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Hit Men: Powerbrokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business [Paperback]

Fredric Dannen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Feb 2002
Copiously researched and documented, Hit Men is the highly controversial portrait of the pop music industry in all its wild, ruthless glory: the insatiable greed and ambition; the enormous egos; the fierce struggles for profits and power; the vendettas, rivalries, shakedowns, and payoffs. Chronicling the evolution of America's largest music labels from the Tin Pan Alley days to the present day, Fredric Dannen examines in depth the often venal, sometimes illegal dealings among the assorted hustlers and kingpins who rule over this multi-billion-dollar business. 
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Helter Skelter Publishing; 3rd edition edition (2 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1900924544
  • ISBN-13: 978-1900924542
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.4 x 3.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 249,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"A squalidly compelling study of the murky, ill-regulated and shark-infested waters of the American music biz." -- The Guardian, 28 June 2003

....the best book ever written about the business side of the music industry. -- Music Week, June, 2003

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
The Education of Dick Asher
Pink Floyd booked five concert dates at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in February 1980 and sold them out. The Sports Arena was one of the largest indoor theatres in the nation, with a seating capacity of sixteen thousand. Pink Floyd, a psychedelic rock group from England, had just come out with a new album, The Wall. It was the band's first release in two years, and an instant smash. The Wall had climbed to the number one spot on Billboard's album chart in January, and would not yield until May. This was a feat for any album, let alone a two-record set of unrelenting gloom. 'This is very tough stuff, and hardly the hallmark of a hit album,' wrote one rock critic. Yet The Wall was more than a hit; in record industry lingo, it was a 'monster.'

The band's contract with CBS Records called for a tour after each new release. The Wall tour, which required a stage crew of eighty and cost nearly $1 million in props, set a new standard for sheer spectacle. Each night a Spitfire aircraft dive-bombed the length of the concert hall and a forty-foot inflated pink pig danced in the air. The arena shook with quadraphonic sound. During the first half, the crew lugged four hundred man-sized bricks on stage and built a wall. By intermission it was four stories high and hid the band. The bricks, made of white polystyrene, formed a movie screen for surreal animated cartoons. At the show's end, the wall came crashing down.

Pink Floyd's concert was too elaborate to take on the road, so the tour was limited to four cities: Los Angeles, New York, London, and Cologne. As the first stop, Los Angeles became gripped by Floydmania. The Wall concert was instantly the hottest ticket in town.

Pink Floyd belonged to an elite category: the cult band. Its albums were not mere song anthologies but mini-operas. Most rock acts that make it big in the United States do so with a run of hit singles. For them, the object is to be heard on Top 40 radio. These stations have the most listeners nationwide, and play what they consider the forty most popular singles of the week, some-times fewer. It's no exaggeration to define Top 40 radio as the fount of rock superstardom. Pink Floyd was a special case. Top 40 mostly ignored the band, which had built a vast following on album-oriented radio, stations that played album cuts instead of 45s.
Now and then, however, Pink Floyd recorded a song Top 40 could not ignore. Listeners would light up radio station switch-boards with requests. It happened in 1973 with the song 'Money' from the album The Dark Side of the Moon. It would happen again with 'Another Brick in the Wall, Part Two,' a cut from the Wall album.
CBS Records' Columbia label, the home of Pink Floyd, knew immediately that the song was a classic. Columbia released it as a single in late 1979, the first Pink Floyd 45 in years. It wasn't long before 'Another Brick in the Wall' became a Top 40 favourite. By the week of February 8, 1980, Radio & Records, the leading indus-try tipsheet, calculated that 80 percent of the stations in its coast--to-coast survey were playing the song. At major Top 40 stations in every region of the country, 'Another Brick' had risen to number one, getting the most airplay of any record that week. Out West, it was number one at big stations in Phoenix, Seattle, and Spo-kane.
The same week, Pink Floyd opened the Wall tour in Los Angeles. Given the mad scramble for concert tickets, the barrage of media attention, and the undiminished sales strength of the Wall album, one might have expected Los Angeles stations to flood the airwaves with 'Another Brick in the Wall.' But for some mysterious reason, L.A.'s four big Top 40 stations, which collec-tively had over 3 million listeners, refused to play the song at all. It was nothing less than a blackout.
Dick Asher knew why. At least he thought he knew. If he was right, the implications were terrible.


