The Profitable Musician | Jason Edmonds | AI In Music

 

Will AI become the next superstar songwriter, or will it be a powerful tool for human musicians to revolutionize music? Buckle up for a fascinating exploration of music’s future! Join host Bree Noble as she explores Jason Edmonds’ dynamic journey through the music industry. Jason is an author, songwriter, music consultant, and creator. Today, he delves into the disruptive force of AI in music, discussing its implications for budgeting, record deals, and the creative process. He offers a wealth of experience to analyze how Artificial Intelligence is transforming music creation, distribution, promotion, and even how artists are compensated. Whether you’re a musician, music enthusiast, or simply curious about the future of AI, this episode is a must-listen!

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The New Music Landscape: Budgets, Deals, And AI Tools For Today’s Artist With Jason Edmonds

I am here with Jason Edmonds from Edmonds Creative. He is a singer-songwriter. He’s also an artist manager for his daughter. He has written a book, which is cool. It’s about AI and how that can help you with your release process. You know that I’m big on the release process. We’ll get into that in a minute but before we do, I’d love to know, Jason, a bit about your journey. Don’t feel like you have to keep it short. People are always very interested in the journey of artists and how you ended up here working with your daughter, AI, and all that. Let’s hear about your artistic journey first.

How do I break down many years of being in Los Angeles? I’m originally from Indianapolis. I came out to LA originally for school where I attended UCLA’s Extension program and did engineering there. While I was there in school, I got a record deal with a group of friends of mine. We were assigned to Interscope Records in a group called Neutral. Like a lot of artists that get signed, we ran into some creative issues. It was a change of the guard. They brought in new A&Rs and those signed to the old administration were amicably released. We were one of those groups, fortunately.

On the flip side of that, it did push me more into songwriting and producing. I started writing songs. I have a studio at my family’s building on Cahuenga. It was called Edmonds Tower. There, I wrote songs for Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, Tank and Tyrese, JoJo, some hip hop like Scarface, Raekwon, Too Short, and a bunch of different songs. That lasted up until about the time Napster and LimeWire hit.

Like with everyone else, things slowed down significantly. I started to pivot and get more involved in business and try to understand the mechanics behind the industry, not so much just from the creative side and depending on someone to make the right choices for me or try to push me in the right direction. I wanted to be that person because I felt like a lot of my experiences up to that point were on my own. I didn’t have that leadership on my team and squad to help us.

I began learning and trying to understand the business. The first activation was outside of music but still involved music with a group of friends of mine. I got a licensing deal from Rolling Stone and opened an 11,000-square-foot restaurant in Hollywood called Rolling Stone. It was awesome. We had a lot of parties and events. It was a restaurant and a club at the bottom. We had all kinds of events from movie premieres because we were at Hollywood & Highland. We had a Chinese theater next door. We got a lot of the after-parties from there.

From that, I gained a lot of contacts. Furthering my business endeavors, I quickly found out that it was largely dependent upon relationships, how well you cultivate them, and how they grow over time. It’s funny, we booked Macy Gray one night as a DJ. We both laugh about it now but cut to four years after that night, I’m her manager and we’re out on the road. I said, “Macy, do you remember the night we met?”

There are these long funny stories that we have with one another but it was through that club and meeting people and telling them about my background. They knew me, at that point, as the club guy but when they found out I had this musical background, I gained a lot of friends. I’ve had a wonderful time since then being involved in various projects from tech startups to writing for television and film as well. I went from selling a couple of scripts to writing a book. That’s a pretty good journey right there.

You’ve been in a lot of segments of the music industry, which is interesting. It gives you a lot to be able to mentor people. It’s cool because you’ve got your daughter and you’re helping her with her career.

I am. I had her around the time I was signed to Interscope. You see how stories begin to intertwine. One thing you didn’t acknowledge, and I don’t know if you’re aware of, is that I’m from a musical family. It’s Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds. My father was in a group called After 7. In the ‘90s, they were one of the well-known groups in the R&B world.

I remember them for sure.

