Archive for the ‘Managers’ Category

Lighting The Way: Red Light Management Coran Capshaw speaks

August 10, 2017

by Mark Sutherland Musicweek.com 8/8/17

Coran Capshaw is the founder of Red Light Management – and the manager of Dave Matthews Band, Lady Antebellum and Phish, who recently played a record-breaking 13-night residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden.

He also follows the likes of Sir Lucian Grainge and Irving Azoff in winning the 2017 City Of Hope Spirit Of Life Award. In an exclusive Q&A, he talks about the business’ biggest opportunities, most testing challenges – and the future of artist management…

How have you grown the UK business?

Well, one thing we do at Red Light – and it’s happening in the UK – is, we’re into developing talent. We’re putting resources against it, and we’re trying to grow artists.

When an established artist becomes available or is looking to make a change, obviously we’re interested in those opportunities, but we’re also interested – for the sake of our company – in developing talent, and that’s working well over there.

What plans do you have for the affiliated businesses in the UK?

We’re promoters over here [in the US] – we haven’t done any promoting over there. But here, we are in the festival business and we do some regional and at times national promoting.

One thing we would like to do is expand the ancillary business opportunities over there, so we are certainly looking at and open to doing more things.

Do those businesses increase the options you can offer to artists?

It goes back to that knowledge. We see a lot of different things and we see a lot of different perspectives. If we’re in business with a label, we want to be good partners to them because we appreciate what they’re doing and we put out records ourselves.

If we’re in a situation where, for whatever reason, we want to put out the record, we know how to do it. So there’s a lot of different perspectives here: Red Light was created with people coming out of the label world, the
promoter world, the sponsorship world, the touring world – all different aspects of the business comprised by the people who are working here. It’s all helpful and all serves a common purpose.

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the 25-odd years you’ve been a manager?

We’ve gone through the challenges [around] not selling bodies of work of 10–12 songs the way that we used to… That’s the bad news.

The good news is, the access to and interest in music is higher than in any of our lifetimes. As the tide starts to turn in the recorded music area, we’ve got healthy touring, we’re talking about the global business… This is an exciting time to be here.

And so I don’t really think much about the challenges, I think about the opportunities. That’s where our focus is.

The one thing that we’ve all got to figure out how to crack the code on, is that live music is probably the most inefficiently priced industry in the world.

We all set out with good intentions of being friendly and fair to our fans with pricing, but we’ve got third parties getting their hands on the tickets.

So I think it’s going to cause a shift in primary pricing. It is about creating programmes so we can start getting the artist and the fans more in that equation rather than the third parties.

That’s a challenge and an opportunity at the same time, when you look at the income and revenue that’s headed out the door in the wrong hands.

Where do you see the future of Red Light?

We’re on a very good path now to continue doing what we do. If we wind up in more ancillary businesses that are helpful to our acts, that would be a goal.

The manager and their teams are the most important part of the artist world and it’ll become more and more important in the future.

We have the primary role, we have great label partners, great touring partners, festivalpartners, brand partners but the manager is the hub of all that.

Our work is harder; we have to do more and more with the changes out there, but our role is going to grow and the company’s going to continue what it has been doing in a balanced way.

There’s going to be more and more creative ways of bringing attention to music and a career and that leads to a wide array of opportunity.

These are exciting times and we should all be grateful that we get to do what we do.

Why Superstar Artists Like Beyonce and Bruno Mars Are Replacing Powerful Managers With Salaried Staffers

July 18, 2016

Why Superstar Artists Like Beyonce and Bruno Mars Are Replacing Powerful Managers With Salaried Staffers

By Billboard.com 7/14/16
Why Superstar Artists Like Beyonce and Bruno Mars Are Replacing Powerful Managers With Salaried Staffers

Paul Tuller

The idea of the artist as mogul is no longer a novel concept. But where that has meant clothing lines, lifestyle brands or other endorsements, some acts are turning their attention to the traditional music management structure, trading commission-based representatives for salaried employees.

In February, Ariana Grande split with Scooter Braun and handed managerial duties to her mother, Joan, and Stephanie Simon at management company Untitled Entertainment, with whom she has worked for the past eight years (though sources say Braun stayed on as a consultant and is involved creatively). In May, Bruno Mars cut ties with manager Brandon Creed after nine years to start his own in-house company. That puts them in the same category as Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, superstars who make decisions with a tight-knit team and retain complete control over their careers.

Despite the recent spate of high-profile defections, insiders agree that commission deals, in which a manager typically makes 15 to 20 percent of an artist’s gross revenue, are still the industry standard for acts of all sizes. And for young and emerging artists seeking a foot in the door, the connections, influence and experience of a top-level manager are invaluable.

But for the superstar elite, employee managers seem to be an increasingly enticing prospect. “If you want somebody good and you have enough money to pay a generous salary and don’t need an upside, sure,” says one representative of major pop acts. “But most artists can’t do that. The Taylor Swifts of the world can write a check, but Taylor is very business-savvy — she’s like a female Jay Z — and she’s the rare exception.”

Still, there are those hands-on artists who are so heavily involved in making their career decisions, like Swift or Beyoncé, that they see no financial advantage to retaining a manager on a percentage basis, opting instead to pay anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000 annually for day-to-day services. (For Swift, who earned $73.5 million in 2015, topping Billboard’s annual Money Makers list, a 15 percent cut would be $11 million.) Others, such as Sean Combs and Jay Z, run multifaceted businesses like corporations and handle the responsibilities of a CEO. Some veteran musicians may assign trusted family members a salary. And for strong-willed acts such as Grande retaining a high-profile manager like Braun, whose roster includes Justin Bieber and Kanye West, makes little sense if his counsel isn’t heeded.

“I’ve spoken to artists before that aren’t looking for advice or management; they have their own vision,” says Myles Shear, who manages Kygo and Thomas Jack. “It all comes down to what the artists feel makes sense, and what they feel is fair.”

But those who can balance business decisions with artistic expression are a rarity. Several industry insiders tell Billboard that, with the advent of social media and the changing structure of the music industry, managers today handle more aspects of an artist’s career than ever. One former major label executive estimates there are only a half dozen artists on the planet who would be able to juggle being an artist without a traditional manager successfully — and that it only works for the top of the top.

“You can’t pitch and catch at the same time; the ball moves too fast,” says Charles Chavez, whose roster has included Pitbull and Magic! “I wish those artists and managers luck.”

“Every artist that I manage, the ultimate decision is theirs; I’m here to advise and guide,” says Maverick Management partner Clarence Spalding, who works with Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts and more. “And I think that a lot of times — not all the time — a person who is an employee of the band is more reticent to push back.”

Prince may be the classic example of the pitfalls that come with total control. In 1988, he fired longtime managers Steve Fargnoli, Robert Cavallo and Joseph Ruffalo, installing a series of employees as de facto reps in their stead (one a former bodyguard). The move coincided with the commercial flops, critical failures and high-profile battle with Warner Bros. Records over ownership of his masters that lasted for a decade, a period that resulted in waning relevance and a decline in the quality of his releases. Queen and Billy Joel faced similar challenges after bringing their management in-house in the ’80s.

Prince may have been “unmanageable,” as one industry veteran put it, but his business dealings shine a light on the importance of having an outside advocate, even for a once-in-a-generation talent. One longtime manager relates a story of an act that left their manager and, after taking advice from others, promptly lowered ticket prices for their next tour believing they’d sell more tickets: “All that did was lower their gross, which lowered their guarantee,” the source says.

