What did you wake up thinking about this morning? I wake up every morning with the same thought: “I wonder if our competition has gained a step on us in some way.” We have always preached that we are competing with more than other record labels: videogames, books, the NFL and movies. We need to maintain a level of excellence that will allow us to compete against any entertainment distribution company.
Describe a lesson you learned from failure. I have had a lot of failures, and the one thing I learned over time is that the world doesn’t come to an end. It just means you tried something and it didn’t work. When you’re not trying, that’s when it’s scary. We tried the Velocity program–a great idea on paper. For albums, we were going to have a deluxe version and one that could be priced at $10. But we couldn’t put together a schedule to support it because our labels didn’t believe in it. I learned a valuable lesson to make sure that the labels are onboard with whatever initiative we launch. We launched Jumpstart in 2003, and whatever reservations the labels had, they all became fans–our most profitable years were 2004 and 2005. It was the first step for the industry to acknowledge that the consumer perception on prices were out of line. Today, prices are at a fair place in terms of what the consumers expect CDs to cost. On digital, we pushed for variable pricing and overall digital sales remain very robust, though track sales are lagging a bit. Even with streaming, so far there is no evidence of cannibalization.
What will define your career in the coming year? Better, more forward-thinking ways of addressing the marketplace in the midst of massive change. We have always been known for our love of data and analysis. Now we are doing artist analysis, tracking consumer preference combined with market research to come up with specific ways to market unique artists. We are producing reports on what the jazz and EDM consumers look like, and taking very specific, individual artist deep dives. In the next year, that research will go to a whole other level. We’re really helping the labels redefine how they use their marketing plans.
Name a project that you’re not affiliated with that has most impressed you. With “House of Cards” Netflix completely changed their business by getting into content ownership. It takes dramatic and sometimes painful action to keep your business model in line with the marketplace opportunities.
Name a desert island disc. If I could bring two, Bruce Springsteen’s “The River” and Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “Watch the Throne.”