I see you got the Michael Jackson stuff behind you, the guitar, so you know what’s going on. We had a musical family. One of the things that I wish that happened in my childhood was that I’d be pushed more in a musical direction instead of hands-off, seeing what happens, and then maybe helping along the way. I tried to be more involved than my predecessors were with me. My daughter is amazing. She’s a vocalist and a writer. Like the lifestyle in LA and anyone else, she’s working a job. She graduated from Santa Monica. She’s an esthetician. She does music in her spare time.

What’s your daughter’s name?

Her name is Jaelen Edmonds.

Does she accept your help and opinion pretty well?

That was a question that only a parent would know to ask. No. She bites me on everything that ends up being right. I don’t have to rub it in her face. She admits it. She’s very headstrong. She knows what she wants. She goes after it and I let her do it. If she needs me along the way, I’m here.

Artist Management And Development

I want to get to the stuff in your book in a minute with the AI because it’s going to be amazingly helpful to the artists. I did want to talk about your daughter being a female artist. How do you differentiate yourself in this landscape? Female artists are so big with Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo. How do you stand out?

The Profitable Musician | Jason Edmonds | AI In Music

Music at the Speed of AI: Urgent Strategies for a Successful Release

It is a combination of finding what is unique inside of you and her regard. We spend a lot of time recording and writing. She works with a number of different people who are trying to give her that identifiable sound. Fortunately for her, she does come from a family that can open doors relatively quickly but it’s very important for us to do the work. That’s what I hit home with her.

Doing the work is not only beneficial to you and getting yourself confident in who you are but it also helps to identify your uniqueness as well. If you can identify and that becomes clear to you what your uniqueness is, it’s usually seen by others as well. You don’t have to spend so much time trying to explain what’s unique about you. It’s obvious when you walk through the door or press play. That’s what we aim for there. I come from a school where you don’t even begin the meeting until after you press play.

That’s good but these artists I work with have a hard time seeing what’s unique about them. Sometimes we can’t get outside of ourselves. Do you have a process other than you helping with that? You have that outside perspective of getting other people’s opinions on what’s unique.

I don’t know if my process is so unique but I will say that there are some artists who lead with one thing or another. There are artists who lead with their performance, which seems to be a common thing going on. There are artists who lead with their vocal tones. There are artists who lead with their lyrics or musicianship. My daughter leads with vocals and that to me sets her apart from what I’m seeing a lot of in itself because.

You named two fabulous artists, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift, who are fabulous singers but I don’t think either one of them two are best known for their vocals. When you say Whitney Houston, Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, or people like that, the first thing that comes to mind is the vocals. That is the strongest part of what she has to offer as an artist. That’s what we concentrate most heavily on. We try to cultivate that, build that, make her stronger, and exercise that as much as possible.

Music Industry Dynamics

What is your opinion about getting a record deal in 2024? You’ve been through this process and had to deal with the changing of the guard and all that stuff. Do you think it’s even important to do that or can you make your way as an independent?

That is one of the subjects in a new book that I’m writing. I am of the mindset that unless you’re well-funded as an artist, record deals are still very necessary. Are they mandatory like they used to be in the ‘80s and ‘90s? No. You’ve got automated platforms that will distribute your music, promote it, and give you tools to utilize. It’s not mandatory that you signed to a record deal but I always tell clients as I’m consulting and moving around the industry still that if you’re going to do it yourself, you need to reserve enough budget to be able to do it the right way and compete against those that do have the budget and the labels that are putting out music.

It is still a money-driven industry. It is a business. You will never outspend on a label and universal but to be recognized in the fray, or we can call it minutia if we’re cynics, if you’re to be recognized in the professional realm, maybe not to the same degree but you need to promote the same way and that way requires a budget. I do think labels will still be necessary for some time.

It depends on what level you’re trying to be at. You want to put your music out, play, get enough people to come to your concerts, and make a decent living. You can do it all independently but you’re not going to compete on the level of Olivia Rodrigo.

