The Way the Music Died
Written, Produced & Directed
by Michael Kirk
Co-Produced and Reported by Jim Gilmore
MATT SORUM, Drums, Guns N' Roses: Here's my red Corvette. Thanks to rock-and-roll, I bought me that car.
We made millions and millions of dollars.
MARK HUDSON, Songwriter: Now you have an album and a single, and if the single
doesn't work, you're working at Starbucks.
JEFF LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: Today is a tough time to be getting into the record
MELINDA NEWMAN, Billboard: It's a big moment.
MICHAEL "BLUE" WILLIAMS, Manager, OutKast: It is the perfect storm out there.
MELINDA NEWMAN: Everything is
LEONARD J. BEER, Hits Magazine: It's apocalyptic.
EXPERT: There's a
tremendous sense of hysteria.
JEFF LEEDS: The sky is
falling. The sky is falling.
LEONARD J. BEER: Things are
bleak right now.
MELINDA NEWMAN: There are
about 30,000 albums released a year, maybe 100 are hits.
DAVID CODIKOW, Pres., Immortal Ent.: Eighty-five percent of all records fail.
MELINDA NEWMAN: Sales have
fallen from $40 billion to $28 billion.
LEONARD J. BEER: It's about the
bean counters being in control.
DAVE MARSH, Music Writer: Financiers are wagging everybody's tail.
LEONARD J. BEER: It's about
DAVID CROSBY, Singer/Songwriter: The people who run record companies now wouldn't know a song
if it flew up their nose and died.
LEONARD J. BEER: All of a
sudden, then the corporations came in, took the artists, burned them out, used
them and abused them and then threw them away.
NIC HARCOURT, Music Director, KCRW: It's the classic example of art and commerce colliding and
nobody wins because it's just a train wreck.
CROSBY: I started singing in coffeehouses when
I was still in high school. It was
simply a need to sing. Of course,
I didn't get paid, but for me, it was the big time.
GOLDBERG, CEO, Artemis Records: I think David
Crosby's one of the most amazing careers of anybody in my lifetime. He forms Crosby, Stills &
Nash. They become the biggest
group in America at that time and do their third or second gig at Woodstock
festival and become one of the, you know, key emblematic moments of that.
CROSBY: It was when everybody became really
aware of Crosby, Stills & Nash.
We had the top album in the country, but Woodstock really pushed it over
STEPHEN STILLS: Thank
you. We needed that.
DAVID CROSBY: This is
our second gig.
STEPHEN STILLS: This is
the second time we've ever played in front of people, man. We're scared [expletive]
[B.B. King's, NYC, March 4, 2004]
DAVID CROSBY: Now, as
advertised, we will attempt to do something you've heard before.
know, when I was making a million bucks on an album, that I would make any
money at all was, like, marvelous.
I thought it was fantastic, a gift from God, wonderful, you know?
all started, record companies -- and there were many of them, and this was a
good thing -- were run by people who loved records, people like Ahmet and Nesuhi
Ertegun, who ran Atlantic Records, who were record collectors. They got in it because they loved
how it works, buddy. And I'm
happy. You know, cash is
groovy. It's a great tool. I don't let it run my life. It's not why I do things. And I'm happy with that. I will, as we say in rock-and-roll, run
it 'till the wheels come off because I love what I do. I love creating music. I love it that I can sing. I think it's a hugely wonderful gift,
and I am truly grateful for it.
And I love doing it.
GUIDO, Music Attorney: My experience with
artists, the ones that become successful, is that for them, doing this is the
equivalent of breathing air or eating food. There is no choice for them. They have to do this.
There's nothing else they can do.
GOLDBERG: I don't think the music business was
ever available to everyone who dreamed of being in it. In the movie A Star Is Born, the woman gets to Hollywood and
they say, "You know, only one out of a million make it in Hollywood." And she says, "But I might be that
one." But that means 990,000, and
so forth, didn't make it. It's
always been that way.
SIMONÉ, Artist Manager: We went into business with
a gentleman called Mark Hudson, who used to be in a group called the Hudson
Brothers. And Mark started to come
up to our office, as we started to develop the relationship, and play us songs
that he'd written.
HUDSON, Songwriter: Played the song, and they went, "The
song is OK. But who is the
SIMONÉ: On some of them, there was a young girl
singing. And we kept saying,
"Who's the girl on this demo?"
HUDSON: And it was, like, one of those sort of
things, like, you know, St. Peter denying Jesus. I went, "It's just this girl that I use a lot."
SIMONÉ: And the next time he was in, he played
us another demo. This time my
partner, Desmond Child, who's a very successful songwriter-producer, was in
another room, in the office. Heard
the demo, came in and made the mistake again of saying, "Who's the singer?"
