Green Day, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and new discoveries James Blunt and Gnarls Barkley has helped grow Warners market share to 19.3%, up from 16.7% in 2005, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Check out the below quotes from CEO of Warner Lyor CohenÂ taken from the Los Angeles Times.
The industry is in need for artist development.
“the industry needs to develop artists who are profitable over the long term, even if they don’t start out big. We wanted to give ourselves more time for artist development, but to do that, we had to lay off a lot of people so we could afford to move more slowly. The whole industry is still bloated. Everyone needs to get in better shape”
A&R is more important than marketing and promotion.
The other change we’ve made is placing A&R [artist and repertoire, those who discover and nurture talent] executives above marketing and promotion employees. Record people want to work for an A&R-driven music company. We’re still three to five years from becoming a really substantial company, but the only way we can get there is if A&R is on top.
It’s ok to drop artists who have the potential to sell millions of records.
When Warner’s label heads were cutting their artist rosters, I told them, ‘My man, you’re gonna cut an act that’s going to be successful across the street, and it’s OK.’ I have cut many platinum acts in my career. At [Island Def Jam], I cut the Baha Men, who went on to sell millions and millions of records. But for me, the Baha Men would have represented short-term positive results that would have led me down the wrong road.
Our industry wastes money on hundreds of acts because executives are afraid to cut an artist who might be successful somewhere else. We’ve got to change that mind-set. My background lets me tell my executives: ‘You don’t have to snare all the successful bands. Just focus on making the ones you have snared successful.’
The Biggest Challenge facing the music industry.
The digital revolution is baked into the very capillaries of our organization now, and we have to push experimentation every day. We have to be willing to try things that may fail, and partner with anyone we can. Right after joining Warner, I asked for special funding to start an incubator system to build relationships with young executives outside the company. There was a temporary CFO who thought that sounded too loosey-goosey and said it was dangerous to risk money on anything nonessential. But Edgar [Bronfman Jr.] supported the idea, and that’s how we found [the band] Panic! at the Disco. The band’s manager, a guy in his 20s named John Janick at the Fueled by Ramen Co., is one of the best record execs I’ve ever met. I expect him to be an integral member of our management team, but in today’s music industry, we wouldn’t have discovered him if we didn’t try this experiment.
Lyor Cohen responds to his outlandish behavior questioned by critics.
There’s no question that I’m an outsider in the traditional record industry. I’ve been an outsider for more than 25 years. I’m an entrepreneur, and so I look at things differently. Here’s an example: I could never get my acts on Jay Leno or David Letterman’s shows. Finally, I hustled a few acts on the shows, and I realized it didn’t sell any records. So I stopped caring about those shows.
Music insiders care. They want to feed their ego by saying they know Leno or they’ve shipped millions of records, even if a whole bunch get returned. I care about moving the needle. So I encourage risk-taking. And the only way to encourage risk-taking is to take risks yourself, which means sometimes you’ll fail, or people will say you are too aggressive or controversial. But someone needs to jump in the pool first for a party to get really great. I’ve always been willing to be that guy.
A&R people are the utmost important even above the marketing and promotion people. Why? Because you can’t market or promote anything until you find the talent. You can be the greatest sales person in the world but if you have nothing to sell, your going out of business. The fact remains is that the music business is in turmoil and no one has the answers yet. It’s a work in progress. It’s taking risks and eventually a successful model will be found. The industry needs to focus on new talent because “new” artists’ are the lifeblood of any company.