Alex Jacobowitz: Der klassischer Klezmer Alex Jacobowitz: Der klassischer Klezmer
Stories by Alex Jacobowitz
Toast!
B"H Berlin

(Naturally, I was a bit nervous today - but then again, like
listening to the works of Satie, Ive felt unresolved for years.
Years!)

In 2002 I released my first recording with BMG, and it was
successful - that is, over 10,000 copies were sold worldwide.
In 2003, I was told by BMGs lower-level employees it was
time to begin contract negotiations with The Bosses, also
known as Masters of the Universe.

After impatiently waiting months for an appointment, I finally
gained admission to BMGs Munich headquarters. Intimidated
and electrified simultaneously, I walked along their long
corridors, knocking on their expensive office doors, arguing,
pleading, convincing their square-headed marketing chiefs
and artists-and-repertoire mavens to offer me another recording
contract.

After a four-hour meeting with BMGs A&R expert, Herr Leins,
I was initially elated to finally receive his approval for a three-
CD contract under their Arte Nova label: Bach, Satie,
American contemporary works.

But then I read the small print, and began to complain. Leins
wanted me to first record Saties most esoteric piece - a one-
minute work slowly and monotonously repeated 840 times! I
thought he was joking. Not only would no one buy the recording,
I complained bitterly to him, but the critics would laugh at me for
years to come! In response to my complaint, Leins became
stroppy - "if you dont trust my judgment, find another CD company!"
The following day, I called SONY in Berlin. Their marketing
director, Michael, was happy to talk to me as I explained my
problem. He invited me to Berlins SONY-Center the following
week, where we had a pleasant hour-long chat in his hyper-
modern office. He listened to my Bach demo. "Fantastic," he
said. Word of my meeting with Michael got back to Herr Leins.
A few weeks later, Herr Leins returned my call - something he
never did before - to sweeten the deal considerably: instead
of three Arte Nova productions, which would have brought me
little or nothing, he decided to make one Bach recording under
BMGs century-old premium Red Seal label. This meant world-
wide publicity, a huge marketing budget! Fame! Respect! I could
already imagine my name in lights: Horowitz! Rubinstein!
Jacobowitz! I immediately drew up plans for the program, for
the recording dates, the technicians - even the CD jackets design.
Six weeks later, BMG announced to their artists that all
projects would be temporarily frozen, pending merger talks
with SONY. News of the pending merger was made public two
days later. I was crushed.

On one hand, this meant that BMG-SONY (or SONY-BMG,
depending) would eventually become the second-largest music
business in the world. And on the other hand, projects in the
pipeline would be delayed, changed or cancelled. In my case,
all three.

Delayed, because nothing could proceed until the European
court in Brussels would decide whether the BMG-SONY merger
might constitute an illegal monopoly. Changed, because BMG
Japan and BMG Korea had already spoken of their preference
for Bach to Satie. And cancelled, because Herr-of-the-Universe
Leins realized that his own job was at risk, and he couldnt take
any chances supporting a project that might not be a mega-hit.
The Brussels deliberations finished in 2004. The merger is
kosher. In order to cut costs, the new giant, named SONY-BMG
decided to fire all people they considered redundant, including
the lower-level employees, and The Square-Headed Bosses.
As of February, 2005, Herr Leins has become unemployed.
Projects that have been waiting since 2003 can now move
forward. Michael is now the head of the Red Seal label, and
hes flying to New York next week for a meeting of all the
SONY-BMG executives, with my freshly-toasted Bach demo CD
in his leather bag.

Alex Jacobowitz


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