“There are shrewd, sharp managers that make decisions and add value,” says another source. “Bieber couldn’t manage himself without Scooter; he wouldn’t be the same. Mariah Carey? Forget it.”

“It’s just greed,” scoffs another veteran manager. “Acts go up and down, and talent is only half the game when it comes to having a successful career. When you’re paying someone a percentage, they’re there for the long haul.”

Peter Rudge: ‘The greatest asset a manager can give an artist is honesty’

July 17, 2016

By Tim Ingham Musicbusinessworldwide.com 6/07/16

MBW’s Manager Of The Month celebrates some of the artist managers doing great things in the global business. This month, we’re delighted to sit down with Peter Rudge (pictured) – a key player at Vector Management and a man whose career has seen him look after The Who, The Rolling Stones and Diana Ross.

Rolling Stones“Everything’s groundhog day in this business. There’s no situation you can throw at me that I haven’t, at some point or another, dealt with in the past.”

Peter Rudge holds a pedigree of working with true rock’n’roll royalty.

A Cambridge graduate with a degree in history, British veteran Rudge has combined a sharp intellect with shrewd deal-making across more than four decades in the music biz – earning the loyalty of some of the biggest acts on earth.

After leaving university in 1968, Rudge joined the London-based Track label, whose roster included Jimi Hendrix and Marc Bolan.

From there, he built relationships with two huge artists as tour manager for the Rolling Stones and The Who – going on to manage both groups outright for most of the ’70s, while also working with Roger Waters, Duran Duran and Madness.

“With The Stones and The Who I was lucky,” says Rudge. “In that instance, I managed to work with bands that could have done it without me.”

This was a heady time for the young exec, who also worked with Diana Ross and even produced Andy Warhol’s US cable TV show.

However, Rudge‘s career hasn’t been without its sadness.

In 1977, he was managing an on-the-rise Lynyrd Skynyrd. Just as the Southern rock band stood on the verge of a worldwide breakthrough, they were involved in a tragic plane crash in Mississippi, killing three members of the group.

Understandably, it’s the moment Rudge marks as the toughest of his professional and personal life to date.

In the modern era, Rudge has shown himself to be a smart operator – and, crucially, one who knows his limits.

“I Was lucky with the stones and the who – they could have done it without me.”

In the late ’90s, he merged his own management roster with marketing giant Octagon, where he began working with the likes of record-breaking operatic group Il Divo – whom he continues to represent today.

He went on to launch Proper Artist Management in conjunction with Live Nation – before Proper itself merged with Vector Management (The Kings Of Leon, Kesha, Emmylou Harris) in 2014.

These days, Rudge looks after the likes of Imelda May, currently working on a new record with T Bone Burnett, and Nick Mulvey – the Fiction-signed, Mercury-nominated singer/songwriter who, we’re told, is tinkering in the studio with Brian Eno.

Then there’s also Il Divo, who recently sold out five dates at the Budokan in Tokyo, and Alfie Boe – currently starring on Broadway in Finding Neverland, and readying a new project with Michael Ball signed up by Universal/Decca.

Yet the artist with whom Rudge is most closely associated today is a band he’s worked with for 30 years: Tim Booth-fronted Manchester heroes James.

The reason for Rudge‘s status as MBW’s Manager Of the Month becomes clear: James are currently romping around Europe on a sold-out tour, following the successful release of latest album Girl At The End Of The World, which recently hit No.2 on the Official UK chart – a smidgen behind Adele’s 25.

The release was put together on an ‘artist services’ basis with BMG, whose Korda Marshall says: “Peter’s experience has been a real benefit to the strategy and planning of the campaign. I think our respective teams have learned a lot from each other.

“Peter combines experience with a freshness and enthusiasm to get things done.”

“He combines that experience with a freshness and enthusiasm and desire to get things done.

“I think what he likes at BMG is that its a very honest and open working relationship. And you have to remember he has managed the band for 30 years – his standards are high.”

MBW sat down with Peter to grab some insight into these high standards – and to discover what the best part of half a century in management has taught him…

James
You’ve been with James for over three decades. That’s a long time to work with any rock star…

I know – you get less for murder! I’ve worked with James from 1992 and it’s been one of my career’s great privileges.

I was brought in to look after America because I was spending most of my time there back then.

As luck would have it, that was during the time they were recording Laid, which of course was a seminal record in America – at one point we’d shipped over a million albums.

“As sit down has become a rite of passage for young people in the UK, Laid has become in America.”

As Sit Down has become a rite of passage for young people in the UK, Laid [the track] has become in America, helped by the fact it’s used in the American Pie films.

For the past 11 years, Meredith Plant’s been my co-manager on James and she should take much of the credit.

We’ve managed the live thing very well over the years. It helps that we’ve had one promoter forever: Simon Moran.

James were one of the first bands Simon ever promoted when he started, and we all think a lot of him – he’s been as much as partner as anybody.

We also work with John Giddings at Solo, who’s done a great job.

Why have you signed James to BMG – and on an artist services deal – for their past two albums?

We’ve been playing at this ‘artist services’ thing for some time. Funnily enough, James’s Hey Ma album, which came out on Mercury [in 2008], was actually released on a similar model.

We realised that a band which has managed to have a lifespan this long eventually hits a glass ceiling. As we all know, it’s a very fickle industry.

When that happens at the major labels, you’re consigned almost immediately to the commercial marketing divisions – repackaging this and that, budget pricing…

We went to Mercury for Hey Ma, who had our catalogue, and tried to design something similar we have with the BMG Rights thing now.

We did a joint venture deal with Mercury; [Universal’s] Adam Barker was really good, as was Jason Iley [now Sony Music UK boss], who was in charge of the label back then.

“Like many bands, James usually won’t allow an A&R into the parking lot, let alone the studio!”

The model we picked was a little bit of a hybrid – it felt like the runt of the litter within the Universal system. However, it showed us that this may be the way to go. We took a rest, and then started talking to BMG.

It was pretty apparent from the beginning that BMG’s ambition was right, the model was interesting, but they didn’t quite have the resources they do today [for the release of previous James album, La Petite Morte in 2014)]. That’s why we partnered with Cooking Vinyl – with Martin [Goldschmidt].

That album was pretty successful. We liked it, James were allowed creative input [into the campaign]; it was a very respectful relationship.

Then, to BMG’s credit, they brought Korda Marshall in. Also, Thomas Haimovici had been there a while and, I have to say, immediately related to the group well.

James, like many bands, usually won’t allow an A&R guy in the parking lot, let alone in the studio! But Thomas got their trust and respect – he was very helpful and didn’t undermine anything.

Then Korda, coming from Infectious, arrived at BMG with a philosophy that was very akin to James’s own. And that also brought in Pat Carr and Jo Power, who are both great marketing people.

We’ve now signed a new deal, including options. Most [services] deals are on a one album basis, but we’ve established a long-term relationship.

Let’s talk about your business experiences. Why did you merge your company Proper with Live Nation?

In the late ’90s, I’d teamed up with Octagon, an IPG company. I thought then, and I was right, that you could see the writing was on the wall for small management companies.

As the labels imploded, management companies would have to take up much of the slack and smaller ones without resource wouldn’t be able to survive.

