24 Music Biz Lessons From Unsung Marathon:How Some Recording Artists Succeed or Leave the Industry: Music Biz History

isTalent is not enough to succeed in the music business. Judging from recording artists who achieved fame and fortune in different musical eras,  business smarts, marketing know-how, the right support system, personal development, authentic values, and good people skills play a role.

99 episodes of Unsung aired recently featuring selected recording artists and their hits. R & B, jazz, soul, disco, rap, and hip-hop were primary categories shown. But regardless of one’s musical interest, the marathon offers a valuable  overview of what many hopefuls experience when they enter the music business., successes, challenges, and failures.

Based on a business point of view, two of Unsung top videos  made this list of takeaways for industry beginners.

Teena Marie
The late singer, was the first Caucasian featured on Unsung. And she successfully prevailed in a lawsuit against her former record company.










Skilled lawyers uncovered a little-known industry law and used it to win their case. Details noted in MusicBiz Notes.

Kid N Play
Duo added a G rating and kick step to hip hop in the 80s and reportedly found a niche in film, fashion, cartoons, and comics…And the name is marketing genius

Unforgettable inspirational story of perseverance despite tragedy
A multi-racial British-American band formed in the 70s…
Ohio native Johnnie Wilder moved his family to Europe to start a band after his stint in the military.

To compete with many bands already in the industry, Johnnie Wilder added acrobatic dance  routines to performances.

Johnnie Wilder ran a tight ship with strict rules, yet violent tragedies repeatedly befell the group. Several years later, back in the states, during a daytime outing, Wilder was broadsided and left paralyzed from the neck down. But the circumstance did not stop him from remaining in the industry….

Mario Mantese, the bass player for the group paralyzed and unable to continue with the group years  would later become an author and spiritual leader.

Ohio Players,
According to Unsung the group made funk profitable. They were making money hand over fist and enjoying the good life.

Then the IRS came to funky town…

Arguably the funniest line in the series. Words that underscore the humor-free consequences of ignoring tax issues.

Johnny Gill
He appeared at each concert on time, but when other members of the group
failed to appear, concerts had to be canceled and furious promoters sued everyone in the group for breach of contract. Gill had to liquidate his assets to pay for the lawsuit.

Montell Jordan…
Learning that his accountants had not paid his bills, including the IRS, the singer was later forced to sell all the rights to his songs to Pay the tax bill.

Issac Hayes
Forced to file for bankruptcy after the record company went out of business without paying Hayes the royalties due.

Force MD’s
When someone questioned why the group’s contract was structured poorly, the group was in a position to strike and successfully renegotiated terms. Members were able to buy homes and warm and fuzzy terms financial strategies were put in place.

Musical Youth
Unfortunately, not the case for the group of children later released after selling millions of records.
Note to the industry…Even kids are fair game. Really?

Despite a traumatic life as a foster child, te  singer became a triple threat as a singer, producer, and songwriter. Author of a top selling industry book and philitranthopist for youth.

Millie Jackson
Having left home at age 15, Ms. Jackson unlike many of her contemporaries made wise business decisions and is still in the business approaching age 70
Note: The only segment that had a DSL rating for explicit dialogue.
The censor’s buzzer went off every..5 seconds

Mint Condition
All members shared incoming revenue equally.
Later overhauled their unique multi-genre blend of live performance art, settled differences with members amicably, took control of their marketing and  came back swinging.

This group also practiced a striking pattern of loyalty and financial equity  to all members in times of crisis…even if they could not perform.

The Sylvers
Fools Paradise
An interesting source of inspiration…
A history teacher inspired student, songwriter and singer Leon Sylvers to write the melodic militant lyrics based. Later, Leon Sylvers and management would clash and was voted out of the group. That business mistake family voted him out of the group. A move eventually led to the group’s demise.

Melba Moore
Work-life betrayal forced the award-winning singer to start over the industry/
By not sticking to a specific music genre, it is suggested that the award-winning singer has enjoyed longevity in the industry.

Ray Parker Jr.
Wrote a hit song that an industry insider took
without crediting Parker who got even with a little ditty called Ghostbusters

Otis Redding
Left school in his teens yet educated himself about the music business. Redding became a millionaire with his own plane and private runway.

The Force
Began appearing in films producing up and coming caucasian groups like Backstreet Boys and relaunching industry icons like James Brown.

Angela Bofill
Health issues rendered her unable to sing yet her manager devised a new and innovative way for the singer to perform for fans.

Rose Royce
Despite major hits, the talented singers in these groups could not resolve constant conflicts  and had to disband.

Yolanda Whittaker…hip-hop pioneer with a
female empowerment niche. But the discovery that her record company shelved the release of her album because someone failed to get legal clearance to use some of the songs included from other artists, and  a strong dislike of other industry practices spurred a decision to stop performing.
Repackaging her skills and experience, Whittaker later started a nonprofit to teach hip-hop and academics to teens.

Stacy  Lattisaw
At the height of her career, Lattisawwalked away from a business she disliked.

Martha Wash
Choosing the right name  can be challenging.
The powerhouse singer behind several  popular hits  was known as part of a duo under two names

1. Two Tons of Fun
A name that  did nothing to communicate the serious nature of the singer’s  ability.
So the name was later changed to
2. The Weather Girls …no.

Arrested Development
Hip-hop with a fresh Southern style… Tennesee and Mr. Wendell
But group conflict derailed early spectacular success.

Dee Adams is editor of  Music Biz Notes




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