EXCLUSIVE Q & A: Tim Clark & David Enthoven, Managing Directors – ie:music
TMV staff writer Laura Grivainis Thorne sat down recently with David Enthoven and Tim Clark, founding partners and Managing Directors of ie:music for a wide-ranging interview about their management philosophy, digital technology, trends in the industry and the now iconic “360 deal.” In a meeting held in their London offices – located in a light-filled former organ factory – Enthoven and Clark shared their opinions and insights developed over thirty-plus years in the business working with artists including LadyHawke, Jimmy Page, Robbie Williams, Passenger amongst many others.
As it was so very in depth we have decided to break into two parts. Read part one below and we will post part two next week.
LGT: My first question is how did you meet, and what events led up to your partnership and the forming of this company? What made you decide to work together?
DE: We met in 1968. I had a band called King Crimson, which was as very sort of avant garde band; Island Records was my chosen destiny, I didn’t know much about anything except that Island Records and Atlantic Records were the two labels I wanted to work with…and, met Tim, who basically was put in charge of making what I brought in a reality. Tim was doing all the artwork, and was responsible for all the artwork and marketing at Island Records at that time. From that blossomed a wonderful relationship. We’ve been together, joined at the hip, ever since!
TC: I’d popped in to see David, I think just to have a chat. I was actually doing a book for Island Records, and needed some old EG stuff, Roxy Music, King Crimson and so on. So I popped in to see David, just at the very point when he’d lost somebody that he’d been sharing the office with. When he told me this, I had an office at Shepherds Bush and the lease was going to end, so he said, would you fancy working here? So I looked at the rent and I could just about afford it, so we got together. But I said to him at the time, I said David, well, I will, but if you think that I’m going into artist management, just think again. Ain’t going to do it.
LGT: I think that’s a good segue, because my next question is what are the essential qualities of an effective artist manager?
DE: Slightly deranged. No, you’ve got to be quite caring, quite compulsive, good attention to detail (got to be able to see the bigger picture), you’ve got to listen to artists, you’ve got to put up with quite a lot of creative hullabaloo, but most of all you’ve got to be a real enthusiast for artists. To be a good manager, you’ve really got to love the music your artists are doing and what they are trying to do. Otherwise it’s virtually impossible to get out of bed to actually deal with some of the nonsense that we have to deal with…it’s a very odd job for grown men, but frankly, when the two of us were standing on the stage at Glastonbury just looking at this sea of muddy people…we couldn’t ask for more really, could we?
TC: one of the great things about management is the huge range of things that you have to do…everything from wiping botties so to speak to arranging huge deals. I mean, what can be very big deals, huge tours, and so you are doing the whole gamut, making videos and songs. So there are lots and lots of things, and like any job, there’s tedium, tedious bits, but there’s lots of very exciting and great bits too.
DE: We are close to, it’s the closest for a non-artist that you are going to get to the creative process, having a little bit of a say in what the public at large will see.
LGT: What are the criteria you use when deciding which artist to work with?
DE: The music.
TC: music and the songs. We always, always listen to the songs. If an artist can’t write songs, it’s pretty much it for us. We really listen to the material. If the material’s not there, it doesn’t matter how good the voice or whatever is, it makes the job much much tougher. Of course you can put them with other writers and so on, but we tend to work with people who write their own material.
LGT: So someone can’t lobby you just because they are good at self-promotion and very likeable, if they don’t have the material…
DE: We have fallen into that trap, we have made that mistake, and it doesn’t work. We’ve learned, really. But then, we’ve had what we think are very successful artists, we’ve had some we haven’t been able to develop. But we love what we are doing, so we don’t mind going the extra mile for them.
LGT: Do you think that the quality of song writing is as good today as it was in the halcyon days of yore (however you define them), and if it isn’t as good, does that explain why consumers aren’t buying music the way they used to?
TC: That’s a very good question! I certainly don’t think that there’s a dearth of great songwriters today. I think that there are lots of very good songwriters around, and that coming from us is quite a statement, because we come from that period when people look back and say, my god, we were in the golden age. But there really are, there are some fine songwriters.
DE: We have been talking recently about what we need as a new movement. We need another punk movement, don’t we, or something to shift things on. We’ve all gotten a little bit complacent. All of the movements up to punk, and what came after, had a social voice, and we haven’t had a movement with a social voice. Apparently there’s something coming out of Canada at the moment…it’s called…indie hip-hop. Which is actually more social voice and I’m really interested to hear some of it. That’s what needs to be galvanised, it’s too bland at the moment.
TC: Great songwriters do usually have something that they particularly want to write about. There’s lots of songwriters who write about looooooooove, but when you think of Bob Dylan-who arguably was one of the greatest all-time songwriters-he wrote about political issues, and he gave that whole generation a voice really. He was able to put into words what we were thinking. There was a lot of anti-war rhetoric and so on, but he really was putting what we thought into words. I think David’s right, through this period there has not been any sort of real movement-
DE:There’s lots of anger around, which usually does produce something. People are getting pretty fucked off.