I looked at Octagon, and thought, ‘That’s the new landscape.’ I needed to be in bed with someone that had access to [ad agencies] Deutsch, McCann Erickson etc.

In the end, it didn’t really work because [advertising] operates on a totally different timeline to music; it’s a very different world – and a different culture. It was a great learning experience for me, though.

I hooked up with Il Divo during that time, which frankly I probably wouldn’t have got without the promise of McCann Erickson and [ad] companies investing in them.

“irving Azoff is a great manager – a fantastic manager.”

One of my oldest friends in the business, Irving Azoff, was then Live Nation’s management division.

We bumped into each other and he said: ‘Why don’t you come and be with us?’ And I knew that was where I wanted to go.

There are a lot of stories and a lot of opinions about Irving, but he’s a great manager – a fantastic manager. Always has been.

Then Irving left [Live Nation in late 2012] and [Michael] Rapino took over the management side. Although I was operating as Proper, Live Nation still owned a chunk of my business.

After Irving went, Rapino re-calibrated the artist management platform and built it around three central parts: Roc Nation, Maverick and Vector.

I’d been a friend of [Vector President] Jack Rovner for years since when I used to manage Roger Waters. We decided to go into partnership together, and I set up Vector over here in Europe.
How do you find being part of Live Nation – both before the Vector move and now – when you’ve been an independent force for much of your career?

To be honest, I get the best of both worlds. It’s essentially given me what any manager now needs: a larger footprint internationally, and a much larger bandwidth.

I can access resources that I would never have been able to use before – in the digital world, in the branding world, in the sync world. I’m lucky.

I’ve been a manager for 40 years in this business. I’ve got my own relationships; people know me.

“It’s funny: I must have lived through 25 presidents of Columbia during my career, while dealing with the same promoters in the UK and US.”

My track record means I’m usually seen as a safe pair of hands.

My Rolodex is big; I’m two or three calls away from anybody. That’s the only good thing about getting old – you grow up with everybody else!

It’s funny: I must have lived through 25 Presidents of Columbia Records during my career, while dealing with the same promoters in the UK and US for pretty much the entire time.

That tells you something about the live business; it’s just a different DNA.

Management’s very lonely.

Success has many fathers, and failure none. Before you put every album out the artist thinks it’s going to be No.1, or go down brilliantly.

After a record has collapsed when you’ve had high expectations, when the phone stops ringing and everyone moves on to the next release, it’s hard.

Sometimes it feels like labels sell products, while managers try to develop careers. There’s been some lows because of that.

The first thing I ever did in the music business of any substance was The Who with Tommy – and the first gig I ever did in America was The Who at Metropolitan Opera House.

I was 23 years old, looking through the Yellow Pages to find the Met. I got through to the General Manager, and talked him into allowing me to see Rudolph Bing who was running the Met in those days. I completely blagged it.

Rudolph agreed for The Who to play [the Met] on July 7, 1970. Pete Townshend smashed his guitar on stage that night, leaving a room full of people gasping.

That to me was my greatest achievement – but then it was my first one and I’ve tried to live up to it ever since.

“Sometimes it feels like labels sell products, while managers try to develop careers.”

A perfect bookend to that story is that we are now in negotiations to stage the classical version of Quadrophenia at the Met next year; the version of the show which opened with the fantastic Alfie Boe playing Jimmy at the Royal Albert Hall last year, a show featuring Pete Townshend, Phil Daniels, Billy Idol and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

I’m also very proud of Il Divo – we’ve sold over 30 million albums across the world with barely a spin at radio or a single bit of positive press. Working with them has taught me more about selling records than any other project I’ve done. We’re into our 13th year together and they’ve remained on Syco the entire time.

And of course I’m very proud of being part of keeping James in the game for 30 years. Most of their contemporaries from that Manchester scene have either disappeared or are just going around and around [on reunion tours].

James still push themselves to be contemporary and relevant – and that’s something which has been authenticated with this album.

My saddest moment was obviously the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash. I’d been part of taking them from a club band up and up – I put them on The Who tour and it was a big moment.

We did really well; Southern Rock was still pretty parochial at that stage.

Two weeks after that plane crash they were due to headline the Madison Square Garden in front of 18,000 people. It was never to be.

On a personal level, that plane crash is the worst thing I’ve ever experienced, period.You have worked with some strong characters! How do you deal with it when things go wrong?

I always say to any prospective client that my greatest value to an artist is honesty and objectivity.

People will tell me things they’ll never tell you, as an artist, and it’s my job to be straight with you.

Just as in life, a relationship is never tested until you disagree.

“Just as in life, A [Management] relationship is never tested until you disagree.”

For me to disagree with you as an artist doesn’t mean to say I don’t believe in you. I understand what you’re saying, but I recommend another course of action.

I’m in the industry 24/7. I have been for 40 years. I know how this business works. As an artist, you come in and out of it – sometimes every two or three years.

When you explain that, artists tend to respect you. They don’t always like you, but there are too many people in this business who say yes, yes, yes – and it comes back to bite you on the ass.

What advice would you give young managers today?

Don’t kid yourself that you have all the answers – no-one does.

You should find an ally, and if it’s necessary for you to partner with someone who you feel has more experience or relationship that will help your artist, it will only help you in the long run.

There’s no doubt that young guys who were there at a start of a success often get removed [by bigger or more experienced players] so you need to try and neutralize that before it has a chance of happening.

“Don’t kid yourself you have all the answers – no-one does.”

That’s why finding a home or a nest is not a bad idea. No-one’s going to take all the money so long as you deal with the right people.

But the first port of call with all young managers is: go find a lawyer who’s going to protect you, advise you and make sure the paperwork is right.

Don’t be adamant to do it all yourself if you don’t feel qualified.

You were 70 a few weeks ago. I’m sure you could spend your life on a beach if you liked. Why do you still keep doing what you do in music?

I’m still really enjoying it. A month like the past month with James is everything I ever wanted to do.

30 years with a great band like that, and still seeing them get a nod, it means a lot to me.

That’s all I ask for as a manager – for my artists to get the shot they deserve.

The Fifth Man: Brian Epstein and the Beatles

April 13, 2015

Michael Beschloss 4/10/15 NYTimes.com

In a ceremony last year at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the Beatles’ original manager, Brian Epstein, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The honor was well deserved. Epstein’s early oversight of what many consider to be the most popular musical act of the 20th century led some to call him the fifth Beatle. Some of the strategies he used to propel the Beatles to prominence (while also probably costing them a fortune in lost potential revenue) would be ill suited to today’s world of digital streaming, music piracy and YouTube, which makes Epstein a case study in how much music management has changed since the early 1960s
Epstein was born in Liverpool in 1934 to Harry and Queenie Epstein, who were of Eastern European Jewish origin; they owned a group of stores that sold furniture, appliances and records. Brian Epstein was worldly, elegant and eager to escape the bonds of the family business. Having dropped out of London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and living again in Liverpool, he decided one day to see John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and their then drummer, Pete Best, performing in the dank Cavern Club. It was November 1961.

Impressed by “their music, their beat and their sense of humor onstage,” Epstein soon decided that the Beatles would be “the biggest in the world.” He later said, “My own sense of inferiority and frustration evaporated with the Beatles because I knew I could help them.”

