Artist Interviews

Talking Business, Collaboration & Music Jobs: Ross Landau

Photograph of the blog post author, Mary Woodcock

Mary Woodcock

20.6.2014

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Curious to know what’s going on in the industry these days? We’re talking to industry veteran Ross Landau about his extensive career and how the industry has been changing.

1. You’re a seasoned industry pro, what has given you the greatest job satisfaction so far? 

Thank you, I will take “seasoned” as a real compliment, difficult question! There are two that come to mind, the first has to be the ITN Music Archive, from conception to launch, it was hard work but rewarding. Although it was for B2B globally, I also put this top 10 music TV debuts piece together. Every newspaper in the UK took the story; it was incredible to watch the launch unfold.

Secondly, it has to be the first single I ever released, which I wrote, played and produced on. Someone sold a copy online for nearly £400 last year; I was flabbergasted! Although my first project never reached any commercial success, as a teenager at the time I had a dream like most of us have. After all this time, “creating” something that I was very involved with early on has always stayed with me.

2. Do you find much difference between working in the heart of TV compared with the music industry?

Good question – both industries suffered regarding piracy and being slow and apprehensive to adopt new technologies in the noughties. During this period we saw a lack of long term creative planning from both industries, i.e. long term acts and quality TV programming. Television especially BBC, ITV, and SKY, have worked closely with record companies in recent years.

For instance, Globe Productions, which is part of Universal, are actively involved with the TV networks making music documentaries. Both industries have had to adapt, challenge and move forward in recent years. Their co-operation as partners has also seen part of the massive jump in revenue in synchronisation. All writers, producers, and musicians belonging to the mechanical societies have been huge beneficiaries of this increased income. The three major UK TV networks pay vast sums of money in order to make use of their blanket agreements with the mechanical member societies.

Of course lastly, American Idol although not so popular now, became a monster within the global TV and Music industries. It changed both industries and brought forward SMS text messaging, branding and sponsorship to new spectacular heights. Along the way, it did produce some good talent. Curiously there was something old fashioned that they did do; they had a really good live resident band. It still is to this day the most successful grossing TV series of all time.

Lastly ITV and SKY [BSKYB] are PLCs. So are Universal Music [Vivendi] and Sony, they are all stock market and shareholder driven businesses. I rest my case!

3. Give us your top 3 business tips for creatives working in music and looking to further their careers

For creative working you do need certain rules and peace of mind before you embark on a new project:

a] Never undersell yourself – people will not respect you in the long term.

b] Always do your research when meeting a new client. This can open up to a fruitful business relationship, although your selling to a potential client, a client is always impressed by how much you know about their “Business”. Relationships are so important, vital in fact.

c] On negotiating a deal always be prepared to walk away. Refer to “point a” with this one!

4. How important is music collaboration in today’s industry, and why?

The growth of production companies has been vital in recent years for nurturing new talent and new marketing/promotional ideas. It’s very reminiscent of punk, indie, and dance labels of yesteryear, although now they are crucial to the major and the big independent record companies who now sign them like artists.

Recording technology has also been vitally important. If you need a bass line put down on your track and you’re in your flat in Glasgow, it’s easy to find someone online instantly as far away as Australia and record it. There is no melody maker but there is the Internet! It’s a fantastic tool for musicians and songwriters to collaborate. Even the collaboration of distributing your music legally online is not only simple but also extraordinary and not to be taken for granted.

5. If you had the knowledge and experience at 21 that you have now, what would you have done differently in your career?

I would have spent a lot more time writing songs and hooks, and not wanting to be the greatest bass player on the block! Song writing is the most important aspect of the music industry, without songs there is no industry; it really is as simple as that.

6. What direction do you see the music industry going?

The million-dollar question! I get asked this a lot, it’s a great question. Firstly, in this amazing industry “You never know what is going to happen”. Like fashion there are cycles where music and trends come back but in a slightly different way. Britpop was evident of this. Also, people are commenting that the album is dead, is it? I am not so sure! The 1950s albums did not sell but singles/track sales went through the roof, and there is evidence through Adele, Amy Winehouse, and Artic Monkeys, who have and do produce great albums of songs, which leads me onto Pharrell Williams. His song “Happy” could have been released and been a massive hit any time over the past 50 years and 50 years in the future.

Technology is a far different matter and this is where I believe music, film and TV got caught out with companies such as napster. Years back, the technology and Internet were in use quite a few years before napster’s popularity, but the 3 creative businesses chose to ignore what was going on at the time. It took them years to catch up with technology and now things are very different. Hollywood has embraced digital. Television now has various platforms including the Netflix platform, which is heavily involved with forthcoming technology only to enhance the viewers’ experience. Of course the music industry, which used to be heavily involved with the financial development of new technology (from the 78 to the vinyl LP to CD). All the major record companies invested in this technology, but not napster and beyond.

So we are now looking at MP3s being replaced. Various companies in 2014 are now getting ready to battle out their new format, like cassette vs 8 track, Betamax vs VHS, Bluray vs HDDVD. Like all old formats, MP3 will be cast aside, although vinyl has had a renaissance recently. Interestingly, streaming will be staying and evolving. Its rise in consumer popularity in recent years has been incredible. I mentioned Netflix before but also Spotify, although not popular with writers and musicians, is growing in popularity. We will soon be receiving 24-bit music streaming; no doubt a service where the music provided is better than CD. Lastly, we only have to look at how YouTube has evolved since its creation in 2005.

7. What are the biggest challenges facing students that are coming into the market place?

The biggest challenge for students is that they need to think outside of the box. The music industry in 2014 is not just recording, live sound and record/publishing companies. The music industry is now wider with more opportunity than ever. After all, so much has happened in recent years with android phones, streaming, IPTV, branding agencies, and sound design.

Also, the news media are very quick to jump on graduates NOT getting into work just a few months after graduating. Frankly, to me this is negative publicity. Students have already worked extremely hard in order to get their degrees. I certainly believe they should be given proper expert advice into the career they want to go into. It’s not just being told to put your CV together and apply to adverts; face-to-face networking is absolutely crucial. It always was and always will be. Students need these skills.

8. In your opinion, what changes in the industry have made the biggest impact?

Apple – iTunes stepped in with a legal solution after napster in 2001. YouTube – showed the true value of streaming video. Android phones – the industry is now in a much healthier place than it was 10 years ago. Music publishing has been a huge recipient of all changing revenue streams including streaming, synchronization, and live events. It’s also got very easy for writers and performers to get out there, especially to get their music distributed. Although, marketing it yourself is a lot more difficult now with the advent of the global network. You have to be really ahead of your game with viral marketing and interestingly, it was two established veterans of the music industry last year who made a huge impact. That was Bowie’s album, with his guerilla marketing campaign and Beyoncé for her album. Everything that has changed in the last 5 years was evident in both of their successful campaigns.

9. What would be your dream job in the industry?

Producing, developing and marketing a succession of long term acts.

We always like to hear from Industry Professionals who want to share their experience and wisdoms with our users. If you’ve been in the industry for a while and got some stories to share, please get in touch.

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