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Music Industry
Quotes To Live By

by Christopher Knab - Fourfront Media & Music - May 2001


Back to Music Business 101


A Collection of Music Business Quotes
(with thanks and/or apologies to all contributors)
Assembled by Christopher Knab

Over the years I have collected various quotes I found in magazines, books, email messages, and the internet. For anyone wanting to learn about the business of music, reading these quotes will be a college education.

"We live in an age of music for people who don't like music. The record industry discovered some time ago that there aren't that many people who actually like music. For a lot of people, music's annoying, or at the very least they don't need it. They discovered if they could sell music to a lot of those people, they could sell a lot more records." T Bone Burnett

"The whole music business in the United States is based on numbers, based on unit sales and not on quality. It's not based on beauty, it's based on hype and it's based on cocaine. It's based on giving presents of large packages of dollars to play records on the air." Frank Zappa

"Modern music is people who can't think signing artists who can't write songs to make records for people who can't hear." Frank Zappa

"Just because it happened to you, doesn't mean it's interesting" Dennis Hopper (Search and Destroy)

"Just because you can record, doesn't mean you should." Christopher Knab, FourFront Media and Music

"Independent labels take nothing and make something out of it. Major labels buy that something, and try to make more out of it." Tom Silverman, Tommy Boy Records CEO

"When you hear my records today...you hear a vanilla sounding artist with no black inflection, although I was trying to imitate what I heard." Pat Boone

"You go through stages where you wonder whether you are Christ, or just looking for him." David Bowie

"You've gotta be business savvy really, or elso you get the piss taken out of you." Melanie B, Spice Girls

"Actually I don't know if honesty is a strength or some kind of weakness." Ani DeFranco

"That's not easy to find in a corporate world, somebody who cares about music." Michael Penn, musician

"It's magazines like HITS that have to label things." Nina Gordon, Veruca Salt

"I'm a snake oil salesman as much as anyone else, but I try to keep something for myself." Freedy Johnston

"Anybody that forms a group, writes songs and releases records and says they don't care if people like them are complete liars." James Dean Bradfield, Manic St. Preachers

"Music is a big machine that would go on with or without me." Rob Thomas, Matchbox 20

"Rap fans are quick to forget what they appreciated just last year." Trugoy, De La Soul

"In this business, the first rule is, never act out of desperation, because there is always someone out there looking to sucker you." Kevin Czinger, Volcano Entertainment Founder

"In the music business bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, I believe smaller is actually better." Chuck Kaye, Dreamworks, SBK Publishing

"When we had a record blow up, we really knew how to put it through its paces. it wasn't groping through a voyage of discovery." Steve Vining, Windham Hill President

"To sustain hatred is a very difficult thing to do, year after year. It's exhausting." Nick Cave, alternative rock musician

"The problem with alternative radio is that it has no fiber at all, and is giving itself it's own enema." Mike Halloran, former KUPR PD

"The hardest thing in the world to do in this business is start a band nobody's heard of." Tom Whalley, Interscope Records

"If we do our job...Music's not black or white, it's green." Jim Caparro, PGD

"Going to radio with a rap record prior to going to the consumer is like having no foreplay with your girlfriend."" Lyor Cohen, Def Jam/RAL

"There would be no new school without the old school."" Vivian Scott, Epic Records

"Money had never been the main thing for me. It's the legacy that was important." Barry Gordy, Motown Records

"Our whole preconception will be what's going to make the kid push our button and not someone else's." Bruce Kirland, Capitol Records

"We'll take advantage of the changes going on in the music business because we're lean and mean." Miles Copeland, IRS Records

"That's the shame about Miles Copeland; he's evil, but he's got a heart of gold." Dave Wakeling, General Public

"If this company is about anything, it's about discipline and staying focused." Jimmy Iovine, Interscope Records

"We are the Beavis and Butt-head generation, whether we want to recognize it or not." Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins

"People don't buy plastic and paper, they buy emotions." Scott Young, Wherehouse Entertainment

"American music is something the rest of the world wants to listen to. Our job is to make sure they pay for it." Jason Berman, RIAA

