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ADVENTURES IN
OUR HISTORY

When I was a kid I was obsessed with old movies. I loved the Marx Brothers, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Boris Karloff and Bette Davis. I came to know the names of directors like John Huston, Orson Welles and Billy Wilder. My fascination with this dazzling era sent me to books, where I gobbled up lore about how industry titans like Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner and Irving Thalberg transformed the picture biz.

In my teens, my passion transferred to pop music. I worshiped the artists and admired the best-known producers. But apart from recognizing a few names, I never really learned about the execs who built the modern music biz.

I first began working at HITS in the late ’90s, and quickly familiarized myself with the key players of the moment. This continued over the years. But working on our forthcoming special issue, The History of the Music Biz: The Mike Sigman Interviews—which will be crossing your desk soon—has been revelatory. I’m proud to have worked on this project, which is intended as the first salvo in getting the story of our industry straight from the mouths of the people who built it.

As Lenny Beer says: This is OUR history.

The half-century-plus chronicled in the issue tracks remarkable changes. It runs from shellacs and acetates to the advent of digital, from the height of jazz and folk through the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll to the burgeoning of hip-hop and Nirvana. It shows the rakish, rugged roots of A&R, recording, pressing, distribution, promotion and marketing. It’s peopled with hustlers, buskers, brawlers, schemers, dreamers, telephone screamers, mystics, academics and technicians.

The legendary figures whose stories are recounted here cut their own grooves into the culture with the lathes of their personalities. They were entrepreneurs and adventurers who faked it until they made it, and sometimes considerably thereafter. They do not speak in guarded corporate jargon or PR soundbites. They tell stories—brash, hilarious, touching, goosebump-raising, mortifying and credulity-stretching yarns. Tales of entrepreneurial grit, blind faith and crazy luck.

We’re grateful to Mike Sigman, a brilliant journalist who grew up in the music biz as the son of the great songwriter Carl Sigman (“Crazy He Calls Me,” Love Story theme “Where Do I Begin,” "Ebb Tide," “It's All in the Game”) for capturing and shaping these narratives. I should add that Mike’s profiles are accompanied by a truly marvelous collection of classic photos, some from deep in HITS’ 30-year-old archive.

Delving into this history is, among other things, a reminder—in these transitional and often bewildering times—of what can be accomplished with determination, drive and a deep love of music. Here’s to the stories that brought us here, and to the ones to come.

 

 

 

Thanks to Bob Kaus at Warner Music Group, Isaac Zea and David Adelson at Getty Images, Michael Lovesmith at WestGate Media, Mike Sigman and the interviewees for their assistance with images.

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