His prospective clients were little known beyond Liverpool and Hamburg, West Germany, where they also performed, and they were flattered that Epstein, the local scion, whom Harrison called a “very posh, rich feller,” would take an interest in them. As quoted in Mark Lewisohn’s 2013 history of the early Beatles, “Tune In,” Lennon later said, “We were always waiting for the big man with a cigar.”

In 1962, the Beatles, now with Ringo Starr as drummer, signed contracts that put Epstein, 28 that year, in command. Unlike today’s top entertainment managers, who often have training in business and law, Epstein was a neophyte who relied on his own strong instincts to shape the group’s image. He told them to stop smoking, eating and swearing during performances, made them bow together onstage and got them similar haircuts, mohair suits and neckties. Leather jackets and jeans were prohibited.

Lennon said, “I’ll wear a bloody balloon if somebody’s going to pay me.” Epstein had put the Beatles on the ladder to world renown. Using his relationships with higher-ups at London record labels — his family’s stores were important customers — he got the Beatles a deal with EMI’s Parlophone Records.

Epstein was also a shrewd marketer. In late 1963, he flew to New York and told Ed Sullivan, who had seen the Beatles being mobbed in London, that when they began their first American tour that winter, he would allow them to appear on Sullivan’s enormously popular Sunday-night television show on CBS (in exchange for expenses and a relatively modest fee) only if they received top billing. Epstein’s vision of what the Beatles could achieve helped move their concerts from theaters and auditoriums to sports arenas like Shea Stadium in New York, paving the way for other groups to do the same

In other areas of Beatles management, however, Epstein was out of his depth. Eschewing the kind of legal help a modern manager would secure, he unwisely allowed majority control of copyrights and royalties to pass to others, causing Mr. McCartney and Mr. Lennon to lose ownership of their classic songs.

Some of Epstein’s missteps also cost the Beatles merchandising arrangements for commercial use of their names and images that might have earned them millions of dollars. As Debbie Geller reported in her 2000 book, “In My Life: The Brian Epstein Story,” Mr. McCartney gave Epstein the benefit of the doubt, explaining, “British people didn’t know that stuff at that time.” Mr. McCartney added, “I think he looked to his dad for business advice, and his dad really knew how to run a furniture store in Liverpool.

After an August 1966 performance at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, the Beatles said goodbye to the public spectacles that Epstein had staged with such skill, deciding instead to concentrate on studio work. By 1967, the Beatles’ world had expanded far beyond Brian Epstein — or any one impresario — and he knew it.

An expert at planning events that encouraged mob scenes and screaming fans, he was not as valuable in the studio and was less at home with the otherworldly strains of the group’s 1967 “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and its new infatuation with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

By then, an anxious Epstein was predicting to friends that the Beatles would not renew his management contract. He took refuge in gambling and drugs and is said to have scrawled suicide notes. In August 1967, at age 32, he was found dead in his bed in London. A coroner ruled that he had died of an “incautious self-overdosage.” The New York Times reported that in the future, the Beatles would “manage themselves.” Three years later, they broke up.

In our own time, YouTube and social media mean that talented musicians do not necessarily require a gifted alchemist like Epstein to pull them up from oblivion. But with a half-century of hindsight, it is more obvious than ever that the Beatles could never have reached their full potential without the help of Epstein or someone like him.

In 2013, a best-selling graphic novel called “The Fifth Beatle” focused on Epstein’s importance to music history and his struggles with being gay at a time when his country deemed his sexual orientation illegal. (English law was changed in 1967.) At least one feature film on Epstein is reportedly in development. People may not buy many 33 r.p.m. albums anymore, but Brian Epstein lives on.

Britney Spears: Popstar Directs Clear Vision of Her Billion-Dollar Empire

September 2, 2014

Andrew Barker Variety.com 8/24/14

Unlike singer-songwriters, contemporary pop stars rarely have their songs viewed through an autobiographical prism, yet it’s hard to miss the changes in Britney Spears’ core messaging over the past years. Early in her career, when she was a teenage star selling albums in the eight-digits, “Oops! … I Did It Again” seemed to sum up her effortless rise. Later, as she became an ever-reliable hitmaker and touring workhorse, “I’m a Slave 4 U” took on extra-textual meanings.

And during her mid-2000s run as the tabloid successor to Michael Jackson, “Chaotic” and “Blackout” served as the operative terms. In that sense, the 2013 track she uses to open every night of her trendsetting Las Vegas residency says volumes about her current career motto — its repeated refrain echoing through Planet Hollywood’s Axis Theater:

“Now get to work, bitch.”

The roots of Spears’ current form of Calvinist professionalism can perhaps be traced back to several business decisions starting in the late 2000s. Spears rehired Larry Rudolph, the man who steered her career from age 15, and Adam Leber as her managers. Nashville-based Lou Taylor of Tri Star Sports and Entertainment Group came aboard as business manager and financial guru. CAA’s head of music Rob Light and Jeffrey Azoff took over from the agency side. Tangential, if lucrative, gigs such as her stint as a judge on “The X Factor” were jettisoned. By 2012, Spears was placed No. 1 on Forbes’ annual list of the highest-paid female entertainers in the country, a return to the top slot since her 2002 heyday.

And the consolidation has continued. Earlier this year she re-upped with RCA Records, which had inherited her contract from former affiliate Jive years ago. And even touring was scrapped, as Spears established her two-year residency in the Nevada desert.

For Light, the key to Spears’ present stability was her team’s ability to refocus on the bottom line. “Larry and Adam are two of the best managers in the business, and they were spot-on in trying to identify who her core audience was,” he says. “Because before you can go forward, you have to figure out where your audience lives and how you get to them. And Jeffrey and I realized that her core audience is in the sweet spot of Las Vegas: that 21- to 35-year-old who is living in the nightclubs.”

Look a little bit closer, however, and Spears has been building an impressive empire for years, even if head-shaving antics and a financial conservatorship once gave her the image of teetering on the brink. She has sold more than 70 million records worldwide. Her tours — not counting the Vegas residency, which has already grossed more than $20 million — have grossed hundreds of millions. And her personally branded fragrance line with Elizabeth Arden has sold over a billion dollars’ (yes, billion with a “b”) worth of merchandise since launching in 2004.

“Britney has built her team more like that of a corporate structure,” says Taylor. “I think Britney truly conceives of herself as a corporate executive officer, and the organic desire she has for any sort of brand ideas or sponsorship, show ideas, music ideas, all really start at the top with her. I think that’s probably the thing that most people don’t understand about how she operates.”

Spears herself isn’t sure she’d call herself a CEO — “but that’s very sweet of Lou to say,” she says — though she acknowledges that recent years have taught her the importance of clear-eyed career planning.

“I’ve been very hands-on with everything I’ve done since I had my children,” she says. “And it’s just really important for me to understand the big picture, where everybody’s coming from, what’s the real purpose of this shoot and this song, or whatever it is in that moment that I’m doing.

“It’s important to learn to say no. With tours and all of that stuff, there are so many aspects that go into it, it’s easy to have so many people around you saying, ‘oh yes, yes, you can afford this, you can afford this,’ and then all of the sudden you’ve spent $20 million on your stage and you’re like, ‘where’s my money?’ You have to make sure that you’re on top of things and know where the money’s going.”

Even with something like the Elizabeth Arden deal — sometimes the sort of affair for which artists simply affix their name to a perfume bottle — Spears maintained hands-on involvement.

