A Recollection Of The Cocaine-And-Vodka Fueled ’90s Music Industry

One night at an industry showcase will tell you the Belvedere and blow is far from gone in the A&R game, but the rampant hedonism — and the bottomless expense accounts — have sorta taken a hit from this eight-year slide for the music biz. Former label guy John Niven pens a remembrance of the late ’90s “last hurrah … spangled fall-of-Rome era” for the industry in today’s Times Online. Niven’s got great anecdotes about executive cluelessness (bosses tossing White Stripes demos out windows, deemed correct because they did so with gusto), corporate misdirection (“You were a success if you could produce a profitable act every two or three years”), debauched entitlement:

I remember standing in the corporate hospitality box at Oasis’s Maine Road show in the spring of 1996, being entertained by jugglers and fire eaters, a glass of cold champagne in one hand. Far below, tens of thousands of tolers (industry shorthand for the lumpen proletariat who buy the product) gleefully smashed up Moss Side. I was thinking, “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain” … or, more likely, “Where’s the dealer?”

The money to fund the fun came from the CD, of course, which not only forced folks to repurchase their vinyl/cassette collections, but had a manufacturing-to-selling profit margin “to make Third World sweatshop owners wince.” As an outside to the game now, it seems he sees the present state of the industry a sort of karmic comedown from decades of misappropriation, an upside down world where “bands give their music away free with newspapers to drive up ticket sales for their profitable live shows – a complete reversal of the time where an act lost money on the road in order to drive CD sales.”

Definitely worth a read. Check it here (via TDS).