Part 2 of 3
Lessons from the CEO of The Beatles, Part 2
After listening to The Beatles live at the Cavern Club in Liverpool, George Martin knew he had an international phenomenon on his hands.
Lesson No. 3: When faced with a new product, think about concept, branding and marketing. If something isn't working, say so and fix it. Put egos, power and control issues aside. The goal is making the best product and/or service you can.
The Beatles were now a group with no one "the leader." Although impressed by their enthusiasm, witty repartee, talent and intelligence, Martin knew Pete Best, their drummer, was the weakest link, had to be replaced and told Epstein, who was as relieved as "the lads."
They brought in Richard "Ringo" Starkey, an unknown to Martin, who brought in Andy White, a competent drummer he knew, just for their first scheduled recording session, much to the band's disappointment. But Martin was insistent because he wanted the first two cuts to shine.
On Sept. 11, 1962, they recorded "P.S. I Love You" and Martin finally relented, letting Ringo drum on one of their two takes of "Love Me Do." Martin realized that Ringo was "a good, solid rock drummer with a super steady beat" who knew "how to get the right sound out of his drums" ... with "an individual sound." Ringo was in.
Says Martin, "I have never been satisfied with OK. I am inquisitive by nature and will give anything a go once to get that special something," adding, "Communication is the key, and music is an international language, but you need to know your craft, too ... I always tried to be truthful, even-handed and level headed. We worked hard, long hours, but essentially we just wanted to make the best music we could."
Lesson No. 4: Get your foot in the door, even if the contract is not what you had hoped for. Keep your integrity, be ethical and avoid conflicts of interests and dual relationships. Have fair and clear contracts, or there will be resentments and lawsuits to follow. Your reputation is your calling card.
Martin and EMI were ready to sign The Beatles to a contract, which was not very generous to them, but they had no other options. Martin recommended music publisher Dick James, who was hungry for success, having just started his own business after leaving music publisher Sidney Bron (father of actress Elinor Bron, who starred in Help).
James formulated Northern Songs, which gave him a 50 percent share in The Beatles' songs, giving Epstein and The Beatles the other 50 percent, a very lucrative contract in those days, which enticed them to sign for a longer period of time. Dick James Music took a 10 percent handling fee off the top.
James offered a percentage to Martin, who turned it down. It was a conflict of interest since he was working for EMI -- a decision that would lose him millions of dollars, but the right one, he says -- "and I sleep well at nights."
EMI's stinginess was one of the reasons that Martin and other EMI employees resigned in the mid-'60s and formed their own company, AIR-Associated Independent Recording. EMI had to hire Martin back as an independent producer, and he was then paid producer's royalties on AIR's behalf. Martin was finally able to earn what he was worth.
AIR has worked with some of world's biggest Oscar-winning films: Emma, The English Patient, Gladiator and Lord of the Rings, as well as recording artists Dire Straits, Elton John, Oasis, Radiohead, Travis and Coldplay.
Everything was in place for The Beatles -- the band, producer, songs, management and contracts. How did they get publicity to make them the world's most famous band? Tune in next week. (continue to part 3)
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