The Hot Seat: Phil Quartararo, Guvera

Published in The Music Network


Guvera has some big plans. And with the recent hire of Phil Quartararo, the digital music firm’s decision-makers got the man they’re confident can make it all happen. Quartararo has notched-up 30 years in the record business, including a stint as president of Warner Bros Re cords. The L.A.-based exec has also  served in the upper ranks of EMI and was one of the founders of Virgin Records America. Though Guvera and its ad-supported business model is an entirely different beast. And it will require more cash if it is to push ahead with its expansion mission, and meet its wish to list on the NASDAQ. TMN caught up with the Guvera U.S.A. President when he recently visited Australia to meet with board members and shareholders and spread his vision for the company’s future.

You joined Guvera after a long career in major label world. Why?

The way we tried to architect those companies was to be the place the artist wanted to be because we cared, we listened, we tried to do the right thing on their behalf. The industry, of course, is no longer what it once was. Sadly, the record companies aren’t what they were. There’s not a lot of time to care for the artists as there once was. There are not the resources to care for the artists as there once was. I wanted to leave on a good note. A lot of the companies who approached me were in the business of giving away music. In my stomach, I could never accept that. I spent my career protecting artists and the value of music and protecting the consumer who I always wanted to make sure got the genuine article. When people just want to give away music because they can fill the pipe, that’s distinctly unattractive to me. When Guvera came along, what caught my eye was that it was giving everyone what they wanted. The brand was getting what they wanted, which was a focused advertising target, the consumer is getting the free download and the artist is being respected by collecting his fee for the work he’s done.


How has Guvera performed since it launched here in 2010?

It’s had a good reception. It’s a big horse race out there now with all these new companies. Everybody’s trying to find the fastest, the biggest, the newest, the most different. To be different and better will be the way to win the consumer’s heart. I’d like to really expand this model, first through North America. And then later through the world. Part of what we’re doing out here is raising some capital to expand the business.


You mentioned the “horse race” out there with the many subscription businesses on the market. Are they putting the crunch on Guvera?

I don’t know if they’re putting the crunch on us. Of course they’re competing with us. But a lot of those streaming businesses aren’t working in the best interests of the artist. There’s a lot of people who offer streaming for free, but they’re just taking the music and giving it away. At the end of the day, that’s not a business. It’s a horserace all over the world. Technology has opened a floodgate for entrepreneurs and innovators. It’s an opportunity, though some people see it as a problem. The truth is while the record industry has imploded, there’s more music consumption today that there’s ever been. But the conventional method of the singular pipe that we called the record industry, that existed between the artists and the consumers, well that pipe is now gone. There’s now a mad scramble to see who gets to reinvent that vehicle between artists and consumers.


What will be the shape of the majors in five years?

I had a view years ago when I was in the business that what the record companies and music companies needed to become was a creative centre. And they needed to relinquish a lot of the manufacturing and production. I still think that’s the case. However inefficient it was, the single thing the record industry did was to help steer or introduce public opinion and aggregate enough eyeballs and ears on a track, so you could drive hits through the system. And that’s how new artists got broken. I do think there’s some value in that system. I do think consumers to some degree still like that system. So I do think there will be some remnants of what we have traditionally called record companies going forward.

What was it like to work with Richard Branson?

Starting Virgin Records America in 1986 is one of the great experiences of my life. It was really Jordan Harris and Jeff Ayeroff who steered the beginnings of the original company. The founding team had the great privilege of not only having access to Richard, and his insight, charisma and wisdom, but those were really fun days in the business. And to be able to berth a company with a half-dozen people like that was an extraordinary experience. I don’t know if it could ever be repeated because the market is so different. It’s not as fertile as it once was. And people don’t have the patience or the time to develop new artists as once they did, which is the greatest crime right now.