LGT: Talking about something that’s relevant to the opposite spectrum…what’s the effect of TV programs such as American Idol, X Factor and Glee on the business, and do you notice an influence of these shows on up and coming artists, writers and performers?
TC: It’s a one-year life, in a word. I think it’s great television, don’t get me wrong, it’s great TV, but what artist, I mean there’s been a couple more in America that have come up, Kelly Clarkson, there’s another country singer who came out of it. We’ve had nothing here, Will Young’s the only thing that’s come out of it here. So you get a year, that’s all you get. Very few of these artists become worldwide stars. I suppose for us it’s that thing of, we’ve spent our careers working artists who want to be singers or musicians or whatever, their starting point is not that we want to be famous. We want a career in music, we want to be in a band on stage and we recognise that it’s jolly hard work, and that we are going to have to do all the horrid things before we can ever think of making it.
LGT: When you receive tapes – I mean mp3′s these days – do you hear any of that influence, that American Idol sound? It seems so over-the-top, great singers often, but not so much substance in terms of material.
TC: Fortunately, most of the stuff we get is not influenced by that. If anything, the influences fall into categories – you get heavy metal, you get rap, and its very much that, it’s not really influenced by the TV shows. Glee, of course, is something else again, it’s really great for catalogue sales, they are playing and singing wonderful old songs that deserve to be heard again. I think Glee is a different kettle of fish, I think it’s rather good.
LGT: In terms of promoting the artists you represent, are you more old school in your tactics (advertising, interviews in traditional media) or have you embraced the social media community engagement prototype? What’s the value of social media in today’s promotional landscape as you see it?
TC: I don’t think that social media has yet reached its full capacity if you like. I think Facebook has been going, like what, five years? You can discount the first couple of years in that, so in three years it’s expanded remarkably, but people are still learning, it’s still not entirely clear how the model will actually work. There’s all sorts of things they are talking about and discussing that will change, things like Facebook having its own currency and so on. These are very interesting things. Are we engaged in this sort of media? Absolutely. We, for a couple of old boys, we have to be engaged. It is a revolution, it is a commercial and industrial revolution, it is more far-reaching than any that has gone before in the sense that it changes the way people communicate with one another. There’s all sorts of ways that digital technology is having an impact on our lives; it is quite extraordinary and we are very engaged with it. The thing of doing interviews remains, it’s just that you do it with a blog, you’re not necessarily doing it with a newspaper or magazine, you are doing it online.
LGT: Do you have any particular examples of how this has been successful with an artist who’s utilised this approach?
TC: I think that what we did with Sia, for instance, first of all, there was an incredibly successful video that I think she made for, literally, seven thousand dollars. It was incredibly successful, and it became the ultimate viral, it just zizzled everywhere. That sort of established her as a digital artist, and we put her album online with not much protection it has to be said, you had to do a couple of things in order to hear it, but you could hear it for free. We released it some seven months later and the album went in at #26 in the US charts, without any hit singles. So I think this is all to do with digital, and we had fantastic support from the American blogger, Perez Hilton. He really did make a big difference, but then so did KCRW. So you still have to have all the mix of media.
LGT: So we are in a landscape now where an entire generation of consumers think that music is free at the point of use and are resistant to paying for it. Is there any way to turn that around, or has that horse already bolted from the stable?
DE: Well music is like water, it’s our job to try and monetize it, but not by the draconian methods that the major labels are using. They are our customers that are consuming it, so somehow we’ve got to find a way of actually monetizing it.
TC: Actually, we don’t believe that the consumers think that it should just be for free. Most people, remarkably, are reasonably honest, so most people understand that if people work hard to make something, it should be paid for. I think that, as an industry, we do have to point fingers at the major record companies and major publishers. As an industry, we have prevented digital entrepreneurs from really getting started, really getting stuck in. Lots of little digital start-ups have been throttled at birth. That’s been the thing, the thing that’s most prevented the digital environment from flourishing.
LGT: So suing consumers and things like that, not necessarily the way to go?
TC: No, no absolutely not.
LGT: Statistics show that more music is being consumed, it’s just not necessarily being paid for.
TC: That’s true.
LGT: I’d like to find out more about one of the things you are best known for, the “360 deal.” What were the elements of Robbie Williams’ deal with EMI in 2002 that made it unique and groundbreaking, aside from the amount of money that was involved?
DE: We actually don’t want to call it a 360 deal because that has been corrupted by Warner Brothers.
TC: Well I suppose it really was a deal that allowed EMI to invest in all of Rob’s rights. They had a share and a stake in all of his revenue streams. What we were trying to establish was a real partnership with an investing company – EMI – who also happened to provide some services. It wasn’t as successful as it might have been, actually it wasn’t a true 360 degree deal in the sense that the record side was treated separately from the other side, which was where all the other rights are, and that inevitably led to some conflict, not nasty conflict, but it did lead to conflict. What we know now is that for an all rights deal to work, you have to put all of the rights into one basket. So we work out a proper business plan with all of the things that are going to sit in this basket, and then we invite investment in. The key to it really is that the investor, if it is the record company, that investor stands with us in trying to make sure that we get the most competitive services at the most competitive rates. So, we go in and we say, what are you going to give us and what are your distribution fees, what will you charge for marketing et cetera so that we have a very clear understanding of what all the costs are. And we try to get those, as we say, at proper competitive rates, and the benefit of that will of course go back to the investor in time. So, it’s actually trying to change the balance of how we work together, so we want, we need a big partner to supply money and so on and to help secure some of these other services, but there has to be a very clear split between the investor and the services that are provided.
