Interview with TERRY MCBRIDE, manager for Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan - May 7, 2007
"I probably wouldnít sign with a record label at all. You donít own any of your intellectual property,"
... comes Terry McBride's strong indictment of the current record industry.
As manager at Nettwerk for giants like Avril Lavigne (No/1 US), Sarah McLachlan (Top 10 US), Sum 41 (Top 10 US) and Dido (No.1 UK), and with his involvement in the 'Save the Music Fan' campaign, McBride is definitely an idustry figure to listen to in this regard.
McBride talks to HitQuarters also about the dynamics of running a top level management, the hard work he demands from his artists, as well as his work with songwriters.
How did you start out with Nettwerk?
I started an independent record label in 1984 named Nettwerk Productions.We were putting out music that we liked. Itís that simple.
The genre was singer/songwriter based, but musically, everything. We donít work with artists that just sing. We work with artists that write their own material and sing.
Why did you expand into Nettwerk Music Group?
It just happened naturally. It started off as an independent record label. Artists are lazy by inheritance. We found ourselves booking them tours to get them out the door to promote the music that we were releasing.
We realized that we were turning into artist managers. We started an artist management department. Then we found that a good way to subsidize the tours was selling merchandize. It was all common sense.
There are about 60 artists on the roster. Some of the bigger ones would be Avril Lavigne, Billy Talent, Sum 41, Dido, Sarah McLachlan.
Which projects are you working on?
I have my fingers in everything, but my day-to-day stuff is Avril Lavigne and Sarah McLachlan. Iím part of the Dido team, and I also have a lot to do with Sum 41.
Whatís the difference between working with established artists and new ones?
With established ones thereís a lot more people wanting things from you. With newer ones youíre the one who has to chase people.
Whatís your input on the productions?
Managers have their input upon everything. Every step of the way.
How do you convince an artist to take you on as a manager?
I donít. Usually, theyíre chasing me. Artists tend to chase success. Just like managers tend to chase success. We start with all of our artists from zero. We donít pick them up when they're already big.
What are the initial conversations with a new artist?
That itís not sex, drugs and rock Ďní roll. That itís an awful lot of work. And if youíre in it for the sex, drugs and rock Ďní roll, we have no interest.
If we are going to help you become a successful star, what are your causes? How are you going to use this success to make the world a better place?
What needs to be in place before signing?
We have to love the music. And we have to love the artists as people.
Once signed, do you have a time schedule for the artist to show some signs of success?
No. I donít think you can. I would call it a passion meter. When does your passion run out?
How should unsigned acts present their material?
Take your two best songs. Attach some sort of visual to it. I hate it when people send me CDs now. Just send me an email with a link to a website like Myspace. I can go listen to it there.
I can see photos and videos. I can see the overall feeling of whatís going on. If I like what I see or Iím excited, then I will get back and want to meet you.
How do you find new talent?
Personally, Iím not really looking for new talent. It tends to come knocking on my door in a rather voluminous way. Picking out the talents then is an intuitive process.
Do you look for outside songs?
We donít look for songs for artists. We do like working with songwriters though.
Whatís important for young developing writers?
It all comes down to the songs. Itís that melody connected with that lyric that creates a bookmark within peopleís life. And again, thatís intuitive.
You know a good songwriter when you hear one.
How can they improve their writing skills?
You either have it or you donít. If you want to develop skills, do a lot of co-writing with a whole lot of different writers.
If you were an artist and offered a record deal, how would you evaluate the label?
I probably wouldnít sign with a label at all. You donít own any of the intellectual property that you actually create. Youíre beholding to them upon whether they market it or not.
They might say that they will, and then if they donít you legally cannot do anything about it. Itís just not a good fair relationship. It can be, but for the better part it's not.
Usually, you have this dynamic where artists that have no success are pissed off at them, and artists that have success are pissed off at them.
The only ones that arenít pissed off at them are artists that are in the middle, because theyíre still hoping to have success.
Itís not a very vibrant relationship. It was much better 10-15 years ago. Itís so hit-driven now. Itís not music-driven.
How does an aspiring artist develop a work ethic and desire to succeed in an effective way?
You've got to have the passion. You either have it or you donít. You have to love what you are doing. This is not a part-time job. You either fully commit yourself to it or you donít. Thereís no half way.
If you could dramatically change some aspect of the music industry, what would you do?
Get rid of all the locking mechanisms of DRM.
How does a deal look like on your label?
Theyíre full-fledged deals. We tend to keep it short term. Maybe three albums maximum. We donít want to tie artists up forever.
If theyíre successful and they want to stay with us, then thatís great. Thereís no contract to make anyone do something that they donít want to do.
You stand up against the http://www.boycott-riaa.com/ RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) With your Save the Music Fan campaign. How do you see this situation developing?
That particular case is still making its way through the courts. Right now, the music industry is not a pretty place to be in. Youíre starting to see unrestricted copyrights now. But you will be really able to see it by the end of the year.
This whole thing has to become so disastrous that fear will overcome other fears. Theyíre thinking about changing things, but theyíre not doing anything.
Future marketing should all be based on the behavior of the fan, and the monitoring of that behavior. Music will probably be 70% digital two years from now.
What are your future plans for Nettwerk?
Just to keep growing the way we are. Weíre a very artist-centric label and company.
What do you see yourself doing in 5-10 years?
Still being a personal manager, but also doing stuff outside of the music business.
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Interview by Kimbel Bouwman
Read On ...
* Manager at Nettwerk for Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, Dan Fraser, on the key to successful management
* Songwriter Josh Rouse on his experiment on releasing music through management company Nettwerk