Music Moguls

Music Moguls: Masters of Pop – Money Makers – BBC Documentary 2016

This makes me feel inadequate. It makes me realize I’m not a businessman. Because a businessman puts the money first, and will do whatever it takes to not only generate revenue, but put as much as possible into his own pocket. It also makes me realize I’ve been a victim of the press, of the penumbra, I’m an end consumer, whereas to know what’s really going on you have to go to the heart of the matter.

Every successful artist needs a manager. Every artist needs a manager to be successful. A manager is a freewheeling character who believes rules are made to be broken, who sees the world as an opportunity, who is not fearful of standing up to anybody.

And that’s not me.

The best managers function in uncharted territory. Don’t limit yourself to music, this is the story of tech. It was for nerds in Silicon Valley, most people didn’t pay attention until Apple went public. And then Gen-X’ers started computing whilst their baby boomer brethren saw no need for a box. But it’s the children of the boomers who truly ran with tech, they saw the power of digits, they revolutionized society, and we just bask in the utility of Facebook and Uber and…

The same way boomers used to revel in the sounds of the Beatles.

We had no idea what made them successful. We thought we did, we hoovered up all the information we could, but we had no access to those pulling the strings, who were inventing it along the way.

This documentary starts with Colonel Parker. For this carny bloke it was all about the money. He smelled opportunity. That’s what the unwashed don’t understand about managers, they sniff well for talent. And the talent they’re looking for is the ability to cause a reaction, that will get people to open their wallets. Every act does not deserve a manager. And although great acts are few and far between, managers focus not only on musical talent, but marketability, moldability… The Beatles were scruffy, Brian Epstein made them clean-cut.

No one knew there was that much money in music. Only outcasts were in the field. Gay men who knew what the little girls wanted. Wet behind the ears twentysomethings who could not get a leg up at the corporation. Scrappy free-thinkers.

Andrew Loog Oldham didn’t stand by the stage self-satisfied when his proteges the Rolling Stones were doing their act, no, he went to the back of the hall and started screaming, to get the girls to do so too.

Simon Napier-Bell took Wham! to China for the publicity. A great manager is a manipulator, he sees the world as his stage, he makes way for the artists to create. As Bill Curbishley says, artists are defective, they’re missing something, it’s the manager’s role to fill that hole.

So if you’re good at math, well-adjusted, educated and your life is rife with opportunity…

You’re probably not gonna make it in music.

But if you can’t get up in the morning. If you’re alternately smooth and awkward. If you have trouble with authority… You might be a star, if you catch the eye of a great manager who allows you to be you, full time.

That’s the story of the modern music business. Not the acts eaten up by the public, they’re just the product, like Barbie or the Pet Rock. Rather it’s the people who foist them upon the world, who convince people to open their wallets, who are the engine of success.

You can go to music business college, you can read Don Passman’s book, you can be a student of the game yet still be unsuccessful. Because it’s not about what you know but who you are. Are you the kind of person who artists can trust, who will see you as their best friend, who can open doors for them, be fair to them and make headway?

Then you’re on the road to success.

The greats can always get more artists. The greats are always pivoting. Maybe moving from management to promotion to comedy to…

And the greats are always standing up to institutions. Whether it be Peter Grant demanding 90% of the gross or Irving Azoff starting his own performing rights society.

Great managers don’t know the word NO. And they don’t focus on dreaming, on the impossible, but what they believe to be achievable. They may start small, manipulating sales reports, but then they go big. It’s the only way to hold on to your client and survive.

Yes, fraud, manipulation, falsehood… They’re ubiquitous in the music business. They’re the grease that makes the engine hum. Sure, millennials are about honesty and transparency, but then why does Mark Zuckerberg keep changing the Facebook terms of service? Why does he keep changing the algorithms so you’ve got to pay to be seen?

Because he wants money and he wants to survive.

Kill or be killed.

That’s how Helen Kushnick made Jay Leno famous. She was hated for it, but most managers are hated.

By the people they supersede, who are left behind, who don’t have the vision and the cojones to make the world their oyster.

The doc moves on to Paul McGuinness. Turning the Irish band into a worldwide financial juggernaut.

But McGuinness got blown out when he couldn’t adjust to the new world, driven by the internet.

That’s how Scooter Braun became successful, finding Justin Bieber online.

But Braun is working in ancient territory. Creating desire in little girls who are not savvy to the world. Whereas the big money today is in creating convenience, in tech, allowing the public to become the star.

Not that there isn’t money in music.

There’s just a whole hell of a lot more elsewhere.

