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This programme contains strong language
Katy Perry is one of the most successful singers on the planet,
but she started out as a Christian rock act.
# 8-9-9-3-8-3-3 Come on and listen to me... #
It took years of developing and nurturing her talent
before she became the star we know today,
selling over 100 million records.
# Baby, you're a firework
# Come on Let your colours burst... #
My name is Emma Banks,
and Katy Perry is one of my biggest clients.
I'm an award-winning music agent with over 25 years in the business.
MUSIC: Give It Away by the Red Hot Chili Peppers
I work with some of the world's most famous artists,
like Kanye West and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers,
but I'm still always on the lookout for the next generation of stars
who want to break through to the big time.
# When you ain't even brushed your teeth
-# Brush your teeth
-# Brush your teeth... #
It's not easy.
I know from experience it's a fine line
between success and failure.
# It reminds me of the pain... #
I've seen countless acts come and go,
from geniuses who never quite made it...
..to megastars who conquered the world.
# I want to hide... #
This series reveals the secrets behind a successful music career.
# I want to tear down the walls that hold me inside... #
How the world of live performance built reputations, making billions
and transforming the industry along the way.
# One way or another I'm gonna lose ya... #
And how the rise of the reunion is giving the bands
and the business a new lease of life.
# I'll trick ya, I'll trick ya... #
MUSIC: Just Because by Jane's Addiction
But first, I'm going right back to the start -
how we find talent and turn it into hit records.
It was really vital
having somebody there telling us we were crap, the whole time,
and we used to have massive rows.
We were trained. We were taught show business.
We knew exactly what we needed to do and say for our audiences.
I felt like I was red meat to them, like, you know, like, "Oh!
"I'm going to make so much fucking money with this guy," you know?
# When we first met... #
Welcome to my guide to how the music industry discovers,
develops, and launches superstars.
# Don't have the time to agree... #
-To get to the top in the pop business,
you need more than sex appeal and a song to sing -
or so the people in the business would have us believe.
Making a star is a team effort.
There are managers, producers, PRs and image consultants -
a whole army of people who make crucial decisions on songs,
sounds and looks.
I work on the artists' live performance,
and put them in front of audiences that will get them the most noticed.
My latest signing is Stereo Honey.
I mean, I guess, like, a live agent is like your window
to the world of gigging, basically.
A good live agent knows venues that suit a certain band, you know,
and they have, like, the contacts there that they can draw from.
Every band that does well has a great team behind them,
and I think a live agent's, like, an essential part of that.
There's already a huge buzz around Stereo Honey,
and I've got big hopes for these guys.
But you've got to find these artists in the first place,
and that's down to A&R.
A&R, the development of new music and new talent,
is absolutely crucial.
If we don't have that, we have no music business.
The job of A&R is the expression A&R itself.
The A stands for "artist", R stands for "repertoire".
To trust that instinct and look for the stars of tomorrow.
The gift of A&R is a gift, like being a classical violinist
or a great rock singer.
It's a gift.
Find the artists, find the writers, the producers, the musicians -
put them together and make hit records.
Of course, A&R hasn't always had the best reputation.
I think, yeah, a lot of people have that Kit Kat advert imagery.
"You can't sing, you can't play."
-What do you think?
-You can't sing, you can't play, you look awful.
-You'll go a long way.
But it's not as easy as that.
Finding the talent in the first place is a tough job,
and artists can be a tricky bunch.
The honest truth is... God makes musicians,
and then an A&R guy is just standing around going,
"There's one, there's one."
An A&R is a businessman who tells an artist what to do.
Why are you telling another man how to sing or rap?
You rap, you sing, if you're so good at it.
There's also a serious financial risk.
Of all the music made, 10% is successful and 5% makes money.
And if you're associated with some of the failures,
then your career is probably quite short.
For me, out of the whole of pop music history,
there's one record label that stands above all others at finding
and creating stars - Motown.
The Detroit label churned out hit after hit
with an incredible roster of artists
and the killer songs to match.
And it was their A&R process that was responsible.
# Sugar and Spice
# Sugar and Spice
# Everything nice
# Everything nice... #
It was the brainchild of car factory worker Berry Gordy,
who had the vision to take what he called quality black music
to the whole of America.
Berry was the first person to critique us.
He would tell us what was good and what was not. We were trained.
We knew exactly what we needed to do and say for our audiences.
# Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide... #
Their A&R system really was competition.
You know, "You've got to come up with the goods."
So, that was, like, an amazing A&R, sort of, like, factory.
# Baby, baby
# Baby, don't leave me... #
While Berry Gordy was clearly the driving force behind Motown,
his right-hand man helping pick those hits was his head of A&R,
Mickey met Berry for the first time in 1959.
My idea was to get with him
and become an artist produced by Berry Gordy.
His idea was to have me become the A&R man for his company.
So, we're on two different planes when we met.
So, I pulled out about six or seven of my kind of wannabe songs, right.
And I sang them and he said, "Wait, hold on, hold on.
"I didn't call you here to be a recording artist."
I said, "What do you mean? I thought you liked my songs."
He said, "Your songs are pretty good, but your voice is for shit."
He said, "Well, I want you to be the A&R man for my company."
I said, "A&R, what's that?"
He said, "You know, you're going to handle the artist,
"and we're going to make records."
Mickey's first job was to search for talent.
In the early 1960s, he began holding regular auditions at Motown HQ.
People were there every day, lined up,
hoping to just get a chance to get in the building.
