Mark Cuban on Music and Sports

Mark Cuban

The SXSW music festival brought an exciting opportunity to mesh the world of sports with music. Their panel, Who’s the Rockstar? Sports as Entertainment and How Music Fits In, featured sports greats discussing how they use music in the industry. Mark Cuban was a panelist, sharing his musical philosophy for the Dallas Mavericks, thoughts on social media, NBA scandals and plans for his cable network.


The musical mission for the entire sports industry:

Mark Cuban: The ultimate goal of every sports team in America, probably the world, is to try to find a replacement for Rock n Roll Part II. That is just the one mission we all have in our lives. You never want to give a guy who’s associated with kiddie porn and is in jail in Thailand somewhere be the most recognizable song you play in your arena, the one song that gets everybody up and at them. We failed miserably but where do we look? Wherever we can find it. Every week or two I’ll go through iTunes and go look. Then probably more often than that, people are sending me MP3s of songs they’ve done that they’d like to have played. More often than not, 99.9% of the time they don’t work but there’s one song, This Is Where Amazing Happens, that got sent to me just out of nowhere that we picked up and started playing. Now, I don't know if we’ve led by example, we’re doing autotune Mav highlights. We’re trying to be original wherever we can as well.


How social media is affecting sports:


Mark Cuban: Everything’s changed 180 degrees just in the past two years because of social media. In the past, you might’ve teamed up, like Bernie [Williams] has with the Yankees, and the athlete looked to you as being the vehicle to get whatever they were doing out there. Now they don’t need you. Now they’re going to do whatever they can to troll to get as many Twitter followers, as many likes on their Facebook page and use that as their platform to release whatever they’re going to do. Now they’ve learning to become smart enough to even create subfan pages if you will. So here’s the athlete and here’s the musician. They’re separate so they communicate on two different levels. Sometimes it actually creates competition but our job with the Mavs and the NBA, for the Mavs I don’t even try to brand the Mavs. I try to brand the experience. You’re going to go have fun whether it’s with your kids, whether it’s with a date, whether it’s with your buddies. You’re going to have fun. If we have somebody who wants to push whether it’s charitable work or their musical abilities, I’ll give them advice on how to use social media but really it’s pushing them towards establishing their own platform because that’s a platform that stays with them forever until the next thing that replaces Twitter and Facebook.


Pro ballers are fragile creatures of ego too:

Mark Cuban: Sensitivity now with social media is 1000 times worse. Before it might’ve been, “Somebody told my mom they saw this.” Now everybody’s watching Twitter. Everybody’s tweeting. What’s worse is the players, the artists, they’re going back and searching on Twitter. It may be somebody who just opened up a fake account with zero followers who said something rude and they’re freaking out. If you’re an artist, always look to see the number of followers the person has that’s saying something. 99% of people who are rude, they get all that confidence to be rude by just setting up a fake Twitter account with nobody following it. Then you can say whatever you want. They know the vanity side of all, we all search, Mark Cuban Mavs or whatever, I’ve had players freak out, “So and so said this.” The guy had one follower and that must be his other account, right? Doesn’t matter. No one sees it except for you because no one else is searching on your name. There’s that dynamic that’s just continuing to change. What I do is set up about 100 fake Twitter accounts, “Oh, you were great. Dude, you were slamming. It was the best I’ve ever heard. I’m so glad you did that.” They have no idea.


The game will always be king:

Mark Cuban: Social media is just a platform. Twitter is a very simple and immediate broadcast platform. Facebook is a very personal, when it comes to friends and when it comes to fan pages, a little bit less but still somewhat personal way to communicate. It’s just an amplification of things we’ve tried to do in the past whether that was face to face or through television and radio. The game is still the game and the emotion and value of the entertainment of the game is still going to be paramount. Everything else is just the platform to compliment and hopefully support it. There’s also the opposite side as well. You get a false sense of security in a lot of cases from social media as well. There might be something that drove you to get a million followers or a million views on YouTube but it might not have been what the artist thought it was. The one going around now where she’s got like 9 million views on YouTube but it’s not because she’s good. It’s because she’s so bad. She thinks it’s because she’s so good. Imagine having to be the mom, I think she’s like 16, trying to explain that to your daughter. “Sorry babe, it’s because you suck not because you’re good.” So you’ve got to be careful. Where someone would get 100, 200 or 300,000 followers for whatever reason. It’s like the old MySpace friends. Oh, they have 200,000 friends on MySpace, they’re going to sell a boatload of downloads. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to be very cognizant of the correlation between social media links and business because they don’t always correlate as highly as people would like.


But upstart players should definitely be online:

Mark Cuban: There’s a guy, Omar Samhan who played for St. Mary’s that didn’t get drafted. This is a true story, we go through the NBA draft and we said if this kid doesn’t get picked, we’re going to call him up and invite him in as a free agent. We couldn’t get a hold of his agent. So I did a search on Facebook, found him on Facebook, sent him an e-mail message on Facebook. He says, “This isn’t Mark Cuban.” I said, “Yeah, it is. Your agent’s not calling us back.” We invited him in and he played okay. He didn’t make the team but he got picked up in Europe and is still playing in Europe and we’re still friends.


