SUMMER 2017:

The Europeans have always had an advantage over us—they reserve a portion of the summer to take a breath, to experience more of life outside work. It’s a stark contrast to our 24/7 obsession with everything music; we tend to fear that if we stop and smell the roses, we might get left in the dust. So in honor of our three industry leaders, Sir Lucian Grainge, Rob Stringer and Max Lousada, I dedicate these thoughts on a summer day in Laguna Beach, California.

What I’m Reading

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. I’ve been circling this bestseller for a while, but just recently made the all-out commitment. Now I’m enjoying each page so much that I’ve restricted myself to small doses to make it last. The premise is simple: In 1922, a Russian count is sentenced to lifetime house arrest in a grand hotel for being a Tsarist writer—and therefore on the wrong side of his nation’s history. But don’t expect a treatise on politics or a deep dive into the annals of the Russian aristocracy; this is a brilliant, insightful look at a life spent living every moment, enjoying every detail and sharing the small kindnesses of friends and acquaintances.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann. Yes, the FBI and the beginning of J. Edgar Hoover. Also set in the 1920s, Killers explores the systematic murder of Osage Native Americans for the oil that was discovered on their reservation in remotest Oklahoma. A captivating murder mystery with modern-day implications, as the FBI comes to prominence.

In Search of the Lost Chord: 1967 and the Hippie Idea by Danny Goldberg. The veteran executive and manager—who wrote one of my all-time faves, Bumping Into Geniuses, and whose current management company, Gold Village Entertainment, handles Steve Earle and others—is back with this little gem that provides a unique perspective on how and why the legacy of 1967 lives on today. I’m savoring it, just as I’ve savored chatting with Danny over the years.

What I’m watching

My top pick for the summer is the second season of Aziz Ansari’s Master of None. As with any sitcom, it takes a few episodes to catch the rhythm and nuances of the characters and the richly intelligent humor. But by the end of Season One, I was a fan. Season Two came out last month, and mere minutes into the first episode, it was clear: This show has turned into a masterpiece. Plan to binge-watch; by the time you get to the Thanksgiving episode, you’ll be ready for the greatness that ensues.

 The Big Sick: Clearly the IT indie film of the year, this romantic comedy delivers well beyond genre expectations. We learn about the strain that an interracial relationship can exert—not only on the lovers, but also their parents, families and traditions. It stars Kumail Nanjiani (best known from HBO’s Silicon Valley), who co-wrote the script with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, about the beginnings of their relationship. The always special Zoe Kazan co-stars, and Sick features scene-stealing performances by Ray Romano, Holly Hunter, Adeel Akhtar and Anupam Kher as the couple’s parents. I could nitpick and say it’s about 15 minutes too long, but who really cares when you’re enjoying the leisure of summer?

 Sarah Silverman, A Speck of Dust: This is simply the funniest and darkest hour in recent memory. As usual, it’s filled with “yeah, she just went there” moments, which seem even more twisted as she stands there radiantly, teasingly dropping unexpected bomb after bomb from her gorgeous being. Irreverent and poignant from start to finish, this is Sarah’s first special post-health scare. It’s must-see TV.

Hot free agent Todd Glassman with uber-manager Ron Laffitte rock their matching polos at a recent U2 show.

What I've Been Thinking (Random Thoughts)

I obsess about the Grammy Awards all year long. The industry has lots of solid hit records now—and more available streaming space than ever to expose them—but I’m wondering if this is the year that we see two new stars anointed. Keep your eyes on Top Dawg/RCA’s SZA and Columbia’s Harry Styles. Could she be the next Lauryn Hill-like cultural icon, and he the next Justin Timberlake

Will we see a new head of Columbia Records in the fall? In any case, Joel Klaiman’s star will continue to rise as he shines in his current role.

We’ve seen the first mega-promotion turnover since Greg Thompson left Capitol for the management world at Maverick and Greg Marella stepped in strongly to steer the ship, as red-hot Todd Glassman exits Epic to be replaced by—well, we don’t who yet—and Sandra Afloarei is tapped as SVP Top 40 at the label. Stay tuned.

The return of RCA’s Kesha after a harrowing personal and legal ordeal (and much tabloid noise) was heralded by a #2 iTunes debut for single “Praying” and immediate radio interest in a ballad, which is invariably a bit of rough sledding. Major props go to the song’s writing/production team and manager Jack Rovner, who never stopped believing, all through the protracted, punishing battle that engulfed her. (Jack is pictured at right in a classic headshot from our archives.)

I’ve derived a great deal of enjoyment from the memorable chart battles for #1 we’ve seen in recent weeks, starting with Logic’s ascension to the top and subsequently highlighted by the down-to-the-wire duel between DJ Khaled and Imagine Dragons. I’ve also been closely following the latest kerfuffle (or is that brouhaha?) about whether or not Spotify has been playlisting fake artists, which really brings both a smile and a smirk to my face. As an old friend texted me, “I love corruption.” It all underscores that people are really battling for every inch of valuable turf.

And finally, isn’t it great to be part of a growing, booming, expanding industry again? Optimism abounds. Hope is in everyone’s plans. It’s cool to be in the music business again. Halle-fucking-lujah!

Talk about an overnight sensation. (4/21a)
His death continues to reverberate. (4/21a)
Anderson goes global. (4/21a)
A little help, please. (4/21a)
We've got a plan. (4/21a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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