Unknown Origins

Alan McGee on Artist & Label Management

June 22, 2021 Attitude. Imagination. Execution. Season 1 Episode 57
Unknown Origins
Alan McGee on Artist & Label Management
Show Notes Transcript

Culture catalysts make the invisible visible. They work behind the scenes to curate and influence a movement by assembling, cataloging, managing, and presenting the artistic and cultural importance of media, publications, and other expression venues. Fearless, charismatic, and bold risk takers see around the corner, embrace and expose unusual and unexpected themes and sources, and make bold statements about their passions and beliefs. 

Berry Gordy did precisely this for Motown. Brian Epstein did it with The Beatles, Andrew Oldham with The Rolling Stones, Andy Warhol with The Velvet Underground, Malcolm McLaren with the Sex Pistols, and Tony Wilson with Factory Records. These mavericks' passion for their craft paid off because they never feared provoking action that changed minds and created a cultural movement.

Alan McGee is an music industry entrepreneur, record label owner, and artist manager. He founded Creation Records in 1983 and nurtured multiple influential artists, including The Jesus & The Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, and Oasis, and brought them to the masses.   Alan provides perspective on his approach to creativity as an entrepreneur, artist and label manager.

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Roy Sharples:

Hello, I'm Roy Sharples, and welcome to the unknown origins podcast. Why are you listening to this podcast? Are you an industry expert looking for insights? are you growing your career? Or are you a dear friend, helping to spur your old power on? I created the unknown origins podcast to have the most inspiring conversations with creative industry personalities and experts about entrepreneurship, pop culture, art, music, film and fashion. Culture catalysts make the invisible visible. They work behind the scenes to curate and influence a movement by assembling, cataloging, managing, and presenting the artistic and cultural importance of media publications, and other expression venues. fearless, charismatic and bold risk takers see around the corner, embrace and expose on usual and unexpected themes and sources and make bold statements about their passions and beliefs. Betting God Gordy that precisely this for Motown, Brian Epstein did it with the Beatles, Andrew old him with the Rolling Stones on the Warhol with the Velvet Underground. Malcolm McLaren, with the Sex Pistols and Tony Wilson, with Factory Records. These Mavericks passion for their craft paid off because they never feared provoking action that changed minds and created a cultural movement. Alan McGee as a music industry, entrepreneur, record label owner and artist manager. He founded creation records in 1983, and nurtured multiple influential artists, including the Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, and all aces and brought them to the masses. Hello, and welcome, Alan. So what attracted you to becoming a record label and artist manager in the first place,

Alan McGee:

it was a gradual process. Man, it was like it was a started that I was just a music fan. never liked it, just to be honest, when I was growing up, you know, and, you know, I'm sort of became what I despised. Hopefully, I'm not the same as that person. But that's kind of why I stopped. I hated that whole manager thing. And you know, find them pompous and a ridiculous people. And then I kind of came to London to be a punk pop staff sort of thing and present band, played the road, London, and then I kind of started a club at the same time, and it started sailing, since about 1982 and 83, somewhere that was at 21. I'd come down to London when I was 19. And, and I suddenly realized I was quite good at cleaner water what nobody else was really that kid that was which was making it hard and felt a bit of a deal. So that's a false sign. I was actually an entrepreneur, I had no idea. And then a and then they, you know, I respond to Jesus and Mary Chain, a rocked up. And, you know, you know, they were amazing. And I was just like, Oh, you know, can I tell you? If you think I said caviar manager I said configure record. So the wait, yes. All right. And I started putting their records out and they put one saying go, and it absolutely completely fucking blew up. And immediately the majors were on them, but there were such awkward people. There they still are actually, but they were really awkward when they were younger. I'd really like you know, quite shy, awkward, cantankerous, you know, I mean, like, random as fuck. And I was vote nasty that could kind of deal with because that was what my family and my friends were like in Glasgow. So they were just like typical Glasgow kids that were just about firing mental. So I say become the manager. And one of the first things I did was, I phoned up the head of Warner Brothers and said, I've got this band where I think we're just starting to break in the NME and stuff like that. And he went, Oh, you're the hour monkey. That kind of vaguely here for this little guy. Pretty bowl shows which way too. I said, You know, I said this, the head of the publishing company said you Want to publish the band? How much do you want? And I just guessed, and I went 60 I didn't even know what publishing was. I had no idea what it really meant, right? But I knew you could get money for an asset of 60. And he was thinking more like 20 or a while but 40 and a way, yup, you're done. And then I put the phone down, and I realized that just made 8000 pounds. And I was like, Fuck, that was easy. That was fucking easy. And that was the beginning of it.

