Czinger and the business of climate change: Part I
A sacred cash cow, With sickly tits…
-Lamb of God
The sacred cow, Randy Blythe of the Richmond metal music band Lamb of God talked about was of course, the music ‘industry’. The industry, consisting of people well-versed in making lots of money off people’s musical achievements, which did not have room for someone like Shawn Lane , has been sickly for some time now. A thing called file-sharing throttled this gargantuan hegemon into a coma it is yet to completely wake up from .
But yet in its heyday, which was not too long ago, the music industry was one of the major ‘industries’ of the modern era. Total earnings in 1999 for example were in excess of $38 billion . That’s right – we all bought CDs, tapes, and vinyls worth that much in 1999. Who doesn’t remember the music stores which breezily charged ridiculous prices for ‘import CDs’ and cared not they ever sold at all?
What climate change has got to do with the music industry – you might wonder. To answer this question, we need to head back to the mid 90’s and follow what some of today’s prominent players in climate business were up-to those days.
Kevin Czinger, Yale Law School graduate and an assistant state attorney for New York City under prosecutor Rudy Giuliani  made a name for himself first, in the high-profile ‘Boesky’ cases in 1989 . The case he did, was a successful prosecution of GAF Corporation’s insider trading and one of the earliest of its kind. It went to mistrial twice and was clinched apparently by the efforts of Czinger . Wrote the New York Times:
“Carl H. Loewenson Jr., an assistant United States attorney, attributed the victory to a ”powerful” summation delivered last week by his colleague, Kevin Czinger, and new testimony of two witnesses…”
Ivan Boesky – an ‘arbitraguer’, was involved in the crudest of Wall Street “insider dealing”, compared to what gets pulled today and did not go unnoticed by the SEC . Other players in the arbitrage business however did not attract outright ‘media adulation’ as Boesky did, but were in the same game. Goldman Sachs for example, ran an arbitrage unit headed by a certain Robert Rubin.
The young Czinger, introduced to ins and outs of ‘Wall Street’ during the course of this trial, took the logical next step. Arthur Liman, celebrated lawyer and Yale graduate, who was the defense on the Boesky cases, introduced Czinger to Robert Rubin who was himself a Yale graduate, at Goldman Sachs .
The switch happened – Czinger went to work with John Thornton in the European arm of Goldman Sachs. The picture we get is of an energetic ‘ex-military, Catholic Jock’ who seemed well-suited and ready for action in investment banking. Thornton, a Yale graduate as well, headed Goldman Sachs’ media and communications business back then at a London office. Czinger’s job was helping Thornton put together a team of “untainted outsiders”. In his book, it was Czinger we are told, who persuaded Jonathan Knee to join Goldman Sachs:
“I’m telling you, this guy is the real thing. It’s media. We’ve got an open playing field. We’ll do it together. It’ll be fun.”
The most prominent and high-profile deal that Thornton’s team carried at the time was with an Australian named Rupert Murdoch with his takeover of Star TV for the Asian market .
At the close of two years with Thornton however, Czinger had arrived at the exact opposite opinion. He had come to think that transacting huge sums of money helping others trade media and broadcasting rights was not ‘entrepreneurial enough’. He moved from there to BMG Music in New York to be executive Vice President.
The real fun starts now
Czinger certainly operated in Bertelsmann Music Group with specific plans. In the summer of 1996, Czinger broke away from BMG taking a bite of its flesh – the Lou Maglia-run tottering ‘Zoo Entertainment’, which he renamed Volcano Records . He was striking out on his own. Czinger bought Zoo at the right time – a month later Zoo were to release the much-anticipated second album by the then-upcoming band, Tool .
Backed by the impressive forces of Allen and Co, the Czinger plans then unfolded. In one of its earliest ‘moves’, Zoo’s offices were moved to New York from Los Angeles . The Zoo bands would be dealing with a new set of New York staffers as a result. Czinger is reported to said during this stage: “I’m not here to cash out, I don’t need it.” .
