August 28, 2012
Through auto racing, the music business and the film business, Ted Field has maintained an extremely low profile while earning significant success. After producing over 50 films under Interscope Communications, he co-founded Interscope Records with Jimmy Iovine, which became one of the most successful and influential boutique labels ever. He left Interscope in 2001 and launched his own film company, Radar Pictures. Now, after a massive technological sea change in the music industry, Field is back with Trauma 2 Records ...and for the first time in 16 years, is willing to publicly talk about it.
What made you decide to get back into the music business?
Because it's more difficult for the music business to succeed in the traditional way than ever before, I was thinking of ways to utilize our position in film and TV - in the fact that we have the ability to create TV shows and develop movies -- to create artists who have the potential to cross into more than one arm of entertainment. The kinds of artists we'd try to sign today would benefit by TV appearances in shows built around either reality series or scripted productions. Our artists could also appear in movies or do music for our movies. So we created an integrated company, where the music division is constantly talking with the TV division and the film division to create opportunities to break out artists. That's what we're trying to do ... and it's starting to work out.
Another thing I wanted to do when I decided to get back in the business was the opportunity we have to build a number of different businesses around the artists. Because of our entrepreneurial background, we can branch into additional revenue sources such as clothing lines and other branding opportunities. We're looking at this more as a global business with a variety of offshoot elements, not mainly a record company that taps into the traditional areas of record sales, merchandising and touring.
When did you decide to run with this idea?
It's been kicking around in my head for a while. Obviously, now that we've signed three artists, we're taking great pains to set this up just right. It's important not to get out in front of our skis in what we're actually able to accomplish. We're excited to see how this all works.
We already developed a reality show that we'll pitch to the networks that will be based around one of our first signings. We're very excited about what we've started here. Our business partners are beginning to approve of what we're doing, the model seems to be working.
It sounds like a 360 approach on steroids.
It's interesting. We're trying to actually take a 360 approach to breaking our band, but we're using other kinds of entertainment platforms to try and break them and really get them out in the world. Of course, nowadays we'll trade in social media opportunities, but we're taking a more global approach.
To what parts of the platform our artists can use will, to some extent, be dependent on the artists' strengths. We want to sign very musical and very photogenic artists who have a vibe and who know who they are. Those kinds of artists are more comfortable when they appear on more than one platform. They're all enthused by our approach to things.
That being said, we're still going to utilize radio to promote their music; we're just using slightly different shapes of the total campaign to expand our business model.
Are all prospective artists amenable to 360 deals these days, especially when merchandising and touring revenue seems to be more stable than record sales revenue?
We have 360 rights on every act we sign ... and we feel more than justified to having those rights because we're actually doing something in a 360-degree sense for the artists, as we explore TV, film and other opportunities. That's a fair way to describe it; certainly we're going to participate in all success we can generate for the artist.
Will, for example, a Trauma 2 artist's reality TV show gig or a TV appearance prompt you to rearrange the timing of the radio promotion and marketing campaign?
I don't think so, but that's an interesting question. For example, take a real skit show on TV ... I hark back to remember when The Monkees were on TV, and whatever single that was going to radio would be played at the end of the show. That was a very literal approach in marketing coordination.
In our case, first we make sure a reality show, for instance, is the appropriate career choice for the artist. Then we want to make sure the artist's radio audience and TV audience are exposed at the same time, so in that extent there's coordination.
However, the radio promotion is not totally dependent on a network agreeing to air our artist's reality show. What's great is that when we do one of these reality shows and if, for whatever reason, it doesn't find home on a network and it isn't picked up, we still have an expanded sizzle reel, a 28-minute marketing tool that vividly shows who the artist is and what his or her life is like. We can use the footage as a tool in other ways, be it online or on any other possible platform. The key is whatever we decide to do; it can be expanded into other media. We're trying to rewrite the rule book in terms of how we can break a band. We really think this is going to work for us. It a slight tweak in the traditional approach to better fit today's entertainment.