Roy Sharples:

You know, Metropolis is inspire creativity, as a space for social integration, dreaming, making and doing and Glasgow is certainly no exception to that philosophy as a creative city. And once being the second city of the Industrial Revolution. How much did that dreamer maker undoer ethos influence your makeup, Alan?

Alan McGee:

thank you most probably taught me how to survive. That's probably definitely good. I survived Glasgow. Yeah, but the truth is, if I left in Glasgow, David fucking hate me charming. They only like me up there because I don't love them. Especially in the night. When I was like, debate, when I kind of was the biggest thing for a couple of years, Glasgow would not have been able to put up with me he really at that point, but that kind of the fact that I was begging in London, they loved that because it was one of their own one. But you know, so. I mean, I couldn't go back to Glasgow mine. Not till i've you know, no way. I mean, I've lived 40 years ago. And I'm a Londoner, really, that's, you live in a man. But don't you do, Arlen

Roy Sharples:

Yeah, Seattle.

Alan McGee:

Right. Well, there you go. So as like, you know, you know, you've left Scotland well behind as well, me. It's like, it's no, it's but equally, there's a breach of Scottish people. I really believed us don't go out and kind of conquer for Scotland. They are mad, by the way. Yeah. And I suppose that's but me and Bobby and Ennis, that extreme, you know, I mean, I suppose that we, you know, and eyes and a lot of people at that sample means and yeah, you know, a lot of people went out and conquered, you know, and brought the glory home, but at the end of the day, a lot of them No, you know, I've lived in Glasgow for 40 fucking years, man, you know, I mean, yeah,

Roy Sharples:

George Orwell said the English are not happy, unless they are miserable. The Irish are not at peace, unless they are at war. And the Scots are not at home, unless they are abroad. That dynamic could be said about many civilizations, that cultural idiosyncrasies do exist. And there is a deep historic and peculiar clan rivalry, even hatred that exists in Scotland, beyond the sectarian divide in Glasgow, no people from Glasgow opposing people from Edinburgh, dundonians against aberdonians and so forth, it was was enough

Alan McGee:

for me and I think it's not for everybody. When it was by far more that we're putting me down more than anybody's skill. What I said was my fucking father was a bully. You know, I mean, you know, it was like, you know, not going along with con. You know, Bobby put me in hospital, you know, told me I'm never gonna get options. You know, I mean, but you probably made me a fuckin major womanizer phobics when he was when I was a kid. You know, I mean, and AB site, and ish. Nobody deserves that off the fucking runway. And I'm not saying I got it that bad, because I know a lot of people got fucking miles wasn't that, but I'm just seeing that. It's something that's, you know why? It's, there's a lot of Scottish stuff that I hear a bit that stuff. Yeah, I mean, but maybe that's not just peculiar to Scotland or Ireland, you know,

Roy Sharples:

what is your approach to creativity and your creative process, both as an artist, manager and label manager,

Alan McGee:

I think he's a different scene where every different human being, I mean, and, and even in my own role as a manager, and as our label, it's changed so much. When I was a kid, I knew every I did when creation started in 8283, you know, I did every single job, and I mean, every job but then the royalties, you know, obviously, when it created the deal, the 5050 profits black deal, understood the whole thing. I can produce that. I can master the records. I could design the sleeves, identity distribution, deal, identity press release, I actually did the press at one point. I did the radio promo for what it was muscle that we'll ever get played in the radio. So by the time I got to massive success, and had the biggest band in the world in the mid 90s, I knew I knew everybody else's job. Right? Yeah, no. Child, not children. I've got little kids teaching me the end on there. And I'm, I'm no better than anybody else my age. I mean, I'm like, you know, I mean, I'm clumsy by factor I mean, and it just means that life is a fluid situation that changes and you kind of got to try and go a long way. I'm not saying I'm doing that create a job it goes a long way. I don't think a fucking arm to be honest. But But digital analog to digital has changed the world. I mean, I said to you know, no gallica the other night. You You're on all right. And I talked to him most days and I just went, you know, I'm struggling with a touchy Oh, and he's one of the biggest stars in fucking the world and he went meter. He's fucking struggling. Man, if I say I need a job professionally, I would say I struggle with it. You know,

