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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 8, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
The demise of the music industry is a topic of continuing interest - Goodman's excellent book using Bronfman as the central theme - nicely captures the utter disregard for both the customer and artist, the genius of Steve Job's iTunes/iPod platform and the scramble - still in progress to redefine what the inevitably volatile music business will be in the future now that the big companies have milked all they can from reissuing everything they can on CD. I remember the period when Elvis' first recordings - titled the Sunrise collection - were rereleased by RCA every year with "newly" discovered material.
I was interested that one of Lyor Cohen's label heads had to scout strip clubs to understand what was happening in the music scene - says something about where society is going. Incredible amounts of money exchanging hands for trivial and thoughtless strategies. Goodman appropriately focuses on the central role of Ahmet Ertegun as the last of the old school of record and label makers.
As to Bronfman - he comes across as very wealthy with any ascribed successes coming from throwing enough against the wall that something sticks. $50 million bonuses and losing $130 million in 3 months trying something appear to be par for Bronfman's course. Wonder how he missed the Brooklyn Bridge.
As the other reviewer noted, the cast of characters lack the charm and idiosyncrasies of the record men of the 50s and 60s - Sid Nathan, Hy Weiss, Jerry Wexler, Berry Gordy etc. and the 80s not to ignore Malcolm McLaren. Not a business for the pure of heart.
Good book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
For those of you who follow the record industry there is probably nothing in Goodman's excellent offering that will come as much of a surprise. The discovery is in the details which confirm what most already know. The record/music business is nothing more than a glamorous criminal enterprise.

One thing that remains absolutely stunning is the "musical chairs" nature of label acquisitions and mergers. The corporate moves and record exec crossover departures and returns come off as a "whim of the week" operations philosophy. The first part of the week one rival is slitting the other's throat and by Friday both are back on the same team. Corporate cross pollination is commonplace, but reading Goodman's detailed documentation of those moves seem akin to rampant wife swapping.

The sums of money littering the various deals, buy-outs and severance bundles can make one queasy. At the very least it's an irresponsible way to run a business. Again, the "Music Business" monster in the closet is real.

One small quibble is the lack of ink dedicated to drug use among record executives and how those synthetic crutches may have fueled outlandish excesses. I assume that is the topic of Goodman's next book.

Just remember...all we need are more hits!

mdg
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Given yet another round of corporate shakeups in the halls of Warner Music Group (WBR head, Tom Whalley was axed from his position earlier this week) it seems like a good time to take a look at the recent book explaining the ins and outs of this company from music business writer Fred Goodman.

In the Shakespearianly titled "Fortune's Fool: Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Warner Music, and an Industry in Crisis," Goodman is ostensibly telling the tale of Edgar Bronfman, Jr's rise to fame by shifting his family fortune from the Seagram's liquor business to that of his first love, the music business. Bronfman, who has taken his share of serious ribbing for his forays into music at a time of dramatic descent of the industry as a whole, is portrayed as a man on a mission; a mission to increase the value of recorded assets through the predictive model of entertainment ubiquity through computers and mobile devices around the world.

The trouble is, the vision never quote materialized, at least not to the degree the industry needed it to and Bronfman, who led the charge to take Warners private, has presided over one of the worst retreats of shareholder value in recent entertainment stock memory.

Goodman's evincing of the Warner story is really a tale of the record business' triumphs (few) and tribulations throughout the last decade; the story of how an industry has scrapped to survive when its only real product (recorded music) fell victim to the decimation of the post-Napster era. Along the way, Goodman offers insightful portraits of the personalities that made the record business the character-laden wild west that it was famous for. Boardroom battles for the direction of the company, a series of failed merger and acquisition attempts (will Warner ever merge with EMI?) and the people and roadkill that have been exacted along the way.