Everybody wanted to be a part of this new record company
in Detroit on the Boulevard.
# I never met a girl who makes me feel the way that you do
# You're all right
# Whenever I'm asked who makes my dreams real... #
The A&R process became like a musical finishing school,
paying close attention to every aspect of the artist's act.
Singing is one thing. Performing is another.
# And I'm bringing you a love that's true
# So get ready, so get ready... #
they would show them how to move, what they do with their hands,
how to make that look good.
# Get ready, cos here I come
# I'm on my way... #
We had rules and standards. We were not ever scantily dressed.
We were always in uniform.
# It's all right... #
We had someone who always travelled with us to make sure
that we were on time and dressed properly.
We were learning music theory.
We were learning choreography from Charlie Atkins,
and we were getting social graces being taught to us
by Professor Maxine Powell.
"Ladies, you don't dance with your buttocks.
"You use your feet, and the body will follow."
# I'm bringing you a love that's true
# So get ready... #
My theory was this -
if you have a record and you don't look right
presenting it, it dies quick.
You don't have to have such a great record but you look good doing it,
it's taking off.
Now, if the record is good and you look good doing it,
it's going all the way.
# Calling out around the world
# Are you ready for a brand-new beat? #
Key to Motown's success was Mickey's ability to match the right song
with the right artist.
# Dancing in the street... #
Dancing In The Street would become one of the label's biggest hits.
Written by Mickey, Marvin Gaye and Ivy Jo,
the writing team had originally promised the song
to Motown star Kim Weston - Mickey's wife at the time.
It's a fun song, and Kim had this strong voice.
So, we got to have some joy in it,
so I'll get somebody to sing it and then she'll copy that,
listen to that track, and repeat it.
And, "Who?" And I said,
"Got just the person."
Mickey fetched aspiring singer Martha Reeves,
who by then was working as his secretary.
So I asked him - could I sing it the way I felt it,
and he said, "Sure, go ahead."
It was the same key that Marvin was singing in.
So, I piped in...
# Calling out around the world. #
She sang the tune.
Marvin looked at me.
Ivy Jo looked at Marvin.
We stand there looking at each other.
"Did you hear that? That's a hit record on Martha."
When you hear something like that happen, as an A&R man,
that's what it's really all about.
I mean, that was like, "Wow!" That marriage was perfect.
# There'll be swinging, swaying and records playing
# Dancing in the street, oh... #
Mickey had some explaining to do to his wife.
Of course, I had to talk Kim out of it.
Not talk her out of it, but kind of figure how to get it away from her
to give it to Martha, because we were lovers.
Kim and I almost had a take off your earrings
and get your Vaseline and scratch each other's eyes out fit.
We almost had that.
Of course, my love was cut off dead after that.
Oh, that was cold for a while, brother.
Everything was cut off. I couldn't even get a kiss.
Motown showed the music business that having the whole package
makes a successful star - the look, the moves, and the sound.
But it's also about finding the right song
for the right artist.
You've got an idea for a song, haven't you?
-You've got something in mind?
-Yeah, I have a fantastic song.
-Mm. I've heard it, actually. I've heard one of them.
I think you'll like it, Judith. I really do.
# Here's the thing We started out friends
# It was cool but it was all pretend... #
For us lot in the industry,
there's one person who's the absolute master at that -
legendary record exec Clive Davis.
# Here me say it's how... #
He's spent five decades making superstars
out of the likes of Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow and Kelly Clarkson.
# Since you've been gone
# I can breathe for the first time... #
When you're looking for what they call a hit,
you're looking for that song -
the combination of melody and lyric that becomes something
you can't get out of your head.
# Oh, Mandy
# Well, you came and you gave without taking
# But I sent you away Oh, Mandy... #
I'm not talking about just a hit record,
but talking about what it is to discover a standard,
what it is to discover a song
that will live on for hundreds of years
in the future.
And usually it is the combination of music and lyric
that becomes unforgettable.
# Clock strikes upon the hour
# And the sun begins to fade... #
Clive Davis knew he had an amazing talent
when he signed Whitney Houston,
but he also knew it would take a great song to break her.
It was a two-year period to look for Whitney Houston's
I Want To Dance With Somebody.
I would go through with my A&R staff literally hundreds of songs
to narrow it down to about 20 or 25
that we felt were the right arrangement.
# I wanna dance with somebody
# I wanna feel the heat with somebody... #
Whatever the era,
a huge-selling star like Whitney can be the commercial driving force
behind any successful record company.
But persuading the artist to sign in the first place,
can be a big challenge.
When you're at a gig, after the show,
often when you're at the signing point,
these are in very small rooms.
There isn't a backstage, so the act comes out to you.
Everybody will get in their face, tell them how brilliant they were,
even if they thought there's loads of work to be done.
And it's a little bit like a documentary
where there are all the tigers around the gazelle,
desperate to eat them.
Certainly, it's how it used to be, sometimes, with the signing frenzy.
One, two, three, four!
The music industry, if you're a good musician, they will chase you.
As an example, the days where people were A&Ring Jane's Addiction,
we had every record label, every A&R guy in town was there
for me to ridicule.
I was calling them all fat pricks, you know.
Cos, like, yeah, they were fat pricks.
They would show up and they were like, "Oh!
"I'm going to make so much fucking money with this guy," you know?
I felt like I was red meat to them.
# I don't owe him nothing... #
And some of them were so full of shit, you know?
Like, "Yeah! Sit down, I'm going to sign you.