Which is why everybody in Hollywood has a tech play. Not because they love 0’s and 1’s, but because they love money, they love the action.

And at the center of the action you’ll always find the same person. Who usually didn’t go to college, frequently did not come from a rich family, who likes to tilt the playing field in his favor. The only difference is today the tech titans themselves are the stars. Evan Spiegel, Mr. Snapchat, or Daniel Ek of Spotify.

Because we need something to believe in. With people to believe in behind it. It’s the nature of being alive, otherwise life is too empty.

And sure, music fills the hole. But the way it gets to us is through these scrappy entrepreneurs, they midwife success.

And if you don’t know this you’re destined to sit on the sidelines.

This documentary will open your eyes.

But it won’t make you a manager.

Focus on what you do best. Wanting to play, wanting to be involved…that’s no guarantee of success in a sphere where everybody wants in. Hell, you can’t get a concert ticket because the hedge funders need to go and say there were there too.

But the hedge funders will give you their money, if you just figure out what they want.

That’s what a manager does, figure out what people want and then sell it to them.

Are you a mark or a merchant?

Look yourself in the mirror and answer that question.

When you know who you are you can plot your course and reach the destination.

And if your terminus is international rock star, you need a manager. Not someone who’s done it before so much as someone who can do it today. Who knows both the players and the marketplace. Who is even hungrier than you.

Don’t buy the gloss, look for the special sauce.

By time it gets to you the story has been changed, spruced up, there’s a patina of niceness to it. As bad as Peter Grant looked in the “Song Remains The Same,” it was a smidge of his nastiness.

Nice is not a path to victory.

Unless there’s someone being nasty behind the scenes, paving the way, keeping the vultures away, making you a desirable commodity.

Ponder that.

Bernie Sanders

What kind of crazy, fucked-up world do we live in where a 74 year old white-haired Jew from Vermont resonates with the millennial generation more than any entertainer?

One in which when the game is rigged an outspoken leader says the rules must be changed instead of preaching false hope.

My radar tells me it’s going to be a Clinton/Rubio race, and that all the dissatisfaction expressed for the past year might go by the wayside, or will it?

The Occupy movement was marginalized by the press, and despite lionization by Aaron Sorkin in the “Newsroom,” it was seen as an unfocused effort by slackers that was ultimately laughable.

That’s what happens when the aged won’t let go, they marginalize the efforts of the hungry newcomers. And in this case, the aged are baby boomers, who wrested power from their sleeping parents and refuse to let go.

Millennials run the bleeding edge tech companies.

Who runs entertainment?

If you don’t think aged boomers run records and concerts, you don’t know that Doug Morris is too old to be classified as a boomer, but the rest of the business is overrun with fifty and sixtysomethings who grew up in the sixties, seventies and eighties when entertainment was completely different, when it was all about promotion and the game was rigged, when it didn’t matter what sold just as long as something did.

But that ain’t gonna go on for long.

This is what’s gonna happen. An incorruptible millennial is gonna revolutionize music. Not Scooter Braun, with his lame over-promotion of nitwits, but an act with talent that will be comfortable saying no. That won’t work with usual suspect songwriters and producers and will specialize in touching people’s hearts more than slickness.

That’s what will make music healthy again, and it’s coming.

This effort might be midwifed by young businesspeople with new values, who believe in transparency and honesty as opposed to duplicity. You can’t get a good concert ticket at face value, you don’t even know where to look for one. Do you think this is the preference of the millennial?

No, the millennial believes in fairness. The millennial will pay top buck for what they want. Just make it clear, cast aside obfuscation.

The millennials are fueling the Sanders campaign. Which is not about fixing the old car, but blowing it up and taking a Tesla or an Uber. For all the trumpeting of the Top Forty, the truth is never since the Beatles have hits meant less, have they had less penetration, have they had so little cultural impact. And true, there are competing sounds and messages, but greatness triumphs, assuming you create it.

The boomers fueled the campaign of Clean Gene McCarthy. Whose candidacy disintegrated and the result was Humphrey got nominated and Nixon got elected. Disillusionment reigned, and then Reagan legitimized greed and the boomers sold out.

But the millennials have no one to sell out to. There are no jobs, no opportunities. And this may be overstating the case, but with college debt hanging over your head and the lifestyles of the rich and famous paraded in front of you on every media outlet known to man it can get discouraging, not everyone can be a winner.

So if you want to triumph in the coming music world, know that your bond with your audience is everything. And even though nitwit youngsters will follow the popsters, it’s college-aged audiences that trumpet the next big thing. And these students are looking for someone to treat them as an equal and to give them guidance, not tell them to overpay for empty products.

