In The City Preview
The posters for 24 Hour Party People notoriously described Tony Wilson as a Tw*t. Old ladies watching Granada Reports can sometimes be heard calling him that pompous tw*t if you listen carefully enough. But this Tw*t has brought us Joy Division and The Happy Mondays on Factory Records and with In The City furthering the careers of bands such as Oasis, Coldplay and more recently with the Darkness you could call him a modern day genius. Designer Magazine caught up with Tony Wilson to discuss this years theme of "Retaking The World" and to find out how he envisions the music industry in the next few years.
Q: This year is the first time you've had to juggle
2 events in New York as well as Manchester. You must be tearing you hair
out organizing it all
A: It's not very difficult because were semi-New Yorkers anyway and we know a lot of people. A friend of ours is helping us over there and it should be quite easy to run. What they discovered last year is that people need a meeting point and a talking point rather than just gigs or whatever else so putting on a mini In The City is quite interesting. And in a way also it takes In The City back to it's spiritual home. In The City was always a British copy of the New Music Seminar which ran in New York from 1980 to 1994. I was involved in that from the very early days so it's going to take me home.
Q: The theme of "Retaking The World" is looking at
how the music can forge links with the telecommunications and IT company's.
Would you like to expand a little on this?
A: What we've been saying for years, and the chairman of Sony Mr Morita's successor said in Tokyo 6 months ago, "the bosses of my music companies are idiots". By enlarge what he meant was that the music companies treated technology as a problem and threat and not as an opportunity. That comes from the strange sort macho boys world culture of the music industry.
It's something very weird and I've always said it, There's no industry I know where senior executives are less likely to have a PC on their desk. Obviously there are lots of exceptions that prove the rule, one or two very techy people, but by and large music people are not that kind of people. So basically when the internet came along they saw it as a threat and got it completely wrong. And that theme and idea has been underlined by the launch of I-Tunes. If people can go somewhere and it is logical and it is elegant and it works and the payment of money is done easily then people will buy music, they won't pirate it. They're only pirating it because there's nowhere else to go.
Now one heads into the second half of this year and the
future with a little more confidence about it all.
Q: How do you feel about the fact that a report recently
highlighted the fact that some songs are making more money from mobile
phone ringtones than actual single sales?
A: I think that's fine. It always remind me of once New Order got into merchandising and they got back from a gig in Glasgow and Hooky said "We've made more money out of T-Shirts than we the f**king gigs. We should have put the T-Shirts on stage, not us".
But I think there is a changing world and the whole point is everyone says the music industry is in difficulties. The music industry isn't, the record industry is. And there's a f**king difference. In the music industry more music is being consumed than ever before and people have to find different ways of advertising the money and getting it out a bit because music if more popular than ever in that sense.
Ringtones and the mobile thing is just one part of it. That's one thing were doing in New York because that's one of the areas where the British are ahead. I'm sure your aware that the Americans are very slow on mobile phones. One of my oldest friends has been working with Nokia in Santa Monica for a very long time and we want the British Industry to talk to the American industry about the use of mobile phones which we'll do in New York. Every form of revenue is correct and useful and should be used.
Q: The panels are very much the place where the knives
come out. Whose on the panels this year?
A: We just got news today that Tony Wadworth's, the Head of Parlophone and one of the greatest Record Executives in Europe, is our Key Note Speaker. Bands like Idlewild are examples of why were very pleased to have Wadsworth because it is that fact of sticking with your bands which Parlophone are quite famous for as well as finding good bands as well.
McLaren has suddenly decided not to bring down his band. In fact it's not a band, it's a bunch of gameboy players. Unfortunately after getting the Sponsorship from BMI (who are our flights sponsors) to bring in Malcolm, his girlfriend and 4 gameboy players...suddenly Malcolm wanted to bring in 14 people including DJ's and Lights and the whole thing got out of hand. So he's decided he's not ready for the band and he coming down on his own now.
And there's also a bunch of senior executives in Conversation like Richard Griffiths (ex-Head Of Sony America, BMG Europe, 10 Records), Peter Reichardt the Head Of EMI Publishing and is the most powerful publisher in Britain.
Q: One of the main areas for the punter on the street
is the Unsigned Showcases and the chance to see some new bands. Last years
success story were the Darkness. Do you feel any pressure following up
a successful year for the A&R panels?
A: There's a strange thing about In The City Unsigned and is that it has one of the most remarkably brilliant A&R records known to man. If In The City was a record company, and that's an unfair analogy because it would mean we'd have to invest half a million pounds in everyone of the 54 bands each yet , but never the less the track record of ITC beginning with Oasis and Elastica, then Phil Saxe's years of doing Coldpay, Stereophonic, Placebo blah blah blah and yes last year was the Raveonettes and the Darkness.
This year we've had a record number of mail sacks. We
normally have 15-17 mail sacks a year and this year there have been 25
mail sacks. I never listen to the unsigned stuff until it happens and Phil
tells me where to go. But last year the main record in the office was the
Darkness, this lot were raving about it, and at the moment you've got me
raving about a little band from Australia. 6 months ago friends of us from
Mushroom Records in Australia and Mushroom Records in New York rang up
to say we must put this band on. And suddenly we got loads more pressure,
so were putting on a band called Machine Gun Fellatio, who are Australian
and are utterly utterly stunning. So that's my contribution.
Q: We've seen a lot of bands post messages on various
websites suggesting you're only going to get into ITC if you have a manager
or contacts in the industry already. Is this the case?
A: No, no, no. You get into ITC if someone likes the CD, although to a great degree you shouldn't get into ITC Unsigned if you don't have a manager because if you don't have a manager it means you're a thick c**t and you're not make it in the industry, in my opinion. Even though we lost what I regard as the best band in Britain because I said that to them and they stared me back in the eye and said FUGAZI which is the one example that kind of semi-proved the rule. But never the less you don't make it in this business without a manager and bands that think they're so clever they can do it themselves have something wrong with them - it's the rule of the industry.
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