"Whatever anybody offers you, I'm going to offer you twice."
And then I think to myself, like, man, "I wouldn't fucking go with it,
"cos you look like a scumbag," you know what I mean?
Like a douchebag. There's no way.
MUSIC: Don't Look Back Into The Sun by The Libertines
We'd put in a big offer for The Libertines,
and no-one had really seen them perform, but everyone had heard,
oh, they're like, you know,
this incredible British rock and roll band.
# And they said it would never come for you... #
So, everybody was turning up to see them perform at The Cherry Jam,
which was a venue that could hold about 100 people comfortably,
and there must have been about 300 people outside,
of whom a lot were A&R people.
And I remember managing to get there early enough so I got inside.
And I'd got a couple of friends of mine to turn up
and pretend to be other A&R people,
so they could cross their names off the guest list,
so when the actual A&R person turned up,
they couldn't get in cos it was already sold out.
I mean, I'm not proud of these things,
but, you know, sometimes necessity has to happen
because it does get that competitive.
MUSIC: I'll Manage Somehow by Menswear
Throughout pop music history,
A&Rs have pulled all sorts of tricks to snare
the artist or band to their label.
# Catch the bus by half past three
# Otherwise you'll find you're walking home
# The forecast is for rain... #
In 1994, Menswear were Britpop's hottest new property.
Before we got signed,
two big, major labels flew us out to New York,
flew the whole band out all expenses paid -
limos, first-class flights, amazing hotels -
just to kind of woo us,
to show us that they were the label, to go with them.
It was like, the more money they could throw at you, the better label it was.
And weirdly, when we were out in New York,
we had a meeting with Geoff Travis, who was the head of -
still, I believe, is head of Rough Trade. Fantastic man,
responsible for the careers of people like The Smiths
and The Strokes.
And he met us in a little pizza restaurant.
"You know, you should really come with Rough Trade.
"We're the kind of label that splits everything between the artist
"and the label, we've got a great track record."
And we walked away thinking,
"He's just taken us to a pizza restaurant.
"A bit tight. We won't sign with him, they've got no money."
And you look back and think,
"Why did we go with the labels that were just throwing money at us?"
And also, you end up paying, anyway. So just taking... You know,
just for a little pizza in a little low-key place
is the smart thing to do.
# Breathe deeper
# Daydreamer... #
We could have gone with Rough Trade. What a stupid thing to do.
A brilliant label, fantastic label. "Nah, they didn't spend any money.
"They didn't spunk any money up the wall on us.
"We're not going to go with them." Idiots.
-Before anybody will do anything to make her a star,
Judith, with her father's endorsement,
must sign away what amounts to almost half of anything
she's likely to earn.
I remember having to go to a lawyer's office
to talk about this contract, and it was, like, this thick.
And the legal bill...
..was so massive that it swallowed up the entire advance.
I think... I think I'm still in that deal now, actually.
Still in that same deal now. You know, I was, like, 19 then.
I think everyone dreamed of getting signed
but nobody really knew what it meant.
"And any extra money expended shall be at the artist's own expense
"and the manager shall be at liberty to deduct from monies held
"or received on behalf of the artist
"the amount of any such extra money so expended,
"but the manager shall consult with the artist
"before incurring unusually expensive obligations."
This is what it means.
Signing a big record contract is every aspiring rock star's dream.
The stepping stone to the big time.
We've all heard about the megabucks deals,
but is it really as good as it sounds?
So, if you get a £1 million advance,
more than likely you have to make the record out of that.
Let's say the record costs £200,000, OK?
You know, that part of it is the fun.
Now you have £800,000.
Well, the management takes between 15-20%.
You might have a lawyer that has a fee for negotiating.
Your business manager takes some.
So, let's say you're then down to, what, £600,000?
In a rock band it's a four or five, sometimes even six-way split.
You divide it up five ways.
That's £120,000 per guy. The tax guy takes half of it.
There's your £60,000.
I mean, it's OK. It may be better than your dad did in a year.
It's a year.
That's it. Then we're back to square one.
You know, it's not as lucrative as people think.
I think you'd like to get a look at Judith.
Judith, come on up here. Judith Powell.
Assuming you've managed to get your artist to sign a contract,
the next stage is the launch.
Nobody can say for sure what's going to be a hit record.
If we all knew what was going to be a hit record,
we wouldn't have to worry. All we'd have to do is just say,
"Well, that's going to be a hit record,
"put all your money on it." And it would make it.
My role in a new artist's launch is getting them in front of the
right audience at the right time.
One of my recent signings is urban artist Lady Leshurr.
She's made a huge splash online,
releasing several videos that have hit over 100 million plays.
# ..love to do that pose?
# Are they your new trainers?
# What are those?! #
She's big in the grime world, and we're currently working to
successfully launch her into the mainstream.
We find, don't we, a lot of the British grime artists, maybe, are
-enormous in the UK?
-But they're struggling to get anything
going as soon as they leave our beautiful country.
Emma got me on the shows that were comfortable for me,
as far as the urban shows.
But now she's putting me on these other shows that are out of my
comfort zone, or not my genre of music, which is just
going to help build the brand and what we're trying to do.
Because of my live touring connections, I can put
breaking artists in support slots with international stars.
It gives them huge exposure that they wouldn't normally get.
I've arranged for Lady Leshurr to support Red Hot Chilli Peppers
I think what's really important is that you play your own shows
to your crowd, and then we put in these bigger shows
where you're going to when the crowd over, you know.
