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Merck MercuriadisMerck Mercuriadis
"Our World Has Changed - Stop Hiding Under The Covers

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So, ultimately the foundation that the artist’s success is built on is based on the passive consumer and is only as strong as the last hit single. When the radio and MTV play stops, the artist disappears into the ether unlike Blue Oyster Cult or Styx or Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Iron Maidens or Metallicas or the Elton Johns and Neil Youngs who stick around putting bums on seats for another 20 or 30 years.


Our industry is now the blockbuster business not dissimilar to movies, and career artists are less important. The target audience is the passive consumer and that is the clear difference.


The golden era of the music business targeted the music enthusiast. In today’s world, he has been disenfranchised while the majors chase the passive consumer who, as we discovered above, does not give a fuck about music.


This is why we now work in a business that is dictated to by research, focus groups, BDS, SoundScan, and Bree, Susan, Lynette, Gabrielle, Edie or one of the other 100 million desperate housewives across the country that decide what music you get to hear on the radio, because it may influence their decision as to which soap powder they might buy.


I put all of these gifts of technology under the category of “professional excuses.” The Beatles, Elvis, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Elton John, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Iron Maiden, Guns N’ Roses, Slipknot, Eminem, and Metallica didn’t need BDS, SoundScan or the desperate housewives. Brian Epstein, Andrew Loog Oldham, Allen Klein, Steve O’Rourke, Peter Grant, Bill Curbishley, Rod Smallwood and Cliff Bernstein did not need BDS, SoundScan or the desperate housewives to sell millions of records, concert tickets and merchandise around the world. It’s arguable they did not even need radio or MTV.


My partner and mentor Rod Smallwood spent years on the road with Iron Maiden – he even became eligible for the Guinness Book of World Records during the course of the band’s Powerslave tour in 1984/1985. It is a little known fact that he drank more beer in that 18 month period than any other human being on the planet.
Mind you, not because he loved beer – that was just a perk of the job. He did it because he believed and had faith in Iron Maiden and to get that message across, he spent every possible moment via a bevvie telling every promoter, manager, promo person, retailer, agent, product manager and the odd bird or two about it and 20 odd years later I defy anyone to tell me that it is not every bit as critical a component in the band selling 57 million records around the world – without ever getting played on the radio or MTV – as the music.


It is also the reason why, without even having a new record out, the band can go on tour this summer and headline stadiums and arenas around the world, selling out and doing remarkable numbers like over 53,000 tickets in Gothenburg in 2 1/2 hours.


As I said before, it is only logical that our business and every aspect of it should focus on that person that considers music to be central to their life.
When you put your business in the hands of the consumer that is passive about what you are selling, big mistakes happen. You go from dealing with the world that you know and that is proven, to speculating and you start chasing your tail, while hemorrhaging cash and disenfranchising your core customer.


This is not exclusive to major record companies in the music business. As Malcolm Gladwell highlights in his new book “Blink,” one of the biggest consumer blunders of all time that almost ruined one of the most successful companies of all time – New Coke – was a direct result of putting faith in the results of research conducted on focus groups comprised of people who did not drink Coke instead of paying attention to what people who were enthusiasts of Coke had to say.
This is not dissimilar to the research conducted by radio under my category of “professional excuses,” where people who do not care about music play a role in determining what music gets heard.


Malcolm outlines all of this in a far more articulate fashion than I possibly could in a chapter called “Kenna’s Dilemma.” Kenna is one of the most remarkable artists I have ever heard. The chapter talks about how Kenna, despite having made
an incredible record with Chad from The Neptunes and having the might of Sony behind him as well as the patronage of Paul McGuinness, Craig Kallman, MTV and many powerful supporters in this business, has been kept off of the radio as
a result of research conducted on people who do not care about music rather than seeing what people who do care about music think.


As Kenna himself says in closing the chapter, “This music takes faith and faith is not what the music business is about these days.”


Unfortunately like Kenna, there are many examples of great music that is not being exposed to people that care about music. Does anybody remember the power of word of mouth which, via the Internet, should now be the most powerful tool we have? I believe that the people in this room can change that through faith, focus and determination and at the same time not only transform the artist’s career but their businesses and the industry.


The faith, bond and trust built with the people that matter are the secret behind every career artist’s success and it is the reason why everyone in this room hopes that Iron Maiden, Neil Young, Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Black Sabbath with Ozzy, Elton John, The Who, Fleetwood Mac, Eminem, Guns N’ Roses, and Morrissey will tour this summer, because you know the faithful will be there with their bums on seats to be baptized once again.


Arthur Fogel, I don’t know if he’s here, Arthur is going to produce this year’s biggest tour – U2 will gross over a quarter of a billion dollars in ticket sales alone before they are finished with their forthcoming tour. You don’t need me to tell you U2 are the sort of band that can work with anyone that they wish to and it would take them about 5 minutes to find 100 different sources that would be willing to pony up the money they want for the privilege of being involved.


So, why Arthur? It’s an easy answer and it’s not just because Clear Channel has a lot of money. Arthur had the faith and he believed. The band never saw any appreciable airplay until their sixth album – if you include Under a Blood Red Sky, which I do (apologies but I’m a stickler for these sorts of things) – The Joshua Tree in 1987, but Arthur had the faith to take them from Massey Hall to Maple Leaf Gardens in the span of about three months over three years earlier before anything other than specialist airplay hit.


He played a role alongside Paul McGuiness, Frank Barsalona, Ellen Darst and everyone that was part of the team at the time. He had the faith and he broke the band. By the way, I was at both those shows and at the Edge (the club, not the guitarist) as well as the Paradise in Boston and the U of U2 – that’s right, University of U2 – taught me a few things as well.


Arthur had the faith again not too many years ago when, following the subdued response to U2’s Pop album and “PopMart” tour when many had written the band off as over, he was there for them once again with a team of people led, as always, by Paul McGuinness – one of the greatest managers of his generation – and now including Jimmy Iovine, they broke the band all over again with the All That You Can’t Leave Behind album and Elevation tour, and made a lot of people in this room very happy as they no doubt will do again this year.


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