Corrections or additions?
This article by Kevin L. Carter was prepared for the October 9, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Want to Buy a Piece of a Band?
If you are a businessperson, or at least are interested
in business models, there are many you can choose from. Rock groups
are usually not among the best examples. But Grey Eye Glances is not
your typical rock group, and the business model it employs is far
from typical in the recording industry.
Grey Eye Glances gave its fans the opportunity to participate in a
private offering to buy shares in the band. About 40 investors took
them up one the offer, putting up anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000
to buy a stake in their favorite music. The investment, the stakeholders
hope, will yield at least some profits in the long term. In the short
term, of course, the money raised from the 40 fan-backers — a
six-figure sum the band doesn’t want to specifically disclose —
was used to produce and promote Grey Eye Glances’ new album, "A
Little Voodoo," its seventh release and its first through its
own company. The record is distributed by Rykodisc.
Grey Eye Glances returns to central New Jersey, where it has steadily
built its fan base over the past decade, with a Concerts at the Crossing
performance in Titusville, on Saturday, October 12, at 8 p.m. And
you don’t have to invest to catch the band. A ticket will set you
back just $15.
"Being signed to a record deal means being in debt. Every band
has to borrow money," explains Grey Eyes’ bassist Eric O’Dell.
And in these days of big-label consolidation, most record labels shy
away from acts that don’t sell big fast. But now, as a result of some
innovative financing, the band is unencumbered by the typically quick-mounting
debt that comes with a conventional recording contract.
Because of his background in finance, O’Dell was the band member who
did much of the legwork in setting up Grey Eye Glances’ stock offering.
The company, he says, officially known as Grey Album LLC, was the
brainchild of a music fan.
Grey Eye Glances had found itself without a label after Mercury Records,
which had the group under contract in the late 1990s, merged with
Universal Records. The band, which had sold almost 100,000 copies
of its two Mercury releases, "Eventide" and "Painted Pictures,"
did not want to try another company. They decided to go it alone.
And O’Dell, who has a degree in finance from Bucknell, was the guy
to get things going. He had spent six years in South Jersey working
for a Wall Street firm. "You can only have one person out there
presenting. I was coached on what to do, how to organize the offering.
But the others in the band worked equally hard," says O’Dell.
Armed with a list of people who had bought earlier Grey Eye Glances
material, the group floated the prospectus, offering investors income
from CDs and any licensing of the music. The band won’t get paid until
the investors get their money back — an arrangement O’Dell calls
"generous." And the band’s 40 investors own the mechanical
copyright on "A Little Voodoo."
Bob Smyth of West Milford, a corporate travel manager, has been following
the band for four years. He has booked the group three times for his
company’s national conventions. He invested for a simple reason: he
loves their music. "It was more personal interest than an investment,"
Smyth says. "I think that now that the Grey Album has a stake
in this CD, the people who are investors are rooting more than those
who are just fans. Knowing what I know about the band’s music, I don’t
think this is a risk."
O‘Dell says the business’ structure is liberating in
many ways. For instance, the band has the freedom to market itself
the way it sees fit. In fact, as he was being interviewed, he and
other members were in a van on the road in North Carolina, driving
to the first of three radio stations in that state and one in Florida
to do some personal appearances.
"We can do the things a band is supposed to do — go to stations,
meet the people, do an on-air live performance," he said. "The
calls came in this week, and we pick up and go."
When the band was with Mercury Records, he says, the opportunity for
such proactive, intimate promotion was not there. "We would have
had to ask for the money to go do this, and the bureaucracy was such
a hindrance. And ultimately, they were not about granting the funds
to do something like this."
And the band does not spend money foolishly. In fact, there is language
in the Grey Eye Album prospectus that prohibits profligacy. "The
money comes in, and we distribute it back to the shareholders. Then
we reinvest, and pay for expenses. It’s a balancing act," O’Dell
The group tries to scrupulously avoid debt. "You’ll never be more
broke than when you’re on a record label," O’Dell says. "People
think they’re going to be driving limos and partying in Hollywood.
But if your sales figures aren’t what the company wants, you have
no money, they own your record, and you’re out of luck. I’m not saying
labels are inherently evil — but if you’re trying to play your
music and it doesn’t have quick mass appeal, the record companies
don’t want you around anymore. The way we go about this, we can take
Grey Eye Glances — the name comes from an Edgar Allan Poe poem,
"To One In Paradise" — formed in 1993. The members, in
addition to bassist O’Dell, are composer and keyboardist Dwayne Keith,
vocalist Jennifer Nobel, drummer Paul Ramsey, and guitarist Brett
Although the band is becoming known as a "Philly band" in
its slowly building national press, and the band’s members live in
South Jersey and the Pennsylvania suburbs, O’Dell says Grey Eye Glances
has never been part of the Philadelphia music scene.
The group has always had a pragmatic, entrepreneurial bent. It was
one of the first groups to have a Web page, marketing itself by E-mail
and selling its CDs online, a practice that began in 1995.
Musically, the group falls under many different influences. Grey Eye
Glances plays an eclectic style of pop that has its base in folk-rock,
but tinges of harder rock, electronica and the blues are there, too.
Two major influences are Sarah McLachlan and the 10,000 Maniacs. It’s
a perfect mix for the "adult album alternative" radio format.
The band approached the production of "A Little Voodoo" in
a similarly unconventional way. Instead of working with one producer
that was assigned by a record company, Grey Eye Glances decided to
select different producers for each couple of songs.
"We sat down and played 50 songs," O’Dell says. "Then
we came up with a dream list of nine producers and asked them which
songs they’d like to produce."
The producers included Paul Bryan, Kevin Killen, Jerry Marotta, Todd
Vos, Peter Moshay, and T-Bone Wolk. "We’d go up to Brooklyn, work
on one or two songs, move on to someone else. The producers brought
out what we do best. We enjoyed each one of them to the hilt."
— Kevin L. Carter
Church at Washington Crossing, Titusville, 609-406-1424. $15. Saturday,
October 12, 8 p.m.
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