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You started off your management career with Bjork and Sneaker Pimps in 1995. What are you abiding memories of that time?
Sales. I was lucky, because the financial model was different than it is now, not necessarily better, but you could sell real volumes of records then. I remember Bjork campaigns when we were doing 600,000 sales in France, 300,000 in Japan and Germany, 100,000 in Sweden. It added up to millions before you knew it. […]
Let’s talk about Sir Paul McCartney. He was quite late to Spotify but now seems to be an advocate of it.
He wasn’t that late to Spotify.
When you’re part of an institution like The Beatles it’s really tricky. Around the same time The Beatles went onto iTunes, which was a huge announcement, we began doing reissues with Paul – taking the gems from his solo catalogue, of which there are many, and doing ‘ultimate’ editions.
I’m really proud of that series; it’s the best series I’ve ever worked on and it’s won multiple Grammys. We’ve just done Tug Of War, which is phenomenal – the ninth in the series.
When we got to Ram [re-master in 2012] it was the fourth in the series, and the streaming question came up.
Older artists are always shot down by various media organisations for not being with the programme. Paul’s always been someone who’s embraced new technology and new formats.
So we started [putting his catalogue on streaming services] and it’s worked for us. It’s worked financially, creatively. It was the right thing to do.
Going back to your earlier point… it works financially because he owns the rights?
They’re the right partner for now, and we could base a deal on real-world modern streaming economics rather than legacy contracts.
How long have you been managing McCartney. And, sorry, but I have to ask: what’s it like to manage a Beatle?
I’ve been with Paul for nine years.
At the time I started working with him, I thought I would consult for the Memory Almost Full album and that would be that.
Which I’d have been happy with, don’t get me wrong – it’s such an honour to get to work with him full stop.
That rolled into a DVD collection, which in turn rolled into the Fireman project and then another album project.
One thing about me starting to work with Paul, looking at his operation at that point, I was the first external person he’d worked with since The Beatles.
It was important for me to remain an outsider rather than be folded into his MPL organisation.
To bring another perspective?
Exactly. It was good for me to work with other artists – I could see how the industry was evolving and what was relevant for other kinds of acts.
But being Paul’s manager is extra challenging, because you’re working with an artist who’s pretty much invented the rule-book and done everything you could ever imagine in music at every level.
I will say that MPL is a world-class organisation. No artist on the planet has a team like that around them. If I could put that organisation around every act I work with it would be a dream.
What was the first thing he said to you as his manager?
Ha, I remember it well: ‘I get bored quite easily.’
He’s the busiest guy I’ve ever met, between his live tours, music projects, film projects, book projects, art projects, soundtrack projects.
It just doesn’t stop – it’s insane. The biggest challenge is to keep up with him!
Working with Paul is like going to the best, most intense university in the world. I’ve learned more working with him than I could with probably any other act. […]