Is the music business as cut-throat as everyone believes?

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3 November
13:32
Photo: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pareeerica
November
2016

I think all businesses are cutthroat and ruthless – every business has to be. The reason there is that perception of record companies being more cut-throat and ruthless than other businesses is because their 'product' is something we all love and that we would all like to imagine comes fully formed out of an egg. We don't want to know that in there there are machinations of business and that some people make decisions for business reasons. I certainly never wanted to think that when I was a kid listening to my favourite music. I didn't want to know about any business being involved. It tainted the art. When you are a teenager, you realise that the managers of Bob Dylan (Albert Grossman), Neil Young, (Elliot Roberts), Joni Mitchell (Elliot Roberts again) and so on were incredibly aggressive and cut-throat businessmen. You didn't want to hear that. You wanted to think it was all patchouli oil and being groovy.

People are always surprised that record labels want to do the best deals they can. In the 1960s, that meant pretty cut-throat and cheap deals for artists. Artists got a lot more power later on so they could stand up against that sort of thing. That is why there is this perception of labels being robbers and villains. It's because people just don't want to think there is business involved in their favourite art form.

The X-Factor has influenced public perception of music management

Things like The X-Factor, and its image of how A&R works, hasn't helped. When my kids were young, they had a perception that my office looked like that, with four people sat behind a desk being really insulting to whoever came into the room – until I put them right about that! To an extent, that has affected the perception of what record labels are supposed to be like because it's an exaggeration of something that was never a fact in the first place. 

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