There are some artists who are okay with making a living. There are such artists in themselves, pure artists, who want a platform to be able to create and share their gifts with the world. That doesn’t require millions and millions of fans. You can do that with 1,000 people and live. I don’t know exactly what the income level would be at that point but you can be happy doing that, and that’s fine. I tend to meet and run in the circles of people who want to compete with the Olivia Rodrigo’s. That’s the perspective I speak from particularly.

You’ve seen it happen so why not go for it?

I have and I know it’s possible. I’ve seen it happen enough times without a label up to the point that a label needs to step in, get involved, and then take over from there, which is also a strategy for some of my clients that I work with. We can’t just go walk in and get a deal. It’s 2024. Unless you’re friends or somebody that musically prolific, nobody’s going to walk in a label and get a deal off of their talent anymore but you can build your offering and visibility up enough to where labels will come to you.

There are people at labels who are hired specifically to track unsigned artists who are doing significant numbers. If they reach a certain threshold, that label will offer you a deal. Size, amount, and all that stuff is negotiable. I’ve seen people lose their jobs if they didn’t go after an artist who was doing significant numbers and another label swooped in and got them. They didn’t jump into the fight and try to get them themselves.

Speaking of those numbers, Spotify came out with a whole new set of rules. What is your opinion about that? How’s that going to affect, especially the independent artists? I know the people I’m working with are freaking out about it.

Let me help them feel a little bit better about it. First of all, the threshold is 1,000 streams within a year’s time. Even within Spotify alone, it requires a little bit of a budget but there are tools that you can use in Spotify like fan-builder campaigns, discovery ads, and all of these other tools within Spotify that you can use to promote. You should be able to hit 1,000 streams pretty easily. If you maybe take your time to study exactly what it is it’s doing and how to use it effectively, you should be able to hit 1,000 streams pretty well.

Let’s say Spotify isn’t your focus. Let’s say you went on DistroKid and maybe you’re finding that your audience lives most heavily on Pandora or maybe you’re an Instagram or TikTok type of person. A lot of the tools are designed to spread widely. They will spread you around. They won’t just run ads on a particular platform. Speaking of AI, a good one is called AdCreative. AdCreative will create your ad for you based on your music and prompt, and then tell you where it should go.

The Profitable Musician | Jason Edmonds | AI In Music

AI In Music: A lot of the tools today are designed to spread widely. They will spread you around.

 

When you utilize a tool like that, usually it’s pretty easy to get over 1,000 streams on any platform as long as you stay on it. It’s odd to think though that Spotify said two million songs are uploaded a month or something like that but 70% to 75% of those uploads have zero streams. It’s bizarre. You’re uploading your music but you’re not even playing it yourself. That’s crazy.

That does seem like a problem.

I’m not mad at the new rules. Apple Music for many years had a threshold. You had to generate a certain amount of revenue for them to pay out. I get it. It’s a business. I don’t want to be writing a bunch of $3 checks. While I can see it being frustrating for new artists just getting started, I urge those artists to utilize the tools that are available to them on those platforms. You will get past that threshold relatively easily. They’re not very hard to overcome.

Getting started can be frustrating for new artists. However, the good news is that the tools available on most platforms can help them overcome these challenges relatively easily. Share on X

I agree that if you’re not going to try hard to generate 1,000 streams for your song, why are you doing this? I’m not trying to insult any of you guys who are reading but it is a business. If your goal is to get people to listen to your music and you haven’t gotten 1,000 plays, and that could be 100 plays from 10 people, you have to do something about that. I agree. I understand why Spotify does it. There are so many songs that are not even played at all.

Utilizing AI In Music

They’re junking up the system. I’m glad that they’re doing it personally. You mentioned one of those AI tools that you can use for ads. I would love for you to give some overviews of your book and tell them why they should read your book. It sounds like it’s got a lot of specific tools that they can use, especially during the release process that are going to help you hit that 1,000 streams and more.

The book in itself is about my conversations with AI. I want to ask the relevant questions that all artists and managers ask to ChatGPT, Bard, and other AI platforms to try to find the answers that at least they say or give advice for. A lot of times, we think we know the right ways but until you know what the algorithms are written to do and look for specifically, it’s hard to navigate through some of these things.

