The Azoff Tape

Students of the game know that Jeffrey interviewed Irving at the “Billboard” touring conference. I was in Iceland, but I just watched the tape, and a number of things stood out.

1. Don’t take it personally.

Jeffrey said Irving always told him this.

Now I’ve got a hard problem with this, especially in deals. You agree on one thing, and then the attorney comes back with another. It messes with my notions of fairness and trust. But really, it’s just a game. With an underside of duplicity. The attorney wants to claw back some of the money, lock you up even more and it all comes down to how much leverage you’ve got, whether or not you can say no. If you can’t say no, you’re never gonna get a good deal. Stand up to them and they hem and haw, but if you’re willing to forgo the entire deal, you can usually get most of what you want. But are you willing to pass? It’s scary being talent, you may not get another chance. But if you’re a true artist, you must go with your gut. If they won’t give you what you want (or need!) now, good luck getting it in the future, the same way they send a limo while they’re wooing you, but you Uber on your own dime after the deal is done.

2. Time passes.

One of Irving’s main skills is transitioning to the future. He embraced the internet earlier than anybody of his age and power. Jeffrey said how Irving now even texted with acts, even though he didn’t always know the lingo of the medium. He got STFU, but missed LOL. Does anybody still remember texts were SMS, i.e. “short message service”? And texts go via the cellular network and iMessages go via the internet but the point is the landscape changes and if you don’t adjust to it you’re left behind.

3. Time passes 2.

Jeffrey asked Irving what the best label was.

Irving answered “Giant”!

And there were crickets.

It was a good joke, but Giant, which started in 1990, was sold to Warner in 2001, almost twenty years ago. Meaning, a student of the game would have to be fortysomething to get the reference.

It was scary.

But the truth is the business is comprised of wholly different people with wholly different perspectives these days. If you’re thirtysomething… Chances are you were in high school during Napster. If you’re twentysomething, you might have never owned a CD. Meanwhile, oldsters look through their own lens and miss the market.

4. Artists first.

We’re all beholden to the artist. Irving has always been on the side of the artist. That’s his bitch with “Billboard,” for the industry “Bible,” it’s not always artist-friendly. Without acts, you’re nothing. You could be the best manager in the world, but with nothing great to manage… Artists need representatives, people on their side. Since the advent of the Mottola era, the business people have been in cahoots with the artists left outside the circle. You see the business remains, the acts come and go. That is changing with the younger generation, if for no other reason than the label is not the big daddy it once was, advances are lower and attorneys and managers have to make their bank in other places. But this business runs on artists. We admire artists. We need more people on their side, defending them, giving them good advice.

5. Songs.

That’s why the Eagles survived, Henley says it every night on stage. Great songs can live forever. If you write them… And Irving’s philosophy is to always write the song you’re gonna close your set with. A manager’s job is to inspire the artist, to push them just a little bit, like a coach, but without all the b.s. testosterone.

6. Nepotism.

That was one of the questions from the audience. Which was reluctant and unimpressive. One manager asked if the Azoffs would come see his K-Pop band. As my friend Jake Gold says, if you’re the manager, if the act’s already got a manager, WHY SHOULD I COME? It’s business, it’s money, time is valuable. The Azoffs said they’d be on the road on that date, but it made me laugh how the asker was a wanker. As was the person asking about her career. You always get this question at presentations, what advice do you have for ME? How can you help ME? Those on stage roll their eyes and try to escape. Meanwhile, re nepotism, Jeffrey said he was at his first settlement at 11, that when he went to work for Jordan Feldstein at 21, he knew things others his age did not. And Irving said that Shelli told him that Jeffrey was a drug dealer, why else did he have all that cash on his bed during high school. Turns out Jeffrey was doing after-prom parties. Irving winced and said WITHOUT INSURANCE! Jeffrey said he had insurance, who knows what the truth is.

Watching this interview, before the audience questions, was the college education I never got. Sure, I went to a liberal arts institution, where business wasn’t even taught, but the truth is I wasn’t interested in a single subject. And they always wanted to study classical theory whereas I was interested in my own theories! Those who work for themselves, like managers, get to act on their own feelings and insights. Some people just cannot be held back. Irving was making more money than his parents in high school, he paid for his tenure at college himself.

You see some things interest me, and some things don’t. And when I care, I cannot get enough. And to sit at the feet of giants and experience their lessons is…PRICELESS!

P.S. If you weren’t there, the interview will be broadcast on SiriusXM Volume 106 on Tuesday December 11th at 8 PM east and 5 PM west.

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