Spotify ‘doing a Netflix’: is Daniel Ek’s platform already too big for the labels to stop it?

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/spotify-doing-a-netflix-is-daniel-eks-service-too-big-for-the-labels-to-stop-it/

The following article comes from Midia Research founder and respected industry analyst, Mark Mulligan. After witnessing an increasing encroachment from Spotify into the traditional territory of major and independent labels of late, Mulligan (pictured inset) ponders whether those rights-holders now need Spotify so much, their power to prevent the service from becoming a ‘label’ is diminishing. UK-based Midia, which offers research, data tools and subscriptions to a wide range of influential music industry players, has been following the Spotify story from day one.


Spotify’s Daniel Ek is betting big on developing a ‘two-sided marketplace’ for music.

With the company’s market cap on a downward trend despite strong growth metrics, Ek might find himself having to play up the disruption narrative more boldly and more quickly than he’d planned.

Investors are betting on a Netflix-like disruptor for the music industry, rather than a junior distribution partner for the labels. And this is where things gets messy.

Whereas Netflix can play individual TV networks off each other and can even afford to lose Disney and Fox, each major record label currently owns enough market share on Spotify to have the equivalent of a UN Security Council Veto.

So when Spotify announced it was going to let artists upload music directly and then added distribution to other streaming services via DistroKid, the labels understandably smelled a rat. To the extent they’ve even threatened to block access to India.

Spotify’s balancing act may be reaching a tipping point (mixed metaphor pun intended), but it may already be too late for the labels to act.

Here’s why…


Part 1: In search of market share

If Spotify is able to become more competitive (and therefore threatening) to labels while keeping hold of their licenses, it will all be down to market share. The less market share the big labels have on Spotify, the more negotiating power Spotify has. It is a classic case of divide and rule.

If Spotify really wants to play the role of market disruptor – and so far we have strong hints rather than outright statements – it will need to whittle down the power of the majors before they call it and pull their content.

Here’s a scenario for how Spotify could achieve that:


1 – Direct indie label deals

Spotify’s first step would be to detangle the embedded market share from major labels which is based on the indie labels that Universal/Sony/Warner currently distribute. At present, the ‘Big Three’ can wield this indie market share alongside their own during licensing negotiations.

There are two ways to measure market share:

  1. By distribution (this sees those indie labels distributed via major labels being included in the share of the bigger labels);
  2. By ownership (this measures market power based on the original label, so does not count any indie labels as part of major labels).

By the first measure, the major labels had an 82% market share in 2016 and 79% market share in 2017.

By the second measure, according to the WINTel report, major label market share was 62% in 2016 (the 2017 WINTel number is not yet out but will be shortly).

So, if Spotify did direct deals with the larger indies currently distributed by majors or major-owned distributors (or persuaded them to join Merlin), it would unpack anywhere up to more than a fifth of today’s major label market share.


2 – More artists direct

DIY artists uploading directly to Spotify is a long-term play, aimed at harnessing the potential of tomorrow’s stars. In the near term, these artists will generate a smallish amount of streams, even with a helping hand from Spotify’s algorithms and curators.

There are about 300 of these artists right now; let’s say Spotify gets to 2,500 next year – these independent artists could potentially deliver around a third of a percent of share of Spotify streams.


3 – Library music

Fake artist-gate saw a lot of people getting very hot under the collar about Spotify, but nothing that was done broke any rules.

Instead, library music companies like Epidemic Sounds were – and still are – serving tracks into mood-based playlists. The inference is that Spotify is paying less for Epidemic Sounds tracks than to labels.

Whether it is or isn’t, this still eats away at label market share on Spotify. With a bit more support from Spotify’s playlist engine, these tracks could account for around 0.7% of total streams.

Coupled with direct artist deals, that makes up a single point of share. Not exactly industry-changing, but a pointer to the future – and a point of share is a point of share.


4 – Top 20 artists

Where Spotify could really move the needle is doing direct deals with top tier, frontline artists. These would probably be ‘label services’ deals, as Spotify doesn’t appear to want to become a copyright owner – not yet at least.

Netflix is funding its original content investments with around $1.5 billion of debt every two years, which it raises against its subscriber growth forecasts. There’s no reason why Spotify couldn’t do the same, paying advances that other labels couldn’t compete with.

The top 20 artists on Spotify currently account for around 22% of all Spotify streams (across their catalogs). If Spotify could do direct deals with each of them and promote the hell of out of their latest releases, they could contribute up to 15% of all streams on the platform.

Of that top 20, Taylor Swift is on the lookout for a new label, and Drake is putting out ‘albums’ so frequently that he must be pushing close to the end of his deal.



When we add all these components together we end up in a situation where the major labels’ share of total Spotify streams would be just 47% (see above).

Spotify would have the second highest individual market share, while regional repertoire variations mean that SME and WMG could drop towards 10-11% in a couple of markets.

Of course, this is a hypothetical scenario, and one on steroids: the odds of Spotify signing up all the world’s top 20 artists in the next 12 months is slim, to put it lightly, but it is useful for illustrating the opportunity.


Part 2 – The Prisoner’s Dilemma

At this stage we move on to a prisoners’ dilemma scenario for the majors:

  • All of the majors help Spotify’s case by over prioritising Spotify as a promotional tool in light of its share of total listening compared to radio, YouTube, other streaming services etc;
  • WMG and SME probably couldn’t afford to remove their content from Spotify but would be watching UMG, the only one that probably feel confident enough to do so;
  • However, UMG would be thinking if it jumps first and removes its content, each of the other two majors would benefit from it not being there (and would probably be secretly hoping for that outcome);
  • Each other major would be thinking the same, and regulatory restrictions prevent the majors from discussing strategy to formulate a combined response;
  • But even if UMG did pull its content, this would hurt Spotify but would not kill it (Amazon Prime Music launched without UMG and spent 15 months growing just fine until UMG came on board);
  • Spotify could easily tweak its curation algorithms to minimise the perceived impact of the missing catalogue, making it ‘feel’ more like 10%;
  • So, the likely scenario would be each major paralysed by FOMO and so none of them act.

Thus, maybe Spotify is already nearly big enough to do this, and could do so next year. And the more that Spotify’s stock price struggles, the more that Spotify needs to talk up its disruption to investors.

History shows that when Spotify makes disruptive announcements, its stock price does better than when it delivers quarterly results. Maybe, just maybe, the labels have already missed their chance to prevent Spotify from becoming their fiercest competitor.

The TV networks left it too late with Netflix… history may be about to repeat itself.Music Business Worldwide

Johnny Hallyday album shatters records, selling more week-one units in France than Drake’s Scorpion did in the USA

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/confirmed-johnny-hallyday-album-shatters-records-selling-more-week-one-units-in-france-than-drakes-scorpion-did-in-the-usa/

Make no mistake: in terms of the global recorded music business, this is the sales story of the year so far.

In a fast-declining albums market, French superstar Johnny Hallyday’s last album – Mon Pays C’est L’Amour (My Country Is Love) – has officially smashed records to hit No.1 in his home country’s chart.

As noted by MBW yesterday, the album – the first, and likely last, posthumous LP release by Hallyday – has become a national event in France.

The numbers are astonishing. After its release last Friday (October 19), Mon Pays C’est L’Amour sold 780,177 copies in the French market in its opening seven days.

That is the biggest week-one sales tally in the history of the French charts, and equivalent to one in every 86 people in the market purchasing a copy.

The biggest debut album sales week in the United States this year, if you didn’t know, is Drake’s record-breaking Scorpion.

According to Billboard/Nielsen, Scorpion sold 732,000 equivalent albums in its opening seven days in the USA.

Of these equivalent albums, just 160,000 were actual album purchases by fans. The rest (572,000 ‘sales’) were all converted from streaming plays of tracks.

Hallyday’s Mon Pays C’est L’Amour just sold a bigger number (780k vs. 732k), in a country whose population is about five times smaller than that of the United States (67m vs. 326m).

“The reaction from his fans has been overwhelming and I know he’d be delighted that so many of them are listening to and enjoying his last work.”

Thierry Chassagne, Warner Music France

What’s more, MBW is told that 97.2% of Mon Pays C’est L’Amour sales were physical, 1.8% were downloaded and just 1% were ‘streaming equivalents’.

If you’re interested in such things: this means approximately 757,000 sales of Hallyday’s album were on CD or vinyl. Considering the CD of Mon Pays C’est L’Amour has a current retail price (via Amazon) of €15.99 ($18), this must mean that, in one week, the albums physical sales will have generated over €12m (approx $13.8m).

Add in downloads and streaming, and we can’t see a way that Mon Pays C’est L’Amour didn’t just generate more than $14m at retail.

In a week.

In France.


Hallyday, who died aged 74 in December last year, breaks the record he set in 2002 when his album À la vie, à la mort! sold 305,634 copies in its first week.

Following Hallyday’s death, a national tribute in Paris was attended by dignitaries including President Macron, with one million fans lining the streets and 18 million more watching on TV.

Warner Music France ran a major promotional campaign for Mon Pays C’est L’Amour, which included a simultaneous ‘listening session’ on Deezer.

Interestingly, Warner did not release any tracks to media or digital partners ahead of the album’s launch on October 19 at 00.01am.

Thierry Chassagne, President of Warner Music France, said: “This is an exceptional album and Johnny was fully involved in its creation. The reaction from his fans has been overwhelming and I know he’d be delighted that so many of them are listening to and enjoying his last work.

“His voice on the album is incredibly strong and the songs are excellent. During the recording, he imagined playing this album in his future stadium tour. Johnny was always worried about his fans’ reactions and he would have been proud to see this success.”

