'Be brutally honest. Look at yourself and see if you look like you could be commercial," says Becky Rash, co-owner of Active Audio and Entertainment. "Ashlee Simpson is a little more regular-looking than her sister Jessica, and yet she [Ashlee] is a huge pop star. Decide, 'Am I going to market myself as a beautiful person, or am I going to go a different path, be a little rough-edged like Ashlee Simpson, to fit my image better?' It's really unfortunate that we have to be that shallow, but that's the way the industry works. You have to be beautiful to market your image that way, and if you saw me you'd know why I'm not a pop star." On Saturday, March 25, Rash and her husband and business partner will conduct a workshop entitled, "So You Wanna Be a Pop Star?" "We're going to give a broad overview of the way the business runs," says Rash. "People come to us after spending thousands of dollars, even a couple of years, and they have nothing -- they have a demo that they hate and they're no closer to their goal."
According to Rash the industry works differently for bands than it does for pop stars. "These days, with the advance in technology, bands are recording their own albums, selling their own albums, and out gigging themselves. They might have 1000 to 5000 fans before record labels are picking them up. This is happening for singers and singer/songwriter types as well. For a pop star, they don't need to have a following, but they do need to come to a record label ready." In the past it was common for labels to groom artists into stars. Rash says this is no longer the case. "What we find the most here locally are young, mostly girls, who are looking to be the next Beyoncé or Britney."
Rash believes that bands do not need record labels as much as pop stars. "The venues [at which bands and pop stars perform] are different," she says. "You can go to L.A., and there are clubs all over that love bands. That's a little bit different than someone like Beyoncé, who's got this amazing voice, but she's not the type who fronts a band. [Pop stars] are more likely to use tracks than bands, and they have dancers and that kind of thing."
Rash's company offers production services and vocal training. Becky Rash has been teaching production, songwriting, and voice for 15 years. There is a reason this workshop is also extended to "families of aspiring pop stars" -- a young star's failure to rise can often be attributed to the actions of his or her parents.
"Parents can pose problems for their kids. They can be the most talented in the world, but if professionals don't like to work with the parents, forget it," says Rash. "We've had kids that we've produced songs for and then refused [to continue]. We just couldn't stand to do any more work with them because their parents were so annoying."
Among the faux pas are parents who don't let their child make his or her own decision, parents who do not understand the level of professionalism required, and parents who try to take charge of the situation, "as if they know more than the professional," says Rash. "We had a daughter doing a recording session with us, and Mom would come to the recording session and have no regard for the recording process. She would bring her laptop and talk a lot. [Parents] need to understand that they need to be there, but to step back and let the professional work with the child."
Rash emphasizes that it can take a lot of money to try to be a pop star. "If you don't have any money, you need to start saving." Payment for voice lessons (if needed), a recording demo, songwriting (again, if needed), marketing, a website, photos, etc., can range from $10,000 to $200,000, "depending on how professional and all-out they want to go."
"If the talent is there, and all those other aspects are together, people like Ken and I -- semi-professionals who are lower on the ladder -- will recognize that talent and pool their resources. If we find a really talented person, we won't charge you -- we would want to help you with your career and take something from the back end [like a percentage of record sales]. If people are truly talented, [other] people will grab on for the ride." -- Barbarella
"So You Wanna Be a Pop Star?" Workshop
Saturday, March 25
Rancho Bernardo Radisson Hotel
11520 West Bernardo Court
Info: 858-673-5441 or www.4activeaudio.com