Susan’s Cool Shit: Rick Florino (Part 1)


This is another new one for me. Back when I wrote about how much I coveted a chance to read Do the Devil’s Work for Him: How to Make it in the Music Industry, I never expected co-author Rick Florino to get in touch and ask if I’d like to interview him. I don’t usually do these things, I said, but … what the heck. I used to conduct interviews all the time and lately, I’ve had the tables turned and have been doing interviews of my own.

So… Rick kindly sent me a copy of the book. I devoured it, much as you’d expect. And then I drew up some questions for him. This got long (well, MY idea of long), so I’ll split it into two parts.

Q: Reading Devil’s Work was like taking a step back in time for me. I left the industry in 1991 and from the book, it seems that not much has changed since then. Yet the music biz is an entirely new world.

Given that, why do you still recommend the tried-and-true internship as a way in, versus setting up a shingle on a website somewhere and getting busy? What are the advantages of interning that a website can’t give you?

The best way into this business is through networking—building relationships with colleagues in the industry. The most effective way to start networking and making those contacts is through physically working with other people and interacting with them on a day-to-day basis. At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than face-to-face interaction. Allow your co-workers the chance to get to know who you really are and what you’re capable of in a work environment. I think the best solution is to do both. Get an internship at a record label, management company, publicity outfit or law firm and then start your own web site on the side. Really, get two internships and have your own thing going online too! It’s best to infiltrate the industry in every facet that you can, but you need contacts. Make them in every arena available to you.

What are the chances of someone who sets up a website getting an offer to jump to a label?

It all depends really. If your skills evinced on the web site fit the job you’re looking for then your chances are as good as anybody else’s. However, it’s mainly about personal interaction and cultivating those relationships. If you’ve already interned for someone and they know you, you’re more likely to get hired.

What are the advantages of making that leap and working for someone, rather than hanging out at home, doing what you’d like all day long?

Hopefully if you want to be a part of the entertainment industry, working for someone will be something you’d like to do all day! This is isn’t an industry where a degree guarantees entry. You really need to hustle, make contacts and build a personal brand. If you’re working for someone and you deliver on every promise, the personal satisfaction will be immense and you’ll begin your long journey on a career.

What about street teams? Are they really still around, active, and viable ways to get your name out? (I haven’t heard a whisper of one in eons! Yet you do mention them in the book.)

Street teams do still in fact exist but, more often than not, they know rule the electronic realm. Teamers will typically promote artists and projects on MySpace, Facebook and numerous message boards, as well as other online outlets. However, you will see the occasional group of teamers handing out stickers or other swag outside of concerts.

Q: The book is geared mainly to the people who aspire to enter the biz as writers. Yet it seems relevant for anyone who’d like to do anything at a label. Is that because once you’re in, you can move around, or are there certain label jobs (A&R) or biz jobs (management) that require different entry methods?

Yes, most definitely. There are a few basic skill sets, and then the sky’s the limit. I feel like once you’re in the proverbial door, you can do anything if you’re willing to work with those around you and listen. It’s fun to move around too!

Q: At the end of the book, when you give others their say, one theme that keeps popping up is the idea that labels are on their way out and the entire model of how music is distributed is changing. Your views?

I think the industry is definitely undergoing an evolution. The old model, the label system, has become archaic. Even though it seems like Rome is burning, there is an immense amount of freedom for artists these days. There is no set way to become a success in the music world. It’s really up to you. Given that labels aren’t a surety, give us something we haven’t heard, seen or felt before and I guarantee you you’ll get what you want. Keep the past in mind, but look towards the future—I think Matt Sorum said that in my book, hahaha. Listen to him, not me!

Q: In the past ten years, corporations such as LiveNation have taken over the concert industry. I’ve heard from many friends, from stage crew on up to label folk, that they’ve ruined a good thing. Do you see a chance for the little guy to come back into live music, from the concert promotion end? Where is live music headed?

Live music will always be a necessity. I do think there is a chance for the little guy to come back. It’s a matter of doing things differently though. If there’s a new band on MySpace that comes up with some revolutionary idea, they WILL get noticed. That’s the climate we live in these days. People are so starved for original ideas. Think of something new, take a risk and go for it. Also, buy our book…just kidding. In all seriousness, live music is undergoing the same revolution. Festival culture is a big part of the American music landscape now, and it’s fantastic because you can see M.I.A. and Mastodon on the same bill. That wasn’t necessarily the case even a few years ago. There’s a Lollapalooza feel to it, and people are more open to those things now, which is fantastic. Even if LiveNation or AEG or whoever is at the top, if someone comes up with something new, they will all take notice. That’s the most important thing.

What about the fact that concerts were once events? That’s gone — or is it? How do you view the changes in the fans who come out to shows?

I don’t think that feeling is gone at all. Quite contrary, Coachella is bigger than ever. There’s Outside Lands in San Francisco now. Lollapalooza in Chicago. Stagecoach and now Epicenter in Southern California. That’s the one I’m most excited about. You can’t beat a bill with Tool, Alice in Chains and Linkin Park. If that’s not an event, then nothing is! Fans will always go to show, and there’s always a younger generation to get excited about seeing their favorite bands for the first time. I think the format has changed a little bit but I feel like the love, passion and excitement are no less palpable or genuine than in any other era.

And how do all these changes affect the desire of music fans to go into the music biz?

There will always be people who are passionate about music. I don’t think that any exterior changes can shake a real fan’s fervor for the ‘biz. If those changes do, then said fan should probably find a new hobby!

Q: How about radio? With the XM-Sirius merger (a move I, a subscriber, regret), are there fewer opportunities for a band to break on air? Is college radio still a testing ground? Or has that early synergy moved online, to places like MySpace, where people can stream music?

Radio is a funny game these days. Kids discover music online these days. They watch MTV for The Hills not for their favorite band’s new video. I don’t think they typically find new bands on the radio either. It’s really word of mouth, MySpace other online outlets and video games. So many kids have found their new favorite band in Guitar Hero. As strange as it sounds, it’s true. So, yes I feel like that synergy has moved online.

Same question: in my day, demos were the things we talked about, passed around. They built community. That’s all gone now… so how does it affect the desire of fans to work in music?

Again, I think true fans will always want to be a part of the industry. I started in 2004 during the download era and the decline of major labels. I didn’t experience college radio or demo-trading in that way, and I feel like I love music and being a part of this just as much as anyone else. I just came from a different era. But passion is passion, you know? I don’t think there should be any deterrents.

Q: I am seeing publishing making many of the same mistakes that the music biz did — dealing with piracy, with clinging to outmoded business models, with increasing prices when the clamor is for less. If you were the Metal Guru with a long history of awesome advice that never leads the listener astray, what would you say to the publishing industry?

I’d say embrace the new model and roll with it. Don’t shun it, but utilize it to your advantage and truly build authors into brands online.

Thanks, Rick! I’ll have part two up next Monday, but in the meantime, check out Rick’s website. Be sure to check out the videos on the links page — do any of these real-life rock stars make you think of a certain fictional band who likes to hang out here?



  1. Shelley Munro

    July 28, 2009 3:56 am

    Interesting interview. There are so many parallels with the publishing industry – I found myself thinking this as I read both questions and answers. I know some writers are using street teams to great effect too.

  2. Suzanne L.

    July 30, 2009 5:24 pm

    Great Interview! With your experience in the industry the questions were right on! And interesting! And yes, I can see the similarities in the publishing industry too. Thanks for a great post! Look forward to part 2!


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