Record label chief feels guilt over Amy Winehouse's death

The president of Amy Winehouse’s record label still feels “pangs of guilt” about the singer’s death and is more sensitive to his artists’ wellbeing ever since.

Darcus Beese, head of Island Records, was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Music Cork conference, a three-day event that hosted panel discussions on the industry with contributions from agents, managers, and record label representatives.

“It’s made me super sensitive to an artist having a bad day,” Mr Beese told attendees at the Clayton Hotel on Lapps Quay. “You forget about the fragility of people’s minds. Whether it is the artists or people in the workplace. They could have serious problems, whether it be depression or addiction, and you have to be a bit more sensitive to it and a bit more understanding.”

Mr Beese said that while artists have parents and other outside support, there may “have been room to do more” in Winehouse’s case. “But don’t get me wrong, we tried really hard with Amy. But someone who doesn’t want to be helped at that time can’t be helped.

“Why I feel a bit of guilt was because I felt the best place for her was in the studio, but you can get drugs in the studio, you can get fucked up in the studio,” he said.

“Then you say ‘lets send her away’, and we sent her away to the West Indies where you can get loads of drugs. Then we put her into rehab, into the Priory, and she got drugs in the Priory.

“So whatever you do, however you do it, unless that person wants to be helped, you’re not going to be able to help them. You just kind of look back and have your pangs of guilt.

“Now I just threaten to pull the plug on stuff. I have no issue in going in and pulling the plug until they get help, and I’ve had to have that conversation with a couple of managers and a couple of artists. I’m super sensitive to that now.”

Mr Beese joined Island Records as a tea boy — “you’d call it an intern now” — eventually becoming the Artists and Repertoire man who signed the Sugababes and Winehouse .

Among his first signings as president were Florence and the Machine, and Mumford and Sons.

In conversation with Hot Press editor Niall Stokes, Mr Beese discussed his career in music, how U2 waived their royalties at the label when it was struggling in the 1980s, and how he missed on the chance to sign a singer songwriter who won a Battle of the Bands competition.

“A young redhead guy won it and the rest is fucking history,” he quipped.

“But we could could have signed Ed [Sheeran] and made the completely wrong record, so there’s a lot of stuff you end up missing, you just hope that you’re successful in other places that you can say ‘yeah we missed that, but we got this’. I think we live in an industry where we work on a high percentage of failure,” he said.

Panels during the day discussed topics such as ticket prices, festivals, brand tie-ins and advice to new acts starting out in the music industry.

Over 20 different acts played across five venues over the last two nights as a musical showcase to tie in with the conference, sponsored by Cork City Council, Heineken, BMI, promoters MCD, the Irish Music Rights Organisation and sponsorship consultants Livewire.

Tackling ticket touts ‘will hurt concert-goers’

Industry attempts to tackle ticket touting would cause significant inconveniences for concert promoters and fans alike, a music business conference heard yesterday.

The Music Cork conference yesterday held a panel discussion in the Clayton Hotel, Lapps Quay, Cork, on ticket prices.

“It is possible to sell your shows without touts, but it’s so convoluted and complicated that we generally just don’t do it. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” said Josh Javor of agency X-Ray Touring, whose roster includes Blur, Green Day, and Eminem.

He said ensuring names on tickets match the person using it to enter a show would be time-consuming.

“You can sell a show without touts, but you end up having to make sure the audience gets there twice as early because it will take them twice as long to make sure they get into the show,” he said.

Brian Spollen of Irish promoter MCD said public anger at a fast-selling show can be misplaced.

“Artists do presale for their fan clubs,” he said. “There was an artist we were promoting who was doing multiple nights in arenas in Dublin and by the time the tickets went on general sale just 10% of the total inventory is all that was left to sell.

“And of course there’s the usual outrage on the radio stations and papers, but the artist has pocketed the booking fees for that money and is quite happy to let everyone like us and Ticketmaster take the flack.”

Booking agent Sarah Casey said she could see music following sports move into dynamic ticketing — the system used to sell the likes of airline tickets which adjusts price based on demand.

Ultimately, however, she said the public need to be aware of where they are sourcing their tickets.

“We all work in the industry, we all know to go to Ticketmaster, but a lot of people just go online, they are desperate to see an act, they click on whatever site shows that they can get a ticket and lots of people fall for that and don’t realise they’re not buying from a credible source,” she said.

She gave the example of an acquaintance who spent A$600 on what she thought was a ticket to see Adele for a friend only to find she had bought a forgery.


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