Roy Sharples:

right. Social media has had an omnipresent impact on people, you know, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, have become the fabric of our lives and allowing people to share stories about their everyday experiences and build their personal brand around the passions, beliefs and activities. And since learning how to use the internet in the 1990s, we've evolved and internalize that by making it part of our our social routine. And numerous industries and professions have been disrupted, reimagined, reinvented, or even abandoned. I mean, ticktick journalism is is one example that has seen a rapid move to media, by the masses by having countless contributions from non journalists. And one regularly reads the social reviews and the commentary, rather than the story itself, which then begs a question, who's in control now, who actually is the journalist and then specific to the music industry, Apple and Spotify changed the way we purchase and consume music through digital streaming. And traditional record companies failed, failed to adapt to the digital revolution, companies like Apple have cleaned up sharp and took over the market by becoming the legal online market leader through the iTunes download service that provides access to millions of songs for for a monthly subscription fee, very different to how it was growing up. And the years that preceded that Alan, what are the critical skills needed, as an artist, unbelievable manager,

Alan McGee:

as an artist, you've just got to commit to it. And as as an entrepreneur, a manager of a boss, he is kind of gathered in the army and I suppose that is one of my most enduring qualities really, that I just thought, you know, I'm the height of below fuck it, and the skill yelled at you punch in the face, and I can't be so bad at the end. That's just me. And that's maybe why I have succeeded because I've been chasing two fucking years man to become successful gentlemen. When we got success, it was absolutely fucking monumental success, but to commit took me 12 years of running a record label to have the biggest band in the world virtually 12 years, gentlemen.

Roy Sharples:

Yeah, of course, you need talent and technical excellence in your craft, to perform at what you do. But achieving greatness. achieving excellence is more than that. It is about having the relentless intensity and focus, the desire, the resilience, and the persistence to never give up. And to achieve the highest levels of performance within your respective craft and domain. It was weird recursion.

Alan McGee:

We kind of got the ones that nobody else wanted. But exactly, I could see something random. And we polish them up. I mean, I mean, that's from the Valentine's two aces to primal scream. These were bands that nobody really want it you know, I mean, Oasis is a little bit different. By the time that Oasis came to me, and I've had a lot of success with primal scream at that point, my body balance. There was two or three YouTube's record company YouTube was gorgeous, but it sounds a little bit different but primal scream, nobody want into my body violence. I nobody wanted to the mainstream. Nobody wanted those, you know, I mean, yeah. Yeah. And it was always things that nobody else wanted, but I actually saw something like that. And then it became a thing, like the creation sound, Joe, I mean, and then I suppose it was like those are fine. You know,

Roy Sharples:

that is an innate talent to be able to see the unseen. I think it was Bowie, who said tomorrow belongs to those who can eat a common and having the ability to follow your instincts and tastes, and to foresee future trends and music and fashion. What you did with creation was to create a movement that was a specific sound and look that defined a generation and compassing ideals, sensibilities, that was a reaction against prior movements, and transcended the routine and status quo, which had grown uniform and monotonous which influenced art, fashion, music, popular culture, and similar to other socio cultural movements that preceded it such as mod, Northern soul, and acid house