Definitely, I think that to get to the next level is to do things
like this. I just think, to keep putting myself into
those kind of markets and making people that don't really listen
to grime, to listen to it, and see if they like it.
They may never have even come across it before.
Well, this girl is great, you know.
She's fabulous, Doug, yeah, she really is.
Yeah, she's got long blonde hair and gorgeous eyes.
She's very, very tall.
Like all businesses, the music industry can be as much
about marketing as talent, so the launch is critical.
I'd like to split her publicity, actually, in about three...
Today, getting a band noticed is all about creating a buzz
on social media and the internet. When I started in the 1990s,
that kind of thing had to be done on a street level.
Early in my career, I helped to break the supremely gifted
singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley.
# When I next saw you
# You were at the party... #
Back then, it was the height of grunge,
and Jeff's wistful songs weren't an easy sell,
and he wasn't always on message with the record label's promo plan.
SHOUTS FROM CROWD
Fuck off, just fuck off!
He had a quality of rebelliousness about him
that the label couldn't really break down in any way.
He was determined to try and do it his way as best he could.
Look, he was Jeff, and he was like, "I'm going to subvert
"the pop paradigm, and fuck with my pop image".
# There's the moon asking to stay
# Long enough for the clouds to fly away. #
The label, Sony, at the time,
were very dubious as to what they could do,
that they didn't hear something that was easily going to get onto radio,
and if you don't get onto radio, how do you break an artist?
So what does a record company do when they've got a genius
on their hands, but don't know how to market him?
Well, Shepherd's Bush Empire.
This was the last London venue that Jeff Buckley played.
This, I think, is what made his world turn,
being on stage, performing. That was his lifeblood.
You know, it was my job over the years that I worked with Jeff to
get him to this point. He didn't always play 2,000-capacity venues.
That's for sure.
Jeff's American sales were way under the record label's expectations,
and they were seriously worried.
They decided to try and break him in Britain, and asked me to help.
I felt you only really got Jeff when you saw him up close and personal...
This must be it.
..so I decided to find tiny venues for him to play intimate solo shows.
It was downstairs. Let's see if we can find something.
One of the most memorable was at Bunjies, near Leicester Square.
It's now a restaurant.
Oh, my God. This is it.
It's so much smaller than I remember it.
I think we must have had about 40 people in here.
We can't have got... It would be impossible to get many more in.
He said he wanted to play small venues. And when he said small,
I thought, "All right, mate, I'll give you small".
Word of mouth spread like you would not believe. When I went outside,
I saw a line for blocks of people trying to get in.
And I came in and I saw his agent, Emma Banks.
I said, "This is crazy."
Everybody, if they weren't there, they wanted to be there,
and half the people pretended they WERE there.
And that got a word of mouth going.
You know, when we weren't getting lots of radio play,
people talking about it - going, "Did you go to that show?"
"Oh, no, but I heard it was amazing."
- was really important to us.
From those small UK gigs, a huge buzz built up around Jeff.
There was praise from big rock stars like Paul McCartney,
radio and TV got on board, and sales really picked up.
# Just the moon asking to stay
# Long enough for the clouds to fly me away... #
I think he would have been a huge star, but not long later,
Jeff tragically died in a drowning accident.
Today, he's regarded as one of pop's greatest songwriters.
# My fading voice sings of love... #
Jeff's story showed me that talent is just part of making it big.
To be truly successful, you also need a great backroom team.
The '60s was a time when there was a flood of talent, and the managers
who controlled them were nearly as famous as the artists.
Industry players like Brian Epstein were brilliant at marketing
their stars, but not all the artists back then were so lucky.
# Well, no-one told me about her... #
The Zombies are mentioned in the same breath as The Beatles today,
but back then, thanks to some bad backroom decisions,
they didn't have anywhere near the same success.
# But it's too late to say you're sorry
# How would I know? Why should I care? #
They started off well when they hit the number-12 spot in 1964
with one of the first songs they ever recorded.
# Well, let me tell you 'bout the way she looked
# The way she acts and the colour of her hair
# Her voice was soft and cool, her eyes were clear and bright
# But she's not there. #
A long, successful career surely beckoned.
The second record, that was rushed out,
none of us wanted that to come out at all.
We thought it sounded pretty wet, actually,
and it flopped completely.
# ..I'm missing her
# My mind tells me I have to fight... #
There was always incredible pressure from record companies in those days,
that they wanted a single every six weeks.
-But, of course, they wanted it to be a hit single.
So you were really pressured to keep supplying them with singles.
And it's very hard to make every single a hit, you know.
There's very few bands that were able to do that.
After an incredible 13 further single releases in four years,
the band failed to enter the UK charts again.
We had a manager who was very successful,
but he was from an old school.
And, unlike Andrew Loog Oldham for the Stones or Epstein, who did such
a wonderful job for The Beatles, they understood what the image
that was launched onto the public initially should be.
And I don't think that our management took much notice of that,
because they didn't particularly love rock and roll.
And I think we really suffered from that because we were just
out of school and we had some appalling early photos
that followed us down the years.
That was the sort of management decision,
and the production decision,
that often was a bit rushed and not rooted in what rock and roll was,
and understanding how things should be
and what a good follow-up would be.
# Counting the days until they set you free again... #
The Zombies recorded a final album, Odessey And Oracle, a record
that many critics now consider as good as Sergeant Pepper's
and Pet Sounds. It's that good.
But at the time, the album bombed.
If this band's career had been properly managed,
who knows what further classics they would have gone on to record?