HUDSON: And I was afraid to say that that was
SIMONÉ: And three or four weeks later, Mark
comes up to our office with his daughter, a very pretty young lady, and says,
"You guys have asked me a million times who's the singer on the demo. Well, this is who it is, my daughter."
HUDSON: So I'll set this up. She's 2 years old. I'm writing a song at the piano, and
she's and coming up to bother me, and I had my cassette player going. And she's virtually 2 years old. And while she was there, the cassette
is on, and I do-- and I've kept it all these years. And we have it here.
So listen to this. It's so adorable.
MARK HUDSON: Someone's knocking at the door--
Knocking at the door--
Somebody's ringing the bell--
SARAH HUDSON: Ringing
HUDSON: Oh, oh, oh! And so then, 22 years later--
SARAH HUDSON: [singing]
Someone's knocking at the door, somebody's ringing the bell--
HUDSON: My daughter Sarah was either blessed
and/or cursed with a piece of me.
She came to me and told me-- I wished she was going to go, "Dad--" and I'm waiting -- "Please, Sarah, say
it's a veterinarian. Please get
into accounting. Please." And it was, "I've got to sing and write
songs." And every bone in my body
went "Oh, no!"
HUDSON: It's really important. It's what I want more than anything,
mostly to get the music out there and to get what I have to say and my beliefs
and that kind of stuff just out there and out to, you know, the kids.
SIMONÉ: We said to her, "Sarah, you know, this
is really a horrible business.
HUDSON: And that was me being a dad again, but
I kept it all those years.
SIMONÉ: "And in fact, if you wanted the first piece
of advice from us, it would be don't do this" because it is a horrible, nasty
business. And Sarah's immediate
answer was, "Listen, I grew up with this.
I know that. This is all I
want to do."
HUDSON: It just surrounds her whole family, her
cousin being Kate Hudson and her aunt being Goldie, Cher being her friend and
my friend. And it's sort of, like,
been her-- it's all she really kind of knew.
I've become a chick
magnet since I got my close-up on the Grammys. I just want you to know.
HUDSON: My dad is a record producer/songwriter,
and I've just seen his ups and downs.
And there was months or years where he didn't have a job.
MARK HUDSON: Now
they're all calling out of the woodwork-- Madonna, Juliet Lewis.
HUDSON: He kept at it, and then all of a
sudden, he had, like, a number one single. It's just perseverance, I think.
HUDSON: And I've said this to Sarah, that I
wanted her to learn by my mistakes.
And I also said to her that the best thing about being an artist is to
have freedom. And my freedom was
taken away from me as an artist because I was a Hudson Brother on television.
here they are, the Hudson Brothers!
HUDSON: We were guys starving, and they said,
"You want to-- you're having your own television show starting next month."
HUDSON BROTHERS: [singing]
HUDSON: What? Money?
Fame? TV? Instant recognition. We'd been working seven or eight years
to try to get that, and it was handed to us, with one guy going, "Here you
go. It's right in your-- in your
hands." Tough to say no to.
photograph] Oh, this is kind of cool. The rock-and-roll Hudson Brothers,
which is this -- that's our back of our manes -- with all of these zany fans
attacking us at a signing. And
that was during the rock part and the lines that go around the block and da,
da, da, da, da, da, da. And then,
all of a sudden, you start to see this.
I mean, we were still cute.
But it-- you know, you wouldn't look at this and go, "Wow, I can't wait
to get their next album." I mean,
he looks like Valerie Harper. Who
HUDSON: The comedic television part of us
destroyed the music part because no one was looking at us as credible or as
real musicians. And then the TV
people thought we were rock-and-roll guys that were trying to act. So it sort of, like, canceled the whole
the epitome of what I turned into, OK?
Bob Mackey, a Cher outfit.
dreamed of it being John Lennon. I
dreamed of me being credible and this guy that would sit here, like I'm sitting
right now, but with my guitar, singing these songs. Instead, I was on the cover of TV Guide as "the zany Hudson Brothers." And even though I enjoyed the money and
I enjoyed the fame, I never really liked what it was necessarily doing to my
GOLDBERG, CEO, Artemis Records: There was a
down moment in the business in the late '70s. There was a terrible crisis. The Baby Boomers got older and they started buying less music. And also, it was a time when the music
business had what I consider to have been its worst format, whatever you-- which
was prerecorded cassettes. But the
business was saved by the introduction of the compact disc, the CD.
GUIDO, Music Attorney: People replaced their old
vinyls with CDs. They had old, scratchy copies of The White Album, now they could get a new digitally
remastered copy of The White Album.
NEWMAN, Billboard: And so you have a rush of money coming
into the labels because people are buying things that they already had on
vinyl. They want to buy them on
CD. And in a way, it's great for
the industry, but it's not reflective of selling new artists. It's kind of a false indicator.
LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: That provided this
enormous boom for a number of years that covered up a lot of problems starting
to emerge within the business.
Rolling Stone: When the record business is making a lot of money, the
international conglomerates swoop in, and they say, "Hey, you guys are making a
lot of money, and there's a lot of turnover here. We're going to buy you."
LEEDS: These independent entrepreneurs who had
been just kind of going along, they were-- you know, had small, sort of private
companies that were having good years and bad years, were suddenly, you know,
sort of in a system where they were counted on for quarterly profits, quarterly
targets they had to hit.
TOURÉ: So what does that mean? That means that we can't just give Mick Jagger, $500,000 and
tell him, "Come back when you're done."
You got to have this record done by this day, so that we can get it out
by this day, so we can have, you know, most of your earnings in our second
quarterly statement, so that we don't get fired when the Germans call and say,
"How much did you make this semester?"
Mick Jagger does not want to finish his album by August 12th! He is inspired, or Kurt Cobain, or
Eminem, or whoever. So now-- but if
he's racing to finish it by August 12th because they're told that they have to,
is that going to make for good art?
I don't think so. I mean,
clearly it's not.
CROSBY, Singer/Songwriter: You know, you'd go to a
meeting with a record company, and it wouldn't be a guy there who knew that you
had written a new song and thought that was cool. It would be a guy who knew that he had moved 40,000 pieces
out of Dallas this month, and he had no idea pieces of what. None.
J. BEER, Hits
Magazine: The last great influx of art that we
saw was, you know, when rap music happened. And rap music happened outside the corporate system.
TOURÉ: You saw guys who came from public parks or came from street
corners, and they just wanted to, you know, get out there, you know, and spit
their rhymes and get fame so they could go back on the block and get the
hottest girl on the block.
"BLUE" WILLIAMS, Manager, OutKast: Hip-hop was
starting. And so that was when I
first started going out, going to block parties and seeing Africa Bamm Bada and
the original PJ's and Full Force and Cold Crush Brothers. So I was in the streets when it was
GOLDBERG: Hip-hop was not endorsed by any of the
big radio stations, by MTV or by the big record companies. They all hated it for the first 10
years of hip-hop. So Hip-hop
emerges from clubs, from street promotion, from underground media that you
can't-- that those of us who weren't in it couldn't even quantify.
Rolling Stone: Russell Simmons made a lot of the money from hip-hop in
those first few years, and he talks about how he became rich because of the
arrogance of white men who were, like, "Oh, no, no, no. We don't want to be involved with
that." And Russell said,
"Good. I'll take your money."
"BLUE" WILLIAMS: I can understand how my mother and them
felt when rock-and-roll was around.
It was something that their parents didn't get, and it was theirs. This was something that was ours. People didn't get it. It wasn't mainstream, yet it was
exciting, it was energy, it was fresh.
It was just a real fresh feeling.
TOURÉ: In the '80s, the record industry didn't really know how to
market hip-hop, didn't know how to control it. So there really seemed to be, like, this sort of creativity
that was allowed. You could do
whatever you wanted because it was, like, "We don't know why this succeeds and
that doesn't, so y'all just, you know, record and go, and we'll figure it out
by the late '80s, early '90s, it started to be, like, "Hey, we kind of know how
to shape this and mold this." You
really started getting really packaged and processed people and, you know,
corporate things. And now you
have-- you know, in the 2000s, you have lots of really sort of corporatized,
slick things. And you know, the
old-school fans are, like, "Eww.
It's not hip-hop."
J. BEER, Hits
Magazine: And then all of a sudden, the
corporations came in and ate them all up, bought up all the little companies,
took the artists and burned them out, and used them and abused them and then
threw them away.
McKAGAN, Bass, Guns N' Roses: It all goes in
cycles. There was Milli Vanilli
one week. There was Paula Abdul
the next week. It was, you know,
Khaja Goo Goo the next week. It
was, you know, Flock of Seagulls, whatever, and all these-corporate made
bands. And then the real deal came
out. We came out. And it was, like-- it just took
everything by storm.
CODIKOW, Pres., Immortal Ent.: The guys have
sold 70 million albums around the world.
Guns N' Roses at the time was too big for stadiums in Europe and South
America. They played speedways.
McKAGAN: You know, we played Colombia once, and
we were more powerful than the government at that point. If we would've said up on stage-- I
mean, we had-- there was guys with submachine guns on the side of the
stage. If Axl, our singer, or one
of us would have said, "Revolution now!" you know, these kids would have done
SORUM, Drums, Guns N' Roses: I don't want
to sound pretentious or whatever, but we were the real deal. I mean, we were out there doing
it. It definitely changed my life. I mean, everything just changed
NEWMAN: There was a new wave of rock excess in
the late '80s, early '90s that they were part of, where they were selling
records like they, you know, fell off the back of the truck. I mean, they were really doing very,
SORUM: Millions and millions of dollars,
yes. And we spent a lot of money.