Mark Cuban wants to create your cherished family memories:

Mark Cuban: Everybody thinks the Mavs are the basketball business, the Yankees are the baseball business. We’re not. We’re not in the basketball business. You could go watch Pee Wee basketball if it was just about basketball. We’re in the business of creating special emotions and special connections. If you think back to the first sporting event you went to, you don’t remember the score, you don’t remember a home run, you don’t remember a dunk. You remember who you were with. Were you with your mom, your dad, your brother, on a date? Were you drunk? Were you checking out hot girls and met your wife? It shocks me how many people go, “Oh, my first date was at a Mavs game. I met my wife at a Mavs game.” Those are the things that you remember and those types of emotions are easily associated with music. Trying to attach the emotions of why you’re there and what you’re experiencing to music is something I know we work hard at.


Mark Cuban’s National Anthem superstition:

Mark Cuban: People all ask how you get invited to do the anthem. We have tryouts and there’s an artist, a known artist who’s coming through town whenever, we typically allow them to sing the anthem with one exception. The next question is how do you get invited back after you’ve sung the first time. There’s really only one key to that, and that is, did our team win when you sang the anthem? No lie, we have one guy who plays the saxophone, we never lose. We have an a cappella group that comes in and plays, we don’t lose, so they’re coming back. I don't care if they’re off key, they’re coming back. That’s just the rules of the game. But we’re not superstitious at all.


Mark Cuban weighs in on the Miami Heat “Three Kings” fiasco:

Mark Cuban: I’m a believer in karma. You’ve just opened yourself to a big old whack across the head like they did, you typically get it. It was a unique opportunity. There was a lot of excitement. They were smart to try to extend the excitement throughout the community, but I just think they went a little overboard. They tried to make it like a rock concert. They tried to make it like the biggest event, the Super Bowl of player signings. It becomes very anticlimactic. That’s the challenge. You don’t want to shoot your wad before you even get in business. That’s basically what they might have done. So you’ve got to be careful. You’ve got to understand, particularly in sports, at the start of the season, everybody’s undefeated, everybody’s excited about their team and you want to try to have a crescendo that builds through the season to hopefully something good at the end. It actually worked to the benefit of the league because instead of the Beatles, they were The Knack. They were the knockoff that so far hasn’t quite worked. Maybe it will but they became the villain. They were like the Oakland Raiders so that’s actually helped the league because people go watch them to boo ‘em. You always want a villain.


Musicians, e-mail Mark Cuban your demo:

Mark Cuban: Just e-mail me, [email protected]. Make it a low-fi MP3. If I like it, I’ll tell you I like it, we’ll probably play it. If I don’t, I just won’t say anything and you won’t hear back from me.


Mark Cuban in Dorrough’s Get Big video:


Mark Cuban: Dorrough is a Dallas rapper and he’s a Mavs fan, comes to the games so I’d met him. He sent me an e-mail saying, “Hey, we’re going to do two versions of this video. We’re going to do the release version for BET and then we’re going to do one for the underground version for my website which’ll be the underground version.” So I said sure. It’s just me shaking his hand walking out of the limo. The next thing you know, BET takes the version from his website and makes this the new version. So on 106 and Park they just played the hell out of it. It’s just because he’s a Mavs fan. You all buy season tickets and I’ll be in your video.


Big plans for live music on HDNET:

Mark Cuban: On HDNET it’s all high definition. Traditionally music hasn’t worked on television but now that sets are high def, big screens, stereo sound, 5.1 or better sound, we decided on HDNET all Sunday was going to be nothing but music. so all day long we just program all different types of concerts. Whatever we can find from Beyonce to Black Eyed Peas to the North Texas State choral group, classical, as many different genres as we can. We’re always going to be looking for things, at prime time draw the biggest audience, but then we package smaller groups around different types of music. Where I think it’s going, what we’re working on, is making it live. We’re talking to bands now so that as they tour, they make the final stop on a Sunday night and we send out our trucks. Just like we do a live broadcast of a sporting event, we’ll do a live broadcast of a concert. It’s like sports. One of the things that separates sports from everything else is it’s live. A live concert, by the time a director gets a hold of a video and turns a concert into a package, it goes in 1000 different directions. Nothing replaces live so hopefully over the next couple years you’ll see us, all Sunday will be different concerts from different places, all live.


On music licensing: 

Mark Cuban: As long as there’s more lawyers than sandwiches in this world, they’ll come after you. You’re going to have to find local talent or license it if they come after you. As long as you’re putting a CD or pulling it off a laptop or whatever and you’re just playing it right there and you’re paying your ASCAP/BMI, you’re fine. If you’re putting it on your website or you’re packaging it in video highlights, then you’ve got a problem. In arena play [is allowed] as long as you’re pulling it from a CD or whatever.


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