We often believe we know the right approach. However, navigating these platforms can be challenging until we understand the specific criteria algorithms are programmed to consider. Share on X

One of these things on Instagram is about how you optimize the algorithm. If I have 1,000 followers on Instagram and I go and post something, only a small percentage of the people who follow me will even see it. There are ways that the algorithm reacts to content to open that gate to more and more people, even using it outside of yourself.

Back to the book, when I started writing it, I came up with the idea to write the book based on my interactions with Chat. I was like, “Wait a minute, I can ask this machine, ‘What are the best ways to promote my album,’ and see what it says because I know the answer. Let me see if it knows the answer.” I would get the answer and be like, “That’s right.” The book is formatted like me asking a question, getting the answers from Chat and/or Bard, and then me talking about it.

Sometimes I disagree. One question I asked in the book was, “If you are the top manager in the music business, how would you budget $100,000?” It was in the book. It told me what it would do. I was like, “No. Don’t do that.” That’s what the book is about but there are wonderful AI tools. I asked Chat to identify those platforms.

This book came out in August 2023 and it was written between January and March 2023. I said, “By the time you read this book, 90% of the platforms that I mentioned will either be gone or outperformed by some other AI platform that is far superior to anything that exists,” and that’s exactly what has happened. My favorite platform for creating music with AI is Udio.

I was sitting at the computer. A friend of mine sent me this link and I said, “Let me check it out.” I check them all out to see. I go to the site. It asks you for a four-bar lyric. I love ‘90s music so it was like, “I love my ‘90s,” something. I said, “Create me a song that has elements of Chris Brown meets Teddy Riley,” or something like that. It gave me two versions that were very good. It scared the crap out of me. One of my good friends, his name is Mars, belongs to a crew called 1500. I sent it to him right away. I said, “Mars, you have to check this out because this is good.”

Not only does it spit it out in 30 seconds, which they all do, and it’s impressive, but a lot of them are obscure. You can never use it. It is even made specifically for seeing a television or commercial type of thing. It can never be on a major release. No. These songs were on par with what my friends were producing. With a few changes and a little tweak here and there, that’s a done record. It had a female singing the lyrics that I had written. It expanded on my lyrics and wrote a whole song. I said, “It’s over.” I couldn’t believe it. Check that one out for those who are interested.

It was smart for you to base the book around the prompts that you wrote. If you were to write a book about what you do in the music industry, we’ve all written those books. Also, how we release music. It’s going to be outdated but if you write the prompts, then they can put those prompts in, and within a year, it’s going to give them a little bit of a different answer. What I wanted to know is how you disagreed with what it said to do with the $100,000. Why do you think it was wrong?

One of the major parts I disagreed with was merch. Even artists whom I will come into contact with all want to do merch, which is wonderful. It’s a great ancillary source of revenue that an artist can create for themselves along the single releasing process. However, I’m not a fan of Backstock, going to downtown LA, ordering 300 t-shirts, buying a silkscreen machine, doing it yourself, waiting for somebody to order it, and filling orders. That plan is outdated. I’m a big fan of dropshipping.

AI for some reason at the time, their plan was a traditional order and fill merge process, which is very costly. It can be $10,000, whereas dropshipping doesn’t cost you anything. You can create the image with AI, use a platform like SPOD, put that image onto the t-shirt, link SPOD to Shopify, sell it right on your website, and do a single release and a t-shirt drop right along with it at the same time.

I haven’t heard of that one. I know that things like Printful and stuff do something similar.

There are several of them.

It’s good to know that one for everybody. I agree. Why should we create all this stuff in advance? We have to carry it all around everywhere. It’s annoying. I’m glad that that season is over with the merch.

If you have a budget, don’t include proper financial management. That didn’t exist in the budget that AI brought forth. I thought that that was very important to include because while everybody tries to use the traditional, “If I write a song with them and I make $10, they’re going to get $5,” but what happens when you’ve got 2 or 3 writers or that song gets licensed?

