Catching Up with Wendy Starland (The 2019 Edition)

(Photo courtesy of Wendy Starland)

By: Jacob Elyachar,

It is a privilege to welcome Wendy Starland back to Jake’s Take.

The founder and CEO of Give Back Entertainment has used her platform to help create a nurturing environment for recording artists, as they pursue their own career in the recording industry. One global superstar that Wendy Starland discovered was Lady Gaga, who has gone on to have massive success in the entertainment industry.

In addition to her work at Give Back Entertainment, the Songwriting Hall of Fame honored Wendy for her work. Also, Wendy wrote and recorded tunes for Snoop Dogg, the Wu-Tang Clan, Ben Lee, and Maddie Poppe.  Plus, Wendy Starland had the opportunity to open for a plethora of recording artists from Sheryl Crow and the Pointer Sisters to Jack White and the Foo Fighters.

In this edition of Catching Up, Wendy shared how she discovered the Oscar-winning songstress, why today’s artists might have a difficult time becoming superstar icons and revealed her favorite up-and-coming artist.

Jacob Elyachar: How have you grown as a music industry entrepreneur since we last spoke?

Wendy Starland: I’ve grown in several ways. Beyond songwriting for other artists as well as for myself in various genres, I have taken many of the business lessons I’ve learned from the process of developing Lady Gaga and created ancillary businesses from it. It has really helped me to expand the scope of what I believe is possible for the music industry. I began looking at the music business and started dissecting the main problems that I found in it. All of the sudden after Napster and other file sharing companies made music/MP3s available for free, the music business revenue streams have reduced considerably. Jobs were lost and fewer creative and artistic risks were taken at the labels on unique artists because people were afraid to take chances that could cost them their jobs. This is not a nurturing environment for artists to be able to express themselves creatively. Artist development is scarce. So, I decided to use outside of the box techniques to generate “found money” revenue streams for artists, content creators and labels. And it turns out that these techniques could also be used for other businesses. So, I partnered up with a brilliant, expert coder and businessman, and we have created a white label app that monetizes, distributes, and promotes any person, product, or brand in over 14 different ways. It is revolutionary, and our aim is to create access, as well as a new middle class for the music industry and other industries. It is a win-win for everybody and it feels great to be on the forefront of a disruptive technology platform that I believe will help millions of people around the world!

Jacob Elyachar: During the 2019 Grammy weekend, CBS News profiled you about your accomplishments in the recording industry. What did that profile mean to you?

Wendy Starland: I am honored and humbled that CBS approached me for the profile interview. It feels good to be acknowledged for my role in discovering and developing Lady Gaga from an unknown talent into a nine time Grammy, Golden Globe, and Oscar winning icon. She is a force to be reckoned with and I feel lucky to have been a part of this journey.

Jacob Elyachar: On the profile, it was revealed that you discovered Lady Gaga. What attracted you to the “Shallow” singer-songwriter-actress in the first place?

Wendy Starland: We were performing on the same bill the night that I discovered her at The Cutting Room in New York City. I was instantly impressed with her enormous stage presence. It was like a lion – fierce, hypnotic, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. What made it even more impressive was the fact that all of the elements around her were not of her high caliber, yet she overcame and surpassed all of the challenging conditions in an exceptional way. She had star quality and I knew it instantly. The timbre of her voice, the precise pitch, and her confidence that filled the room was all encompassing.  She had the raw talent and I knew that myself and the team could help to refine it and package it to a wide audience.

Jacob Elyachar: Throughout her career, Lady Gaga racked up 21 BMI awards, numerous Grammys, three Oscar nominations, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. Plus, she inspires millions of fans around the world through her performances and philanthropy. Could you describe to my readers your reaction after seeing Lady Gaga’s success?

Wendy Starland: I could not be more proud of Lady Gaga and her accomplishments. It is truly mind-blowing. That level of success is built on hard work, a ‘never quit’ attitude, creativity, and a deep passion for everything she does. As they say, if you love what you do,  you’ll never work a day in your life. I believe that Lady Gaga‘s extreme success is built on this motto. Her work ethic is second to none, and I am so grateful to have worked alongside her. I truly believe that we are all just seeing the beginning of her success in terms of what she is capable of! Sky’s the limit!