Hell, millennials aren’t into assets anyway, they like experiences, which is why they go to the festival, to commune with their compatriots and post their efforts to Instagram. When you’ve got nothing, it’s all about you.

Warner did a good thing to say it would share breakage with its acts, that the sale of Spotify stock would be divvied-up. The company gets it.

Sony followed suit within hours and expect Universal to do the same, otherwise they’ll have a hard time signing acts.

And Kobalt is revolutionizing publishing transparency.

But subterfuge still reigns in the music business. The acts could clear it up, especially on the live side, but their greed is preventing them from doing this, they’re hiding behind the front of Ticketmaster, taking no blame.

But millennials know it’s all about responsibility. They want to know who made their clothes and they want answers. Want to win them over? Provide same.

So Bernie is a harbinger of what’s to come. His importance may be greatest outside the political sphere. He has tapped into a well of disaffection deeper than any rapper has been able to. While Drake fights with Meek Mill, Bernie’s talking about paying your bills, leveling the playing field.

There’s something happening here.

And we’ll call it the millennial moment. When power shifts from parents to children. When adults brought up in a different era realize they’ve lost touch with what’s going on. Hillary Clinton uses Jamie Lee Curtis to promote herself, not knowing most millennials are clueless as to her identity.

But millennials know the Beatles and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. They remember when music stood for something, when it could move mountains, when a musician challenged power and said no.

We’re looking for a few good leaders. Not those who have been self-promoting on social media incessantly. We want no makeup mavens, we want no video game players, we want artists. Not those on the “Voice,” a boomer construct if there ever was one, a money-making effort with no artistry involved, but those who go their own way. Who’ve flown off the radar for years honing their chops as opposed to getting mommy and daddy to promote their lame thirteen year old efforts.

We’ve been shooting too low.

The audience is sophisticated, the audience is hungry.

It’s time to feed them.

More Life Lessons

You are the star of your own movie, it’s as important as that of the billionaire and the celebrity, just don’t expect anybody else to watch it or care about it.

Social media is where you connect and share with your friends, if you’re doing it to brag and establish a career, you’re doing it wrong.

Friends are everything. Build your crew. Share your ideas. Laugh. If your buds are unsatisfying, feel free to bring in new blood, or to graduate all together. But accolades without a posse to enjoy them are worthless.

Money is irrelevant. Not if you don’t have enough, then that’s unfortunate and it’s all you can think about. But if you can pay for food, health and shelter, don’t nickel and dime, at the end of your life you’ll realize it’s just not worth it. Give a few extra percentage points as a tip. Lend money and don’t ask for it back. Pay the fee to put your bag underneath the plane as opposed to schlepping it on board. Being cheap only hurts yourself.

You’re your own hero. The truth is everybody else is just as clueless as you. Don’t look up to anyone else, just build your confidence, and know that everybody’s unsure of the path.

Having said that, everyone has expertise in different areas, it’s the nature of life. You’ll find if you share your dilemmas with others they’ll have loads of insight and will help you navigate what you find so challenging.

Your experience is all that matters, and when you’re gone it evaporates with you.

The government can’t protect you from the scam. Maybe after the fact it can help you claw some money back, but the truth is deception and even fraud are the cornerstones of even the biggest businesses. Just try to cancel a service… It’s nearly impossible. Better yet, try to renegotiate your cable bill. You’ll spend hours on the phone and only few will get a great deal. Buying a car has been democratized by the internet, but signing up, canceling and adjusting your cable bill is akin to the wild west.

Don’t let the testosterone get you. Feel free to say no to the group. Get guys together and one will propose the outrageous and the others will be afraid to be labeled wimps and will go along with what might be dangerous. It takes a lot to say no, but if your insides tell you to, do so.

And just because your fellow travelers in estrogen tell you you’re beautiful and rally around you when your romantic life is challenged, don’t think they’ve got accurate insight into guys. Sure, there are cads, players and manipulators, never mind those who don’t follow through. But the truth is most men are clueless and moldable. If there’s a spark, feel free to text and call them, you’re in the driver’s seat…unless you place all your faith in testosterone and go where your man goes, but that might leave you in a bad place, just like the guys above.

Buy something if you’re gonna use it, don’t buy it to show it off. The truth is no one cares.

Tell your story. Women are good at this, men are bad at this, fearful of appearing weak. But once you tell somebody the way that you feel…you’ve got the opportunity for them to respond in a warm, understanding way and you’ll feel connected, which is the ultimate desire of all people on this planet.

