Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rick "Music Guru" Rubin

I happened across the New York Times Magazine this past holiday weekend and had to read the featured article on Rick Rubin and the evolving landscape of the music industry. The article by Lynn Hirschberg glosses over the state of the music industry (complete disarray), and chooses to wrestle with more compelling issues of how Mr. Rubin has been hired to change the landscape as co-head of Columbia Records.

No one can dispute Rick Rubin for being a visionary. Starting Def Jam Records in his N.Y.U. dorm room and teaming up with Russell Simmons before he was old enough to buy beer. Establishing the careers of The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and revamping the ones of Aerosmith, and Johnny Cash. What becomes increasingly clear through the exposé is that Rubin's most sought after talent isn't his physical production (as he says "I do not know how to work a board. I don't turn knobs. I have no technical ability whatsoever") but rather his seasoned ears and common sense. To put it simply, he is a master Taste Maker. He knows what's good or bad, and can put his finger directly on it without being bashful. In addition, he knows how to turn songs that are alright into ones that are timeless. While my immediate reaction is to say 'anyone could do that' it's not true. Not anyone can do that.

Some people have great taste in music but couldn't see the forest in the trees or vice versa. Some people would bend for the sake of making the artists happy. Musicians, for the most part, need to be challenged to find greatness. The same can be said for Mr. Rubin. At each stage of his career he has had an internal drive to be challenged more and more. Do I think he can save the music industry from itself? Not singlehandedly. Do I think he's the type of mind that can help? Absolutely. He's shrewd, and one of the things I like most is his idea of creating albums not singles.

The main component to his solution is making music a subscription service with a monthly cost, and the customer gets whatever they want that month. But my musical mind asks what the incentive is to shell out the cash for that if the music is still the same only digital. Mr. Rubin wants to create a reason for people to buy records again and explore other avenues besides the iTunes store. Few artists have been in this mode because it's not the way money has been made. In turn, the artists that produce well-rounded albums tend to stand out from the crowd and have longevity. Again as Mr. Rubin states, "you [have to] remember that too many people make and love music for it to ever die. It will never be over. The music will outlast us all."

1 comment:

DJ Tanner said...

Really intrigued by the article. Good work sir. I, too, think we should move away from all digital formats. Part of the fun of listening to music is owning the physical album, in my opinion. Not sure if we can ever bring it back, but i have to think there is a solid market out there for vinyl releases of their favorite bands.