On Monday, it was announced that longtime music producer and executive Ron Fair, along with marketing and promotions veteran Richard Palmese, will join Irving Azoff's Front LIne Management as consultants.
Home to such clients as The Eagles, Christina Aguilera, Maroon 5 and Britney Spears, Fair, the former president of A&M and chairman of Geffen Records, will advise on the A&R and production side while Palmese, who spent more than 35 years as a promotion executive (much of that time working alongside Clive Davis), will handle marketing and promotion. Although both had parted ways with their major label positions, the moves mark yet another shift away from the music industry's traditional structure to that of bolder alliances and entrepreneurial initiatives.
"The old rules don't apply," Fair said. "I'm generating my own projects and operating as my own mini-label, where I can partner [on an artist] with record companies or a television network or brands and sponsors. And I can give Irving an opinion, should he be needing one."
Indeed, the Los Angeles-bred Fair, who has produced albums for Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Vanessa Carlton and Pussycat Dolls, among other pop hits, should have plenty of opinions when you factor in the other gig he's adding to his already overcommitted schedule: in-house A&R for NBC's The Voice.
Recruited for the task by Barry Weiss, chairman and CEO of Island Def Jam Music Group and Universal Republic (the latter is The Voice's label partner) and Universal Republic CEO Monte Lipman, Fair is getting in on the ground level, observing the auditions and battle rounds in private and then going on set for the live shows, which kicked off on April 2. (Worth noting: Fair was also a judge on Canadian singing competition Cover Me Canada.)
"We're finding that there can be a big gap between an artist that becomes popular on music competition show and what is possible in our line of work, which is selling records, so all eyes are on us to see whether or not we can improve that ratio," says Fair, who was one of Jimmy Iovine's chosen music producers on American Idol last year. "It's going to be a challenge -- there are a lot of great singers and interesting people and I'm watching them very closely, taking copious notes and getting ready to bring the whole songwriting and producing community into formation so that whomever wins and whatever the musical challenge is, we can meet it and have a great outcome. And rapidly, by the way."
Such is the nature of today's music business, where 15 minutes is now 15 seconds and yesterday's news may as well be a year old. It's one reason why Azoff, who's also CEO of Ticketmaster and executive chairman of Live Nation, has aligned himself with such forward thinkers as Big Champagne's Eric Garland. But with Fair, the two also go back -- some 25 years to be exact, to when Azoff was chairman of MCA Records. "Irving has always been a big supporter and friend and we found that my skill set fit some of the needs that exist when you have a number of management companies and artist and projects under one roof, " Fair explains. "He promised to teach me how to do Ron Fair better than I've ever done before, and to be in the same sentence with him and Richard is a great honor for me."
Other artists Fair is currently shepherding include British singer Matt Goss, who boasts a residency at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas (his team members include Pussycat Dolls' creator and choreographer Robin Antin, manager Jack Rovner and CAA's Rob Light), Martina McBride, with whom Fair is working on a Christmas album; Il Volo, the operatic trio sometimes dubbed the Italian Jonas Bros.; and Luke Christopher, an artist signed to his old label Geffen. Fair also revealed that he's had "extensive meetings" with Glee star Darren Criss about his debut album for Columbia Records.
"I'm in the role of entrepreneur now," he says. "I'm doing everything like before the only difference is, it's attached to me and Irving and not a major label." And today, hitching your wagon to Azoff's still rising star might be the surest route to continued success.