Sunday February 25, 2018
Aug 2013


Getting Acquainted with Music’s Power Players: Clive Davis

By: Anthony Villiotti

1gqhHd_Em_56One does not simply enter the music industry without knowing those who influence it and ensure it runs smoothly.  So, I’m going to bring you up to speed and introduce you to the one and only, Clive Davis.  Clive is currently the Chief Creative Officer at Sony Music Entertainment, founder of Arista Records (now owned by Sony), and popularly credited with transforming Columbia Records (also Sony) into a music giant.  In his book, “Soundtrack of My Life,” which I have spent this summer reading, I have picked up on many lessons from a music executive’s point of view.  This point of view is helpful for me and my career aspirations, but also for upcoming artists because it really can show you how labels are thinking – and that’s the ultimate goal.

I have pulled three quotes that I think deliver invaluable lessons from this book:


“One of the jobs of a record company is to identify the unique qualities in each of their artists, encourage those aspects in the music they make, and market them on that basis.”

What this means for you: It’s time to get serious about the music industry being about business and sales.  While it’s your art they are selling, they want something just as sellable as it is artistic.  Bottom line?  You need to have something to sell.  Your brand must distinguish you amongst the other artists in the game and provide your prospective label a few qualities to leverage and push into the market.


“It’s a simple truth that you can’t be in the entertainment business and be afraid to spend money.”

What this means for you: INVEST.  Remember back to our article: The Economics of The Music Industry: 5 Guiding Principles.  If you want to be serious about your musical career, you must be willing to make a serious investment.  In fact, this is true of any career, where an investment may be a college degree or certification.  However, in the music industry, your chances of succeeding and making your investment back are much slimmer.  You must live by the motto: “high risk; high reward,” and think long and hard about your decision to invest your time and money into a musical career.  Decide against it? Don’t worry – there are plenty of opportunities in the music industry for people other than artists, songwriters, and producers.


“Good critical reviews often don’t translate into sales.”

What this means for you: This quote really epitomizes the importance of creating sellable material that will get you: a) Noticed in the beginning; and b) Money and stardom once you’re launched.  Too often, hopefuls will create artistic masterpieces with perfectly composed music, but doesn’t get them anywhere.  What will “make you” is resonating with the consumer who is in the position to purchase your song.  And labels know this.  The reality is that in the consumer market, sophisticated and true music aficionados are vastly outnumbered by the average music listener who is just looking for a hot new jam.


Citation: Davis, Clive, and Anthony DeCurtis. The Soundtrack of My Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print.

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