WISDOM: A PORTRAIT SERIES
A A R O N B A Y - S C H U C K
INTERSCOPE GEFFEN A&M RECORDS
Photograph by Stefano Galli
I. My stepfather was a major source of wisdom for me. He was 83 years old when he passed away this year. He had a tremendous passion for life. He was always my friend and advisor for any kind of question about life.
II. Something I’ve really tried to work on in the last year is gratitude and realizing all of the very positive things that are happening in my life and in people’s lives around me. In this last year, I’ve experienced a lot of loss, it really makes you look at what you have and what things you want to hold onto. I think it’s healthy to take stock of what you have in life: your health, your happiness, your success, family and friends. It’s amazing how quickly the question about what you should do, one that was taking up your thoughts, becomes an easier decision.
III. In today’s business you can write and produce quality music out of your bedroom, it’s allowing more people to try their hand at it. We’re seeing an explosion of really talented people that instead of choosing to go the artist route are choosing to go the songwriting and production route. You can do it anywhere, you can make beats on your phone, you can record yourself into your phone, all these things are right at your fingertips. People ask me all the time, do you feel that your job as an A&R person is even needed anymore? Because it used to be that A&R people were the only ones hearing new music and you had to be in one of these jobs to be in the know, and now it can be some kid in his or her dorm room in Stockholm that finds the next great thing. My answer is this - It’s more important now than ever, because there’s now more good than ever, but there isn’t a lot of great music. There isn’t a lot of truly unique and special, and I think it’s important to have A&R people who help define the difference between what is good and what’s great, and what deserves to be signed and exposed to the masses.
IV. In 2015, a hit can mean a lot of different things. I think what’s really important is cultural impact, and that the song or the artist is moving the needle forward somehow. A hit can obviously be based on particular numbers of spins at radio, the traditional sort of definition of a hit, or it’s sold a lot of copies, but there may be a song that doesn’t perform very well at radio, but connects on streaming, or it goes viral on a visual that was connected to it, or it might be a band that can sell four or five thousand tickets a night, but has never had a hit at radio. I think there are more examples of all of those types of hits and successes in 2015 than ever before. There used to be only one barometer by which it is measured, and now I think there’s a lot of ways to make a cultural impact.
V. I have at this point in my career found a new love for education. I think it's a really important for us to be socially responsible. For the current leaders of the music business to not take for granted that we were taught extensively by somebody else. None of us got here by total chance, we all had a great education and it’s my hope that I can make an impression on somebody who’s just starting out. For example, A&R meetings are really dreaded things that a lot of companies do, so the A&R meetings that I do do are more about education than anything. I bring in a member of the creative team, or the admin team, licensing team, clearance team. Somebody who can educate my staff on what it really means to participate in 360, why it’s important to communicate with a producer about whether they’re bringing a musician in and how that musician is paid.
VI. We need to talk more about the difference between success at work and success in life.
VII. I am for admitting when you don't know something and asking questions.