"I've probably put together more deals backstage at concerts than by telephone." Michael Lippman, Lippman Entertainment

"I'm a survivor in a business that constantly rejects you." Dick Clark

"I never had the feeling I ever had to make a dime doing anything." Rick Rubin, Def American

"I hate to say this, but at the time, (late 70's) it was like the smart people liked punk and the dumb people liked Journey." Howie Klein, President Reprise Records

"I've made hundreds of legendary records that people talk about that didn't sell." Jerry Wexler

"Without freedom of expression, good taste means nothing." Neil Young

"I think anyone with less than 10 years experience in this business starting his own label is looking to create a disaster." Russ Regan, Quality Records

"Who could have dreamed in 1965 that the alternative society would eventually multiply to such extraordinary proportions that it becomes our mainstream." Bill Graham

"I want to hear the word 'cherish' about 5 times." Clive Davis, Arista Record ( listening back to an Air Supply song during a mixdown in the studio)

"If the milk industry can make their product seem sexy and increase consumer demand, there must be hope for music." Gary Arnold, Merchandising Manager, Best Buy

"So many record companies turned me down, they said I sounded like a Chipmunk." Brandy

"Being a manager or agent is similar to renting an apartment. Having a record company is like owning a home." Rob Kahane, Trauma Records

"I think the second you feel you've gotten somewhere, you're nowhere." Michael Goldstone, VP A&R, Epic Records

"You're a local band until you get a record contract, then all of a suddent Bruce Springsteen is your competition. Sammy Llana, The Bodeans

"I don't listen to music, I hate all music." Johnny Rotten

"I don't think anybody steals anything; all of us borrow." BB King

"He took my music, but he gave me my name." Muddy Waters on Mick Jagger

"We're the McDonalds of rock. Were always there to satisfy, and a billion served." Paul Stanley, KISS

"Don't try to explain it, just sell it." Colonel Tom Parker

"The way I see it, rock n' roll is folk music." Robert Plant

"I wish there had been a music business 101 course I could have taken." Kurt Cobain

"Rock n' roll does for music what a motorcyle club at full throttle does for a quiet afternoon. The results bear passing resemblance to Hitler mass meetings." Time Magazine, 1956

"Rock n' roll is poison put to sound." Pablo Casals

"In Los Angeles, they don't want you to fail, they want you to die." David Geffen

"I sent a demo of the band Confederate Fagg to an A&R friend at Sony. I asked him what he thought. He said, "Don't know yet. Let me see what my boss thinks." Dave: Kathoyd Ray

"There are more letters in the word 'business' than there are in the word 'music'." Anonymous

"Consumers have musical choice? What musical choice? In or society we choose only from what we are given to choose from, and that choice is determined by 5 major media corporations who control the exposure outlets that consumers depend on for their entertainment." Christopher Knab, FourFront Media and Music

"Music executives need to start thinking less like men and more like women. As men, we tend to believe more in selling someone something for $15 and transferring it to their possession without ever learning their names. Women understand the value of starting a relationship that never ends. There's too many men in our business.'' Anonymous

"If you are still at the same point you were after six albums, and all of them came out on a major label, I don't want to hear about how 'the label didn't understand us,' or 'our management didn't make us a priority.' If after that time you are still at the same level, either you suck, or people do not like you." Anonymous

"Record companies like to make money, and that is their only goal. They do not care about the content that they sell - they care about maximizing their profits. It is because of this that I hate record companies with the same passion that I hate venture capitalists. The record companies do not try to foster a creative environment which rewards musicians who serve their respective niche, but create an environment which attempts to market a small amount of music to the largest audience possible. It is more profitable for the record company to sell a few decent records in bulk than to have a vast array of cult hits that sell decently. " Numair Faraz

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Christopher Knab is an independent music business consultant based in Seattle, Washington. He is available for private consultations on promoting and marketing independent music, and can be reached by email at: chris@chrisknab.net

Visit the
FourFront Media and Music website for more information on the business of music from Christopher Knab.


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