Interview with SCOTT WELCH, manager for Alanis Morissette - Aug 6, 2002
"The whole financial structure that involves artists and record labels has to be changed, and it will change."
Scott Welch is based in Los Angeles and manages Alanis Morissette for the Mosaic Media Group, where Scott is a partner. He was also co-Executive Producer of the "City of Angels" soundtrack, which, released in 1998, has sold over 5 million copies in the US.
Scott joined Third Rail Management in 1990 (which became the Mosaic Media Group.) From 1985 to 1988, he was the proprietor of Limelight Entertainment, where he acted as a concert promoter and booking agent. He had previously owned his own recording studio.
What experiences have helped develop your skills as a manager?
My experience out on the road as a tour manager and production manager gave me the opportunity to experience an artist's reality firsthand. It gave me a better understanding of what the artist has to go through, as well as a better understanding of how to protect the artist rights and their business affairs.
How do you find new talent?
Attorneys and A&Rs send me music. Many times one of my friends turns me on to artists, or one of the artists we represent will tell me about a band. Music tends to come from a lot of different places.
Do you find some sources more effective than others?
No, you have to look under every rock and in every corner. Often publishers who sign really young bands will say, ďThereís somebody really talented who needs guidance and developmentĒ.
Do you accept unsolicited material?
Yes, I still do. Between my staff and me, we probably listen to four or five things a week.
How useful is the Internet when it comes to finding new talent?
It is an amazing tool to find information, listen to music, see a video, and contact the artists who created the work.
What do you look for in an artist?
Originality, heart, character, determination and talent. I am inspired by the artists who are creatively involved in their songs. I look for material thatís unique and that has a point. I am inspired by artists who sing the songs they write.
Do you think itís important for them to be knowledgeable about the music business?
No, not at all, and sometimes it can even be detrimental, because, at the end of the day, the music comes first. Sometimes, if you have too much knowledge about the business, youíre not creating from a pure place and your artistry suffers.
How important do you consider the looks and the image?
Itís not that important because without talent the rest of it is just fake.
What does developing an artist mean to you?
Itís slowly changing, because record labels donít have the time or money it takes to build an artistís long-term career, so the artistís managers take on that role. Every artist is different; some you have to give a lot of support and encouragement, whereas with others you just need to reach out and help in certain ways.
How did you come into contact with Alanis Morissette?
Her publisher sent me the first two albums she had released in Canada. I thought she had a spectacular voice and I just liked her lyrics. I met her in New York and we started hanging out. She was eighteen and living at home, so we all decided it would be best for her to move to Toronto and start writing with people.
What did you see in her?
Besides having a spectacular voice, just character, character, character!
What were the important factors in developing her as an artist/singer/songwriter?
It happened so fast. I think that the main thing that worked for her was that she was not going to compromise. She put out songs that she believed in. When people said, ďYou have to change that lyric, you canít say that wordĒ, she said, ďNo, thatís me and Iím not going to change.Ē MCA Music Publishing funded part of her development, and Glenn Ballard (co-writer and producer of the first two albums Ė Ed.) was enough of a believer to let us use his studio.
What kind of reactions did you get from record labels when you started shopping her?
Everybody passed, except one - Maverick Records.
What do you think it was about Alanis that came across to the audience and made her successful?
Itís always a variety of things, but I think it was mostly her honesty. I think she has a way of expressing feelings and emotions that a lot of other people are feeling but donít know how to put into words.
What artists are you currently working with and how did you find them?
We signed this band on Atlantic called Audiovent. The record is out right now. They had a homemade CD that I heard from an A&R guy and I just loved it. It took us about a year and three months to make the record and it came out in stores last week.
How would you advise unsigned acts to start building their careers at an independent level?
A couple of things: the first one is PLAY, PLAY, and PLAY. That will do a couple of things for you: it will get your name out there, and it will improve your songwriting and your live performance. Secondly, use the marketing tools you have, make sure you get peopleís e-mail addresses and put tracks up on the Internet, and donít be afraid of that let people hear music.
How involved with the repertoire and production are you?
I have an opinion and my experience gives that opinion some weight, but in the end itís the artistís call.
Has the amount of time labels give new acts before they break (or get dropped) decreased in recent decades? If so, why, and do you think it's a problem?
Record companies now concentrate on sales and marketing. The cost of marketing and promotion has increased substantially. Record companies are forced to make tough decisions in a world of sinking revenues.
What do you think about the radio situation in the US?
Radio today has nothing to do with playing music, but it has everything to do with selling McDonaldís commercials! Everyday there are less and less music professionals in radio. It has become a marketing and advertising medium, not a music driven medium. Music is the bait in which radio sells advertising.
What could be changed and how?
That is a long discussion. One point to understand is that as a manager you can not leave your artists career in the hands of radio alone. There are bands like Phish, Government Mule, and String Cheese Incident who get limited radio play, yet they sell records and tour.
Do you think itís fair that artists pay to make an album and pay for promotional costs like videos, for example?
The whole financial structure that involves artists and record labels has to be changed, and it will change. It needs to be based on the economics of where weíre going in the world.
Do you think the royalties recording artists receive from record sales are adequate?
Like I said, the whole system needs an overhaul. Itís not working for artists or record companies and itís going to implode.
Do you think the Internet will offer an alternative route for artists to reach their public and that they will be able to sell their music directly from their site?
I think it will, in fact it already has, and will continue to grow in its use. Many people donít have downloading facilities in their homes yet, but they will. You have to change the way in which people access music. The CD format is 20 years old, people of my generation still buy CDís, but my son, whoís eight, will access his favorite music through other distribution methods.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the music industry, what would you do?
Thatís an easy one! I would go back to focusing on the music and quit worrying about the corporate structure, worrying about how many units you sold, etc. Itís got nothing to do with art and art is what makes our society livable. Without film, music, literature, painting and architecture, our lives would be less fulfilled.
What has been the greatest moment of your music career?
I still think that five minutes before the band goes on stage is my favorite time. When thereís that energy in the room, just before the lights go down, thatís the best!
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?
I have no idea. Whatever takes me!
Interviewed by Jean-Francois Mťan
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