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"Our World Has Changed - Stop Hiding Under The Covers

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Yet, if we ask those same 100 people how many of them are prepared to pay for music, almost all of them will disappear. If we then ask them what I consider is the important question: How many of them consider music to be a significant factor in their life (i.e. they buy the record, download everything there is on the Internet, legal or illegal, free or for a price, buy the concert ticket, travel to see the band, buy and wear the T-shirt so they can identify themselves as part of the “tribe”), we would then have less than 1 in 100.

In fact, we would have 1 in 280.

The truth of the matter is, the average person is passive about the music – they are content to hear it on the radio and catch a glimpse of it on television. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky philosophizing; the facts speak for themselves.

Thirty years ago when home taping (let alone Internet piracy and illegal downloads) was the stuff of sci-fi movies, the platinum album was established as the benchmark for extraordinary success in our business. In the U.S., that’s 1 million sales in a country that has 280 million people in it. In the U.K., it’s about the same ratio of 300,000 sales in a population of 80 million.

It’s not much is it? To give some comparison, the same benchmark for extraordinary success in the movie business is to do $100 million at the box office. At today’s ticket prices, that is probably an average of 12 million people seeing the latest film. There may be 12 million people listening to our record but as we can see, we’re lucky if there are 1 million paying for the privilege.

The average person does not give a fuck about music. This was not lost on Ahmet Ertegun or Bill Graham, which is why they built businesses based on jazz fanatics and what music obsessed hippies really wanted to see.

It was not lost on Perry Farrell when he created Lollapalooza for Generation X and it wasn’t lost on Sharon and Ozzy when they created Ozzfest for metalheads. It wasn’t lost on Richard and Stefanie Reins at Drive Thru or Kevin Lyman, Rick Roskin and Darryl Eaton when they created Warped for a new generation of punk rock kids, and it wasn’t lost on Barry Hogan when he created All Tomorrow’s Parties.

Nor is it lost on me or any of my colleagues at Sanctuary as we work with established artists and develop new talent for people that really care about music.
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.

The landscape is very different today from the one I started working in. Twenty years ago, there were 30 great artist development houses or labels that – regardless of the size of their rosters at any one moment in time – each had five priorities,
so you had 150 artists in play across the industry at any given moment.

Everyone knew that there wasn’t room for 150 bands on the radio and everyone knew there wasn’t room for 150 bands on television so the emphasis had to be on building the relationship between an artist and a core audience that was
enthusiastic about music.

You had to take an innovative approach to marketing and effort was possibly the most important component beyond great music. You hoped that you could make a band so important to its core audience that the wider media would pay attention and you could then cross it over into the mainstream, but the economic model was never based on crossover success – that was just cream on the cake.

The economic model was based on the core audience and therefore you could afford to cross over and then cross back again without having to sacrifice your integrity or your core audience. You had acts like the Blue Oyster Cult, that four albums into their career could hit the pop charts with “Don’t Fear The Reaper” or Lynyrd Skynyrd with “Sweet Home Alabama,” and then continue with business as usual before waiting for another six albums and six years later when they would hit the pop charts again and then cross back over and continue on for another 20 years.
You could develop careers of artists selling 1 million records around the world every time you released a record and go out on tour for 100 shows and sell some merch and keep that faith between the artist and the audience alive without ever having to trouble radio or MTV. The emphasis was on playing live, press, marketing, and effort and the target was always the music fanatic.

Those 30 labels also had an ethos, something that all great companies used to have but is rarely seen or thought about today. There was a big difference between Columbia Records and Island Records and an “Island artist” would probably not be caught dead on Columbia and vice versa. Aesthetics were important.
Even sister labels like Columbia and Epic or Warner and Reprise had a marked difference because, at the end of the day, how you did business had a big impact on which artists, managers and agents you did business with. Today, those 30 labels are now four labels and even though they are run by some great record men and women, their economic model dictates that they have to focus on those three or four records a year that are capable of selling 5, 6, 7 million records-plus in order to keep the lights on.

There is no ethos and there are no distinguishing features so it all comes down to money. Not only do those labels have to sell the 5, 6, 7 million records to keep the lights on but in order to get there you have to fast track those records to success via
radio and MTV before you ever have an opportunity to develop a relationship between the artist and an audience of music enthusiasts, i.e. their core audience before you cross over.

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