Terry McBride, CEO of Nettwerk (a combo music management company and record label) is known throughout the music industry as a progressive thinker - one forcibly moving the industry into a potentially sustainable future. Nettwerk manages the careers of numerous artists including Sarah McLachlan, Jars of Clay, Barenaked Ladies as well as serving as the record label for up and coming artists like Great Lake Swimmers, Rosie Thomas, Datarock and State Radio. McBride's thoughts on things like music ownership aren't what you'd expect from someone in his position. You'll see his stunning comments on that - and a number of other topics, in our exclusive Q&A below.
Q: You've been hard at work, as have many others, at "reinventing"
the very broken music business for some time now. What have you tried
that holds particular promise? Any helpful failures?
The key in all that we have tried is the need to align all interests
within an Artist's business. Each part (Fans, Label, Publishing,
Songwriting, Live, Sponsorships, Merchandise, Marketing, Promotion) are
all interdependent of each other. So to have the best chance of success
they need to be treated as one. Failures? Laughter, lots of lessons
along the way though.
Q: What's the idea with Polyphonic- your new partnership that includes Radiohead's management? Is it
basically just VC for individual artists? Is there a core belief
driving this new concept?
Polyphonic is really a simple model. Create a Joint Venture with the
Artist, align all parts of the business as stated above, put a monetary
fund within the business that allows the Artist Manager to hire all the
"best in practice" services that best fit that Artist. This model I
believe gives the Artist the best chance of having a vibrant and
Q: Let's talk about intellectual property. How do the artists
you're working with view their rights versus consumer realities? Is it
different for "major" versus "developing" artists? Should artists
yield to giving away a lot of music to generate a fanbase?
There is no same answer to these questions from Nettwerk's roster.
What I can say is that the Artist's desire is to create what they love
and they need a monetary way to live while doing such. My own personal
view is "the fans own the songs." A Song becomes popular when enough
fans attach their own individual emotions to what the Artist has
created. My role is to figure out a way to monetize that emotional
connection in an authentic and compelling manner that adds value to the
Fan and the Artist. Giving away music as you suggested is one manner.
Q: Nettwerk has tried to move beyond just selling records. With
Barenaked Ladies, you took a set of IP and repackaged it numerous ways
to create a diverse, non-CD dependent revenue model. Did it work as a
sustainable concept beyond the initial success? Will you be trying
With BNL they are in a place now where they make more revenue from
their 3 independent albums than what they make from their 8 Warner
albums. Where they decide to go from here is their choice, but what's
great is that they have a choice.
Q: Do you believe direct artist subscription models, either single artist like Jack White has done with The Dead Weather or aggregators like Brite Revolution herald some kind of significant evolution for how artists will make their livings?
I don't think it's that simple. It's about delivering value and being authentic. I think models like Pandora and Spotify
will get a lot of traction as they deliver on those levels. I do
believe that we are seeing a profound shift from "content is king" to
"context as king." With the mobile app revolution in full swing the
need to own goes away, the need to access goes way up.
Q: If you could get all of America's music consumers in one room,
what would you want to tell them? Besides that they should take up
yoga, that is. ;-)
Find a way to support those artists you love so that they can
continue to create. I think Yoga is good for everyone, I know it makes
me a much happier and I am way more fit.... if not Yoga then consider
something that requires exercise and takes your mind away from all the
trial and tribulations of day to day life.