“When I first met with her, I had a list of questions, with all of her likes and dislikes, colors, flavors, other fragrances she had liked and disliked, art she thought was beautiful,” recalls Ron Rolleston, Elizabeth Arden’s executive VP, creative and business development. “There was a calculated risk involved, but also an intelligent investment to be made here. Britney had this really loyal fanbase that already existed.”

Spears plans to launch a sleepwear line this fall, and her branding ventures have also seen her partner with Hasbro and Candie’s, yet as Rudolph notes, “she’s had such a huge career, but when you really think about it, she’s done very little in terms of over-exploiting that in the branding space.”

Rudolph recalls Spears’ early deal with Pepsi, and its flurry of branded Super Bowl spots in 2001, as a particularly canny venture.

“We got as much out of it as Pepsi did,” he says. “Britney’s brand became so elevated as a result of Pepsi’s commitment to her. I think they bought $17 million worth of media at the Super Bowl just to play Britney commercials. You can’t beat that in terms of general brand extension.

“In Britney’s career, we’ve often tried to do things first,” Rudolph continues. “She was the first music artist to have a celebrity fragrance, and now everybody and their grandmother has one. She was the first solo female pop artist to come out in that cycle she came out in, before Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson. And now she’s the first pop artist to go into Vegas that is current and still has hits on the radio, as opposed to the heritage artists like the Celines and the Rod Stewarts of the world, playing off their old catalog.”

Launching her Vegas residency, the Baz Halpin-directed “Britney: Piece of Me,” was yet another calculated risk, wagering that the city’s youthful demographic shift and the explosion of dance clubs would support a star born in the 1980s, without prematurely branding her as a nostalgia act. The risk paid off, with 34 sold-out shows already in the ledgers, and dates scheduled well into 2015.

With the success of the Vegas residency came a significant setback, however: Spears’ last record, December’s “Britney Jean,” was both the lowest-charting and the lowest-selling studio album of her career, peaking at No. 4 on the album chart and failing to go platinum. (All Spears’ previous albums have gone platinum or better, with “Oops! … I Did It Again” certified diamond, and “Baby … One More Time” certified 14x platinum.)

Yet for Light, the record’s performance is less a reflection of Spears’ stardom than the shifting market standards.

“Honestly, trying to compare record sales in 2014 to anything anyone had in the past is an impossible task, because it is such a broken business,” says Light. “The actual sales are never going to be the same, but if the social media numbers stay high, and her audience stays incredibly active, we’re feeling great.”

Tom Corson, president of RCA Records, concurs. “Britney is still near the top of the bell curve,” he says. “If you have an album that’s somewhat less successful than prior albums, it can be a reflection of a lot of things. But what you know is that the artist is still selling tickets, the artist is still viable in the marketplace, the artist brand still has resonance.”

If “Britney Jean’s” cultural success intermingling with commercial underperformance is perhaps a common story for the modern record industry, Spears’ stationary performance schedule is something entirely new.

“Artists getting out there and touring is the best way to touch their fans, and you need to maintain that relationship,” Corson says. “It takes a lot of work and a lot of desire and motivation, and I respect an artist’s right to take a year or two off and do it differently.”

But when asked if she’s eager to get back on the road, Spears is succinct:

“Actually, no. I’m really happy with the way I’m set up right now, going to Vegas and coming back and having my foundation here,” she says. “I’m a home girl. I really don’t see how I went all over the place and traveled the world and did everything. I feel like I was out of my frickin’ mind, and I did that for 15 years. But I was just so hungry and young and eager to pursue my dreams that it made sense then. It’s really easy to lose track of where you are and what you’re doing.”

And plus, working on the Vegas residency schedule — in which Spears plays three shows a week, with the rest of the week spent at her home in Los Angeles, coupled with scheduled multi-week breaks along the way — allows Spears more time to pursue projects from her home base.

“In my off-time I do record,” Spears says. “Once in a while I’ll just go into the studio if there’s a really good song that I have in my head and want to do. I think as artists you’re constantly in creative motion. If I stopped writing songs then that’s a part of me that would stop in my life, and I need constant motion… I’m definitely more in a creative space now. You have more time to go there spiritually in your home with a piano than you would being in a hotel room.”

How Music Management Rollups Could Affect Music Tech’s Future

November 29, 2013

Bobby Owsinski Fobes.com 11/15/13

We’re living in a very interesting time in the music business. Unlike when the industry was caught off-guard by the MP3 revolution, the industry powers that be are totally on top of the one that’s happening now – streaming music – and they’re being proactive about dealing with it. Interestingly enough, they’re way ahead of the curve this time, even before the majority of the public. Let’s look at how this is playing out.

The first step in trying to take control of the situation came when the major labels pushed Spotify for an equity stake as part of the licensing deal that let it enter the US market. The labels weren’t about to lose control again like they did with iTunes a decade earlier, so this was a mandatory condition for the deal. Now with Spotify’s biggest competitor Deezer about to enter the US, you wonder whether the labels are asking for the same agreement. My guess is that they won’t get it this time, since they’re not in the same position of strength that they were even a year ago, as more deep pocketed competitors are already in the marketplace where there was no way the labels could get equity (like with the recently introduced iTunes Radio) or new ones about to be introduced (like YouTube Music which had it’s deal in place before Spotify’s).

The problem for the record labels is that they’re no longer the pinnacle of power in the music business – managers are. Modern music management now includes many of the former duties of a record label, like marketing and promotion, as part of its core offering to an artist. And with artists now capable of ably recording their own masters without a huge financial outlay, the banking services of a label are no longer needed either.

That’s why some of the recent deals involving managers are interesting, because it can put their artists into a more leveraged position with the various music tech services. There are three very recent examples.

First is the integration of Azoff Management with Madison Square Garden Company to form Azoff Madison Square Garden Entertainment as I wrote about here a few weeks ago. Irving Azoff is already one of the most powerful people in the music business, and his muscles just got larger with the addition of the venues and deep pockets of MSG. Now you have more than just a management company, as there are more services to offer and for a label to compete with, which is the whole point.

Then there’s the recent announcement that U2’s manager Paul McGinnis’ Principle Management and Madonna’s manager Guy Oseary and his Maverick management company were being bought by LiveNation in a $30 million deal that rolled them into the company’s management arm – Artist Nation. Even though both have been doing business with LiveNation for years, the company just got more powerful with the direct representation of the additional top tier talent.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the $120 million investment fund to roll up a number of management companies by Scooter Braun and his SB Projects company, who already handles the likes of Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Psy, The Wanted, and Cody Simpson. The coalition is said to include Drake mangers, Oliver El-Khatib Adel and “Future The Prince” Nur at October’s Very Own; Troy Carter and his Atom Factory clients John Legend (and until last week, Lady Gaga); and Jason Owen, whose Sandbox Entertainment in Nashville manages the likes of Shania Twain, Little Big Town, and Kacey Musgraves.

So why do you think this consolidation is happening? Like with most things in business, it’s about money, and the way to do that right now is to gain more leverage with digital distributors. The precedent was recently set with Taylor Swift’s Big Machine record label signing a direct deal with Clear Channel to receive royalties for airplay, something that had never happened on terrestrial radio in the US before (although artists do get paid for online radio play). Since then, Warner Music Group and Clear Channel have done a similar agreement.

