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Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business Paperback – July 2, 1991
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A nauseatingly honest and therefore controversial expose of the base beings that inhabit the higher levels of the music industry. Filled with horror stories that will confirm your worst suspicions about the toxicity of what my friends and I call "Planet CD Wood."
Praise for Fredric Dannen's Hit Men:
"A sobering, blunt, and unusually well-observed depiction of the sometimes sordid inner workings of the music business."
"It's a good book—read it!"
"An entertaining collection of anecdotes about an uproariously unsavory subculture of egomaniacs, sybarites, goniffs, and music lovers. . . . Mr. Dannen has a knack for the telling quote and a healthy appetite for the juicy story."
—The New York Times Book Review
"Anyone with more than a passing interest in the inner workings of the [music] industry will be enthralled by the juicy tales [Dannen] has to tell."
—The New York Times
"A knowing and unsentimental glimpse into the inner workings of the music business . . . Dannen got the inside story, and he got it right."
—Los Angeles Times Book Review
"The most revealing look yet at the 'characters' who run the rock-music business."
—Entertainment Weekly, Top 10 Best Books of the Year
"No one, insider or outsider, has ever grasped the basic concept of power in the pop-music business better than Fredric Dannen in Hit Men. . . . Hit Men has enough dramatic juice to drive half a dozen fictional bestsellers."
"The no-holds-barred tale of showbiz's most flamboyant branch strips away the inpenetrable sheen of some of the industry's weightiest names."
"Hit Men brings to life the most compelling gang of thugs since The Godfather. The stories of this smarmy bunch are part delicious, part appalling."
"Anyone who has even a passing interest in the music industry will be intrigued by Hit Men. The two basic themes are mob involvement and music executives' dalliances."
"A detailed profile of the handful of individuals who control the Top Forty. . . . Dannen's triumph is his ability to reduce the complicated problems and issues of the music industry to precise, personal situations."
"Dannen's thorough, sure-footed investigation . . . create[s] a lucid and understandable account of the modern music business."
"Dannen . . . mixes the skills of an investigative journalist with the gifts of an expert storyteller in an expose that will intrigue and appall readers with its disclosures."
"Well researched and chock-full of juicy tidbits, [Hit Men] imparts a vivid sense of the record industry's slimy side."
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Its especially interesting (and balancing) to read this book after you've read other opposing points of view, as say Tommy Mottola's own book on his career as President of Sony Records. Its also interesting to see how SMALL the record business was even at its peak - the number of employees and income were tiny compared to size of companies you routinely deal with in other industries, especially one spending as the record companies did!
The main thrust of the book is the mob connection and I think that case is made pretty clear here though the government never managed to win the case and all the names mentioned still deny it or dismiss it to this day. As you get to the end of the book, you start to be really happy that Napster happened and that this industry slipped a great deal. Capitalists like Davis and Azoff managed to find a new place in the new business model. Others, like Yetnikoff, went other directions.
It is probably the definitive book on the subject and still stunning. Nice updated epilogue from 2012. Glad I read it but I am done with this particular subject.
"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.
This book is a fascinating read into the inner workings of the business - particularly "independent promotion". I always suspected there was a fair amount of shady characters but not quite to the extent that there really were (and perhaps still are?). The author's research appears to be thorough and solid. This is not an easy read - there are a lot of names to keep track of and that I often had to go back and reread some sections but it was worth it.
If you are a music fan, particularly of the 60's - 90's you will probably find this book extremely captivating. Don't expect to read about artists (to these guys they were "product to sell" - this book focuses on the people behind the music - and does it very well.