Diane Sward Rapaport
Never did I imagine that my dream of earning a PhD in Renaissance literature would be eclipsed by a job in the entertainment industry. In 1969, Bill Graham’s Fillmore Management in San Francisco hired me to manage acoustic singer/songwriters signed to his company and, for a brief period, the Pointer Sisters.
The first months on the job were like attending an anarchist university. No courses, no schedule, no time clocks, and no rules. I could attend free rock concerts, imbibe a cornucopia of drugs, and mingle with Janis Joplin and Santana. Or I could puzzle through virtually undecipherable clauses in recording and management contracts. Not only did I not know what I did not know, few people took the time to help me.
The jazz/folk duo of Barbara Mauritz and Bob Swanson captivated my heart. Barbara’s eclectic, full-range voice wove in an out of Bob’s guitar riffs like an ornate tapestry, full of magic and surprise. But Barbara fell prey to a producer that convinced her that singing rock standards would make her a star. She brooked no contrary advice from Bill Graham or myself, turned her back on Bob, made a mediocre album, and disappeared like a shooting star. Bob never touched his guitar again and turned his creative talents to photography.
Pamela Polland, another singer/songwriter I managed, was caught in a tsunami of scandal, which began when Columbia Records fired its president, alleging that he had embezzled $93,000 for his son’s bar mitzvah. That unleashed a two-year probe into illegal record company practices. Only one person was convicted, a paunchy, bespeckled man who pimped women for record convention attendees. Pamela’s brilliant second album foundered in the waves, drowned in Columbia’s vaults, and was never released. Fortunately, on my advice, Pamela spent her recording advance to buy a Mill Valley home that became so valuable that 15 years later she sold it, moved to Hawaii, and became a singing teacher.
I quit Fillmore Management. My knowledge of predatory practices and corruption left me feeling helpless to combat the negative forces on talented musicians I had pledged to help and the emotional scars that followed.
My new self-imposed career: teaching business to musicians. I would help them combat their inbred-conditioning that they should not sully their hands with money and trust their careers to others. I imagined myself a templar knight helping musicians to survive and thrive.
Many called my crusade a folly.
I presented some of the first music business workshops and classes in the country and tried to persuade universities to offer classes in contracts and copyright to music majors.
Friends and I started a music business magazine that combined practical advice with interviews of people working in the industry. In 1979, Putnam published my first book, How to Make and Sell Your Own Recording, a detailed blueprint of starting a record company independently of major labels. Gracious reviews appeared in the New York Times, Mother Earth News, and the Next Whole Earth Catalog. I headlined all-day indie recording workshops in the U.S. and Canada.
Twenty years later, my book had sold 250,000 copies. More than 50 universities offered music business and recording technology degrees. Dozens of new music business and technology books were published.
But it was a little heralded event that showed just how strongly musicians had adopted my “folly” of learning business. At a Folk Music Alliance conference in Nashville, 50 aspiring musicians listened to a successful indie folk duo called Small Potatoes explain “How to Make a Business Plan.”
Yup. Musicians teaching business to other musicians.