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Clip: Changes at Kill Rock Stars

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  • Carl Z.
    Kill Rock Stars Slim Moon Leaves KRS for Nonesuch Moon s Wife
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2006
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      <http://pitchforkmedia.com/article/news/38909/Kill_Rock_Stars_Slim_Moon_Leaves_KRS_for_Nonesuch>

      Kill Rock Stars' Slim Moon Leaves KRS for Nonesuch
      Moon's Wife Portia Sabin to Run Kill Rock Stars

      Kill Rock Stars and Nonesuch might not seem like they have much in
      common. One label is known for launching pioneering riot grrrl bands
      (Bikini Kill, Bratmobile), experimental outfits (Deerhoof, Xiu Xiu),
      and indie rock titans (Sleater-Kinney, the Decemberists).

      The other, a Warner Bros. subsidiary, specializes in "world" music
      (the Nonesuch Explorer Series, Youssou N'Dour, Caetano Veloso), NPR
      fare (Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin), and Wilco (Wilco).

      But the pair just got a lot tighter with the announcement that the
      founder/head honcho of Kill Rock Stars, Slim Moon, will leave his
      position at KRS sometime this fall to work in A&R for Nonesuch. Moon's
      wife, Portia Sabin, will take over both Kill Rock Stars and its 5RC
      imprint.

      Pitchfork got the story straight from Moon and Nonesuch Senior Vice
      President David Bither.

      Bither and Moon met through folk chanteuse Laura Veirs, who they both
      did business with. The two got to know each other over the course of
      more than a year when Bither, who at the time was considering starting
      a Nonesuch A&R department, asked Moon for ideas with regards to who
      might fit the position.

      "I spoke to Slim," Bither explained, "not about him, because I
      assumed, because of the label, because of his history, because of his
      involvement...and commitment to that, he wouldn't be a candidate. But
      I thought he might know of people in his own travels that he might
      think of as someone we should talk to. So I mentioned it to him; I
      told him we were thinking about the possibility of doing this, we
      hadn't made a final decision, and if he thought of anyone, to let us
      know. So about...three weeks, four weeks later, he called and said, 'I
      think you should talk to me.'"

      Moon elaborated, "Well, David had mentioned in passing to me that they
      were thinking of adding a new A&R person, which was sort of monumental
      for them, and they were in no hurry, but it was an idea they were
      considering and were probably going to do because things are going
      well there. My reaction when he said it was, 'Wow, what a great
      job!'...and then over the next few weeks it just kept haunting me...I
      joked at one time to David, 'Well, I'd love that job if it was an
      alternate universe where I wasn't doing what I'm doing.'

      "And then a while more went by, and I was [reading] Performing
      Songwriter magazine, [and in] one issue I was reading about how the
      woman editor herself struggles with being a songwriter, and she took
      time off, and then she reinvented herself. I mean it wasn't really my
      story, but the point of it was how powerful it can be to reinvent
      yourself periodically throughout your life, to challenge yourself and
      do something new, and it just came to me, like, I'm not stuck. I don't
      have to do the same thing the same way forever. If I think this is a
      great job, and I love Nonesuch and the way they do business and the
      people I've met there, then why shouldn't I apply for that job?

      "I haven't been unhappy or anything," he added. "I just really want to
      push myself to do a whole new frontier."

      As mentioned above, Moon's wife and business partner, Portia Sabin,
      will be taking over his duties at the label. Because the pair is
      moving from KRS' home base of Olympia, Washington to New York City,
      where the Nonesuch office is, the former company will go bi-coastal,
      with Sabin likely taking one or more members of its current staff
      cross-country with her.

      An official start-up date for Moon is tentative, as he and Sabin are
      still searching for a Big Apple living space. Bither said, "They'll be
      here by the end of the year, would be my guess. And he can begin to be
      involved in doing things with us, even if he's not physically here
      yet."

      He continued, "This is not the traditional case where someone gives
      two weeks' notice and leaves their job and comes to work for you.
      We're ready for him whenever he's ready to join us. But he has things
      that he's dealing with, with regards to the label, with regards to the
      move, with regards to how he wants to make that transition, and he and
      Portia are talking about all of that, so we've sort of said to him,
      'You tell us what works best for you.' It's been 40 years as a label
      that we've never hired an A&R person, so it's not as if another month
      or six weeks is going to make a big difference. So it's however most
      comfortably he can make that transition."

      "I think I know quite a bit about working with bands," Moon commented
      said of his big career transition. "I know almost nothing about
      working for somebody else, and working in a larger structure, so I'm
      guessing, but I think my earliest time will be just with the learning
      curve of how the company works.

      "Despite having been a boss and entrepreneur for the past 15 years, I
      really am comfortable with being a team player, particularly when the
      team is a really excellent team. It's fine with me that these guys who
      are smarter than me have veto power, because I respect that they know
      what they're doing."

      The big question, however, pertains to whether or not Moon feels he's
      sacrificing his music-before-money roots in the switch. "With the
      records I've worked, it's always been about music first, work with
      talented artists, and just expect that the audience will come. And
      that's the same way that Nonesuch works and has worked for a long
      time.

