Across the huge video screen spanning the stage at Manhattan’s TimesCenter, a ragtag rock band strides in slow-mo: white-haired singer in a T-shirt, tight jeans, smoky eye makeup and Freddie Mercury mustache; guitarist in black leather pants; another guitarist in a cowboy hat too big for his head; and a guy in a black jumpsuit and gold chains whose role is unclear. They perform what sounds like a famous Queen song, then sit down for interviews.
But something’s not quite right about this installment of Behind the Music. For one, the singer is way off-key; for another, the song is called “Capitalist Rhapsody,” with the usual “Galileo!” chorus changed to “Oh Rapino! Oh Rapino!” This is not some scrappy band of rock’n’rollers — it’s a parody video by the brain trust of a cable giant that’s gradually and quietly preparing to dominate the music business: Greg Maffei, the 59-year-old president/CEO of Liberty Media; Courtnee Chun, Liberty’s chief portfolio officer and senior vp investor relations; Mark Carleton, a senior adviser; and Albert Rosenthaler, chief corporate development officer. And this is no episode of some backstage drama music show: It’s Liberty’s much anticipated Investor Day, where Maffei’s team annually rolls out a central parody skit, usually riffing on music, and the crowd takes a break from checking stocks on laptops to applaud politely.
Once Maffei and crew have finished their shenanigans, it’s up to Michael Rapino, president/CEO of Live Nation — the dominant concert promoter, of which Liberty owns 33% — to steer things back to business. “I’m going to take all that rebellious energy and pack it into a blue suit and 14 boring slides,” he dryly tells the crowd. “That seems to be what we do up here.” Rapino has appeared in Investor Day skits before, noticeably cringing a few years ago while clinking a cowbell as Maffei and company riffed on Will Ferrell’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” skit from Saturday Night Live. (He declined to comment for this story.)