In the lead up to release, Warner built a unique structure in Paris that let 200 people at a time listen to the album over three days.

Another partnership with broadcaster RTL and cinema chain CGR saw selected fans across France preview the album in movie theaters.

Music Business Worldwide

Columbia Records ups Jay Schumer to Senior Vice President of Marketing

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/columbia-records-ups-jay-schumer-to-senior-vice-president-of-marketing/

Sony-owned Columbia Records has appointed Jay Schumer as Senior Vice President of Marketing.

Schumer will head up Columbia’s East Coast Marketing operations from New York and reports to Jenifer Mallory, General Manager for Columbia Records.

Most recently, Schumer was Vice President of Marketing for Columbia.

In 2013, Schumer was appointed Vice President of Marketing and has since spearheaded campaigns for artists including Tyler, The Creator, Russ, HAIM, LCD Soundsystem, N*E*R*D, Lil Peep, The Internet, Bring Me The Horizon, Foster The People, and others

During his tenure at Sony/Columbia, Schumer has held a variety of positions within the Sales and Marketing departments.

He started as an assistant on the Columbia Sales team and quickly moved up within the department, specializing in breaking new and developing artists on the roster.

“I’m certain Jay will thrive in his new role continuing to drive strategy and lead the wider team to develop cutting edge campaigns for our artists.”

Jenifer Mallory, Columbia Records

“Jay is an incredibly creative marketing executive with a very intuitive understanding of the business,” stated Jenifer Mallory, General Manager for Columbia Records.

“His deep knowledge and passion for music as well as his years of experience make him a powerful marketing force at Columbia.

“I’m certain he will thrive in his new role continuing to drive strategy and lead the wider team to develop cutting edge campaigns for our artists.”

“I look forward to building breakthrough marketing initiatives that directly impact music fans and continue to achieve new heights for our artists.”

Jay Schumer

Schumer added: “I’m very grateful to Jenifer Mallory and Ron Perry for this opportunity.

“I’ve been able to grow from the ground up at Columbia while working with an incredible array of artists alongside the most inspiring team in the business.

“I look forward to building breakthrough marketing initiatives that directly impact music fans and continue to achieve new heights for our artists.”Music Business Worldwide

‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever make a living out of music.’

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/clarence-spalding-never-in-my-wildest-dreams-did-i-think-i-would-ever-make-a-living-out-of-music/

MBW’s World’s Greatest Managers series profiles the best artist managers in the global business. This time, we speak to Clarence Spalding, a partner in Maverick and the founder of Spalding Entertainment – home to country megastars like Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Kix Brooks, Brooks & Dunn and many more. The World’s Greatest Managers is supported by Centtrip Music, the FX and banking solutions provider – which helps artists, managers and music businesses obtain an optimum currency exchange deal.


At one point, MBW asks Clarence Spalding if he was always destined to work specifically in country music.

His reply, delivered in a suitably southern drawl: “Have you paid any attention to this fucking accent?”

He laughs as he says it, and goes on to admit that it’s not as dumb a question as it sounds. “To be honest with you, I listened to no country growing up. My father, every Saturday afternoon, would watch The Porter Wagoner Show. Me and my brothers would walk into the room: Holy shit, that’s on again, no thanks – and just turn around and walk right out.

“We were listening to rock music, the Stones, the Beatles. But I was also listening to Al Green, to Ike and Tina; and then later on I was listening to Electric Light Orchestra and things like that.”

His interest in country was finally awakened by the genre’s ‘outlaw’ movement of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. You can see why.

Spalding’s a hugely successful music business exec, managing, amongst others, one of the biggest mainstream country acts in the world, Jason Aldean. But he’s far from conventional or cautious. No outlaw, perhaps, but no sheriff either. And a hell of a straight shooter.

Here, Spalding talks honestly about his life, his shortcomings, his breakthrough moments, about the music business in general and country music in particular.

Having (literally) made his name with Spalding Entertainment, he is now part of the worldwide Maverick management team and, as anyone who has spent any time with him will testify, is definitely not the outfit’s country cousin.

There’s no denying his roots, though, or that accent, both of which go back to the State of Kentucky, and a town with a licence for liquor…


How did you get your first break in the business?

Well, I’m from a small town in Kentucky. And that town happened to be dead in the middle of a wet county, surrounded by dry counties. Because of that, we had four nightclubs, which all did live music.

I was a paperboy and I delivered papers to this club, the Club Cherry. One day, there was a band sound checking, and the guy who ran the place said, ‘Sit up here for a second and listen to this; you’ll remember this for the rest of your life.’

“I thought I was going to be in corporate America.”

So I sat on the bar and listened to this woman singing with this band. I got home, told my parents about it, and they asked me who the act was. I said I thought they were called something like Ike and Tina Turner…

I continued to fall in love with music and then, when I went away to college, I started booking bands. I had a little agency to book bands that weren’t worth a shit, but I thought they were great. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever make a living out of music.

I got a degree in communications and I thought I was going to be in corporate America. But, one thing led to another and I ended up managing a nightclub.


Was that in Kentucky?

In Lexington, Kentucky, yeah. There was a group based there called Exile who had had a big hit in 1978 with Kiss You All Over [a US No. 1, written by Chinn and Chapman].

Their pop days were over – they were playing country and they went on to have 10 [US country] No.1s – and they were managed by a gentleman by the name of Jim Morey.

Jim and his partner, Sandy Gallin, managed Cher, Neil Diamond and Dolly Parton and the Pointer Sisters; they were probably one of the largest management companies in the world at the time.

“If this guy from Nebraska can make a living at this, then maybe some dumb ass from Kentucky can too!”

Jim was from somewhere in Nebraska and that’s when it started dawning on me: if this guy from Nebraska can make a living at this, then maybe some dumb ass from Kentucky can too!

Jim really took me under his wing and I ended up going on the road with Exile. I was their tour manager, and Jim would invite me to Los Angeles, let me sit in on various things, and I just fell in love with the whole business.

Eventually, I met a guy by the name of Stan Moress. Stan was a Los Angeles manager, but he also managed country acts – including K.T. Oslin and Eddie Rabbitt – so he decided that he was going to move to Nashville. I begged Stan for a job, but he simply didn’t have one. And then, one day, out of the blue, he calls me and goes, ‘You know that job you want? You’ve got it.’

I went from Kentucky to Nashville the next day and lived with Stan for a month, until I got my family down to Nashville. That was really the start of me truly being a manager. Stan and allowed me to come in and do day-to-day on, Eddie Rabbitt and K.T. Oslin.

I basically got a PhD from Stan.


What did he teach you?

He was just a great mentor. He taught us about the business and about artist management, and I learned that most of it is about personalities.

I remember telling somebody that I felt like everybody I was dealing with in the business who was successful, they must be so fucking smart. I always thought, Where did they go to school?

“I understand people are afraid, they’re concerned about their career, which is a very tentative thing.”

And as you move up you go, Eh, not so much. It’s more about the people and the personalities. I don’t consider myself brilliant by any stretch, but I know people, and I feel like I can bypass a couple of steps in talking to them because I’ve sat on the bus with people who have been in the same position. And I understand people are afraid, they’re concerned about their career, which is a very tentative thing.

It’s all great when you’re that 22-year-old artist who’s written three songs, and all three of them hit at same time and it feels like fucking magic dust has been sprinkled on you. Only now, [the industry] wants three more, and those next three are so much harder, because it took you 22 years to write the first three and now you’ve got four months to write the next three.


So you ended up in Nashville. What’s your next big break?

I got a phone call from a guy name of Bob Titley. Bob had signed this duo named Brooks & Dunn (pictured inset), and he felt like he needed some help.

Eventually, I went to see him and he explained they wanted me. I told Bob, I’ll come to work for you for three years, and at the end of three years, if you don’t feel I’m a partner, I’m going to leave.

After three years, Brooks & Dunn blew up, it became bigger and bigger, we were both having a great time and Bob brought me in as a partner. Then, after year 10, he decided he didn’t want to do it anymore.


What was that like for you?

I was comfortable. I mean, I was sad because Bob Titley, and I mean this, he was probably 10 times smarter than I will ever be.

I’m emotional and I cuss like a sailor at any opportunity, and then he would walk into the room and say, ‘What are you so upset about?’ I’d go, ‘This, this and this… and this!’ And Bob would say, ‘Well, have you ever thought about looking at it like this?’

At which point I’d I’d go, ‘Fuck no! I’m too fucking pissed off to look at it like that!’ But then, of course, I’d realize he was right.

When he quit, I started my own thing. And that’s when we went from Titley Spalding to Spalding Entertainment, in 2003.


Who was on the roster at that point, when you were finally flying solo?

It was probably Brooks & Dunn, Terri Clark and maybe Chely Wright was still on the roster at that time.


What becomes Spalding’s big break, as a standalone company?

Irving Azoff called me; he and Howard [Kaufman] were putting Front Line back together. I didn’t know Irving; I had met him, but I didn’t know him. And when Irving Azoff calls, it’s heady stuff. Irving Azoff knows my fucking name? I’m already three steps up from I was yesterday, I promise you that.

But I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in another thing. I can’t remember how long it had been, but I hadn’t had my company that long, and I was doing was doing pretty well on my own.

But Irving was persistent, and I entered into an agreement with he and Howard – and we were Front Line. I had a blast.

“Irving Azoff knows my fucking name? I’m already three steps up from I was yesterday, I promise you that.”

I made a comment to Irving right at the beginning, I said, ‘I don’t know if I need you, Irving. I feel like that if there’s something I want to sign in Nashville, I can do that; I can go up against you here.’

