If your 12 or 13-year old wanted to get married, would you be ok with that?
Probably not. In fact, most parents I know are not ok with their 12 or 13-year-old dating yet.
Why? Because they are so young, impressionable, vulnerable, and they have their whole lives ahead of them to experience so many things and learn life lessons that will one day help them have a successful marriage.
For me, that is exactly how I feel about kids who are signed with record labels at a young age.
You might have heard about the talented metal band, made up of a 12-year-old and two 13-year-old middle school kids, out of Brooklyn who call themselves Unlocking the Truth, and just signed a $1.7 million deal with Sony.
That news caused me to cringe.
I have a talented 13-year-old. I have had people in the music industry ask me if I was interested in having him signed. I decided to look into that and see what the music industry was all about. Of course I do not know that details of Unlocking The Truth’s deal, but in general what I know, and what makes business sense is that Sony is willing to front $1.7 million dollars to record and market the albums of these kids. All – I repeat – all of the money that Sony pays for production, distribution, and marketing has to be recouped before the kids make a dime. And once that money is recouped they will make a small percentage of their sales. Also with the change of the music industry, most labels are signing 360 deals, which means that Sony gets the lion’s share of not just their music sales, but merchandise, performances, sponsorship deals and so forth.
And Sony wants to make money so they will work these kids. So much for high school life – or any normal life – or making any of their own decisions.
And how many kid stars have had a really sustainable career into their adult life? Not many. Because the pressure of being a kid star robs kids of their childhood.
If you have a talented kid, my advice, from one parent to another, is to get them opportunities to perform. Let them learn the business on their own by selling their own concert tickets and merchandise. Get them marketing their band as well as their individual brand. Let them develop a strong fan base to the point that when someone like Sony comes knocking on their door – the negotiating power is firmly in their favor – and they know the business enough to be able to take a deal or walk away and be happy with their current path.
There are so many opportunities for musicians of all ages today – that I just get sad when I see any musician not take full control of their career. And at the age of 12 or 13, really, should those kids even have a “career” yet?
Last year my older son graduated high school and his only goal was to go to Bonnaroo. He signed up to be a volunteer during the event which meant that he got to stay in the volunteer camp. None of his friends were able to join him, so I drove him to TN with a tent and duffel bag full of supplies and dropped him off. Immediately he made lifelong friends and over the next 7 days had a life changing experience. This year he insisted that we needed to make Bonnaroo a family vacation and he was able to convince 2 of his friends to join us and volunteer post show to clean up.
This is a big deal for a few reasons. First, at least 95% of Bonnaroo attendees are 19-24 (estimated based on my observations). It is a festival of music starting from 1:00pm and lasting to 6:00am. It is a giant party, with a lot of drugs being passed around. It is not a place a teen would invite their parents and little brother. But my son did. He wanted us there to experience the positive vibe and music that was there. He was not there for drugs or to hook up, he was there for the music and he wanted to share that with his family. I could not be more proud to be there with my son who wanted us there.
The other reason it was a big deal is the most common way to lodge at Bonnaroo is to camp, and we have never been camping as a family. I did a lot of research in preparation for the trip and overall did a pretty good job getting what we needed to be comfortable.
We had a lot of fun hanging out together at the campsite.
The Bonnaroo vibe is most appealing to me. I always thought I missed out on the hippy years since I was not born until the 70s. But Bonnaroo brings back the love of the earth and fellow man vibe. There is art, and community, and an ever-present message of being good to the earth. There is tie-dye and flowers in girl’s hair. And messages to Radiate Positivity.
The music line up was overwhelming. There were constant compromise and sacrifice. If you see this great artist you will have to miss another great artist. We chose to see:
The Naked and the Famous
Seasick Steve ft John Paul Jones (bass player from Led Zepplin)
Tedeschi Trucks Band
Damon Albarn of Gorrillaz
Lake Street Drive
The Avett Brothers
Sir Elton John
And that was us taking it easy. There was a lot we missed. We took some time to visit the art vendors and ride the Ferris wheel. I learned when we got home that there were several other cool non-music events that we missed.
However, with all the positivity being radiated and high fives going around, we were still reminded that not all people know how to embrace such a vibe. It is fine when people need to get through a crowd to meet up with their friends, but shoving is not necessary. This was not common, but the few times it happened was enough to kill the vibe. There was also one guy that really came close to killing everyone’s vibe at the Elton John show because he was sloppy drunk spilling beer on everyone and being careless with his cigarette. He was there by himself, I am guessing his friends abandoned him. When we confronted him for putting our 13-year-old son’s safety in jeopardy he told us we should not bring a 13-year-old to Bonnaroo. In a crowd of tens of thousands giving my 13-year-old high fives for being there, I guess there had to be one asshole.
Overall, we had such a great time we think that Bonnaroo may become an annual vacation for us. However, it is not an experience I can recommend for everyone.