Goodman's portrayals are generally spot on and accurate and for a good history of the business in the post-millennial era, this fact-filled, page-turner generally gets it right.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 22, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
It seems like every music fan has a strong opinion on the state of the recording industry. I surely have my opinions, but I'll try to leave them out of this review. Regardless of whether or not you agree with the philosophy that music should be free, and regardless of your opinions on the major record companies, the one thing that cannot be denied is that the music industry has been steadily shrinking over the last decade or so and is currently in a major state of flux.

In "Fortune's Fool," Fred Goodman details the Bronfman family's rise to power and fortune through the Seagram liquor brand. Goodman then takes us through Edgar Bronfman Jr.'s life as a young executive who desperately wants to shed his family's business and enter the entertainment industry. Edgar becomes the CEO of Universal Music Group, and eventually becomes the CEO of Warner Music Group. However, during Edgar's ventures, the music industry is turned on its heals by the digital revolution. Edgar now commands a strong battleship in a lake that is rapidly evaporating.

The ultimate problem that the recording industry has been facing over the last decade or so is how to get consumers to pay for what they can get for free. Fortune's Fool details the tactics that the industry has used to fight and then to find itself in the new environment that the internet has created.

Goodman does well to leave his own opinions and insight out of the story for the most part, and simply offer an objective view of what has happened to the industry. Goodman's insights are revealed, however, in the book's epilogue. Like most music fans, it is clear that Goodman believes that the record companies should receive some, if not most, of the blame for the situation that they have found themselves in. However, he also sees their continued existence as important. He paints a bleak future for music if consumers continue to be unwilling to pay for it and gives reasoning as to why he feels that the philosophy that music should be free is flawed. Goodman also offers his own idea of a solution (which is not unlike Spotify).

Overall, Fortune's Fool is a very informative book that is also entertaining and easy to read. Anyone who is interested or concerned about the music industry, or anyone who enjoys reading business books for that matter, should give this book a read.
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Format: Hardcover
as many books as i've read and followed about the music business, it always stays a interesting and great read, about the corrupt and mind blowing things that happen within a week of an eye and how fast things go back as if nothing happen. another insightful book about the music business, the control, the power and the ultimate bottom line from the boom, to the unexpected napster boom.no other industry truly rotates off its own moon than the music business. this book is very well written,detailed and broken down to understand.always hearing about the end of the industry and yet it continues and it still runs by its own set of rules as this book displays so well then and now.
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on September 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Terrific read. Well done research. Meticulous research. Writing weaves together all the recent forces surrounding the recording industry into a clear and interesting story. Goodman is a good writer and he knows where all the bodies are buried on his beat. It is a pleasure to read real reportage from someone who knows how to follow a story. The idea of using Bronfman as a lens is surprising and more enjoyable is Goodman's restraint in not taking any of the typical approaches seen before in coverage of the Seagrams heir.
Worth it for anyone interested in business or music.

[...]

[...]
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on October 4, 2011
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
I found this book to give an excellent high level insight into senior management decisions taken in the industry over the past few years. Very well written and introduced some very interesting real life characters.
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Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
What a great great book - incredible fact filled story! It is a must read, if you want to know the truth about the history of the music industry
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon August 15, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book is well researched and the author got a number of the industry insiders to tell it like it really was, and is.

One factual point that was incorrectly reported was on page 34 where the author notes that Comcast pulled out of the cable joint venture with Alejandro (actually with Grupo Zubillaga) Zubillaga in 1994 and the plan collapsed. In reality, Comcast did not pull out until 1995 and the company (CableTel) continued, and was run by Alejandro as part of the set of Venezuelan communications companies he developed.

This book shows what happens when you have a vision of where an industry is going, but have the timing off, when you are at the bleeding edge of technology. If you don't control the technology, you can have exactly the right vision and still lose a bundle.

The book also points out many times that without real control in a venture, your investment can turn on the whim of the controlling party.

One is left wondering, without sufficient money coming in to record companies (due to the free and nearly free availability of music on the internet) where the funds will come from to develop the artists of tomorrow.

This book should be required reading by every business school in the country.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2010
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
Other than a few factual errors this book is incredibly informative and insightful if you're interested in the music industry.
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