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"Making it in the United States is the biggest challenge of all for any British talent in the music business. He will need all his intelligence and skill to pull it off.”
——Paul McGuinness
LUCIAN GRAINGE: TIME’S MAN OF THE MOMENT
Newly Published Profile in Prestigious Weekly Describes a Skilled and Fierce Competitor Who Commands Respect Throughout the Industry—and Demands Respect Within UMG
You know you’ve made the big time when Time magazine profiles you before you even start your new gig, but that’s the sort of verbal drum roll accorded Lucian Grainge, the incoming UMG co-CEO—and the eventual successor to a legend, Doug Morris—in this week’s issue of Time Warner’s flagship weekly.

The piece, bearing the headline “Will Universal Music's New Boss Keep the Hits Coming?,” opens with a flourish. “Lucian Grainge's management style is not short on theatrical flourish,” writes Dan Sabbagh. “Four years ago, the Briton who is about to become the world's most powerful music industry executive, arrived late to the boardroom of Universal Music Group's international head office in London after the company had suffered a particularly poor sales period. As he entered, he turned off the lights, leaving his executive team sitting nervously in the dark. He then paced around the room until finally uttering the words: ‘See that. Better get used to it. That's what it's like when you don't have any hit records.’”

What follows is a quote that will cause hearts to pump and hands to tremble throughout UMG, as Grainge succinctly and unequivocally lays out the sole criterion regarding the life expectancy of  the UMG executives under his command:  "It will depend if they have any hits or not."

Sabbag places the 49-year-old executive in an interesting context, pointing out that Grainge “is one of a trio of talented British music executives—all born within six months of each other—who have landed at the heart of the industry, even though none had any college education.” The other are Simon Cowell, “the elder of the group and the only one who has turned 50,” and Simon Fuller.

“Grainge, though, describes himself as ‘the powerful one,’” Sabbagh writes. “He may not appear on television, but the turn-off-the-lights story is typical of a man who is both fiercely competitive and entertainingly playful. He chases artists signed to other music companies with fervor, personally persuading the Rolling Stones to switch over from…EMI two years ago. And once he's wooed acts, he can keep them on board—no small achievement in an industry not short of ego.”

Said U2 manager Paul McGuinness of Grainge: "Making it in the United States is the biggest challenge of all for any British talent in the music business. He will need all his intelligence and skill to pull it off… Lucian's advantage is that he has got a strong musical record of his own, so his opinion on a song, as well as business, is taken seriously."

The reporter notes that Grainge wants to transform UMG “into a ‘content-owning rights company,’ which means developing television and film formats to vie with the two Simons' TV franchises: Fuller's American Idol and Cowell's soon-to-be-arriving X Factor, which is already a big hit in Britain. Among Universal's television projects in Britain is a show called Popstar to Operastar, which features Meatloaf as a judge of La Scala wannabes. And on the theater front, Universal is backing Judy Kramer, the producer of the stage and film musical Mamma Mia!, in her efforts to create a musical about the Spice Girls called Viva Forever.”

Sabbag closes the piece as he opened it: “Whether either format produces the next Susan Boyle remains to be seen. But if anybody is going to keep the lights on in the U.S. music business, it's likely to be Grainge.”

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