Before the album was even released, the band split.
We all had to get jobs. We didn't have any choice.
I thought about it very scientifically and very deeply.
And I got on the phone,
and I took the first job that was offered to me.
It was in... Oh, it was in insurance.
SHE SINGS POORLY
Hold on, hold on, wait.
Honey, you're lovely,
but you're never going to sell records by being that beautiful.
Look... Gary, give me a chord, would you?
Try to do it this way, will you?
# As I write this letter... #
Tell me the story.
I've lost count of the acts who've had superstar potential,
but bad decisions stopped them going all the way.
Even the ones that really know what they want, need help to make it.
# ..Cos my mind... #
Tell me the story.
I have to sit there and say, "It's not good enough," when in fact,
what ends up happening is they go back and write more songs.
Or maybe at a certain point they sit there and say,
"We love these songs." We go, "Great, you'd better find some other
"manager that loves them as much as you do because, you know,
"it's not going to work." People say, "That's a good record."
That's not good enough. "That's a very good record."
That's not good enough. "That's a really good record".
Uh-uh. It's got to be great. It's got to be great.
# You're taking the fun out of everything... #
When it comes to hit making, the business side often has some very
difficult conversations with the creative side.
Blur charted at number eight with their second-ever single.
# There's no other way, there's no other way,
# All that you can do is watch them play. #
I suppose There's No Other Way was a pretty big hit.
You know, I still hear it on the radio now.
Kind of had elements of baggy - the baggy sound.
Which was something, by the time we'd put our next record out,
that was kind of done and dusted.
# Bang goes another year, in and out of one ear
# Everybody's doing it, I'll do it too. #
Their debut album didn't produce any more hits, and their record label
were concerned the follow-up was going the same way.
They came in to record the second album,
probably recorded about 30 songs.
But they didn't have the two key singles that they needed.
Yeah, we nearly got dropped recording Modern Life Is Rubbish.
"Give us a hit or we're going to drop you."
I mean, I think, actually, I think, they were right.
They did say, "You haven't got any hits."
The American label wouldn't pick the album up.
And I think we'd worked out what the sound...what we sounded like,
but we hadn't kind of condensed it into the three minutes
with verses and a catchy chorus.
# Sunday, Sunday, here again, in tidy attire
# You read the colour supplement, the TV guide... #
It was only by some pretty tough conversations with Damon.
You know, the first couple of singles are not there.
He went away over the Christmas holiday and then came back with
For Tomorrow and Chemical World.
We went back into the studio, like, on the second of January,
with Stephen Street, and recorded it.
I remember Stephen Street getting really excited and saying,
"This is one of the best records I've ever made."
# He's a 20th century boy
# With his hands on the rails... #
And For Tomorrow was probably the first truly great song
that he'd written, and that essentially set up...
It certainly set up Modern Life Is Rubbish
to be a bit of a revered classic album,
but I think also opened the path towards what Parklife would become,
and essentially the way his career evolved.
# And so we hold each other tightly
# And hold on for tomorrow, singing la-la-la... #
Actually, the record company were absolutely right.
If we hadn't have had that song...
..I wouldn't be sitting here now, I don't think.
You know, I suppose you can't really control creativity.
But you can...send it back...
..to make another one a bit better.
-What do you think?
-I don't know.
I think she looks too nice in the photographs.
Well, remember, the image is going to be changed.
The hair will be changed slightly. And make-up changed.
-And losing weight.
-You've got a very good figure but you're a
little bit... Really, you're a product.
You know, you're a can of beans or something.
Image can be everything.
One's assuming that the music is great, but if the image doesn't fit
with the message that you're portraying,
it's probably not going to work.
One of the acts that I work with, Katy Perry,
moved from being a gospel singer into being the pop superstar
that she is today.
# California girls, we're undeniable
# Fine, fresh, fierce, we got it on lock... #
That was her looking, going, "This hasn't worked, this might work."
You have to sometimes figure out what the audience want as well.
You need to go with the times.
You need to follow the zeitgeist a little bit.
A great example of that from pop history past
is the American girl group LaBelle.
Now, Patti LaBelle And The Bluebelles!
Patti LaBelle And The Bluebelles
were a successful girl group in the 1960s,
but by the end of the decade, their act was losing popularity.
# Somewhere over the rainbow
# Way, way up high... #
British talent manager Vicki Wickham was brought in to rescue the group.
The rules from the beginning were,
"You're not going to sing Over The Rainbow any more."
The look - "They can't all wear gloves and the same frocks
"and the same shoes. Haven't seen that in years."
We were still wearing our gowns and, you know,
doing our hair in these elaborate '60s hairdos.
So, you know, the nice arm movements.
We were, like, stuck in a time warp.
Vicki had to be tough, and she was initially met with strong resistance
from band leader Patti.
There was one night when Pat left, she was so pissed at me,
and put on her fur coat, went out.
20 minutes later, came back cos it was snowing.
And said, "OK, I'll do it."
-# We won't get fooled again
-# No, no
# We won't get fooled again... #
Somebody called Larry Legaspi said to me,
"I know what to do with them, I could make them look really good.
"I'd do a lot of silver, I'd do a lot of space age."
# Hey sister, go sister, soul sister, go sister.
# He met Marmalade down in Old New Orleans... #
Then we had, you know, the platform silver boots.
You know, it was a lot of silver and black,
and cabled collars like the astronauts wore.
# Gitchi gitchi ya ya da da
# Gitchi gitchi ya ya here... #
It set us apart.
