Mariah and Moses

Sooner or later everyone listens to money.

It happened at the American Bar Association meeting in Nashville TN. I think the year was 2003 or 04. I was the guest of Ken Adabbo, Chairman of the Sports and Entertainment Division (and a fine attorney).I was the only non-lawyer in a room of over 500.

On the panel was a pride of major label executives, each whining about lost revenue.I posed a question to them, “I don’t get it. If you’re hard up for revenue why not sell advertising or product placement in your music videos and CD liner notes?”

At the time MTV still played videos and they purported a world-wide viewer-ship of over 90,000,000, all in the prime demographic: under 30, hip, and still interested in watching videos.CD sales were over 750 million annually and yet, the closest thing we had to my suggestion at that time was the Spears/Pepsi cross-over commercials.

One answered.If memory serves, it was LaVerne Evans, who was Senior VP Business Affairs for BMG at the time. I think the question caught her off-guard.Ms. Evans, a Harvard law grad and one of the keener lawyers I’ve met in the business, gave a sanitized answer that pacified the room, but afterward, face to face, she said, “We’d love to, but the artists won’t approve of it.”

“When did the artists’ feelings become part of the marketing equation,” I asked her?

They barely pick their single, their album covers, even their musical direction is bullied by the label.But when it comes to product placement, that’s where labels draw the line? My publishing company sells ads in the back of my books. They don’t ask my permission.I don’t even get a split of the revenue.

LaVerne thought I might have a point.We talked a bit about me consulting for BMG, but it never happened, officially.

BMG eventually sold everything related to their record division to Sony. Now, years later, Island Def Jam is finally thinking.Mariah Carrey’s new CD will carry ads in her liner notes, according to Billboard.

No one will read them of course, but that’s okay, this is just to set a precedent.Expect more of this sort of thing. A lot more.

Sooner or later everyone listens to Moses.

Oh, PS to Mr. Lefsetz: you asked a question in your recent rant, “I truly thought this was a joke.  Like something you read in the ‘Onion’.  Who comes up with this s–t?”

I came up with it.Roast me for wanting artists and labels to profit off the real-estate they worked hard to develop.

Not all of us have time for ski trips.

Mo out.

9 responses to “Mariah and Moses”

  1. Moses,

    For what it’s worth, Lefsetz pretty much is looking at the album covers and liner notes as part of the art, which many of us forever feel it always has been, thus seeing the record companies as stooping pretty low to put ads there. I can certainly see their eagerness to advertise, but the intrusiveness of that particular location can be seriously debated. It seems to me the ” big ” labels have serious perception problems. True or not, they are perceived as being customer unfriendly. True or not, they are perceived to be in a failing business. True or not, they are perceived as disliking and not trusting their customers, and they are given money by the customer in spite of themselves…..not a very healthy business model to say the least.

    I agree with you, that the music business is thriving. Yes, many traditional ways of counting the income have changed and are literally changing daily, but I think any business that generates billions of dollars is not failing. It can be grossly mismanged however, and probably is. Whether true or not, when companies are perceived as disliking their cutomers and artists, they better get moving on fixing the problem, even if it is only perception. ( suing your customers though is a tad more than perception.)

    Re attacking Lefsetz personally about his ski trips…I think you are a good enough writer, to win some of your arguments on merit, and it makes you look petty and babyish when you pick on him that way.


    Leigh Goldstein

    • Moses Avalon says:

      Nicely, put. But the ads are going in the booklets, not on the cover.

      Pick on Bob? Well, he does a pretty good job of picking on me. In his Letter he’s called me an “a-hole” a “f–ker” and “douchbag.” While it’s true that he’s called many industry executives the same thing, the diferance with me is that I’m not a ivory tower exec making $250K a year off the backs of musicians. I’m an artists’ right activist. Picking on me is a bit desperate. He has also infringed on my writing, which required a bit of legal action to correct, and lied about reviewing one of my articles to Craig Anderson of EQ, which almost got me fired from one of my regular column gigs. He shows me no professional courtesy. Despite all that, I recommend his newsletter to people. My dig, intended to be funny, not cruel, is mild in comparison and I would consider to be in-bounds, considering our polarized viewpoints. Besides, most people won’t get the joke. The ones that do, so far, think it’s pretty funny.

  2. Ha, the majors are just catching up to what real indie artists have already done long ago?

    I told you 4 years ago that I made $15,000 selling ad space not only on my CD liner notes, but also ads on the enhanced area of the CD that connected to each advertisers merch page, and on banner space on the promo poster for the record. (My band is Electric Frankenstein, , which you did some consulting for to help me get out of my contract with [XXXX] Records).

  3. Ken Irwin says:

    Thanks for catching Steve Gordon on the Performance Rights Act in your interview. Those opposed to the bill have done their best to the cloud the issues and have been doing a pretty good job of making it appear that it is all about greedy rich artists and greedy major labels. It is about fairness. It is about getting paid for work which is why the bill is getting support from labor unions. We are the only one of the developed countries who do not have a Performance Royalty for terrestrial radio and as a result we’re not only not able to get royalties for the artists and copyright holders here, but we’re also not able to access the estimated 100 million dollars annually collected overseas each year as we don’t have reciprocity for their artists and copyright holders.

    There are thousands of independent labels, many of which are artist owned, in this country, not just the majors as the NAB would like people to believe. Similarly, there are thousands of artists who are not mega stars for whom a few hundred or a few thousand dollars earned from terestrial radio play would be significant. Most people aren’t even aware that artists who are not the writers of the songs we hear on radio, do not receive payment for the airplay they receive on AM and FM. There needs to be more publicity on this issue and more involvement from the artists. I went to talk to my Representative when he was home for a holiday break and he mentioned that two well known artists had been in to visit him just a few weeks earlier and hadn’t even mentioned the issue. I don’t know if they weren’t aware of the legislation and its importance or whether they were concerned that they might suffer from speaking out on an issue where they feared retaliation in terms of loss of airplay. Hopefully more artists and artist advocates will begin speaking up and speaking with or writing to their representatives in the House and Senate.

  4. Jeff Weiss says:

    Re: Advertising

    Sigue Sigue Sputnik beat you to the punch on that one back in ’86. I think the ads were just recorded on the records (and not in print or video), but the crass commercialism was there. Boy, did those guys know how to exploit.

  5. Glenn Romano says:

    As an over 50 buyer of CDs, I eagerly await the day the package is stuffed with ads for Progressive Insurance, Pet Meds, and slim fast. Maybe I will get some valuable coupons. Imagine the sales pitch “Buy my latest CD and get $200.00 in valuable coupons.” Or when I am watching the video, an ad streams: “Call 1-800-328-7448 and get your free 30-day trial of Eatmeandgrowbig.”

  6. Chuck G says:

    The music business is dying like the auto industry is dying—by expanding.

    More product is being sold than ever, simply not by the old leaders who failed to innovate.

    Listening to them whine is like listening to me, hand in a bag of Cheetos, bitch about not being in the Olympics.

  7. Phil Johnson says:

    This whole thing seemed like a given to me at some point. Like Sal said, indies have been doing this for years. And as long as the ads are targeted for Mariah’s demographics, what’s the harm? The only potential losers are the companies that paid for the ads. And if they don’t see a good ROI, then they won’t buy again. Doesn’t hurt to experiment with it.

  8. I really don’t see a problem with selling ad space in CD booklets at all. As Lefsetz himself actually points out, the art is the audio content — the booklet is supplementary material at best, and essentially functions to promote the issuing artist/label. Both should be compensated for ceding some of that space and for splitting the message of the booklet with a advertising party.
    A CD is a commercial item for sale, to pretend otherwise is to bury one’s head in the sand.

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