In his 30-year-plus career, musician Bill Joel has seen all sides of the music business, including not recording any new songs in 20 years. In a wide-ranging interview with the New York Times, he discusses his early success and how not paying attention to his finances cost him over $30 million. You see, in the 1970s, his then-producer was taking the money made from his hit album Piano Man, leaving Joel with a little over $8,000 for his troubles.
A.G.: You don’t have hard feelings about [your manager] who made a ton of money off a bunch of albums he didn’t even work on?
B.J.: I came out fine. I didn’t like getting ripped off, and I didn’t like the fact that my daughter might not have what she deserved to get. It wasn’t so much about me. The same thing with Frank Weber. I saw him a couple years ago out here in the Hamptons. He was going into a restaurant, and I said, “Hey, how ya doin’ man?” We sat and talked. I have absolutely no hard feelings. I let all that go. I can’t carry that stuff around. You’d be pissed off your whole life. Bad things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.
A.G.: So was there a point when you actually started paying attention to the business side?
B.J.: Yeah, after I got screwed the second time. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It was time to grow up. I always had this sense that O.K., I’m an artist and I shouldn’t have to be concerned about something as banal as money, which is baloney. It’s my job. It’s what I do. I didn’t pay any attention to it, and I trusted other people, and I got screwed.