Nobody else was wearing it, and we were no longer a girl group.
We didn't sound like one, we didn't look like one,
we didn't perform like one.
So it was a totally different voice in the music industry.
# Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? #
Vicki's image change was completely on point with funk music's affinity
with space. It resonated with the youth audience,
an appeal the original group had been lacking.
And number-one records soon followed,
and LaBelle became a household name in 1970s America.
# Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? #
When hip-hop exploded in the next decade,
the industry model for breaking new acts began to change.
# Two years ago, a friend of mine asked me to say some MC rhymes... #
Major record labels didn't know how to handle rap music.
Their A&R reps weren't from that scene,
making it hard for them to secure talent.
# I'm like Tyson icing, I'm a soldier at war
# I'm making sure you don't try to battle me no more... #
Hip-hop changed A&R.
A lot of the artists were coming from
black or African-American neighbourhoods where a lot of the
people who were A&Ring in the business, who were white,
could not go. You had to have A&R people who understood the language
that these young producers were speaking.
-Say oh oh oh!
-Oh oh oh!
Our sound is raw.
-Can you give us some examples of typical words you use
-in the rapping?
-Like, ill, dis...
..suck ass, I shoot you dead, pistol, coke,
crack, things of that sort.
That's how they talk. They say, "Yo, man, what's up, man?
"You want to go downtown and chill?"
"No, man, you know, stay home and chill," you know.
He don't talk like that.
We talk like that because we know that's how they talk.
# So don't try to dis me, if I leave you miss me
# Girl in the front, you know you wanna kiss me... #
You pretty much knew a scout because they didn't exactly fit in.
Scouts look like A&R scouts.
And it looks worse when they try to blend in,
because they just buy the worst what they think is hip-hop outfits.
So, it would be rap music's own people who would take the music
to the masses.
# 1989 the number, another summer
# Sound of the funky drummer... #
Independent record companies like Def Jam were set up
by entrepreneurs who were from the hip-hop community.
They instinctively knew how to successfully market rap music.
There was this new idea of how to create a groundswell without radio,
because even urban radio was not embracing hip-hop.
# How low can you go? Death row, what a brother know... #
The concept of, like, a street 12-inch,
a white label that may or may not get on the radio, but the DJs,
the mix shows, the clubs, are going to play it.
This became kind of the hip-hop vehicle.
The independent hip-hop labels quickly worked out the best
talent scouts were the artists themselves.
Starting in the '80s, with groups like, for example,
De La Soul featuring Q-Tip, and then a couple years later,
Q-Tip's got a group out. That became the norm
both in the early '90s and throughout the '90s and the 2000s,
that an artist who became very successful was given the A&R job
as well, by the label.
"Pick the next artist, put them on your record,
"and then we'll put it out."
The studio sessions were...
You'd walk in and you wouldn't know whose session it was.
De La Soul would be in there, Jungle Brothers would be in there,
A Tribe Called Quest would be in there.
I'd be hanging out, Queen Latifah's on the couch.
You know, there they are, doing a song, and then Posdnuos turns to me
and says, "Go in the booth." I said, "For what?"
He said, "Put 18 bars down on this."
"What?" "Go and do it."
Sit there, plays a song a bunch of times.
"All right, 18 bars." I go in there, I do it.
Lo and behold, I get a verse on one of the most classic hip-hop songs
of all time, Buddy.
# My buddy helps me to (De La my Soul)... #
De La Soul A&Red me on that project.
# Now, as the lady,
# I thought that Jungle and Quest and Soul would just maybe
# Give me the chance to say that I get crazy
# Due to the fact I let Buddy amaze me
# As a matter of fact, it crazes me in many ways
# I decided that it was time for Monie Love to say... #
I decided that it was time for Monie Love to say
- I have to say my name -
that when it comes to the Buddy, you know that I don't play,
cos to me, chasing Buddy is a perfect way to spend the day.
One of the most classic songs of all time,
and I got I rhyme on it because Posdnuos A&Red me on the song.
Damon Dash is a pioneering figure when it comes to A&Ring rap music.
Through his label, Roc-A-Fella Records,
he had a knack for finding and launching new artists,
and then using their music to sell hip-hop as a lifestyle.
Damon's story began when he couldn't get his talented friend, Jay-Z,
a record deal.
I was trying to get him signed.
I took Jay-Z to every "A&R" in the business.
So you've got to think, we're like the coolest dudes in the street,
and we're, like, asking a nerd for their opinion.
Jay-Z was dope, and everybody knew it, but there was a blockage
on why nobody would touch him as far as to sign him.
If they sign somebody and they lose, then they get fired.
You know what I'm saying? So they're just trying to keep their job.
An A&R man is too scared to go to the street.
He's not going to the concrete, he gets it, like, on the radio.
Dame Dash said, "Screw everybody,
"we're going to scrape up whatever pennies we have,
"and we're going to put you out ourselves.
"And I'm going to market the shit out of you,
"and then everybody's going to get on your top."
# Give it to me! Give me that funk, that sweet... #
Dash launched Jay-Z through channels no major label
could ever reach. He was able to push Jay's music at a street level,
via the right clubs, DJs, and radio shows.
When you're a great artist,
to have somebody else right next to you expending the energy is kind of
better than the artist themselves saying,
"Hey, I'm great, check me out".
So Dame was great at kind of helping Jay-Z
get his foot in the gate.
I was loud. I was loud. I was so loud.
I was extra. So extra, and it was strategic extra.