      "And so I don't feel like there's going to be a learning curve there.
      I already get it...I just think we see eye to eye on that. It's all
      about great talent and...trusting your ear instead of wanting to sign
      whatever hype buzz band everyone else wants to sign. I don't think
      Nonesuch has ever really worked that way. I think it's about trusting
      their own ear with what they think is high quality, and then hoping
      that other people hear it as well."

      Bither touched on Moon's future duties, stating, "One of the reasons I
      think bringing someone in to work with us is to just add another voice
      to that dialogue. We talk a lot, Bob [Hurwitz, President of Nonesuch]
      and I especially, because we're the ones responsible for A&R, about
      the kinds of artists that we're drawn to, and the kinds of music, and
      our desire to be involved across the board in all kinds of serious
      music...it is about working with artists and records and putting them
      out into the world.

      "So Slim will be an A&R person, meaning that he'll be looking at
      artists and musicians in the same way that Bob and I do...We tend to
      work collectively, meaning that he'll be sitting in marketing meetings
      where we talk about our projects, and I'm sure he'll have ideas,
      especially given his experience, that will be of interest to some of
      the things we do.

      "But essentially his job will be about what he's done in some respects
      at Kill Rock Stars, which is finding great artists. What he won't have
      to do is run a company and all the other things that adds to his
      plate, which he's probably happy about at this point...And because
      he's run a label, he'll have very interesting perspectives...and ideas
      that I think he can bring to bear, which is another reason we really
      liked the idea of how this could work.

      "I can't think of a comparison or a precedent for this. Obviously
      there have been larger labels buying smaller labels for years and
      years and years, but for someone of his stature, with a company which
      I think is one of the great indie labels, deciding that it's time to
      move into another phase of his own work and joining forces with a
      company like ours...is creating a hybrid in a way, which I'm not sure
      there's really a comparison for, which I think is really exciting and
      unusual."

      "It's a long history of dedication to being involved in different
      kinds of music," Bither added. "That's something we absolutely don't
      intend to change. It's not as if we're moving the company, shifting on
      its axis toward a model that KRS would represent; it's really more
      adding one more voice to the dialogue that we have internally about
      the things we do, and I think he feels there's a certain liberating
      quality to that too, because it kind of broadens his own palette, as
      far as the kinds of music he's paying attention to, the kind of music
      he's interested in, the kind of artists he may be able to pursue,
      which maybe wouldn't have made as much sense where he was before, so
      it's about a broadening, not about a shift of direction."

      Nobody has any qualms about Sabin taking the KRS reins. Moon, for the
      most part, won't be assisting her except on the most basic level-- "If
      she has questions about 'What did you promise this band?' or 'How did
      this royalty calculation work?'-- stuff like that, just to make sure
      that everything runs smoothly, I will answer those questions," Moon
      told us. "But I think it's actually pretty important that I don't give
      it to her and then try to work her like a puppet thing or whatever.
      She's really going to run the show."

      Bither added, "He's going to be keenly interested in what happens
      there, but I think he will be very clear-- it's not as if there's some
      sort of dotted line back to KRS. He doesn't want anyone to perceive
      the idea that he's sort of halfway still there. That will only be
      confusing to everyone, make it difficult for Portia, make it difficult
      for us and him. This is really about starting something new, but it is
      about as I said, it's not abandoning KRS to the first bidder, it's
      about a transition in a reasonable meaningful way, to someone who's
      equally committed to the company and its success.

      "I think my hunch is that while they're different people, and she'll
      have different ideas about what she'll want to do and maybe some of
      the artists and all of the rest, that it will be more of an integrated
      move than it would be in other circumstances."

      Moon said, "She really wants to be careful to maintain the legacy that
      it's had and to be the artist-friendly, value-driven label that we've
      been. And she's really up to the task, the challenge of the label, and
      she's really excited about it."

      But just because the changes ahead are exciting doesn't mean saying
      goodbye to KRS is easy for Moon. "In terms of KRS being some sort of
      ego trip for me or some sort of monument to myself or whatever, I have
      absolutely no remorse or sadness about leaving it," he explained. "But
      I'm currently in the middle of working on some projects with some
      bands who I really like, and there's definitely some sadness involved
      in handing over the reins on those projects. And calling up artists
      and telling them, 'Well I guess now we'll just have to be good
      friends.' The bittersweet part of making a big life-changing decision
      is the things that you have to leave behind.

      Finally, Moon wanted to make sure that everybody out there knows he
      "wasn't interested in a major label job." He commented, "If it wasn't
      Nonesuch, this would never happen. I wouldn't be running off to work
      at some other big company. Really, I just think they're such a great
      organization. I'm ready to take my lumps if someone wants to accuse me
      of being a sell-out, because I've got to do what I think is right."

      Posted by Kati Llewellyn in interview, exclusive, business on Tue:
      10-03-06: 07:00 AM CDT
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