Arts, Culture & Media

Downsized music execs

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80s hair band Motley Crue

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With more than 4 million American jobs evaporated in the last year, lots of people are trying to figure out how to start after. They might want to take a cue from an industry that got whacked almost a decade ago -- not by the economy, but by technology -- by Napster. When people started downloading music for free, a generation of record label employees had to start finding ways to reinvent themselves.

"Studio 360’s" Eric Molinsky catches up with some of these former music industry executives to see how that worked out.

Tom Werman was the king-maker of hair bands -- Motley Crue, Twisted Sister, Poison: "I took what was pop about those bands and I tried to feature that, and hide their weaknesses."

Working at CBS Records, Tom felt like a corporate rock star. But as far as music fans were concerned, Tom was just another corporate suit -- he was part of an industry that exploited artists and over-charged for albums. When the Internet came along, people could download music for free, and they were sticking it to "the Man." The industry was really slow to adapt to this new technology. When profits dwindled, they downsized. Tom struggled to stay in music.

A lot of people got laid off, like Kate Hyman who worked at B2 Records: "I sold more records for that label than anybody else put together, but when they cut the budget, I was one of the people to go."

The first people to get fired were the mid-level execs, who discovered and developed artists. Kate was famous for turning the underground DJ Moby into a global star: "When I first started it was all about artist development. There is no such thing anymore, and anybody that tries to sign someone and mentions that word, you can walk out right away cause they're lying."

Hyman has managed to stay in music by starting her own record label -- it's called Little Monster -- they make children's music. But Kate's also looking beyond music. The Obama campaign inspired her to bring her managerial skills to the public sector: "I joined the town board -- I'm a politician now in my town, and I'm actually running for the county legislature. I hate to say it -- I mean I haven't completely grown up -- but I've become a little more mature than that rock'n'roll vision."

So what happend to Tom Werman, the king-maker of hair bands? He move his family to upstate New York to start a bed-and-breakfast.

"PRI's Peabody Award-winning "Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen" from WNYC is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy — so let "Studio 360" steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.