Music industry must take risks to survive, says Harvey Goldsmith

Rock impresario says new musical talent has to be nurtured in an era of change

Harvey Goldsmith in his office in Regent Street, London

Harvey Goldsmith in his office. ‘We have got to take risks again. And we have to learn how to take new risks too,’ he says. Photograph: Mike Lawn/Rex Features

Harvey Goldsmith, the veteran concert impresario, is calling for the music industry to get behind young talent and to work together as never before. He believes it is the only way for the business to survive a period of dangerous change.

Goldsmith started out as a student promoter and by the mid-70s was putting on stadium shows featuring the Rolling Stones, the Who and Bruce Springsteen. He helped put together the Live Aid show with Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, and has built up an international reputation for staging high-profile tours and huge public events.

He has, therefore, managed to avoid many of the problems that have beset record labels as sales of CDs have fallen away.

Goldsmith argues that unless music publishers and radio stations join forces to promote emerging artists, there will be a limited commercial future for musicians, even on the concert stage.

“We have got to take risks again. And we have to learn how to take new risks too,” he told the Observer. “I am always looking out for new talent. It is the only way to get through this period and we have to do it collectively.”

The triumph of the internet as a music provider has already wrong-footed the industry, but Goldsmith believes that the singing stars and rock bands of the future will suffer too if there is no concerted effort to bring fresh talent to the public.

“The music industry just watched it all happen without thinking about how it could provide a quality service for people,” he said. “People don’t wake up thinking, ‘What music can I steal today?’ They do it just because they can and it is there. Even young fans don’t mind paying, if they get value.”

Goldsmith is preparing to give a public talk about his career and the significance of his “vintage year”, 1985 – the year of Live Aid – next month and feels that music is still a force that brings young people together.

Although the acquisitive “MTV culture” was blamed last week for inspiring rioters and looting on the streets of English cities, Goldsmith defends youth culture.

“Gangsta rap is not to blame for the riots, and it was more popular five years ago anyway,” he said. “At least the music industry is giving young people some form of hope, rather than just despair and nothing to do.”

In 1973, Goldsmith, who has also worked with the Eagles and Led Zeppelin, started Artist Management Productions to produce and manage music. He set up a concert promotion company, Harvey Goldsmith Entertainment, three years later.

Live Aid raised £140m for famine relief in Africa and Goldsmith went on to produce worldwide tours for Pavarotti. His work with the Prince’s Trust began in 1982, and he produced the trust’s first Rock Gala, going on to join the board. He was honoured with a CBE in the 1996 Queen’s Birthday Honours List and was made Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres in 2006. In 2007, he put together the Led Zeppelin reunion show at London’s O2 arena.

While young casualties of the “rock lifestyle”, such as the late Amy Winehouse, are personal tragedies that are impossible for the industry to prevent, Goldsmith believes that new acts with talent and devotion are entitled to receive the same commitment from their managers and promoters.

“Once things go so wrong for a person like that, they don’t really get better,” said Goldsmith of Winehouse. “But this business is going through a very difficult period and we need to support our talent together – music publishing, the live industry and music radio, we all need to help them build careers that can last.”

Goldsmith remains confident about the enduring appeal of live music in the internet age. “You can only stay locked in your room so long – there is nothing better than a live show,” he said.

However, he suspects that technology has confused many promoters and record companies: “There are too many places to go for information now. And people want answers too quickly. Selling music has got harder rather than easier.”



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