And he goes, ‘You can, you can. I can hear you now, talking [to artists] about how busy Irving Azoff is. But here’s the thing, when I come to Nashville, everybody knows who I am, and when you come to Los Angeles, not a fucking soul knows who you are.’ [laughs]

There was this side of me that really wanted to be upset, but I couldn’t be, because it was so fucking true. You’re this fish in a small pond in Nashville, people know who you are; but still you’re not even the biggest fish in this small pond!

And that really kind of pushed me over the edge of going, Okay, I want to play with the big boys; I want to see how I stack up against everybody else, and it was a great move for me.


What did you learn from Irving?

I took a certain type of tenacity from Irving. He’s incredibly smart, but he’s also incredibly tenacious. Everybody’s heard all the stories about Irving, but I never experienced anything negative with him.

“Everybody’s heard all the stories about Irving, but I never experienced anything negative with him.”

He was just a great mentor. He was very helpful with anything that I needed. All of a sudden the world became open to me in regard to having Irving picking up the phone, and making an introduction to attorneys in New York, in Los Angeles… you know, ‘This is my guy in Nashville; he wants to try to do this; I would like you to help me.’

There’s no one in the music business – and not many outside the music business – who doesn’t know the name Irving Azoff. He’s still an incredible friend of mine and I still love seeing him.


And then the next step takes you to Live Nation…

That’s right, Irving sold to Live Nation. He and Michael Rapino became the head honchos and I was a part of Live Nation for I forget how many years.

Then one day Michael calls me and starts talking about… Oh, in that time, by the way, I had signed Jason Aldean, I had signed Rascal Flatts, I signed Darius Rucker; my roster had grown and grown. But Michael called me one night and said Guy Oseary wants to talk to you; I’m going to let him explain it to you, but there’s no pressure, it’s more of an introduction.

The next day, Guy calls me, he made it clear knew all about me, and we started talking. He was managing Madonna and U2 and whatever else at the time, but he was spending a lot of time in Silicon Valley and he was talking about his experiences in the tech world.

“Michael called me one night and said Guy Oseary wants to talk to you; I’m going to let him explain it to you, but there’s no pressure, it’s more of an introduction.”

He said, ‘In tech, you bring your friends in; you have a great idea and it’s like, Do you want to get in on this with me? And I want to apply the same principles to the management world. We all feel like we’re at odds with each other all the time, but I would like to put together a group of like-minded people, whose only thing is to help each other.’

So I flew to Los Angeles, I met with him and I was very intrigued by the idea. At the time I had Randy Goodman, who now runs Sony Nashville, working with me. I’m walking him through my meeting with Guy and I could see he was intrigued as well.

So we went back out there, we talked it all through again with Guy, I got in the van with Randy and I said, ‘Okay, tell me what’s wrong with this?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Nothing; there’s nothing wrong with this. This is a great opportunity.’

And so we started Maverick and it’s been the best time of my management career.


Why is that?

I have partners all over the world that I can call on – and that I do call on. If I’m touring Darius in Europe, which I am, I call [Paul McCartney’s manager] Scott Rodger (pictured inset). I can use his office in London and get people to help me on the ground there. And it’s the same with Adam Leber and Larry Rudolph – and the same the other way round; if they have Miley or Steven Tyler coming to town [Nashville], and they need help, we’re here to help them.

Larry had Britney in Las Vegas, he actually lives there, and I was trying to structure a deal for Brooks & Dunn at Caesar’s, so I called him. And he just gave me so much insight into that world and that kind of deal.

“It’s like going to a great university, having your pick of the best professors on campus.”

As a one off, could I do it? Sure. But trying to look down the road three years and to figure out how to make this a very successful run, both financially and in terms of it being an enjoyable experience for the principals, he was able to sit me down and go, ‘This is what I did with Britney.’ And things just click and you go, Okay, that makes a lot of sense – and by the way I would have never thought of that on my own.

I have all these very, very successful managers and I get to glean all this information from them. It’s like going to a great university, having your pick of the best professors on campus, getting to spend as much time with them as you want and asking them any questions you want.


How do you read the health of country music in general at the moment and its journey to becoming a more global phenomenon?

I think that country music is as healthy as it’s been. We’re catching up in streaming, we were late adopters, but we’re catching up.

For a long time it was still Wal-Mart and Target and Kmart where they [country music fans] were getting their music. Then it was SiriusXM, and now we’re very quickly catching up. So that’s great news for us, it’s great news for our labels, it’s great news for our younger artists and I think it’s great news in terms of spreading country music worldwide.

I do think that there are going to be acts that are going to lend themselves to the world and there are going to be other acts that are going to have a limit. And I think part of that limit is what [you] write about. If you’re writing about a rural lifestyle and, you know, a dog sitting in the front seat of your pickup truck, there are areas of the world that just don’t understand what that is. They didn’t grow up in South Georgia living that lifestyle.


Do you think that country gets a fair crack of the whip from streaming services today, or do hip-hop and pop tend to dominate in those areas, not just in terms of the listeners, but in terms of the levels of priority or otherwise that you get from inside those companies?

I think they have dominated, but we’re starting to get a fair crack at it. As always, you follow the money, and when this format starts really catching up, you’re going to see further change. Whether you call it ‘fair’ or ‘not fair’, it’s a business. And when the business of country is good, then country on Spotify and Apple and Pandora and all these places is going to be huge.

“Whether you call it ‘fair’ or ‘not fair’, it’s a business. And when the business of country is good, then country on Spotify and Apple and Pandora and all these places is going to be huge.”

I look at Pandora and that seems to be a place that registers early and registers big for country; Jason Aldean is the top streaming country act on Pandora, over a billion streams.

Once the country music fans get more and more comfortable with streaming and with getting their music on their phones… the kids growing up are already there. Plus, they’re going to go to a Jason Aldean show one night and a Drake show the next; I don’t think it matters to them.

That little bit older demo, who historically we have depended on, they haven’t yet gotten into [streaming] fully, but every day it gets bigger and bigger. I see the numbers and I hear the label heads talk about the increased consumption. There’s nobody in Nashville whining about this; we all see it growing.


Do you think that sometimes the rest of the industry sees country as its own independent, walled state? Less open to collaboration and crossover – and almost happy with that situation?

Maybe there have been walls around country more than other genres, but I think that’s changing every day.

Country music is a broad church: it’s Jason Aldean, it’s Alan Jackson, it’s Eric Church, it’s Florida Georgia Line (pictured), it’s Miranda Lambert; you’re going to find something here that you like.

If you love urban music, or you love soul music, there are artists in [the country] format that you’re going to fall in love with if you give them three minutes. Just give them three minutes – and I think that’s easier now we have streaming.

The labels in Los Angeles and New York, they know what’s going on down here; the artists that are really paying attention understand what’s going on down here; and the managers who are looking for some really creative pairings, they know what’s going on down here.

There’s a CMT Crossroads coming up with Zac Brown and Shawn Mendes. Now, let me tell you, not even in my biggest drug days would I have thought of that, but I guarantee you, when you watch it you’re going to go, Holy Shit, that makes a lot of sense.


Along those lines, you mentioned that the Big Loud guys have got a very outward-looking mentality. Can you talk about that deal, how it came about and how it’s working out? [Maverick acquired Florida Georgia Line’s managers, Big Loud, last year, for an undisclosed sum.]

Well, Seth [England] and ‘Chief’ [Kevin Zaruk] they’re young guys, they’re aggressive, they have FGL [Florida Georgia Line] and they’re making a commitment to spending time in Los Angeles and to co-writing with pop writers – and sometimes that’s what it takes.

I love both of them; they’re incredibly smart. So, when the opportunity came for them to come into Maverick … I’m a 110% supporter of bringing in people like that.

“When you’re sitting at the Maverick table, I want you to deserve that seat, not get it because your fucking brother’s a big act or whatever.”

When you’re sitting at the Maverick table, I want you to deserve that seat, not get it because your fucking brother’s a big act or whatever. You should get a seat because everybody else around that table thinks you’re a great manager.

You need to bring something to the party and Seth and Chief bring an incredible amount to Maverick.


In your experience, how has the line of demarcation changed between labels and management, both in terms of the shift of power, but also the shift in responsibility and workload?

I certainly hear people going, ‘I’m doing everything that the label used to do’ – and I think there is some of that. But I look at every label we work with – we work with four different labels here in town – and I feel like I just have an incredible partnership with all of them.

There’s no team on earth that doesn’t have some links that could be strengthened. I hope we bring to each label the ability to strengthen certain areas, but I think that works vice versa.

“People say every day, ‘I don’t need a label.’ Well I don’t recognise that term; I need them and I want to be in business with them.”

There are incredibly smart and aggressive people at these labels, people that make us think. I tell my staff all the time that we’re blessed here because every morning we wake up and we get to play in a major league ballpark. We have very big acts, and with that comes an incredible amount of responsibility – to be aggressive and to be forward-thinking and to really be paying attention, every day, to their careers.

To do that, you need to surround yourself with incredibly smart people. And that way I get to hear a take on Jason Aldean’s career that might be different than mine, and that’s great.

People say every day, ‘I don’t need a label.’ Well I don’t recognise that term; I need them and I want to be in business with them.


Let’s talk about Jason for a minute; how did that relationship start?

I think it was 11 or 12 years ago. I didn’t know Jason. I’d heard his music some, and I liked what I’d heard. And then one day I get a phone call from a friend of mine named Kevin Neal, who was at Buddy Lee Attractions at the time [Neal is now a partner at WME].

He told me Jason had let go his manager and would I be interested? Oh yeah, I’d be interested… He was on tour and was playing Jacksonville, Florida, the next night, so I booked a flight and headed down.

“Jason took some other meetings, but he decided to come here, which we were very excited about.”