There are all these other what-ifs that come into play. Some of your revenue payouts can become very complicated. Bree, if you and I write a song but I wrote 90% of it and you wrote the hook in 10%, I’m going to always keep track of that 10% and pay you that exact amount. How do you know I’m paying you the right amount? Am I presenting you any monthly printout that shows you what revenues were made? No. No artist does that ever. Having something in place that manages the financial payouts throughout the release process is very important.

For that, would you use software or get a person like a publishing administrator?

I would prefer a person because they can make certain decisions but you can easily do this in QuickBooks. You need to know how to use QuickBooks. It can be difficult.

Most artists are like, “I don’t want to use it.” Give us some other ideas as far as the release process. What can they use when it comes to AI that’s going to be helpful? Maybe categories. You don’t have to go into specifics because they change all the time. What categories of things can AI help you with?

The biggest thing is ads. That’s the hardest thing to do without AI because you need to be a designer of some sort or you have to go to Fiverr or one of these platforms to get ads created for you. I love AdCreative. It’s an AI machine. That’s a great platform. There’s another one, which is about how you spread the music widely. Rather than going with a DistroKid, UnitedMasters, TuneCore, or CD Baby, you can go to something else.

Your audience can message me and I’ll tell them when I remember it. Research this. They’re very easy to find. Google, “Use AI to promote my music.” There are tons that will come up. Google is pretty good at ranking them. Trust the top 3 or 4 that they suggest. Try them out. There’s usually a seven-day trial or something like that that you can utilize to see if it works for you.

You’re saying that you can use that in place of a distributor.

I wouldn’t say in place but in addition to or in alignment. Muso.AI is good because it’ll help you track wherever your music is. Let’s say you do use a DistroKid or UnitedMasters. A lot of times, people rely on those services. Spotify artists have their thing. They’ll give you the data and analytics for your release but you can’t always depend on those, to be honest with you.

You don’t have it all in one place. You have to go to Spotify and then Apple.

You’ll go to the MLC where you get paid from and it won’t match what is happening over. Muso.AI is good because it’s another one that puts it all together for you and helps you track it.

Future Outlook

I encourage everybody to check out the book. It will help you get prompts on even how to ask, “What is the current thing for this or that?” I am curious since you talked about that, the Udio thing and how it made such an amazing song. What is the future of artists with all of this AI going on?

I don’t know if I have the right answer, to be honest with you. We’re in an interesting time. This stuff is moving so fast. Udio didn’t exist before. The ones that predated Udio were very good. It’s come a long way in a relatively short amount of time. The next years will be very interesting for artists. As an artist and a creator, you’re going to need to be good to start with. You’re going to need to work hard and work on your output.

It’s not enough to sit in a studio, create, and hope that good things happen. You have to be in the market, actively promoting yourself, and performing live. The one thing that AI is further away from replacing is the live performance aspect. Maybe not if you live in Korea. 75,000 people will attend a hologram performance of an artist and pay a top-dollar ticket for it. It’s not here yet in America and other certain places. We’re a ways away from that but on the music creation side of things, it might get a little scary.

The Profitable Musician | Jason Edmonds | AI In Music

AI In Music: Creating great work in the studio isn’t enough. To succeed, you also need to be actively promoting yourself, marketing in the market, and performing live.

 

Here’s the thing, though, that is probably good news for us all. Companies like The Recording Academy, executives like Big John at Sony, and other powerful people who support true artistry are actively going to Congress and trying to get limitations put on AI and the platforms that utilize it primarily in the licensing side of things. With Udio, it generated that music from somewhere and from somebody. It’s not an AI that’s sitting in the studio.

That’s got to be based on somebody’s voice.

Somebody’s chord structure. What will happen is ultimately, the powers that be in our music world will establish blanket licensing agreements with certain AI platforms. It’s okay for you to access music to create derivatives off of but you’re going to have to license it. We’re going to charge you a yearly fee so that our artists get something like Spotify or anybody else. If you want to be able to stream music, we know that it’s generating from somewhere so you’ll have to do blanket licensing agreements with the societies, publishers, and master rights holders.

