Home Celebrity Warner Music, For Sale, Deep in Losses, Throws Lavish Grammy Party

I guess Warner Music Group wants to go out with a bang. Steeped in losses, with few hit records and a reputation for being almost out of business, the struggling record company decided to celebrate the Grammys in style. Their second in command, Lyor Cohen, threw a lavish, expensive party after the Grammy Awards on Sunday night at Soho House on the border of West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. And I do mean expensive: Cohen and Warner Music rented out the entire facility, not just a small part of it.

And what did they get for their money? Just about no celebrities. Publicists checking names at the curb said their biggest “get” was WMG recording artist Bruno Mars. There was mention of an appearance by Beyonce and Jay Z. That was it. Overheard outside, the checker discussed the lack of almost any staff in Los Angeles, and the expected sale of the company now that Cohen and owner Edgar Bronfman Jr. had driven it into the ground.

Warner Music was once home to James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, Little Feat, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Randy Newman,the B52s, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, Madonna, America, Rod Stewart, and dozens upon dozens of acts on Atlantic Records, Sire, Elektra, etc. Now it’s all boiled down to Bruno Mars.

By contrast, Sony Music–very successful, with hits–had a smallish cocktail gathering at the bar in the Beverly Hills Hotel. Tony Bennett and Clive Davis were seen, but mostly it was for execs and nominees. “It was fairly boring,” said a guest. Mostly attendees discussed the imminent departure of Rolf Schmidt Holtz, exiting leader of Sony Music. He won’t be replaced until July 1st by Doug Morris. “The company is a mess,” observed one insider.

Universal Music, the industry leader, had no official party. But Jimmy Iovine, head of UMG’s Interscope Records, had a 25th anniversary party for the company in a tent erected on the roof of the Hotel L’Ermitage in Beverly Hills. Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, and Emimen were expected. So were hundreds of people who planned to fill a limited space. Iovine, who is now an advisor to “American Idol,” has been giving parties at his Holmby Hills mansion all week.

EMI Music, also for sale, and in play, with perilous financial outlook, tossed a massive get together at Milk Studios in Hollywood. The gala was low on celebs but thick with guests who received $200 earbuds from Ultimate Ears (one of my favorite products–I bought a pair a couple of years ago), as well as mountains of food from various specialty trucks. I did run into Tara Reid, the actress, who was sober and fun. She has a lot of projects in the works, but made no mention of “The Big Lebowski 2.” Reid often gets lampooned in the New York press, but she’s actually smart and funny. She needs someone to write a good sitcom for her.

The best post Grammy party was right in the Staples Center, thrown by AEG Live and hosted by their leader, Randy Phillips. The only singer I ran into was R&B star Anthony Hamilton. But there were lots of execs, the deejay was great, and the food was tasty but not over the top. It was nice to see Jerry Greenberg, who worked at Atlantic Records in its heyday with Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler, then ran Michael Jackson’s MJJ Records in the 80s and 90s. He reminisced with Frank DiLeo, Jackson’s manager, and Joyce Moore, who worked for the Jacksons in the late 70s and early 80s.

Also seen at the Staples Center during the Grammys, in the Chairmen’s Room: Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban, Heidi Klum, Seth Rogen, Pauley Perrette, Joel Katz, Greg Phillinganes, Paul and Jane Schindler, Tom Corson. The subject of conversation from everyone literally: Lady Gaga ripping off Madonna. And how great Mick Jagger was in the Grammy show. More to come…

PS I dedicated my whole Grammy week coverage to the late great Michael Klenfner. I really missed Michael’s wit and biting insight about the business this weekend. He was a sweet giant, and I sure hope no one ever forgets him.

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Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
5 replies to this post
  1. I have friends who are entertainers and music producers and I feel sorry for them, but honestly I’m so happy the music industry is dying I will dance on their graves. They did it to themselves. There are literally thousands of great artists who’s work never saw the light of day simply because of some frustrated A&R or some scared V.P. who never backed it because they were afraid to take a chance.
    They all kept putting out copy cat artists to the point that today, Lady Gaga music sounds like Lil Wayne, sounds like Usher , sounds like Beyonce, sounds like. anyone see that there are only about 20 artists that we hear over and over and over and over and over again?
    Radio program directors program a playlist and go home. DJ’s don’t take request anymore. New music can’t be played because if the artist isn’t signed to a major then forget about it.
    The music industry sold its soul to the large corporations and like all fools who sell their souls they found that they sold the most valuable part of them and got nothing in return but a good time that lasted for a little while.
    Good riddance.

  2. Roger – Thanks so much for this… My Dad was a great person to watch the Grammys with. I haven’t even bothered to watch them since he died; who would I call during the commercials? ;-) He would have appreciated your dedication a great deal, I know it means a lot to me.

    Kate Klenfner

    P.S. – No one who knew my Dad could ever forget him… he left a big hole, but I wouldn’t expect any less from a man who was larger than life.

  3. Roger, what did you think about Arcade Fire winning for Album of the Year.

    It seems very unusual, given they didn’t win for alternative album!
    Has that ever happened before, winning for Album of the Year, but not for the genre?!

  4. Sounds like none of the fabled music industry giants will even be around to attend the 2012 Grammys! As Justin Timberlake as Napster founder Sean Parker said in Social Network: “How would you like to buy a Tower Records franchise?” Ditto for the bohemoth CD peddlers. Good riddance. Who needed them? They’ve just been putting out crap for the past 20 years anyway while sucking the classics dry.

  5. Hey Roger,
    Happy Valentine’s Day! thanks for all the news, the tidbits, the real emotions, the sarcasm, sometimes general hilarity, for covering real events and important performers not just the shoplifting!!
    You have fans out here! MMH
    ps but most of all when snowflakes fall, I wish you love.

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