Leonard J. Beer is the editor in chief of Hits Magazine, a music industry trade publication. In this interview, he talks about the effect of MTV on the music industry. "MTV is the most powerful force that's probably ever happened in the music business," he says. "You can make a star overnight if they make the right video, and if the right magic happens." But he warns that the flipside is that the exposure can cause an artist's popularity to burn out faster. Beer also argues that teenagers have become accustomed to expecting instant gratification and that record companies need to find a way to adapt. "Can you imagine a world where everybody [has high-speed Internet access]?" he asks. "You could put up an ad in the newspaper tomorrow that the new Eminem single is available at nine o'clock tonight. Wherever you are in the world, the way you hook up, you can have that song. Can you imagine how many records you would sell?"
David Crosby is a music legend known for his solo performances as well as his work with the Byrds, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. In this interview, he recounts how the music industry has changed over his career. "When it all started, record companies -- and there were many of them, and this was a good thing -- were run by people who loved records," he says. "Now record companies are run by lawyers and accountants. … The people who run record companies now wouldn't know a song if it flew up their nose and died." Crosby also argues that the quality of music has suffered because of corporate interference. "It doesn't matter that Britney Spears has nothing to say and is about as deep as a birdbath," he says.
Goldberg started in the music industry as a rock critic, before doing publicity for Led Zeppelin and starting his own PR company. He has also managed Bonnie Raitt, Nirvana, and the Beastie Boys and worked for Warner Music Group. Goldberg is currently the chairman and CEO of Artemis Records. In this wide-ranging interview, he provides perspective and insight into the ups and downs of the music industry over the past four decades. Despite current trends, Goldberg is optimistic about this future. "I think middle-aged people who are grumpy about the music business need to hang around with teenagers and see the way they react to MTV, the way they react to the iPod, the way they react to artists like OutKast and Pink," he tells FRONTLINE. "I don't think there's any emotional difference between the way teenagers process music today and the way they did when I was a teenager."
David Gottlieb was a senior vice president of marketing and artist development at RCA Music Group until late March 2003. In this interview, he describes how the music industry has grown since he entered it in the 1980s. "I think the year or two after I started working at the record label, as an industry, we put out 6,000 releases," he recalls. "I think last year it was about 35,000. So in 12, 14 years, it expanded 600 percent. The marketplace didn't expand 600 percent, just what we threw out into the marketplace." Gottlieb explains the challenges of trying to market Velvet Revolver in this changed landscape and the stakes for RCA in trying to make the band a success. He also describes the lengths to which RCA is going to keep Velvet Revolver's music from being illegally put on the Internet.
Michael Guido is a music industry attorney, who represents Velvet Revolver and Sarah Hudson among others. In this interview, he describes what he believes these artists need to do to be successful. He also explains the "perfect storm" that has hit the music industry and in particular, how the industry's current emphasis on the hit single has led to the demise of the album. "I think MTV was the beginning of the end for the recorded music business, in that it solidified a mindset that exalted marketing over substance," he says. However, despite all of the counts against the industry, Guido feels the music will prevail. "My philosophy is that irrespective of whether or not the record companies fix themselves, or radio gets deregulated or not, music is the most resilient art form. It's like water. It will find its way through stone one way or another."
Nic Harcourt is music director and host of "Morning Becomes Eclectic" at KCRW, a public radio station in Santa Monica, California. His free-form show is known for showcasing new bands. In this interview, Harcourt explains how difficult it is for a new artist to break through on radio and criticizes the music industry for not finding a creative way through its current difficult economic period. However, he argues that despite radio and music industry consolidation, there are plenty of ways for fans to be exposed to new music. "If you're out there and you're searching and you're looking, there's a lot of stuff out there you can find," he tells FRONTLINE. "But you would never have the ability to have done that 30 years ago. You were fed by the machine. Well, now we actually don't really need the machine. There's an alternative way of getting turned on to the music."
A reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Jeff Leeds covers the radio, music, and entertainment industries. In this interview, he offers his views on the state of the music industry, how it got to its current state, and why he feels that the music itself is not in as dire straights as some say. "You know, I've never really bought this argument that the music has gotten worse, or that the quality has changed that dramatically," he tells FRONTLINE. "I think that at any time, you can point to a number of albums and say this is really fantastic material. They may be independent releases, they may be different kinds of music than what's in the sort of pop mainstream. But, I think generally, I just don't really agree that overall quality is dramatically different from what it was 10, or 15 years ago."
Melinda Newman is the West Coast bureau chief for Billboard Magazine. She tells FRONTLINE that music sales have fallen from $40 billion to $28 billion over the last three years. She also says that there were 34 different number one albums last year. "What you're seeing is that acts by and large are not getting traction with their audiences," she says. "There's not any kind of sustaining power."
Touré is a novelist and contributing editor for Rolling Stone. He has also hosted "Spoke N' Heard" on MTV2. In this interview, he is critical of the music industry for not responding to a generational gap in the way people obtain music. "People over 35 are buying albums or the CD," he explains. "People under 35 are looking for MP3s and singles they can download for free or to buy. … They have to find a way to shift to giving the teenagers, the prime consumers, the product in the way that they want it, which is convenient, fun Web sites that make it easy." Tour®» also explains MTV's impact on the music industry. "I think you can look at MTV as the most powerful radio station in America," he says. "You can get 30 or 40 spins a week on MTV; it's just as good as getting it on a hundred radio stations in America."
Harold Vogel is a media analyst for Vogel Capital Management. In this interview, he explains the fundamentals of the music business and the ups and downs of the business cycle over the past few decades. He says that the technological changes that allowed for the ability to download individual songs exposed what he calls the "dirty little secret" of the music industry: "… [Y]ou liked two or three songs, you heard it on the radio, you heard your friends play it, and what happened is that you said, 'Okay I'm going to buy the album. I want those two or three songs.' … But you had to buy the whole package for $14 dollars, $16 dollars, whatever, the whole album. Now, with downloading, the secret is exposed." He also maintains that the record industry's strategy for combating illegal downloading was a "horrendous public relations situation," because "they tried to criminalize their best customer, their most avid, enthusiastic listeners."
Michael "Blue" Williams is the manager of OutKast. Here, he recounts the steps he and the band took that led to their enormous success. He also describes the explosive growth of rap and hip-hop during the 1990s and how that drove the industry to the point that "... everyone was just trying to throw out so much quantity and no one was putting out quality." Williams tells FRONTLINE, "I think that if the labels adjusted the game again, started putting out good records, quality records, the public will buy."
home · introduction · artists' stories · interviews · perfect storm · inside the music business
poll: how do you get your music? · discussion · producer's chat · press reaction · tapes & transcripts
posted may 27, 2004
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of wgbh educational foundation.
headphone photo copyright © corbis
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation