Jim Halsey's career spans over 60 active years as artist manager, agent and impresario, discovering and/or guiding the careers of such illustrious personalities as Roy Clark, The Oak Ridge Boys, Waylon Jennings, Reba McEntire, Minnie Pearl, Clint Black, Tammy Wynette, Mel Tillis, Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakum, The Judds, Lee Greenwood, Hank Thompson and many others. This year, he celebrates 36 years as the personal manager for The Oak Ridge Boys who continue to sellout and perform 160 dates a year.
Jim Halsey's eclectic tastes have also enabled him to represent such diverse artists as Woody Herman and his Thundering Herd, James Brown, Roy Orbison, Rick Nelson, The Righteous Brothers, Leon Russell, The Glenn Miller Orchestra and others.
His popular seminar series, "How To Make It In The Music Business" is filled with much needed information on the music business/song marketplace. Explained are the important functions of managers, agents, record companies, press and PR, producers, specialized music/entertainment attorneys, music publishers, promoters, performing rights organizations, copyright protection, and other components that make up the "star team." Halsey reveals the best way for the new, hopeful artists to be discovered.
One of the latest endeavor’s is the new book he has written called “STARMAKER” which is An important text for any artist who wants to make it in the music business or anyone starting a business career in the music industry! I enjoyed a long conversation with Jim to talk about his new book and the career he has been blessed with.
Bev: Jim, you have done so many things, and this book is proving to be yet another success for you; tell me in your own words why you decided to write the book.
Jim: It is a continuation of another book that I wrote about ten years ago. It is basically a “How To” book for those that want to be successful in the music business. Really there is no place to turn to except my book or books like mine unless you get into it and you learn by making a lot of mistakes. What I hope to do with the book is to shorten the time period that it takes from the time you get into the business and you go through all the mistakes and tragedies and come to the other end of it. I kind of explain what the business is made of to get an understanding of the business and how to assemble all the various parts of the business together to help make your career, your life, your record, your promotion a success. I guess I wrote the book just because I get so many questions and have for years about “how do I do this? How do I get started? Where should I go? How do I do it? What do I do?” So this is kind of an answer to a lot of the questions that have been asked of me over the years. And a lot of them are the same people or the same type of people that ask questions.
Bev: Is there a chapter in the book that is closest to your heart or that you enjoyed writing the most?
Jim: I write about a lot of personal stories in the book to illustrate a point. It is not necessarily an academic book that just gives you the facts and the figures. I think it is a very practical book that says “this is the way that you do it. I did it this way and these were the results.” There are a lot of people who could write a book and give the same or similar information, but they have not done it. It just so happens I have done all those things we are talking about, I have been in every position that there is in the industry except a music business attorney or a musician on stage; I did that when I was in high school. I have had a lot of people tell me, including other professional people, lawyers, even a dentist, say “I wish I had had this book when I got out of dental school. I would have learned more about how to operate my business. They just put me out there. I know all the technical aspects and I have a quarter of a million dollars worth of equipment here, but nobody has told me how to make a business out of it.” So this book is good for anybody. I think it is a positive book as well. I like to think there is probably nobody anymore positive thinking than me, so it is a book that is filled with ideas and hope.
Bev: I know the book has not been out all that long, but do you have any success stories resulting from your writings?
Jim: I did an interview on WGN in Chicago the other day with Steve Sanders. He said “I read the book all the way through and I found this the most fascinating book . I started to read it because I knew I was going to interview you and I usually skim through these things, but I read your book cover to cover. I have had a lot of young people call me and tell me it is just what they needed, that they were totally off on the wrong foot and doing the wrong thing. It is a road map!
Bev: It is always a good thing to get positive feed back. Knowing that people are actually reading everything and taking it to heart. Were there any chapters that you found difficult to write?
Jim: Maybe some more laborious. For instance, the chapter on music publishing; it has to be written and it has to be told; the formulas and the criteria has to be spelled out. That is not an area that I am interested in; I am more interested in promotional areas, the press and the PR areas and the selling areas. I have been a music publisher for a long time and it does not have the interest and excitement to me that recalling some of the stories about going into Soldiers Field or Radio City Music Hall with the Oak Ridge Boys or the Judds or Carnegie Hall. When I wrote those stories, I just relived them and I got excited all over again. Also going to the Soviet Union and opening up the international areas that had never been open to country music before. Seeing the response to people that were not familiar with country music; who even had a hostile attitude toward Americans as a whole and see their whole attitude change with music that touched their souls. That was the Oak Ridge Boys and Roy Clark and everybody else that I took around. But that was the chapter that meant the most to me. That was the big change in my life I think when I took that first tour to the Soviet Union with the Oak Ridge Boys and Roy Clark. They knew about us from The Voice of America broadcasting; but they were hostile toward America because they thought we were going to bomb them any minute and so the first show that was put on you could see within thirty seconds that audience just melt into a state of peace and harmony that Roy and the Oaks brought to that whole show. That was a magical period in diplomatic relations as well as all of us personally.
Bev: It is something we take for granted here because we are so involved in it every day and we do appreciate it, but to see it happen especially in a country like that I cannot even imagine.
