IN THE MUSIC business, a producer is the Wizard of Oz; he's the guy behind the curtain turning the cranks and pushing the buttons, making the magic.
And insiders agree Clive Romney of Embryo Music is a top-of-the-line producer."Embryo's interested in bringing positive values to music, an alternative to so much music today," says Ruth Latimer, executive vice president. "And Clive is not only a good person, he's an excellent musician in every respect - writer, composer, vocal coach and, of course, producer. He wants to make a difference in the world through music."
All the people work "in concert" at Embryo - the flagship of the Mormon music industry - but there's likely no one more adept at cutting to the core of things with a quote or quip than Romney. His style is a model for memo writers.
"The music business used to be the `song business,' " he says, "but today it's the CD and tape business. Music isn't Tin Pan Alley anymore. These days movies and radio make songs popular."
And the people at Embryo have an instinct for what flies. The company has had dozens of successes - including "Saturday's Warrior" (a gold record), "It's My Life!" and "The First Christmas in Bethlehem." Rather than pitching single songs, Embryo markets 10 songs at a time with a connecting narrative - case lot style. And it works.
All of the company's releases are strong on faith-promotion. And all are targeted for a very small but very well-defined market: the LDS audience.
"The LDS audience is very difficult to define," Romney explains. "The kids are bombarded with Phil Collins and other rock stars, and our problem is competing with all that energy when it's really the parents whom we have to please, since they buy LDS music for the kids."
Part of Romney's role at Embryo is to analyze such things, check out new artists and keep the company at state-of-art level. He wants a product that's both stimulating and accessible. Eventually he hopes Embryo can reach out to a larger audience but says it will take time. The old bugaboo that haunts so much LDS music, art and writing haunts Embryo. The material just never seems to rise above regional level.
"In honesty," Romney says, "I think it has a lot to do with the world-view many Mormons have. We can be pretty narrow-minded at times. Yes, we believe we have the fullness of the truth, but we forget we don't have a monopoly on it. And artistically, we tend to lag. We need to put more art in our message."
At the moment Romney is encouraged, however. Many young LDS composers are putting the music first, he says, then trying to find appropriate messages for that music. That's topsy-turvy from the way things used to be.
But then Clive Romney and friends weren't caught off guard by the development. They've learned to survive in a topsy-turvy business.