Nick Gatfield on A&R, the major labels and his new venture

You can listen to the latest MBW podcast above, or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart etc. via this link.

The first ever Music Business Worldwide podcast is now live, featuring an interview with special guest Nick Gatfield.

It’s a mere half hour long and is well worth pouring into your ears. Listen here:

Nick Gatfield is one of the most influential British music executives of the past 20 years, having headed up companies including EMI, Island Records and Sony Music UK & Ireland.

He has worked closely with artists including Radiohead, Amy Winehouse, DeadMau5 and One Direction.

After leaving Sony last year, Gatfield has gone on to establish his own company, Twin Music Inc, which offers seed/angel investment for both music creatives and emerging start-ups.

You can read some of Gatfield’s comments on key subjects from the first ever MBW Podcast below:

A&R and major label contracts


“The reality is, I would be incredibly surprised if any major artist [today] renews their deal with a major on a traditional rights basis. Why would they?

“From an economic point of view, the days are over when Universal, Sony or Warner will over-invest for a feather in the cap of market share. It’s meaningless. And frankly, your shareholders won’t allow it.

“It’s very difficult to compete with the likes of: ‘I’m Jay Z. I can do a deal with Samsung. I can be with any distribution platform I want. I don’t require your funding to make recorded music or videos… and my margins are better.’ I’m not sure how you compete with that.

“The good news is, there will be money coming to the majors – with the growth of streaming, the money will start flowing to the rights-holders. How they invest that money will be critical.

“A&R is a service that doesn’t necessarily sit inside a major label anymore. Actually I think A&R is a function of companies surrounding all of the capabilities a major has [including] sales, marketing and consumer insight.

“It’s not necessarily the handful of ‘A&R repeaters’ in any market who are going to control the purse strings anymore, or the flow of talent. I think that’s going to change.”

Lucian grainge, doug morris… and The executives who have most inspired him

The execs Gatfield looks up to include Island Records founder Chris Blackwell (“It’s my aspiration to be Chris Blackwell…”), as well as David Munns (“I was in Dexys… I moaned to him over a beer I didn’t want to be in the band anymore and he said: ‘Be an A&R guy.’) and EMI exec Rupert Perry.

Gatfield also gives his opinion on Universal boss Lucian Grainge (“He’s mercurial and difficult but inspiring”) and Sony Music boss Doug Morris (“You look at him and think: how on earth can you keep doing this and still have that unique combination of real business acumen while caring more deeply about the music than pretty much anybody else I’ve come across”)

 TWin music inc’s first investments

Gatfield says he’s already invested in a “promotions business morphing into a management business” which includes ex-Radio 1 execs.

“Clearly I’m looking for artists who’ve done the rounds of the labels and they’ve gone: ‘We’re not ready for you yet.’ Well, I’m ready. I’m also looking for artists who want to challenge things and do things slightly differently – they’re not waiting for ‘the deal’.”

He reveals that Twin Music Inc has also invested in Canadian artist Allie X:

“I’ve been following her for about a year. Interestingly, she’s signed to Universal in Canada but is fiercely independent in terms of wanting to pursue a very distinct release strategy.

“She’s very polarising, which I like; you’ll either hate it or love it. The worst thing you can say about any act is always: ‘Yeah, it’s okay.’ That means it’s doomed to failure.

“She’s also fiercely intelligent. We may disappear down a blind alley, or we may change the way the model works.”

Why re-invest his money in music?

“I love it, is the real answer. The opportunity now is phenomenal.

“The interesting thing is that I went through six months of the money-raising nightmare, and it got to the point where I realised that no matter what your background or history, trying to raise money on new, unproven talent is near-on impossible.

“If you go out there and say, ‘I’m buying catalogues’ they’ll throw money at you. The fact of the matter is, no catalogue is worth buying… you’ll over-pay for it.

“What I’m trying to do is show this works; that you’re not going to lose your shirt, it’s sensible and fills a niche.”

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