2395 ARTISTS - THE ORIGIN STORY
While working in Texas at a financial firm, I received a phone call, from a good friend that his brother had just had a stroke. The two brothers were the Rhythm Section for a band we in together for about 15 years. We created what could be considered ground breaking music, that was unique, yet very accessible. I flew home to see my friend in the hospital. Alone in the hospital room with him and later with his family, I became tremendously saddened by the state of this outstanding person, writer and musician. I kept thinking about his legacy that was unfulfilled, not only because of the state to which his illness was confining his body and his future, but also because the band as a whole did not have the means, luck or know how to capitalize on the body of work we had creating, leaving him without a legacy.
Around that time, through online connections, we had kept in contact with the other members of the band only to find out that our Sax and Trumpet players had passed as well. Our trumpet player who was only 26 at the time, died from Pneumonia. Alone at home. No health insurance and not enough money to support a trip to the ER or call a rescue. This young kid, who was still nurturing his abilities, never even had the chance to build upon the legacy he was forming or capitalize on his potential. As for the elder statesman of the band, who entered the band as a Keyboardist but quickly scribed charts and began leading building a Horn Section and taking the reins as Tenor Sax Player. This talented musician and writer who had a history leading the Navy Band, barely made it through his 60’s. Struggling for years as a working musician and arranger his whole life, died from a history of situations due to the lack of proper healthcare. He left his family with little or no legacy, and a lack of a proper inheritance.
As for the band itself, well… This group of great musicians and writers fell into the same hole and succumbed to the story of 99 percent of all creative musicians. Learn, Yearn, Create, Strive and fall to the Waste-side. After musicians work for years and put in thousands of hours to learn, practice to become proficient, they begin to yearn for something more as they develop and Create. They strive to achieve a series of goals with little or no help from their community, their peers, businesses and their families. With very few believing or having the power knowledge to do anything for them, they start clutching at straws. They want to make a living, at least, from all these years of time and effort, so why not do what their friends and other musicians are doing and they take part in the local entertainment business scene. For not much more than they were making performing their own music, the bands take on the yoke of learning popular material and start searching out venues. In the years that follow, they struggle to survive, enter the workforce, lose interest and quit music or end up in a Dad or Grandpa band. Their dream, legacy and talent squashed under the weight of an unsupportive society.
In all other practices, creative or otherwise, we support the talent around us. If you run a bar or restaurant, you pay your chef and their team. But by the same token, refuse to pay or instead underpay the entertainment. Yet pay the cable bill, PPV bill.
In the landscape we live in, the arts in general are not valued. But without great Artists, the world would suffer greatly. When artists are left alone to create and acquire break throughs, the business world has a residual product to capitalize in perpetuity. But when art is molded and force-fed, then it just remains instant money with a short promise of residuals. It is easy to make for granted the simplest parts of our lives, such as smartphones, clothing designs, cars, ships, planes, buildings, food, books, technology, advertising, television and movies are all products birthed from the mind of an artist. All along the path ,from idea to the time it reaches your hand or purview, an artist has been apart of the process. Everything you see around you has been inspired or influenced by great art.
Everyday, I watch, as truly talented and visionary Artists, Filmmakers, Writers Painters, Engineers, Programmers, Engineers and Designers, die, fall to sickness and hard times, or struggle to make a living. They are last to be paid or appreciated. With no support system in place, these still great artists have no way to achieve their goals, no accessible way to make a living, no heath insurance, no therapy, no life education, no affordable education, no resources, no cultural growth, no business education, nothing.
When, I eventually moved back home to take care of may parents, both of whom were genius level musicians, I was again saddened by their loss of dexterity, hearing, eyesight. But what I did notice, in their depleted state, they could still function as musicians, their minds still held strong to the arts, they could still dance and sing. The were still useful and viable members of society. The stories were filled with intrigue and colorful prose. Yet the Doctors were just waiting for them to die. They worked their whole lives to support their family, did very little for themselves, forfeited their dreams and goals. Put aside all the years or practice to try and make a living. My father who worked three jobs and held a forth as a working musician, gave it up when he became sick and his body simply gave out. He never regretted it, but that enjoyment, that one thing, they both did better than anyone was now out of their lives. To quit steady income to take the chance on music for the both of them was insanity. It shouldn't have been. Their whole lives before getting married were dedicated to art. Dancing, becoming multi-instrumentalists, teaching, signing and performing. More education and time went in to this pursuit than in to the jobs they held.
As I nursed my parents until they passed, I continued to see more musicians, artists, die or get sick. I saw renowned Artists who were once professors and department heads, now struggling to survive. But still propping themselves up in a chair everyday to paint and draw; connecting with individuals and former students to lend a hand.
After my parents passed, I set up a recording studio in my home, continued work on a novel and began shooting a Documentary about a group of my friends who were Musicians and Artists to show where life took them over time. More stories arose of those of lucky enough to work in the music industry and those with great promise who were seldom heard from again.