Like, being a mogul was like a character for me,
it was like a cartoon character.
So I played it, you know what I'm saying? It was just fun.
Through the phenomenal chart success that followed,
Damon was able to make Roc-A-Fella Records almost as famous as Jay-Z.
He turned the record label into a lifestyle its fans could buy into,
selling not just music, but vodka and clothing too.
Hip-hop moguls like Damon showed you could take an unknown artist
from the streets and turn them into a multi-million-dollar business
without having to use the old-school industry channels.
That opened up an enormous trend that really started to take off
in the 2000s, which was all these big rappers all of a sudden
had clothing lines. Here's a whole 'nother very profitable industry
that now feels like the music is their marketing machine.
What's special about hip-hop is the opportunities that they're able
to give people who don't feel like they have any opportunities.
Rappers like P Diddy and Dr Dre turned themselves into
superstar entrepreneurs, building billion-dollar empires.
The hip-hop community adapted the music industry to work for them,
changing the model for breaking new artists along the way.
# You've got to roll with it, you've got to take your time
# You've got to say what you say, don't let anybody get in your way. #
It was in the 1990s that hip-hop began to make millions,
and that kind of money wasn't just exclusive to rap.
Looking back now, it was the industry's glory days,
with lots labels making ridiculous amounts of money.
But it was a system that couldn't sustain itself.
# ..lost inside, I think I'm going to take me away and hide... #
In the '90s, I wished I was in a record company,
because they seemed to have all the money.
They were the people that had cars waiting outside every venue,
and I was still getting the bus or the Tube home.
There were a lot of A&R people then, mainly guys.
You know, there weren't that many women doing it,
but there were a few.
And they were just all lined up at the bar.
I mean, sometimes I wonder whether they really even saw the act
that they went to see...
..because there was, you know,
quite a long line into the toilet cubicles a lot of the time.
Probably because they were drinking so much beer, of course.
Lots of drinking, lots of partying.
The book Kill Your Friends, the John Niven book,
which has been made into a movie, gives you an idea.
You know, some of it maybe is a bit far-fetched,
but some of it isn't too far away from the truth.
Welcome to the music industry.
A freeloading orgy of utter nonsense.
Only one thing matters in this racket -
big hit records.
I moved to London to work in A&R in about 1994.
That was kind of the ascendant height of Britpop.
Sales were hugely buoyant, you know?
I think the industry passed the billion-pound turnover mark
for the first time in 1996. So it was...
It's difficult to put into context now, but you know,
a CD would cost around £13, a new CD.
And you'd be selling millions.
So there was a lot of money sloshing around the music business.
I think if you take a load of overconfident, ambitious,
competitive guys in their 20s,
and massively overpay them and give them unlimited access to
drugs and booze, you're going to get some fairly, erm, fraught scenarios.
MUSIC: Mile End, by Pulp
The average week at a record company, nobody would be at work
on a Monday, because they'd be recovering from the weekend.
People sort of start to straggle in on Tuesday afternoon.
Wednesday, some work would get done.
Thursday lunchtime, everyone's off to the pub,
everyone's waiting for the drop-off of whatever.
And then Friday, you're out. So essentially, there was, like,
one day a week, maybe one and a half days a week,
that anyone actually used to do any work.
There was so much money sloshing around in record companies.
They were a lot more kind of happy-go-lucky about their approach.
If you had, like, a decent look or a decent song...
..there were plenty of labels that were willing to kind of
chuck a few quid at it and see what happened.
# My favourite thing has gone away, and I know it won't be easy now
# But I'll manage somehow... #
I mean, the legend is that bands would play one gig and get signed,
and that is true, that did happen.
Menswear had to do their first gig in secret, under a pseudonym.
I think Elastica did a similar thing,
because even before you'd released anything on a small label or
played many shows, there was the potential that there would be
a bunch of A&R people waiting to sign you.
It does sound very easy to get signed.
Maybe it WAS quite easy to get signed.
And you didn't need many songs.
Menswear got signed, I think we did...
I think we did three gigs.
And there was A&R people en masse at every single one of them,
and we had three songs.
Just three songs.
# I stole his shoes and ran away... #
But while CD sales from bands like Menswear were making piles of cash
for the record industry, a revolution was coming,
one that would have an enormous effect on the signing of new talent.
I remember we had a meeting with two American guys who came to see us
at London Records, who wanted an investment of £50,000
for some internet venture. They were trying to
- this is 1995 - and they're trying to explain to us how the
internet's going to affect the record industry.
And this guy is saying, "Because in the future, you know,
"all the kids, they're going to get their music on their computers."
And we were going, "Right, so the...
"..CDs... It's going to come down the wires,
"and then come out on a CD? Your computer prints off the artwork,
"and then you put it together yourself?" And the guy went,
"No, there won't be any artwork, nobody cares about that,
"the kids just want to hear the songs."
So at that point, we went, "This guy's a nutjob," and we
kicked him out of the office with our boots ringing on his backside.
..we later found out that the company they were setting up
was called Yahoo.
Had we taken the £50,000 that we spent on making the second
Menswear album and invested it in Yahoo stock
- we all figured this out much later over redundancy drinks -
we'd have done all right.
It was a sea-change moment in the global music business.
Fast forward to the 2010s,
and downloading and streaming have meant physical sales have plummeted,
so those big signing deals aren't as prevalent as they once were.
