music biz

Reading Tommy James autobiography. His label Roulette basically paralleled a lot of New York mob activity and employed many members of the underworld. He didn’t write the book until the bulk of those characters were dead or locked up. In more than one instance the head of the company, Morris Levy, and his lackeys, head out to teach lessons to bootleggers. They have baseball bats and it is insinuated the weapons are not for smashing up skulls but copying machines. In 2023 it is hard to understand exactly what the copying/ bootlegging business was and why/ how it threatened them. Tommy James and the Shondells had several hits during the mid 60s, millions of records sold. He never was paid anything near the value of what he created financially for Roulette. Instead of accounting there were guilt trips or physical violence innuendo. It is a similar scene in the movie (on YouTube) about Lou Pearlman who managed NSYNC. After selling millions, he takes them out for dinner and gives everyone a cheque. They imagined each in the millions. They were a few thousand each, maybe less than ten. Lou shrugged and spoke about expenses as did Morris Levy about studio costs to Tommy James. Navigating people and their instincts around money should be part of the music business course I teach next winter.

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