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"Our World Has Changed - Stop Hiding Under The Covers

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You had to make the right choice as money was limited, so when you scored big you remembered who the critic was that turned you on and, over a period of time, developed love and hate relationships with those writers that led you to great music and those that talked bollocks. People like Lester Bangs, Caroline Coon, Robert Palmer, Ian McDonald, Robert Christgau, Nick Kent, Dave Marsh and Budd Carr.
At this point I was going to read a review from Creem magazine that had an impact on me by Lester Bangs on the New York Dolls, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show and Mott The Hoople playing together somewhere in Kansas. Can you believe that? New York Dolls, Dr. Hook and Mott The Hoople? But time is limited, so we’ll give that a miss for now.


You read all of the credits on records and began to notice which ones were common across your favorite records. Names like Van Dyke Parks, Jack Nitzsche, Chris Blackwell, Eddie Kramer, Phil Spector, George Martin, Frank Barsalona and Jon Landau, and you would sit back and wonder who the fuck are these people and what did they have to do with getting this incredible music across?


I was fortunate enough to know from an early age that I was talentless. I couldn’t sing like Robert Plant or play the guitar like Jimmy Page; in fact I was tone deaf. I am not kidding: Miss Maclean, my third grade music teacher, told me so when she asked me to hang back for a few minutes after class. She was right so I never even tried.
What was undeniable was that I could feel it, I had faith in it, it moved me and took me to places I could never imagine going, and I was determined to be a part of it.
By the way, Miss Maclean did reward me by playing me The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” and I can remember how I felt to this day. So, already being intent from a young age to work in music, I began to pay attention to what was being written about those characters behind the scenes.


So, it wasn’t just Neil, Robert, Jimmy, Elvis, Bob or Elton that I was interested in but it was also Elliott Roberts, Peter Grant, Albert Grossman, Colonel Tom Parker as well as the Simon Drapers, Ahmet Erteguns, John Hammonds, Jerry Weintraubs, Chris Blackwells, and Bill Grahams, and I began to see that there was a role for me to play to help create an environment that the artist could be completely confident in and motivate them to do their best work.


You will have noticed that the list of names I quote is not limited to famous “record men” like Clive Davis whose achievements are not only undeniable but incredible. My list gives credit to agents, promoters and managers, and I’m here to remind you that without agents, without promoters, without managers you never would have heard of Elvis, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones.


I was brought up Greek Orthodox and when we cross ourselves we put our thumb, index finger and middle finger of our right hand together to symbolize the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Well, in my house I’ve taught my four children – much to my mother’s horror – that those are actually Elvis, The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. And, as I say, without promoters, agents and managers like yourselves, you would never have heard of any of them and even the mighty Clive Davis would have to acknowledge that without Jeff Robinson, Pete Nash, Rob Light, and Clear Channel, Alicia Keys would not be where she is today.


Right now, we are going to go to the video wall and play a few short clips.


(Musical highlights are viewed, including Joni Mitchell, The Who and Devo.)


Those clips, which unfortunately didn’t work out so well, were going to illustrate over a course of a few minutes some of the greatest artists in all of music history. The point was, they were not the playlists of any radio station or MTV, but a day in the life of various figures, some of whom we know, some we don’t know, like Rob Light, Bill Elson, Steve Strange, Arthur Fogel and Elliot Roberts – you might have caught Elliot on the side of the stage there with Joni (Mitchell), throwing someone off.


The idea was to show you that music and great music and developing great careers are in the hands of managers, agents and promoters, not radio stations, not MTV.
By the way, for those of you whose egos are wondering why the three fingers don’t symbolize agents, managers and promoters, now is as good a time as any to remind all of you it is all about the artist. The consumer lays his money down because he believes in Neil Young, Robert Plant, Axl Rose, Lou Reed, Eminem, 50 Cent or Slipknot. The artist gives us a reason to exist and provide a service. The great architects of our industry, many of whom I’ve already mentioned, all knew this, but in recent years we have seen the rise of the executive that believes it is all about him or her. That attitude and the lavish spending and expense accounts that accompany it have put music as an important part of our culture in jeopardy.


My point is that every one of you can make a difference. Great agents, managers and promoters – and the great record men – had the faith, focus and determination to make a difference and you can too, should you wish to. If you did not want to make a difference you wouldn’t be here.


Malcolm Gladwell is a great journalist that works for the New Yorker that I discovered recently, and he’s written a couple of books I believe are worthwhile reading for everyone in this room regardless of if you are just starting out or if you have been doing this for 30 years.


The first is called “The Tipping Point” and in essence it is about how the little things can make a big difference and turn a good idea into an epidemic. One of the textbook examples of epidemics in action that Malcolm uses in his book is Hush Puppies shoes, whose tipping point came in 1995.


Despite their long history, the brand was almost dead and sales were down to less than 30,000 pairs of shoes a year but then, as Malcolm puts it, “something strange happened.” Classic Hush Puppies had suddenly become hip in Manhattan clubs and bars and started to show up in fashion shoots and started to be used by designers in their catwalk shows. Within a year, sales were up to 450,000 pairs and within two years, over 2 million pairs.


Hush Puppies suddenly exploded and what started with literally a handful of kids in Soho and the East Village who were wearing them because nobody else would, spread to a couple of fashion designers who were using the shoes incidentally to sell something else – high fashion – and before you knew it, Hush Puppies were a massive success born out of the faith, focus and determination of a few people.
For me, faith, focus and determination are the little things Malcolm refers to, and every day the people in this room work together to make epidemics happen. The problem is that we rarely realize the role we play, and we almost never realize that we have the power to choose what we put our faith, focus and determination behind and that we have the ability to choose to put that faith, focus and determination behind career artists that are going to appeal to the music enthusiast, be evergreen and serve all of us well for the next 20 years rather than get behind the new pop act that, if we are lucky, will come and go in the space of a year.


In 2004, we decided at Sanctuary to put our faith, focus and determination behind Morrissey. For seven years, he was not able to even get a record deal, yet as a result of his great artistry and our efforts, the tipping point came, and he had by far the most successful album of his career, selling over 1.5 million records worldwide, having a top 10 album all over the world – No. 11 in the U.S., being the only artist in five years to have four consecutive top 10 singles in the U.K. and selling tens of thousands of concert tickets all over the world.


Again, this was down to the faith, focus and determination of a few people including Rick Roskin, Peter Asher, John Jackson, Jed Weitzman, Brian Murphy, Clear Channel, SJM, Chris York, Simon Moran – some of who are here today.
I started off by telling you that the reason I am here is because I love music, but let’s face it: That is a fluffy, bullshit statement and a complete copout, right?


Everybody loves music, right? Come on, who doesn’t love music? Well, if that is the case, why is the music business singing the blues and screaming about declining record sales, poor ticket sales, Internet piracy and illegal downloads?
I am going to mention a few logical statistics that, if you really thought about them, would scare the fuck out of you. It’s sort of like thinking about flying: You’re going to take off in this piece of tin and fly on it at 500 miles an hour for the next nine hours, 35,000 feet in the air, and then you’re going to land and everything’s going to be groovy.


If you thought about it too hard, you would never do it. So here’s some scary logic that might bring pause to ask yourselves: What has our industry been doing to itself for the last 15 or so years?


I am willing to bet that if we were all to go out into the street right now and stop the first 100 people we came to and asked them if they liked music, 99 out of 100 if not 100 out of 100 would tell us that they love music. They love to play it in their cars, when they’re driving, they love to sing in the shower, the right song makes them feel good when they are feeling down.


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