Read the whole interview]
McKAGAN: I mean, we had our own plane, MGM Grand
plane, with our own stewardesses.
You know, we could do whatever we wanted. We could smoke crack on the plane, whatever. It was a 727 with a bar and a whole
movie theater and everything.
then, you know, the first award we got was the American Music Award. We went, and we didn't have
girlfriends. Like, they-- we got,
like, these stunt girlfriends.
Like, they got model girls for us.
And they just were disgusted with us, you now, these two girls, you
know, prim, proper girls. We were
drunk and we're smoking in the Shrine auditorium. These fire marshals kept coming down, "You can't smoke."
we're-- got all this booze we snuck in.
And all of a sudden, they announce our name. We weren't even listening to what they were saying. They just announced our name, and
everybody just stands up around us and claps. We're, like, "What-- what did"-- "You guys won! Get up there! Get up there!"
get up there, and it was fed live to the East Coast-- was, until this
incident. And so it was "expletive
this," "expletive that." You know,
I'd like to, you know, [expletive] thank this-- well, [expletive] This is [expletive] great, you
know? Well, what the [expletive ] do you say, you know? [expletive] And so--
SORUM: Dick Clark had a hissy.
McKAGAN: Yeah, he-- yeah. He-- you know, he-- he really didn't come
down on us at all, Dick Clark, but whoever it was at ABC got, like, a million
calls from the East Coast, you know?
Yeah, so now there's-- there's-- since then, there's a seven-second
delay. True story.
NEWMAN, Billboard: Being number one on the charts does not
get you a free pass at all.
They're probably wondering, if they sold X million records, how come
they only have X in their bank accounts?
SORUM: This business, man, you just don't
know. I mean, it's just so
crazy. I mean, with GNR, I mean,
we were out on the road, and then it was just over. You know, we didn't-- you kind of-- you never think it's just
going to be over. You just never
know what's going to happen. But
in those days, it seemed like it was never-ending. But it did end, and it always does.
LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: The truth is, this is a very
difficult business. It's tougher
now than it ever has been. There
are companies that are, you know, investing a tremendous of amount of money in
untested talent. And nine times
out of ten, they're going to fail
MARK HUDSON: Like,
she does Cher better than anyone could ever do her. Has she done you Cher yet? Come on, you got to just give it a twinge.
SARAH HUDSON; Oh,
yeah. I have to be-- but you have
to, like, close your eyes to really think that it's-- you know, Cher is in the
OK. OK. Just listen-- listen to the voice.
SARAH HUDSON: Wait, I
need to prepare.
SARAH HUDSON: [singing] Do you
believe in life after love? I can
feel something inside me say I really don't think you're strong enough, no--
MARK HUDSON: Wow!
IFRAH, V.P., S-Curve Records: There was
something so inviting about Sarah to me, that was, I thought, the
Everygirl. Do you know what I
mean? I thought she was, like-- as
opposed to, you know, Britney Spears, who's perfect and beautiful. And Jessica Simpson is perfect and-- you
know, all these girls. And I just
thought to myself, like, where are the cool chicks who look strange, dress
strange, like, didn't really get all the guys and, you know, had all this
parental problems and whatever?
And I thought Sarah was that girl.
GUIDO, Music Attorney: Joanna's her A&R
person. The reason that Joanna
does what she does is to feel this way about an artist. So that connection has happened. You don't question that chemistry. You sort of go with it."
SARAH HUDSON: I like
JOANNA IFRAH: Oh, I
don't like them. I mean, I love
the shoe but--
SARAH HUDSON: You
don't like them.
JOANNA IFRAH: Yeah,
it's too bland.
is, like, partner in crime, mentor, sister, best friend. The lines are all very blurred.
HUDSON: She connected me with, you know,
amazing songwriters everywhere-- in L.A., New York, London, everywhere. And I just wrote-- I just wrote and
wrote and wrote and kind of found my own voice and, you know, what I wanted to
say as an artist.
songs are about growing up and all of the kind of baggage and emotions that
come along with coming into adulthood.
IFRAH: I mean, she took a lot from me. Seriously. I mean, I put her through hell. Every day, she'd hand me, like, five songs. I'd be, like, "They suck. They suck. They suck. Keep
going. Keep going." I mean, you know-- the boyfriend, and
I'm crying. I'm, like, "Nobody
wants to hear it." Every girl
writes the same song-- "You broke my heart, you broke my heart, don't break my
heart, blah, blah, blah." You know
what I mean?
HUDSON: We definitely had a handful of really
good songs, but I felt like there wasn't that-- that one that, you know, you
could hear on the radio or it could get people interested right away.
