The Inside Story of Mariah's New Deal
An Exclusive Interview With Jerry Blair
By Brian Burns
May 20th, 2002
The most talked about subject in the music world this week was Vivendi/Universal's signing of Mariah Carey. Carey's records will be released on her label and distributed by Island Records. Veteran Promotion Guru Jerry Blair, who helped Mariah make history when she achieved her record breaking 15 #1 singles and most consecutive weeks at #1, will head up the team at the label. Hitmakersmagazine.com caught up with Blair this week for an exclusive look at the new project.
TWENTY MILLION DOLLARS! WITH VIVENDI/UNIVERSAL'S HUGE FINANCIAL LOSSES, OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS, WHAT DOES DOUG MORRIS SEE IN MARIAH THAT IS JUSTIFYING THIS BUSINESS ARRANGEMENT?
Any of those numbers are speculative in terms of what they were. All I'll say is both sides are very happy with the deal. What Doug Morris sees in Mariah Carey is the number one female artist of all time. She has a huge fan base. As far as negative implications from the last album, it was a soundtrack album. It also sold two million records worldwide. Over half a million were sold in the U.S. The movie was a period piece movie of the '80s with music from that period. It was released with little lead and set-up time and came out on September 11. Putting that aside, you still have the number one selling female artist of all time who's one of the few true global superstars in the business.
SHE'S A MULTI-GRAMMY WINNER AND HAS 15 NUMBER ONE SINGLES, YET THE MOVIE 'GLITTER' OBVIOUSLY WAS PANNED BY CRITICS AND WAS A BOX OFFICE FAILURE. WHAT DOES MARIAH HAVE TO DO TO GET TO THE LEVEL OF SUCCESS IN FILM THAT SHE'S HAD IN MUSIC?
She's got a movie coming out called 'Wise Girls' which is going to be an HBO premiere movie. It will come out in November, starring Mariah, Mira Sorvino and Laura Walters. It's received incredible praise at Sundance in reviews and we think it will be an overwhelming success. She's got a lot of other movie projects on the table that she's considering too.
THE CONCEPT OF THIS BUSINESS PARTNERSHIP IS TO COORDINATE MUSIC, MOVIES, TV, ON-LINE, PUBLISHING ACROSS A VARIETY OF ENTERTAINMENT BRANDS WITHIN THE UNIVERSAL MUSIC GROUP.
Let me say this just to set the record straight. The company's first priority is the release of her record. Yes, it will be a multimedia company. It's an opportunity to really take advantage of all of the different assets of Vivendi/Universal, everything from their European cell phone company to television with tools like the USA networks. We'll take every advantage of all the opportunities that we can to market her music, but the company that we're going to set up will be a multimedia company. We're certainly going to sign other artists to the label. We'll build it very slowly and determinably and go from there, but the first focus will be her record.
MARIAH IS KNOWN FOR BEING A BIG PART OF THE BUSINESS MANAGEMENT OF HER OWN CAREER. WITH ALL THESE PROJECTS, WILL THAT CHANGE AT ALL?
You're right about that. She takes a real hands-on position in her career. She was working so hard finishing the record last year, finishing the movie, filming 'Wise Girls' and working on setting up her promotion. She had a lot on her plate. We're trying to set up a team around her so she can work on being the creative force. Our goal is to set up a team to take care of business. Mariah is going to be intimately involved with everything, but hopefully she can rely on us to make sure that things go into effect and not have to worry about so many details.
YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MARIAH GOES WAY BACK TO COLUMBIA. TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE IN THIS NEW PARTNERSHIP.
The way we see it is that this company is meant to be the guarantor of her legacy. I just hope to bring as many opportunities out there in the world to present to her for us to pursue and just build a great company. For me, this is a great opportunity. It's an open landscape, a clean canvas. We get to really draft and write the script and that's what's incredible about working in the entertainment business right now. It's an incredible and exciting opportunity. It's a big world. We're not just limited to the United States. It's a global marketplace and our plan is to develop a worldwide company.
YOU MENTIONED YOU'LL BE SIGNING OTHER ARTISTS TO THIS NEW LABEL.
Ultimately we will. The first release will be Mariah's new album and then we'll be signing other acts. That will give Mariah a great opportunity to mentor. It doesn't matter if it's Britney, Christina Aguilera or Nelly Furtado, they emulate Mariah, in a sense, and she is an icon. Now she'll get to be a 'hands-on' mentor with some of the artists on the label and hopefully will create new, great legacies.
WHEN WILL MARIAH BE BACK IN THE STUDIO AND WHEN CAN WE EXPECT TO HEAR SOMETHING NEW?
She's been working a lot in the studio because her creative juices are flowing right now. We'll get something out as quickly as humanly possible, hopefully by the end of this year or the beginning of next year. But we won't rush it. When it's ready, she'll know. She's been in the studio almost every day now.
SHOULD MARIAH FANS BE PREPARED FOR ANY DEPARTURE FROM HER ORDINARY MUSIC STYLE OR IS SHE GOING TO TRY SOME NEW THINGS?
You're going to get the classic Mariah in that voice. But what you're also going to get is being on the forefront of where music goes to and she certainly has been on the forefront in so many ways before. It's really going to be a record that will appeal to all her huge fan base. That base includes girls five and six years old to people in their sixties and everything in between: men, woman, all races and cultures. You really don't have an artist that has that kind of a wide range of appeal and the fans really aren't going to be disappointed.
THANKS JERRY. ALL OF US AT HITMAKERSMAGAZINE.COM WISH MARIAH AND YOUR NEW LABEL TEAM THE BEST OF LUCK IN THIS NEW PROJECT.
Thanks Brian. This interview was a lot more pleasant than talking to Dan Cox from the New York Post.
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