"Our World Has Changed - Stop Hiding Under The
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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
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
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
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
(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
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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