Now if you’re a manger of a major act, you’re probably thinking “Why should I let the label do that deal, as I’m only going to see pennies on the dollar?” And since many of the licensing deals with the various streaming services are coming up for renewal, you’re also thinking, “I can cut a better deal if I can do it directly with the streaming service.” It’s probably a long shot for a manager with big time celebrity artist to do this, but it’s much more likely to happen if there are a number if them banded together, hence the management rollups and mergers.

It’s about to become the Wild West in the upper echelons of the music business as we’ll soon be seeing an attempt at direct deals from these larger management entities. The whole idea is to get more revenue for the client, and the best way to do that is to take the label out of the picture. Whether that will actually happen is yet to be seen, but it will make for interesting observation by industry watchers. Let the wars begin.

U2 and Paul McGuinness: the end of the affair

November 17, 2013

Brian Boyd IrishTimes.com 11/15/13

It was music’s Alex Ferguson moment: the guiding hand of a high-achieving corporation standing down after a long and hugely successful tenure. The 35-year relationship between Paul McGuinness and U2, which saw the band go from playing from the back of a van in a Dublin car park to becoming the most successful live touring band of all time, ended rather mutely this week with McGuinness selling his Principle Management company to the concert promoter Live Nation.

As with Ferguson, the 62-year-old is moving upstairs, to become chairman of Principle. Day-to-day management is being taken over by Guy Oseary, who also manages Madonna.

McGuinness made a statement to the New York Times that suggested his age was a factor in the decision. “It could be seen as slightly poor etiquette for a manager to consider retiring before his artist has split, quit or died, but U2 have never subscribed to the rock ’n’ roll code of conduct. As I approach the musically relevant age of 64 I have resolved to take a less hands-on role as the band embark on the next cycle of their extraordinary career.”

Oseary has been in place for a few weeks. McGuinness told the band two years ago that he was considering standing down. After three and a half decades in the rock ’n’ roll trenches and with a new album and world tour ready to go next year, it’s entirely possible that McGuinness decided he had had enough of the long days that managing one of the world’s biggest bands entails.

It was a surprise to some that U2’s official website and Facebook and Twitter accounts had nothing to say about their manager’s departure once news broke on Wednesday that he was standing down.

By the time Weekend Review went to press yesterday the band had made no statement to the media in general, and neither they nor McGuinness had responded to questions from The Irish Times.

Some see the absence of a valedictory statement from the band as bad form. “McGuinness deserves better than this,” says one observer who has had close links with the band for many years. “The failure of the band to issue a statement has not gone unnoticed in the industry.”

This does not necessarily point to strained relations between U2 and their former manager. There has been no official confirmation of the deal by Live Nation, so the band might regard a statement as premature.

“Paul fought, fought and fought again for the band,” says one person who has worked with McGuinness and knows him well personally. “He would be the one up early and still at work late at night, arguing with local police chiefs and mayors about stage times and curfews. He was more than loyal, and he literally kept the band together at times. He’s an absolute gentleman who will defend U2 to the death.”

All one needs to know about what McGuinness did for U2 is to consider that Bruce Springsteen refers to his manager, Jon Landau, as the American Paul McGuinness.

In May 1978 a new band then known as The Hype were playing at Project Arts Centre in Dublin. Even then they had ideas about themselves. Paul Hewson, David Evans, Larry Mullen jnr and Adam Clayton figured they needed a manager to get them a record deal.

McGuinness was in the audience that night and was impressed by the inchoate new-wave noise he heard from the stage. Taking them to the Granary pub next door, where the members of U2 were too young to be served alcohol, he immediately impressed the ambitious, wide-eyed northsiders by telling them how to handle all the money that would inevitably flow in once they had an album in the shops.

He talked sagely about how The Beatles and The Rolling Stones had run into problems by not sharing their income equally between the band’s songwriting and nonsongwriting members. He persuaded them to share everything. “It has stood them in very good stead, because it backs up the democracy of a decision if everyone’s making the same amount of money,” he later said.

He also negotiated an equal 20 per cent of U2’s income for himself. For a long time he was, very unusually, paid as if he were part of the band. “This was reviewed later on. There should always be a division between client and manager,” he has said.

It was the money talk that got him the job, even if the band tried to sack him after two years, when he apparently failed to hire a van for an early UK tour. As Bono tells it, the decision to sack McGuinness was taken over hamburgers at Captain Americas restaurant on Grafton Street, but a young man at the next table who was just starting in the music business interrupted their conversation to vouch for McGuinness’s ability as a manager. So Louis Walsh saved McGuinness’s career.

In the 1980s, when album sales meant everything to a band, McGuinness not only scrutinised the record-company contracts but rewrote them in favour of the band. Traditionally, a label owns a band’s music and can use it how it likes – for greatest-hits packages, for example, or by licensing it for advertisements – but when U2 became stars, in the mid 1980s, McGuinness negotiated, not always delicately, that U2 should retain ownership of all their music. Even The Beatles never had that.

McGuinness also secured the band what is thought to be the highest ever royalty rate on their album sales. It is rumoured to be almost twice what other big bands were getting. Those early hard-fought victories still pay dividends today.

He also made the band, and himself, multimillionaires years before they would have become so from album sales or concert revenue. When their label, Island Records, couldn’t afford to pay them royalties from sales of their 1987 Joshua Tree album, McGuinness negotiated a 10 per cent share of the company in lieu of payment. Two years later, when Island was sold, this 10 per cent yielded £30 million for the band and their manager.

“I like to get my hands on the controls,” he once told this reporter. “Always, in U2, we were determined not to be that corny thing of the whingeing, whining victim artists. Find out what is going on. Get into it. Get the means to defend yourself.”

It is this thorough, combative approach that has made him admired, respected and feared in equal parts in the music industry.

The son of a Liverpudlian Royal Air Force officer and a Co Kerry teacher, McGuinness was educated at Clongowes Wood College, in Co Kildare. At Trinity College Dublin, he didn’t complete his degree but was involved in directing student drama and writing for the college magazine.

He made two life-changing friendships at Trinity: the first with Kathy Gilfillan, who became his wife and is now director of the Lilliput Press publishing company, and the second with the Hot Press journalist Bill Graham. The music magazine was an early U2 evangelist, and when Clayton asked Graham to recommend a manager, the journalist directed him to McGuinness, whom he persuaded to go to that early Project Arts Centre gig.

In the intervening years McGuinness has also been a founder partner of TV3, part-owner of Ardmore Studios, where he once worked after college, and a member of the consortium that won the licence for the Dublin radio station Phantom FM. He has also been a member of the Arts Council.

He is a Shelbourne Hotel bar buddy of Eamon Dunphy, whom he commissioned to write the first U2 biography, Unforgettable Fire, in 1987. Some Irish music journalists who considered themselves close to the band at the time still haven’t got over the shock of Dunphy getting the gig.

In recent years McGuinness has been scathing about technology companies’ role, as he sees it, in enabling copyrighted content to be viewed and listened to free online without compensation for musicians. He was sufficiently alert to the shifting sands of the music industry, after Napster facilitated free downloads, to convince the band to do a “partnership advertisement” for Apple iPods.

McGuinness also negotiated a sponsorship deal with BlackBerry for a tour and organised the first big rock concert streamed live on YouTube, a U2 show at the Pasadena Rose Bowl, in California, in 2009.

