Rick Rubin Will Definitely Maybe Save The Music Business

This weekend’s New York Times came with a special treat: The Magazine bore a full cover photo of Rick Rubin, wrapped in a white blanket and sat in lotus pose so that he looked like a meditating yogi — or a melting scoop of vanilla fro-yo with a bearded cherry on top. Since he appeared simultaneously sage-like and delicious, we had no choice but to parse the mammoth cover story.

Throughout we’re treated to anecdotes of Rubin’s keen genius and spiritual orientation, talking about how he “doesn’t even take notes,” “listens with his eyes closed,” and how he often gets tagged a guru. “Can Rick Rubin Save The Music Business?” was the question posed. Answer: let’s see if he can save Columbia first (Rick’s joined as co-head of the label). The music article, written for people that don’t read a lot of music articles (tip off via the article’s second sentence: “a new band called the Gossip”), laid out the problems facing the industry (declining sales, piracy, an outdated “product sales” model of signing/promotion) and detailed Rick’s suggestions, oversimplified as such: Let’s get back to the music, man.

That means making killer records that “start with the songs,” getting people to get comfy paying for music again by turning to a subscription model (“You’d pay, say, $19.95 a month, and the music will come anywhere you’d like. In this new world, there will be a virtual library that will be accessible from your car, from your cellphone, from your computer, from your television. Anywhere.”), and starting a “word of mouth” department to grow buzz “organically.” That online street teaming shit never backfires, right?

Worth a read for music biz enthusiasts and the Rubin curious. Ultimately, it’s a great bit of PR for Rick and Columbia (and congrats to our friend Kevin Kusatsu!), though it’ll take a lot more than publicity buzz to help major labels out of their situation. But it’s not like Rick to turn down an opportunity to pimp a new product (kidding, Rick, we know you hate that term) onto the NYT reading masses. “Do you know Paul Potts?” Rick asks the writer. No tasteless Khmer Rouge quips here — this is Rick’s latest latest love, a contestant from the UK’s Britain’s Got Talent. Via NYT:

“Where does that come from?” Rubin said as he watched. Tears were rolling down his cheeks. “I can’t look at this without crying,” he said. “His voice is so beautiful … It’s August now ? that show was eight weeks ago. In England, Paul Potts is already gigantic, but we are going to launch him in America. This just blew my mind.”

Check it…

You can literally see folks in the studio audience break out into goosebumps, and that’s pretty powerful. Still, what can Rick do with an artist like this in the States, a talent show contestant from the UK that sings opera? This quote pretty much nails it:

I knew what I liked, and I didn’t really care if anyone else liked it. I still never assume that anyone will like anything. But I can’t imagine that they won’t, either.

Huh? Exactly.

Tags: Rick Rubin