The Ten Executives Most Responsible For The Fall Of The Music Industry!

Weird pic of the day: Jimmy Iovine (left) and John Lennon (middle) wear matching shirts while Stones sax player Bobby Keys looks on bemusedly.
For every Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Bob Dylan, there is at least one music executive endlessly frustrated by their methods.  Never mind that the music these artists made continues to fuel the industry some 40 years later, at the end of the day, most record execs would rather have an artist they can control.  

The most obvious solution is to sign only those artists most open to your direction and input.    Sounds like the best of both worlds, right?  You get huge sales and an artist who does what you want them to do when you want them to do it.  What could possibly go wrong?

Fast forward to the year 2013 and the answer to that question is ridiculously evident.  Instead of a landscape of exciting new artists selling music by the truckload, we've got a stable of execs who think they're the rock stars.  There are no major artists who march to their own drum, push artistic boundaries, or create the necessary steady-selling back catalog to continue fueling the industry's less profitable dalliances decades after the fact.

There's no new Dark Side Of The Moon, no new Nevermind, no nothing, all because executives find artists...and the consumers who buy their music...annoying.  

So, which executives are most to blame, you ask?

Jimmy Iovine

That's him in the above photo with John Lennon and Bobby Keys.  Back then, he was a producer and engineer who coaxed career-defining results out of the likes of Lennon, Springsteen, and Petty.  How does one go from playing a pivotal part in the creation of landmark rock albums like "Damn The Torpedoes", "Born To Run", "Rattle & Hum" and "Bella Donna" to embracing the violent world of gangsta rap for fun & profit?

Some say that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for a shot at fame.  Dr. Dre sold his soul to Jimmy Iovine and both have subsequently laughed all the way to the bank.  What's the point of selling designer headphones to a mass market if there's no music worth listening to on said headphones?  Oh right, it's not about the music anymore, it's about selling crap to people with more dollars than sense.  This is, after all, the same guy who signed off on Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst being named Interscope's Senior VP of A&R as the band's popularity was waning.

Most recently, he can be seen as a mentor on American Idol, doling out advice to glorified karaoke singers.

Lee Abrams

Hey, let's suck all the regional flavor out of local rock radio, shrink the playlists and make them the same all across the country.  That's exactly what Lee Abrams did as a successful FM radio consultant.  If anything, the concept was a head of its time, more applicable to a satellite radio format broadcast to a national audience than, say, a little rock station in Cleveland.  It should surprise nobody that Abrams was involved in the formation of XM Satellite Radio, but the damage he did to the unique flavor of regional rock radio is still felt to this day.

Notice how you can go from city to city across the country and see a KISS-FM and a Jack radio here? That could never have happened without Lee.  Most recently, Abrams was employed as Chief Innovation Officer by the Tribune Company, but got fired over an email he sent.  Most laughable, of course, is the fact that Abrams had the NERVE to launch a syndicated TV show called "Sky Dives" where he flies his puddle jumper to different parts of the country to partake in the "regional flavor" of local ma and pa restaurants.  Unbelievable.

Hilary Rosen

This RIAA bulldog was a vicious proponent of the music industry's desire to crush piracy. Unfortunately, all anybody remembers are the single moms with 12 songs on their hard drive that Rosen chose to sue for millions in damages.  She went on to work for BP (aka company responsible for causing the most horrible oil spill in the history of mankind).  I guess they were impressed with how well she made the music industry look?

L.A  Reid

As an artist, some may recall his tenure as the drummer for R&B act The Deele ("Two Occasions"), but as a music exec, he's best-known as the guy who signed Avril Lavigne thinking he'd signed someone he could shape into the next Shania Twain.  Of course, Avril successfully duped the man and then did a complete stylistic about-face that ended up becoming a gigantic success.  Reid took all the credit for being a genius, a visionary, and those around him stood starry-eyed.   He tried to boss Pink around and ended up getting dissed on "Don't Let Me Get Me" for trying to make her sound like Britney Spears on her first record.  Most recently, he is CEO of Epic Records and a judge on "The X Factor" because, after all, he's the star.

