Metallica manager Peter Mensch knows what he’s talking about when it comes to the music industry. Not only is Mensch the manager of Metallica, arguably the biggest hard rock band on the planet, he has also managed the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, AC/DC, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Def Leppard, and has managed tours with Madonna and The Rolling Stones. In 1982, the Metallica manager created the music management company Q-Prime along with his partner, Cliff Burnstein. Since then, according to the Financial Times, Q-Prime is one of the most “admired artist management companies” in the world.
As such, when the Metallica manager says something about the state of music in the 21st century, anyone interested would be wise to sit up and take notice. Today, Mensch did a rare interview with the BBC on the Today program in which he did just that.
For starters, Mensch gave an overview of what his job duties are as an artist manager.
“My job basically is, if the band trusts me, to listen to their material and tell them which songs we think are worth recording. Then, help them design their stage show, should they ask. We hire and fire their crew, because they’re probably too cowardly to do it themselves… You’re part father, part psychologist…”
At a few points in the interview, the Metallica manager refers to the “golden age” of rock music, referring to the 1960s through the early 1990s. Mensch was asked what the difference is from his perspective between the “golden age” and present day in terms of the music industry.
“The business model was great back then. You invested a certain amount of time and energy, even if you didn’t get paid for a couple of years, and as you put out increasingly successful albums, there were hundreds of people promoting your records and selling them. Now, the record business is contracting, fewer and fewer records get sold – or streamed. Less money is there, so what we’ve had to do is basically expand our management company to almost duplicate a record company…”
The Metallica manager then gave the nuts and bolts of the record industry in the 21st century.
“What used to happen was that you sold enough records either to not go on tour, but you had enough money to go make another record, or do both. And it used to be probably up until the ’90’s that you’d make as much money on tour as you’d make selling records. Now, you make one-tenth of that money on record sales or streaming. The biggest problem for the record business is, I don’t know who the fans are. Fans are the people that will actually pay for something. Pay for a ticket, right? I don’t really care so much if you won’t pay for an album anymore, I understand that that horse has bolted. But if I can’t get you to pay for a ticket, then you’re not really a fan of mine.”
You can listen to the full interview with Metallica manager Peter Mensch on the BBC website.
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