At the time, Chris Parr was working at CMT [Country Music Television] here in Nashville. He and I had been talking about doing something together, but I kept telling him, Chris, I got to sign an act for you to work on; I just can’t hire people for the sake of hiring them!

About an hour before my flight took off, Chris calls and he says to me, I heard the Jason Aldean fired his manager, and man would I love to work on that. I said, ‘Well, wish me luck because I’m flying to Jacksonville to meet him and I’m going to make you part of the pitch.’

Jason took some other meetings, but he decided to come here, which we were very excited about, and I brought Chris in. And you don’t know, you never really know for sure how things are going to work out. If I did know, I’d be sitting on an island somewhere. But I thought there was definitely something there.


He was still on his first [eponymous] album [2005] cycle at that point, right?

Yep, and getting ready to go into his second album [Relentless, 2007]. It’s an interesting thing, because he was on Broken Bow, who had an office here, but Benny Brown, who owned it, lived in Redding, California. And he was the biggest car dealer in Northern California.

He just loved music, he wanted a record label, so he started Broken Bow.

“All of a sudden I’m dealing with a guy who didn’t know nor give a shit about corporate America.”

It was interesting for me because everybody I dealt with was raised in a record label. They started off as an intern and rose up through the corporate ranks, and all of a sudden I’m dealing with a guy who didn’t know nor give a shit about corporate America.

He’s Benny Brown, the car dealer! But, you know what, it worked.


A lot of people would have thought that the new manager comes in and one of the things that you want to do is get a bigger, better record contract with a bigger, better record company. But that hasn’t happened. You’re clearly very happy with Broken Bow. You must have had other options…

Yeah, of course. Everybody in town wants Jason Aldean! And there was this thought of mine: how do I get a more traditional label, I guess, and a better deal?

But Jason was, I think, three days away from going back to Macon, Georgia and start driving a Pepsi cola truck for a living when Benny Brown made him an offer.
So we were in that contract when we took over management, and the more that Chris and I dealt with Broken Bow, what we saw was a very passionate team. When they signed Jason, they didn’t really have any gas in the engine, they just had one act, and that was Jason Aldean. So they became the Little Label That Could.

We then find ourselves working hand in hand with these people, saying to each other, ‘You know what, they’re really, really good at what they do. They just happen to be independent and be owned by the biggest car dealer in Northern California.’

When you say that out loud, it doesn’t make sense, but it did for us.

When it first came time to renegotiate, I went to Jason, we had a conversation, and he said, I really want to stay with Benny, I want to stay with Broken Bow; I want to be loyal to the guys that gave me a chance. There was a ‘but’ somewhere in there, of course. As in, But if they don’t… etc. etc. then we’ll have to go.

So I went to Benny and I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to shop this round town. I want to talk to you first and let’s see if we can work out a deal.’ And we did. And, much to the chagrin of three or four label heads in this town who had felt for sure that it would fall apart, it didn’t and we’re still there and still very happy there.


Then, of course, not very much later Benny sells to BMG in a nine-figure deal. Has that made much difference?

I think it’s made a difference. We love Zach [Katz, president, repertoire & marketing, BMG US].

Zach is a corporate guy in the music business, but he’s passionate, he used to be a manager. It’s good. Benny was ready to leave, he was ready to sell – and he could have sold to somebody that we hated, but thankfully he didn’t.


What did you make of Jason as a person when you first sat across the table from him?

Well, when I first take a meeting with somebody, I pray that there’s some part of us that’s cut out of the same cloth, some type of common ground. But, also, for me, I want to fall in love with the music first; if I fall in love with the artist [before the music], it’s always terrible, it’s fucked up.

I’ve had artists that I love [making] music that I hate. So, now, I hope that I love the music and can then like the artist. In this instance, I loved what Jason was doing, because Chris and I really felt like that there was a Jason Aldean lane that nobody else was in.

“Jason Aldean knew who he was and knew the direction he wanted to go. I think for an artist, you can ask no more, right?”

And also, to realise, Hey, you’re a good person and you’re going to work your ass off for us; that’s really important. I always say if I’m working harder than you [the artist], there’s something wrong with this project. I just really believed that Jason was that kid that was going to step up and work his ass off.

I always really had a true sense that Jason Aldean knew who he was and knew the direction he wanted to go. I think for an artist, you can ask no more, right?

I used to bring him songs, and I’d have convinced myself that this song or that song is fucking Bridge Over Troubled Water and Let it be, blended together. I take it to Jason and he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s a good song.’ I go, ‘A good song?!’ He goes, ‘Hey, it’s a good song Clarence, I just don’t hear myself singing it.’

What a great thing to say; it’s like, Okay, somebody else might sing this song, but I’m not going to sing this son of a bitch, I don’t care how many times you play it for me [laughs], because it’s not me right now.


Do you think that’s key to the consistency of his success? Because it’s been 10 years now and the last four albums have all gone to No.1…

Oh that’s nothing but pure fucking management right there [laughs]. I’m kidding, don’t quote me on that!

No, you’re right, it’s not that I can sit here or Jason would sit here, and tell you that every album is the greatest record ever made. But what we can say is that every album represents who Jason Aldean was at that particular time.

I think that’s a real ability: to find and record songs that the consumer thinks he must have written, because it’s from the heart. And yet he doesn’t write. He will hear a song that could well be a hit, but he will say, ‘That’s not me, that’s not where I am at this time.’ And I love that about him.


Can you talk a little bit about the success Jason has had over the past year?

It’s been a fantastic year, and everything goes back to that album [Rearview Town]. You go into launch and you book a tour and you have a great plan. But you need great music to go with it, and with this record a great warmth comes over everybody who listens to it; it has so many different layers and colors and flavors to it.

Everyone knows, there was this terrible tragedy [Aldean was on stage in Las Vegas when a gunman murdered 58 people at the Route 91 Festival], and that will always be part of who we are now. So this record and this tour was a new beginning in a way.

What happened will never be forgotten, and nor will the victims, not by Jason or by any of our crew who were there that night. But it won’t define him either, and that’s why this record was such an important one, and why he really appreciates how much people love it, and that he gets to play it for his fans.


Does this round of success feel different because of what happened?

I think you find yourself feeling more grown up; does that make sense? You go through things in your life and they peel away different layers of your personality to reveal the truth. In this case there were 40-odd people in the Jason Aldean camp that went through this together.

And then Jason allowed himself to go back out there. He and I and his wife flew out, a week to the day of it happening, and we visited three hospitals. He was dreading it, I was dreading it, and it was everything that you would think it would be and more. It was just heartbreaking and beyond.

We both walked out of there and he looked at me and said, ‘That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I’m so glad I did it.’

We didn’t announce we were coming, the hospital staff just said someone would like to come say hi to you, if it’s okay. And so when he walked into the room, it was just such an emotional thing; lots of tears, lots of tears.

“I saw a very, very compassionate man, not an artist, a very compassionate man coming in and struggling, because he couldn’t fix anything.”

I tell this story because the whole thing affected me, but also because I saw a different Jason Aldean in that room. I saw a very, very compassionate man, not an artist, a very compassionate man coming in and struggling, because he couldn’t fix anything: I can’t bring you back to life, I can’t heal that wound. All I can do is tell you how, sorry I am, and by the way, I was there with you, with my wife and with my unborn child.

There was a lady on one of the floors who was in a coma and her family asked Jason to come up. So Jason went into the room and he did a video for her: Hey, I shared your room today, and when you wake up I want you to come out and see me on the road and we’re going to have a beer together.

Honestly, we didn’t know if she would live or die. Thankfully, she comes out of the coma, and six months later, she lives in Phoenix, Jason was doing a show there and he went over to see her. He didn’t tell anybody, he just went over to tell her, ‘Hey, you don’t remember me, but I was in your room, I visited you and now here we are.’ And then he invited her to the Academy of Country Music Awards, where it was a pleasure to have us as our guest.

So I just think… it’s not that I didn’t know he was a compassionate man, but as a manager, sometimes you don’t get to see that side of your artist. I have a lot more respect for him as a man, forget everything else, just as a man, than I did even before going through all that.


Final question: what advice would you give to young managers today?

You can’t be afraid to sit down and tell your artists the truth. And sometimes that’s really, really hard.

When, I’m signing acts now, I tell them – and sometimes they think it’s a joke, but it’s really not – that I’m an acquired taste. Because I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m never going to be mean-spirited, but I’m going to tell you the truth, because you are going to pay me an incredible amount of money, and for that money, you should want the truth.

I go, Look, we can drop the commission and I’ll blow smoke up your ass all day because I won’t care! In fact, for 5% you can go out and get somebody to pick up your fucking laundry. But you came here because you were looking for something different.

“Each of my acts is the CEO of their own company. I don’t run the company; I’m here to advise.”

You also learn along the way about the balance between you and the artist, and how to work together. With me, each of my acts is the CEO of their own company. I don’t run the company; I’m here to advise.

But I should always, always have a vote. You can override my vote, but the day that you don’t want to know what I think about it, is probably the day you should find yourself a new manager. Because believe me, I’m not in the business of sitting around making the same mistakes that I made 25 years ago, just because you want to give it a try.


Centtrip Music already works with many of the world’s largest artists and is recognised as a leading provider of FX support and banking solutions to the music industry. The Centtrip Music account specialises in providing transparent foreign exchange (FX) rates, payments and expense management to global artists, managers, labels, promoters, collection societies and music industry accountants. It comes with a Centtrip-prepaid Mastercard which holds 14 currencies simultaneously and is accepted worldwide.Music Business Worldwide

Columbia Records ups Jay Schumer to Senior Vice President of Marketing

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/columbia-records-ups-jay-schumer-to-senior-vice-president-of-marketing/

Sony-owned Columbia Records has appointed Jay Schumer as Senior Vice President of Marketing.

