Finding a band: dammit, A&R doesn't just hear it from a friend. They get numbers to show what the fanbase is (admitted to in the Green Day anecdote), they look at how often the band's playing out, they look at indie sales, regional and college radio, and they have a plan. The only reason they wouldn't is if they're trying to sell a "me too" band that they think can canibalize existing markets. Heard from Silverchair lately?
Regarding label involvment in the creative process: I'll lift a quote "The fact of the matter is, traditionally, records from Nirvana to the Beatles to Boston to the Beastie Boys, records that sell a lot of copies, generally do have some degree of work from a record company or a producer that is . . . you can say "collaborative" or you can say "intrusive." " Hello, the Beatles?! George Martin was not looking for a single, so far as I can tell, or a radio edit. I take exception to Martin's artistic collaboration being equated with comercial manipulation.
Gap between label and artist: The "Steve Albini 101" story, well, gee, there's this difference on the third draft of the contract, and no, it isn't yet signed, but the artist and label aren't seeing eye to eye and there's still a problem, I imagine. The band probably signed a which means they can't sign with anyone but that label without the label's say so. That's advanced topics in Albini, I guess.
Bidding wars: I take this as evidence A&R people have their heads planted where the sun don't shine. Voicing issues with bidding wars when they won't ever stop being involved with them, and avoiding the issue that it's a natural extension of the commodification and comercialization of art just seem blatantly hypocritical. The biggest concern raised is that it's harder for the label to get a return on their initial investment. [Anyone know what's new with Radish, that barely pubescent Nirvana-like band there was a bidding war over a few years back?]
Tricky situations: what kind of scum are these people? If you are working for a label, you are working for them until the moment your contract ceases, whatever your future commitments may be, and you are in their employ, not anyone else's and not your own. This is basic ethics, and if that doesn't create a clear picture for the artists you want to swindle, with this supposed artist-love-fest conversation supposedly helping your image, well, I guess they might even deserve to be conned.
I don't think I have the stomach to check the other parts righ now, maybe later.
To be fair, the major labels occasionally do put great art on the market place, which I don't know can be said that often for other enterprises commodifying art. (Publishing, yeah, but some of the same issues. Do you know how many good books could have been payed for with Clinton's advance?) The Tchad Blake interview in Tape Op addressed some of the duality, that it's a business that lends money to artists, but it's also a buisness, so it seeks to profit. I'm heartened by a lot of the expressed belief in music by the A&R people in the discussions, but I'm horrified at how they seem so disingenuous in saying the walk a balance between band and label. The label is the one who gives them a paycheck, even if it is from profiting off the artist, so the possibility of a real balance seems fundamentally corripted.
The second A&R forum and the $1,000,000 question article point out the real problem now, the solutions to which aren't addressed, that we no longer have a minor league that supports musical developement. Any band could have a great album in them. Whether they have two is easier to predict if you see if they can produce a string of good indie albums, and then you can see if there is mass market potential for great music instead of just the ephemera that gets signed today. Then the majors might actually find a mass market for art and make serious bucks again.
All the suggestions the A&R give to be major-ready are basically to earn your keep as an indie, and then you're more likely to have the stuff for the majors. But they devoured the indie market in the grunge/alternative fad and are whining about its loss. T.S. for them, and damn, I guess we have a mission. Like the Mercenary T-shirt say, "Corporate rock still sucks, what are you going to do about it?"
I think the key is the need for creating new minor leagues.
Traditionally this consisted of regional stars playing for regional promoters with a further subdivision into genres at the label level.
This is why I see the Internet as being such a mixed bag. If the major labels can't break an artist worldwide by spending a million plus, the individual certainly can't expect to break themselves worldwide on the net. Possibly one could use the narrow-casting possibilities of the net but from everything I've heard, this is still far too expensive to be practical and it becomes geometrically more expensive as the net expands. Don't believe for a minute that the majors haven't tried.
The net is a powerful tool but probably not the answer simply because it isn't local enough or direct enough.
That and in today's world a media saavy band/individual can indeed market themselves online and become a sensation. Justin Bieber (and I can't believe I typed his name) is a prime example. His success was begun through youtube and far less autotune than anyone else around his age in his genre.