Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Earn a Bad Reputation; Disrespecting Artists and Their Work

"It takes years to build trust. It takes just one action to destroy that trust." - Yuka Rogers 

"Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company." - George Washington

"Gain a modest reputation for being unreliable and you will never be asked to do a thing." -  Paul Theroux

Recently, a good friend of mine and I finished a documentary film about one of Japan's last true Geisha entitled Matsuchiyo - The Last Geisha. You can view the trailer for the film here.

We've been shopping around for a good partner for distribution of the full movie as well as promotion and publishing for the music. I have been talking to several companies who seemed very interested. Some companies have big money and major connections as well as excellent reputations.

Let me tell you about one of them whose negotiations I cancelled without even having an initial discussion. And that cancellation all happened by pure coincidence.

First off, a little about the geisha movie. The geisha in the movie is, actually, Ken's mother and she is a real geisha. I know all of these things for a fact as I have met his mother and worked with her before - once for a commercial involving a geisha and Fiat automobile (the young girl as a geisha is my daughter Sheena and Ken's mother, Matsuchiyo did the makeup and dress work) see here:

...and I also worked on the geisha movie with Ken too so I know very well about his mother and the geisha film and just how much it means to Ken's life. Finally finishing this work was years in the process and at least 8 months in actual production.

I cried when it was finally done. I know Ken did too and he was exhausted by it for several months before completion. I merely helped with script writing and some editing and it wore me out!


An artist's work is their baby. It is their blood, sweat and tears. It is a culmination of their life and experiences. It is to be respected and revered and treated with utmost care.

If one wishes to work for or with those artists and those works, then they have a serious duty and responsibility to do their utmost for the success of the project (work of art) or get out of the way.  

That's the key word here; work of art. Like I said, these things are to be revered and respected. As I mentioned, Ken and I have been discussing possibilities and terms and conditions working with different parties and different companies. Many discussions are going well and seem to be quite full of potential.

As far as Ken and myself are concerned, I am the business-side partner in this deal. It is the unsaid agreement between us that I am to find the partners and the funding and all agreements for this work of art. I feel a great responsibility to Ken, his mother, the film and to everyone involved to arrange the best deal possible for the most people to see this film that I can. Of course money is important, but the most critical thing is to get this work of art out to the widest audience possible.

After all, if a tree falls in a forest when there's no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?


Let me tell you why I just out and out dumped a potential partner for the geisha movie because of something I saw by complete coincidence - by a total accident - the other night...

There's this person named, Kasumi (not her real name) I know who runs a company involved in the music industry. Recently Kasumi had been asking me to air on my nightly radio program tracks from an artist she handles. Kasumi also asked me to help with any promotion for that band. I liked what I heard and agreed to do so.

Me with the Bawdies 

I enjoy bringing new artists to the public and getting them heard. I like being able to brag later on that I was to first to play an artist before they got big. Recent examples were Amy Winehouse and the Japanese band, Bawdies. Anyway, Kasumi asked me to play her artist and I did. I liked the songs. 

But, after what I saw on Saturday night, concerning that artist, I'm not playing them anymore. I'm afraid they aren't going anywhere and it is a shame. I only have so much time to play so many artists on my FM radio show. I don't have the ability to waste precious air time time with an artist that cannot succeed. Why can't they succeed? Not because they aren't a great band; they are. They can not succeed because of poor and incompetent management.

It is said and well known in the music business that without good management, the best band in the world isn't going anywhere. Well, that band is good. Their management leaves quite a lot to be desired.


Like I mentioned, I was in Yokohama the other night and drinking with a few friends. As we walked along the busy part of town, one friend said he needed to go to the restroom. The restroom at the convenience stores all had long lines. I knew a nightclub nearby and the boss is my friend. I knew that he'd let me in without paying to use the bathrooms so we entered the building.

There on the wall, I saw a poster for the band that Kasumi promotes that she recently asked me to help promote. I said to my friend, "We play this band on my radio show a lot!" 

Then, it struck me that the date on the poster was that very same day! "What!?" I thought. "This band was playing a show nearby today and I didn't know about it? What kind of poor promotion is this?"

I walked in and saw Kasumi. I said to her, "Hey! Kasumi. If these guys were playing live tonight, why didn't you invite me or George?" (George is the host of the show that I produce that plays Kasumi's band. George also has the power to put a band like Kasumi's on the bill for big concerts in front of 16,000 people - not like this dinky club that holds 150! He also can put bands on TV and other radio shows.)

