I get really excited when I read about Guy Hands – here’s this private equity dude buying up EMI, a record label, and trying to run it like an actual business! I love that Robbie Williams, Jazz Summers et al got really upset – I really think that they believe they’re special, that musicians are a special breed of artist that cannot and should not be tamed – I think they want him to fail so that they can say ‘see, we told you musicians are different’.
Hands seems to be doing some things right though – his recent announcements about getting A&R to work closer with the marketing department seems like a really sensible idea – the other awesome thing is the hiring of Google CIO Douglas Merrill (read his blog here) – digital is obviously so central to the future of EMI and someone like Merrill has the right credentials to take that lead. I don’t know much about Merrill but in an interview with the Telegraph he describes himself as an ‘experimenter’ which I think is awesome, thats what most of us working in the digital sphere are – also I love the way that he’s open about not knowing exactly what the answer to the industry’s problem is.
One episode of the awesome Hugh and the Rabbi podcast featuring Johnnie Moore and Mark Earls they discuss the fact that within marketing there is no ‘special sauce’ or one true answer – you can create random acts of traction but its really for the public to decide what works and you don’t really have much influence over their group decisions. I think this really resonates with digital – who said iTunes would work over eMusic – facebook over imeem or bebo – twitter over pownce – its sure as hell not the companies themselves.
This is why I like Hands and also Merrill – no one knows the answer and no one knows how its all going to turn out but at least they accept that something radical must be done, they’re not waiting for anyone to give them permission or guidance they’re just going for it – and yes thats going to put some people’s noses out but seriously who even cares about the Verve or Robbie Williams anymore? Hands is like the music industry’s canary in the tunnel – if he finds a new way to make it work it’ll be awesome and everyone will follow – if he dies along the way then, well, I think we may all be too far down the tunnel to get out alive!