Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Toni Braxton 'Unbreak My Heart' Lifetime Biopic Movie Glossed Over Many Pertinent Facts

Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart"

On Saturday January 23, 2016, Lifetime aired the Toni Braxton biopic "Unbreak My Heart" executive produced by the singer. The film glossed over a number of pertinent facts in Braxton's life and those associated with her music career. Audiences online on social networking interpreted LaFace Records CEO and music producer, L.A. Reid, as the bad guy, blaming him for Braxton's financial downfall.

Some on social networking also slammed Reid's ex-wife, former recording artist and music manager, Perri "Pebbles" Reid, for Braxton's financial fall as well. However, Pebbles was not a party in the record deal. A few also blamed singer/producer, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, who was the co-owner of LaFace Records.

LaFace's parent company, Arista Records, largely owned by music veteran, Clive Davis, made the lion's share of the money. As previously stated in the column, subsidiary label deals, such as the one LaFace Records and Arista Records entered into via a joint venture, always ends up in the artist getting less money, when one of the two other parties does not take a lesser share of the profits. The only way such a deal works to all involved is if the subsidiary and or parent company takes a few points/percent less in the deal. 

All these recording contracts are is a chance to earn money and become famous. An artist is given a loan "an advance" to record an album and cover basic expenses, but that money is recoupable from future record sales. This means it is a loan the entertainer has to pay back before you see any profit as an artist.

When you record for a label like LaFace Records, they will get you the best producers, songs and music videos money can buy. This means your budget will be far greater than a label with lesser resources. However, you have to sell enough albums and singles to recoup those costs from the loan "advance" before you see any financial profit. None of it is guaranteed.

Toni Braxton today

What you are paying for with a big label is their connections via access to top producers, video directors and promotional opportunities on famous television shows and music channels. Indie labels (independent/smaller labels) usually have far less or no connections, which means less people will hear your work (however, the internet and social networking is evening out the playing field where anyone can access your music and videos). 

If your album flops, you don't have to pay the loan ("advance") back. Therefore, you aren't on the hook for loan "advance." However, your album flopping means you will lose your record deal and not have a career as a recording artist (unless you get another deal, which only happens half the time after a flopped debut). The record company retains the view they are putting hundreds of thousands of dollars (sometimes it hits over a million) into launching the recording artist's career, with no guaranty they will see any return on their investment, which entitles them to the greater share of the profits.

It's an industry where you can walk in off the street penniless and become a millionaire entertainer. Labels believe they are to be handsomely rewarded for extending the opportunity of a lifetime, which they should be. However, record deals start off with a very low royalty rate and truthfully, the labels could give a bit more of a percentage to the artist to start. 

Artists need lawyers to properly explain to them what they are signing  Artists also need good, honest managers who have a proper understanding of the music industry and its practices. Braxton's lawyer and manager failed her in this regard. After Braxton's debut album was successful, her manager should have renegotiated her record deal with the assistance of her attorney.

Still from the TV movie "Unbreak My Heart"

Braxton sold 4,000,000 copies of her debut, a certified hit record, which qualified her for a higher royalty rate. LaFace did not tell her this information (though they knew). Neither did her manager and separately lawyer, who may or may not have known. Once again, a more experienced manager and an entertainment industry lawyer would have known these things.

Braxton also made a big mistake in embarking on a massive tour, running up a $4,000,000 tab on staff, travel and sets, with no sponsor. An experienced manager would have known this. Another option would have been Braxton being an opening act for a largely successful veteran artist, where she would not have to shoulder all the cost for an entire tour.

The record industry in America is suffering from its lowest sales to date. People in America are not buying music like they used to do. Recording budgets are lower than ever. Many perks that artists used to enjoy are gone. If any of Braxton's hit records had been released today, they would have sold far less records than she did in the 1990s.

Many modern artists are very cocky and rude with older artists who are no longer enjoying hit records. However, most artists today have even shorter careers than stars in the 1980s and 1990s. It's a cycle and it's shorter than ever. Thing is to be smart about your entertainment career and fame. Learn all you can before you go into it and don't spend unwisely.

A tweet on Twitter regarding the bad casting in the TV movie "Unbreak My Heart" 

Braxton stated this film was a chance to show the world she wasn't some dumb artist, who spent all her money. Braxton is blaming her financial falls on LaFace and Artista. However, the movie glossed over the fact that after LaFace gave her $22,000,000 and renegotiated her recording contract for a higher royalty rate, she did some massive personal spending, as reflected in her second bankruptcy filing.

Even fellow LaFace recording star Usher stated Braxton spent too much money, stating if you are given "$100 you don't spend $99." Braxton has been living lavishly for years, but it is always good to save for a rainy day. When one does a tour or business venture, register it as a corporation, that way you aren't personally liable if things go wrong. Make sure you obtain proper insurance and disclose all pertinent facts. Braxton left out some of her health ailments in trying to obtain insurance, as most companies will not underwrite a star with a Lupus created heart condition.  

The film also left out some of Braxton's sex partners, making her look like a virgin until she met her husband Keri Lewis. Braxton's past sex partners include actor Shamar Moore and L.A. Reid's brother, Bryant Reid, among others. Toni and sister Tamar Braxton were known in the industry for being promiscuous at that time.

LaFace was right to try to rein in Braxton's overly sexual image. People have heavily criticized Braxton for her overt sexual content and raunchy appearance. 99 percent of artists who become true legends, don't have content that is sexually explicit. It detracts from the music and is considered a gimmick.

At the end of the day, Braxton's financial troubles have overshadowed her career. She is most remembered for her financial fall and not her music. No artist wants that, but that is what has happened in this case. Braxton and her family have also strayed far from their roots and it has caused them a world of emotional pain. Braxton's dad, a minister, cheated on her mom in conduct that almost destroyed their family. The Braxton sisters are now mixed up with Hollywood cults, rendering them spiritually confused and vulnerable to trouble.

Braxton's story should be a learning experience for anyone seeking to become an entertainer. Keep your feet on the ground, trust no one in the industry and save money when you can. Braxton's career went into freefall in the space of a few weeks when her album "More Than A Woman" flopped. She has not had a hit since "Secrets." That's how the industry goes. You have to make the most of success while it's there and not be fooled into thinking money will always be coming in from an entertainment career. Spend your money wisely and invest it properly.