Friday, November 26, 2010

Ghosthunting: Sony admits songwriter president was a mistake

You'll recall the "really?" response when Epic made Amanda Ghost, middling songwriter but of dubious management skills, president of the label.

It's ended in tears, and pretty much ensured that Epic will lose whatever was left of its quasi-independence in the Sony family.

The Hollywood Reporter details the moment where Ghost ensured she would vanish, during a CMJ showcase in New York last month. One of her artists had a small pulse of feedback while performing. Ghost, says the reporter, rushed onto the stage:

Among a string of expletives, says a source: "She was screaming: 'Who booked this fucking place? It sounds like shit! We don't treat our artists this way at Epic. I'm not letting them play another minute!' " -- and pulled the plug on the show. "The room just got silent."
Two weeks later, the plug was pulled on her presidency.

According, again, to the Reporter, it had been coming for a while:
An example: It was commonly known among Epic and Columbia employees from all ranks that Ghost was a more than casual marijuana smoker who would regularly light up in her office and admonish so-called creatives who didn't partake. "Her motto was, 'If you don't smoke pot, you can't work here,' " one former staffer says. "In her A&R meetings, she'd say things like, 'If you're not high, like, how do you like music?' " [Sony Music Label Group chairman Rob] Stringer, who says he's never seen Ghost smoke pot, surmises the conversation went more like this:

" 'You guys have brought nothing good to the table, you ought to smoke pot and hear some better music.' It was a taste issue."

During another meeting, a staffer recalls Ghost throwing a CD across the room to make a point. "She thought it was cool and edgy to do stuff like that. She'd say, 'This is shit; you know we can't put this out!' Amanda was a little manic. One minute, she's totally cool, the next she'd say something completely inappropriate then deny having said it. She was a real loose cannon."
There's a lot else in the story of her time in charge at Epic, a time where the one big success was, erm, the death of Michael Jackson triggering enough catalogue sales to cover up some of the worst of the hole.

It's hard not to feel sympathy at the way her juggling of family commitments - which in a success would have attracted admiring op-ed pieces - is turned against her as evidence of other "unreliable" behaviour. But when you read details such as her signing of an artist who she also had publishing rights for, and how eighteen tracks on the artist's first album had her co-writing credit on - there's no sign how this could have ended up anything other than badly.

Ghost has faults, clearly - but the real problem is with Sony. They should never have put her in this role in the first place, and once they had, they should have offered her support. Not the patting-on-the-head style of support, but proper training and advice.

A failing business can succeed with a maverick approach. But the maverick needs to know what they're doing.

[Thanks to Michael M]


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

OR the 'maverick' needs to be higher up the food chain.
if she wasn't being used as a scapegoat, her behavior would have been applauded as that of a genius eccentric.
there are execs, currently enjoying rude health, right here in the UK, who act in the same manner on a daily basis, but get rewarded on the grounds that they know how to suck arse correctly.

don't get caught up in this sexist witch hunt.

simon h b said...

I think the thing is, if she'd been any good at her job, her behaviour would be excused; even if she'd had a track record, her behaviour would have been excused.

But when you're not getting the results, and behaving like an asshat, there's not going to be any leeway.

I don't think the canning of Ghost is part of a sexist witch hunt - as you'll have read, I think there are elements of sexism in some of the accusations being tossed about - but just put in the wrong role and then not given any support by the people who put her in there. It's not sexism, it's just terrible management.

Anonymous said...

Amanda Ghost is my first cousin and has always been an outspoken strong-minded woman, ever since I can remember.(she's always smoked pot also...so what!) But at the end of the day she is an artist and a truth seeker and the music industry today is not about truth or artistry it's about money and marketing, that's why I believe she was wrong for the role she's too honest. If ever she's a bitch its been for a good reasons.She hasn't failed the industry has.

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