Veteran talent manager Doc McGhee (KISS, MÖTLEY CRÜE, BON JOVI) was recently interviewed by Juliette Miranda of "The Unwritable Rant" podcast. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On his early days as a manager:
Doc: "You start [by] learning what not to do. If you have to learn anything, you learn what not to do, not what to do. You learn it very quickly. It's not a very forgiving business. You just have to kind of make shit up, and then you've got to go do it. Tt was the only field that I knew that nobody knew what could happen. We knew what happened in construction — you go to work and you build something. When it's done, you build something else, and it's worth X amount of dollars. In this business, you can go to work one day, and it's worth nothing. You go a couple more months, and it's worth a lot more. Then you go a couple more months, and it's worth a million dollars. It's just one of those businesses where there's no limit to what you can do or what you can be."
On the importance and difficulty of nurturing young talent:
Doc: "My sister said to me, 'Why wouldn't you be a judge on 'American Idol' or 'The Voice'?' I said, 'Number one, nobody asked me, but two, I'm not sure that I would want to judge and ruin somebody's dreams for a fucking TV show.' I'm not that guy. I couldn't do that. I want everybody to go work hard as a new band and be the best that they can be. Obviously, there's challenges in the way that kids are brought up today with the 'I'm entitled to everything' and 'Everything has to be at my fingertips, and access to everything within seconds' [attitudes], but [those types of] new artists, I don't pick those people. I don't get around them."
On whether country music is the new rock:
Doc: "That's why I came to Nashville 15 years ago, because that's what I saw. I saw it coming. I could have been wrong. I wasn't. These are the new rock stars. This is the new rock music. It's the only format other than maybe alternative — which doesn't really mean too much — that has guitars in it. Everything else is just beats and loops. Luke Bryan, Eric Church and Jason Aldean are the new rock stars. They're the dangerous ones."
On his belief in the importance of being honest with clients if they "stink":
Doc: "That's 100 percent [true]. Not, 'Hey, Jimmy — everybody gets a medal.' That's not fucking life. Here's life — if you're the very, very best at what you do, and you're the best act out there, everybody's going to come and see you. And if you're not, they're going to go see the best act, period. Sorry. I even have to tell the older acts, 'Listen, this is the entertainment business. You have to entertain people, not people entertain you. So get back to entertaining.'"
On the modern music industry:
Doc: "The money is there. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. On the other hand, yes, there was a bleak moment when things were looking like there wouldn't be any money, that people weren't buying the music, that didn't want to... It's hard to cry poor when you're Lars [Ulrich] from METALLICA, when you may have missed your last $300 million painting. It's hard when someone says, 'Oh, Paul McCartney couldn't get his copyright back.' But before streaming started to come through, it looked like the light at the end of the tunnel was a train, and that people weren't going to buy music, they weren't even going to buy digital downloads, and that music wasn't important to people. Therefore, the only thing that you had to do was play live for your money — which, if you weren't in that 'C act' or up, you couldn't make any money anyways. The Sonys and EMIs and everybody else... went from, I don't know what the number is, but probably one-tenth of the amount of people that they had in 1997. They fired people. It was a bludgeoning for 15 years. It was just a bloodbath. All of my friends that were in the record business that were in the high positions would say, 'I'm so sick of waking up in the morning and [having] to fire my friends.' All of a sudden, streaming comes about... I think there's a huge upside in streaming. Now we have a terrible issue of how do we get market share and how do we get our music to the public. In the digital space, they say you need to have analytics so you can go to terrestrial radio — which is still king — and go to your format and say, 'Hey, look at my song — my song has 10 million streams.' Then they go, 'Wow, that's interesting. I'll put it on my format at terrestrial radio.' [But] they have 200,000 files a day that come to them, and they have about 15 people that are in charge of those 200,000 files. Where you fit on playlists and where you get exposure and how that all works is now what we're dealing with, and what we have to build."
On whether he agrees with an analytics-based approach:
Doc: "I can sit there and tell you that there's 4.9 million people every month that listen to KISS around the world. And I can show you where. I can show you what songs. I can show you the demographics. I can show you everything, because the analytics are there. It's taking the gut out of it. They're trying to lead with the analytics, which never works... [Managing] is a gut feeling because you're picking the horses to ride. We're handicappers. We go to the race track every day. We're not going to bet on every horse, but we're going to look at the horse and if the horse looks amazing, and then we look down and see the trainer and the jockey and the barn and where it comes from, that gives it a better chance of it happening. Then if they have the work ethic and they have the shit that it takes, because you can have a great song and you can have everything else, but if you're not a star and you don't know how to work, you're dead."
On the VH1 reality TV show "Supergroup":
Doc: "That was a very forgettable moment in my career. VH1 wanted me to put together this supergroup. I told them, 'I'm a manager — I'm not an anthropologist. I'm not the fucking Red Cross. I can't put this together,' but they just know it's good TV..."
On the advice he gave Jon Bon Jovi:
Doc: "I was sitting there and I said, 'Here's JOURNEY in People magazine,' and there was a picture of Neal Schon in his BMW with his dog. Then I showed him the cover of Rolling Stone with David Lee Roth sitting on the side of the bed in his underwear with pizza on the floor [and] three chicks half-dressed on the bed, and the title was, 'I used to have a drug problem, but now I can afford it.' That's the difference between chicken-shit and chicken salad. David Lee Roth was the best fucking front guy in the world, by far. He blew everybody away. I said to Jon, 'You can take their spot. They're going away... but you've got to work at it.' And Jonny worked at it. He sat and watched Paul Stanley, Klaus Meine, David Lee Roth — he watched everybody, and he honed his craft. He knew what to do."
Doc: "Every band's a different animal. KISS is, 'If it's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.' You come to expect that out of KISS. No matter who I have in my office — CEOs of companies and airlines — they go to the KISS closet and they've got to have something. This happens every day. I had a party one time and brought 100 pairs of KISS onesie pajamas. People went out of their fucking minds over it."
On whether he truly believes KISS can continue without Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley:
Doc: "Is there a next generation Green Hornet? Is there a next generation of Superman? No, there's just fucking Superman. There's been six of them, [but still] it's Superman. As long as these kids walk out there and they have that makeup and they have that attitude and they have a great fucking visual show... This isn't 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. People didn't come here with their fucking headphones on to fucking have this musical experience. They came here to have fun, to see shit blown up, people flying around. It's fucking Cirque Du Soleil. If you put nothing on stage but talent, they're going to fucking die. That's what KISS is — KISS is a way of life."