This is the second part of an extensive exclusive conversation with Tim Clark and David Enthoven, Managing Directors of ie Music and TMV’s Laura Grivainis Thorne.
LGT: Yes, at a certain point. That relates to this next question: after being a bright spot in the music industry, the live music sector is facing its own doldrums. What are the reasons for that downturn in your opinion?
TC: Live has always been cyclical, and it does depend to a large part on what is happening out there. David mentioned before this thing about movements – we remember punk was a reaction to the pomp rock and the rich rock stars and so on that had made it in the 60’s and 70’s and were going around in Rolls Royces and all the rest of it. Punk was a reaction to all of that, and all of a sudden people were going to gigs and seeing these outrageous artists like the Sex Pistols and the Damned. It really just generated a whole bunch of interest. So I think there are things like that that regenerate live music. It’s like when the Artic Monkeys came on the scene – they were out there playing, they generated a whole bunch of interest. In the old days, when you had a really great album released, people were going into record shops, they rarely walked out with just the one record that they’d gone in for, they walked out with a couple or three, and all of a sudden it had a great effect on the industry generally. I think it’s the same with live, and live will never go away. People will always want to see great live acts. I see we are facing a bit of competition from comedians. There are an awful lot of comedians out there playing lots of gigs, lots and lots of them too.
LGT: But you still think it’s really important for an artist or group that you work with to put on a compelling live show.
TC: If they can’t play live…
DE: We won’t manage them. If they can’t tread the boards…
TC: …it’s what makes us excited. It’s like David said, this experience of standing on the stage at Glastonbury and watching Rob perform, it’s one of the great experiences of our lives. Standing on the stage at Knebworth, same thing, seeing him perform to…
DE: My jollies don’t get floated by hearing something on the radio – you want to see the whites of the audience’s eyes really, don’t you? Then you really do know that someone is getting excited. The period we grew up in, you could see a whole gamut of different bands, and you knew who was being successful, could have been folk – if they were cutting it on stage. Christ alive, Ian Anderson standing on one leg and playing the flute was exciting to watch, it was fantastic.
TC: All of that, particularly when you are of an age, we were out all the time, and we were going to see all these great bands like Free, KingCrimson, Led Zeppelin Jethro Tull, Roxy Music and T Rex. You know, Bob Marley and the Wailers – these are great live experiences, and we all remember the key moments, the ones that really stand out. They are there, they are part of that memory bank. Most of our memory banks and those cells are shot.
LGT: But certain ones still remain. But you read that there’s so much competition for the entertainment dollar, and kids today play video games and are on Facebook and they don’t care about music in the same way they used to. My thought is, is music even going to be a popular form of artistic expression in 20 or 30 years?
TC: Music goes with love, sex and drugs.
DE: You can’t have a good drug experience without a bit of music. A lot of the games have cottoned on to the fact that if there’s the right music going, it makes the game more exciting then. It’s a driver, music is a driver, always has been.
TC: It’s one of the most potent forces; it is one of the most potent forces going. It’s certainly more potent than painting or sculpture; it defines our memories of events. I think when we look back to love affairs and so on, there’s nearly always music involved in it, or a piece of music will play and you’ll immediately remember that. Music is the most potent thing.
DE: People don’t make love to a video game.
TC: There are certain people who have recognised the potency of music, and have used it extraordinarily well, and Steve Jobs is the master of it all.
LGT: Or he’s ruined it, according to Jon Bon Jovi.
TC: He’s been very smart, and he’s used music to turn his company into one of the biggest companies in the world. The people that have ruined it are the people that are supposedly looking after music, and looking after the rights of artists and musicians and so on – they are the ones that actually blew it.
DE: The so-called gatekeepers.
LGT: I’d like to know who the next Robbie Williams might be, and does the infrastructure in the industry even exist right now to support the emergence of such a talent as his or others such as U2, Coldplay etc?
TC: I think the answer to that has to be yes…and is it a new Robbie Williams or is it Adele? Look at how she’s done, and what a fantastic record, and so I’m told, in America, this has been done without the support of traditional radio. It actually really has been – she’s done a bit of telly – but it’s really been blogs and the internet, this is what we’ve been told. But apparently she’s not had a great deal of support.
