truth, Epic (Dove Award, Gold)

• Stephen Soles, Walk by Love, Word

• Soul Mission, Soul Mission, Epic

• Russ Taff, Under Their Influence, Vol. 1, Epic (Grammy

Award)

• The Whites, Doin' It by the Book, Epic

• Deniece Williams, Lullabies to Dreamland, Epic

Publications

• "Archive of a Culture—The Museum of Television and

Radio," Prism

• "Artist Representation—A Look at the Heart," Contemporary

Christian Music

• "Between Heaven and Earth—Diary of an Artist," Prism

• "Bible Versus®," The Wittenburg Door

• "Burnett Thompson—Artist Profile," Prism

• "Casting the Muse in Feminine Hues—The National Museum

of Women in the Arts," Prism

• "Contemporary American Attitudes about God," The

Wittenburg Door

• "Down in the Groove," Image

• "Exit Martin—The National Civil Rights Museum," Prism

• "Faith and Activism," Prism

• "Faith and Creation," Prism

• "Faith and Death," Prism

• "Faith and Intellect," Prism

• "Faith and Money," Prism

• "Faith and the Future," Prism

• "Gazing Over the Edge—Activists and Artists Together," The

Other Side

• "Giants in the Land—G. K. Chesterton," Prism

• "If Someone Didn't Say It, They Should," The Wittenburg

Door

• "Image—A Journal of the Arts and Religion," Prism

• "Jim Hodgson—Artist Profile," Prism

• "Oh Mercy," World Christian

• "Pilgrim at Twenty—Annie Dillard," Prism

• "Simone Weil: Contemporary Saintliness Redux," Prism

• "Slow Train Coming," Washington Arts Group Journal

• "St. Bernard—G. Bernard Shaw," Prism

• "Strong Hand of Love—Mark Heard," Release

• "The Art of Attack—The Armand Hammer Museum of Art and

Cultural Center," Prism

• "The Artist: Devotion Plus Creativity," Contemporary

Christian Music

• "The Christian and Creativity," Joyful Noise

• "The Gift of Criticism—H. L. Mencken," Prism

• "The State of Christian Media," Prism

• "Toward a Difficult Hope—Albert Camus," Prism

• "Tribute—The Songs of Andraé Crouch," Release

• "Will Horrors Never Cease?—The United States Holocaust

Memorial Museum," Prism

Press Coverage and Media Involvements

Print and Internet Media

• BAM

• Billboard

• Campus Music Journal

• CCM Update

• Contemporary Christian Music

• Entertainment Weekly

• Friday Morning Quarterback

• Harvest Rock Syndicate

• Hollywood Reporter

• LA Weekly

• Musician

• Pollstar

• Pulse!

• Radio & Records

• Radio Spy

• Rolling Stone

• Showbiz Today

• Spin

• The Austin Chronicle

• The Boston Phoenix

• The Gavin Report

• The Hard Report

• The Los Angeles Times

• The New York Times

• The San Francisco Chronicle

• The Standard

• The Village Voice

• The Washington Post

• True Tunes

• Variety

• ZDTV

Television

• ABC Nightly News

• CNN

• Entertainment Tonight

• Good Morning America

• Late Night with David Letterman

• Live with Regis and Kathie Lee

• MTV

• Much Music

• The Arsenio Hall Show

• The Dove Awards Telecast

• The Grammy Awards Telecast

• The Tonight Show

• Today

• VH-1

The Music Industry Is Dead. Music business advice by Tom Willett

Tom Willett tom@tomwillett.com 615.457.7587 © 2012 Tom Willett. All rights reserved.

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