Larry Butler, in his four-plus decades in the music business, learned early on that the road is a lot like life. It’s never a good idea, for instance, to travel with a filled fish tank.
OK, that might be a bit obvious – but it didn’t stop Ian Astbury of The Cult from attempting to attach a full tank to a tour bus table to mollify a girlfriend who’d won some goldfish at a fair gig. The fish kept dying, the crew kept replacing the fish at local pet stores and, eventually, began using the tank for unintended purposes – until the tank spilled on a sharp turn.
That’s just one of many stories that pepper Butler’s e-book, “The Twelve Lessons of Rock ’n’ Roll (For Your Career and Your Life),” published to Kindle July 6.
Butler collects stories and lessons to help aspiring musicians get ahead in their careers while maintaining a modicum of sanity. And the tips and advice come from lots of hard-won experience.
Butler now runs Did It Music Management, Consultancy and Publishing and Z Butler Agency after touring as a keyboardist and singer in his own college band and tour managing for artists including Randy Newman, Mark Knopfler and Isaac Hayes.
He worked for several years in artist development at Warner Bros. Records, rising to VP of Artist Relations and picking up nominations and wins as Pollstar Artist Development Executive of the Year along the way.
And before starting his own companies, Butler joined Bill Silva Management as GM, working with Jason Mraz and organizing the singer/songwriter’s publishing during the artist’s frenetic “I’m Yours” run.
Butler has a range of experience to draw upon, and does so in a well-organized, entertaining book that opens with 10 “rules of the road.” It includes chapters on publishing, songwriting (use lots of single-syllable lyrics), choosing a stage name, storytelling on stage, avoiding arrest, staying motivated and lying to the press.
“The Twelve Lessons of Rock ’n’ Roll” isn’t a memoir, nor did Butler write it at the end of a career – he’s still plugging away and intends to continue.
“My book is essentially about songwriting and live performance, which is really about all I’ve ever done,” he told Pollstar. “I was in rock bands since I was 15, and really believe in music, and the power of it.
“The thing we’ve come across in the last 10 years is that all the other aspects of the business that we all grew up in is being replaced by the Internet. There are no record sales. The power of the press and radio has been diminished so much, with the exception of two things: songwriting and live performance. The Internet is not going to outsource those.”
So Butler decided to commit the things he’s learned along the way to writing, his memory jogged by his trove of personal photos.
“I’ve had a pretty good run in my life of things in this area and I’ve picked up a lot of things I wish I’d known before I got into it. I decided to start writing them down, put them in some kind of order and sequence. If you look at it, it’s not stuff you hear anywhere else.”
Butler decided not to write a typical advice book. It’s not about telling artists to use Facebook or tips on time management.
“This is more practical, fun stuff. It’s not a serious thing I’m doing, yet behind it is a lot of truth. And it can be taken seriously – it just has a funny twist to it,” Butler said. “I’ve never been serious in my whole life; why start with a book?”
One other thing that has changed in recent years is the book publishing world and, with the advent of electronic readers including Kindle, the point of entry is eased for those like Butler with a story to tell.
“I did a Kindle book because they make it so easy for you to get it done,” Butler explained. “There isn’t anybody you have to clear it with. You want to throw up a book? Throw up a book. It’s not the publishing nightmare of the past where you need somebody to agree that it’s a good idea.”
Butler’s good idea is available now via Kindle and, for those without the e-reader, can be purchased through Amazon.com and read online with Kindle’s cloud reader.