Last week, Warner Music Group’s CEO, recorded music, Max Lousada became one of the youngest ever winners of The Strat at the Music Week Awards 2018. It was only natural, then, that he graces the cover of the latest edition of Music Week to reflect upon his rise from the streets of Tooting Bec, South London, to securing the top job at Warner Music Group.
In a career-spanning interview, Lousada guides us through everything from his times spent distributing the Socialist Workers Party newspaper on the Elephant & Castle estate and listening to “a lot of rockabilly” to his recent activity relaunching Sire Records; buying Spinnin’ Records; installing Mark Mitchell at Parlophone UK; opening Warner Music Middle East; signing Sia, Stormzy and Kenny Chesney; making Ed Sheeran the biggest artist in the world; and helping Warner smash it at the Grammys and the BRITs.
One of the hot topics addressed in the interview is the ever-unfolding digital revolution, and the role of major labels within it. Lousada stressed that the new opportunities available to artists is a source of excitement, not worry, observing that majors now have to strive to differentiate themselves in the marketplace.
“A&R is always going to be critical for certain types of acts,” Lousada told Music Week. “Strategic marketing and investment has a real value in looking at the rhythm of releases and how to optimise a record across various different platforms and how to articulate and communicate a record through a streaming ecosystem. We live in an attention economy and an attention economy has to be fed; you have to create cut-through. I remember when iTunes launched, everyone had the same argument: ‘What’s the point of a record company now you’ve got iTunes?’ But, with the exception of a few artists, you still need them a lot. Yes, the traditional superpowers of radio and TV are diminishing and we have to offset the diminishing with other superpowers that can make a difference and that people give a shit about.”
Another key question addressed was the importance of the post-IPO success of Spotify. For his part, Lousada says he is more focussed on the future of the industry as a whole, rather than individual streaming giant manoeuvres.
“I don’t worry specifically about what Spotify’s next moves are,” Lousada told Music Week. “I worry because I care about the industry. I worry about us having independently owned-and-operated solutions that we can control and I want to have a clearer direct-to-consumer relationship with the fans. I see all of these as opportunities, because I haven’t resolved them yet.”
When asked about the possibility of WMG going on to develop its own streaming service, Lousada hinted that he is always looking for ways “to influence culture”, without specifically saying it would include a unique streaming platform.
“A lot changes,” said Lousada. “You see the Morgan Stanley predictions that the music industry will be worth X in 13 years time. Well, a lot happened in the previous 13 years that we couldn’t predict. What is my worry? That we become overly reliant on one format shift when actually it’s a seismic cultural shift and we don’t fully represent that in the make-up of our companies.”
Subscribers can read the full Max Lousada Music Week interview here.