What were the challenges you faced as a professional musician?
“Work as a professional musician can be seasonal. I had to find ways to work during the downs. I would save money for these periods. I would often have this 2-3 months break during December-February. Then I would get calls in February for a tour in the summer. So I had to figure out other income streams. I was also a singer and got interested in the piano and guitar. The owner of a record company told me to start a publishing company. My songs would get released and I would get performance royalties. Then I got interested in producing. Each hat would be something added to my income. I would sometimes engineer sessions for people and get paid. I’ve got songs on albums that went gold. It was a good thing I was able to do all of that. You have to be very creative because you only have so much time physically. These days things are different, with softwares, loops and samples. In every era, the technology drives the demand for how the music is consumed and purposed.”
What do you think of the current state of the music business?
“It’s not that people don’t consume music, it grew from a collector’s item ownership model to an access model. We’re still dealing with the challenges of paying the musicians and artists. People say musicians need to get paid for streaming. There is a large pool of money that Spotify has been paying into, waiting for the music industry to make a decision regarding how it is going to be distributed. The good news is that it is going to create a new way of doing business. The artist who is savvy with the technology and has the ability to create and connect with their fan base will get gigs and find support. There are still opportunities to create merchandise, and to make the same money as someone who sells millions of copies, without paying 70% of that income to other participants.”
Back to the professional aspect of being a musician, “networking events” are a big thing these days, did you ever go to those types of events?
“For me networking was the musicians and local scene and the community. We did not have the virtual network at that time. We used to play all the time with Marcus Miller and we were so tight people would call us together.
For many years we were the rhythm section for David Sandborn. I also toured the world with Victor Bailey in Weather Report but then played for Madonna with him as well.”
By the way, how did you transition from Weather Report to Bowie?
“During my Weather Report time I was recording with Bowie through my friend Niles Rodgers. I knew him since we were teenagers.”
So, you never had to “network”, was it mostly your friends recommending you for gigs?
“Well that is the network. You meet them, you play with them and the next thing you know is you are doing things, playing gigs and building a community. When one person gets out there, they start pulling the rest of the community with them.”
Would you advise aspiring musicians to try to build a community like this?
“Yes, the power of music is to get in a room together. The social networking is a beautiful way to reach fans and people who could potentially fall in love with your music.”