IFRAH: At the time, she had written another
song called "Naked Truth," which is the title of the album. And I thought, for sure, this was the
single. But basically, we finished
up the record and I thought to myself, "You know what? We need, like, a Cyndi Lauper 'Girls
Just Wanna Have Fun.' This is what
we need. This is what this record
is missing. It's kind of
deep. It's kind of heavy. You know, I need something that shows,
like, that fun side of her."
HUDSON: So I kept writing, and I wrote a song
called "Girl on the Verge," which is the single. And I felt it then.
I was, like, "This is it.
This is the single. This is
[singing] I'm a
girl on the verge of another breakdown--
SIMONÉ, Artist Manager: "Girl on the Verge" always
sounded like a smash, from the first time I heard it. And I think it's important to go with your instincts. I think the song is an anthem for women
of all ages. I really, really
IFRAH: Well, here's the thing. I mean, you know, now you're going to
play, like, the music business game, right, you know? Do you actually listen to "Naked Truth" and think that it's
a better song? Yeah, probably. It's a better lyric. It's a better melody. It's a better production. It's a better all those things. The thing about "Girl on the Verge" is,
it's, I guess what you're going to call a commercial record. It's a radio-friendly record. It's an attention-getting record.
CODIKOW, Manager, Velvet Revolver: We all think
this could be huge. And knock on
wood, it will be. Duff McKagan,
bass player Guns N' Roses, Matt Sorum, drummer, he joined Guns N' Roses from
'91 to '97. I think Velvet Revolver
could be lightning in a bottle.
thought that, you know, if several of the guys from Guns N' Roses, the biggest
band in the world for a period of time, got back together and they found their,
quote, "new singer," it could be amazing.
It could be unbelievably huge.
GOTTLIEB, V.P. Marketing, RCA Music Group: Through
mutual friends, they hooked up with Scott Weiland from Stone Temple Pilots, and
GOLDBERG, CEO, Artemis Records: I'm a big
Scott Weiland fan. There is no
more authentic and personal artist that I've ever met than Scott Weiland. He is really in his own world. He really comes from the heart in
everything he does. And if he
believes in this band, I believe in it.
GUIDO: I saw the one show they have done to
date, and people were sitting there, going, "Is this hype? Is this"-- you know, "It's a bunch of
retreads." And they came out and
they played six songs, and people's jaws were dropped. It was, "Oh, yeah. This is what it's about. I forgot."
CODIKOW: At that time, a number of record labels
came down. And the buzz started to
get-- heat up, and several labels made offers, and we ended up going with Clive
Davis at BMG and RCA.
LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: There was sort of a
bidding war, and I think that that was partly fueled by almost a sort of
nostalgia on the part of some of the record executives because they think back
to the era when Guns N' Roses was-- you know, was a big band. It was one of the biggest bands in the
world. They think back to when
Stone Temple Pilots was really, you know, a powerful force and was selling
millions and millions of albums. And they're thinking, "Wow, if we could," you
know, "somehow recapture that-- the momentum from," you know, "the early and
mid-90's, we'd be"-- you know, "we'd be in really good shape."
NEWMAN, Billboard: Well, the pressure's on for a group
like Velvet Revolver because the industry's being hit, and sales have fallen
from $40 billion to $28 billion in the last three years, which is staggering,
coming back into this in a completely different economy. They're also coming back into it older
and probably a lot smarter.
They're looking at the budgets.
They're looking at things and going, "Maybe we needed a catering budget
of X in 1991. Now we're all doing
Atkins. We don't need that." You know, we're all watching our
waistlines. We only need X."
CODIKOW: Well, they've made records for millions
and millions of dollars in the past.
This record was made for much, much less. They're brilliant musicians. They do a lot of pre-production. They rehearse.
They know what they want.
McKAGAN: We know how much it costs to make a
record, and it's not $2 or $3 million dollars. And it's good for the whole band to know we're aware of the
value of a dollar and how far you can make that go.
GOTTLIEB, V.P. Marketing, RCA Music Group: In the
first six months of the year, it's probably our single most important
release. For the entire year of
2004, it's probably one of our two or three most important releases. It'll cost us $2 million for the first
six months of the project, strictly in marketing.
These are-- we're-- we
have three different album covers.
It's definitely got a James Bond meets classic rock-and-roll feel. It's a silhouette of a woman. You can tell that she's scantily
dressed and she's got a weapon on her hip. And this is the artwork for the single, the first single,
which is called "Slither."
GOTTLIEB: The record store -- the Tower Records,
the Virgin -- those stores are having an impossible time trying to survive. The big stores -- the Best Buys, the
Targets, the Wal-Marts -- who are the bulk of our business-- you know, those
three accounts alone are 50 percent of our sales -- we're nothing to them. The music section at Wal-Mart is, you
know, a third of the size of this office, maybe half the size of this
office. It's tiny. Out of the 30,000 records that get
released every year, they're probably-- they probably have 750 titles.
