I was writing a strategy for a horse racing club and what kept coming up was this industry’s need for a game changer or game changers.

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Right now, the hardcore punter and horse owner is getting older by the day. Racing is no longer “The Sport Of Kings” as there are few “kings” around.

Plus there are less and less people willing to invest in owning horses and with every racing club focusing on ways of attracting new race-goers.

Yet, so many keep missing out on the obvious: The new and casual racegoers have NO IDEA HOW TO BET and the racing clubs offer nothing for them in the way of entertainment which THEY want- and ensure there are people at tracks their age and with whom they wish to mix.

Having said this, things are starting to change- and quickly- and with bigger changes to come- especially Hong Kong where the turnover for one race meeting is more than every race during the course of the UK’s flat racing season.

 

Wait and see: Race tracks will quickly become the new venues for music. All the facilities are in place- except for “the content”.

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As for these new and casual race-goers, they don’t CARE how good a horse is, how brilliant a jockey might be. They have NO idea what a horse trainer actually does and, those with the smarts, know that when deciding to own a horse, be prepared to spend AT LEAST US$500-600,000 on a good three-year-old and then another US$800,000 a year on stable fees, vet bills etc and with NO GUARANTEE of making back any money.

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Punting on the horse? Forget the old tale of woe that “every race is fixed”: They are not. Outta 12-14 jockeys in a race, at least eight are trying and another six are “giving their horses” a run so they drop in the handicaps. And if you don’t give a fig about horse racing, all that I have just written matters nought.

A few running racing clubs understand that all this “horsey talk” is falling on deaf ears and that they cannot afford to be so close to everything that they won’t be able to see the forest for the trees and which is why they are looking for game changers. Or should be.

In fact, practically every industry today needs game changers.

Many, for example, wish to open up clubs and bars and restaurants. It’s become de rigeur. That’s fine. They can sucker-punch a group of investors and do this, but, more and more, the clubs etc are starting to look the same, the music pumped out is the same and the crowds move like lemmings from one venue to the other and to wherever is the flavour of the month.

Again, this industry has no game changers. Only lemmings. Neither does the advertising industry.

Where is today’s David Ogilvy and Bill Bernbach and an ad which had the headline, “Lemon” and can still catch the attention of people?

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Where the game changers in the music industry? There are none and which is why there is hardly any music industry. It reminds me of the joke, How many music executives does it take to make a decision? None. They all have their heads up their arses and can’t hear the world passing them by.

Seriously, think about the game changers we have been lucky to have seen in music- Brian Epstein and the Beatles, Andrew Loog Oldham and the early Stones, the great Chris Blackwell and his Island Records, Jac Hozman and Elektra Records, Ahmet and Nehusi Ertegun, Herb Alert and Jerry Moss and Berry Gordy Jr and his Tamla-Motown label- “The Sound Of Young America”.

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There have been Bowie, Hendrix, “Pet Sounds”, a promoter like Bill Graham, the CD, MTV, Michael Jackson, YouTube and, of course, Elvis- and Colonel Tom Parker.

They are and were game changers ‘cos they TOOK CHANCES. Sure, it was a different and more simple time, but they REALLY believed in THE MUSIC, they put their balls on the wicket, they put their MONEY where their HEARTS were- the MUSIC- and didn’t think about holding on to their gigs for dear life. They Just Did It.

Yeah, this is easier said than done, especially in this economy and with music seemingly something most people don’t wish to pay for- and for this I blame the music companies, promoters AND the artists who give their music away and keep playing for free. But this is “the Pollyanna” in me talking.

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Is Steve Jobs a “game changer” in the music industry? Maybe, maybe not. He gave consumers a new way to hear music and caught the music industry napping- just like the ironically-named Napster once did.

In recent years, Simon Fuller was a game changer by creating “American Idol”. He now needs a new hit and new “pastures” to conquer- like China and India and the world of new technology.

His “If I Can Dream” online series was an experiment- not a very successful one, but, sometimes, one needs to fail in order to learn the lessons to succeed.

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Ryan Murphy, to me, is a game changer and his creation “Glee” is one of the most multi-dimensional musical shows on television today with a cast of characters and which can be taken as one thing on the surface and be “Nip/Tuck dark” if one digs and looks a little deeper. Musically, it has opened up many things including the world of music publishing and artists happy to be on a television show- and to fight to get their music on the show. 

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There is not going to be a knight on a white charger coming to rescue the music industry ‘cos what the industry needs is money and no investor, unless a complete buffoon, would bother to invest in it- not right now: It looks- and is- poor, dazed and lost and confused- and needs to be propped up and look alive again before being a carrot one can dangle with any great confidence.

Perhaps we are all, in one way or another, game changers as it’s up to US what we buy into. As a former music executive with two majors, here’s my hit list of things that need changing: Feel free to add to the list and see how far we get.

THE ARTISTS AND REPERTOIRE PERSON

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If it all starts with the song, then many of those who decide to sign up artists must be tone deaf ‘cos, apart from, maybe Bruno Mars, the song has been in short supply along with TRULY creative artists.