Life is a hassle. You’ll lose and be hurt and despite having plenty of people to blame, you won’t get compensation, or if you do it won’t make up for your loss. Accept this. Plans will get broken, as will you. You can stay at home and never go out or you can enter the world and have unexpected, great experiences, but you’ll be exposed to greater danger. Life is a risk. If you’re playing it safe, it’s pretty damn boring.

Work is about fulfillment more than money. Don’t envy those who don’t work, they’re empty and unsatisfied at the core. Try to have a job you love, but don’t assume just because you’re passionate about it you’ll get rich. But it’s okay to have a mediocre job to support your hobbies. Just don’t have a mediocre job and a mediocre life.

Change happens. The journey to the other side will be painful. But you’ll always end up in a better spot, as long as you can let go of the past.

Don’t be vindictive. Don’t try to get even. No one is keeping score and the longer you try to settle scores the more time you’re losing in life.

Relationships are not about love but commitment, never forget it.

Divorce may be necessary, but it will haunt you forever.

Children center your life, they give you something to live for, they give you purpose. But don’t have them with someone who is unwilling to make themselves subservient to your progeny.

Most of what popular culture will tell you is important is not. Enjoy that movie, follow politics, but if you think it amounts to a hill of beans you’re too deep in the weeds. Records and movies come and go. Who is President will affect you, via Supreme Court decisions if nothing else, but what’s in the news every day is about selling advertising.

The older you get, the less you know. When someone is sure, they’re usually young or insecure.

He who is famous today is forgotten tomorrow. If you’re doing it to be remembered, you won’t.

Ken Stabler

“Ken Stabler, Football Great, Had C.T.E.”

Why are we so concerned about kids in Flint, but give NFL players a pass, why are we up in arms about Michigan’s governor, but cry hosannas when a billionaire moves his football team to Los Angeles and Roger Goodell escapes unscathed?

It’s time for Coldplay to pull out of the Super Bowl.

Forget black actors at the Oscars, this is a much bigger deal. When are artists going to say they’re not going to participate in this barbaric enterprise where people are maimed for life?

Flint was about the money.

The NFL is about the money.

And playing the Super Bowl is about the money too. It not only raises your visibility/profile, it helps you sell tickets.

Is that the country we’ve evolved to be, one wherein money is everything? Isn’t that why Bernie Sanders has made so much headway, because he’s saying NO MAS to a land where the dollar trumps everything?

Football will be marginalized in your lifetime. They may still play it, but it won’t grab ratings and will be the equivalent of boxing. How many boys and men will be harmed in the interim? How can we all just sit by as these behemoths brutalize each other?

Life used to be different. Sure, they played with fewer pads, the game was pretty violent, but artists stood outside the sporting world. They questioned authority, they stood up for what was right. Artists were the antidote. They had power beyond elected officials and billionaires. They stood up for what they believed in as opposed to what was expedient.

But that was when there was a middle class, and a successful artist was as rich as anybody in America. Before those who were educated left for business instead of going into the arts, before the artists woke up and wondered who’d moved their cheese and started bitching that they just could not get rich enough. Not anymore anyway. Not like the tech stars.

But the tech stars got so rich by pushing boundaries, by doing it their way, not worrying about what the establishment had to say.

And now artists keep playing to the establishment.

It makes your head spin.

The artists want corporate endorsements, not knowing they come with a price. You take the money and you’re a tool of the man. Is everybody a tool of the man today?

What we know is change happens fast. iPhones replace BlackBerrys. Flip phones are in the rearview mirror. Your handheld device is for texting, not talking. The Kochs and their money are the story of political campaigning and then Bernie Sanders raises millions from individuals. Because individuals have power. And their minds can be changed very quickly.

Do you feel guilty when you watch football?

I do.

And that’s an unpopular thing to say. Because the throng is always married to the past, to the status quo. Those on the bleeding edge are excoriated. Whether it be Shawn Fanning or Daniel Ek.

But the bleeding edge is where all the money is, and the public is the early adopter, not those inured to the old ways.

Vinyl might be an interesting curio but it will never be the primary listening medium. Physical is dead. On demand is everything. And if you don’t think being paid forever via on demand streaming is a good thing, you don’t know any broke, aged musicians.

Artistry used to be about humanity.

Who’s the reporter who’s gonna put the mic in front of Chris Martin and ask him his opinion about football. His ex-wife has no problem being herself, can’t he?


Because it’s all about the money until it isn’t.

The networks like the ratings, you like something to root for, advertisers like the exposure, is that reason enough to continue to support the game?