So, when it comes to your artist who has a reality show pilot currently being considered by the networks, the record release and its radio promotion plan is ready to roll regardless of whether a network picks it up or not?
We're going to proceed to radio and the other marketing elements in the exact same way whether the pilot is picked up or not. We won't change anything with our rollout in terms of timing; we make sure of that for the purpose of marketing this particular act. If it happens that the show gets on the air; that really won't change anything. The plan will not be driven by the show.
Speaking of the reality TV world, the tube is chock full of them. They're on almost every cable channel, let alone network. How difficult is it to find a place for your reality show?
It would be difficult in any case. It's never easy to get anything on a network, but we're pretty experienced in all these media. It's certainly difficult to hand this challenge to someone who has never done it before, but we think we have a degree of reliability in our ability to get our projects out there. But the bottom line is the same -- either a pilot will be successful or it won't.
The difference for us is that we're not anticipating our projects becoming a huge overnight sensation. We're basically looking for signposts of success along the way. Whether we're on a network or not, we're going to get some promotional value out of this. In some ways, it's best to have relatively modest ambitions. We don't need a hit reality show or a hit movie to make a hit record or a popular artist, but if we can do any of this in a way that enhances the promotion of our bands, we'll do well. We're trying it now and we're going to see what happens
Does the use of a multitude of promotional and marketing platforms change the nature of artist development for Trauma 2 artists?
Any artist we sign, we sign for the very long term. That's the first thing ... and really the only thing. That's also why we choose to work with very few artists at a time. The idea is to give them the time to make albums and to promote them in as many different ways as possible. When we look at the short term, we'll measure the result of the initial plan, analyze what we're doing now and what we should do to try something else. We want to be sure that every artist signed to this label knows they're in for the long term. We're going to stick with our artists more than most.
Is it more expensive to break your artists considering how many different platforms you'll be utilizing?
We'll spend what it takes to succeed. We'll be as competitive as everyone else when it comes to signing artists - and also when it comes to breaking our artists. However, because we're looking at it over a number of different verticals, it enables us to break our artists more effectively. We're not just thinking that this particular artist is good for one type of revenue source; we're willing to try a number of avenues. Overall, we feel we can help their career when we take a little different approach.
Besides the 360 deals and multi-platforms, do you feel breaking talent these days is easier or harder to do back when you and Jimmy Iovine made Interscope so successful?
In some ways, it's easier because of the lack of physical product, relative to the manufacturer costs, is less of a factor against our bottom line than it previously was. I also think that social media and the Net in general have enabled us to find artists and to break artists at a lesser cost. It's a great opportunity for us; we're excited about inevitably finding someone online who is already getting lot of attention. Not only is our A&R helped by that, but our marketing is greatly helped by that.
The only downside, of course, is the file sharing, but in some ways the upsides outweigh the downsides. Now that we're looking at artists in a 360 sense, we can derive revenue from other media. Our success is not wholly dependent on the sales of downloads on iTunes. The wide variety of revenue streams helps to even that out. It's great time to get back in business. It certainly needed time to settle down; at first it was premature to predict what would happen, but now I couldn't be more excited about this.
I've been spending lot of time with music again, and it's great for me get back with Rob Kahane and Tom Van Dell. We have a terrific team that includes Mike Jacobs, Dawn Hood and David Jacobs. We understand that the business and radio have their share of issues, but right now we're ready to overcome them for all parties.
Finally, how big do you see Trauma 2 becoming? Would you want it to be as big as, say, Interscope?
As we currently have three artists, I cannot imagine any year when we'll sign more than three artists in the course of a year. Offering artists our complete and full attention should be one of our benchmarks. Presumably, the label will get bigger but not exponentially, so it'll be a steady growth.
Obviously, if we have a particularly successful artist that requires a lot more of our time, fewer new artists may be signed. We're not going to sign artists merely for the sake of signing them. Our goal is generating more success for our artists, not signing more artists solely off the success of the artists we already have.