The legendary Glaswegian mogul has achieved an extraordinary amount since founding Creation Records 32 years ago, signing some of the most influential (and, in the case of Oasis, biggest-selling) rock’n’roll bands in history.
Along the way, he’s witnessed the beauty and horror waiting behind every corner of the music business. No surprise he can tell an entertaining tale.
McGee is the latest guest on the Music Business Worldwide podcast, which you can listen to below.
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There’s much to discuss, including McGee’s decision to sell Creation to Sony Music (first, as a 49% stake in 1992, then the whole operation seven years – and Oasis’s worldwide domination – later).
We also asked McGee about his official return to the frontline label game with his new venture, Clark & McGee Ltd, run with ex- Soul II Soul and Leftfield A&R, Mick Clark. Their first signing is singer/songwriter Willow Robinson.
McGee tells MBW that Clark & McGee has now secured a distribution deal with Warner’s ADA, a pact pulled together by his old friend, Seymour Stein.
(McGee’s previous joint venture label with Cherry Red, 359, no longer appears to be a priority.)
And then there’s all the music that built his legend: from Oasis to Primal Scream, Ride, Super Furry Animals, The Jesus & Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine.
After quitting the music business by shutting down his Poptones label in 2007, McGee is clearly making up for lost time: last year, he revived the Creation brand as an independent management company, with clients including Shaun Ryder (as well as Black Grape and Happy Mondays) plus The Jesus & Mary Chain.
For those not yet listening… here’s some of the highlights:
On Clark & McGee Ltd.
“I met Mick in the ’90s and we were both insane, I suppose… we stayed friends kind of through social media, weirdly.
“Initially we had no idea we wanted to do a label, that wasn’t the plan at all… it seemed the music business wanted me to have a label for some unknown reason.
“We’ve got a distribution deal with ADA and one new act, Willow Robinson. Where it goes from here, I don’t really know. We’re going to go slowly, probably go for investment; at that point we might sign another three acts. I can’t see us ever being bigger than four acts.
“I’ve got a lot of friends at Warners. I’ve been friends with Seymour Stein for 30 years. He did Primals, Ride, Valentines all in America.
“Crazily, he never did the [Creation] label deal – Sony did, and they ended up with Oasis. It should, really, have been with Seymour and Warners. I wanted to do it with them, but I think they found it too awkward or something.”
On missing the Q Awards to RECORD OUR PODCAST
“I deliberately never go to anything. I really hate music biz events. If I’m lucky, I’ll never go to another one.”
On Lucian Grainge
“I’ve met him a few times. He’s a good businessman. I hadn’t spoken to him for years and then I remember when Glasvegas were the big thing, he signed me up on New Year’s Day, from the beach with Philip Green or some fucking guy.
“‘Hey! How’s your band?’
“It was maybe January 2009, I’d officially left the fucking [music biz] building. Lucian being Lucian hadn’t comprehended it was actually 4pm in England…
“I was surrounded by my nieces and nephews. He didn’t believe me when I told him it wasn’t my band. He was still trying to buy them off me.”
on selling to sony
“I love slagging Sony. It’s good fun. But there’s not any real need to do it, because all the people that were at Sony 20 years ago don’t exist anymore. So why would you be bitter?
“Actually, I’m friends with the main music guy at Sony – Rob Stringer. I saw him in New York about two or three months ago and he’s a really nice guy – and still a humble guy, I think.
“Do I regret not hanging on for ten years and milking it [after the sale]? Overall, I’m glad I got the fuck out because it was getting too corporate. But it was easy money, all I’d have to do is show up, give the Queen Mum’s wave and carry on camping. But it would be dreadfully boring – just coasting for the next ten fucking years and waiting for Oasis to put out another record.
“Rather than be at the behest of the Gallaghers, Ignition and Sony [leaving meant] I was under my own jurisdiction. [The last ten years] have been a lot of fun. I don’t think having a massive superstar band is much fun when you’re working with them. It can be financially rewarding and stoke your ego – all that bullshit – but I don’t think it was ever fun… before Sony got involved.”
on oasis’s be here now
“That’s a hard one, man.
“When Noel played me the demos, you knew it wasn’t going to be as a good as ‘What’s The Story (Morning Glory)?’
“But cards on the table? I knew it was going to sell millions. So what do you do?
“I knew if I said it wasn’t as good [as its predecessor], I would probably lose the album and he’d go direct to Sony.
“If I shut up, I knew it would sell at least 10m albums – and it ended up selling 11m.
“So I shut the fuck up.”