Lunch with Nettwerk CEO Terry McBride

Terry McBride places his trust in intuition and the tranquillizing effects of yoga as he guides 25-year-old ?Nettwerk Music through its most turbulent times yet.

Terry McBride, Nettwerk Music Group
On headquartering Nettwerk Music’s offices in Vancouver: “There are way fewer egos here.”

Terry McBride places his trust in intuition and the tranquillizing effects of yoga as he guides 25-year-old 
Nettwerk Music through its most turbulent times yet.

Terry McBride is in a philosophical mood. The CEO of both Nettwerk Music Group – the Vancouver-headquartered, internationally renowned music empire he co-founded 27 years ago – and YYoga is explaining how he deals with being inundated with pleas from artists. “I just make myself available to people,” he says, adding that he has in fact just signed Vancouver’s Joshua Hyslop (no relation) and the U.K.’s Alex Hepburn after they posted songs on his Facebook page (friends: 4,995). “Then the universe does what it wants with me.”

And his take on all the egos in the music industry? “I think the ability to observe one’s ego allows you to laugh at it – so I laugh a lot,” says the 51-year-old, who lives in South Granville although often visits his global offices in L.A., New York and London. “I always wanted to be in the business but not part of it, and there are way fewer egos here.”


Even talk of recent splits fails to dampen his outlook, whether he is bringing up the personal – his separation from wife Cathy, his partner of 25 years with whom he has two children, nine-year-old Mira and son Kai, seven – or the professional divorce from high-profile artists such as Sarah McLachlan and Barenaked Ladies. “All breakups are opportunities to grow,” opines McBride, whose company has sold more than 150 million albums worldwide and worked with other musicians such as Coldplay, Avril Lavigne, Dido and Sum 41. “You can treat it as a cup-half-full or as a cup-half-empty moment.” In the case of McLachlan, who was with him during the fledgling Nettwerk days of the late ’80s, he adds, “Achieving a 22-year relationship with anybody – notwithstanding your kids where you don’t have a choice? Oh my God, I don’t know of too many. I feel blessed to have had that.”

None of these changes has dented his passion for music, says McBride, whose company includes Canada’s largest independent record label, a publishing arm, artist and producer management, merchandise and live promotion. This so-called 361-degree management model provides for multiple revenue streams and, according to the CEO, means the company is “doing well.” 

McBride predicts that the industry as a whole, which has flatlined in recent years, will expand again in 2012. “People say, What drugs are you on?” the longtime vegetarian exclaims over the vegan pizza, pecan sushi and chocolate torte we’re sharing today at OrganicLives near his South False Creek office. “But in the future, we won’t be buying music; we will be consuming it,” continues McBride, adding that he sees people starting to pay $5 to $10 a month to stream music to their smart devices through such services as Spotify, an instant-access service to computers currently found in parts of Europe, and Pandora in the U.S. “It’s about context, not just content, and the ability to addict me – just as the apps drove the iPhone and we download from iTunes. Contextually, these are really easy to use.” And as other record labels shift their model to this performance-based revenue rather than actual sales, “they will see growth.” 

McBride has equal passion for his other “emotional business”: yoga. He turned to the practice in a quest for possible romance (it worked: he met his new partner on a yoga retreat) and then desired to set up the type of studio he would enjoy. Growing to 20,000 members and seven locations since its 2008 launch, YYoga – in his opinion – is all about the clientele and the potential for reward schemes. “The value of my database will be worth more than the value of YYoga in five years’ time,” he believes. 

If there is one constant throughout our conversation, whether personal or business, it is the attention he pays to intuition. “Whenever I have varied from it,” he says, riffing on his favourite theme, “the universe has whacked my ass right back.”

Along with his Brazil-nut-protein smoothie, the chocolate torte has made McBride “totally wired” (I see little change from the start of lunch). Luckily, he says, laughing, his power yoga later this afternoon “will humble me.”