Jim: We got letters from every Senator and every Congressman sitting in Congress at that time. Including diplomats in the State Department that this particular tour with Roy Clark and the Oak Ridge Boys did more diplomatic good than anything that they had done in years. It opened the doors, it opened the avenues of conversation and negotiations that had not been open before. Those of us in the business know that through music and art you can reach an understanding with people that puts us in a different place as far as our relationships go.
Bev: When you set out to write a book, having had all the experience you have had, how hard was it for you to narrow down to just so many chapters? Did you have to weed out things that you really wished you could have included?
Jim: I did and I did not start out just to write a book. These were different groups of essays that I had written primarily for myself or maybe for a magazine or for a conference that I was going to. I did not start out at the beginning and end up at the end. These were all notes and essays that I had written and all of a sudden I realized that I had the making of a book. My good friend John Wooley , who helped me with it, asked what he could do to help me. I said that I needed a beginning, middle and end to it. I had all the chapters, but needed to put them together into some logical sequence so that it made sense and would read with the flow. He was very skilled at doing that. So he is credited in the book for doing that.
Bev: How are you getting word out to the public?
Jim: Well, we are trying to do, and it is a matter of priority with me, is the Oak Ridge Boys at this time of my life. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night and in between is all these things I am thinking about; I am thinking of the Oak Ridge Boys. But it works in to where maybe there is a place that I am going in conjunction with an Oak Ridge Boys project and I will do a book signing or I will do a television show. I was on Fox and Friends, Fox Business News, WGN and things like that work in. One of the things that is very exciting to me with and this whole project is the Oklahoma Museum of History. It has opened this gigantic exhibition of a lot of my memorabilia that I have collected over sixty years. There are gold and platinum albums from Reba, the Judds, Merle Haggard, Lee Greenwood, Mel Tillis and Hank Thompson ,Roy Clark and of course a lot from the Oak Ridge Boys. It is a one of a kind exhibition that maybe you could see something like it at the Country Music Hall of Fame, but no place else. There is a wide variety of artists involved in it and it is multimedia, and it is tastefully designed and set. It is full of pictures, awards, memorabilia, costumes, gold and platinum albums of sixty years of Jim Halsey star maker career. It is up and on display in Oklahoma City now at the Oklahoma History Museum and it will be there up until the first of the year. Then it will travel. It will go other places. I know they are talking to the Country Music Hall of Fame, they are talking to the Opry Museum, and they are also talking to the Smithsonian. So this may travel for the next three or four years and in between that time there is the gigantic pop cultural center. It is in the process of being built in Tulsa. It is a forty-two million dollar building located next to the stadium in the ball park that will house various artifacts and interesting memorabilia from all of the above cultural people from the state of Oklahoma; Mickey Mantle to Patti Page and a lot of my artist in between there. They plan to build a replica of my office in there and they will have all the pictures on the walls and the gold and platinum albums. It is not just going to be a place to show off interesting items; although they will be all right there too. A lot of my records and contracts will be in there. In the last sixty years, my company has probably booked thirty thousand engagements; everything from Rick Nelson to John Denver. I have an old John Denver contract when his name was some silly name like John Duffensdorf or something like that. It called for four hundred dollars a week in a place in Stafford, Arizona. That was a long time ago, in the early sixties, before Jerry Weintraub got ahold of him and made him a star. But anyway, it is those types of things that people interested in the business can come and can study and they can see contracts. I have probably ten thousand hours of videos of all my artists. All that will be there. But it will not just be my material, it will include material from Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys to Woody Guthrie.
Bev: Will you have your book available too? Will you be doing book signings from there?
Jim: I will have my book available everywhere! When I am getting gas at the gas station I will have my book in the trunk of the car. (laughs)
Bev: I assume also that you will be doing the online social sites?
Jim: We are. We have a site that is called Jim Halsey, Starmaker. We are building that and included on that will be an online school, with courses that you can take. You can take them for credit if you want to, or a certificate. But there will be various courses from Introduction to Music and Entertainment Business to Creative Artist’s Management to PR( Press), and the Art of Negotiation. All these things are in the process. We have some of the Courses already done; some will be fully accredited if you want it for college or like a lot of young people today, they may just want the information and when they complete the course, they will get a certificate of completion. If you read the book, you will see that I call this particular type of functioning layering; layered marketing, layered sales, layered projects where you may have a whole group of different types of things, but they are all connected in one way or another. They all have a thread running through them connecting them so that if you laid them on top of one another you would have a nice stack of pancakes and all you would need is a bottle of syrup and butter and you are in business.
Bev: I love that. It is a great way of putting it. Because this is somewhat a self-help book mixed with inspiration and learning tools all in one, how do you describe it?
Jim: I think this is a book of encouragement and hope. It tells you how to do it and what steps to follow. It is pretty simple. From beginning to end there is a lesson in each chapter and something to learn. Of course I am always available to answer anybody’s personal questions. They can just go online to www.jimhalseystarmaker.com. If someone just types in jimhalsey.com they will get my website.
Bev: Jim, this has been an absolute pleasure and I have learned a lot just in spending time visiting with you today. I know that this book will help spawn many people’s dreams into reality.
Jim: It has been so nice that you would consider talking to me, Bev. I appreciate it very much. Thank you for all your help and I look forward to seeing you again.
For more information on Jim Halsey and to purchase your own copy of “STARMAKER” visit http://www.jimhalsey.com/
Transcribed by Darlene McPherson for Digital Rodeo