Warrant has been rocking our world for over 23 years since the release of their first album in 1989 and still going strong; longevity in the music industry is a good thing. They’ve now set their sights on conquering music placement and the recording industry with their own brand: Down Boys Records. Bassist Jerry Dixon says with a hearty chuckle, “yeah, woohoo, yeah, finally we joined the evil empire!” If corporate music is the evil empire then Dixon and his partner rhythm guitarist, Erik Turner, are the Luke Skywalkers of the industry taking artists under their protection and guidance.
Dixon and Turner first came up with the idea in 2001, before the digital era, when it was apparent to them that owning their product and doing certain things by themselves was a good idea. “About a year ago, we had done things like, Under The Influence and Hollywood Underground” states Dixon. “These were just physical releases so about a year ago, the light bulb went off with everything being digital now, to really come in and just revive the label and start signing other artists besides Warrant, cause it seemed to really work out good for us and it was cool to know how the label end of it really worked. That information was really cool to know. We thought that with other artists—if we share all these secrets with them, would probably love to be on the label and stop worrying about being ripped off and stop worrying about all the other stuff and just keep creating music,” says Dixon, “so, it just sort of snow-balled into what the label is now and this is like our first round of actually signing artists, putting out records and going through that whole thing. It’s been cool and kind of been really selfishly fulfilling on our end.”
Going through the school of hard knocks, Warrant used themselves as guinea pigs while they came up in the world as artists trying to understand the business end of the music industry. A lot of what Warrant is doing today was found out of frustration and being shocked at how they were treated. “Yeah, I guess before we actually started the label, we dabbled in it,” Dixon states, “we had released three or four records and we got ripped off overseas; we learned what not to do with Warrant so that leads us up to being pretty confident that we know what to do with newer bands or even bands that have been around for a long time that just didn’t get any attention, ya know. And just simply by bringing attention back to an artist who did stuff a long time ago is tremendous.”
So what kind of artists is Warrant looking to sign? Dixon pauses for a moment then philosophically states, “Well, my dream is to find and have everything. We’re open to pretty much everything. The only thing I don’t know a lot about and really want to get into is like hip hop; that whole scene and that world. I’ll dive into that eventually and see what goes on there but I think it’s just all about music. The kind of music I really really love is country rock n’ roll like Little Big Town, Sheryl Crow’s older stuff, Alanis Morissette and I don’t know why, but I love bluegrass music; obviously I love rock; I can go from Warrant to Black Sabbath in the blink of an eye.”
One distinction that sets Warrant’s label apart from the others is that they’re not really just a record label; they’re a label and a music placement company. Music placement is very lucrative and Dixon is very proud that their label includes this aspect of the industry and explains it with enthusiasm. “Music placement is the process of trying to submit and getting your music placed on TV, in film and commercials. Now that’s a whole entirely different world than selling records. A lot of music placement theory and what goes on behind the scenes of placing a song is all this legal crap. With our experience, it hinders the artist. When you place a song to be synched up for example, lets say a TV show, they have to go through the publisher who has to agree on the money, they have to go through the record label and the label has to agree on the money, then the artist has to agree on everything, and a month later, the music supervisor is usually sick and tired of dealing with the whole process. So what we’ve kind of done with the label and the placement company is merge everything into one. We kind of call it the ‘One Program’, where every artist that we have on the label is also in the music catalog.”
Part of signing with Down Boys Records is getting signed to their catalog. According to Dixon, once signed to the label and catalog, they pre-clear everything making it easy for a music supervisor to download, sign up and license any music they find in the Down Boy’s catalog of artists. “It takes about 30 seconds,” states Dixon, “because we’ve painstakingly gone through the process of registration, publishing, who owns the masters… we’ve done all that homework and simplified everything so now with our company it just streamlines the whole process.”
Turner and Dixon’s philosophy is that with the digital era, artists do not necessarily have to sell records anymore. “Some of our artists may never sell one record but lets say, they may be loved by a music supervisor at NBC who may constantly be using their music for reality shows or TV shows, theme songs or Spielberg may like them” says Dixon, “a lot of artists can get upset because they didn’t sell any records and were like ‘your music is being listened to by Fox Sports right now!’ So maybe that’s their calling, maybe they’re not supposed to sell records and they get it. So instead of having their eggs in one basket we’re spreading them over the whole realm of music. We’re also doing compilation records; we’ll all be on each other’s records. We’re going to introduce everybody’s fans to each other; kind of a cool thing we’re going to do for everybody too.”