As album sales slumped and the touring market soared, McGuinness knew that although people may not pay €10 or more for a new U2 album, they would pay up to €100 for a U2 concert ticket. In 2008 he and U2 signed a 12-year exclusive deal with Live Nation, which now looks after not just their tours but also their merchandising sales and the running of their website, U2.com.

The most recent U2 album, No Line on the Horizon, from 2009, sold just five million copies. The Joshua Tree, released 22 years earlier, sold 25 million copies. But the 360 tour that accompanied No Line on the Horizon grossed €550 million, breaking entertainment-industry records.

Today, sales of the new U2 album, which is due out in March, no longer really matter much. Sales of tickets for their world tour, which is due to begin in June, really do.

McGuinness did all the heavy lifting when the record company mattered, when getting the best deal for album sales made all the financial difference. In economic terms, the management of U2 by a company that specialises in live tours makes perfect sense.

“He changed the nature of music management due to his ferocious protection of the band’s intellectual property,” says McGuinness’s friend Rory Godson, the former journalist who founded Powerscourt Group, a communications consultancy based in London. “Before anyone else he was asserting the rights of the artist. Being the manager and not a creative member of U2, he spelled out that what they did as musicians really mattered,” says Godson.

“He’s a brilliant businessman and has that rare ability to make complicated matters very simple. He can solve a complex problem on the back of a cigarette pack.”

There have been difficulties over the years. U2 were close to losing their record deal after a poor second album, October. Bono and Edge were on the verge of leaving the band in the early 1980s because the rock’n’roll lifestyle conflicted with their Christian beliefs. There was a public falling out with their former accountant, and friend, Ossie Kilkenny. And there have been some unprofitable financial investments along the way.

Much to the band’s surprise, there was considerable public blowback from the move of some of the band’s music publishing income to the Netherlands in 2006. Whatever the views of the individual members on this issue, the band have always maintained collective responsibility with McGuinness, including for the controversial tax decision.

The nearest they have come to a public spat was in 2008, when McGuinness criticised the way Radiohead released one of their albums. Bono wrote to NME magazine, saying: “I wanted to set the record straight on behalf of the members of U2 on comments made to the BBC by our much-loved and valued manager, Paul McGuinness, regarding Radiohead’s decision to make the music of In Rainbows available as a download using the ‘honesty box’ idea for payment. We disagree with Paul’s assessment of Radiohead’s release as ‘having backfired to a certain extent’. We think they were courageous.”

There has been no other concrete evidence of disharmony.

McGuinness’s personal wealth has been estimated at more than €100 million, and he will pick up a significant amount of the £30 million that Live Nation paid this week for both Principle Management and Maverick, Madonna’s management company.

Those who have worked with him and know him say that, having done all the important contractual work and being acutely aware of the enormous energy that a new album and world tour will exact, he has decided to hand over the reins.

The music industry has changed immeasurably since he made those early lucrative deals, and in his New York Times statement McGuinness acknowledged that it is now time for a younger man. “I have long regarded Guy Oseary as the best manager of his generation, and there is no one else I would have considered to take over the day-to-day running of our business.”

How U2 react to losing him on a day-to-day basis remains to be seen. In the early days he was closest to Clayton, as they used to room together on tour, but relationships within the band are always changing.

So what next for McGuinness? “Outside the band he has a vast array of personal interests,” says Godson. “He’s interested in art, literature and investing. Just in the past few years he found his father’s wartime logbook, and this enthralled him.”

But he is a businessman at heart. Whatever McGuinness does next, he will stay true to what he told U2 all those years ago in the Granary Bar: “It is pathetic to be good at what you do if you’re bad at the business of it.”

Live Nation Nears a Deal For Managers Of Music Acts

November 13, 2013

By BEN SISARIO NY Times 11/12/13

Live Nation Entertainment, the giant concert company that includes Ticketmaster, is in advanced negotiations to buy the management companies behind U2 and Madonna, according to several people with direct knowledge of the talks.
If the deal is consummated, it will further strengthen Live Nation’s already deep ties with U2 and Madonna, two of the highest-earning and most durable pop acts of the last 30 years.
As part of the deal, Live Nation would pay more than $30 million for both Principle Management, the company of U2’s longtime manager, Paul McGuinness, as well as Maverick, run by Guy Oseary, Madonna’s manager, according to these people, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
In what would be one of the most surprising shifts in years among the forces behind pop megastars, Mr. Oseary, 41, would take over the day-to-day management of U2. Mr. McGuinness, 62, who has managed U2 almost since its inception — and in doing so became one of the most highly esteemed executives in the music business — would become Principle’s chairman, with a role that was not fully clear.
A spokeswoman for Live Nation declined to comment, and Mr. Oseary could not be reached Tuesday afternoon.
In a statement, Mr. McGuinness said: “It could be seen as slightly poor etiquette for a manager to consider retiring before his artist has split, quit or died, but U2 have never subscribed to the rock ’n’ roll code of conduct. As I approach the musically relevant age of 64 I have resolved to take a less hands-on role as the band embark on the next cycle of their extraordinary career.
“I am delighted that Live Nation, who with Arthur Fogel have been our long term touring partners, have joined us in creating this powerful new force in artist management. I have long regarded Guy Oseary as the best manager of his generation, and there is no one else I would have considered to take over the day-to-day running of our business.”
According to Pollstar, a concert industry trade magazine, the top 10 highest-grossing tours include four by U2 and one by Madonna. U2’s last tour, called 360, had more than $700 million in ticket sales and was seen by nearly seven million people around the world.
Live Nation, which besides its concert promotion and ticketing business manages the careers of some 200 acts through its Artist Nation division, has had close ties with both U2 and Madonna for years. In 2007, it struck a $120 million deal with Madonna that covered touring and recorded music rights for a decade, and it later sold the recording rights to Universal. In 2008, it made a deal with U2 to handle the band’s touring and merchandising exclusively for 12 years.
Along with other arrangements Live Nation made around that time with Jay Z, Shakira and Nickelback, those deals came to symbolize a major change in the music business, as artists looked to concerts, merchandise and myriad other outlets to make up for lost record sales.

Bieber’s Manager Starts Music Investment Fund

November 11, 2013

By BEN SISARIO 11/10/13 NY Times

For the managers of pop stars, is there strength in numbers? That is the idea behind a new $120 million venture by Scooter Braun, the manager of hit acts like Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and Psy.

In a deal that has kept the music industry guessing for months, Mr. Braun is assembling a coalition of managers and musicians, and raising an investment fund intended to strengthen their position in the changing music industry, according to several people with direct knowledge of the plan.

Mr. Braun is in advanced talks with a number of potential partners, including the singer and rapper Drake, along with his managers; Jason Owen, who represents Shania Twain and the country band Little Big Town; and Troy Carter, who until recently managed Lady Gaga, according to these people, who were not authorized to speak publicly.

A spokesman for Mr. Braun declined to comment on Sunday.

Board members of Mr. Braun’s venture — whose name was not known — include Thomas Tull, the Hollywood producer, and David Politis, founder of the technology company BetterCloud.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, the chief executive of DreamWorks Animation SKG, is said to be acting as an informal adviser on the project.

The majority of the $120 million raised is from funds managed by Waddell & Reed Financial, an investment management company based in Overland Park, Kan. The venture has commitments for financing that could bring the total to about $200 million under certain conditions.

