Rick Rubin/Columbia Records: NY Times Article

{Full Disclosure: I am a former executive at Columbia Records}

We got tons of emails about the recent Rick Rubin NYT piece
that debuted during the Labor Day Weekend. I’m not sure if he is going to actually save Columbia Records or the record industry but I did find some of his comments “half interesting.” I think Rick Rubin is a guy who actually loves the music and was probably the a guy who has been relaxing in LA, living now in Malibu, bashing all the record labels until Steve Barnett came along to offer him a big paycheck. Never worked with Steve Barnett nor do I know him well but he definitely came off in the article as the typical “out of touch” Sony record executive. With Rubin’s standoff-ish approach, not sure how much motivating he will be able to do at Columbia, a place that is starving for leadership since Donnie Ienner was let go.

Barnett has other ideas, which he is discussing with Rubin. For instance, asking Columbia artists to give the record company up to 50 percent of their touring, merchandising and online revenue.

Not sure who is giving up 50% and for what????

This summer, Columbia Records began a program called Big Red. The company invited 20 college students from Harvard, Penn State and the University of Miami to work on various music projects. The interns concentrated mostly on the digital marketing and promotions departments in Columbia’s offices in Midtown Manhattan, which are on Madison Avenue in a granite skyscraper designed by Philip Johnson.

At the end of their paid internships, the students took part in focus groups that were closely observed by Steve Barnett, Rubin’s co-head at the label, and Mark DiDia, whom Rubin brought in as head of operations, as well as by other Columbia executives. The focus groups may have been the real point of Big Red — Barnett and the New York executives, especially those who had been at Sony for years, wanted to try to take the pulse of the elusive music audience.

Two questions: Who cares that the building was designed by Phillip Johnson and this Big Red concept is not something that is new so why are they describing it as a new concept. In fact I was doing something similiar with a team of college interns ALL online mind you in 1997!

Love Rubin’s passion for musicians but honestly, you are in a old building with old building thinking that even moving the headquarters or leaving Colorado Ave can fix. In the urban department things have gone from bad to worse as Rubin hires Hip Hop, currently manager for Kanye West but far from qualified from running a division.

But don’t let me be the only one with a pretty poor view of the article, my guilty pleasure is Bob Lefsetz and he does a bang up job on Rubin and the article


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