Sure, signing new talent is a very subjective decision, but how can a few people in a music company have SO much power to pick and choose who is “right” and “worthy”?

Perhaps I have greater reservations about the Artists And Repertoire person than most as I have seen, first hand, how they listen to music, or who listens to demos for them and also how artists signed by one these people can be ridiculed by those in marketing, so-called “new media” and even “management” as having “cloth ears”. Why are they still there? ‘cos it’s the way it’s always been.

Meanwhile, what chance does this artist or these artists have if there are internal politics involved and zero marketing budgets set aside to promote their music?

As with other hires, the majors, especially, have always hired from a very small “talent” pool- the very same small pool they swim in. So, for decades, glorified promo people, for example, from music television channels have been hired as “VP Marketing” and The Peter Principle has been allowed to flourish and with incompetence being rewarded.

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As for the Artists And Repertoire “guru”, what on earth gives them this weird “right” to make such a subjective decision? And how wrong have they been over the years? How many great new artists have been dismissed with a terse, “Sorry, we’ll pass. Good luck”?

Honestly, there should be a Worldwide Rogues Gallery of these twats so they can be shamed in public and also placed on a Shit List by musicians so they can be avoided like the plague.

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It’s 2011 and, sorry, but, “We’ve decided to pass” is just not good enough. What was the reason for the pass- the songs? The voice? The image? The hairstyle? Whaaaaaat?

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MUSIC PLATFORMS

There are way too many “platforms” and even “platforms” which have zero to do with music being embraced as “saviours” of the music industry. This is what too much of everything can does. It confuses people and everything becomes part of the “solution” when all they are doing is contributing to the problem.

Huh? Facebook is about music? How? ‘cos we share music on Facebook? What about artists being PAID for sharing this music?

Everyone has a “platform” for artists to “showcase” their work, but many are simply “platforms’ to get free content and with very little copyright protection.

Yes, it’s a free-for-all and few address why and for how much longer all this giving of time and art for FREE can go on before there is complete silence?

Let’s not forget that, once upon a time, MySpace was also a “platform”. But, after years of artists uploading their songs and a “social networking group” built up, today, the music site is being sold to the highest- or lowest- bidder by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

MySpace has lost its “worth” and Murdoch at least wants his money back and with the main player said to soon acquire it for a nickel and dime being China’s much criticized Tencent site. And once this happens, wave all copyrights adios, amigos and forget about receiving any royalty cheques. 

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Like I said, nearly everyone has a”platform”. But the floorboards have been made with such cheap materials that artists and their music can quickly disappear without trace.

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TELEVISION TALENT SHOWS

There are way too much of them and with too many people taking them way too seriously. These are created for ratings and sponsors and to make money for the teams behind them.

Viewers are being teased and manipulated by “votes” and “saves” and “eliminations”.

What does it matter to YOU? Sure, support your favourite, but don’t let it take over your life and entire being.

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MUSIC CONFERENCES

Ditch them as 90% of them are a complete waste of time. And artists who go out to these gatherings to play FOR FREE, STOP IT. It fucks things up for everyone else and leads NOWHERE.

It’s playing right into the hands of those who want everything by everybody else for free,  but will never ever do anything for free when it comes to extending themselves.

What? “Playing for the  EXPOSURE”? Playing to WHO for this “exposure”?

Also, should we be drawn to these “music conferences”  ‘cos of speeches by some “industry legends” who have a great CV but who have had no hits for decades? No.

What can they DO for you? How RELEVANT are they today? What can we gain from their “experiences”? Packaging? Some stories?

There is “experience” and there is experience and there is all the experience of someone like the great Chris Blackwell who  continues to be relevant. 

The series Chris Blackwell and Simon Fuller are said to be working on, should be worth looking out for. A strange combination? Not really: The two worked together on the second of the ground-breaking “One Giant Leap” series.

As someone told me today, it’s all very quiet out there. Perhaps musicians have finally got pissed off about not making any money after years of empty promises.

Perhaps too many can see through the cons and the scams and the charlatans. 

The doors and the truth are closing in on quite a few “industry insiders” as people have wised up.

Same with brands who spun tall stories about “supporting” artists when all they did was do deals with the music and publishing companies. And don’t even get me started how rotten to the core so many music publishing companies are and how LITTLE many who run these actually know about things as obvious as copyright laws.   

And if ONE game changer can come along and change those decades-old ball-busting contracts which are still being used today to screw artists and keep their careers in a sling, this will be one small step for Musickind.

  1. domain says:

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  2. Fernando says:

    Dave Kusek BerkleeMusic, Ariel Hyatt Cyber PR, Ian Rodgers TopSpin, Alex Ljung SoundCloud – all people I would rate as either game-changers or good voices. Ljung has got it just about right in terms of what a platform can do well and all the things it can’t do, Rodgers presentation on direct to fan marketing is far and away the best thing I’ve read on how bands and artists can approach online fan engagement, Hyatt has a great handle on using online in a practical (modest) way and Kusek has shown us that there is plenty of money in music education. I’d buy all these people a drink, anytime.

  3. Rob says:

    Good article. The Chris Blackwell clips are right on the money. Why doesn’t the industry know?

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