Monday, April 07, 2008

Stay in the back

This is the age of the producer. We forget who coined that phrase, so let's say Sasha Frere-Jones, because it might annoy him. But there's a spark of truth here, when the front of house talent in R&B and the dying embers of hip hop start boasting about getting a beat off various people with alleged underground credentials and papers run involved news pieces about 360 degree deals and so forth.

Behind this Wizard Of Oz curtain-like arena stepped Pete Paphides in Friday's Times. Taking as his jump-off the notion that there might be some sort of craft awards version of the Brits seemingly just to completely wreck the notion of artist development and free thought, he made a list of "the Top 20 most powerful and in-demand behind-the-scenes players working today". And we agree with it entirely.

No, of course we don't.

1. Lucian Grainge, Universal chairman
See, if you're doing a proper Power List then Guy Hands is surely more notable for the way he's taking the entire industry model apart root and branch, replacing it with Plasticene. "A famously tough negotiator" is seen as his strength. So is Suge Knight, and his methods brought down an entire coast.

2 Simon Cowell
Has made the whole of UK entertainment jump off a cliff when he clicks his fingers. Ironic, really, that in an industry that prides itself on risk taking the Syco effect has been to remove most of that risk, like encasing Formula 1 cars in polystyrene.

3 Jim Chancellor, Fiction MD
And more Universal. In these post-Chasing Cars days it's easy to forget how much of a flyer Fiction must have taken on signing a band seen as increasing makeweights even on Jeepster. It's just that that's still a masterstroke this piece suggests he lives off, having more recently put eggs in baskets of Athlete - they did release another album, didn't they? - and Kate Nash, who may have done her best with Caroline's A Victim not to resemble a sure thing but the people weren't fooled.

4 Paul Latham, Live Nation UK president
LiveNation is the Windscale/Sellafield-style rebranding of Clear Channel's gobbling up of the live scene interests. In ensuring modern musicians will get even less money, it seems to be working.

5 George Ergatoudis, Radio 1 playlist clerk
Refused to playlist New Young Pony Club because he thought they were too similar to CSS. Sees his key success as The View. Times leaders have been written on less.

6 Jacknife Lee
Used to be in Compulsion; now makes us all suffer.

7 Orla Lee, Polydor head of marketing
Apparently her key to launching the Scissor Sisters in Britain was to "play down who they were". How do you manage that, exactly?

8 Alison Howe, Later With Jools Holland producer
Booked the Only Ones for a live prime time slot, exposing Peter Perrett's skeletal Ramone look to a nation more scared than by anything on Dr Who. World music is hardly on the up, is it?

9 James Ford
"What would Arctic Monkeys have done if it wasn’t for James Ford?" Paphides rhetorically asks. It has to be rhetorical, or else everyone would ask what was so wrong with having the fastest selling debut album ever before he got involved. Also says here he "steered Klaxons from obscurity", because of course nu-rave got no press at all before they won the Mercury.

10 Zane Lowe
Freely admits his producer picks virtually all the playlist. Essentially, his contribution to British music is adding echo effects to the end of new records.

11 Cenzo Townsend, audio engineer at Olympic Studios

12 Scott Rodger, manager
Bjork's manager and Arcade Fire campaign orchestrator. And you thought they were doing it just for us. He's just taken up the Black Kids account, so let's see how he deals with a band whose hype is already receding.

13 Geoff Travis and Jeannette Lee, Rough Trade and management
"Key success: Duffy". Oh god, it's come to this.

14 Melvin Benn, Festival Republic
Which must make independent boutique events the breakaway Tibetan states of Festival. He's credited with Reading and Leeds, but they were going strong well before Benn got involved, and he arguably has more influence over Glastonbury now, even though you wouldn't put him in ahead of one or more Eavises on that front.

15 Darcus Beese, Island A&R manager
Did Universal bankroll this?

16. Peter Robinson, Popjustice and plenty of other outlets
"Popjustice’s support is vital to the launch of any mainstream artist" it says here, which explains why the number one position has been a complete carve-up between Annie, Lorraine and BWO of late.

17 Roger Faxon, EMI Publishing director
Publishing rights! That's where we reckon all the money is now, anyway. Impressively, it achieves the list win treble of bringing together Arctic Monkeys, Winehouse and Duffy.

18 Carl Fysh and William Rice, Purple PR
Yes, Carl Fysh out of Brother Beyond. Apparently they specialise in slow-burn launches that "avoid lurching into overkill". As clients include Adele and Mika, presumably this is a new level of irony.

19 Luke Day, stylist
Music in 2008, there.

20 Laurence Bell, Domino Recordings
Still puts out five quid label samplers and resolutely hasn't gone the way of Alan McGee. Alright, maybe doing sarcastic critiques of all twenty was doomed to failure, but The Man Who Signed Franz Ferdinand And Arctic Monkeys (To Flying Saucer Attack's Label) being at 20 smacks of someone only remembering him at the very end.

So yeah, nobody really knows anything about how music works, least of all the people attempting to make it operational and seaworthy. Which is why we beg to differ, and can now bring you, the already confused and probably scrolling down looking for free mp3s reader, the fifteen actual most powerful people currently in and around UK music:

1 The marketing manager of Cadbury's Dairy Milk
2 The headmaster of the Brits School
3 Lesley Douglas, who claims to have the psychological insight on the musical habits of the nation but actually has little more than the number of the Joel Noel agency.
4 Jo Whiley's producer. How foresightful of them to only allow Pet Sounds by major label priority acts.
5 The person who owns the patent on mobile phone text messaging
6 The bloke with bags of stuff skulking on the corner of Camden High Street every night at eleven
7 Whoever replaces Michael Parkinson, thoughts on crossover jazz pending
9 Sean Rowley. In twenty years' time someone will claim Katie Melua as a Guilty Pleasure, at which point murder will have to be legalised.
9 Alexa Chung, who may not be able to read an autocue without going cross-eyed but is hep with the kids thanks to her sartorial awareness and love of a band T-shirt (Sonic Youth, Sex Pistols, the Ramones, Motorhead, whoever else's merchandise has been appropriated by Top Shop) (NB. this position held open for Agyness Deyn, to be taken up the minute anyone outside fashion editorial conferences starts caring about her)
10 Fred Les, or whatever he's calling himself this week. Knows Peaches Geldof, Alexa Chung and Lightspeed Champion, a current cultural full house.
11 Kate Nash, for helping coin the famous phrase 'but (female solo singer) is no Kate Nash wannabe...'
13 Ryan Tedder, pop songwriter and OneRepublic singer, who proves Maroon 5 may come and Orson may go but there'll always be cloying AOR.
14 A tailor on Brick Lane
15 Conor McNicholas. No, wait, that's just silly.


Anna said...

'"What would Arctic Monkeys have done if it wasn’t for James Ford?" Paphides rhetorically asks. It has to be rhetorical, or else everyone would ask what was so wrong with having the fastest selling debut album ever before he got involved...'

Pernickity, but actually James Ford was involved before the fastest selling debut album ever - the band did some tracks early on with James Ford before Domino decided to go with Jim Abbiss. The fact that the Arctic Monkeys then went back to James Ford after making an album with JA speaks wonders, in my mind at least - great producers are the ones that bands go back to.

Not that that makes Ford one of the most influential people in the music industry, of course, but felt it worth mentioning.

Anonymous said...

James ford is overrated.
seriously, 2 (average) indie albums????

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