Who is the biggest noise in the music industry?
Market Leaders Pick Their Market Leader
Wednesday 31 March 1999
Virgin Records, UK
IF I had to pick out one individual who works for the entire industry, it would have to be John Deacon, the director-general of the BPI. He's always working for the overall good of every company. He's not in the most glamorous end of the business, but does his job with style and grace.
John has achieved an enormous amount over the years, in particular his work with the Government. But the record industry has many talented people. I really admire the Artist & Repertoire people who discover and make records and am extremely lucky to have two such individuals within the Virgin organisation in Ashley Newton and David Boyd.
BMG Entertainment International, UK and Ireland
The music industry is becoming increasingly more competitive as a business. These days to be an outstanding leader in music, you not only have to have the ability to spot talent, and develop and manage the artists you sign, but you also need to be a savvy business person. EMI's Ken Berry is someone I admire for his ability to combine a charismatic and personal touch with his artists with a keenly astute business sense.
He's a `babyfaced killer' negotiator, and someone who is willing to put his neck on the line for something he believes in. Two of his best moves in the last few years were to sign Janet Jackson and the Rolling Stories. This business is about taking risks and being decisive about what you believe in.
As a manager, Ken trusts his people and is very good about letting them get on with their jobs. Additionally, I admire the fact that his wine cellar is even better than mine.
A MAN in the industry I very much admire is Tony Wadsworth of EMI. He is a very moderate chap and a negotiator with a light touch. There are some difficult issues which crop up in music which can bring companies into confrontation so, obviously, his light touch is a good thing.
Paul Burger should be mentioned purely because he brought Celine Dion to the world. And also because he's an extraordinary man. One day he's bound to become the boss of Sony Worldwide. He's not at all showy and has a conservative manner. I think he'll prove to be a long-distance runner.
Finally, I'd like to mention Rob Dickens who has progressed from the bottom to the top. He was a firm hand at Warners when it needed it and is now chairman of BPI. About two weeks ago set up his own label - Instant Karma.
He handles the difficult issues with judgement and reason. It may seem like the entertainment business is all fun, but there are constantly knives at our backs. He manages to work through the chaos with dignity and humour. The one quality these three all have in common is vision. That's the most difficult commodity to both find and retain.
The man in the industry who particularly stands out for me is Nick Phillips of Warner Music. In music industry terms, at 35 years old he's very young to be such a high-profile executive, but I think that he's heading up a new school of record executives. His open style of management is vastly different from that of the old school which tended to be far more autocratic. His lack of ego is refreshing in our particular arena and also, I think, endears him both to his colleagues and competitors. He is a very clear thinker who rarely shoots from the hip and is a considered operator which is important in this fast-moving business. You'd expect anyone successful in the music business to have an astute musical brain which, indeed, Nick has but what marks him out particularly, as I said, is his laid back style. For me, he heralds a whole new era of executives.
V2 Music Group
The apparently freewheeling music business is actually dominated by the five major record companies - big businesses answerable to shareholders and therefore employing corporate administrators as chief executives. Fortunately this leaves a niche for independent companies like V2 which can make up in creativity what they lack in financial by more creative people. Although he recently tried to pinch one of V2's key people, I still believe the best music executive in the major sphere is my old boss, Jorgen Larsen, who has the biggest job in the music business, chairman of Universal Music International. Universal is the world's largest music company since its takeover of PolyGram last year. To satisfactorily combine the two companies' cultures and rosters of artists is probably an impossible task, but Jorgen is the best person to have a crack at it, being not only a superb polyglot business administrator with international perspective, but also someone who understands music and has respect for his subordinates.
The most accomplished leader in the UK independent sphere has to be Martin Mills of Beggars Banquet, who has experience of the entire music business and would grace any major record company, but has always chosen to remain independent. He has recently been instrumental in establishing the indies' representative body, AIM. The greatest ever record company boss is Berry Gordy Junior, who started his career as songwriter for Jackie Wilson but went on to establish the finest independent record company of them all, Tamla Motown, at one time the world's largest black-owned corporation, the like of which won't be seen again.
Were I to have to chose the people I admire most in the music industry, I would chose the ones who possessed a relentless vision of music and the sub-culture from which it grows and is nurtured. But I'd rather not spare any thoughts for the music industry really. It depresses me. However, there is one character who impresses me immensely: Lincoln Elias from Sony's S2. He's a black guy and has done incredibly well considering the music business tends to be both sexist and racist. It's incredibly hard for anyone to make their mark as at times it seems to be run by public schoolboys. However, Lincoln has because ultimately you're judged by who you sign and whether you sell records. It's a business in which it's hard to be consistent and yet Lincoln is. Lincoln's genius lies in his complete love of music.
Chairman and Chief Executive
Universal Music UK Ltd
One man I particularly admire in the business is Rob Dickens who has been chairman of Warner and is now chairman of Instant Karma, which has only been in existence for a couple of weeks. He has ended up as a highly regarded senior player in the record industry which I would say is an ageist one. He's shown you can stay young and that age isn't relevant and that such a broad ranging experience can only be a plus. The best use he's put his experience to is as chairman of BPI where he's shown a level of professionalism to be proud of. Certainly I am happy that there will be a slight respite from his direction while he builds up his new company.
Alan McGee of Creation is a well respected player in the independent sector of the industry. He's got intense entrepreneurial skills which have enabled him to build up his company from zero with tens of pounds rather than millions to what is now a company with an impressive empathy with its artists. And delivering to us in Oasis one of the most significant Brit bands for a long time, just when we needed a shake-up.
President and Chief Executive
EMI Records Group UK
To paraphrase the Clash, a lot of what we do is "turning rebellion into money". From a business point of view, I admire executives who can build up a business and manage the commercial aspects of the job, while protecting, preserving and promoting the vision and integrity of the artist - like Chris Blackwell with Island Records and Bob Marley, or Ahmet Ertegun with Atlantic Records.
There are also people who managed to do that successfully within the context of a larger organisation, such as John Hammond at Columbia Records and George Martin at Parlophone. As the business gravitates to a few multinationals, we can all learn a lot from their example. I think Ken Berry of EMI Recorded Music manages to cultivate that creative freedom within a large organisation.
At its worst, the business can seem to be a collection of opposing interests - record company, artists, manager, lawyer, retailer, etc... but it works best when there is a shared purpose, teamwork and respect. The artists manager or representative can be crucial in helping this happen, so I have huge respect for Roger Davies who manages to do this across a host of major artists like Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, Joe Cocker, M People and many others.
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