MARSH, Music Writer: The big difference with Wal-Mart is,
they are very content-restrictive about what they will and won't carry. But it's the only path you have if what
you're after is the kind of success that the big corporations need to drive the
pop side of their division.
[meeting at Michael
MATT SORUM, Drums,
Velvet Revolver: Today they hit us up with this thing,
"Hey, you guys got to make a clean version of the album because there's, you
know, 15 explenatives in the first song," you know? And we're, like, "OK."
We didn't even know.
Manager, Velvet Revolver: But if you make a clean version, again,
we'll possibly ship more than 20 percent of what we would otherwise ship if we
didn't have a clean version.
MATT SORUM: Twenty
DAVID CODIKOW: And in
this market, it's about the shipping.
It's about making a statement.
It's about getting records into retail.
DUFF McKAGAN: So
there'll be one record that just goes, "bleeeeep."
More on the Wal-Mart effect]
GOTTLIEB: You got to figure that in large chunks
of the United States, if Wal-Mart's not stocking it, I don't think they're
going to be driving 30 miles to find a record store.
[at RCA offices]
Do you have "Slither"
in your office?
RCA EXECUTIVE: I have
it in my CD player, I believe.
Oh. We can actually listen
in his office, which is much more comfortable than mine. You'll probably want to come in because
we play it loud, so we usually close the door.
you get a, "OK, prove it to me" look.
And when you play it for people, they go, "OK, you did. You proved it to me. I get it. God, that's great!
And we were, like, "Yeah."
GOLDBERG, CEO, Artemis Records: Business
during most of the '90s was great, up until when the Internet phenomenon took
hold and alternative ways of getting music, including free music, you know, put
a big dent in the sales growth.
LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: That became, really, the
unraveling of the business because those digital files became something that
you could take off of that disk, send to a friend or a million friends through
the Internet. And that's why the
business has the problems that it does right now.
"BLUE" WILLIAMS, Manager, OutKast: In my opinion,
it's not downloading that's killing us, it's-- we stopped putting out quality
music. We stopped giving the
public something to believe in. We
started just giving them, "Here, take this, take this, take this." And the public caught up to us, and it
was like, "Hey, we don't want to take it no more, and we can get it someplace
GUIDO: I would submit to you that anybody that
has talked to any kid that is a proponent of downloading will say in the first
30 seconds of his defense some kind of a story about how they bought a CD
because they liked a song, and they took it home-- and they paid all this money,
and they took it home, and when they got home, the rest of the album was junk. So why should they be forced to buy all
this junk to get the one song?
That's a result of creating a business that only cared about the, quote,
"BLUE" WILLIAMS: My OutKast record is at eight million
records right now. Eminem just
sold eight million. 50 Cent sold
six. Norah Jones sold six. The public will buy good music when you
give them good music to buy. And
that's what it should be about. We
should get back to putting out good music.
HARCOURT, Music Director, KCRW: Los Angeles is
a town where a lot of people are stuck in their cars. People want to hear a local radio station. But what we do, which is a little
unusual from a lot of other public radio stations, is we also run a lot of
contemporary music. We live in a
town where there's a lot of influential people, producers, directors of movies,
A&R executives of record companies.
J. BEER, Hits
Magazine: Nic Harcourt can help start a
career. It can-- it can help
explode a career. I remember when
no one wanted to play the first Fiona Apple album, and they thought it was
bizarre and weird. And KCRW played
it, and the album went to number one in sales in Los Angeles just from
them. Again, magic.
HARCOURT: This was where Coldplay did their first
ever American performance. Norah
Jones-- we were the first people to play Norah Jones anywhere. She performed here, as well, before her
record came out.
the commercial world, it's a very narrow field of music that comes in. Every week, the guy who's the music
director might have 20 or 30 CDs to listen to. And those decisions are, you know, really made on what's--
what needs to be on now because-- what's hot and what's going to be hot. And it's hype.
IFRAH, V.P., S-Curve Records: Every
publicist goes out there with all these new artists, you know, to be. And they pitch everyone, you know? They pitch-- I mean even Sarah's
publicist pitches like, you know, 20 people a day to the same thing. So it's hard. It's really hard to get something. And you've got to hope that you do something that makes them
respond more than, I think, just the music.
HARCOURT: Well, you've got to build a story. You've got to have something that you
can then, when you pitch me or pitch another guy at a radio station with this
artist, you can say, "This artist," you know, "is selling 10,000 records a
week," or "This artist is on an ABC radio station," or maybe they're on an MTV
or whatever. You take whatever
information you have that people will respond to.