Once upon a time, MTV ruled the music video world, putting into heavy rotation, many bands that would have never gained the recognition and viewer numbers to bolster their careers. Video did truly kill the radio star. People don’t hear music first, they see it first. If they like what they see, they hear. Dixon agrees with a hearty laugh and states, “I think that the audience for videos would be so massive; even if music videos were sprinkled in with the “The Real World” or any of their other shows. That’s cool but I don’t understand the mentality of not playing music videos. For arguments sake, let’s say an artist like us, Warrant, we just did a record that was produced by Keith Olsen and sold 120 million records. We hired the best video guy in the business and spent a lot of money for the professionalism Rockaholic deserved. The song, Life’s a Song is a great tune. It’s a great video and why would they not play it? I don’t understand it. You’re right about how music is ‘seen’ first then heard, which brings us back to our concept. Every artist we have….it’s got to be visual so it’s about making pre-view videos of a record, a video for every single; everything is video and music nowadays. It’s important, like you said, because people see music. MTV is a big mystery to me…maybe if they changed the name it wouldn’t be a big deal but MTV meant music television! Not drunk kids banging each other. I don’t know I don’t know…maybe I’m crazy!”
As Dixon has mentioned, taking care of their artists is key; he doesn’t want them going through the confusion that Warrant endured though it was a good learning curve. Those early years of learning the hard way has helped Warrant share their viewpoints and values with the musicians they sign when it comes to swimming with sharks. “Part of our thing is to teach people how to do this kind of stuff because our big concept was, ‘we can’t do this on our own’—it takes the artist and everybody in their respective camps it takes… all of them on Facebook and all of them on Youtube… so yeah, we’re the coach and we’ll mentor everything. We just prefer a simple contract that people can read and understand! It’s not intimidating like certain legal documents you’d have to read, it’s like ‘God, I don’t know what this means’ and the lawyer makes more money than the band.”
When asked about the artists they have signed, Dixon’s excitement as he talks about the acts they have fills the room. “Some of the stuff is bands/artists who have been around for a little while. The newest thing coming out right now is a band is called, ‘Drug Under’, out of Denver. I actually worked with these guys probably 12 years ago. When Erik and I decided to do this label and management company, I immediately thought, ‘Drug Under!”. So I got in touch with them. They’re kind of like Five Finger Death Punch or Drowning Pool; heavy. The sound is really awesome; seven string guitar player—everything’s like detuned. So we’re really excited about that. The second artist we have; they’re called DC4. They’ve got an interesting story that people don’t really know. Two of the brothers were in the band, Odin. After Odin, Jeff Duncan, who is the singer for DC4 was and still is in Armored Saint. What’s interesting about Armored Saint is that three of them are brothers and the forth guy is Rowan Robertson who was in DIO when he was 16 years old. Yeah, DIO found him…he was just this little English chap. He co-wrote, Lock Up The Wolves with Dio. Another fun fact about DC4 is that the three brother’s father was Lonny Duncan. He actually wrote a baseball stadium hit; when ever you go to a baseball game and you hear that chant… ‘dut dut dut dut dutdutdutdut, lets go!’ So, were going to record that song with them; like a rock n’ roll version of it! We’re just finishing with signing a band called, SUPER400. They were like the first band; my little baby. They’re a three piece of out Troy, New York. They’re like really big in Europe. I call them my modern day Led Zeppelin. The girl plays bass and she shreds Jerry Dixon; she’s like John Paul Jones; they’re like old school Zeppelin to me. So I’m excited to get them some notoriety for sure.”
The release party for the label was done over the internet on December 31st, to bring in the New Year with their fans. They asked everyone to review the records off their label and gave away $1000.00 in music from iTunes. “We did it on New Years!” Said Dixon, “we’re flying by the seat of our pants because everything is happening so fast. It was so fun! We had the fans send us their email and if they won we’d go on to iTunes and ‘gift’ the record to that email account. It was a blast! Some guitar guy from Egypt chimed in and we actually just got done signing him so you never know! We’re going global!”
Warrant have been through death, bankruptcy, trademark lawsuits, losing houses, making millions, losing millions, being sued for songs yet all that pain and suffering they have gone through has helped them to help other artists focus on their art. Being worried about all the other components and not having anyone to turn to will not happen with Down Boys Records. With a great laugh, Dixon states, “The first thing we do is we get the band-aids out, patch ‘em all up and get ‘em ready to make music!” No wonder everyone in the know, want to be where the down boys go.