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Beatles Producer George Martin’s Formula Revealed For Musical Money Making

Beatles Producer George Martin’s Formula Revealed For Musical Money Making

Beatles Producer George Martin’s Formula Revealed For Musical Money Making
August 13
09:15 2018

 

The business secrets of the late Beatles producer Sir George Martin are emerging as a new biography shows how he survived in the business and made millions.

The man known as the Fifth Beatle was more than a musical genius integral to the success of the biggest-selling band in history – with more than 800 million records shifted – according to author Kenneth Womack’s new book Sound Pictures. Martin was also a cool entrepreneur who responded robustly to a cash crisis over studio rentals and possible bankruptcy. At various times, he rejected multi-million bids for his company and an offer by his former employer, EMI, which wanted him to return to a higher salaried job. Instead, Martin took an even larger risk, opening a new studio in the Caribbean.

Other tips emerge for those seeking a music career.

    1. Put musical talent above all.

None of Martin’s success would have been possible if it were not for his musical skill. “He was the production wizard, the keeper of the Beatles flame. A kid can play a Beatles song in 2018 and it’s as fresh, crisp, crammed with as much fidelity as when it was first made,” Womack says in an interview.

  1. Making hits is not enough.

Beatles manager Brian Epstein said that Martin “is a hit-maker: He can hear it anywhere and he can make it happen.” Womack says: “Martin did not always have the magic touch. He came together with the Beatles and they did amazing things for seven years but they were better than the sum of their parts. Martin had as many hits as anybody but in a weird way that wasn’t his talent.”

  1. Become your own boss.

Martin broke away from EMI in the 1960s because his salary was at that time only £3,00o a year (about $4,000), that for a producer behind many chart-topping records. He hired out his services to artists, establishing Associated Independent Recording (AIR) studios. It was a shrewd move. Many acts needed studio time and help, and Martin could select the best.

  1. Keep your biggest clients.

After the success of the Beatles album Rubber Soul, Martin set up on his own as a freelance producer. The Beatles were his main meal ticket. Even so, with the next album Revolver, the quartet considered going to Memphis to use the production professionals there, says Womack: “Martin had to make sure that the sessions for the album weren’t relocated across the Atlantic. In the first meeting to discuss the new record, John Lennon described his vision for the song ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’” (Lennon requested: “Make me sound like the Dalai Lama chanting from a mountaintop.”) “Martin didn’t say, ‘Wow, that’s crazy, let’s not do that.’ He said, ‘very interesting.” Martin’s encouragement of musical experimentation stretched the fab four beyond their early pop cuteness. (Bob Dylan’s first reaction to “Tomorrow Never Knows” was “I get it, you’re not trying to be cute any more.”) “Martin would do everything he could do to seem like the supportive older mentor figure and that way he got their juices flowing. No request was too difficult or impossible. If they said they wanted to work over the holidays, that was just fine.”

The cover of “Sound Pictures”Chicago Review Press

  1. Keep the other guys out of the way.

Martin knew the Beatles were interested in working with other producers, so he kept potential rivals at arm’s length, says Womack: “A great example is the Yellow Submarine session when he had a meeting elsewhere. Instead of letting the Beatles doodle around by themselves for that night, Martin sent his wife Judy to sit in the producer’s chair. It worked because they had known her for a long time. It was smart to have someone representing him.”

Even so, by the summer of 1968 “there is a kind of inevitable recoil and he is starting to be relegated to the sidelines. The Beatles wanted the genius credit for themselves.”

  1. Keep your friends close, keep your rivals closer.

When Paul McCartney especially wanted to work with producer Glyn Johns on the Get Back project, Martin was in danger of being a persona non grata, says Womack: “He made it his business to become a good colleague with Glyn when he was mixing. He kept an eye on what was going on, flipped in and out of the sessions when they were at Twickenham and later at Apple Studios in Savile Row. When the equipment didn’t work, he came to the rescue, getting two four-track mobile units brought over from Abbey Road. He famously scrambled [musician] Alan Parsons to do all that work.”

  1. Always be ready to work and people will come back to you.

After the Get Back disaster, the Beatles begged the loyal Martin to come back for the final Abbey Road album. There were multiple reasons; he was always available, he had a work ethic, studio savviness, and people skills. On one occasion, he had to settle a monumental bust-up when Yoko Ono took digestive biscuits from George Harrison’s store. The engineer John Kurlander told Womack: “The amazing thing was how Martin settled this.” Within hours, they had put aside their differences and were recording the concluding guitar solos: “He had a way or keeping things together.”

  1. Work on it over years.

Martin “spent the rest of his life earning back his place in the Beatles’ ecosystem – a long-lasting partnership,” says Womack. “He became their most important spokesman after the CDs were released in 1987. The wizard found his way back and showed that he can still do the magic.”

  1. Don’t give up.

Martin had his setbacks but refused to give in. When AIR ran into trouble over high rents it was barely paying on its first Oxford Street base, he mulled offers for £2 million for the business and rejected them, instead starting his Montserrat studio, “which was a great triumph and great tragedy.” It was destroyed first by a hurricane and volcanic eruption. With another studio in North London, Martin resolutely carried on, even when he started to lose his hearing in his early 50s.

Author Kenneth WomackChicago Review Press

  1. Maintain your contacts.

Martin was a real people person who kept up his contacts, says Womack. “In in the 1970s, when Lennon was going into some pretty strange and dark places, he would say things like ‘George Martin did not produce anything, he was lucky to have found us.’ Despite this prickliness Martin took care to visit Lennon and ask for his views of The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl album. Finally John came close to apologizing, saying his nasty comments were blacked out of his mind.”

  1. Choose who you work with carefully.

Martin in theory had his pick of acts to work with after the Beatles. “Working with McCartney was smart for him in the early 1980s, and he had some success righting America’s ship after they dipped a little in the early 1970s. He was the man called on when Princes Diana died.” (The last single Martin produced was the biggest-selling of all time – Elton John’s reworking of Candle in the Wind with new lyrics by Bernie Taupin.)

For all this he did not always get it right, says Womack: “He produced Kenny Rogers and Neil Sedaka on the wrong side of their successes, worked weirdly with Ultravox, and then there was the disaster of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie.” Womack reveals that Martin’s eldest son Gregory suggested that David Bowie was making overtures towards his father for the Let’s Dance album. Martin “simply did not take the bait.” You can’t get it all right all the time.

Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Later Years 1966-2016, 560 pages, is published by Chicago Review Press on September 4, 2018, priced at $35 in the U.S. It is a sequel to Maximum Volume: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin, The Early Years, 1926-1966.

 

I’m the author of books including All You Need is Rock, collecting my rock criticism for Bloomberg. I’m now editor of Dante magazine and write for ArtInfo and Forbes. Follow me @Mark_Beech

Hi. I’m Mark Beech. I’ve written about arts and culture, especially rock music, for longer than Taylor Swift has been on earth. My book All You Need is Rock, published by Thistle in 2014, is a collection of a decade’s worth of writing as the rock critic for Bloomberg News, w…

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Source: Beatles Producer George Martin’s Formula Revealed For Musical Money Making

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Martin Nethercutt

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