Schumer will head up Columbia’s East Coast Marketing operations from New York and reports to Jenifer Mallory, General Manager for Columbia Records.

Most recently, Schumer was Vice President of Marketing for Columbia.

In 2013, Schumer was appointed Vice President of Marketing and has since spearheaded campaigns for artists including Tyler, The Creator, Russ, HAIM, LCD Soundsystem, N*E*R*D, Lil Peep, The Internet, Bring Me The Horizon, Foster The People, and others

During his tenure at Sony/Columbia, Schumer has held a variety of positions within the Sales and Marketing departments.

He started as an assistant on the Columbia Sales team and quickly moved up within the department, specializing in breaking new and developing artists on the roster.

“I’m certain Jay will thrive in his new role continuing to drive strategy and lead the wider team to develop cutting edge campaigns for our artists.”

Jenifer Mallory, Columbia Records

“Jay is an incredibly creative marketing executive with a very intuitive understanding of the business,” stated Jenifer Mallory, General Manager for Columbia Records.

“His deep knowledge and passion for music as well as his years of experience make him a powerful marketing force at Columbia.

“I’m certain he will thrive in his new role continuing to drive strategy and lead the wider team to develop cutting edge campaigns for our artists.”

“I look forward to building breakthrough marketing initiatives that directly impact music fans and continue to achieve new heights for our artists.”

Jay Schumer

Schumer added: “I’m very grateful to Jenifer Mallory and Ron Perry for this opportunity.

“I’ve been able to grow from the ground up at Columbia while working with an incredible array of artists alongside the most inspiring team in the business.

“I look forward to building breakthrough marketing initiatives that directly impact music fans and continue to achieve new heights for our artists.”Music Business Worldwide

‘Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever make a living out of music.’

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/clarence-spalding-never-in-my-wildest-dreams-did-i-think-i-would-ever-make-a-living-out-of-music/

MBW’s World’s Greatest Managers series profiles the best artist managers in the global business. This time, we speak to Clarence Spalding, a partner in Maverick and the founder of Spalding Entertainment – home to country megastars like Jason Aldean, Rascal Flatts, Kix Brooks, Brooks & Dunn and many more. The World’s Greatest Managers is supported by Centtrip Music, the FX and banking solutions provider – which helps artists, managers and music businesses obtain an optimum currency exchange deal.


At one point, MBW asks Clarence Spalding if he was always destined to work specifically in country music.

His reply, delivered in a suitably southern drawl: “Have you paid any attention to this fucking accent?”

He laughs as he says it, and goes on to admit that it’s not as dumb a question as it sounds. “To be honest with you, I listened to no country growing up. My father, every Saturday afternoon, would watch The Porter Wagoner Show. Me and my brothers would walk into the room: Holy shit, that’s on again, no thanks – and just turn around and walk right out.

“We were listening to rock music, the Stones, the Beatles. But I was also listening to Al Green, to Ike and Tina; and then later on I was listening to Electric Light Orchestra and things like that.”

His interest in country was finally awakened by the genre’s ‘outlaw’ movement of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. You can see why.

Spalding’s a hugely successful music business exec, managing, amongst others, one of the biggest mainstream country acts in the world, Jason Aldean. But he’s far from conventional or cautious. No outlaw, perhaps, but no sheriff either. And a hell of a straight shooter.

Here, Spalding talks honestly about his life, his shortcomings, his breakthrough moments, about the music business in general and country music in particular.

Having (literally) made his name with Spalding Entertainment, he is now part of the worldwide Maverick management team and, as anyone who has spent any time with him will testify, is definitely not the outfit’s country cousin.

There’s no denying his roots, though, or that accent, both of which go back to the State of Kentucky, and a town with a licence for liquor…


How did you get your first break in the business?

Well, I’m from a small town in Kentucky. And that town happened to be dead in the middle of a wet county, surrounded by dry counties. Because of that, we had four nightclubs, which all did live music.

I was a paperboy and I delivered papers to this club, the Club Cherry. One day, there was a band sound checking, and the guy who ran the place said, ‘Sit up here for a second and listen to this; you’ll remember this for the rest of your life.’

“I thought I was going to be in corporate America.”

So I sat on the bar and listened to this woman singing with this band. I got home, told my parents about it, and they asked me who the act was. I said I thought they were called something like Ike and Tina Turner…

I continued to fall in love with music and then, when I went away to college, I started booking bands. I had a little agency to book bands that weren’t worth a shit, but I thought they were great. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever make a living out of music.

I got a degree in communications and I thought I was going to be in corporate America. But, one thing led to another and I ended up managing a nightclub.


Was that in Kentucky?

In Lexington, Kentucky, yeah. There was a group based there called Exile who had had a big hit in 1978 with Kiss You All Over [a US No. 1, written by Chinn and Chapman].

Their pop days were over – they were playing country and they went on to have 10 [US country] No.1s – and they were managed by a gentleman by the name of Jim Morey.

Jim and his partner, Sandy Gallin, managed Cher, Neil Diamond and Dolly Parton and the Pointer Sisters; they were probably one of the largest management companies in the world at the time.

“If this guy from Nebraska can make a living at this, then maybe some dumb ass from Kentucky can too!”

Jim was from somewhere in Nebraska and that’s when it started dawning on me: if this guy from Nebraska can make a living at this, then maybe some dumb ass from Kentucky can too!

Jim really took me under his wing and I ended up going on the road with Exile. I was their tour manager, and Jim would invite me to Los Angeles, let me sit in on various things, and I just fell in love with the whole business.

Eventually, I met a guy by the name of Stan Moress. Stan was a Los Angeles manager, but he also managed country acts – including K.T. Oslin and Eddie Rabbitt – so he decided that he was going to move to Nashville. I begged Stan for a job, but he simply didn’t have one. And then, one day, out of the blue, he calls me and goes, ‘You know that job you want? You’ve got it.’

I went from Kentucky to Nashville the next day and lived with Stan for a month, until I got my family down to Nashville. That was really the start of me truly being a manager. Stan and allowed me to come in and do day-to-day on, Eddie Rabbitt and K.T. Oslin.

I basically got a PhD from Stan.


What did he teach you?

He was just a great mentor. He taught us about the business and about artist management, and I learned that most of it is about personalities.

I remember telling somebody that I felt like everybody I was dealing with in the business who was successful, they must be so fucking smart. I always thought, Where did they go to school?

“I understand people are afraid, they’re concerned about their career, which is a very tentative thing.”

And as you move up you go, Eh, not so much. It’s more about the people and the personalities. I don’t consider myself brilliant by any stretch, but I know people, and I feel like I can bypass a couple of steps in talking to them because I’ve sat on the bus with people who have been in the same position. And I understand people are afraid, they’re concerned about their career, which is a very tentative thing.

It’s all great when you’re that 22-year-old artist who’s written three songs, and all three of them hit at same time and it feels like fucking magic dust has been sprinkled on you. Only now, [the industry] wants three more, and those next three are so much harder, because it took you 22 years to write the first three and now you’ve got four months to write the next three.


So you ended up in Nashville. What’s your next big break?

I got a phone call from a guy name of Bob Titley. Bob had signed this duo named Brooks & Dunn (pictured inset), and he felt like he needed some help.

Eventually, I went to see him and he explained they wanted me. I told Bob, I’ll come to work for you for three years, and at the end of three years, if you don’t feel I’m a partner, I’m going to leave.

After three years, Brooks & Dunn blew up, it became bigger and bigger, we were both having a great time and Bob brought me in as a partner. Then, after year 10, he decided he didn’t want to do it anymore.


What was that like for you?

I was comfortable. I mean, I was sad because Bob Titley, and I mean this, he was probably 10 times smarter than I will ever be.

I’m emotional and I cuss like a sailor at any opportunity, and then he would walk into the room and say, ‘What are you so upset about?’ I’d go, ‘This, this and this… and this!’ And Bob would say, ‘Well, have you ever thought about looking at it like this?’

At which point I’d I’d go, ‘Fuck no! I’m too fucking pissed off to look at it like that!’ But then, of course, I’d realize he was right.

When he quit, I started my own thing. And that’s when we went from Titley Spalding to Spalding Entertainment, in 2003.


Who was on the roster at that point, when you were finally flying solo?

It was probably Brooks & Dunn, Terri Clark and maybe Chely Wright was still on the roster at that time.


What becomes Spalding’s big break, as a standalone company?

Irving Azoff called me; he and Howard [Kaufman] were putting Front Line back together. I didn’t know Irving; I had met him, but I didn’t know him. And when Irving Azoff calls, it’s heady stuff. Irving Azoff knows my fucking name? I’m already three steps up from I was yesterday, I promise you that.

But I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be in another thing. I can’t remember how long it had been, but I hadn’t had my company that long, and I was doing was doing pretty well on my own.

But Irving was persistent, and I entered into an agreement with he and Howard – and we were Front Line. I had a blast.

“Irving Azoff knows my fucking name? I’m already three steps up from I was yesterday, I promise you that.”

I made a comment to Irving right at the beginning, I said, ‘I don’t know if I need you, Irving. I feel like that if there’s something I want to sign in Nashville, I can do that; I can go up against you here.’

And he goes, ‘You can, you can. I can hear you now, talking [to artists] about how busy Irving Azoff is. But here’s the thing, when I come to Nashville, everybody knows who I am, and when you come to Los Angeles, not a fucking soul knows who you are.’ [laughs]

There was this side of me that really wanted to be upset, but I couldn’t be, because it was so fucking true. You’re this fish in a small pond in Nashville, people know who you are; but still you’re not even the biggest fish in this small pond!

