Music News & Reviews

Music-business wisdom from one who knows: impresario Dave Rose’s “Cousin Rick”

From the N&O archives – Jan. 25, 2013

The title of Chapter 2 in Dave Rose’s new book gives perhaps the most helpful piece of advice ever about the music industry: “Don’t Be an Idiot.”

It’s simple, really, but not nearly enough people follow it. Rose’s book, “Everything I Know About the Music Business I Learned From My Cousin Rick” (Shuman & Goldstein Publishing) gives helpful pointers on the avoidance of idiotic behavior – including repeated reminders of the fact that “music” should always come before “business.”

Rose logged time playing in bands before co-founding Deep South Records and then getting into band management in the late 1990s. His clients with Deep South Entertainment have included Allison Moorer (who wrote the “My Cousin Rick” foreword), Bruce Hornsby, Little Feat, Sister Hazel and Tres Chicas. Rose also books concerts, runs the downtown Raleigh night spot Deep South The Bar and produces events, including Gov. Pat McCrory’s recent inauguration.

Dave Rose 2013
Dave Rose, owner of Deep South Entertainment, in 2013 Courtesy of Deep South Entertainment

Q: How did you come to write a book?

A: Mostly I wanted to learn how to navigate the publishing world for artists I work with. It seemed like the easiest way to do that was to write a couple of pieces about how to make your life better as a musician, do something with them on Kindle and teach others to do the same. One paragraph turned into two, then turned into a couple of chapters. Ideas and topics continued to pop up and I kept writing. Before I knew it, I had a couple hundred pages and decided to turn them into an actual book.

Q: How has the music industry changed over the past two decades?

A: We’re in a time where we need really good filters for music. It’s easier than ever to get out there now, but harder than ever to stand out. I remember growing up and it was rare to know somebody in a band. Now it’s hard not to know somebody in a band. But over time, the thing that has not changed is the power of word of mouth, people telling other people about music. In 1977, it was my cousin Rick in person. Today people trust their social networks.

Q: Do too many bands worry about the wrong things?

A: There’s a little story in the book about a band calling me: “We’ve hired a lawyer, incorporated as an LLC, trademarked our name, all the legal documents are in place. What next?” “Well, send me some music.” “Oh, we’ve not gotten to that point yet.” There’s a lot of that out there, and they’re really missing the boat on what’s important.


Q: Who do you imagine your book’s audience to be?

A: I’ve heard from a lot of artists who are tired of reading the 400-page Donald Passman book and coming away with a full understanding of mechanical royalty rates, but no idea of how to get the right hometown gig or tell whether or not the first song they’ve recorded is worthwhile enough to continue on that path. Other than entertainment value, this is probably not a book for the seasoned musician. It’s more for someone who wants to understand how to get in, or is so naive they don’t realize they’re actually not a seasoned musician.

Q: What do you hope readers will get out of it?

A: It’s part entertaining motivational book, part memoir, and I hope it opens some eyes without being condescending. I want everyone to love music for its own sake. So I just show the mistakes I made as a young musician and record-company owner, which I definitely made in a major way. A lot of these music-industry books read like an angry stepfather scorning you for everything you’ve done wrong. I hope this book is more me being in the boat with you. Here are some mistakes I made, to help you not make the same ones - although if you wanna go ahead and make ’em anyway, that’s fine.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi