Co-Editor in Chief
Catherine Wheel Manager Merck Mercuriadis is not your average rock and roll band overseer. Only a small percentage of managers in the music business go the extra mile when it comes to keeping their band’s best interests at the forefront. Mercuriadis’s sacrifices are monumental, and with a new Columbia Records deal for his band, he has wielded his powerful negotiating skills once again.
“Many bands grow while their managers remain unchanged,” explained Mercuriadis in a recent interview. “My philosophy is to evolve right alongside the bands I handle, and integrate the record labels, as well. This enables all parties to have an equal amount of respect for each other. Everyone is in the same corner.”
The results of Mercuriadis’s efforts are fruitful, especially with the addition of [The] Catherine Wheel to Columbia’s roster.
“I give record companies an offer they cannot refuse: they promote my band, and I promote their label. I basically become a walking public relations machine,” Mercuriadis said.
Mercuriadis’ strategy is simple (however, no other manager in music history has attempted to duplicate his plan of action): “As of the next business day, I’ll be known as Columb Columbiadis.”
As disturbing as the metamorphosis may sound, Columbiadis is quite comfortable with the procedure.
“It all goes way back,” Columbiadis explained. “We were really wet behind the ears when we started out. We’d never been to America. We had no idea how to go about securing a record deal. Though I did speak with several labels, I could never work out a fair agreement.” Talks with the independent Wilde Club label quickly led to the band’s signing, but not before Columbiadis anchored the contract with his unprecedented promotional plan.
“Everyone thinks it was Bruce Dickinson who helped get us signed,” continued Columbiadis. “We are very much against the practice of nepotism. I didn’t become Will Wildeadis for nothing!”
Soon enough, Catherine Wheel got snagged by then-giant Mercury Records. A new label meant new changes.
“Mercury loved my ideas for promoting the label. But Danny Goldberg wanted more. He pulled me aside one day and said, ‘If you want to be a successful band manager, you need to look and act the part.'”
Per Goldberg’s instructions, Mercuriadis grew long hair and a beard, wore black all the time, and perfected his “press release answer” skills.
“As for the promotion, Danny suggested I change my name to Merck Merckberg. But I’m not Jewish and wanted to stick to my Greek heritage, so I went ahead with Merck Mercuriadis.” Columbiadis paused. “In retrospect, I believe my decision to go with Mercuriadis was the wrong move to make, spiritually.”
Indeed, as retaliation, Mercury failed to promote Catherine Wheel, and band and label parted ways. Fortunately, Columbia Records gave Mercuriadis the chance to correct his fatal mistake.
“I was a bit apprehensive about Columbia at first,” stated Columbiadis. “I was afraid I’d have to be Columb Columbia, which would have worked in Tommy Mottola’s favor to the fullest. But I’m not Italian and wanted to continue the Greek tradition I’d carried for so many years.”
Mottola conceded that Greek, though not Italian, was close enough geographically, thus allowing Columbiadis free range of his proposed name. In return, Columbiadis agreed to adopt a “Guido” persona, requiring him to shave his beard, wear his hair tied back, speak with a slight New York accent, and abuse his “press release answer” skills.
Catherine Wheel lead singer Rob Dickinson’s marital status was also bartered into the mix, as it had been in past contracts. “Rob can’t get married for another five years,” Columbiadis said. “He’s pretty mad at me, right now. He won’t let me borrow his shirt with the dice on it. That’s not the nastiest thing Rob’s done to someone, so I’m not worried.” Columbiadis paused. “Even though I do live in America…”
However awesome Columbiadis’s accomplishments may be, he remains humble. Ask him what his greatest strategy of all time is, and he’ll tell you about CD clubs.
“I worked out a deal with Columbia House. We get paid for every album ‘shipped’ to their warehouse. Therefore, whether the albums sell or not, we’ve still made our money.”
Columbiadis further explained, “Since we don’t consider Columbia House a ‘real’ means of consumer purchasing, we package our CDs specially for them—without their knowledge, of course. The packaging appears to be authentic on the outside, but is fake on the inside. There are no booklets, only color inserts on each side of the jewel case. The CDs are not picture discs, but instead plain.
“We save 60% in production costs for the Columbia House CDs. They pay us the same rate as any other CD outlet would. We get the CDs off our hands, and once customers find they are not getting the total Catherine Wheel experience, they are forced to buy our album at a store that keeps up with record charts. After all is said and done, we make 150% profit off of a Columbia House sale.”
Columbiadis summed up his strategy: “We screw everyone. That is what I am most proud of.”