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In an interview with THR, CEO Peter Edge and COO Tom Corson explain why it was time to “retire those brands” and how the artists reacted.
Amid some big changes in the music industry, new RCA Records CEO Peter Edge and longtime colleague Tom Corson, who was promoted to president and COO in August, have officially shuttered historic labels Arista and Jive. J Records, launched by Clive Davis in 2000 as an “instant major,” will also see its artists bequeathed to RCA.
“The path we’ve taken is to refresh RCA, so we’re going to retire those brands,” Corson tells The Hollywood Reporter in a new interview. “There may be a reason down the line to bring them back, but it’s a clean slate here.”
Jive Records, run by Barry Weiss for nearly 20 years, was home to multi-platinum pop stars Britney Spears andJustin Timberlake. Arista was founded in 1974 also by Davis, who signed Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin and Barry Manilow to the label. In recent years, it saw releases by Usher and Pink. All artists will now fall under the RCA Records banner.
In the digital age, one might think these closures mean there is little value, awareness or loyalty to a label by name, but the execs insist it’s quite the opposite. “The concept is that there is value in branding RCA and not having it confused or diluted by other labels,” says Corson. “The artists have all been supportive. We didn’t make this move without consulting our artists, and we haven’t had any push-back. Frankly, they’re the brand. We’re defined by our artists.”
The move follows a round of layoffs in which dozens of staffers were let go, including longtime executives Richard Palmese (J’s evp of promotion, who had been Davis’ righthand man for three decades), Tom Carraba and Peter Thea (both Jive evps) and roster cuts made (American Idol season 9 winner Lee DeWyze was a casualty), all in an effort to significantly downsize the label. “We’ve learned to work with less and hopefully accomplish the same or more,” Corson adds. “But by definition, the business has shrunk – the staffing has shrunk, our rosters are smaller. But we’re still profitable.”
Under the Sony Music umbrella, now headed by Doug Morris, RCA was founded in 1929 and is the second-oldest label in the U.S. (behind fellow Sony property Columbia). Together, the labels have boosted their parent company’s market share to comfortably place it in the No. 2 spot, behind Universal Music, Morris’ former employer and Weiss’ current home, where he is Chairman & CEO of Island Def Jam and Universal Motown Republic Group.
Says RCA’s Edge of his label’s place in the greater Sony picture: “Doug is intent on making A&R the focus of RCA and the new focus of Sony Music. The big initiative here is to spend more money on artist development, making more records and making better records and less on all of the other stuff. I happen to agree with him.”
Article originally appeared on Hollywood Reporter (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com) and was written by Shirley Halperin.
Warning: The following rant will ruffle some feathers and just might upset your comfort zone. Read with caution!
John McCrea, lead singer of the band Cake, stirred up a reaction when he told NPR’s Melissa Block that he is skeptical about the future of music as a vocation.
“I see music as a really great hobby for most people in five or 10 years,” he remarked.
Keep in mind this was part of a segment about Cake’s historic new album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in January. It was historic because the album earned the coveted ranking by selling just 44,000 copies — the lowest amount for a No. 1 in the 20-year history of calculating record sales.
I’ve been seeing a lot of articles and blog posts lately about the doom and gloom of the music biz — including depressing news about the state of independent music. There have been references to the failure of direct-to-fan as a business model, and the harsh realities that aspiring musicians, managers, and promoters face.
Really? Give me a break!
Sure, I agree that things have drastically changed. The “traditional music industry” has crumbled. All the new, accessible promotion tools have created a crowded and noisy world where millions of DIY artists are clamoring for attention. Things are in flux. Nothing is predictable. There’s no sure path to success.
So tell me …
How is this so radically different from the good old days?
When exactly was there a sure path to making a good living as an artist? What year or decade did a healthy percentage of musicians prosper in the Golden Age of Music? And in what era was the pursuit of the almighty record deal an accessible and fair arrangement for all concerned?
Wake up and smell the gigabytes! Please!
The truth is … This Golden Age never existed. There’s never been a time when musical self-sufficiency was guaranteed. It’s always been the case — and always will be — that a majority of people pursue music as a part-time hobby.
Only a small percentage of artists make a living. That isn’t a consequence of the Internet or piracy or consumer apathy or limitless entertainment choices. It’s just the nature of humanity, regardless what business model is in place.
If you find yourself complaining about the current state of music, it’s probably because you feel lost not knowing what direction to go or what “rules” to follow. I get that. At least — prior to the Napster and iTunes era — many people agreed on the steps you needed to take: get a record deal and/or get radio airplay, retail placement, media exposure, tour, build a business team, etc.
Now it seems nobody knows what the sure path is. As flawed as the old system was, at least you had some kind of map, right?
Here’s another cold dose of reality … That system sucked just as much as, if not more than, the current one!
Many musicians struggled then … and they struggle now. Artists fought for attention then … and they fight for it now. Self-promoters were confused about marketing and sales then … and they are just as confused now.
And, back in “the day,” there was never a set path to a record deal either. Nearly 20 years ago I organized a lot of music education events in St. Louis with local artists who had been signed to label deals. Each had to forge their own path to get noticed and get signed. No two stories were alike.
However, the one theme that many of them shared years later was the bitterness they felt after having gone through the corporate record company process. Hmm … I guess that wasn’t the Golden Age after all.
Honestly … Do you really prefer the old system of having to impress a gatekeeper before you are deemed worthy of a music career? Do you prefer the stability of needing commercial radio airplay, retail space, and MTV video exposure to “make it”?
I think not! So …
Please stop lamenting the good ole bygone days (that never existed to begin with). Please stop complaining about the hardships of social networking and all the work required to get noticed and engage with fans. Cry me a river!
Success in music has always required talent, desire, a quest for mastery, and consistent action. That was true years ago, and it’s just as true today.
The modern-day whiners all focus on what’s missing and what’s difficult. Meanwhile, empowered indie artists such as Jason Parker, David Nevue, Rob Michael, John Taglieri, and many more see opportunities, embrace this new era and … heaven forbid … are actually making a decent living doing it.
So … are you a victimized complainer … or an empowered doer?
Article originally appeared on Music Think Tank (http://www.musicthinktank.com/) and was written by Bob Baker.