And that really kind of pushed me over the edge of going, Okay, I want to play with the big boys; I want to see how I stack up against everybody else, and it was a great move for me.


What did you learn from Irving?

I took a certain type of tenacity from Irving. He’s incredibly smart, but he’s also incredibly tenacious. Everybody’s heard all the stories about Irving, but I never experienced anything negative with him.

“Everybody’s heard all the stories about Irving, but I never experienced anything negative with him.”

He was just a great mentor. He was very helpful with anything that I needed. All of a sudden the world became open to me in regard to having Irving picking up the phone, and making an introduction to attorneys in New York, in Los Angeles… you know, ‘This is my guy in Nashville; he wants to try to do this; I would like you to help me.’

There’s no one in the music business – and not many outside the music business – who doesn’t know the name Irving Azoff. He’s still an incredible friend of mine and I still love seeing him.


And then the next step takes you to Live Nation…

That’s right, Irving sold to Live Nation. He and Michael Rapino became the head honchos and I was a part of Live Nation for I forget how many years.

Then one day Michael calls me and starts talking about… Oh, in that time, by the way, I had signed Jason Aldean, I had signed Rascal Flatts, I signed Darius Rucker; my roster had grown and grown. But Michael called me one night and said Guy Oseary wants to talk to you; I’m going to let him explain it to you, but there’s no pressure, it’s more of an introduction.

The next day, Guy calls me, he made it clear knew all about me, and we started talking. He was managing Madonna and U2 and whatever else at the time, but he was spending a lot of time in Silicon Valley and he was talking about his experiences in the tech world.

“Michael called me one night and said Guy Oseary wants to talk to you; I’m going to let him explain it to you, but there’s no pressure, it’s more of an introduction.”

He said, ‘In tech, you bring your friends in; you have a great idea and it’s like, Do you want to get in on this with me? And I want to apply the same principles to the management world. We all feel like we’re at odds with each other all the time, but I would like to put together a group of like-minded people, whose only thing is to help each other.’

So I flew to Los Angeles, I met with him and I was very intrigued by the idea. At the time I had Randy Goodman, who now runs Sony Nashville, working with me. I’m walking him through my meeting with Guy and I could see he was intrigued as well.

So we went back out there, we talked it all through again with Guy, I got in the van with Randy and I said, ‘Okay, tell me what’s wrong with this?’ He looked at me and said, ‘Nothing; there’s nothing wrong with this. This is a great opportunity.’

And so we started Maverick and it’s been the best time of my management career.


Why is that?

I have partners all over the world that I can call on – and that I do call on. If I’m touring Darius in Europe, which I am, I call [Paul McCartney’s manager] Scott Rodger (pictured inset). I can use his office in London and get people to help me on the ground there. And it’s the same with Adam Leber and Larry Rudolph – and the same the other way round; if they have Miley or Steven Tyler coming to town [Nashville], and they need help, we’re here to help them.

Larry had Britney in Las Vegas, he actually lives there, and I was trying to structure a deal for Brooks & Dunn at Caesar’s, so I called him. And he just gave me so much insight into that world and that kind of deal.

“It’s like going to a great university, having your pick of the best professors on campus.”

As a one off, could I do it? Sure. But trying to look down the road three years and to figure out how to make this a very successful run, both financially and in terms of it being an enjoyable experience for the principals, he was able to sit me down and go, ‘This is what I did with Britney.’ And things just click and you go, Okay, that makes a lot of sense – and by the way I would have never thought of that on my own.

I have all these very, very successful managers and I get to glean all this information from them. It’s like going to a great university, having your pick of the best professors on campus, getting to spend as much time with them as you want and asking them any questions you want.


How do you read the health of country music in general at the moment and its journey to becoming a more global phenomenon?

I think that country music is as healthy as it’s been. We’re catching up in streaming, we were late adopters, but we’re catching up.

For a long time it was still Wal-Mart and Target and Kmart where they [country music fans] were getting their music. Then it was SiriusXM, and now we’re very quickly catching up. So that’s great news for us, it’s great news for our labels, it’s great news for our younger artists and I think it’s great news in terms of spreading country music worldwide.

I do think that there are going to be acts that are going to lend themselves to the world and there are going to be other acts that are going to have a limit. And I think part of that limit is what [you] write about. If you’re writing about a rural lifestyle and, you know, a dog sitting in the front seat of your pickup truck, there are areas of the world that just don’t understand what that is. They didn’t grow up in South Georgia living that lifestyle.


Do you think that country gets a fair crack of the whip from streaming services today, or do hip-hop and pop tend to dominate in those areas, not just in terms of the listeners, but in terms of the levels of priority or otherwise that you get from inside those companies?

I think they have dominated, but we’re starting to get a fair crack at it. As always, you follow the money, and when this format starts really catching up, you’re going to see further change. Whether you call it ‘fair’ or ‘not fair’, it’s a business. And when the business of country is good, then country on Spotify and Apple and Pandora and all these places is going to be huge.

“Whether you call it ‘fair’ or ‘not fair’, it’s a business. And when the business of country is good, then country on Spotify and Apple and Pandora and all these places is going to be huge.”

I look at Pandora and that seems to be a place that registers early and registers big for country; Jason Aldean is the top streaming country act on Pandora, over a billion streams.

Once the country music fans get more and more comfortable with streaming and with getting their music on their phones… the kids growing up are already there. Plus, they’re going to go to a Jason Aldean show one night and a Drake show the next; I don’t think it matters to them.

That little bit older demo, who historically we have depended on, they haven’t yet gotten into [streaming] fully, but every day it gets bigger and bigger. I see the numbers and I hear the label heads talk about the increased consumption. There’s nobody in Nashville whining about this; we all see it growing.


Do you think that sometimes the rest of the industry sees country as its own independent, walled state? Less open to collaboration and crossover – and almost happy with that situation?

Maybe there have been walls around country more than other genres, but I think that’s changing every day.

Country music is a broad church: it’s Jason Aldean, it’s Alan Jackson, it’s Eric Church, it’s Florida Georgia Line (pictured), it’s Miranda Lambert; you’re going to find something here that you like.

If you love urban music, or you love soul music, there are artists in [the country] format that you’re going to fall in love with if you give them three minutes. Just give them three minutes – and I think that’s easier now we have streaming.

The labels in Los Angeles and New York, they know what’s going on down here; the artists that are really paying attention understand what’s going on down here; and the managers who are looking for some really creative pairings, they know what’s going on down here.

There’s a CMT Crossroads coming up with Zac Brown and Shawn Mendes. Now, let me tell you, not even in my biggest drug days would I have thought of that, but I guarantee you, when you watch it you’re going to go, Holy Shit, that makes a lot of sense.


Along those lines, you mentioned that the Big Loud guys have got a very outward-looking mentality. Can you talk about that deal, how it came about and how it’s working out? [Maverick acquired Florida Georgia Line’s managers, Big Loud, last year, for an undisclosed sum.]

Well, Seth [England] and ‘Chief’ [Kevin Zaruk] they’re young guys, they’re aggressive, they have FGL [Florida Georgia Line] and they’re making a commitment to spending time in Los Angeles and to co-writing with pop writers – and sometimes that’s what it takes.

I love both of them; they’re incredibly smart. So, when the opportunity came for them to come into Maverick … I’m a 110% supporter of bringing in people like that.

“When you’re sitting at the Maverick table, I want you to deserve that seat, not get it because your fucking brother’s a big act or whatever.”

When you’re sitting at the Maverick table, I want you to deserve that seat, not get it because your fucking brother’s a big act or whatever. You should get a seat because everybody else around that table thinks you’re a great manager.

You need to bring something to the party and Seth and Chief bring an incredible amount to Maverick.


In your experience, how has the line of demarcation changed between labels and management, both in terms of the shift of power, but also the shift in responsibility and workload?

I certainly hear people going, ‘I’m doing everything that the label used to do’ – and I think there is some of that. But I look at every label we work with – we work with four different labels here in town – and I feel like I just have an incredible partnership with all of them.

There’s no team on earth that doesn’t have some links that could be strengthened. I hope we bring to each label the ability to strengthen certain areas, but I think that works vice versa.

“People say every day, ‘I don’t need a label.’ Well I don’t recognise that term; I need them and I want to be in business with them.”

There are incredibly smart and aggressive people at these labels, people that make us think. I tell my staff all the time that we’re blessed here because every morning we wake up and we get to play in a major league ballpark. We have very big acts, and with that comes an incredible amount of responsibility – to be aggressive and to be forward-thinking and to really be paying attention, every day, to their careers.

To do that, you need to surround yourself with incredibly smart people. And that way I get to hear a take on Jason Aldean’s career that might be different than mine, and that’s great.

People say every day, ‘I don’t need a label.’ Well I don’t recognise that term; I need them and I want to be in business with them.


Let’s talk about Jason for a minute; how did that relationship start?

I think it was 11 or 12 years ago. I didn’t know Jason. I’d heard his music some, and I liked what I’d heard. And then one day I get a phone call from a friend of mine named Kevin Neal, who was at Buddy Lee Attractions at the time [Neal is now a partner at WME].

He told me Jason had let go his manager and would I be interested? Oh yeah, I’d be interested… He was on tour and was playing Jacksonville, Florida, the next night, so I booked a flight and headed down.

“Jason took some other meetings, but he decided to come here, which we were very excited about.”

At the time, Chris Parr was working at CMT [Country Music Television] here in Nashville. He and I had been talking about doing something together, but I kept telling him, Chris, I got to sign an act for you to work on; I just can’t hire people for the sake of hiring them!

