Ex-Manager Says Guns N’ Roses Wanted The Same Contract With Don Henley

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Former Guns N’ Roses manager Alan Niven shared the first time the band contacted him and explained how GN’R secured a deal with one of the best record companies at the time.

Before managing Guns N’ Roses, Alan Niven had worked with Great White, and as the band achieved major commercial success, Niven became one of the prominent figures in the management scene. Niven first heard about Guns N’ Roses when Tom Zutaut, an executive for Geffen Records, came to him and asked him to manage the band. Alan replied with a certain no.

The manager wanted to focus solely on his projects with Great White. However, Zutaut didn’t give up and continued to pursue Alan Niven. After his third try, the executive revealed that Eddie Rosenblatt, then President of Geffen Records, had refused to start recording with the Guns N’ Roses until they had proper management. Zutaut then asked Alan to pretend to manage the band, and he agreed to meet them.

Niven said the following:

”The band first came on my radar when Zutaut asked me to be part of a cattle call for management. I wasn’t interested. Having secured a new contract for Great White, I was going to apply myself exclusively to their progress. No distractions. Zutaut came and asked again. Having done some research on them, my reply was, ‘Good f*ckin’ luck…’

He came a third time and asked me to pretend to manage the band. Rosenblatt had refused to let them start recording until they had a manager. I told him there was no way I would involve myself in such a lame ploy, but, alright, I’ll meet with them and see what transpires.”

Even though GN’R’s initial contract was signed without Niven, he was able to negotiate with Rosenblatt to improve the royalty rights of the first deal. The manager then revealed the path he had to take to persuade David Geffen, the founder of Geffen Records, who refused to provide Guns N’ Roses with a better contract.

The manager recalled that Geffen was quite angry when he heard that GN’R wanted a better contract than they had. Niven disclosed that he yelled and ranted as he stressed that he wouldn’t be intimated or be taken advantage of. As David Geffen had previously refused to improve Aerosmith’s and Whitesnake’s contracts, GNR’s former manager understood that Geffen could not be persuaded, but he could be forced to sign a better deal.

Alan Niven stated:

“David Geffen invited me to lunch. He went ballistic, yelling and screaming that he would not be intimidated or taken advantage of. The more he yelled, the more I realized he understood that he was going to have to relent… In the previous months, he denied both Tim Collins and Howard Kaufman royalty increases for their mega-selling bands, Aerosmith and Whitesnake. From that, I learned that you could not ask David to do the right thing; you had to force him to do the right thing.”

He also revealed that he didn’t hear anything from the executives and eventually believed that his move didn’t work. Then, ten days after his meeting with David Geffen, he was summoned to the boss’ office. Geffen surprised him when he asked what GN’R wanted for a deal. Alan asked about the company’s best contract, and the CEO revealed that it was the EaglesDon Henley who had the most favored deal with Geffen Records.

As Henley was an established figure in rock music by that time, it was against all the odds when the GN’R manager asked for the same deal as Henley for GN’R. The boss initially refused as the company executives disclosed that Henley had a favored nations clause which meant that only he could receive that kind of a contract. GNR’s manager stood his ground, however, as he stated that every time Geffen Records would pay the band; Alan would personally send Henley a dollar bill.

The manager revealed:

“Geffen asked what I wanted in a contract. Truthfully, I had not had time to think of any such details, but I knew what my concept was –’I want the best contract you have with an artist on Geffen.’ Can’t be done,’ Geffen replied. ‘Why would that be,’ I asked. ‘Because Don Henley has that, and he has a favored nations clause,’ which means it’s a position only he can have. ‘Well, that’s not a problem,’ I responded. ‘We’ll have the same terms as Henley, and every time you account to the band, I will go to City National Bank and get a perfect, uncirculated, one-dollar bill and send it personally to Don.'”

After Alan Niven’s statement, David Geffen finally agreed to sign a much-improved deal with Guns N’ Roses. Niven continued to manage the band until they parted ways in 1991. Guns N’ Roses is currently embarking on an international tour as their next performance will take place in Brazil.