Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis

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In 1999, when Napster made music available free online, the music industry found itself in a fight for its life. A decade later, the most important and misunderstood story—and the one with the greatest implications for both music lovers and media companies—is how the music industry has failed to remake itself. In Fortune’s Fool, Fred Goodman, the author of The Mansion on the Hill, shows how this happened by presenting the singular history of Edgar M. Bronfman Jr., the controversial heir to Seagram’s, who, after dismantling his family’s empire and fortune, made a high-stakes gamble to remake both the music industry and his own reputation.

Napster had successfully blown the industry off its commercial foundations because all that the old school label heads knew how to do was record and market hits. So when Bronfman took over the Warner Music Group in 2004, his challenge was to create a new kind of record executive.

Goodman finds the source of the crisis in the dissolution of the old Warner Music Group, the brilliant conglomerate of Atlantic, Elektra, and Warner Bros. Records. He shows how Doug Morris, the head of Atlantic Records, rose through the ranks and rode the CD bonanza of the 1990s to enormous corporate and personal profit before becoming embroiled in an ego-driven corporate turf war, and how all of Warner’s record executives were blindsided when AOL/Time-Warner announced in 2003 that it wanted nothing more to do with the record industry. When the music group was finally sold to Bronfman, it was a ghost of itself.

Bronfman built an aggressive, streamlined team headed by Lyor Cohen, whose relentless ambition and discipline had helped build Def Jam Records. They instituted a series of daring initiatives intended to give customers legitimate online music choices and took market share from Warner’s competitors. But despite these efforts, illegal downloads still outnumber legitimate ones 19–1.

Most of the talk of a new world of music and media has proven empty; despite the success of iTunes, even wildly popular sites like YouTube and MySpace have not found a way to make money with music. Instead, Warner and the other labels are diversifying and forcing young artists to give them a cut of their income from touring, publishing, and merchandising. Meanwhile, the average downloader isn’t even meeting forward-thinking musicians halfway. Each time a young band finds a following through music websites, it’s a unique story; no formula has emerged. If one does, Warner is probably in a better position than anyone to exploit it. But at the end of the day, If is the one-word verdict on Bronfman’s big bet.
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About the author

Fred Goodman is a writer who specializes in the music and entertainment industry. He was a senior editor at Rolling Stone Magazine from 1987-1990. He has also written for The New York Times and Vanity Fair. He is also an author of books some of which are The Mansion on the Hill and Fortune's Fool.

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Reviews

3.7
57 total
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Additional Information

Publisher
Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jul 13, 2010
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Pages
336
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ISBN
9781439160503
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Corporate & Business History
Business & Economics / General
Music / Business Aspects
Music / History & Criticism
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Fred Goodman
“Fred Goodman makes this world come alive, and any fan of rock or insider tales of the music industry will be in heaven reading about this fascinating, troubling character.” — Judd Apatow, Omnivoracious

“Writing about contracts, percentages, and deals can be tedious, but Goodman makes it as exciting as reading about an artist’s sex life. The book explodes with inside dope.” —New York Daily News
 
Allen Klein was like no one the music industry had seen before. Though he became infamous for allegedly causing the Beatles’ breakup and robbing the Rolling Stones, the truth is both more complex and more fascinating. As the manager of the Stones and then the Beatles—not to mention Sam Cooke, Pete Townshend, Donovan, the Kinks, and numerous others—he taught young soon-to-be legends how to be businessmen as well as rock stars. While Klein made millions for his clients, he was as merciless with them as he was with anyone, earning himself an outsize reputation for villainy that has gone unchallenged until now. Through unique, unprecedented access to Klein’s archives, veteran music journalist Fred Goodman tells the full story of how the Beatles broke up, how the Stones achieved the greatest commercial success in rock history, and how the music business became what it is today.
 
“Fred Goodman is a superb writer . . . and his account here of one of rock ’n’ roll’s most polarizing figures could not be more readable. The even-handed tone, the supposition that readers are moderately intelligent and sophisticated, and the rather astounding involvement Allen Klein had with pop music’s largest legends—put all that together, and you’ve got one highly engrossing read.” —Yahoo! Music
 
“Succeed[s] both as a compelling work of rock ’n’ roll history and as a cautionary business primer.” —Wall Street Journal
Jim Collins
The Challenge
Built to Last, the defining management study of the nineties, showed how great companies triumph over time and how long-term sustained performance can be engineered into the DNA of an enterprise from the verybeginning.

But what about the company that is not born with great DNA? How can good companies, mediocre companies, even bad companies achieve enduring greatness?

The Study
For years, this question preyed on the mind of Jim Collins. Are there companies that defy gravity and convert long-term mediocrity or worse into long-term superiority? And if so, what are the universal distinguishing characteristics that cause a company to go from good to great?

The Standards
Using tough benchmarks, Collins and his research team identified a set of elite companies that made the leap to great results and sustained those results for at least fifteen years. How great? After the leap, the good-to-great companies generated cumulative stock returns that beat the general stock market by an average of seven times in fifteen years, better than twice the results delivered by a composite index of the world's greatest companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, General Electric, and Merck.

The Comparisons
The research team contrasted the good-to-great companies with a carefully selected set of comparison companies that failed to make the leap from good to great. What was different? Why did one set of companies become truly great performers while the other set remained only good?

Over five years, the team analyzed the histories of all twenty-eight companies in the study. After sifting through mountains of data and thousands of pages of interviews, Collins and his crew discovered the key determinants of greatness -- why some companies make the leap and others don't.

