In The Green Room with… Miles Leonard
We take 5 minutes with TokenTraxx Co-Founder and Chief Talent Officer to find out about his music career to date
As TokenTraxx continues to onboard all the great and the good across the music industry, we will be introducing each one to our community.
In The Green Room will allow our community to get to know them better, hear some of their incredible stories and learn something about them that not many people know.
Up first, is the man responsible for bringing in the talent — the creators — the co-founder of TokenTraxx and legend of the industry, former Warner Bros UK and Parlophone Records Chairman…Miles Leonard.
Miles began his love of music in the electronic music clubbing scene of the 1990s and soon began working with some of the world’s biggest acts and record labels for the next 27 years.
His excitement at what Web3 could bring to the music industry led him to co-found TokenTraxx. He likens the existing music industry to the new with this analogy:
“I felt as if I was sitting in a quiet, manicured walled garden but just over the wall was this amazing adventure playground being built where there were no rules in place yet. Suffice to say, I wanted to jump over the wall!”
Let the interview begin…
What is the most interesting story you have read about Web3 recently?
It must be the news that Disney is now moving in to Web3. The most commercial media and family friendly company in the world going big into NFTs is a sign of acceptance outside of the darker circles and naysayers of Web3.
If you were an app, what would you be?
What is one message you would give to people trying to get into the music industry today?
The music industry is now more exciting and more diverse than it has ever been. It is brilliant to see the paradigm shifting, where artists are understanding their value and having the opportunities to release their own music.
There are so many roles within the industry which people can be part of. The opportunities are endless. There are brilliant young entrepreneurs who are working in amazing and exciting start-ups, and this is bringing not only innovation but creativity into the industry.
So, my advice would be to “Be entrepreneurial.”
What’s been a particular failure or success which you learnt the most from?
No one has success without failure. You learn from failures, and I can give you a great example.
I was riding a wave of success having just signed The Verve and then just after this, I was told to head up to Manchester to sign an up-and-coming band called Oasis.
I phoned up Liam Gallagher, spoke to him and his mum and arranged to go up there and watch them at a gig they were playing. They were all in shell suits and Liam was fronting the band, looking very cool. But unfortunately, the songs were dreadful. So, I didn’t sign them and left it there.
A month or two later, Liam’s brother Noel joined the band, and wrote new songs for them.
I was asked again to go up and watch them, unbeknownst that Noel had now joined which changed everything and was the platform for their success. So, as I’d already seen them, I decided against going up to Manchester again…and the rest is history.
A few years later, I was invited to see Coldplay. Like Oasis, they weren’t amazing at first, but I didn’t make the same mistake twice. I went to see them again and again and then signed them.
What’s the most useless talent you have?
Binge reading Medium articles without taking any action
Is there a stand out moment in your life?
When the Gorillaz, which was a world-famous virtual band which I signed, performed a live holographic performance at the 2006 GRAMMY Awards with Madonna. It brought down the house. We were then invited back to an after party at the actor Dennis Hopper’s house. De La Soul was playing in the front room, Banksy jumped in the pool fully clothed. JayZ was chilling on a sofa and Jack Nicholson rocked up in sunglasses and a girl on each arm. I remember taking a moment to realise how far I’d come through hard work.
…And a moment to forget?
At Parlophone we signed Scooch (who latterly represented United Kingdom in 2007’s Eurovision Song Contest) and enjoyed a few top10 hit singles and were anticipating similar success for their debut album in 2000.
We arranged a huge launch party at Kensington Roof Gardens before the album came out on a Tuesday night. Just one hour before we received the midweek chart news that the album had completely bombed — it eventually reached #41, outside of the top40.
Do you have a favourite photo?
It would be a photo that should have happened — but didn’t.
It came about in 2012 when Paul McCartney invited me out to Los Angeles when he got his star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. We had a party afterwards in the Capitol Records Building car park and I got talking to Neil Young about music quality and MP3s. Neil invited me into his Lincoln car to listen to Aretha Franklin to check the music sound quality. Paul then knocked on the window and asked to listen as well. Then Herbie Hancock asked to join and sat in the back seat. So I was sitting in the front seat of Neil Young’s car, listening to Aretha Franklin, flanked by Paul McCartney and Neil Young with Herbie Hancock in the back! Only shame was the label photographer was chatting with his back to me otherwise this would have been my favourite photo, ever!
Do you speak any other languages? If not, what language would you like to learn?
I don’t but I would love to speak Spanish fluently as it is such a beautiful language. My wife is also part Spanish, so speaking it would be very useful for me.
If you weren’t in music, what would you be up to right now?
I was not hugely academic and left school with very few GCSE’s. I was enamoured with the art scene and was beguiled by the music and fashion and loved London’s Carnaby Street.
However, my dad told me that I had to get a trade so I became a plumbing apprentice and qualified as a City & Guild Plumber.
Had I not got my ‘big break’ in the music industry, I may have carried on down that path. But I also would like to think I could have eventually followed my creative side and could easily have ended up working in the arts.
How many hats do you own?
I adore wearing hats. They keep my head warm; they are a comforter and a fashion accessory. I have about 25 baseball caps, 10 beanie hats and plenty of Fedora hats which I love!
What has been your Proudest Professional moment?
When Parlophone Records asked me to be Chairman.
Early in my career, in 1992, I was fired from Virgin Records. Because in a meeting full of people I called out the Chairman for not running the company properly. It left me devastated as I had tried so hard to get into the music industry and then I threw it away after just two years. Virgin told me that I would never work for their company again.
I then promised myself that if I ever did get another opportunity I would be more aware and recognise how to deal with matters professionally.
I then got my chance at Parlophone, eventually working my way up to Chairman.
In 2011, EMI Music appointed me as President of Parlophone & Virgin A&R Labels”, where I led both Virgin and Parlophone’s music discovery and development teams.
20 years after I was fired from Virgin and told I would never work for them again I was made President, but before that could happen, I insisted that Virgin had to write me an apology letter for sacking me in 1991.
Best advice you have ever been given?
I was talking to George Martin at Abbey Road Studios about his time as Chairman of Parlophone a week after I was made Chairman myself.
Of course, I don’t compare myself in any way to George, but he was immensely kind and generous to talk with me at length about his role at the time and gave some incredible advice and thoughts on what makes a great label and the importance of your roster of artists within it. I shall never forget that.
What would be the title of a song and an album about you and your life
Song: ‘Life is for Living’
Album: ‘Think Big’
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