DE: They are probably jumping all over it now, America playing catchup. Most of the time it was college radio and alternative rock I think, and it went straight to number 1.
TC: But a lot of coverage on the internet, and on the blogosphere and so on…she’s had an amazing amount.
DE: Huge…and a fucking good album.
TC: Great album, great single.
LGT: Radio is still significant here though, in the UK.
TC: Yes it is.
LGT: In the States? It’s a different market because it’s such a large country.
TC: They’d have you believe that you can’t have a hit without radio. That’s why we are so excited about Adele. I think it is breaking down here too, there are a lot more people who are turned into the internet, who are listening to Spotify, it’s been pretty successful.
LGT: What are the business opportunities as you see them today? Everyone’s going after synch, advertising etc? What’s your take on where the opportunities are for an artist coming up?
TC: Everything but the sale of recorded music! Obviously recorded music has fallen away, but will it come back? Well, yes, there are opportunities for it to come back. Will it be different from how it was? Almost certainly. Will it be a share in some way of subscription revenue? Possibly. Will things like Facebook have a real effect if they go into this thing of using their own currency and so on, is that going to provide us with an avenue? Possibly. We do think that the likelihood is that there will be at some point some sort of blanket licence available, maybe not statutory (in fact I hope it’s not statutory), but there will be some kind of blanket licence available, and the gazillions of people who listen to music without paying for it at all will actually pay something rather small. But the effect could be as healthy financially as ever it was when people were selling a smaller amount of albums but at quite a high price. The artists we used to work with in the 60’s and 70’s, the sales that were talking about there, were 250, 300 hundred thousand, half-a-million? There were only a few that sold in the millions.
DE: But the value of what you were paying for is equal to about twenty or thirty pounds, you used to spend a big chunk of your money to buy the album you really wanted, of your wages, didn’t you? And artists earned really rather well from that.DE: Actually we don’t mind masses and masses of little incremental amounts, if it’s reaching a wider audience, do we?
TC: No. It is finding ways of making that work, and with legislation that’s absolutely possible, but the record companies are not looking at it that way. The record companies are dead scared that they are going to lose that small amount of people that are paying quite a lot for music, who they see as their main customers, as opposed to the millions who are listening to it and not paying for it. I think they are being forced to change because they have lost their stock in trade. I think that now it is going on, because they can’t keep going the way they are, simply can’t. And they also, they’ve been trying to get government to change for so long, and they realise that those wheels grind exceedingly slowly…they are not going to get government to move…
DE: Why would anybody lose 70% of their voters? They want their vote, don’t they? Government’s not going to go against the wishes of the majority.
LGT: Comparing and contrasting the system here in the UK with that of the US, do you see any marked differences pro or con between the two ways of selling records and paying for records that are being sold?
TC: Like here, America relies on Steve Jobs…iTunes. Record shops are closing, Borders…
DE: We hear Best Buy is stopping stocking records.
TC: There are no physical outlets on the high street for CD’s. So you’ve got Amazon, and you’ve got iTunes, and those are the two major players at the moment. And then of course you do have, what has happened in America, the collection society SoundExchange…Sound Exchange is collecting money from digital radio stations, digital downloads, Pandora is paying lots of money into SoundExchange and artists are starting to make money that way.
LGT: My last question is about the kind of music you listen to nowadays, and if there are any bright spots in particular, things that you are excited about out there in the musical landscape.
TC: I’m absolutely loving The Naked and Famous album. I think it’s really is quite special and I’m really enjoying that. I still listen to Neil Young and old stuff like that. I was given a Best of Fleetwood Mac, and my God they did make some really good music, they really did. David, what are you listening to?
DE: I’m afraid I’m pretty nostalgic too I have to say. I love my Stax collection, when I come in the morning I put on some fairly eclectic stuff. Elizabeth Valletti, she’s wonderful, Craig Armstrong is wonderful, Sacha Puttnam is wonderful, this is all fairly mellow music for the beginning of the day. There’s lots…Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire. Ladyhawke, Biggie Smalls and an Englishman named Robbie Williams. A bit disappointed by the new Radiohead album, but I’m sure I’ll grow to love it. But we have music on all the time here, don’t we? There’s nothing like a bit of nostalgia for two old farts, really.