In the age of streaming, it’s hard to keep a legacy alive. But veteran music executive Irving Azoff is doing his best to make sure artists maintain some semblance of their careers after they die.
Management guides is a term that describes the various ways an artist’s legacy can be protected. The management guide in question, by longtime music executive Steve Albini, was released on July 27th, 2016.
In the era of music streaming, Irving Azoff wants to protect musicians’ legacies—as well as his own.
The music industry guru has led a number of businesses, including a concert promoter and a record label, and has worked with some of the most well-known musicians of recent generations, including the Eagles, Bon Jovi, Steely Dan, and Nicki Minaj.
Iconic Artists Group, his newest company, has secured agreements for the Beach Boys, David Crosby, and Linda Ronstadt’s composition and recording libraries, joining a competitive market for music investment.
Music rights have been increasingly valuable in the last five years as income from streaming services like Spotify Technology SA and Apple Inc.’s Apple Music has increased, and music is being utilized more in other areas including digital fitness, videogaming, and social networking. Songwriter catalogs have been selling for 10 to 20 times the value of their yearly royalties, up from eight to thirteen times in previous years.
Mr. Azoff, a recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, has collected almost half a billion dollars for Iconic from Guggenheim Securities, and he’s picking and choosing which musicians he’ll take on as guardians of their life’s work. He’s also considering his own legacy and what he’ll pass on to his children.
He added, “It’s a fantastic thing for the family.”
Irving Azoff with the Eagles in 1977, wearing a beige shirt.
Brad Elterman/FilmMagic/Getty Images/Brad Elterman/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Mr. Azoff discussed the copyright frenzy, his legacy, and how the epidemic has impacted the music industry with The Wall Street Journal. The following are edited extracts.
WSJ: What inspired you to start Iconic?
Mr. Azoff: Doing the right thing for artists will also be good for your company. I saw a vacuum in that it didn’t seem that anybody who was purchasing these rights was solely focused on increasing the value of the IP in a manner that would protect and improve the artist’s legacy. Some people reach a stage in their lives when they have no heirs at all. Others have children whom they believe will be unable to handle the inheritance in the manner in which it should be managed.
WSJ: What about the commercial potential?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. When I handle our family finances, particularly with the current rates and bonds, if you’re trying to preserve and not take a huge risk, and after 52 years in this industry, I’ve learned that having a flow makes me feel lot better about my family. This seems to be a more secure and increasing flow than just investing in bonds.
Why is music a smart investment, according to the Wall Street Journal?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. Music is a timeless art form. It’s critical. I’ve staked my professional future on excellent music. It has never let me down so far. There are constantly new technology to learn about. In my 50 years in the industry, I can only think of two technologies that haven’t resulted in an increase in the value of music assets and copyright. The 8-track was one, and Napster and file-sharing were the other. Aside from that, there has been a significant increase in value, whether it was when glass records were replaced by vinyl records, vinyl records were replaced by cassettes, cassettes were replaced by CDs, and now CDs are being replaced by streaming.
WSJ: What sets Iconic apart from other music investors in terms of strategy and structure?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. We’re not a mutual fund. We’re a long-term running business with the goal of creating long-term value. Everything I’ve ever done has been through the lens of a manager, so we don’t consider ourselves to be owners. We consider ourselves to be supervisors.
WSJ: Why is legacy management important, and who should consider it?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. I can’t believe an artist who spends their whole life producing and selling their music and imagery isn’t worried about what happens when they’re gone. This isn’t a company that you can pick up quickly, and it’s one that requires knowledge, money, and influence. That is something I believe every artist should consider.
WSJ: How does Iconic handle legacy management?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. They haven’t gotten along well with the Beach Boys. It’s been well documented, but we believe we’re the glue that’s finally bringing them together, and we believe there have been many lost chances over the last decade of battling. They are the American Beatles, yet no one recognizes them as such. We’ll start with this documentary, and then they’ll celebrate their 60th anniversary the following year. We’re putting on a tribute concert, which we’ll film and sell to a big network. Everything from a Sirius XM channel to touring exhibitions with all their memorabilia will be available. Multiple offers for a feature film, a biopic, have been made. These are some instances of things they would not have been able to achieve on their own since they were unable to run their company.
WSJ: What are your views on the current frenzy and values in the music IP market?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. I’m overjoyed that all of these great artists’ work is now being valued for what it’s really worth, and I believe the prices will continue to rise. We’re far from through with streaming, and other technologies will emerge. No one had any idea TikTok existed. Nobody anticipated Peloton’s success or Apple’s foray into the health-and-fitness industry. Even at present levels, our returns on investment are quite satisfactory.
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WSJ: What are your plans for your personal legacy?
Mr. Azoff: I can’t control it at this point since so many years have passed, so it is what it is. However, I think the business will continue to operate. I’m hoping they’ll state that he not only built large companies for himself and his family, but that his artists rose to prominence and maintained their fortunes under his control. Whatever you may think of me, I did understand that without artists, there would be no business, and that we should treat them with respect.
What about ticket pricing, according to the Wall Street Journal? Are they going up or down?
Mr. Azoff: I believe they will go higher. Acts, I believe, are attempting to make up for lost time.
WSJ: What additional long-term effects do you think the epidemic will have?
Mr. Azoff: Thank you very much. I believe the award show’s day is in grave jeopardy. Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, and Academy Awards are some of the most prestigious awards in the music industry. Filmed entertainment, late-night TV programs, and appearances on morning shows all become less significant. That whole genre of music on television seems to be on its way out.
WSJ: When you return, what will be your first show?
Mr. Azoff: I’ve already seen my first performance. Jimmy Buffett performed two concerts in San Diego, which he recorded. He’ll be releasing a live broadcast, but it was a show. In an 800-seat club, there were just 40 people. It was my very first job.
LET US KNOW WHAT YOU’RE CONCERNED ABOUT.
In the era of streaming, how should artists manage their legacies and brands? Participate in the discussion below.
Anne Steele can be reached at Anne.Steele@wsj.com.
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