Rick Rubin/NY Times

Quoting David Geffen… That’s how you know a piece is irrelevant. Even if the old man came across as pretty wise. I mean didn’t David Geffen FAIL in the modern music business? As well as the modern FILM business? And THIS is the guy you quote? Maybe if Lynn Hirschberg had quoted the kid on the street, someone we hadn’t heard from before, instead of referencing a FOCUS GROUP, we might have cared.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the article. Well, the first half. Wherein they spoke about how the record business is FUCKED! I haven’t seen so much ENGLISH in the "New York Times" previously. But I couldn’t stop scratching my head and wondering what the fuck Rick Rubin was DOING at Columbia. I mean if he really wanted to revolutionize the business, make a difference, would he have taken a job at a MAJOR LABEL? You know he did it for the check.

He doesn’t go to the office. Yup, that’s gonna work, an absentee executive. I’m not saying he SHOULD, just that this begs whether he’s the RIGHT GUY! Imagine a sports team, the Yankees, with an absentee MANAGER! Yup, play really hard in center field while Joe Torre contemplates the game at home. He’s thinking really hard. He doesn’t like to wear a uniform. But he cares. Huh?

So Steve Barnett is in the building. Isn’t this like saying the THIRD BASE COACH CAN RUN THE TEAM? You don’t want someone who’s officious, who can make the trains run on time, but a personage who is an INSPIRATION!

Rick Rubin might be an inspiration to artists. But a business man? Isn’t it Def Jam that sold for all that money, not AMERICAN? And if you listen to the Black Crowes, American’s biggest act ever, they give Rubin NO CREDIT! And isn’t being a record exec first and foremost about FINDING TALENT? Sure, a great producer makes a huge difference. But you can’t polish a turd. You’ve got to START with a rough diamond!

As for a new office… An expensive one, at that. Why don’t you explain to your acts, who you make record at home on Pro Tools, why you have to blow all this money. These same acts who you don’t pay royalties. Yup, that’s what I DO when I’m in a financial bind. Buy a new chair, a new car. Because if I FEEL good, I DO good. HUH?

And wait a second, I thought Rick Rubin didn’t go to the office anyway. If they make it a pooh-bah pad, WILL HE? And will they hire enough execs to FILL the building, unlike at Colorado Avenue?

Utterly ridiculous. A big time exec told me he could run his label group with independent contractors. A la Silicon Valley. With only a small cadre of full-time employees. I don’t know if this is right, but at least he’s THINKING! What is Rick Rubin doing here?

Oh, Rick’s made some great records. Brought some acts back from the dead. Made a second-rate act, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, into a front liner. But if being a producer qualifies you to run a label, fine arts majors would run America’s biggest corporations. Steve Jobs doesn’t hand the reins of Apple to Jonathan Ive, and if he did, his board would go fucking NUTS! But who is the Sony board? Who DO these guys report to? Or is it just brother to brother, Stringer to Stringer.

Rubin ends up looking like a spoiled kid, frustrated that he can’t effect change. Shouldn’t that have been part of the deal? That he wouldn’t take the gig without monetized P2P?

But that’s just the point. That WAS in the article. The labels are afraid that although licensed P2P might SAVE them, it might KILL them too. That they might give away the store, kill the recorded music business. They don’t want that blood on their hands, so they won’t change, or will do so slowly. It would be like Microsoft not creating Explorer, not competing with Netscape, saying the Internet is a newfangled fad.

There IS a crisis. The major labels ARE making music free. They WILL be sold to the highest bidder for a pittance if they don’t solve their problems. But the way out isn’t hiring an iconoclastic, bearded guru, but by changing the INFRASTRUCTURE! Changing how they distribute and CHARGE!

But change can’t happen. Because instead of having student interns, young people have got to WORK at the label. And the labels have fired not only the youth, but everybody who does the day to day work. All they’ve got is executives. So, Columbia has brought in someone hipper. This is like Apple bringing in Gil Amelio. It’s not ENOUGH!

And maybe you don’t know who Mr. Amelio IS. That proves the point. The old business is dead. Mourn no more. The new will be built not by old farts, but young ‘uns fully familiar with tech. Oh, they’re not like their parents, they don’t think everything in life should be free. They’re CAPITALISTS! But, if you don’t respect them, they’ll rob you blind.

The youth come up with Facebook. Columbia comes up with Rick Rubin. Where would YOU put your money?

The Music Man

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