I wish you were my financial adviser
B. Hawkins' career was almost derailed by a banjo.
By 1998, Hawkins had had several Top 5 singles, including
"Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" and "As I Lay Me Down,"
which stayed on the Billboard charts for 67 weeks -- one of the
longest runs for any adult contemporary single in Billboard's history.
But for her Sony album "Timbre," Hawkins
recorded a song called "Lose Your Way," which was written
and centered around a banjo. The song was slated to be the first
single from the record, but Sony hates the banjo and, much to Hawkins'
dismay, edited it out of its version of the song. Hawkins was incensed,
thinking the new version sounded horrible. At a radio station appearance
to promote "The Cream Will Rise," a documentary film about
her, Hawkins played a rough cut of "Lose Your Way" that
included the banjo, and the phones rang off the hook in approval.
Leaving the station, Hawkins asked her driver if she
knew anything about the Internet (because she herself did not),
and asked the driver if she could put out a message for people who
heard the banjo version of the song to e-mail Sony, asking them
to leave it in. Sony was deluged, receiving 2,000 e-mails a week.
Sony told Hawkins to make them stop, something she says she was
powerless to do by that point. At first Hawkins was delighted, certain
that Sony would heed the fans and release the album -- with her
version of the song -- with much fanfare. But according to Hawkins,
Sony buried "Timbre," releasing only 20,000 copies --
a minuscule number for a top-selling artist.
Hawkins left Sony soon after and re-acquired the master
"Timbre" was eventually re-released by Rykodisc
via Hawkins' own record label, Trumpet Swan Records. Hawkins is
planning a spring 2003 release of a new record titled "Sweet
Cantaloupe," in partnership with another label.
Bankrate spoke to Hawkins about the business education
she has received throughout all this.
BANKRATE: Why did you decide to redo "Timbre"?
SOPHIE B. HAWKINS: Because I was asked to.
Almost the day I got off Sony, Rykodisc said they loved the record
and that I should re-release it and make it a double CD. They thought
it was the best record I ever made and that it should be out there
and that I would do really well with it. So how could I refuse?
And thank God I did it because it did really great. I had a single
that did wonderfully with only $20,000 promotion, which if you know
anything about radio is awesome. It made it onto the Billboard Top
100. Most companies spend $400,000 for that.
BANKRATE: How do you see your future, business-wise?
HAWKINS: The thing in business is you have
to have something you own, even if it's on a small level. Something
that's original and unique and has its own life. For me, that means
owning my masters. I'm a songwriter. I'm 100 percent my own writer.
So I always get checks. If someone else covers my songs, I get checks.
If my song's on the radio, I get checks. So the next step from being
a songwriter was owning the actual masters, which is what I did
when I left Sony. If I only sell 100 CDs at a concert, I get a lot
of money from that, as opposed to 3 cents per when I was on Sony,
which I never even saw because they always say you're not recouped
and can't get any money.
BANKRATE: What was your economic picture like
during the struggle with Sony?
HAWKINS: Because I had written all the songs
and I had a hit, I had made a tremendous amount of money. Every
time a royalty check came in, I fell on the floor, shocked. I didn't
understand how popular the songs were. And it's still the case because
those songs are played a lot. So my financial situation was good,
but not as good as after I left Sony because I still had lots of
people in my life siphoning off my money, and I wasn't watching
it. When I left Sony, I got rid of my business manager. I write
all my own checks now. I had a year where I even kept my own books
because I needed to learn about it. So now I do everything myself.
I have different ways I invest -- in land, stocks, bonds, in some
funds. I have Ameritrade, E*Trade and I even have a more traditional
Bear Stearns account. So I'm pretty flexible and very aware. I pay
my bills twice a month on Sunday, religiously.
BANKRATE: When you have a hit song like "Damn
I Wish I Was Your Lover," what is a song like that ultimately
worth for you?
HAWKINS: It's worth millions. I will leave
my catalog to my children. If there's still radio and people still
play songs, it'll be worth something to them. Because even a small
success like "Walking in My Blue Jeans" has amazing royalties.
Even songs that aren't even radio hits will get played in Europe,
songs off the album, cuts that you never would think get played
in Singapore or Israel. You just can't believe the numbers.
BANKRATE: So even a song that's not big here
is making you a lot of money?
HAWKINS: Yes. I also keep my overhead down.
That's my biggest philosophy. I spend very little on a car, and
I lease only because it's a deduction for my corporation, otherwise
I would buy. I rent a studio that's very cheap. But where I put
my money is in my work, my gear, my studio. Not too much money,
but enough so I can keep totally current and professional. I don't
spend a lot on clothes. I take Jet Blue. I'm very much into keeping
the cost of my life down so I can enjoy it.
BANKRATE: You mentioned you had a lot of people
siphoning off of you. How much do you think you lost because of
people like that?
HAWKINS: So much that it gives me a stomach
ache. So many millions. The first thing Gigi (her current manager)
did is say, 'What the hell is happening with your money?' And I
said, 'I don't know.' And she said, 'That's a big problem.' Because
she knew the business. When I finally looked at it and saw that
my business manager was making more than me at the end of the year,
after taxes and all that, she said, 'Sophie, this is ridiculous.
How hard is your business? How many checks do you really write?'
BANKRATE: What do you invest in?
HAWKINS: Recently, like everyone else,
I started investing more in real estate. I did really well at the
end of the Clinton years because I got out of AOL. I sometimes tripled
and quadrupled my money in the stock market, and then got out of
it. My instincts were pretty good there. I got very interested in
the stock market, I even learned how to short and do options and
all that. I ordered kits off the TV and really studied that, and
then one day I woke up and said, I'm really interested in this only
a little bit. What I really love is the earth, I really love land,
so why don't I put my money into something I can at least grow something
on, vineyards and corn, stuff I can leave to my children. So then
I started switching. I kept my bonds. I kept some of my old lady
retirement stuff. I kept some of my oil stocks. So I still have
stocks that perform really well. But I sold a lot of stocks and
started moving more into real estate.
-- Posted: Dec. 12, 2002