The Findings
The findings of the Good to Great study will surprise many readers and shed light on virtually every area of management strategy and practice. The findings include:

Level 5 Leaders: The research team was shocked to discover the type of leadership required to achieve greatness. The Hedgehog Concept (Simplicity within the Three Circles): To go from good to great requires transcending the curse of competence. A Culture of Discipline: When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results. Technology Accelerators: Good-to-great companies think differently about the role of technology. The Flywheel and the Doom Loop: Those who launch radical change programs and wrenching restructurings will almost certainly fail to make the leap.

“Some of the key concepts discerned in the study,” comments Jim Collins, "fly in the face of our modern business culture and will, quite frankly, upset some people.”

Perhaps, but who can afford to ignore these findings?

Donald S. Passman
“The industry bible” (Los Angeles Times), now updated, essential for anyone in the music business—musicians, songwriters, lawyers, agents, promoters, publishers, executives, and managers—trying to navigate the rapid transformation of the industry.

For more than twenty years, All You Need to Know About the Music Business has been universally regarded as the definitive guide to the music industry. Now in its ninth edition, this latest edition leads novices and experts alike through the crucial, up-to-the-minute information on the industry’s major changes in response to today’s rapid technological advances and uncertain economy.

Whether you are—or aspire to be—a performer, writer, or executive, veteran music lawyer Donald Passman’s comprehensive guide is an indispensable tool. He offers timely, authoritative information from how to select and hire a winning team of advisors and structure their commissions and fees; navigate the ins and outs of record deals, songwriting, publishing, and copyrights; maximize concert, touring, and merchandising deals; understand the digital streaming services; and how to take a comprehensive look at the rapidly transforming landscape of the music business as a whole.

The music industry is in the eye of the storm, when everyone in the business is scrambling to figure out what’s going to happen to the major labels and what it will mean for the careers of artists and business professionals. No musician, songwriter, entertainment lawyer, agent, promoter, publisher, manager, or record company executive—anyone who makes their living from music—can afford to be without All You Need to Know About the Music Business. As Adam Levine, lead singer and guitarist of Maroon 5, says, “If you want to be in music, you have to read this book.”
Satya Nadella
“At the core, Hit Refresh, is about us humans and the unique quality we call empathy, which will become ever more valuable in a world where the torrent of technology will disrupt the status quo like never before.” – Satya Nadella from Hit Refresh

“Satya has charted a course for making the most of the opportunities created by technology while also facing up to the hard questions.” – Bill Gates from the Foreword of Hit Refresh

The New York Times bestseller Hit Refresh is about individual change, about the transformation happening inside of Microsoft and the technology that will soon impact all of our lives—the arrival of the most exciting and disruptive wave of technology humankind has experienced: artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and quantum computing. It’s about how people, organizations, and societies can and must transform and “hit refresh” in their persistent quest for new energy, new ideas, and continued relevance and renewal. 

Microsoft’s CEO tells the inside story of the company’s continuing transformation, tracing his own personal journey from a childhood in India to leading some of the most significant technological changes in the digital era. Satya Nadella explores a fascinating childhood before immigrating to the U.S. and how he learned to lead along the way. He then shares his meditations as a sitting CEO—one who is mostly unknown following the brainy Bill Gates and energetic Steve Ballmer. He tells the inside story of how a company rediscovered its soul—transforming everything from culture to their fiercely competitive landscape and industry partnerships. As much a humanist as engineer and executive, Nadella concludes with his vision for the coming wave of technology and by exploring the potential impact to society and delivering call to action for world leaders.

“Ideas excite me,” Nadella explains. “Empathy grounds and centers me.” Hit Refresh is a set of reflections, meditations, and recommendations presented as algorithms from a principled, deliberative leader searching for improvement—for himself, for a storied company, and for society.

Fred Goodman
“Fred Goodman makes this world come alive, and any fan of rock or insider tales of the music industry will be in heaven reading about this fascinating, troubling character.” — Judd Apatow, Omnivoracious

“Writing about contracts, percentages, and deals can be tedious, but Goodman makes it as exciting as reading about an artist’s sex life. The book explodes with inside dope.” —New York Daily News
 
Allen Klein was like no one the music industry had seen before. Though he became infamous for allegedly causing the Beatles’ breakup and robbing the Rolling Stones, the truth is both more complex and more fascinating. As the manager of the Stones and then the Beatles—not to mention Sam Cooke, Pete Townshend, Donovan, the Kinks, and numerous others—he taught young soon-to-be legends how to be businessmen as well as rock stars. While Klein made millions for his clients, he was as merciless with them as he was with anyone, earning himself an outsize reputation for villainy that has gone unchallenged until now. Through unique, unprecedented access to Klein’s archives, veteran music journalist Fred Goodman tells the full story of how the Beatles broke up, how the Stones achieved the greatest commercial success in rock history, and how the music business became what it is today.
 
“Fred Goodman is a superb writer . . . and his account here of one of rock ’n’ roll’s most polarizing figures could not be more readable. The even-handed tone, the supposition that readers are moderately intelligent and sophisticated, and the rather astounding involvement Allen Klein had with pop music’s largest legends—put all that together, and you’ve got one highly engrossing read.” —Yahoo! Music
 
“Succeed[s] both as a compelling work of rock ’n’ roll history and as a cautionary business primer.” —Wall Street Journal
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