Alan McGee:

tell you what it was right who said sample right? When we started in 1983, we even a joke, right? We we were perceived as a joke, right? There are signs of it. Two years later saints juicer made a chain. And it's people should vaguely say taken seriously. But the labor was still a joke. They got to at 1988. And I say the Valentine's in the house, a lot of and it started become an app. And the thing to that took me about five years of doing a label before we became cool, right? So then move on a kill and define. And that went on for about another five years, six years. And then they always came along. 94 smashed up. And then we became the mainstream, but we first of all became possible we were a joke. They move out the back end the phone. And then in the mid 90s. When we were the we were the cultural figure platen job and when we went to an Air Force bases that was we were the culture that for about 18 months German. Ah, but you know what the truth is? We always it's a good good case in point really, what a waste is, it's not because I was clever, I only follow one thing do I play and what happened we always this was everything. If you were golden fucking logic you would never have seen though, because because Madchester what had happened, the bondage the roses that harms and at the end of 91, this was mean 83 I signed away says because I just thought, This is good. I know it's on trendy at that time, it was fucking on trend, because a Manchester band in 1883 budgets are really good at obviously saying them, and then fucking lo and behold, it really blew up. But it was all because I liked music. It's all because I believe that, you know,

Roy Sharples:

What's your lessons learned based on the pi falls to avoid, and the keys to success that you can share wi h aspiring label and artist man gers?

Alan McGee:

are just like, keep going, just keep going. You know, whatever happens, if you want to do it, keep going. Because every factor is going to tell you why you can't do that. You just got to keep going. You know? What did I do wrong? I get most of it fucking right. Most of it. But I didn't get it. All right, my job. I mean, if I, you know, like, if I'd go to old a, you know? Maybe it was 200 billion instead of 20 billion maybe. So there you go. On that no lie.

Roy Sharples:

There you have it. That's a great point. Oh, and about not following a conventional path structure or formula and like you see, bucking the logic, and just following your instinct and your desire and believing in it. What's your vision for the future of music?

Alan McGee:

I don't know about I don't know if people want bonds anymore. Yeah, but I think the truth is, I just, I'm the biggest fucking believer in rock and roll bands. I've Alright, but you get a laptop you can fuck about in your little fucking flat for five years and make out impeccable. So that album, do you really need a band? I'm not sure you do. And I think that's it's like steam trains to electric trains. I mean, you know, we all love steam trains, right? I love rock and roll bands. But

Roy Sharples:

are they needed when you can get an electric train? And I think maybe that's the fucking problem. You know? That's so true. It's an increasingly technology mediated world, changing how we live, learn, work and get things done. And it's blurred the boundaries between physical and virtual life. And I think with most things as well, what has driven is the need for convenience and accessibility. I had mentioned to a friend of mine, Brian McKay, that I was potentially doing a podcast with you, Alan. And he asked if I could gauge your perspective around how do artists try And get a decent deal from Spotify. And also, given the financial impact for smaller, independent bands when tuning abroad, thanks to Brexit. What does the future look like for rock and roll?

Alan McGee:

So what chat I mean, it's like Spotify is a disgrace, it doesn't pay. It doesn't pay through at all. To the artists, the labels, the producers, the bands, I mean it's terrible. And Brexit so fucking nightmare. The only reason that nobody's freaking out and rock'n'roll about Brexit as nobody can go in to at this point, you know, I mean, I was just looking at the paper just before you your bottom line, I was looking at it online before you he called really an A think despite because it's up to 12,000 cases a day. I've got four musicians last week called COVID. All sampler the same getting cast the drama and cast as a band manage until the clock works a little band I've got on the label all last week got COVID and the guy it works as a bookkeeper for a lot of things that I do. Some did has office with the last five people I know last week god COVID and not trying to say it's a crisis went away. I'm not sure how strong

Roy Sharples:

creativity will continue to be the difference humans make in the future. Intelligent technologies are increasingly able to expedite the majority of roles a human can, will the future of music be where humans will work in unison with artificial intelligence or the technological equivalent. robots have already multiplied productivity and replaced humans and many work lines. Just as the automobile replaced horses, dramatically impacting life and society. A plane can be flown without a pilot cars and trains driven without a driver brain surgery with over doctor fleets of vehicles produced without factory workers, freeing up humans to perform more creative and self fulfilling roles that are yet not to be defined. Let's hope it is applied ethically, and responsibly, and the music industry that propels the opportunities for the creatives and an artist led way You have been listening to the unknown origins podcast. Please follow subscribe, rate and review us. For more information go to unknown origins.com Thank you for listening