Rolling With Ronson and Alicia
Mark Southern gets up close and personal with superstar producer Mark Ronson and doyen of the New York Tourist Board, Alicia Keys.
Mark Ronson sits serenely as a king as his courtiers fabricate a hive of activity around him, hurriedly finishing off last minute sound checks in preparation for the evening’s entertainment he will be enthralling crowds with in a few hours time.
We’re at the Royal Albert Hall, the venue for the Black Ball, an event Ronson is co-hosting with singing sensation Alicia Keys in support of Keep a Child Alive, a charity dedicated to tackling issues of HIV and AIDS amongst children in Africa and India.
Of course we’re here to talk about Mark’s time as one of this month’s celebrity traders, but almost instantaneously the conversation turns to music, and it’s immediately clear where Ronson’s passions lie.
Consumed from a young age, Ronson’s life in the industry has been a roller coaster that’s seen him rise meteorically, from DJing on the New York underground scene to the summit of the popular culture, an achievement that was crowned when he won the Best Male Brit Award in 2008.
Naturally Ronson can wax lyrical over the creative side of the profession, he isn’t one of the most in-demand music producers in the world for no reason, but what is perhaps surprising is the no-nonsense, clued-up approach he has to the financial side of the industry.
“Make no mistake, I’m in the music business. We like to think what we do is art, and it is, but it needs to sell records for the labels so you’ve got to be aware we work in an industry,” he says when we ask about the potential conflict between the creative aspects of being an artist and the need to be profitable.
But what about investing in others in the industry? Does he think there’s a profit to be made in buying up catalogues of fellow professionals? As a man with a finger placed on the pulse of the music trade more securely than almost anybody else out there, surely the concept of hand-picking artists in the same way traders buy stocks must have crossed his mind.
“If I could invest in the back catalogue of any music artist it would be the legends of music; The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Bob Marley. These guys’ back catalogues are incredible, and will always sell. That’s where I would invest,” he says.
“If I was going to invest in a current artist then it’d be a massive hip hop star like Jay-Z who is going to sell records for a long time. That being said, the hip hop industry is the most hard hit by illegal downloading so maybe something that mums buy like Michael Bublé would be a more sound investment. Also Adele would be worth investing in,” he adds.
Bublé over Jay-Z? Well, you heard it here first, straight from the lips of a man respected on the U.S underground clubbing scene for his unique approach to defining urban music. Now that really is a business decision and a half.
Our talk does eventually come back to his time as a celebrity trader, and he’s quick to say it’s something that he’s enjoyed, even though he experienced limited success.
“The trading was something out of my normal day to day life, but it’s always good to try different things, and was a fun challenge for a good cause.”
Trades in technology and the FTSE were his speculations of choice, but a series of unfortunately timed trades meant that he met with little success. Spotting potential in the FTSE, Mark had a go at buying the dips, a bold tactic indeed, but unfortunately one that ultimately proved fruitless. He also went long on Apple, but a 2% drop in share in share price cost him another chunk of his account.
Just as our conversation draws to a close we spot Alicia Keys from the corner of our eye, who waves her trading iPad at us.
Despite her hectic schedule the multi-Grammy award winning songstress has also been trading with City Index this month, in between organising the Black Ball, putting the finishing touches on her new album and coping with the ordeal of being a first time mum.
She admits, it’s been tough work and, whilst the competition between her and Mark has been friendly, she still wants to win the challenge.
She also suffered a small loss on her trading account after trading music shares, a fact she was quick to blame on the fact that she was unable to invest in her own record label, J records.
Well, once you float Alicia, we’ll all be able to profit with you.