I think streaming and the rise of the internet has meant that
it's much easier for artists to get their music heard,
although it's probably not that much easier for them to get it heard
in a mass way. I think, on the flip side, what it's making is
a culture of people that don't invest in artists,
and they invest in tracks.
So what people like me have to do is figure out how we take
the streaming culture and develop artists still.
Denzyl Feigelson is doing just that. He recently set up Platoon,
a company that's developing new talent in the digital age.
Because it's simpler in this day and age to release music,
there's a lot of it now. There's a lot of music.
And anyone can just put their music up there.
There's a lot of platforms that allow you to release the track.
That's not the issue, the issue is having a campaign, have people
working it, having relationships with editors, influencers.
We understand what playlists this track should be in,
we know which editors to contact, we know which blogs and vlogs...
We make our own playlists.
We know how to seed the track into the inter-web,
and into the ears of the people who should be listening to it.
A 2012 survey revealed 64% of teenagers find new music on YouTube,
so the A&R game has had to change.
Gone are the days of expense accounts and huge bar bills.
Today's A&R sits hunched over a computer screen
finding new artists and maximising their online presence.
All right, let's go through our Trello board and look at
who's coming up, what new artists we're really excited about.
Fridays, we have our A&R meetings.
And we go through all the incoming, and we go through a process of
looking at where something is in various stages.
So the board tells me everything on this artist.
There's a link to listen, there's his or her social media stats,
so I know how many Instagram followers they have,
whether they're on Facebook, or they're on Snapchat.
I can listen to the track, I can see the stats, and in that way, we get
a picture of all the releases, everything that's coming out.
Getting on a playlist on one of the big streaming services
can introduce you to millions of new listeners.
Companies like Platoon are able to get hold of the streaming data
and use it to market their artist.
Mr Eazi actually came to us.
We just started looking into, who are you, what do you need,
how can we help? We looked at statistics on Mr Eazi,
and it turns out that, you know, you can see whether people are on
a 9.99 month plan or on a family plan, or on a student plan.
And it turns out that a large chunk of his subscribers were students.
And then you can actually look into... If you go deeper, you go,
"Where are these students?" "Well, they're in the US."
"What part of the US?" Then you start going,
"Well, why don't we do a tour of colleges and universities?"
"And how do you do that?" "Well, let's just call them up."
You know, he did the three-month tour.
It was sold out in colleges in the US.
# I hold it down like a Snapchat
# Go over your head like a snapback
# Uploaded a pic, double tap that
# And your flow's so old, grandad... #
It's a new world, and many new artists are bypassing record labels.
# Why you Snapchatting in the club for?
# Just dance, man, like yo famalam, yo fam, yo famalam... #
Like many UK grime acts, Lady Leshurr took full advantage
of the internet to launch her career by herself.
I've been independent all this time, just because I knew what I wanted.
That's one thing - I feel like you have to build your brand
before someone else builds it, you have to definitely know who you are
and believe in that.
I did it all on my own, and as well as the director, WAWA,
who shot all the Queen's Speeches,
we just had an idea, and we turned it into reality.
You know, you have to have your Twitter, you have to have your
Snapchat, you have to have social networks to get it out.
So you've got to make sure that you're active,
and that's what I was, I was very active.
And then it got to the point where American artists like Akon and
Erykah Badu, Kanye West, like, they were posting it themselves.
# You pout like Donald Duck, Wasteman,
# Donald Trump, YouTube views, that's millions,
# Weave on fleek, Brazilian... #
And that's just because I had an idea.
# All wanna talk, but wait, cos I got the juice... #
100 million streams is an incredible achievement,
but Lady Leshurr realises, to be up there with the Katy Perrys,
you need to break through to the mainstream.
And that's where I come in. I can put her in front of
big, new audiences that are receptive to her music.
The lyrics that you write and the way that you perform mean that
you can be, you know, truly global as well. And I think it's
really important that we try and put you in a position
where you are, you know, going to America.
But more than that, South America, Asia, Japan -
all of these places are what's going to make you a global superstar.
You know, if you never leave Solihull, then we're in big trouble.
But hey, we're already in Dublin, so we're one step at a time, eh?
-I think tonight, you've just got to go out,
and you've got to do what you do so brilliantly.
This is a crowd - they've heard rap before.
-Maybe not like you do it, but they've heard it.
So you go and grab them, and go for it.
That's what it's all about - I have to enjoy myself.
And if I feel like the crowd's not enjoying themselves,
I'm going to make sure that I do something that makes at least
three people smile, and have fun whilst I'm doing it.
# Brush your teeth, brush your teeth, brush 'em! #
I think Lady Leshurr is an example of how new artists make it big
in the current climate. The power of the internet enables you
to make it so far, but you still need some of
the old-school approach to get you to superstardom.
But guess what? There's still no magic formula.
The road to success is an unpredictable mix
of lucky breaks, good timing,
and hopefully some clever planning by the team around you.
# When was the last time...? #
The one vital ingredient that remains consistent is talent.
I don't think you can manage creativity.
It's kind of, like, irrepressible, indomitable.
It's like thistles, just springing up everywhere.
You can't really stop it, and you can't really manage it,
and you just have to try and make sure it's pointing
in the right direction.
It's the music business. It's a business.
Their job is to make money. It's a product. That's what it is.
A band is a tin of beans on the shelf.
It was like that for Elvis, it was like that with The Beatles.
It was like that with every single band that's ever followed.
Everybody wants to sell records, not only because you make so much money,
but because people get to hear your music.
And that is invaluable.
# Just because!
# Just because! Just because! #