With music, like an ISRC code or UPC, there will be human authentication. I don’t know how soon. Maybe I’ll be the one to write it. Who knows? There’ll be a human authentication code that verifies that this music was solely created by a human. A friend of mine, Harvey Mason, the President of The Recording Academy, after the Drake release in 2023, took to his Instagram and said, “No song created by AI would ever be considered for Grammy nomination.” I didn’t have the guts to ask my question but I said to myself, “How would you know?” That will be answered with whatever this authenticator could or couldn’t be. I don’t know. We’ll see.

I keep thinking in my mind that there’s got to be something for artists that is their uniqueness and authenticity. There’s something that AI can’t reproduce. If I think about it, it could be trained to reproduce that. It’s like, “Dang it.”

Everybody fought the auto-tune thing. Remember in the mid-’90s, auto-tune was introduced and everybody was like, “I’ll never use it.” Now, you can’t put a song out without using it. AI will become that. It will be a part of everybody’s process. The hoopla that everybody’s going through will be past us.

I’ll have to have you on in a few years and see what has happened.

We’ll do it again. I’ll probably be all gray by then.

Me too.

I’ll have the full-on Chinese guru beard.

Tell everybody how they can get your book and connect with you online.

You can find the book on Amazon, Music at the Speed of AI. Also, on Barnes & Noble and Walmart. You can find it at my publisher, KendallHunt.com as well, all under the name. You can also search my name, Jason Edmonds, and find it that way as well.

Are you on social media?

Yes, I have to be. I’m on Instagram @JPEdmonds. I’m on Facebook @JasonEdmonds01, I think it is. It’s all over the place. When I first signed up, you could only own what you could get. I am on TikTok. It’s my name there, @JasonPEdmonds. I’m on X, this Twitter thing, but it’s weird. I’m never there. It’s confuses me. I have to admit. It’s too much.

Thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge about artists, A&R, and branding. We got into the AI stuff and release. It’s going to be helpful for everybody that was reading. I want to thank you so much for sharing all your knowledge and experience.

Thank you for having me, Bree. I appreciate it.

 

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About Jason Edmonds

The Profitable Musician | Jason Edmonds | AI In MusicJason Edmonds, originating from a deeply musical family in Indianapolis, IN, including father Melvin and uncles Kenny “Babyface” and Kevon Edmonds of the 90’s platinum trio After 7, embarked on a noteworthy career in the music industry. His notable achievements and roles are multifaceted, encompassing musician, producer, manager, entrepreneur, and author, each revealing a dedicated artist, adept business mind, and innovative thinker. Songwriter & Producer: Credits including Whitney Houston, Boyz II Men, and many others.

Securing major recording contract with Interscope Records in 2000 Member of After 7: From 2006 to 2019, contributing to their internationally recognized success
and receiving accolades such as:

 

  • The President’s Lifetime Achievement Award signed by Joe Biden. (2024)
    Presented with Keys to the city from Mayors in Detroit MI, Atlanta GA, Houston TX,
  • Brooklyn NY, and Indianapolis IN
    Nominated for Centric Soul Train Award (2015)
  • Rolling Stone Los Angeles (RSLA) Co-Owner: Acquired the Rolling Stone brand license and established RSLA, a prominent 11,000-square-foot lounge and restaurant in Hollywood that hosted high-profile events including The Grammy Awards, Oscars, AMA, Golden Globe, BET, MTV, Afterparties and more.
  • Artist Management: Led management for internationally acclaimed artists Macy Gray and Lalah Hathaway, navigating aspects of career management, record label interactions, and deal negotiations and technological innovations:
  • Co Producer in TV: Behind Baker (META/FOX Network) 2019, Coco Cozy (Amazon Studios/ Studio 71)
  • Tech Endeavors: Developed Music Maven in 2019, a web-based algorithm offering real-time data on artist metrics utilizing AI and machine learning principles, aiding artists and managers with detailed analytics. Launched Omnis Player in 2020, an integrated media player offering live streaming and on-demand capabilities, featuring events with artists like Teddy Riley, Melissa Etheridge, and Keith Sweat amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Non-Profit: Director of Programs at Whole Systems Learning, aiding under-resourced communities and making impactful contributions in the field of entertainment education and job-
    development endeavors.

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