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No Bull Sessions Podcast – The Music Business


I recently sat down with Richard Bull on his “No Bull Sessions Podcast” to discuss the music business then and now. We got into some history, some fun stories, current trends, consumption and delivery, and how the business has changed as we look toward to the future. We share stories from Madonna to Guns & Roses, Cher and The Doors, Demi Lovato and J. Balvin, Cardi B and 360 label deals, and my thoughts on the future of the music business.

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January 2016 – Remembering Bowie, Frey, and Kantner

Abbey Konowitch - Remembering Bowie, Frey, and Kantner

A month of great loss in music – David Bowie, Glenn Frey, and Paul Kantner

We lost three important figures in music this month; David Bowie, an incredible voice, a gifted songwriter, and a pioneer of the glam rock movement who brought one of rock music’s first alter egos into the spotlight. Glenn Frey, the multiple Grammy-award winning singer and multi-instrumentalist, who founded one of the most popular bands of all-time. And Paul Kantner, a man who put his thoughts about the nation’s political issues into lyrics and music, and sat on the battle lines at a time where music fought against the government. As a fan first, and then as an executive in the music business, I watched and appreciated the success that each of these men had.

Abbey Konowitch - Remembering Bowie, Frey, and Kantner

David Bowie (photo by Brian Duffy)

David Bowie was the ultimate innovator in music and influenced so many generations to embrace risk taking, not fear it. For me, having met David when I worked at MTV was such an honor and a moment in my life I will never forget. He was an innovator in popular music for over five decades, and was considered by critics, musicians and fans as a pioneer. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, and his music and stagecraft significantly challenged the norm and definition of popular music. During his lifetime, he sold an estimated 140 million records worldwide, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.


Abbey Konowitch - Remembering Bowie, Frey, and Kantner

Glenn Frey (photo by Sam Emerson/Polaris)

Although I didn’t know Glenn personally, it’s no doubt that he and the Eagles helped set the precedent for physical music unit sales during my early days in the music business. His voice on songs like “Take It Easy” and “Heartache Tonight” were a fixture of rock radio in the 70’s, and he had the courage to embark on a successful solo career in the 80’s which spawned hits on Top 40 radio including “The Heat Is On,” and “You Belong to the City.” Along with the other members of The Eagles, Frey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and won a total of six Grammy Awards over his career.

Abbey Konowitch - Remembering Bowie, Frey, and Kantner

Paul Kantner (photo by Elaine Mayes)


My first moment in the music business was born at a  Jefferson Airplane concert when I was in college. It was later both a privilege and somewhat ironic that in the early days of my career  I had a chance to work with Paul and got to become friends with him and spend time at his house and in his city at my days at Arista Records. From 1965 all the way to 2015, Paul spent 50 years of his life on tour, performing the songs that 3 generations of audiences adored. He had the longest continuous membership of Jefferson Airplane, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with other band members in 1996.




For a few minutes at a few annual events every year we are reminded about who we lost with “In Memoriam” tributes. From those that were stars on the stage, visionaries behind-the-scenes, and leaders in business – those that died way too young and those that lived full lives. People that chose to make music their career and who all found a way to achieve the important balance between art and industry. It usually only happens a few times a year, where we come together as a community to mourn and pay tribute to someone’s particular contribution to music. When it happens 3 times in a matter of 3 weeks, music falls into the shadows, and the appreciation of life itself sits at the forefront of our minds.

Catalog Music Is Outselling New Music

Catalog Music

Adele’s “25” & Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”

Classic Rock and catalog albums outsold new albums for the first time in history last year

As reported by Nielsen, 2015 marked the first time in U.S. history that new music was outsold by “catalog music” (albums that are at least 18 months old) by more than 4 million copies. This marks a dramatic shift from 2005, where new music outsold catalog music by more than 150 million units.

Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon continues to be one of the best-selling catalog music albums year in and year out, having sold 50,000 copies on vinyl alone in 2015. Other classic rock artists that are still selling boatloads of albums include The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, and the Eagles.

According to the report, total music streaming was up 92 percent from 2014, and physical album sales were down 14 percent. Despite the large overall drop, physical album sales for catalog music was down only 2 percent.

This is all encouraging news for Abbey Konowitch’s RockmaniaLive! Come check us out on Facebook

Catalog Music

Source: Nielsen


Alanis Morissette’s – Jagged Little Pill

The (totally unironic) oral history of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill (EW story)

Jagged-Little-PillAbbey Konowitch, Maverick Records General Manager (1995)

“There was no particular vision for the label at that point as much as there was to begin a label and have our toe in the water of pop culture. We had become successful, which was quite amazing, because boutique record labels or vanity labels were notoriously not successful. Most of the major labels, maybe all, had passed on her. And they didn’t pass on her because they didn’t think she was good, some probably thought she was great. They just didn’t know what to do with her. We didn’t either, but we knew she was great. We had no idea if we’d be successful.

My recollection is first hearing the song “Perfect” and drawn into hearing these lyrics that for me, having grown up with Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen and Joni Mitchell, there was a voice, and it was so incredible, it constantly brought tears to my eyes when I heard these songs. We believed that “You Oughta Know” would make the statement about who she was, and to be frank, with her unwillingness to edit and censor the lyrics, we were not wildly optimistic that it would be a radio staple globally. But we knew that those who heard it would know there was a voice and something very special. I went and played it for Kevin Weatherly, and there is a funny story there. I went to meet with Kevin to play “You Oughta Know,” and I was waiting in the lobby of KROQ, and after waiting in the lobby for 20 minutes or so, I looked inside the CD case, and there was nothing in the case. So when Kevin was ready to see me, I had to vamp. So I asked him “Why don’t we go have lunch?” I told him there was no CD in the case and that they were going to bring it over to me. But as a result, I had the chance to talk to him about her. Kevin is brilliant not just at playing records but understanding pop culture, and understanding where people are in the zeitgeist. We knew that she was a voice of a generation, we just didn’t know if anybody would ever hear it. That’s how it is with poetry and that’s how it is with great artists. I mean, who knows if Bob Dylan would break in 2015? So I got to talk to Kevin and played him “You Oughta Know” and left it with him, and when I got in the car to come back to my office, it was on the radio.

Howie Klein, who was the head of Reprise, had asked me to come over and talk to him about Alanis because they were not in the loop and they were Maverick’s partner. I came over and told him the story of how we were positioning “You Oughta Know,” and the idea was to have people hear about it and discover her and hear her point of view. We were not censoring the lyrics, so it’s unlikely it would be a giant radio hit but a song that people would find and discover. I played it for him, and my recollection is he was the first person to say to me, “Your plan is totally off.” He insisted that everyone was going to play this record, and he was right. We shipped 12,500 records, and in a hotel in Hamburg, Alanis said “When my album goes to number one, I’m going to shave my head.” And we were like, “When your album goes number one? We’re shipping 12,000 records! Let’s hope we sell 100,000!” Nobody knew how big it would be. There was a member of her management team who, after hearing the record finished, said to her, “This record is going to pay your rent. You’re going to be OK because of this work, and you’ll probably sell 200 or 300 thousand copies of your first record.” That was being presented as great news, because she was a square peg going into a round hole and she wasn’t playing the game. Madonna was personally invested. Maybe not in the beginning, but by virtue of Alanis being on Maverick, and Madonna having a new record that we were able to leverage to get people to listen to Alanis and understand that we had the resources to move it, she indirectly had a great deal to do with it.

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