J. BEER: Well, they need a hit. They need a story. They need a hit. The story helps them become bigger, if
they have the hit. You know,
Britney Spears gets married for 24 hours and is on the front page of every
magazine and newspaper in the world.
Then her album gets released.
Janet Jackson takes off her clothes on national television, and then her
album gets released. Jennifer
Lopez gets married, engaged, every other time she has a movie coming out, and
she's on the front page of everywhere.
So everybody's looking for the story.
HARCOURT: Usually, you have to be able to get
airplay on the radio. And if it's
somebody like this, who doesn't have a touring fan base and it really does come
down to, "I've made this record, can we get somebody to play it on the radio,"
then she's got to have the right song.
Does she have the right song that is going to get played on the radio?
HUDSON, Singer/Songwriter: The single that we're
going with is the most light and fun and fluffy song. So what we're hoping is to put out this single and get, you
know, people interested, and then to kind of hit them with, you know, the
deeper stuff, to show them, like, I am a real artist. I'm not just, you know, manufactured or kind of put
together, that I do actually have something to say.
SORUM, Drums, Velvet Revolver: I think, going
into it, we didn't, like, go, "OK, we need to write a song that's going to be
on the radio." But we did have an
idea that we needed to put a stamp that says contemporary. And, by doing that, we picked a certain
producer. Like, we tried a couple
producers. We went with a younger
producer who's done current record.
And we knew that we needed to kind of put the sizzle of whatever that
is, the sprinkling of the fairy dust of, like, "This is new." And I think we achieved that.
McKAGAN, Bass, Velvet Revolver: There might be
some skepticism, but the music is going to-- you know, old adage, "The music
will do the talking."
HARCOURT: It's too obvious. It's too obvious, isn't it, you know? It's like, "Well, Guns N' Roses were
huge and Stone Temple Pilots were huge, so let's put those guys together, and
it's going to be huge," you know?
And you know, it may well be, but I guess what I'm saying is, like,
that's such an old way of thinking.
It's so boring. It's so
stale. The thinking is just
CROSBY, Singer/Songwriter: "Get me a lead
singer. He's got sort of
androgynous blond hair, very pretty.
We need a guitar player, sort of hatchet-faced, wears a hat, plays very
fast, very dramatic. He must be
very dramatic. Get me a pound of
bass player, a pound of drummer. I
don't think he needs keyboards. I
think we look good. And we'll call
them, "The, mmmmm, Bosco Bombers.
No. The Bad Dogs. That's good! I like that!"
they sell it. They sell the hell
out of it. They spend five hundred
thousand dollars a record promoting it.
And they make a lot more.
But they're making little cardboard cut-outs.
HARCOURT: The inspired thinking would be, "Let's
go scour the clubs in," you know, "various cities, and let's find the next
Rolling Stones or the next Guns N' Roses.
Let's find a band that is doing that now, that is going to speak to
their generation." I mean, that's
what these guys should be doing. And there are A&R executives out there
trying to do that, but they're being, you know, hampered by the directions from
up on top, which is, like, "Give me something obvious. I want it now. These guys will do. That's a hit. Let's do it."
CODIKOW, Manager, Velvet Revolver: It's still all
about the kids. If the kids want
to request it, it gets played more and more. The more it gets played, the more people buy. The more people buy, the more records
they sell. The more records they
sell, shazzam, you're a rock star, you know? It's not-- it's not, you know, Euclidian geometry, but it's--
but it definitely can work. And
with these guys, you feel that undertow.
They made an amazing record.
And the radio department already told us they've been playing the single
for a lot of people, and they're feeling really good about it. It's much better than not feeling good
LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: But the radio business in
the early '90s had really started to suffer. The broadcast lobby, which is a very powerful lobby in
Washington, successfully lobbied Congress to raise the limits on station
ownership. And suddenly, a company
that once owned, you know, three dozen stations could suddenly own a
thousand. And so you just had
forces emerge that-- that couldn't have legally existed before because of this
change, and that's-- that's really revolutionized the music business.
Rolling Stone: By any normal standard, it's a monopoly. So instead of having lots of program
directors and, you know, maybe the guy in Philadelphia's a little crazy and
he'll play a record nobody else would play, and people start hearing it and
requesting it, and the record takes off by itself. No more. Clear
Channel is in control. If they
don't want it played, it doesn't get played.
MARSH, Music Writer: It's the single narrowest opening into
success. There are very, very few--
you know, it is the eye of a needle, you know, where you're trying to squeeze
32,000 records a year through a needle that will accommodate about four or five
new ones a week. And most of those
are going to go to established performers.
More on radio consolidation]
IFRAH, V.P., S-Curve Records: Well, I mean,
you know, on a daily basis, I will be getting updates-- for good or for
bad. As soon as it starts to play
anywhere, you start to-- you know, a few weeks, you start to get some response.