Sean Parker

Okay, let's see, his first foray into the "music biz" was as co-founder of Napster which, as great as it was for music fans, fostered the premise of "free music for the taking" and led to the current shambolic state of the industry.  The major labels, obviously P.O.'ed by the outright theft of their music and copyrights, sued Napster into near-oblivion.  Undaunted, Parker went on to be the first investor in a fledgling start-up called "Facebook".

In 2009, feeling the need to finish the work that Napster had done, Parker contacted Spotify founder Daniel Ek to express interest in helping the company achieve HIS vision.  He invested $15 million in the company, but his biggest crime against music is the fact that he then went to the same major labels who wanted his head on a stick and talked them into selling out their own long-term interests for an ownership stake in the service.  The end result is an arrangement fostered by Parker, and embraced by the labels, wherein artists are paid a scandalous rate of $.007 or less per play.

Meanwhile, Parker rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars for creating nothing.

Don Arden

Aside from employing some rather mercurial methods to get his way and being hated by the very daughter (see Sharon Osbourne) who has gone on to employ many of the same tactics in her own notorious management career, Arden was a real force.  He is best known as the manager of Black Sabbath and founder of Jet Records (ELO), but his success was built on the sort of violence and intimidation more commonly used by the Mafia.

Saul Zaentz

This is the guy who sued John Fogerty for "plagiarizing" one of his own songs.  That's because Saul owned the rights to those songs and didn't wish to see Fogerty try to appropriate his own creations.  Fogerty would go on to the write the less-than-flattering "Zanz Kant Danz" for which Zaentz would bring further litigation against Fogerty.  Within days of Zaentz selling his interest in Fantasy Records, Fogerty immediately re-signed to the label.

Grossman (left) with Bob Dylan
Albert Grossman

Sure, he made Bob Dylan a household name, but he also kept 50% of the singer's publishing in a shifty contract maneuver.  When Dylan found out, he fired Grossman, who went on to form Bearsville Records and promptly keep the likes of the dB's, NRBQ, and Todd Rundgren in contractual limbo for years after his death brought about the abrupt end of the label in 1986.

Simons Fuller and Cowell

Seriously, these guys are the fungus that has polluted the entire industry thanks to American Idol and the endless string of knock-offs.  Why develop careers when you can have immediate ratings by literally taking strangers off the street and creating faux-drama instead?  Of course, American Idol itself was a knockoff of the UK hit Pop Idol, which was created by Simon Fuller and hosted by Simon Cowell until he launched The X Faxtor in the UK in 2004.  Of course, he would later bring that show to America, further beating us over the head with a growing list of karaoke shows. .

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  1. well thank goodness you did not include Clive, I had a feeling you guys yearned for Barry Manilow, Kenny Gee, Milli Vanilli, Ace of Base, The new Aretha....The list is endless and its a catalog worth at least fifteen hundred dollars. What are you guys smoking? The infractions are numerous. What were you thinking?? wow

  2. Wow you are right on the money!!! That's why I quit listening to radio and seek out indy talent on the web...YOU ROCK!!!



  3. really an unfair list and also innacurate. Saul Zaentz sued John Fogerty AFTER Fogerty published "Zaentz Can't Dance".

    Can you blame Albert Grossman for things that happened after he died?

    1. also Sharon Osbourne and Hillary Rosen are not music execs. Sharon is a wife-manager. Hillary was a quasi-lobbyist.

  4. There is another plague that has killed the industry: the delivery system has become flooded with a diversity of options. Where do you find new music? On the internet? On HD Radio? On FM Radio? On XM Radio? On Sirius Radio? On Music Television? At your local music venue? In your local music magazines? The Feed is the solution to this problem. Listen to The Feed, & music will be saved. If that doesn't sound like a solution to you, try one of the 52 new songs released this year on one little radio avenue: Jones Street Station. If neither of these saves you from the maniacal control of these 10 executives who are ruining music, ask Kevin Bowers to use your head to cover his drum & surely after you have had your mind blown by his prowess, a solution will no longer be necessary. If you have your mind blown & you still want to find music for your ears, let Brighton MA drop some bombs on you. A model is not a model unless she is a Portable Model.