Industry Help For Troubled Stars

Apparently prompted by the death of Michael Jackson, a music industry group including Resale Rights Society chairman and artist manager Marc Marot is lobbying for the business to take better care of its artists.

“I felt very saddened because at any step of the way there have to have been people who would stare [Jackson] in the eye and talk about his self-harming behaviour and I guess they got moved on or fired,” the former Blue Mountain Music and Island Records chief told Manchester’s In The City conference Oct. 19.

Concerns over the wellbeing of stars such as Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty have revealed the powerlessness of an artist’s entourage and even families to intervene.

But Marot believes there’s wide support for an enforceable clause in an artist’s contract – as well as a music industry charity – to help troubled artists.

Heroin-hooked or alcoholic rock stars and anorexic starlets are as old as pop music itself, but Marot and others feel the industry must show more duty of care.

The first step would be to draw up guidelines allowing record labels to suspend self-harming artists until they get adequate treatment.

But Andrew Thompson from leading media and entertainment law firm Lee and Thompson – one of the lawyers consulted on the plan – said the snag with that would be trying to get the artist to accept that the record company is to be the arbiter of what is or is not a suitable state of health.

“You may recommend record companies to insert a provision to the effect that if the artist is not, in the opinion of the company, in a suitable state to promote properly the company will be entitled to suspend the contract until the artist is in a suitable such state,” he said, but pointed out that the artist community is unlikely to accept the idea.

Marot conceded that such a clause would take time to hammer out, but said the upside of involving the record companies in this way is that, unlike the lawyers, accountants, managers, tour managers and personal assistants who are only a phone call from being fired, they have a longer-term contractual relationship with the act.

“You’ve got a six-album deal with an artist and you are only one album in and they begin to fall off the wagon,” Marot said, detailing how it’s in record company’s interest to look out for the wellbeing of their acts.

Former Music Managers Forum chief Peter Jenner, who’s managed a range of top acts including Pink Floyd, agreed that labels need to play a bigger role in artist welfare.

“I was 23 or 24 and coping with someone having a psychotic breakdown,” he said, recalling when Ian Dury went “extremely weird” after the release of his debut album.

Jenner argued that labels have sometimes been guilty of allowing addictions to arise and should take more preventative steps. He said it makes good business sense anyway.

“Labels if they are smart would not be so anxious to give people hits right away. I think they should spend a lot less money in the short term. They need to take time, watch people, see who is a good person to invest in,” he said.

The other panels lined up for In The City Oct. 18-20 included discussions on putting music in computer games, digital licensing, how rap has done so well in the U.K., and how bands make and release records without having any money.