Moses Supposes: Epic gives up the Ghost

Moses Avalon is one of the nation’s leading music-business consultants and artists’-rights advocates and is the author of a top-selling music business reference, Confessions of a Record Producer. More of his articles can be found at

Ah, what happened to the days when being a music executive meant that you could party with the acts in your office, sleep late, yell at underlings, and get rewarded even if your numbers were bad? Well, they’re still here, unless you happen to have one important character flaw: a vagina.

You gotta read this Hollywood Reporter article on the firing of Epic president Amanda Ghost first, if you haven’t already.

You know, I’ve always said that as far as sexism is concerned, the music space defied the odds. We have far more female executives in positions of true power than probably just about any other industry, except maybe TV.

In my first book, Confessions of a Record Producer, in the “Miscellaneous Myths” section, I actually have a chapter called “Are Women Discriminated Against in the Music business?” Using statistics and raw data, it proves that the answer is “no.” We have a great deal more gals in the driver’s seat than any other biz. But after what Epic and, independently, the law firm of Boies Schiller have done, I think that I need to take another look.

In the past week, it seems like the ladies are taking the axe for the shortcomings of decisions made by their presumably male higher-ups. In addition to Epic’s high-profile firing of Ghost, Boies Schiller, which represented EMI in its parent company’s losing case against CitiGroup, laid off three associates, all women, according to the New York Times DealBook blog.

If you’ve already read the Hollywood Reporter piece above, then never mind, you’ll understand the points I’m about to make. If not, take a click (or a tap).  When you’re done, or while you’re reading it, ask yourself this question: would Ghost be fired if she were a man? I think that you already know the answer.

Shit, LA Reid used to waste big cash to cater staff meetings that no one attended; Mottolla, Iovine, Yetnikoff, and countless others are famous for their eccentric behavior. (Let’s not even get into Phil Spector and what we tolerated from him as an industry.)

Margins are higher than they were 10 years ago, and we’re moving about the same amount of product. So if the labels are not making enough money, it can only be for one reason: they pay their executives too much.

This business requires erratic and over-the-top personalities to function. Anyone who has produced an album will tell you it ain’t easy and it takes a bit of ball-busting to get things done the right way. The very reason we’ve always hired “loose cannons” in upper and middle management is because the higher-ups (the board and CEOs) don’t want the job – they don’t have the stomach for it.

By most corporate standards, Ghost was not a good executive. She didn’t set a good example; she broke the rules. And that’s exactly what it takes to be a success in a transitional business where the future is uncertain.

Her boss went on record with, “She smoked pot.” Are you F-ing kidding me?!?! Is Rob Stringer really going to let that be the epitaph of this story? Does he expect Epic’s acts to trust him if they think he’s being judgmental about their 4:20 habits? Man, we are really through the looking glass if labels are concerned about pot interfering with productivity.

Obviously, the pot thing is a PR spin, and I hope that it is exposed as such. Because if labels are really that out of touch – to think that the public will swallow firing a female because she was a stoner — it’s no wonder that most of their releases are also out of touch. Most people probably assumed that she got the job because she was a stoner.

The fascinating thing that was revealed about this story for the rest of us is that Ghost is pulling down seven figures in her go-nowhere job. Did they really have to offer a songwriter a million bucks a year to run a label? Wouldn’t most of them jump at the chance for half that amount?

It’s like I’ve been saying for a long time: the music space should be doing better than ever — margins are higher than they were 10 years ago, because of lower manufacturing costs and digital distribution — and we’re moving about the same amount of product (despite the BS spin of “we’re broke because CD sales are down”). So if the labels are not making enough money, it can only be for one reason: they pay their executives too much.

Clearly, this story has revealed exactly that.

I hope that this is really about her quitting a lose-lose scenario rather than Epic firing her for being a bit loony. If sanity is the prerequisite for running a label, then it becomes like running for Congress: the smartest and most qualified don’t want the job.

Hey, Amanda, you can work over here if ya need a gig. We have a hookah lounge, no sweat.

Leave a Comment