The Rhino Records Story by Harold Bronson

Chances are pretty good that if you've purchased popular music CDs then you've purchased a CD released by Rhino Records. Leaders in the reissue market, Rhino was responsible for revitalizing the Monkees and Turtles catalogs, as well as those of many other bands forgotten or ignored by the labels that originally put their music out. It can be argued that Rhino essentially created the reissue market for CDs. The Rhino Records Story, written by Rhino co-founder Harold Bronson, is both a business book and a history of the company as seen from an insider's standpoint.

This book is subtitled "Revenge of the Music Nerds", which pretty much sums up how Bronson and Rhino co-founder Richard Foos approached their business, as compared to many of the bigger labels. Initially launching a record store, Bronson and Foos eventually expanded their business to novelty releases by artists such as Wild Man Fischer, Barnes and Barnes (of Fish Heads fame) and the Temple City Kazoo Orchestra. They were then able to start gathering material (much of it forgotten) from major labels in order to create anthologies of hits from the 60s, doo-wop and more that were major successes, therefounding the market for CD compilations and box sets. Rhino expanded its business into film, with the Johnny Depp-starring Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as one of its major releases.

You can tell that much of what Bronson and Foos approached was done with a sense of humor and joy. Their love of music seems to be what drove their label's releases and their attention to the mastering and packaging of the CDs is what also contributed their success. However, much of this book also reads as a grudge list, as Bronson is very straightforward about artists and executives whom he felt betrayed him. Luckily he also shares his favorites, as he maintained friendly relationships with many of the musicians that he helped. While Bronson's end at the company was not a positive one as he was let go by Warner Music Group which bought Rhino, one has to believe that considering where the CD market has gone in the 10 plus years since Bronson was let go perhaps he was lucky.

The way the book is organized is a bit of a mess as he jumps from chapters about the company to histories of musical acts without rhyme or reason. The histories of the Turtles and Monkees are good reads but they seem to belong to a different book. I also found that some of Bronson's chapters would be repeating information from earlier chapters. This is a book that isn't quite sure what it is and which needed a stronger editor. However, for anyone interested in the music business or anecdotes about rock bands, this book will be one that you'll want to pick up.

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