We have to be very clever about those things. You have to remember that it’s only a few hundred years, if that much, that artists are working with money. Artists never got money. Artists had a patron, either the leader of the state or the duke of Weimar or somewhere, or the church, the pope. Or they had another job. I have another job. I make films. No one tells me what to do. But I make the money in the wine industry. You work another job and get up at five in the morning and write your script.
This idea of Metallica or some rock n’ roll singer being rich, that’s not necessarily going to happen anymore. Because, as we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money? And therefore, who says artists have to make money?
In the old days, 200 years ago, if you were a composer, the only way you could make money was to travel with the orchestra and be the conductor, because then you’d be paid as a musician. There was no recording. There were no record royalties. So I would say, “Try to disconnect the idea of cinema with the idea of making a living and money.” Because there are ways around it.
The rise of illegal file sharing and the correspondingly steep worldwide decline in CD sales have made these tough times for record companies and recording artists alike. But the Rolling Stones continue to do very nicely, thank you. This is partly because what remains of the market for CDs is dominated by baby boomers the Stones’ demographic and partly because Jagger, together with his recently retired financial adviser, Prince Rupert Loewenstein, has been exceptionally wily about exploiting other revenue streams. “There was a window in the 120 years of the record business where performers made loads and loads of money out of records,” Jagger says. “But it was a very small window say, 15 years between 1975 and 1990.” Touring is now the most lucrative part of the band’s business. (The Bigger Bang tour, from 2005 to 2007, raked in $558 million, making it the highest-grossing tour of all time.) The band has also been ahead of the curve in recruiting sponsors, selling song rights and flogging merchandise. “The Stones carry no Woodstockesque, antibusiness baggage,” Andy Serwer noted approvingly back in 2002 in Fortune magazine. Indeed. Their most recent merchandising innovations include a range of “as worn by” apparel, replicating garments that individual band members sported back in the ‘70s. (“It’s a very nice schmatte, actually,” Jagger comments.)