Last year, Waddell & Reed invested $443 million in Mr. Tull’s company, Legendary Entertainment, whose films include “300” and “The Dark Knight.”

If successful, the alliance could significantly raise the profile of Mr. Braun, who at 32 has already established himself as a sharp talent hunter with a keen command of social media.

His company, SB Projects, also encompasses a record label, Schoolboy, as well as divisions for film, television, music publishing and technology investment.

His new venture is expected to pool the resources of its members and backers to invest in technology companies, publishing and other assets that historically have been outside the realm of managers.

The structure of the coalition is expected to be somewhat loose, with those involved remaining relatively autonomous; most of the deals are said to cover only 50 percent of the managers’ businesses. Mr. Bieber is a participant in the venture.

With the balance of power in the music industry shifting away from record companies, the role of managers and other artist representatives has been evolving. Recently, Irving Azoff, a longtime manager and the former executive chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, announced a deal with the Madison Square Garden Company for a multifaceted music company.

Lyor Cohen, a former top executive at the Warner Music Group, also recently announced a small content management firm.

Of the partners Mr. Braun has recruited, a question remains about the involvement of Mr. Carter. Lady Gaga — by far Mr. Carter’s most successful client — is said to have recently dismissed him, which would most likely diminish the value of his company. But Mr. Carter has reportedly remained involved in the marketing of Lady Gaga’s new album, “Artpop,” and it is unclear whether a separation agreement between them has been fully negotiated.

Despite this uncertainty, talks between Mr. Braun and Mr. Carter about the venture are said to have continued.

From Lady Gaga to the future of social media

November 23, 2012

Lisa O’Carroll 11/05/12 Brisbanetimes.com.au

Troy Carter, the force behind Lady Gaga, isn’t just a talent manager. He epitomises an emerging group of creatives who are finding that partnering with Silicon Valley types is the way out of a broken business.

Not only is Carter making a good fist of reforming the music industry’s business model by challenging its distribution methods – Lady Gaga’s next album will be an app – but he is building and sharing a new social media platform which aims to rival Twitter and, in his spare time, running a private angel fund for technology startups.

Through his AF Square fund, Carter has invested in 40 online services and apps, ranging from the music streaming service Spotify, to the US taxi-booking app Uber and Rap Genius, a website dedicated to explaining rap lyrics which was set up three years ago by a bunch of Yale graduates.

One of the startups Carter is most excited by is Summly, a news scanning service launched on Friday on iTunes. It is designed by a British teenager, Nick D’Aloisio (who spent some of his early years in Australia) and – having been described as one of the most disruptive apps of 2012 – is a venture that may be viewed warily by the newspaper industry.

But first, Lady Gaga. Some joke that if she and Justin Bieber left Twitter it would collapse. She is the most followed individual on the service with 30.9 million fans and counting – one million ahead of the teen popster and nine million ahead of the fifth most followed tweeter, Barack Obama. Her Facebook following is even bigger, with 54 million fans, but Carter’s focus is on the fans on Gaga’s new social network, littlemonsters.com.

A hot turn on the media conference circuit, Philadelphia-born Carter is disarmingly optimistic about his sector. “The music industry is healthier than ever right now and it’s a fantastic time to be in it,” he says. A bold statement, considering how difficult it is for many artists to make money.

“The way consumers interact with music is different now,” he explains. “It’s not an albums business any more, it’s a singles business again and the industry has gone through that before. People are experimenting with streaming, with subscription services, whether it’s a Spotify or a Pandora or a Rdio,” he says, naming some of the many services that allow users to listen to tracks of their choice free.

“I think piracy itself is going to end up going away,” he adds. “If you can get something for absolutely free [instead of] stealing it, and the quality of free is actually better than the quality of stealing it, the choice becomes easy.”

This is the point where managing Lady Gaga and his involvement in social media meet. Her next album, Artpop, will be launched through a paid-for app and she promises “chats, films for every song, extra music, Gaga-inspired games, fashion updates, magazines and more still in the works!”. The idea is that the customer will want to pay for it because of all the extras.

With her previous album she was also pioneering, marketing Born This Way through “FarmVille”, the hugely popular Facebook game, in partnership with the games company Zynga. Visitors to her farm, which was populated by unicorns, crystals and sheep on motorcyles, got exclusive access to songs a week ahead of launch.

“I think the idea of having an application is the future,” says Carter. When asked what hope he holds out for the newspaper industry, also struggling against the internet, he replies that publishers simply have to adjust their ways. “People don’t buy horses to ride around any more for transportation. I just think the world changes. As a business, we have to make the proper adjustments.”

For Carter, the key is creating a two-way relationship with Gaga and his other clients’ customers. The quantity of readers or listeners is not what is important. “A ‘like’ [on Facebook] doesn’t necessarily translate as a fan. It’s a very passive relationship. It’s more important to have the one million diehard fans, than to have 54 million people who aren’t necessarily fans or they might have liked one thing you said, or one video. It’s being able to segregate those audiences and knowing who the super-fans are.”

To this end, he and Lady Gaga decided to build their social network, littlemonsters.com. Launched three months ago, it has one million registered users and is already seeing respectable dwell-times, with fans staying on average “14 or 15 minutes” per visit. “These kids live on the site,” says Carter.

In the yesterday world of CD sales, the data about customers that record companies held was “shit”, says Carter. “You have names, you have cities and you have credit card information, but it’s not user behaviour. You don’t know where else they are going on the internet, you don’t know what other artists they like, or what music they listen to. You really don’t know anything about them.”

Through littlemonsters.com, Carter has, in effect, moved into customer relations management, which is all about “getting to know your fans – when did they become a fan, when did they drop off, what other artists are they listening to?”

The album app will be promoted via littlemonsters.com, and he is hoping to replicate the experience with “millions” of tiny social networking sites, employing his Backplane platform from which Gaga’s site emerged. He is already working on one site for a Christian group and another for a baseball team. “We think the future of social media are micronetworks and communities built around specific interests,” he says.

Backplane is his third company, alongside AF Square and Atom Factory (his talent management arm), and raised $US5 million from blue chip investors including Google Ventures, Sequoia (one of the oldest tech private equity firms, which was among the backers of Google and Apple) and Founders Fund – a fund backed by Facebook’s co-founder Sean Parker and PayPal’s founder Peter Thiel.

Carter, who started his career working with Will Smith and Sean “Diddy” Combs, still has his eye firmly on the talent, though. Just before this interview, he told the Wired 2012 tech conference in London that he takes tips from the TV star Ashton Kutcher, one of the tech world’s new powerbrokers whose investments have helped to propel startups such as Foursquare, Airbnb and Flipboard.

“Ashton is probably one of the smartest guys when it comes to tech,” he enthused. “There’s not too many people who understand product as well as Ashton and we co-invest alongside his company a lot.”

In Britain, where Carter will this week return for yet another conference turn, he sees Summly as the one to watch. “Nick [D’Aloisio] is 17 years old, one of the most super-smart people I have met,” says Carter. His startup’s app summarises large newspaper articles, breaking them down to two-paragraph bullet points.

“For young kids consuming content, that’s kind of how they read anyway and they can choose whether they read the lot. The science behind it is absolutely fascinating.”

If it gets kids reading newspapers, that cannot be a bad thing.