It was at that point, I interviewed an old friend who’s story, seemed to have it all wrapped up into one life. Like the rest of us he developed his skills as part of the circle and began to find himself, as a writer and musician. He struggled for years, living in squalor, yet somehow not succumbing to abandon his efforts. His journey eventually led him to New York where through talent, luck, timing and happenstance landed in a quickly up ramped deal with Geffen Records and toured the world the next 10 years. Having relationships with high profile rock stars, roles in television, dining with the elite, hanging out on big budget movie sets, getting gifts form major stars, writing, producing and appearing on records for other stars, headlining festivals in front 500 thousand people, walking the red carpet at awards shows and then finally falling prey to drugs. Eventually he landed back at home, broke, the rights to his work taken form him, royalties and payouts drying out or highjacked, derailed with sickness with no health benefits and no means to support himself. Eventually, he was able to kick his addiction and work with old friends, creating new music. From time to time, he would get the call to tour, write or play with industry legends, but had to pick and choose wisely, so that he would not end up in the same position he worked so hard to distance himself.
We began writing, producing and recording music; working so much, he ended with his own room in my house. Through these few years of steading work, he relayed more about his story and the roller coaster ride of fame the the endured. This major label musician, not recognized by his own states music hall of fame, a musician who produced and wrote for others and never received payment, royalties or any backend, was weary on the verge of giving up. Having so much to give as a photographer, clothes designer, writer, actor and artist, who created and immense body of great work, that he feared would never see the light of day. Presently, he struggles to make a living, feed his family and try to build a his career again. With lawyers fees and other issues stalling his progress, he waits along side others in the same position, finding it hard to get their life back in order.
When I first moved from RI to NC, almost immediately, I found myself working in 3 different recording studios creating. The work spanned performing, writing, arranging, ghosting, and developing artists. The music ranged the gamut of rock, country, funk, soul, folk, metal, americana and blues. I worked directly with 3 different Producers/Multi Instrumentalists, along with an Entertainment Attorney and Artist Manager as well. It was an invaluable time in my life. Not only learning about the up and downs of the industry, but how it actually worked from the inside and each persons perspective and how it affected them on a personal level.
At the same time I become involved with the local music scene in Raleigh. Working with Blues and Rock musicians at various levels. The scene itself was tough at that time, due to local liquor and noise laws, inhibited bands and artists from thriving. On the other hand the Art scene was vibrant and produced an immensely cultured city. It was in of the band lineups I worked closely with a Canadian Rock Star from the 80’s. A band who had their place and time on MTV. She was a great singer and very humble. At that time, I did not the know level that she was at in the industry. She assumed I knew and would discuss her trials with me. No health insurance, no label backing, the money drying up, royalties dwindling and trying to overcome a not so great record deal. After the tours dried up, she headed back home in NC, in an attempt to take care of her parents and herself. She had developed some physical issues from years of touring, without access to proper healthcare. This gave more fuel to the fire, showing how good it could be with the proper support and how bad it could be if pieces of the puzzle are missing. Luckily, she has now revived her career and is back on top again, but it was hard road. Thankfully, she was blessed with good timing.
Currently, 2395 Artists are working on a film about a band of talented and visionary individuals, who made their own mark, rising from nothing to playing arenas in the span 18 months. It was through timing, visionary marketing, advertising techniques, venture capitalists, a lot hard work, guts, talent, instantly identifiable, memorable musical and vocal hooks and a dynamic multi layered stage show, that they were able to make it to the major label table. In College, I would watch and learn from this band. They prompted my eventual path into marketing and influenced many of my life decisions from that point forward. This band set up a blue print for what all artists of any discipline should follow and the resources that should be available to them. As much as this band did for themselves, the world still came crashing on them and now they are struggling to rebuild their legacy, while working only to pay the bills and have healthcare.
Between writing and recording sessions with my old friend, I realized that the time had come to form a company with the sole purpose of the Artist in mind. Providing them with the resources to live, create and thrive. To teach each member and help each one. Helping those who are sick or down on their luck get everything they need to survive and be a viable member of the artistic community. A place where each discipline can work with each other to create great works of Art and bring them to the world.
No Artist of any discipline, at any level, at any point in their career, beginning middle, end or after, should struggle to have the basic needs in life. To be able to support themselves, thrive to greater heights, understand how they should conduct themselves in every situation, help others, care for themselves, obtain proper healthcare, learn, be provided with legal aid, have access to changing technology, have the resources and backing when they need it, and be able to give back once they are on their feet and moving forward.
David John Ricci is an Artist, Producer, Writer and Filmmaker, who grew up in North Providence, RI. He has worked in the fields of Marketing, Finance, Music Production, Technology and Film. In the last 40 years, he has worked at every level of the Entertainment Industry. He is dedicating his life to philanthropy and the advancement of the Arts in every discipline, through a Thriving, Collaborative, Interactive and Resource empowered Environment.