At the time, Czinger obviously thought this to be the safest thing to say about a record company. You were supposed to ‘build relationships’ , ‘hope for the big hit’, it was always ‘about the music’ and ‘never about the money’. This was certainly in conflict with his Goldman Sachs memo he wrote a few years earlier about ‘entrepreneurial’ opportunities he now intended to pursue.
Statements he made earlier however was more indicative of what he wanted to do with Volcano and its roster. “One possible long term strategy is to sell stock to the public. Certainly that is contemplated”, he said, alluding to the planned engraftment of a Wall Street business model on the Maglia-run Zoo .
Tool, the main act on the Zoo label was a strange beast. Its members were notoriously guarded of the band interests’ right from the beginning. Managed by Ted Gardner, co-founder of the Lollapalooza music festival, Tool’s reluctance to follow the accepted business model for a music band was legendary .
Tool’s tie with their original label could therefore be termed a ‘working relationship’, occasional problems notwithstanding . The band got what they wanted – a record company that gave them lots of time between albums and lots of control over how they wanted to come across to its fans. Lou Maglia, on his part had a professed ‘long-term commitment approach to nurturing music bands.
It was this basic mismatch in the equation that would result in the woes that were to come soon.
From his initial impressions, garnered from an interview in November 1996, Adam Jones, Tool’s guitarist, seemed momentarily happy under the new management. Perhaps seduced by a vision of ‘independence from a big label’ by Czinger, he said :
Our record label’s really cool. They just bought themselves out from BMG. The president of the record label’s just an amazing guy. I don’t know about the investors. They want results right away. That’s not what we’re about at all. But like you said, we’ve got a sweet deal.
By the summer of 1997, in Lollapalooza, Tool was the prominent act quite possibly holding up any remaining shreds of credibility the festival had at that point . They had been touring non-stop from the very time they released the Aenima album in October 1996.
At the same time, meanwhile, Czinger had merged Volcano with Dallas Austin’s Rowdy Records, a label that housed rap and hip-hop artists forming the new entity Freeworld Entertainment, to which Tool now belonged . Czinger’s expansionist moves continued to be backed by Allen & Co who held an unknown stake in Freeworld as well . Czinger and Dallas would be co-presidents. They would have offices in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Manhattan. “We believe that we are laying the foundation for a strong entity”, said Czinger.
Austin was following his dreams – “I’ve always wanted to start a large indie from scratch”. There was even talk of making movies . Incidentally, it was in July 1997 that Czinger joined Webvan, an online grocery store as well.
What went wrong next and what exact point of time is difficult to discern. Only one thing is clear in the end – Tool wanted to break away from their label Volcano. Much later, Adam Jones would say referring to Czinger :
Then Zoo became Volcano Entertainment and was sold to this jackass who renamed the label Freeworld Entertainment before changing the name back to Zoo. At that time, he was supposed to pick up our contract option, but he forgot to. And since we weren’t too happy with him in the first place, we informed the label that they forgot to pick up our option and, therefore, we were out of our contract.
What made the ‘amazing guy’ into a ‘jackass’ is difficult to decipher. In any event, in what can be surmised as reflective of the unhappiness in the air, Tool told Czinger the band was a ‘free agent’ to do as they pleased. The technicality the band employed to wriggle out was mind-boggling. Tool were comfortable enough not to require yearly renewals of their contract with Zoo in previous years, but used the same point to break free from Czinger’s Volcano .
Then some asshole with no knowledge of music or business took over Zoo. He fired everyone who did know how to do things, including the lawyers who served our causes. The result of that was that no one at Zoo knew when our contract had to be renewed.
‘Negotiations’ then followed – which implies Freeworld tried their hand at pleasing Tool. But these must have failed spectacularly, because both parties came out fighting and ready for the worst.
On Sept 12, 1997 Czinger filed suit at the New York Supreme Court against Tool. Tool wanted to run, but Czinger was not willing to let go. Ted Gardner and the band attorney, Eric Greenspan filed suit the very same day at Los Angeles Superior Court against Volcano . Czinger was firm – he wanted the courts to prevent Tool from striking any deals with other record labels, provide Volcano with seven albums and pay $25 million in damages.
Tool has taken what was a creatively and financially successful relationship and has recklessly abandoned it… We will do what is necessary to preserve this relationship.
