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Recommended: Sony Music Exec Admits He Made ‘Radical Decision’ in Hiring Amanda Ghost

Recommended: Sony Music Exec Admits He Made ‘Radical Decision’ in Hiring Amanda Ghost (photo)

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Epic Records, one of the many smaller labels under the giant Sony Music umbrella, has a respectable history that dates back to it’s humble beginnings in 1953 as a jazz and classical label. It came into its own in the 1970’s with the Yardbirds, Boston, and The Clash. Then in the 1980’s Epic exploded with acts like Sade, Cyndi Lauper, and Michael Jackson. The label’s successes continued into the 90’s with bands like Pearl Jam and Rage Against the Machine.

More recently, a marginalized roster and vastly diminished record sales along with rumors of internal trouble may have gone unnoticed in an industry that continues to suffer all around — but it has all come to a head with the firing of the label’s president, an obscure songwriter named Amanda Ghost whose public tantrum at CMJ in New York last month was the final one she’d have as head of Epic.

In a piece for The Hollywood Reporter, Shirley Halperin details the event, the lead up and what it all means for the future of the label in a crowded, struggling industry.

According to eyewitnesses in the crowd, Epic Records president Amanda Ghost, 36, a career songwriter who had held the top spot at the label for 20 months, stepped onto the stage, grabbed the microphone and, with her native North London accent, spoke her mind. Among a string of expletives, says a source: “She was screaming: ‘Who booked this fucking place? It sounds like shit! We don’t treat our artists this way at Epic. I’m not letting them play another minute!’ ” — and pulled the plug on the show. “The room just got silent.”

Ghost was fired within the week by Sony Music Label Group chairman Rob Stringer, who no doubt regrets his decision to hire such a loose cannon in the first place. Initially, it was a kind of hail Mary to revitalize the label by bringing in a creative type, a recording artist herself – Ghost was also a writer on “James Blunt’s 2005 international smash ‘You’re Beautiful,’ which garnered three Grammy noms, helped spur worldwide sales of 13 million for his Atlantic Records debut, ‘Back to Bedlam,’ and made Ghost an instant millionaire…. and it led directly to the Epic presidency.”

“The reason I made a radical decision with Amanda, rightly or wrongly, was that I wanted someone to try and inject that adrenaline back into the creative side of it,” Stringer said. But for every maverick idea she had that worked she had several more that didn’t, and seemed to rub everyone else at Epic wrong with mood swings and outbursts. A staffer described her throwing a CD across the room once, “She thought it was cool and edgy to do stuff like that. She’d say, ‘This is shit; you know we can’t put this out!'”

She was reportedly burning one all time in her office too, a vice you can’t fault people in the music industry for, but she was apparently overly zealous about the reefer. “Her motto was, ‘If you don’t smoke pot, you can’t work here,’ ” a former staffer said. “In her A&R meetings, she’d say things like, ‘If you’re not high, like, how do you like music?'”

It seems there is a consensus that in her short 20 months, Ghost caused ruinous trouble for the label, though whether it is irreversible remains to be seen. Rumors of demise are already circulating (though they have been for years). The prospects of Epic returning to their former glory are not promising, but one at least one hope remains — they are getting ready to ship 900,000 copies of Michael Jackson’s posthumous album, “Michael,” out Dec. 14th and expect to sell nearly half of them in the first week alone.

“That’s why we get up in the morning,” Stringer says. “Because something can happen the next day that can change the destiny of an artist, of a record, of a record label. That’s what I believe in.”

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.