Monday's MediaGuardian had a nice interview with Nick Gatfield, Dexy's saxophonist turned chief executive of Sony Music UK. He talked a good talk about the music being important, comparing his position now with his previous experience at EMI during the Guy Hands years:
"Your 'product' is human beings who have opinions," Gatfield says, leaning forward on the sofa in his spacious corner office at the west London HQ of Sony UK, the company which appointed him chief executive in July. He gives an example. "I remember someone at Terra Firma asking why the [release date for the] Gorillaz album had slipped. I said 'well, you know, Damon [Albarn]'s not ready,' and he said 'But it's on the release schedule'". The art of managing talent, Gatfield says, is to "reduce that slippage" as far as possible, but it's impossible to treat artists as commodities and reduce the art of making music to a box-ticking exercise. "Terra Firma didn't like the dark arts of A&R," he says. "A lot of it is done by gut instinct."So, then, his label is one where A&R and chasing guts is at the heart of things, right?
Not so much. Oddly, Gatfield clams up when asked how far Sony is being propped up by Cowell Says Op Knocks:
What proportion of sales are generated by [X Factor] talent? "I don't know the figure off the top of my head," Gatfield says, "and I don't really want to share it with you."It could be that Gatfield is genuine in his desire to bring forward proper new talent, and will use a warchest built on the backs of the Cardles and Little Mixes to fund that. But his reluctance to be honest about how far the company relies on what s showing the frst signs of beng a delcining franchise doesn't really inspire confidence.