How did Kate Bush change the music industry?

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2 November
10:54
November
2016

I don't know if outliers like her really change the way it is for everybody else. She earned her artistic freedom. It wasn't a given. She came in to EMI with a certain amount of privilege – being under David Gilmour's aegis. But she earned that by: 1) being massively talented before she released a record; and 2) in the nicest possible way, being completely uncompromising and a control freak. But that wouldn't be enough; it would be enough to get you dropped. The key thing, and the third thing, that made her was choosing her first single, Wuthering Heights, against everybody else's wishes. No one wanted that single but she said, “This is it!” and didn't budge. And it went to number one all over the world. At that point she had a creative blank cheque.

She is a total, one-off outlier. She did one short tour in 1979 and then nothing until her residency in London in 2014. How did that change the industry? Everyone else carried on touring. But she made it an option. The Pet Shop Boys came along and they didn't tour until their third album. Outside of a couple of PAs when they were starting out, they had these massive Top 10 hits from the first two albums and only then decided to tour. I don't know how much outliers do change the way things are done for everybody else.

“She earned it by being massively talented before she released a record and, in the nicest possible way, being completely uncompromising and a control freak.” 

Kate Bush in 2011: “She is a total one-off outlier.”

When I joined EMI in the early 1980s, Kate was on the decline. She was just about the release The Dreaming – which I love as an album – but there was very much an air in the company that this was a good run but it's all over now. Even though they still let her do whatever she wanted. There was no point in saying to her, "Can you do it this way?" She just wouldn't. You wouldn't have an argument and it wouldn't get nasty. She just wouldn't do it. Half of being a successful control freak – apart from the talent – is actually not making a big issue of it. I once said to her, "It's the Brit Awards in February. Do you want to come?" She just laughed. "Why would I want to do that?" She thought it was an hilarious question in the first place! She created her own world. She had a circle of trust that she wouldn't go out of, or rarely go out of. It would take a long time to get into that circle of trust, if ever you did.

The worrying thing is that it's as inspiring to untalented people as it is to talented people! If it empowers some talented women – and men – to go off and completely do their own thing, then it's great and it's for the good. When you look around at the music industry at the moment, where every record has more collaborators that they have ever had, even in the 1950s and 1960s, then you question whether that auteur influence is as strong as you'd like it. 

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