The Perspective From The Bottom

Hi Bob-

Please withhold my name if you decide to use this…

Some of my friends were shocked after reading this article, but I’m not surprised in the least bit.  I had the "privilege" of being able to spend a few years working for a major label, and Mr Morris is just like everyone else at the top.  I think everyone either knew it was happening and chose to flat out ignore it (pretend it wasn’t happening), or everyone was so out of touch that nothing could ever get going in the right direction.

I honestly think a really big part of the problem was/is the hierarchy:

1) People at the very top – they’re so out of touch, they don’t even show up at the office…they’re out somewhere having their assistant (who easily gets paid 6 figures) go to the local stores around town to buy them socks.  I absolutely kid you not…this happens all the time – and that’s their job…nothing music related at all, basically a nanny job and/or housekeeper.  They’ll show up to meetings to get everyone who’s one rung below them and their input…make the final decision, and then hop a cab back to their Park Ave high rise.

2) People directly under the top – these people have a little more of an idea what’s going on, but have to please the big cheeses in order to keep their jobs.  They don’t have the guts to tell Clive or any of those guys what’s really going on.  Oh, they’ll "brief" all the ringleaders on things – and that’s why those guys at the top are saying all the "buzz" words (filesharing/p2p/etc) for the past five years and literally don’t even know what that means.

Oh, and these people want Clive’s job once he dies…can’t piss him off. Or maybe they don’t want his job.  Or maybe they know they have to get out of the music biz, but don’t know how to function outside of it (because they’ve been working there for 20+ years). Oh, and they like their salary and like hanging with rock stars.

3) The people under the people under the top – these people are right in the middle.  They’ve made it to that spot where they’re FINALLY making at least a decent living and can afford to move to Manhattan instead of living in Brooklyn or Queens.  But now that they’ve finally got there…they’re too "preoccupied" with their new mortgages and their "big shot" spots that they don’t have any time to think about anything even remotely involved with the actual music business.

They’ve got someone above them squeezing their balls at any moment, and need more than anything to make those people happy.  They finally have people below them (the newbies), and kiss ass to everyone above them and piss on everyone below them.  Even though I’ve met some really cool people in these positions, it’s for the most part true. They’re tremendously overworked being in that initial management spot, and are extremely stressed out trying to make everyone above them happy. They finally have their own office.  But they’re content with their salaries and like hanging with rock stars.  More below…

4) The people at the bottom – These are the people who are (or should I now say, were), the only hope for major labels.  They actually had a clue as to what was happening on the street, and were in tune to EVERYTHING technologically related that was out there.  These were the people who knew you could get this new .mp3 format over mIRC or various other services before Napster was even around in 1997 or so. They were the people who knew about the hottest bands before anyone else at the label did (even though the people on top would take all the credit).  They were the people who could have reinvented the way major labels were run and probably had more answers than anyone at the top could ever have dreamed of.  Most of all, they KNEW what people want and need.

But where are they now???  They’re all unemployed.  They were laid off by the labels and thrown on the streets because of mergers/downsizing. Now they’re working in different industries, reminiscing about what could have been. They absolutely LOATHED their salaries (paying them dirt, and working them to the nub), hated that they didn’t even have a cubicle, but rather a desk that was falling apart covered in band stickers (most of which, the label had dropped over the years). But they loved getting free CD’s and going to live shows 5 times a week – even though they were dead tired after working a 70 hour week or so.

I was one of these people Bob, but I didn’t care how much money I made.  I lived in a 6×6 shit apartment in a crappy part of Queens, had to literally live on Ramen to get by, and could barely afford the monthly subway transit card.  I actually figured out I could literally make more money working at Quiznos than what I got paid at the label…I kid you not.

But you know what?  I did it…and I worked harder than I ever did before.  AND WHY?? Because I love music that much.  I BELIEVED in the bands I was working with.  I’m sure most of the high-and-mighty people above started for that reason as well…but it seems like something got lost along the way, for the most part. They don’t care about the new bands…they could give a shit – but they have their numerous platinum records on the wall and a picture of them with Aerosmith or  whatever, and reminisce about the good ole days. And all the meanwhile, they’re still too used to that lifestyle, and didn’t want to see it go away with new technology.  After all, the model works right???? We can still sell records, right??? Just gotta get more 2×2 posters to the FYE out in Cranston – THEN we’ll sell millions of records.

To sum it up…here’s a relatively quick rundown of my everyday encounter with the "hierarchy":

*Big artist is coming into Philly – and we find out he/she will be going around to the record stores in the area.  The following happens:

*President of label has no idea.  He’s getting his assistant to buy socks

*VP knows…hands it down

*Regional Manager freaks out because there’s not enough time…wants to please VP more than anything.  Yells at assistant to make a plastic header card in two minutes to send overnight air to Philly.  Total cost around $15 or so for a stupid plastic card that weighs nothing.

*Assistant busts ass to get it done because they don’t want to get fired.  Knows it’s absolutely pointless, but does it anyway and works hard.  Barely gets it shipped off by 5pm that day.  Regional Manager isn’t grateful, but is happy to get VP off their back.  VP assumes everything is fine and doesn’t want that artist to yell at them when he/she sees them at MSG the following week.

*Header card gets to the store – artists apparently "sees" it and doesn’t like the "color" or something arbitrary.  Word gets back to the VP – who passes down to RM – who passes down to assistant to get pissed on because it’s all their fault.

ALL IN ALL – no additional CD’s were sold at that store.  And turns out nothing even makes that artist happy anyway.  I don’t even want to THINK about how much money the company paid in company time and resources to get that stupid card out to Philly to please an artist.

Sound ridiculous, Bob?  Well, I spoke my mind about it to the higher-ups…basically wrote myself a one way ticket to Dodge City – so to speak.  That’s probably the reason I don’t work in the music biz anymore.

One Response to The Perspective From The Bottom »»


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  1. Trackback by Glorious Noise | 2007/11/28 at 10:55:27

    Major Label Execs Are Willfully Clueless

    Universal Music Group’s CEO Doug Morris talks to Wired and admits he doesn’t know anything (or care) about technology. Morris insists there wasn’t a thing he or anyone else could have done differently. “There’s no one in the record company…

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Trackbacks & Pingbacks »»

  1. Trackback by Glorious Noise | 2007/11/28 at 10:55:27

    Major Label Execs Are Willfully Clueless

    Universal Music Group’s CEO Doug Morris talks to Wired and admits he doesn’t know anything (or care) about technology. Morris insists there wasn’t a thing he or anyone else could have done differently. “There’s no one in the record company…

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