The Allen Klein Book

I want you to read it, so you can see how the world really works.

A man from nothing, who even lived in the orphanage, desires to make it. Chances are you don’t have this drive, you did not do without. And therefore you’re not only unwilling to do the extreme work, you’re unable to cut corners, work in the shady areas, because life is about survival, and if you’ve got no one looking out for you you understand this.

So he managed the Beatles and the Stones. Sounds interesting, but not really.

What is interesting is Allen was insecure, he could not be alone. He lived to make others feel good, burnishing his own image in the process.

And how did he achieve his goals?


That’s what they don’t teach you in school.

What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where youngsters reinvent the paradigm, with Napster and file-trading and so much more, and the old farts at the record companies cry foul and refuse to enter the future?

One in which those with power have no skin in the game.

That’s what’s interesting in tech. It’s your money. Or maybe the VC’s money. But there are no established enterprises willing to dole out cash with no supervision like record companies. Most records fail. But it wasn’t that easy to get a deal.

And it also wasn’t easy to get paid.

The Animals threatened Donn Arden with a lawsuit, the agent refused to pay the band. What did Arden do? Open a drawer full of writs and throw them out the window! Those are the kinds of characters who used to run the music business. Today, everybody’s sucked at the corporate tit their entire career, they don’t know what living by your wits is all about, and the business is worse for it.

First and foremost Allen Klein was smart. Ingenious. He didn’t take no for an answer, he just rejiggered the formula in order to succeed.

The label said royalties couldn’t exceed 5%?

No problem, Allen decided to form his own company for Sam Cooke, and then license the records to RCA.

This is no different from Irving Azoff starting his own performing rights organization. When confronted with a problem amateurs kick and scream, professionals rewrite the rules of the game.

So by having his own label, by pressing the records himself, there could be no issue of royalty underpayment. And since the company owned the records, there could be a reversion clause, Sam Cooke could end up with his masters.

Actually, Klein ended up owning the masters. That’s why he’s got a bad rep, Klein couldn’t help himself. He’d help you, but he’d dip where you couldn’t see it, screwing you while he was aiding you.

Do you have the cojones for this?

Probably not.

But the truth is the record business was built on obfuscation and irregularities, oftentimes illegalities. They can teach you how to market at music business college, but they won’t teach you how to cheat, and they most certainly won’t teach you how to reinvent the wheel. And Allen Klein reinvented the wheel.

There’s so much horseshit in this world. All this crap about you can make it if you really try.

Actually, no. Chances are you’re not smart enough, and even if you are you didn’t go to the school of hard knocks, you’re not willing to do what it takes.

The truth is successful people aren’t worried about others’ reactions. They’re all about making others feel uncomfortable, asking for the ungettable. Because you don’t get if you don’t ask and rules were meant to be broken and the spoils go to those who lead.

Want to make money?

Go where everybody else isn’t.

Make friends, relationships yield opportunities.

Find someone’s weak point and promise what will make them happy.

A great musician or a producer is usually a lousy businessman. Klein would get their ear by promising them a million dollars, with no commission, only a guarantee that if he delivered the money, they’d give him his accounting business.

But unbeknownst to the talent Klein would figure out a way to get paid on the deal. Furthermore, he might end up owning your catalog.

The truth is winners aren’t team players. Certainly not the traditional teams. They’re not about getting a gig at the company, but making the company crazy, via their demands or their competition.

And we haven’t had that spirit in the record business for far too long.

The self-starters are gone. The corporations control the cash flow. And the best and the brightest are going where there are opportunities, as opposed to the entities in the music business run by boomers who want all the glory and the pay and won’t throw young ‘uns a bone.

The book is dry. But the subject matter is intriguing.

It’s not like it used to be. Certainly not in the record business. But in life? SAME AS IT EVER WAS!

P.S. Experience counts. Klein lost a bundle on an indie movie early in his career. But it was this business structure, where the producer owns the negative, that he transferred to the record business. The truth is we fumble and we learn along the way. Which is why those wet behind the ears rarely have success, or maintain it. The legends build upon their losses, they divine what works, and then they conquer and everybody knows their name and wants to be them. But they never can be. Because the originals broke the mold. You’ve got to break the mold too.

“Allen Klein: The Man Who Bailed Out the Beatles, Made the Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll”

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  1. […] and Transformed Rock & Roll (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2015)—but in this instance Bob Lefsetz who first put the portrait of the music industry insider on our summer reading list to begin […]

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  1. […] and Transformed Rock & Roll (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 2015)—but in this instance Bob Lefsetz who first put the portrait of the music industry insider on our summer reading list to begin […]

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