Music: An Interview With Tom Silverman

For anyone who knows about the business of music, our special guest needs no introduction. Tom Silverman is one of the great visionaries responsible for popularizing hip-hop and electronic dance music. In 1982, when hip-hop was a bubbling sub-culture and major record labels ignored it as an art form, Silverman’s independent record label Tommy Boy Records released the revolutionary electro/hip-hip Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force. This subsequently opened the door for the emergence of breakdance, hip-hop and dance culture. The song was an instant underground classic and nominal commercial hit.

Three decades later, Rolling Stone Magazine recognized Planet Rock as one of the greatest songs of all time. Tom Silverman’s vision and ability to pick future successes did not stop there. He also introduced the world to Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Coolio, Naughty By Nature and The Jonzun Crew. In 2000 Silverman received the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Heroes Award. He continues to run Tommy Boy Entertainment and inspires leaders and innovators who are responsible for shaping the future of the business of music with his annual New Music Seminar. We interviewed him this month on his vision for the music industry.

Parvati Magazine: What current trends do you see happening in the music industry?

Tom Silverman: EDM – Electronic Dance Music – has exploded and hip-hop is moving in that direction.

PMAG: The music industry has been going through a huge change, arguably a shedding of excess. Would you say that is true and if so, is it positive change?

TS: We are moving from profit back to passion. A necessary cycle. I don’t believe in excess. The problem is fear and scarcity consciousness.

PMAG: Are there any excesses in the industry that you would still like to see shed at this time?

TS: None. It is time to grow again. There are old paradigms that need to be shed, such as; the album centric music biz, the record centric music biz and a control-based music business. These are anachronisms.

PMAG: When we let go of the old, we make way for the new. What current opportunities do you see for musical artists and the business of music?

TS: Artists should break rules and do what makes them happiest. When and if that is in synch with mass consciousness, those artists will have huge hits. There are big opportunities in the music business for those companies willing and ready to embrace a new paradigm. In 10 years the business can be 3 times bigger, or more.

PMAG: As a pioneer of rap and dance music, you supported a movement that began with innocence and gave voice to possibility, empowerment, movement and dance. If popular music is a reflection of our own consciousness, what do you feel is being reflected back to us now?

TS: Whatever we are looking for will be reflected back to us. If we live in fear, we will see scary stuff. If we live in love, we will see love and happiness. It is each of our choices.

PMAG: You are the founder of the New Music Seminar taking place in New York this June 17-19. What can we look forward to?

TS: The New Music Seminar is the most important music business gathering in over a decade. June 17-19 will mark the start of an entirely new music business with all the key players present. The energy will be very powerful and everyone attending will be transformed.

PMAG: What music are you listening to now?

TS: I am currently listening to a new artist called ASTR. The songs are called “Goodnight” and “Crumble”. You can hear them on YouTube. and