My music business life in seven offices
My music business life in seven offices
By Doug D'Arcy
 
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Our lease at Uxbridge Street ran out but luckily Stiff Records Dave Robinson has been hired to open a London office for an LA-based label Def American Recordings. It’s owned by Rick Rubin one of the very best producers around. Dave’s found office space across the street from our old office. It’s too big for them but he suggests we share. Mike Bone the ex-President of Chrysalis Inc is now President of Def American so it’s all cosy and I jump at the chance. Knowing the characters involved I don’t expect the arrangement to last too long but I’d be happy to take on the whole space for dedicated. Karen has been working in a Dedicated office in the BMG building on Times Square New York for the last couple of years. Geoff Muncey has taken over as General Manager. Penny and Niall are still with us but Colleen has moved on to the 4AD label and Paula Greenwood has replaced her.

 Jake Ottman and Jennie Davis

Jake Ottman and Jennie Davis

We’ve kept to a very small team mainly because we’re not selling enough records to justify more people. We’ve released second albums  ‘Forever’ by the Cranes and ‘Blood Music’ by Chapterhouse which have done well but haven’t taken off. We have an exciting ambient music album ’76.14’ by Global Communication and the second Spiritualized LP  ‘Spiritualized Electric Mainline – Pure Phase’ but our general level of sales isn’t great yet. 

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Karen has done well and enjoyed New York. Her boyfriend Stephen Hague the record producer has a studio at the Bearsville Studios complex in Woodstock in upstate New York which has helped. Her time has worked out really well for everyone but she wants to do other things. I’m going to miss her but we’ve agreed it’s time for her to move on. Bob Bouziak has left RCA and Joe Galante from BMG Nashville is the new President. He’s not my cup of tea and Clive Davis is anxious that I move the label over to Arista. I’m more than happy to do that.

I need to build a new team in New York. I’ve found a couple of people Jake Ottmann who is going to be General Manager,and Ben Weber the Marketing manager. They’re both ex-Elektra records. It’s funny how often that label has crossed my path since Terry Ellis first picked them out. Jennie Davis my PA has found us a great office downtown at 580 Broadway on the corner with Prince Street. By coincidence Beggars Banquet’s NY office is on the same floor in the same building. Their office is run by Lesley Bleakley from Beggar’s UK and they’re brilliant to have as neighbours.  I’ve agreed a flatshare with Dick Wingate from Arista. He lives in Westport Conneticut and only occasionally uses his apartment on the Upper East side at 92nd Street and 3rd Avenue. This makes my stays in NY cheaper and more convenient and allows Kate and Jess to visit during school holidays. We set about finding some US based artistes. 

Whilst back in London Jeff Barrett from Heavenly Recordings and Pete Hadfield from Deconstruction come to see me. Pete, who was originally manager of The Specials, is now in partnership with Keith Blackhurst in a very successful dance label at BMG. They’ve made an arrangement with Jeff Barrett and his partner Martin Kelly to release Heavenly’s records. Jeff has a track record which includes  Alan McGee’s Creation label and the Jesus and Mary Chain. He has an album with a solo artist Beth Orton and believes with the right approach she can be successful in America. I listen to the album ‘Trailer Park’ and he’s right. It’s a beautiful record. Everyone at Dedicated New York and Arista agree. Marty Diamond flies to London to secure the agency rights to book Beth in America. 

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We have three new signings in the US. Comet from Dallas, 30 Amp Fuse from Knoxville, and Muler from Rochester NY. We’re also releasing Deep Dish from Washington DC a Deconstruction signing. We’ve added Gargi Patel to do sales and the first release she works on is Beth Orton. Her last job was at Coca-cola so to an indie-rocker this is a dream. The whole release of ‘Trailer Park’ is going well. It’s bringing the new Dedicated staff and the Arista staff together and Beth is enchanting everyone including me. The press, radio and retail response is brilliant and the reaction to her live shows even better.

There are exciting releases in the UK. Global Communication have followed their ‘Pentamerous Metamorphosis’, album which is a remix of Chapterhouse’s second LP ‘Blood Music’ with  their own ‘Remotion’ album. The third Spiritualized album ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space’ is a major event. It comes in pill-style trays packaging brilliantly designed by Mark Farrow. There are a number of formats including one which has twelve 3”cds each with a single song from the album. There are appearances from the Balanescu Quartet, the London Community Gospel Choir and Dr John. The reaction to the album is extraordinary with brilliant reviews and a chart entry at No 4. It leads to an Albert Hall concert with the addition of a horn section, a string section and part of the Community Gospel Choir. An amazing event which was thankfully recorded live.

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My agreement with BMG will run out in a few months time. I don’t think they will want to continue to fund the label at it’s current level. We don’t have the sales to justify it. Nor have we had a significant hit like Oasis or Blur. BMG have been wonderfully supportive and I’m sure we can have some discussions. However it takes a long time to develop a label not least because building a sustainable catalogue is a very long term business.

My dreams of a life in music have all been achieved and they’ve become reality. I’ve enjoyed the whole experience although it’s frequently been gruelling and with episodes that were really painful, the hits and misses you might say.

I still have dreams of freedom and excitement but they’re based on exploring other things. I’ve attended drawing classes at Central St Martins in London and the Art Students League of New York for some time. Apart from being a new experience it’s a symptom of my restlessness. My hope is that Deconstruction will take over Dedicated and I can move on. To what I’ve no idea.