Endeavor Craps Out

Check the financial pages. Entertainment CEOs make as much as anybody ruling the Fortune 500, even though their companies are oftentimes worth less and generate less cash flow. There’s a self-importance factor in Hollywood…these gents, and they are mostly men, control and steer the culture! That’s a powerful position, and they believe they’re indispensable.

Except in music, in the old days anyway. Music got short shrift because it was uncontrollable and unpredictable. And dependent upon the artists. That’s one thing the Beatles and the classic rock revolution did, wrest control of the art from the suits and give it to the creators. You recorded what you wanted to, you controlled the cover art, the label just had the right to sell it and market it.

But something changed about thirty years ago, the suits and now they were wearing such, took control of the business. And there isn’t a suit alive as credible as an artist when it comes to creativity. The artist has the idea, the suit wants to mold it to his or her vision. Credit Tommy Mottola. He brilliantly squeezed out Walter Yetnikoff and made it about the highly compensated, the finely dressed, exec. Mottola looked at Charles Koppelman’s paradigm and then injected it with steroids, after all, Sony, along with Warner Brothers, had the best catalogs, the best artists in the business.

And speaking of Warner Brothers, Prince’s main complaint with the company was it wouldn’t allow him to release as much product as he wanted when he wanted. There was the issue of whether the music qualified under the deal, whether the new music would compromise exploitation of the previous release, whether the new music would be up to a platinum standard.

Turns out Prince was right. On many levels. Career artists are no longer about hits. They’re about their catalog and their relationship with their fans, and the real money is made on the road.

The music survives, Prince survived every one of those suits at Warner Brothers until he fell to fentanyl.

There are two points here. One, who is more important, the artist or the suit; and two, the music business gets no respect, even though the profits from the Warner music labels built the Warner cable system, you see music scales, once it catches fire it takes almost nothing to continue to produce and reap the rewards, especially in the era of streaming, where there is no manufacturing and shipping.

So, for this exercise, the only thing that is truly important is the suits, how they wrested power from the artists and compensated themselves heavily and made like they were the artists. The worst example is Clive Davis, who gives the impression if it weren’t for him, the music business wouldn’t exist. But the truth is he had a very small purview, unlike Mottola or Mo.



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