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Merck MercuriadisMerck Mercuriadis
"Our World Has Changed - Stop Hiding Under The Covers
As a manager, one of the things all of my artists have in common is that the minute their tour manager knocks on the dressing room door and lets them know they’ve got 5 minutes before showtime, they all go running for the toilet. I now know how they feel.

Not only are there over 1,200 of you here today, making this the CIC’s most successful year ever – so congratulations to the two Garys and everyone involved – but many of you are people I have great respect for, so please forgive me if I’m just a little nervous.
Being nervous is good though, because it shows I care about what I’m talking about.

When I was asked to give this keynote address I had to put some thought as to what my motivation was to do it. Was it driven by ego? Not always such a bad thing. After all, I am speaking in a room, surrounded by some of the greatest egos in the world.
Having said that, many of you have earned your huge egos through good work, and I am going to remind some of you of that, although I doubt you have forgotten.
It would be obvious for me to talk about Sanctuary, but I am not here to hype and I’ve always believed that people should recognize us for what we have achieved rather than what we say we are going to achieve. You may have had the opportunity to read about our 360 degree model, how our business is based on the artists first and foremost, and our successes over the last five years come at a point in time when our industry has been suffering.

Ultimately, the reason I agreed to do this is because I love music, and its importance in every aspect of my life and who I am cannot be denied. I believe this is also true of many of you, and once again I am going to remind you of that as this is something you may have forgotten.

During the course of this address, I am going to talk a little about myself and my experiences but the purpose of telling you a little of my tale is not so that you will know about me but rather that you may be reminded and remember something about yourselves.

Parental advisory warning: I’ll occasionally use words like “fuck.” I like it, it goes with the territory and, most importantly, I can’t stop saying it.

I’ve spent most of the last 20 years of my life in England with the last few in New York, but I actually grew up in a small town in Nova Scotia – very pretty town of less than 2,000 people about three hours away from the nearest big town, and by big town I mean 150,000 people.

In those late ’60s and early ’70s pre-Internet and pre-MTV days, access to music – at least the music I wanted to hear – was limited. The only radio station was a country & western format and I am afraid my tastes were not yet sophisticated enough to appreciate George Jones or Merle Haggard and my interest in country & western did not stretch beyond Johnny Cash – the man in black. I used to watch him on TV every Friday night and, as those of you who know me know if nothing else, he had an influence on my fashion sense.

In any case the radio station’s real purpose was to be the Farmer’s Almanac. Every morning you could hear the DJ say, “the sun is going to rise at 6 a.m. and set at 4:30 p.m., so you’ve got 10 and a half hours to get your crops in!”

One day a new family moved in next door, and they had a son who was 16 or 17 and in an effort to meet some people – girls – he set up his guitar and amplifier in the driveway and started making noise. It did not take long to get my attention and I was over there like a shot. He was playing along to Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” and had just bought the freshly released new Neil Young album, Harvest. Despite our differences in age – I was waiting on my ninth birthday – he indulged me and we bonded over music and we listened to Harvest over and over again and somehow, over the next few days, I managed to get that album back to my house and I don’t think I ever really left my room again.

My education is limited to high school. I never really needed anything more. Over the ensuing days, months and years I learned most of what I needed to know about life, love, politics, morals, drugs, money, and empathy from the University of Neil Young, University of Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Curtis Mayfield, Patti Smith, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, The Clash and all of the great artists.

Heavy records like the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” Curtis’ “Freddie’s Dead,” Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Thru the Grapevine,” Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto,” The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for My Man” and Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” or “Ohio” will teach you a lot about life that you are lucky enough not to have to learn from first-hand experience itself. As this is about music, it is only appropriate that we play a little.

(Neil Young’s “Down By The River” is played.)

That was actually a miscue. They were going to play “Needle And The Damage Done.” But “Down By the River” means a lot to me as well. What I was going to say about “Needle and the Damage Done,” and it’s true for “Down By The River” as well, is that song means as much to me 32 years later as it did the first day I heard it and my life and the lives of those around me have been affected by all of the great records that have had an impact on me.

Not long after I discovered Harvest – and this is why I wanted to play “Needle and the Damage Done” – I ended up in bed for three or four weeks with a rare form of measles that left me feverish and hallucinating for days at a time. As you can imagine, Harvest and all the images it conjured played a big part in those hallucinations and I can distinctly remember waking up one morning having vivid and terrifying dreams about sticking needles in my arm, convinced that the brown moles that dotted my arms were track marks.

By the way, you’ll be pleased to note that when I got better, my parents rewarded me with a $10 bill that I happily spent on Traffic’s Low Spark of High Heeled Boys and Led Zeppelin II, and my education continued.

As a result of my aforementioned environment, other than word of mouth my access to hearing music before I bought it was limited to what the cover bands would play at the local high school which, believe it or not, would send you searching for the originals or more importantly reading about music and dreaming about what it must sound like.

I would read an incredible review on a band I had never heard of in the pages of Creem, Sounds, Melody Maker, Rolling Stone or NME and then decide what to spend my money on out of pure instinct. I would go to the department store and study the artwork on the records for hours at a time.

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