Eclectic Entrepreneur

Nic Harcourt hosts Morning Becomes Eclectic on NPR’s Santa Monica, Cal. station KCRW ( MBE has become a daily source of new music and musical horizons for tens of thousands of listeners in California and hundreds of thousands more on the Web, where the show is simulcast daily. Besides the dozens of discs he introduces each day, Harcourt also plays host to many of today’s best musicians, including Rachel Yamagata, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Franz Ferdinand, Elbow, Doves, and many more. We talked with Harcourt via phone and e-mail about the state of music and the music industry.

In dealing with bands, we’ve heard all the horror stories of record labels butchering musicians. Of course, we hear the opposite from label reps, who simply chalk it up to business. Where do you think the fault for the current music industry failure lies? And is it really a failure, or just a transition?
The cat was out of the bag with the advent of digital technology. The labels made a fortune for a good 10 to 15 years as older listeners replaced all their old vinyl with new CDs. But at the same time, consolidation led to labels cutting back on artist development and just shooting for hits. The kids wised up that full albums weren’t worth the 17-dollar price tag just to get the one decent track that they heard on the radio and, bingo, peer-to-peer sharing sprang up. The labels have no one to blame except themselves. They’re dinosaurs at this point, now that they’ve lost control of distribution. They’re going to have to completely reinvent their business model if they want to stay alive, yet they’re still complaining about how it’s not their fault. Fools.

We have a lot of bands who read our magazine. Any advice to bands about breaking into the biz?

Do it because you love it, because you have to, not because you want to be a star.

Tony Wilson [founder of Factory Records] said he thinks there is a revolution every dozen or so years in music. He described it as the Sex Pistols in ’76 and the Stone Roses in ’89. He was concerned that he had not seen one recently. Do you think that is true? If so, what is the current revolution?

There is a revolution happening right now, it’s just different. Instead of one band or scene breaking through in a massive way, there are lots of little scenes happening on a smaller scale, and with the artists controlling their own destiny.

Who should we watch/listen to in the future?
I think we could see a couple of U.K. bands break through. Both Keane and Snow Patrol are doing OK right now and there’s a new band I like called Razorlight. There’s a band from Boston I love called Dresden Dolls, and my favorite album this year is by an L.A. band called Rilo Kiley.

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