James Keenan, the band vocalist for his part would say “Of course, Kevin is right because record companies never lie, do they?” .
The suit was appropriately filed against James Herbert Keenan, Daniel Carey and Adam Jones – the artists  – financially well-endowed they might have been at that point – were in all certainty, not in a position to cough up the $25 million. The asking amount touched $40 million at one point. The lawsuit was the last resort to pin down Volcano’s main act down.
Everything went downhill from this point. Dallas Austin, Czinger’s bulwark against his label’s dependence on a few star acts wanted to break away from Freeworld. He had just jumped into bed officially with Czinger, mere months earlier in August. In November 1997, two months after the lawsuit was filed, Volcano quietly closed down its Los Angeles office . Two more months later, in January 1998, Volcano started hemorrhaging staff. – Czinger was “letting go” of marketing .
Two more months later, in March 1998, more staff were informed at Volcano that this would be their last working day . Allen & Co, Czinger’s backers had had enough – they apparently made a profit on their $20 million investment when they sold the ominously tumbling Volcano back to Clive Calder of Zomba Records.
Dallas Austin took with him the Freeworld moniker when he left with his rap and hip hop artists. The Tool lawsuit would drag on for until December 1998. Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, managers somewhat more skilled in dealing with rock musicians than Czinger, eventually bought out Volcano from Zomba. The first thing they did – was to settle the court case against Tool . In the end Tool ended up right where they started – under the BMG umbrella – only this time, they negotiated a joint arrangement between ‘Volcano II’ and their own artist label ‘Dissectional’.
Let alone new successful music bands, the Wall Street infection at the time, did not leave even veteran artists untouched. The most famous example was David Bowie, who agreed to ‘securitize’ his own back catalog to create ‘Bowie bonds’ .
Czinger’s rash decision to sue his own lead band had misfired terribly. The whole veteran label and artist entities walled off and contracted like a healing wound around Czinger.
Six months after the lawsuit, Kevin Czinger was out of the music business.
Analysis – three patterns that would repeat themselves
The whole saga that unfolded ended up a perfect illustration of a clash of cultures. One, a fairly established but volatile one of how record companies, artists and musicians lived with and tolerated each other, and the other, an alien investment banking ethic that sought to move and rearrange vast chunks of this culture to its own end. Some details are noteworthy for the climate change mitigation this story will spiral out towards eventually.
Firstly, there was the engraftment. Czinger had spent a considerable amount of time in the media and music industry, yet he remained an outsider. He continued to think as an investment banker, of a peculiar variety that would anticipate his onetime parent Goldman Sachs’ behavior through the coming decade . This same pattern was to repeat itself over and over again. “Finance is my weapon,…with capital, we have the firepower to make creative bets”, said Czinger at one point .
The Wall Street invasion of the music industry at the time was of course when CD sales fed everything. People were placing ‘creative bets’ because the returns, monetarily, were so high .
“What a lot of people have discovered of late is that out of all the entertainment-related fields, the core music business is enormously profitable. Much more profitable than TV, certainly more profitable than the movies …”
-Michael Leon, Hybrid Recordings
Secondly, there was the approach. One way to look at making music as a business would have been to grow it, from the ground-up. Czinger did the exact opposite – take all previously-built components of a record label and throw large sums of money at the pile and try to drive the whole thing. “One day one, we have a distribution agreement, assets, acts and staff ready to go”– Czinger . This pattern too, would repeat itself over and over again.
Third, was the tempo o the process. From owning a record label with a genuinely successful band of the ‘rock-is-dead’ era to selling everything and going fully broke, took little over a year. Faster than you could say ‘exit strategy’. “But as quickly as Freeworld soared, it tanked” – noted the New York Daily News . This pattern too, would repeat itself.
Prevented thus from leaving Volcano, but unable to work, Tool went through a frustrating period – something that would easily finish all but the most established acts. Interestingly enough, Adam Jones recalled David Bowie’s words during the post-Volcano meltdown period. “I had to become a better businessman to become a better artist” .
The influence of the series of events on Tool was undeniable. It was through this crucible of senseless, pernicious banality a path lay for them to make Lateralus – the most important music album of the last thirty years.