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful reading 2 April 2011
Format:Paperback
Powerful, interesting, impressive and often disturbing account of the life behind the 'good' image of the entertainment industry. A must for anyone who wants to dig further into the unknown truth that most of us would never believe.
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By Deanano
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A really captivating book about the egos and posturers in the 20th Century music industry. A must-read for anyone with a broad interest in how the industry got to where it was before the digital era.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HARD TO PUT THIS AWARD-WINNING MUSIC-BIZ EXPOSÉ DOWN 11 Jan 2000
By Ron Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Dannen hit such a home run with this thoroughly researched book that he was honored from within the music industry (Ralph J. Gleason award) and without (national bestseller list). The topic here is unwholesome practices within the music industry, but the most passionate subtopic of Dannen's research is the system of independent promotion through which singles are "added" to radio station playlists and then moved through the charts. I almost think HIT MEN should be considered a must read for anyone in the music industry: artist, manager, songwriter or publisher. Since Dannen reports his quotes exactly as they come down, you will not find the dialog exactly suitable for Sunday School. The second edition covers events up to and including 1991 and contains a follow-up chapter not in the original 1990 hardback edition. Now, some years after its original introduction, HIT MEN is still gripping and relevant. Aspects of the described litigation still tend to resurface from time to time, and many of the key players identified and profiled by Dannen are still suited up and swinging on the music-business diamond. Ron Simpson, School of Music, Brigham Young University. Author of MASTERING THE MUSIC BUSINESS.
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twenty years later, still a fascinating and insightful read. 24 May 2010
By John S. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Wow. If only you knew how treacherous the music business is. Read this and you'll know.

"Hit Men" confirms what many music lovers saddened by the boring state of commercial rock radio already suspected: hit records are bought and paid for by the promoters, not made by the fans. Don't allow yourself for one second to believe ever again that radio stations are pushing songs into heavy rotation because they are responding to what their listeners want. They are doing so because someone is paying a LOT of money to cram those songs down your throat. As bad as this was in decades past, I dare say it is even worse now (in 2010).

"Hit Men" pulls back the curtain on the major players and activities in the record business over a period of several decades and reveals some extremely ugly and disheartening truths about how that business operates. I doubt anyone reading this book will regard the music business or the radio business with anything other than contempt from now on.

Want to know why certain songs become hits? It's because someone paid for it to happen. It has nothing at all to do with consumer preference. Well, at least not primarily.

Are you a fan of The Who? Want to know the REAL reason their 1981 album "Face Dances" tanked? Read this book.

Want to know the REAL reason artists on certain labels get massive amounts of airplay while artists on other labels struggle to get heard? Read this book. But here's a hint -- it has nothing to do with the quality of the music.

Educated readers will probably make the logical assumption that there are a great many industries that operate as the music business has and does. Welcome to the real world, folks. It's all about the money. In any battle between commerce and art, commerce has the advantage. Get used to it.

Fascinating, fascinating reading. Just as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1990.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HIT BY THE TRUTH 22 Mar 2004
By Gian Fiero - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
As an experienced music industry professional with over 15 years of experience, I can tell you that this is the unofficial history book of the music industry that can be used to expose and introduce the truth about the origins and operations of the music business.
It's insightful, relevant, and shocking.
Buy it today.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So, we've got the Mob to "thank" for Culture Club? 26 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is an extremely well-researched and well-documented look into the popular music business from the days of Alan Freed to the end of Walter Yentikoff's reign at Sony/Columbia. It helps that the subject is so darn entertaining and seedier than you probably would have guessed...otherwise this might have been sluggish reading, but it actually moves rather quickly. Of course the end result is to frighten anyone who might actually believe that pop hits on the radio have much to do with the actual songs themselves. The narrative ends in the early 90's and if I could rate this book 4.5 stars instead of five, I would...because it could use an update chapter in its next edition. Other than that, I'd recommend it heartily to anyone who cares about why their favorite new song never gets played on the radio.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent, depressing, and bitterly funny book 8 Jan 2001
By southpaw68 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I enjoyed this book for its witty stories and quips. I'm a musician and I'm almost convinced that the music business is thoroughly hopeless in a madcap way after reading the book. I mean hopeless because it is impossible not to get ripped off as an artist and that you have to deal with this den of snakes to sell your music successfully. I used to have an innocent joy of listening to pop records but now I know how they are promoted and my innocence is dead. I'm also suspicious of artists who moralize in their songs, but will do anything to get their songs on the air. But I suppose that is the only way one can have a career. The book also shows how hard it is to obtain justice, fairness, and decency through personal effort or the judicial system. It also revealed how ego-driven the music and entertainment business is; the ones with the biggest egos and worst ethics often rise to the top. I doubt I would, as a musician, would want to live through any of these sordid, sardonic tales though.
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