LGT: So it sounds like you want everything to be more transparent?
LGT: Not that I know that much about the specifics of this, but for some of the people I talk to – musicians for example – they feel the term “360″ has become synonymous with shall we say adverse consequences, it’s shorthand for that, for things that they don’t want. Knowing what staunch advocates you are…
DE: It’s shorthand for the fucking record company getting in and grabbing as much as it can, and paying the artist less. Then dealing with staff that think they have knowledge of art, but haven’t a fucking clue about A, being promoters; B, being…they think they are brilliant merchandisers; C: being agents, blah blah blah. Stick to doing your fucking job, which is selling records and selling music. Excuse me.
LGT: That’s what I gathered. It sounds like from where you started, it’s evolved and gone off and been applied in different ways.
TC: Undoubtedly it has, and David is right. It is a way of grabbing shares of this other revenue, but they haven’t looked at the savings they might be making for instance on digital, and saying, well listen, we’ll give you a bit more of this. That doesn’t come into it.
LGT: It’s a one-way street. Now we get to put our hands into the merchandise cookie jar or whatever.
TC: Yes, it’s a one-way street.
DE: When you’re a Lyor Cohen and you have to pay yourself that much money, you’ve got to squeeze a pip, absolutely, without regard. Just as a quick aside, we had one of our dear artists in here and she said, “I can’t believe all these record executives getting much much more than me” – and she’s quite successful – “they are getting paid more than me.”
LGT: So the music business is more “small m and big b” than ever and yet sales keep declining. Did the lawyers and accountants with their corporate mentality kill the goose that laid the golden egg?
TC: They certainly don’t look forward. We’ve discovered – well not discovered – we made a great realisation, that lawyers always work to precedent which is one reason they are always looking backwards. They haven’t got a fucking clue about what’s going on in the future, and we are all about the future. They also fail to understand that if 75% of the population are ignoring a law, then its no longer a law in a proper democracy. It simply can’t be enforced. That isn’t to say that the basis of copyright law is wrong, but they haven’t realised that people are ignoring it, and they need to do something about it. So going out and banging people over the heads – or doing this ridiculous Digital Economy Act, which now of course is stalled, and probably will never ever be used – is a complete waste of time. Actually, what we have to do as an industry is to find new ways of getting to fans. Unfortunately, it is a lot to do with lawyers and business affairs and so on, who believe that they are behind this fortress. What they are doing is not helping in any way to secure a new kind of copyright deal, a new sort of copyright.
LGT: And do you think this is inadvertent stupidity?
TC: Well, I mean, they are in the trenches seeing the tanks coming toward them and the fucking tanks are five miles behind them. We see this at any time of great change. When you think of the way that the Western industries were decimated during the 60′s and 70′s, of people moving stuff to third-world countries to make things, the same thing happened then. You had people fighting rear-guard actions, the unions fighting rear-guard actions; the battle had been lost. Yet what they were doing was prolonging the agony, instead of really trying to find answers. They were trying to keep industries going that actually had gone.
LGT: Do you think that the people in charge now are any wiser? I am struck by how long these conversations have been going on, it’s been over a decade since Napster came along and everyone was so freaked out and it seems that the same conversations are going on without resolution. So have they gotten any smarter?
DE: I think the people in charge of these huge catalogues are no wiser at all. The same people are in charge. There are some very wise people out there, trying to make change happen, but unfortunately the majors have got the biggest share, they’ve got the biggest libraries so they can dictate still and they are not looking to change any time soon. I mean they talk a good talk about change, but they don’t actually embrace it.
TC: It has been one of the problems. If you are going to offer some sort of digital service, you need catalogue. And the record company realised, well, if we’re going to talk to Nokia and so on about a music service, we can get lots money out of them, and so they did. Nokia were the wrong people to be doing it with. Actually, it was good, smart, young digital savvy entrepreneurs they should have been doing the business with, like the people who first started Napster, Sean Fanning and so on. But they have concentrated on the big people to do these deals, and they’ve got lots of money out of them – even Spotify, they got lots of money out of Spotify but Spotify had to raise lots of money in order to get the thing started…
DE: …and give stock away.
TC: …and give a load of shareholdings away. If there’s ever a sale that gives the record companies a decent flow of revenue, I doubt very much that the artist will get a share.
LGT: The analysis is that the artist sees negligible revenue from Spotify and things of that nature at this point. Its value is promotional.
TC: You have to ask, promotional for what? If there are no sales in any case, what are we promoting?
We will have part two of this vibrant and indepth insight into the minds of two of the most successfull music managers in a decade next week.
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