For a month Lane and Bays, along with drummer Sean Rickman, recorded with Johns and spent time in his home talking about music. It was a time etched in Bays’ memory. It didn’t last. The real world of business intruded when Warner Brothers reorganized. Lane’s advocates left the company, and the new team had little interest in promoting Lane’s music. “All of a sudden the support dropped,” says Bays. He and Rickman continued to play with other bands and artists, but Lane retreated to his grandmother’s home in Memphis and started writing music for another album.
2. THE IMPACT OF ILLEGAL DOWNLOADING ON MUSIC PURCHASING. http://www.ifpi.org/content/library/The-Impact-of-Illegal-Downloading.pdf
Since the turn of the decade, the trade value of music sales in the UK has fallen by 25%. Despite the uptake of legitimate digital downloads the record industry continues to lose sales to free, illegal sites and services.
3. Wikipedia: Music Industry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_industry.
4. New York Magazine May 25, N.C. Gotcha! Nancy Collins cross-examines crime-buster Rudolph Giuliani. http://books.google.com/books?id=JOUCAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA25&dq=New+York+Magazine+May+25,+1987&ei=dFYMTMisK476zASV8bi9AQ&cd=3#v=onepage&q&f=false.
5. 884 F2d 670 United States v. Gaf Corporation Gaf & T | Open Jurist. http://openjurist.org/884/f2d/670/united-states-v-gaf-corporation-gaf-and-t.
6. GAF Guilty In Carbide Stock Case – NYTimes.com. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/12/14/business/gaf-guilty-in-carbide-stock-case.html?pagewanted=1
LEAD: The GAF Corporation and a senior executive were found guilty yesterday afternoon of illegally trying to manipulate the stock of the Union Carbide Corporation in 1986 after an unsuccessful attempt to take over the company.
7. Cramer, J.J. Bad Boys, Bad Boys. http://nymag.com/nymetro/news/bizfinance/columns/bottomline/n_9352/
And then, at home, I put on the TV to watch the Nightly Business Report on PBS and saw a picture of Ivan Boesky flashing along with the news that shortly after the close of the market, the Feds had busted him for insider trading. He was cooperating with the government—in fact, he had been undercover for the Feds for the past few months,.
8. Knee, J., The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade That Transformed Wall Street. 2007: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 288 pages.
A diminutive former Yale football star, Kevin was legendary for his intensity and after law school had gone to work for Rudy Giuliani when he was a prosecutor. There, he befriended fellow Yale Law School alumnus Arthur Liman while they were on opposite sides of United States vs. GAF Corporation, the first major insider trading case (Liman lost at trial, won on appeal). Liman encouraged Kevin to go into investment banking and arranged introductions to then co-chiefs of Goldman Sachs, Steve Friedman (former Cornell wrestling star) and Robert Rubin.
9. Knee, J., The Accidental Investment Banker: Inside the Decade That Transformed Wall Street, Page 33. 2007: John Wiley & Sons Ltd 288 pages.
Czinger had met Chisholm and his team when Thornton had sold a majority stake in Star TV—the largest satellite TV platform in Asia—to Murdoch for Richard Li, Hong Kong mogul Li Ka-shing’s 27-year-old son. It was a testament to Thornton’s skill that although he had gotten an enormous price from Murdoch for Star…
10. Volcano Entertainment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcano_Entertainment.
11. Borzillo, C. Billboard Aug 24 1996: Zoo’s Tool Matures on Long-Anticipated ‘Aenima’. 1996 http://books.google.com/books?id=wAcEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA25&dq=Tool+Lou+Maglia&lr=&as_pt=MAGAZINES&ei=-SMOTMX2LZb8zQSekoijCw&cd=2#v=onepage&q=Tool%20Lou%20Maglia&f=false
Those who lived Tool’s Opiate EP and Undertow album will be completely beside themselves upon hearing ‘Aenima’, one of the most highly anticipated rock records of the year.
12. Newman, M. Billboard Dec 21 2006: Zoo Moves East. http://books.google.com/books?id=swkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA10&dq=Zoo+Entertainment+Tool&ei=eh4OTJ6jJo_aygSmrNG4Cg&cd=5#v=onepage&q=Zoo%20Entertainment%20Tool&f=false.