(Photo courtesy of Wendy Starland)

Jacob Elyachar: Over the past few years, the American music market has become very competitive. In your humble opinion, why is it that this generation of recording artists is having problems developing the longevity that legends such as Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, and Stevie Wonder have attained?

Wendy Starland: Excellent question! I referred to it in my earlier answer by saying that the music business used to have greater margins and both artists and industry executives made significantly more money than they do today. When you are not thinking about survival, it creates freedom to explore creatively instead of making safe artistic choices that you know will generate revenue to a mass audience. After all, this is the music “business.“  We are faced with fears that must be overcome because of the financial cutbacks – free music downloads or $.99 files that are divided several different ways between labels, publishers, songwriters, artists, distributors etc. and streaming music where artists receive less than one penny per stream. For 55 million streams of Peter Frampton’s hit “Baby I Love Your Way,” he received $1,700. The effect of this is that artists don’t have the longevity they used to because: there is no budget for artist development, flashy production has oftentimes replaced traditional songwriting talent/structure, and the budgets for radio promotion have diminished significantly. Labels are forced to choose a handful of artists that they can afford to promote while the other artists signed to the same label don’t have the benefit of the bigger budgets. All of these factors contribute to the longevity of an artist’s career beyond their creative abilities. That is exactly why I’ve chosen to focus on fixing these problems for both artists and labels to be able to flourish financially. Stay tuned!

Jacob Elyachar: Who are the up-and-coming artists, producers, and songwriters that my readers should keep an eye on?

Wendy Starland: I believe that rock music is coming back with a vengeance! Some of the rock bands I love are Greta Van Fleet and The Struts. Some artists I believe in are Sarah Van Elst, Mackenzie Dayle, Vassy and Greta Karen. Songwriters who stand out to me with exceptional talent are Lee Anna James, Rob Giles, and Lars Halvor Jensen. Ben Cole is an incredible engineer. Some awesome writer/producers include Isaac Hasson, JD Walker, Nikolas Farmakalidis, Dave Schuler, Andre Lindal, Anthony Preston, Justin Trugman, Appu Krishnan, and Steve Daly. One of my favorite writer/producers of all time is Ivo Moring. Their talent is mind-boggling!

Jacob Elyachar: If a musician or band came up to you and asked for your guidance to get started in the music industry, what advice would you share with them?

Wendy Starland: Since artists and bands ask me for advice on a regular basis, I can tell you what I tell them, which is always very practical advice:

1. Surround yourself with people you trust.

2. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Make sure that your music represents your creative vision.

3. Work your ass off. If you don’t, there are a ton of artists who would be happily jump in and take your place. You have to really want it and fight for it.

4. Have patience and know that success is not achieved overnight.

5. Be willing to take constructive criticism from people you respect in your specific field. Do not be affected by criticism given by people whom you do not respect musically. Know your own strengths and weaknesses, and surround yourself with people who can compensate for your weaknesses. It takes a village to create an artist that becomes a global brand. Nobody does it alone. 

6. There are two legal documents that every artist in the music business should have. An NDA/Non-circumvention agreement and a Finders Fee agreement. Many careers have progressed forward by using these two documents while maintaining their freedom to collaborate on several different projects. They will come in handy!

7. Don’t be afraid to have the difficult business conversations upfront so you don’t have more difficult business predicaments down the road.

8. Never forget that the song always wins! An exceptional singer with a mediocre song will fail, while an average singer with an exceptional song will be a hit! Make sure that your song will sound great if sung with only a guitar or a piano. Is the chorus simple and memorable enough for a stadium of fans to sing it back to you while you’re on stage?

9. Believe in yourself so much that you can feel it in your bones. Visualize and decide that it will happen. 

For more information on Wendy, visit her website.

You can also connect with Wendy Starland on social media. Visit her Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter channels.

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Copyright 2019 Jacob Elyachar