About an hour before my flight took off, Chris calls and he says to me, I heard the Jason Aldean fired his manager, and man would I love to work on that. I said, ‘Well, wish me luck because I’m flying to Jacksonville to meet him and I’m going to make you part of the pitch.’

Jason took some other meetings, but he decided to come here, which we were very excited about, and I brought Chris in. And you don’t know, you never really know for sure how things are going to work out. If I did know, I’d be sitting on an island somewhere. But I thought there was definitely something there.


He was still on his first [eponymous] album [2005] cycle at that point, right?

Yep, and getting ready to go into his second album [Relentless, 2007]. It’s an interesting thing, because he was on Broken Bow, who had an office here, but Benny Brown, who owned it, lived in Redding, California. And he was the biggest car dealer in Northern California.

He just loved music, he wanted a record label, so he started Broken Bow.

“All of a sudden I’m dealing with a guy who didn’t know nor give a shit about corporate America.”

It was interesting for me because everybody I dealt with was raised in a record label. They started off as an intern and rose up through the corporate ranks, and all of a sudden I’m dealing with a guy who didn’t know nor give a shit about corporate America.

He’s Benny Brown, the car dealer! But, you know what, it worked.


A lot of people would have thought that the new manager comes in and one of the things that you want to do is get a bigger, better record contract with a bigger, better record company. But that hasn’t happened. You’re clearly very happy with Broken Bow. You must have had other options…

Yeah, of course. Everybody in town wants Jason Aldean! And there was this thought of mine: how do I get a more traditional label, I guess, and a better deal?

But Jason was, I think, three days away from going back to Macon, Georgia and start driving a Pepsi cola truck for a living when Benny Brown made him an offer.
So we were in that contract when we took over management, and the more that Chris and I dealt with Broken Bow, what we saw was a very passionate team. When they signed Jason, they didn’t really have any gas in the engine, they just had one act, and that was Jason Aldean. So they became the Little Label That Could.

We then find ourselves working hand in hand with these people, saying to each other, ‘You know what, they’re really, really good at what they do. They just happen to be independent and be owned by the biggest car dealer in Northern California.’

When you say that out loud, it doesn’t make sense, but it did for us.

When it first came time to renegotiate, I went to Jason, we had a conversation, and he said, I really want to stay with Benny, I want to stay with Broken Bow; I want to be loyal to the guys that gave me a chance. There was a ‘but’ somewhere in there, of course. As in, But if they don’t… etc. etc. then we’ll have to go.

So I went to Benny and I said, ‘Look, I’m not going to shop this round town. I want to talk to you first and let’s see if we can work out a deal.’ And we did. And, much to the chagrin of three or four label heads in this town who had felt for sure that it would fall apart, it didn’t and we’re still there and still very happy there.


Then, of course, not very much later Benny sells to BMG in a nine-figure deal. Has that made much difference?

I think it’s made a difference. We love Zach [Katz, president, repertoire & marketing, BMG US].

Zach is a corporate guy in the music business, but he’s passionate, he used to be a manager. It’s good. Benny was ready to leave, he was ready to sell – and he could have sold to somebody that we hated, but thankfully he didn’t.


What did you make of Jason as a person when you first sat across the table from him?

Well, when I first take a meeting with somebody, I pray that there’s some part of us that’s cut out of the same cloth, some type of common ground. But, also, for me, I want to fall in love with the music first; if I fall in love with the artist [before the music], it’s always terrible, it’s fucked up.

I’ve had artists that I love [making] music that I hate. So, now, I hope that I love the music and can then like the artist. In this instance, I loved what Jason was doing, because Chris and I really felt like that there was a Jason Aldean lane that nobody else was in.

“Jason Aldean knew who he was and knew the direction he wanted to go. I think for an artist, you can ask no more, right?”

And also, to realise, Hey, you’re a good person and you’re going to work your ass off for us; that’s really important. I always say if I’m working harder than you [the artist], there’s something wrong with this project. I just really believed that Jason was that kid that was going to step up and work his ass off.

I always really had a true sense that Jason Aldean knew who he was and knew the direction he wanted to go. I think for an artist, you can ask no more, right?

I used to bring him songs, and I’d have convinced myself that this song or that song is fucking Bridge Over Troubled Water and Let it be, blended together. I take it to Jason and he goes, ‘Yeah, that’s a good song.’ I go, ‘A good song?!’ He goes, ‘Hey, it’s a good song Clarence, I just don’t hear myself singing it.’

What a great thing to say; it’s like, Okay, somebody else might sing this song, but I’m not going to sing this son of a bitch, I don’t care how many times you play it for me [laughs], because it’s not me right now.


Do you think that’s key to the consistency of his success? Because it’s been 10 years now and the last four albums have all gone to No.1…

Oh that’s nothing but pure fucking management right there [laughs]. I’m kidding, don’t quote me on that!

No, you’re right, it’s not that I can sit here or Jason would sit here, and tell you that every album is the greatest record ever made. But what we can say is that every album represents who Jason Aldean was at that particular time.

I think that’s a real ability: to find and record songs that the consumer thinks he must have written, because it’s from the heart. And yet he doesn’t write. He will hear a song that could well be a hit, but he will say, ‘That’s not me, that’s not where I am at this time.’ And I love that about him.


Can you talk a little bit about the success Jason has had over the past year?

It’s been a fantastic year, and everything goes back to that album [Rearview Town]. You go into launch and you book a tour and you have a great plan. But you need great music to go with it, and with this record a great warmth comes over everybody who listens to it; it has so many different layers and colors and flavors to it.

Everyone knows, there was this terrible tragedy [Aldean was on stage in Las Vegas when a gunman murdered 58 people at the Route 91 Festival], and that will always be part of who we are now. So this record and this tour was a new beginning in a way.

What happened will never be forgotten, and nor will the victims, not by Jason or by any of our crew who were there that night. But it won’t define him either, and that’s why this record was such an important one, and why he really appreciates how much people love it, and that he gets to play it for his fans.


Does this round of success feel different because of what happened?

I think you find yourself feeling more grown up; does that make sense? You go through things in your life and they peel away different layers of your personality to reveal the truth. In this case there were 40-odd people in the Jason Aldean camp that went through this together.

And then Jason allowed himself to go back out there. He and I and his wife flew out, a week to the day of it happening, and we visited three hospitals. He was dreading it, I was dreading it, and it was everything that you would think it would be and more. It was just heartbreaking and beyond.

We both walked out of there and he looked at me and said, ‘That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I’m so glad I did it.’

We didn’t announce we were coming, the hospital staff just said someone would like to come say hi to you, if it’s okay. And so when he walked into the room, it was just such an emotional thing; lots of tears, lots of tears.

“I saw a very, very compassionate man, not an artist, a very compassionate man coming in and struggling, because he couldn’t fix anything.”

I tell this story because the whole thing affected me, but also because I saw a different Jason Aldean in that room. I saw a very, very compassionate man, not an artist, a very compassionate man coming in and struggling, because he couldn’t fix anything: I can’t bring you back to life, I can’t heal that wound. All I can do is tell you how, sorry I am, and by the way, I was there with you, with my wife and with my unborn child.

There was a lady on one of the floors who was in a coma and her family asked Jason to come up. So Jason went into the room and he did a video for her: Hey, I shared your room today, and when you wake up I want you to come out and see me on the road and we’re going to have a beer together.

Honestly, we didn’t know if she would live or die. Thankfully, she comes out of the coma, and six months later, she lives in Phoenix, Jason was doing a show there and he went over to see her. He didn’t tell anybody, he just went over to tell her, ‘Hey, you don’t remember me, but I was in your room, I visited you and now here we are.’ And then he invited her to the Academy of Country Music Awards, where it was a pleasure to have us as our guest.

So I just think… it’s not that I didn’t know he was a compassionate man, but as a manager, sometimes you don’t get to see that side of your artist. I have a lot more respect for him as a man, forget everything else, just as a man, than I did even before going through all that.


Final question: what advice would you give to young managers today?

You can’t be afraid to sit down and tell your artists the truth. And sometimes that’s really, really hard.

When, I’m signing acts now, I tell them – and sometimes they think it’s a joke, but it’s really not – that I’m an acquired taste. Because I’m going to tell you the truth. I’m never going to be mean-spirited, but I’m going to tell you the truth, because you are going to pay me an incredible amount of money, and for that money, you should want the truth.

I go, Look, we can drop the commission and I’ll blow smoke up your ass all day because I won’t care! In fact, for 5% you can go out and get somebody to pick up your fucking laundry. But you came here because you were looking for something different.

“Each of my acts is the CEO of their own company. I don’t run the company; I’m here to advise.”

You also learn along the way about the balance between you and the artist, and how to work together. With me, each of my acts is the CEO of their own company. I don’t run the company; I’m here to advise.

But I should always, always have a vote. You can override my vote, but the day that you don’t want to know what I think about it, is probably the day you should find yourself a new manager. Because believe me, I’m not in the business of sitting around making the same mistakes that I made 25 years ago, just because you want to give it a try.


Centtrip Music already works with many of the world’s largest artists and is recognised as a leading provider of FX support and banking solutions to the music industry. The Centtrip Music account specialises in providing transparent foreign exchange (FX) rates, payments and expense management to global artists, managers, labels, promoters, collection societies and music industry accountants. It comes with a Centtrip-prepaid Mastercard which holds 14 currencies simultaneously and is accepted worldwide.Music Business Worldwide

The Canadian cannabis producer that was in talks with Coca-Cola to make a CBD-infused drink is reportedly targeting a US IPO in October

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/canadian-cannabis-producer-talks-coca-152240848.html

REUTERS/Nir Elias

  • Aurora Cannabis is planning for a US initial public offering in October, the company’s chief corporate officer said.
  • The Canadian cannabis producer was reportedly in talks with Coca-Cola to make a CBD-infused drink.
  • Marijuana stocks have been red-hot as of late.
  • Watch Aurora Cannabis trade in real time here.