13. Piccoli, S. Blue-Chip Hip: Wall Street, Record Biz Attempt To Make Beautiful Music Together – Page 4. 1997 http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1997-03-09/entertainment/9703060292_1_wasserstein-perella-wall-street-hola/4.
14. Jeffrey, D. Zoo Acquired by Start-Up Volcano; Firm Also Launches Hip-Hop Imprint. Billboard, Aug 24, 1996 http://books.google.com/books?id=wAcEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA127&dq=Czinger+Maglia&ei=fx0OTO_tEobSywSGhMj7Cg&cd=1#v=onepage&q=Czinger%20Maglia&f=false.
15. Sokal, R. Tool: Stepping out from the Shadows. Exclaim.Ca. March 2001 http://toolshed.down.net/articles/index.php?action=view-article&id=June_2001–Exclaim.html
To achieve a state of autonomy within a megalopolis such as Los Angeles, the entertainment capital of the planet, is practically impossible. The dark and infectious ethereal left-field hard rock collective Tool have managed to do so, avoiding the temptations to compromise that lead to eventual mediocrity. Instead of being an instrument to the business, the business has succumbed to them, but not without a fight.
16. Tool Guitarist ADAM JONES is a Master of Many Trades. March 1994 http://toolshed.down.net/articles/text/gsch.mar.94.html
We could have gone with much bigger labels and more money, but we wanted to go with a company thatis LA based, all in the same building, and really understands what the artists want. Zoo has pretty much worked out for us. But we occasionally bang heads with them because they have to answer to a higher power, too.
17. Adam Jones Interview. November 1996 http://toolshed.down.net/articles/index.php?action=view-article&id=November_1996–Scene_Magazine.html
So we went, “You keep your money, and give us 100 percent control.” They went, “OK.” Just, without a doubt, thinking…I don’t know what they were thinking. But it was kind of that mentality, that they can save their corporation a lot of money. But it’s really helped us in the long run. Our record label’s really cool. They just bought themselves out from BMG. The president of the record label’s just an amazing guy. I don’t know about the investors. They want results right away. That’s not what we’re about at all. But like you said, we’ve got a sweet deal. It keeps us right where we want to be.
18. Parales, J. Lollapalooza’s Recycled Hormones: Rebellion by the Numbers. Jul 1997 http://www.nytimes.com/1997/07/14/arts/lollapalooza-s-recycled-hormones-rebellion-by-the-numbers.html.
19. Austin, Czinger in biz duet – Entertainment News, Music News, Media – Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1116677938.html?categoryid=16&cs=1&query=freeworld
Six months after severing ties with Arista Records, producer/songwriter Dallas Austin has emerged as co-chief of Freeworld Entertainment, a merger of his Rowdy Records banner with Volcano Records..Music News, news from the entertainment source: Variety.Austin, Czinger in biz duet.
20. Flick, L. Rowdy, Volcano Merge To Create Indie Freeworld. Billboard, Aug 23, 1997 http://www.google.com/books?id=3QkEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA9-IA3&dq=Czinger+Dallas&cd=5#v=onepage&q=Czinger%20Dallas&f=false
Czinger says that Freeworld is close to inking a deal with a major film distributor for the project.
21. Stillman, B. Guitar World Interview with Adam Jones: Fight Club. 2001 http://toolshed.down.net/articles/index.php?action=view-article&id=June_2001–Guitar_World.html
David Bowie said something in an interview that got me really excited: “I had to become a better businessman to become a better artist.” I thought it was beautiful because it’s so true. When some bands become too big, they start fighting about money and control. Then other parties get involved and everything starts to disintergrate.
22. Schaick, M.v. OOR: Tool. March 2001 http://toolshed.down.net/articles/index.php?action=view-article&id=March_2001–OOR.html
We let that date expire, so we were free to do whatever we wanted. And that happened when we were at the peak of our career. It couldn’t be any better. Zoo claimed that there was talk of a verbal agreement about the renewal of the contract, but legally they had no case. However the discussion about that between our lawyers and theirs did take about one and a half year. One and a half year in which the atmosphere was fucked up and the creativity blocked.