Kasumi didn't say anything. "Lazy? Or could she possibly be that incompetent?" I thought.

Here is this band that Kasumi asks me to help promote and I do, yet Kasumi is fails to invite people who can really help them sell and make money and get their music heard?

Kasumi wants the band on George's radio show to do interviews, but fails to follow through to ask George to come to their show so that maybe they can be booked for George's annual event concert that 30,000 people come to every year? Why? How hard is it to take 30 seconds to send an e-mail or pick up the phone? Kasumi knows I produce TV shows too! George has 3 TV shows and 3 FM radio shows but Kasumi doesn't invite him to come see their shows?

Wow! Astounding, no?

Don't think that Kasumi didn't have the chance to do so easily. In fact, I spoke with her on the phone about the geisha movie at least twice and shared e-mails in the few days before this event! Kasumi possibly wants to work with the geisha movie for profit but she doesn't have the wherewithal and accountability to think about inviting potential business partners?

What can anyone call this excepting for lazy, inept, negligent or useless? 

Okay, you could call it simply amateurish and no way to properly run a supposedly professional business. If I were a band member I call her, "Fired!"

Now, I ask you, dear reader, do I want to introduce Kasumi to handle the rights for Ken's movie? Would you? No way. Do you think I could introduce anyone in good faith to Kasumi to handle their business? Nope. Not when my reputation is on the line too (please refer to the George Washington quote at the top of this article). 

As soon as I got home that night, I cancelled our scheduled meeting with Kasumi that was scheduled on Monday morning, the day after. I'll bet Kasumi is so confused that she thinks I canceled it because she thinks I am mad because I wasn't invited to the show.

No, Kasumi. I cancelled our meeting because Ken deserves better. Because I saw a symptom of how poorly you handle your business. I cancelled it because artists - your artist included - deserve better than it seems you are capable of delivering. That is not only the band's misfortune but a tragedy for all the people who love real quality music.

This has nothing to do with me feeling disrespected or not being invited to a show. It has everything to do with what I see as incompetence and a total lack of dedication, hard work and respect to an artist and their work...

This post is a wake up call for you, Kasumi to get serious about your business or do these artists a favor and get out.

This is an example for you, dear reader, on how to earn disrespect in the music or cinema business.

Thanks to Ken Nishikawa and to Ray Hearn. Ray is a professional in the music business and knows how to treat people (musicians, media people, and generally everyone) like they are important.... Because, well, they are. You can't have a proper or successful business without any of them. 


Anonymous said...

This Katsumi sounds like a right arsehole. You made the right choice. Anyone, artists and works included only have one chance to make a good first impression. Don't waste it.

Anonymous said...

I understand.
I also think that, speaking from my own experience, the average life expectancy of a rock band is not that long. It is transient as we all know for it is basically a young people's game. If you don't make the grade before you hit 30, it will become next to impossible unless you reinvent yourself as an enka singer or something. Bands like Crazy Ken Band are rare and lucky exceptions. So, for that reason alone, if not for anything else, a manager/publisher/promotor should focus, do all in his/her might to seize the momentum and make it happen as soon as possible for these talented musician's lives can be fucked forever as a result of his/her simple negligence.... K.J.K.

Anonymous said...

Kasumi is a true ass and has no business being involved in this business... Too bad the band can't sue her for incompetence and negligence.... Because they made a deal with a piss-poor person like her, maybe they are getting what they deserve. God works in mysterious ways.

Anonymous said...

For the sake of the band that this Kasumi represents/manages, and even your own reputation, I would consider finding a way to let them know the source of your disappointment. Otherwise, one of your statements - "I'll bet Kasumi is so confused that she thinks I canceled it because she thinks I am mad because I wasn't invited to the show." - may not only end up happening, but it might provide the wrong impression to others about the kind of person that you are.

Cutting someone off without an explanation works if it is clear to both parties - and everyone else- what the offensive action was. However, doing so when the offensive action is not clear to the offender - and other parties - can lead to misunderstanding.

mikeintokyorogers said...

Thanks Anonymous...
I know that Kasumi reads this blog. I am not sure that she will put "two and two together" and realize what this is all about.