Clive Davis On the Current State of Music

By Jennifer Abbey

Feb 18, 2013 6:00am
gty clive davis mi 130215 wblog Clive Davis On the Current State of Music

                                 (Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

Few people in the music industry are as influential as legendary producer and mentor to the stars, Clive Davis.

Davis is the man behind the music. He is the mogul who shaped the careers of music legends Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Carlos Santana, Barry Manilow, Jennifer Hudson and more.

At 80, Davis is releasing his first autobiography, ”The Soundtrack of My Life” in which he discusses “never-before-heard tales” of his life in the music industry.

While many people believe the music industry is going down the tubes, Davis, in a Newsmakers interview with Cynthia McFadden for ABC News and Yahoo News, shared his positive outlook.

“Well, there’s no way that music could ever go down the tubes,” Davis said. “I can’t imagine a civilization without music.  When you realize today that music is such a part of people’s lives.  And will always be, really.”

Davis said he is more impressed with the creativity of today’s new artists, citing Frank Ocean, Alabama Shakes, Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers.

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Davis said he rarely pays attention to changes in the music industry, which he’s been a part of for more than 40 years.

“For me, everything I do is the same.  I look for artists the same way,” he said. “So I leave it to others as to technologically where it’s taking. The purity of finding the right artist, that artist that’s gonna be the next hall of famer, that artist that’s gonna be the next headliner, lifting people out of their seats at Madison Square Garden, that song that’s gonna be sung for hundreds and hundreds of years, that essence remains the same.  I don’t wanna be confused.  Leave it to others.  I never paid attention when the LP became the cassette and the cassette became the CD and now we’re dealing, you know, with MP3s, it’s okay.”

While people all over the world are rocking out to their iPods and MP3 players, one would be surprised to learn that Davis does not listen to music for pleasure.

“I take home with me every week, tapes, if you will, of every record that makes the charts.  And … whether it be R&B, whether it be alternative, whether it be pop or Top 40, including now videos to watch, but I get great pleasure out of it.  So when I’m saying for pleasure, it’s in your terms of, ‘Well, I got two hours, who am I going–’ I don’t have those two hours. For me it’s fun to keep educating that ear so that I do not go over the hill.”

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Davis recalled an anecdote he learned from John Lennon when he ran into the singer during the period when he left The Beatles. Davis asked Lennon if he listened to the radio during his hiatus just to hear what’s going on.

“He said, ‘Clive, I don’t listen to the radio.  I don’t keep up with music at all during this period.  I’m out there enriching my life.’ And I was shocked,” Davis said. “I said, “I would’ve thought, you know, not to imitate, not to duplicate, but just to know is music changing?  What is going on?’  And he told me something which I’ve never forgotten.

“He said, ‘Clive, let me ask you a question, do you think Picasso went to the galleries to check out what was being painted in between the times that he took a brush to canvas?’  And, you know, I’ve never forgotten that either. Pure creative people, what they do, unnecessary for them, they have to look down deep in their soul.  They live in their own creativity.”

In hopes of helping future music moguls achieve music industry greatness, Davis endowed the Clive Institute for Contemporary Music at the Tisch School of New York University. His advice to young talent wanting to follow in his steps is to just keep working at it.

“I would take it seriously.  I believe in hard work,” he said. “I believe in educating yourself and not just saying, ‘You’re gonna be someone.’  If I’ve gotten to where I’ve gotten, it’s based on hard work.  It’s based on never taking anything for granted.

“I encourage the study of music.  And the immersion.  ‘Cause my life has been so enriched by being involved in music as I have.”

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