The music business is such a drag. Who actually wants to hear about the music business? Wouldn’t you rather read something about golf?
No, me neither. Even thinking about golf makes me feel slightly queasy and talking about it in any form - verbal or written - is one of my five least favourite things to do. And yes, I do have that list.
But let’s talk about golf. Isn’t golf great! Such an elevating experience, with the clubs and the bags and the little toy town cars that tip over if you drive them too fast. Golf brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.
Two of those people are former Live Nation bigwig and veteran artist manager Irving Azoff and Apple exec Eddy Cue. Golf brings them so much joy that they play 70 rounds of golf together each year - which seems a lot of golf to fit into their presumably fairly busy schedules.
“Golf expert” Michael Pryor says that, “according to a study commissioned by the United States Golf Association, golf rounds average four hours on weekdays and four hours and thirty minutes on weekends”. 280 hours of golf! Or, as some might regard it, 280 hours of sheer unbridled joy.
But not me. However, the reason I thought it would be more interesting to talk about golf is because I’ve learned that not only do Azoff and Cue play an insane amount of golf together each year, but they are also opening a golf course. Possibly to make their pursuit of the glorious game of golf a little more efficient.
Actually, I really want to talk about the article I learned this from - a piece in Golf Digest - because it is a veritable goldmine of information and quotable quotes.
For one thing, I now know that Cue and Azoff are such close friends - “both giddy as schoolboys”, the article reports - that they have a collective nickname, Q&A. This was also originally going to be the name of the golf course, which instead they ended up calling Ladera.
The name translates to “Spanish foothills”, although the course is actually situated on a 300 acre former lemon grove in California. It sounds absolutely delightful, only marred by the fact that there’s now a golf course on it.
As well as this, there are also some interesting insights into the music industry in the piece. Although the main source of these insights seem to be Cue and Azoff. We start with how the pair met.
“Two decades ago Cue was busy launching a new service called iTunes, but the library didn’t include one of his boss’ favourite bands, the Eagles”, it says. “To placate Steve Jobs, Cue tracked down their manager to clear the impasse with the record label”.
“Azoff proved a useful contact”, it adds, “because in addition to the Eagles, he has represented or promoted U2, Guns N Roses, Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac, Jimmy Buffett, Bon Jovi, Journey, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, yada yada. Together, they would revolutionise the digital sales and distribution of the music industry”.
Now, I’m not going to dispute that Cue and Azoff are both powerful men, but that is the first time I’ve seen the digital music revolution put solely on the shoulders of them and them alone. But if you want confirmation of how big and powerful they both are, you can ask, well, them.
“Irving is the super-agent because of three things”, says Cue of Azoff. “One, Irving will kill for his clients. Two, he answers his phone 24-7. Three, he’s never slipped into the trap of thinking he’s the talent”.
The article does note that Azoff answers his phone multiple times during the interview, observing that “at least a portion of this marketing genius’s daily work involves giving away concert tickets to important people”.
Of Cue, Azoff says, “Eddy makes decisions with financial implications that are 100 times what I deal with”. Yes, but does he give out any freebies? Probably, but not to you or me, so stop asking. Let’s get back to golf.
“Golf”, says Azoff, “is about friendship, but it’s also an incredible business tool. So much business, especially in my business, is done on the golf course”.
As well as being an artist manager, Azoff also works with the Madison Square Garden Company, which last year launched the Sphere venue in Las Vegas.
The massive, high tech, ball-shaped venue covered in a huge LED screen is a feat of engineering and quite a wonder to look at. Such a grand undertaking might have distracted him from building a golf course at the same time, you may think. Not so. Actually, it was possibly the other way around.
“I had to put more time and energy into building this golf course than The Sphere”, he says. “I don’t think anybody else will be able to pull off what we’ve done in this area”.
This was mainly because, due to their chosen architect Gil Hanse’s schedule, the whole golf course project had to be completed in ten months. There is still work to be done now - the clubhouse and seven on-site villas are still under construction - but for the most part they pulled it off, including dropping $40 million on the course’s golf holes.
That suggests this was an expensive endeavour, but, insists Cue, “it’s obnoxious to talk about cost”. Alright, sure, we’ll not talk about it if you don’t want to. “But”, he continues, “I compare it to the Apple Park campus”.
Oh. Well that cost a reported $5 billion. So I guess that’s the sort of figure it would be obnoxious to talk about.
“Short-term it sounds insane”, he goes on, still definitely not talking about how much this golf course cost to build, “but 100 years from now the figure will seem cheap”.
We get it Eddy, it cost a pretty penny. And it’s now open to its members, which include such names as CAA exec Rob Light and Harry Styles - who, we learn in the article, has a golf simulator backstage at his shows.
Anyway, I think I’ve now put far too much golf-based information into your brains. Why not balance things out a little by checking out these other amusing music stories that we happened upon this week?