NEWMAN, Billboard: The chances of you having a hit are
just almost infinitesimal. There
are about 30,000 albums released a year.
There may be a hundred that are hits, or certified hits.
GOTTLIEB, V.P. Marketing, RCA Music Group: From
what I know, from what I've seen, from the way the marketplace is now, my
experience tells me that we're 80 percent of the way of feeling that it's going
to be a hit. And the last 20
percent is going to be it getting on the radio and the video being seen and the
record eventually getting out there.
So it feels right.
J. BEER, Hits
Magazine: They're going to get a shot on the
radio right away. And the music
that I've heard so far, I liked a lot.
So they're going to get a run.
You know, and we hope Scott stays healthy.
GUIDO, Music Attorney: The bad thing that can
happen to them is the bad thing that can happen and has happened to a variety
of people in music-- drugs,
self-destruction, trouble. That is
the flip side of the coin. That's
the flip side of the danger.
Hopefully, because these guys have survived as long as they have and
come out the other side, they have within themselves the ability to not
that's the case, including the one person that continues to have a
problem. He's also kept himself
alive for all these years, too, and I believe that he has a safety net within
him that's going to keep himself alive.
And plus, the music he's making is so important. It's what he does. I think that's what's going to keep him
alive, as well.
GOTTLIEB: The way I feel right now is if everything
keeps going along as it is, we're going to have a very successful project, an
extremely successful project. But
you could talk to me seven weeks from now and one thing may have gone wrong,
and I may be not as confident about that.
But right now, everything feels very, very solid.
HUDSON, Songwriter: What's going to happen now is, it gets
out of her hands. Is she going to
get a video? Is the budget going
to be big enough and the director going to be good enough that it becomes a
video that could make it to the next level, so that when VH1 or MTV looks at it
they go, "Wow, isn't that stimulating?"
IFRAH: That's the whole sell on Sarah, you
know? She's this mainstream
artist, and MTV is crazy exposure.
If your video is on MTV a few times a day-- I mean, imagine all those
kids who watch it every day. It
suddenly becomes cool. It becomes
the thing to have, that everybody has to know about, the record you have to go
buy, you know?
J. BEER: MTV is the most powerful force that's probably
ever happened in the music business.
You know, you can make a star overnight, if they make the right video
and if the right magic happens, you know.
TOURÉ: I think you can look at MTV as the most powerful radio
station in America, you know, so if you can get 30, 40 spins a week on MTV,
it's just as good as getting it on a hundred radio stations in America.
GUIDO: But I think MTV was sort of the
beginning of the end for the recorded music business, in that it solidified a
mindset that exalted marketing over substance. It made the record industry a one-trick pony. It became only about a three-minute
single and a visual image. And if
you didn't have the three minutes, you were over.
CROSBY: It changed it from being about the
music to being about what you look like.
And that was a terrible blow to music because now you've got all these
people who look great and can't write, sing or play. It doesn't matter that Britney Spears has nothing to say and
is about as deep as a birdbath.
TOURÉ: In an era where MTV is dominant, you get artists who are
visually appealing. So much more
is put on how you look, versus just how you sound, which in the music industry
does not spell good music.
IFRAH: So of course, we need MTV. And what you do is, you hope that you
make this unbelievable video. I
think the video is, like, going to be a difficult thing. But I think for Sarah, it's going to be
such a key role because, again, the visual on Sarah is as important as the
More on MTV's effect]
LEEDS, Los Angeles Times: The odds are against, you
know, every new person, every new band, every new singer, every new rapper that
comes out because, you know, radio stations are only going to add so many songs
a week to their playlists and MTV is going to sort of do the same thing.
J. BEER: She's up against that. She's up against everything. And that's why it's so hard. Plus, the record labels only have so
much time to spend and so much money to spend on a new artist. And they're looking for one that goes
boom. At some point, if she
doesn't go boom, she just gets pushed aside. And it's bad and it's hard and it's awful and it's-- the
closer you are to anybody that's trying to do this, the more torturous it
ANNOUNCER: Sarah Hudson's first single, "Girl on the Verge," was
released to radio on May 3rd. It
has not yet appeared on any of Billboard's national radio charts. Velvet Revolver's single,
"Slither," has moved to the top of those charts. They are selling out in every city on their current tour of
the United States.
Way The Music Died
PRODUCED AND DIRECTED BY
FRONTLINE Co-Production with Kirk Documentary Group, Ltd.
is a production of WGBH Boston, which is solely responsible for its content.
FRONTLINE's report continues on its Web site,
where you can explore extended interviews with music artists, industry insiders
and others, further analysis of the crisis that's hit the record business and
led to the loss of billions of dollars and thousands of jobs, a closer look at
the music industry's future, plus streaming video of the full program and
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ANNOUNCER: --the payoff--
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