Aurora Cannabis, the Canadian cannabis producer that was reportedly in talks with Coca-Cola to make a drink infused with CBD, one of the nonpsychoactive compounds found in cannabis, — that didn’t lead to a deal — is targeting a US stock-market debut in October, a report says. 

“We’re targeting the month of October to establish a US listing,” Cam Battley, Aurora’s chief corporate officer, told the Financial Post on Tuesday. 

An initial public offering on US markets has become more attractive in recent weeks as cannabis stocks have seen mouthwatering gains. It all started when Canopy Growth received a $4 billion investment from Constellation Brands, the beverage maker behind Corona beer and Svedka vodka, sending its stock up more than 22% in a single day.

And rival Tilray has seen its stock surge more than 900% following its July IPO. It was recently boosted by word the company had received clearance to export medical marijuana to the United States for a clinical drug trial. 

But a listing won’t come without some risk. A Politico report published last week said that workers of Canadian cannabis companies could face a lifetime travel ban to the US

“If you work for the industry, that is grounds for inadmissibility,” Todd Owen, the executive assistant commissioner for the US Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Field Operations, told Politico.


Markets Insider

NOW WATCH: One bite from this tick could ruin red meat for the rest of your life

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Downtown supports The A&R Awards 2018, backing Songwriter Of The Year category

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/downtown-supports-the-ar-awards-2018/

Downtown is the latest company to sponsor a category at this year’s A&R Awards – and it’s a biggie.

The fast-growing publisher has put its weight behind the Songwriter of the Year award at the event, which takes place at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, London, on the evening of Tuesday, November 6.

The UK-focused A&R Awards is presented by Music Business Worldwide in association with Abbey Road Studios.

The finalists in the Songwriter category are: Camille Purcell, Fred Gibson, Jamie Scott, Janee Bennett, Jimmy Napes, Joel Pott and Steve Mac.

Downtown’s UK Managing Director Roberto Neri said: “Downtown is extremely proud to sponsor the Songwriter Award for the third consecutive year at the MBW 2018 A&R Awards.

“DOWNTOWN IS EXTREMELY PROUD TO SPONSOR THE SONGWRITER AWARD FOR THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR AT THE MBW 2018 A&R AWARDS.”

Roberto Neri, Downtown

“We consistently applaud the skill and craft of songwriters at Downtown and we highly appreciate the work Tim and his team do to recognise the value they bring to us all. Songwriters and their overall importance to the music industry has never been greater.”

Other sponsors of the A&R Awards include Instrumental, which is backing the Major Label category, Centtrip, squarely behind Manager of the Year, and, of course, the event’s headline partner, Abbey Road.

The A&R Awards 2018 is now completely sold out.Music Business Worldwide

Downtown supports The A&R Awards 2018, backing Songwriter Of The Year category

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/downtown-supports-the-ar-awards-2018/

Downtown is the latest company to sponsor a category at this year’s A&R Awards – and it’s a biggie.

The fast-growing publisher has put its weight behind the Songwriter of the Year award at the event, which takes place at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms, London, on the evening of Tuesday, November 6.

The UK-focused A&R Awards is presented by Music Business Worldwide in association with Abbey Road Studios.

The finalists in the Songwriter category are: Camille Purcell, Fred Gibson, Jamie Scott, Janee Bennett, Jimmy Napes, Joel Pott and Steve Mac.

Downtown’s UK Managing Director Roberto Neri said: “Downtown is extremely proud to sponsor the Songwriter Award for the third consecutive year at the MBW 2018 A&R Awards.

“DOWNTOWN IS EXTREMELY PROUD TO SPONSOR THE SONGWRITER AWARD FOR THE THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR AT THE MBW 2018 A&R AWARDS.”

Roberto Neri, Downtown

“We consistently applaud the skill and craft of songwriters at Downtown and we highly appreciate the work Tim and his team do to recognise the value they bring to us all. Songwriters and their overall importance to the music industry has never been greater.”

Other sponsors of the A&R Awards include Instrumental, which is backing the Major Label category, Centtrip, squarely behind Manager of the Year, and, of course, the event’s headline partner, Abbey Road.

The A&R Awards 2018 is now completely sold out.Music Business Worldwide

I Bought an Olive Garden Unlimited Pasta Pass and It’s Going to Save Me $10,000. Here’s My Master Plan

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/bought-olive-garden-unlimited-pasta-170011600.html

After three years of trying and failing to attain Olive Garden’s coveted Never Ending Pasta Pass, Jeff Berman finally scored one last year thanks to luck and a solid internet connection. Once he got the $100 card—allowing him to eat as much pasta as he wanted, whenever he wanted over the eight-week Never Ending Pasta Bowl promotion period—he knew he had to do something special. So he started blogging about his adventures, documenting each highly customizable meal, from fettuccine and angel hair alfredo to a makeshift “triple threat” breadstick sandwich stacked with grilled chicken, crispy chicken, crispy shrimp, and sauces. He ate it all with a smile on his face — and became an Olive Garden all-star in the process.

“I didn’t even know about the record until I was over halfway through,” Berman, 36, told MONEY. He’s referring to Alan Martin, aka the “Pasta Preacher,” who ate 115 meals straight at the chain in 2014 with the inaugural pasta pass. “I did more research. I started getting some traction, and had people reaching out. I was thinking, I gotta step it up.”

Berman achieved his goal, and then some: Doing remote IT work in Inverness, Florida, that provided flexibility in his schedule, he ate 140 meals in 56 days, saving a total of $2,164.89 at the Italian chain. He won the admiration of Olive Garden fans everywhere, and even traveled to grab a bite with Martin. Onlookers, however, were skeptical.

“Some people would say that’s the most obnoxious thing on earth,” Berman says. “I would agree. I’m as far away from normal as you can go. I’ve been wanting this for years. I’ve been going to Olive Garden since I was a little kid. One of my first dates was there. You really gotta love the craziness to do what I did. I really hope somebody this year beats my record.”

Pasta Pass Mania

Olive Garden’s annual Never Ending Pasta Pass is one of the hardest tickets around. The new round of 23,000 cards sold out in less than a minute this year, as they have before. But the restaurant added a twist, also offering 1,000 customers a $300 annual pasta pass that’s basically a license for Olive Garden superfans to dedicate themselves to pasta 365 days a year.

Berman obtained the regular pass, though he won’t be able to use it nearly as much this year since he’ll be working in an office. But Martin, who’s been gifted with pasta passes by Olive Garden since his first year, was lucky enough to snag the annual card online.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am… I’m going to get $10,000 or $11,000 out of that card because I will eat there at least 10 times a week,” says Martin, 53, who works as a minister in Burlington, North Carolina. “I’m the kind of guy who loves a free meal. I love a discount. I eat with a coupon everywhere I go, or I don’t eat… I’m wound that way. I’m a normal guy — I’m not crazy, but I like a value.”


Alan Martin meets Jeff Berman at the Olive Garden.

Pasta 3 Times a Day, Every Day

The pasta pass may provide quite a deal, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Both Berman and Martin ate at Olive Garden multiple times a day, every day to achieve their goals, helped by the fact that the chain has locations minutes from their homes. Martin estimates that he saved $1,837 his first year with the pasta pass (he even traveled to Italy on Olive Garden’s dime another year).

“When the doors opened at 11 a.m., I got lunch at 11, then maybe when the kids were out of school, I would get a lunch with them. I’d eat there at dinner and then there were a lot of times I’d go back up around nine and eat again,” Martin says, adding that he would generally rotate between tomato sauce and creamy alfredo. “The third week of eating on the pasta pass, your body is like, ‘Okay, no more.’ If you just go through that third week, your body will start dragging you to the Olive Garden… You can adjust to craving whatever you feed it.”

Berman was insistent about switching things up every time he used his pass. He incorporated themes for each week of his blogged consumption, in the process discovering that he loves the mushroom sauce, which he wouldn’t have otherwise tried. “It made me excited for the food,” he says. “I never got bored.”

How Pasta Pass Users Lose Weight

Berman dealt with another struggle last year. He had lost 70 pounds earlier in 2017, before getting the pasta pass, going from 220 pounds to 170. “I’m a big pizza fan, and I would eat a whole pizza to myself,” Berman says. After getting into the habit of working out regularly and cutting back in his diet, “I didn’t want to throw it away,” he says.

So he stuck to a fairly strict regimen while using the pasta pass: He continued hitting the gym and allotted himself 2,600 calories a day (Olive Garden posts nutritional information for its food, which he diligently tracked). After a first meal that included complimentary breadsticks and soup plus a full-size pasta dish, “I didn’t feel that great,” he says.

He quickly switched over to ordering only a refill portion, which is significantly smaller in size, and avoiding the breadsticks for the most part. (Refills come with the pasta passes and the Never Ending Pasta Bowl deal, which any customer can order for $10.99 during the promotion period.)

Berman actually lost two pounds through the course of his two-month pasta saga. And Martin, a Southerner who’s used to regularly eating barbecue and burgers, has similarly never experienced any ballooning in weight during his Olive Garden experiment.

“A lot of people have the perception that if you’re eating Olive Garden, you’re going to gain weight. But it’s calories in, calories out,” Berman says. “After finishing the pasta pass, I got my blood work checked, and everything was within the normal range. I was surprised.”

That resulted in a lesson.

“One of the best quotes is from Oscar Wilde: ‘Everything in moderation, including moderation,’” Berman says. “I was really trying to live that mentality.”