23. Tool, Freeworld In Legal Battle Over Validity Of Act’s Contract. http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/miscellaneous-retail-retail-stores-not/4661910-1.html
In its complaint, the label maintains that the group has received more than $1.5 million in advances and royalties and its attempts to leave the label are ‘fueled by greed and (are) in total disregard of their contractual obligations.’.
24. Hear and Now: October 3, 1997 | Music | EW.com. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,289704,00.html
Hanson and Tool made news the week of October 3, 1997.
25. The Supreme Court Records Online Library, N.Y. PLAINTIFF:VOLCANO ENTERTAINMENT, INC. DEFENDANT:KEENAN, JAMES HERBERT. 1997 http://iapps.courts.state.ny.us/iscroll/SQLData.jsp?IndexNo=604700-1997.
26. Bulletin, B. Freeworld Closes Los Angeles Office. Billboard Bulletin, Nov 1997 http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/miscellaneous-retail-retail-stores-not/4403202-1.html
Freeworld Entertainment, the label started by Rowdy Records president Dallas Austin and Volcano Records president Kevin Czinger, has closed its Los Angeles office. Co-president Kevin Czinger, speaking from Freeworld’s New York offices, said the move was a “restructuring” and that there were layoffs, though he declined to be more specific.
27. Coveney, J. Freeworld Layoffs. Billboard Bulletin, Jan 1998 http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/miscellaneous-retail-retail-stores-not/4386168-1.html
Freeworld, the label headed by Dallas Austin and Kevin Czinger, has let go VP of promotion Stanley Winslow, national promotion director Michael Halley, director of artist development Kim Lumpkin, college promotion manager John “Slim” Pickins, and promotion coordinator Damien Alexander, according to sources.
28. Zomba to save Freeworld Label. The Hollywood Reporter, March 1998 http://www.allbusiness.com/services/motion-pictures/4809872-1.html
Founded by investment banker Kevin Czinger, the struggling independent label alerted some its staffers that their last day of employment would be today, sources said. However, some of the staff, which totals 15, will make the move if the Zomba deal is approved.
29. Tool: We’re Free Agents Now. Sept 1997 http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1434919/19981207/tool.jhtml
As for Freeworld chief Kevin Czinger’s contention that the band “recklessly abandoned” its relationship with Volcano, Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan quipped, “Of course Kevin is right, because record companies never lie, do they?”
30. ‘Bowie Bonds’ May Make Comeback – WSJ.com. http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB112476043457720240-Tvpthd07S8mCqCxLFNKIPnWWY9g_20060823.html
The boom in digital downloads is music to the ears of bankers and others hoping to start shifting Bowie bonds, which gives investors a piece of future earnings by a musician or other notable artist.
31. Taibbi, M. The Great American Bubble Machine. April 2010 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/12697/64796?RS_show_page=0
The bank’s unprecedented reach and power have enabled it to turn all of America into a giant pump-and-dump scam, manipulating whole economic sectors for years at a time, moving the dice game as this or that market collapses, and all the time gorging itself on the unseen costs.
32. Piccoli, S. Blue-Chip Hip: Wall Street, Record Biz Attempt To Make Beautiful Music Together-Page 3. 1997 http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1997-03-09/entertainment/9703060292_1_wasserstein-perella-wall-street-hola/3
33. Furman, P. LOCAL LABEL IN ZOMBA SPIN FREEWORLD FOUNDER KEN CZINGER’S FUTURE IN DOUBT. www.nydailynews.com/archives/money/1998/03/12/1998-03-12_local_label_in_zomba_spin__f.html
Freeworld Entertainment, the troubled independent record label founded by industry hotshot Kevin Czinger, has been sold to powerhouse Zomba Records, sources said. Details of the deal were unavailable. But Freeworld’s backers who’ve pumped an estimated $20 million into the 2-year-old label are said to have made a profit on the sale. The backers are led by media investment banking titan Herbert Allen. Zomba chairman Clive Calder is expected to announce the deal this week, insiders.