I saw Walk the Line this weekend. It is a wonderful account of the life and career of Johnny Cash. Cash’s appeal was mostly County & Western, but also Top 40 Rock & Roll. The film shows Cash, warts and all. The film also tells us about the remarkable June Carter Cash.
Cash recorded his first records with the legendary Sam Phillips. Watching the film I started thinking about the impresarios of popular music, the Chess brothers, Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, and Barry Gordy of Motown. What they all had in common was their love of the music they recorded. It was a business; but it was more than a business. They loved the music they recorded and they wanted to share it with others.
Other than Russell Simmons, there is no one on the business side of the music business who is motivated by a love of the music. For the management of our contemporary entertainment conglomerates, popular music is just a business. It is hard not to wonder if the business would not be better off in the hands of those for whom it is more than a business.