TESLA's BRIAN WHEAT: 'If I Had A Son, I Wouldn't Want Him To Be A Musician'

January 27, 2024

TESLA bassist Brian Wheat, who manages the band and started a company called J Street Entertainment Inc. to help develop young artists, recently spoke to MANOWAR bassist Joey DeMaio's "Words Of Power With Joey DeMaio" podcast about the importance of being honest with young musicians about the various facets of the music industry. He said in part (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "There's a lot of people that just feed people that don't know any better a bunch of bullshit… So you get these guys that just feed them a bunch of bullshit, and it's like… With the bands I manage and the people I work with outside of TESLA, it's, like, I got a job. I don't need to take your money. I'm not doing this because I want your money. I'm doing it because I have passion and I like to win. I like to take something from [a lower level] and bring it to [a higher level], and whether it's a young band or whatever it is. But there's reality. There's the reality of this business, and it is a business. I mean, sure, when we all started, we all wanted to get chicks and drugs and everything else… Listen, all that costs money. Someone's paying for it, and who's paying for it? You, the artist. You're the last guy to get paid, and you pay for it."

He continued: "So I don't bullshit anybody. It's like, look, some guy calls me and he's 50 years old and he says, 'Hey, I wanna make a record.' And I'm, like, 'Okay, you do realize what this is. No one's gonna give you 300,000 dollars to make a record — no record company is gonna give you [that at] 50 years old.' They don't even give it to 20-year-old kids in a van anymore. Those kids have to do everything on their own now, where when we started, you didn't have to. We got signed on demo tapes. Today, if you wanna get signed by a major label, you've gotta have a dozen markets that you're playing, that you're selling a thousand tickets on your own. You've gotta have all this social media presence. You've gotta have radio play. Then they'll do it, and they'll give you pennies on the dollar, and you've done all the work. Well, that model's done and tired. It's old. It don't work anymore. So where I can offer something to some people is, like, 'Look, I know the old school, but this is the new school. So if you have a budget and you wanna do this and you really wanna take a shot, I'll put together a radio team for you. I'll put together a promotion team for you. This, that and the other. Record people. You wanna make a record? You don't have to have some producer that's milking you for 4,000 dollars a day. You can go to a place for 800 a day and do the same work. But people think, 'Well, if you put this person with that name, I can just buy this.' But the thing that people don't realize is what we did in the garage or when we first started. We wanted to be musicians. We honed our craft. We learned how to play our instruments. We learned how to write songs. We learned how to make records. That just doesn't come. You can't just buy that. And now with this AI stuff, it's, like, come on."

Wheat went on to say that he feels "bad" for people who are just starting out in the music business. "I mean, if I had a son, I wouldn't want him to be a musician," he admitted. "Back when I started it or back when you started it, we had a small chance to make it. Now, that's like — what do you call it? Microscopic, minuscule. I mean, today. It's really, really tough. People aren't buying music anymore. They're streaming it. We're getting raped."

Brian then blasted Spotify for the paltry payments the music streaming service pays out to music rightsholders. He said: "If you had 500 million streams, so that stream, let's just say it equates to someone listening to your song. When we were on radio, if we had one play on the radio station, we got four cents. Now for one play, you get one 200 millionth of a cent. But people are still listening to it. So we're getting raped — badly — and no one wants to say anything about it or do anything about it. It's just, like, well, this is the new way. So the record companies are involved, and then you have Spotify. And listen, for the huge, huge artists — the LED ZEPPELINs and THE BEATLES and all that stuff — they're getting paid better than you or I are getting paid, or the kid that's just starting out at Active Rock and he's got one song. But when [TESLA's] 'Modern Day Cowboy' came out, we had all this airplay. We got played and there was a fair wage. Now you don't, and then people aren't buying your record, so you're not getting that buck a record that you used to get for selling it, because no one's buying it. I mean, vinyl sales are up — yeah, great — but no one's selling those kind of records, unless you're Taylor Swift or Miley Cyrus or something. But a rock record selling 150,000 copies physically is miraculous. I mean, there's maybe three artists that can do that."

Many people still think Spotify doesn't pay the artists who are featured on its platform fairly.

In recent years, Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek has been trying to defend the company's payouts, telling CBS News in early 2023: "We don't pay artists directly. [Artists] have their deals with their record companies and their deals with their publishers, et cetera. And what Spotify does is we pay out to those record companies and these publishers, and don't know what individual deals these artists may have."

Three years ago, Spotify created a web site called Loud&Clear to clarify exactly who receives payments.

According to Forbes, "Spotify has been paying back nearly 70% of every dollar generated from music as royalties to rights holders who represent artists and songwriters. These organizations, which include independent distributors, publishers, performance rights organizations, record labels, and collecting societies, then pay the artists and songwriters based on their agreed terms."

Spotify reportedly has nearly 600 million monthly active listeners and a 30% market share, but has yet to turn a profit.

TESLA's debut album, 1986's "Mechanical Resonance", went platinum on the strength of the hits "Modern Day Cowboy" and "Little Suzi". The 1989 follow-up album, "The Great Radio Controversy", produced five hits, including "Heaven's Trail (No Way Out)" and "Love Song", which hit the pop Top Ten.

TESLA will return to the House Of Blues inside Mandalay Bay Resort And Casino Las Vegas with its "Tesla: The Las Vegas Takeover". Shows will be held on April 5, 6, 10, 12 and 13, 2024, and are scheduled to begin at 8:30 p.m.

Image courtesy of "Words Of Power With Joey DeMaio" podcast

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