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

explains.

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

our time."

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

Kull.

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

Grey Eye Glances, Concerts at the Crossing, Unitarian

Church at Washington Crossing, Titusville, 609-406-1424. $15. Saturday,

October 12, 8 p.m.


Previous Story


Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

Facebook Comments