This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Jeffrey Jampol, president, Jampol Artist Management, Inc.
Jeffrey Jampol, president of Jampol Artist Management, Inc. can wipe the floor with most opponents in pop music trivia; and he has a worldly-wise, insiders’ familiarity of the complexities of music catalogs, music and book publishing, theatre, merchandising, branding, marketing, film & TV licensing, and name and likeness issues.
Jampol manages the Doors, and oversees the estates of Jim Morrison, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Peter Tosh, and Rick James. He also serves as a consultant to the Estate of Michael Jackson.
In June, 2012, JAM, Inc. announced an agreement with the Henry Mancini Trust to manage the legacy of the esteemed film and television composer, and his catalog worldwide. “What a great Tiffany catalog that is,” says Jampol.
The affable composer/orchestrator Mancini, who passed away in 1994, is best-known for his songs “The Pink Panther Theme,” “Moon River,” “Baby Elephant Walk”; and the “Mr. Lucky” and “Peter Gunn” TV themes.
“Henry Mancini transcends even the biggest films and TV projects he worked on,” said Jampol in a press release at the time. “Henry’s work has influenced virtually every pop genre, and he’s revered by musicians, pop-culture geeks, baby boomers and their kids and grandkids. Even if you don’t know his name, you can probably hum his themes. We’re thrilled beyond measure to protect his legacy and find new ways to bring his timeless work to new audiences.”
Jampol’s Los Angeles-based firm strives to develop, preserve, extend and enhance artists’ legacies—or if you will, their brand—by deftly, and aggressively utilizing new distribution channels, new technologies, and other emerging resources.
As well, the company aggressively pursues film, TV game placements, theatrical, and merchandising initiatives.
Last year, along with co-producers Dick Wolf, Peter Jankowski and John Beug, Jampol received a Grammy Award for the acclaimed Doors’ theatrical documentary film, “When You’re Strange” which won for Best Long Form Video. He also produced the Janis Joplin musical, “One Night With Janis Joplin,” which premiers August 1st in Cleveland, Ohio.
His father, architect/realtor Richard Jampol—who passed away two years ago—left a profound mark on the landscape of Los Angeles County. His early experience included supervising the construction of the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital Maternity Wing, the County Health Building, and the Bishop Stevens Wing of Good Samaritan Hospital.
Then, as a partner in Buckeye Construction, Richard Jampol was responsible for the construction, and leasing of 18 buildings in Beverly Hills, two buildings on Van Nuys Boulevard, five buildings on Sunset Boulevard, two medical buildings in Inglewood, and the City National Bank Building across from Pershing Square.
Jeffrey’s music career began while at Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University outside San Francisco. There, he worked as DJ and public affairs director at the school’s campus radio station.
He began managing, and producing several notable bands in San Francisco’s emerging punk and new wave scene; and also began working at various low-level posts in the local branch offices of CBS Records, and Atlantic Records.
As a rising artist manager in the ‘90s, Jampol handled Tal Bachman, Dimestore Hoods, Charlotte Martin, and Dropline, while his production company, Polymedia signed Don and David Was as producers.
Jampol has piloted the Doors' career since 2003 with longtime Doors’ associate Danny Sugerman until his untimely death in 2005. Jampol continues to manage the Doors, and their various entities, including Doors Music LLC, and Doors Properties, LLC, worldwide.
He has unquestionably revitalized the Doors’ iconic brand by cultivating new fans; while maintaining, and deepening relationships with earlier fans.
For 15 years, Jampol has taught a class at the University of California, Los Angeles entitled, "The Music Business NOW," sponsored by The Recording Academy, and hosted by the Creative Artists Agency.
How big is JAM, Inc. in all?
We have 14 people; eight are inside all of the time. We use six outside people. Then I have another coterie of 18 to 24 people that I use on select projects.
How often are you pitched for representation?
Quite a lot.
What attributes do you look for before agreeing to take on an artist or an estate?
I will look at doing one of three things for these artists. What I look at is: Does this artist’s legacy resonate with me? Do I believe that I can be an advocate for this artist? Do they have a message and is that message important? Then I look at what tools are available for me to work with, and whether I think that I can do a great job for them.
The brands of my artists are critical to me; but so is the brand of my company. We are the market leader in the world in what we do.
I have to understand what my artists are about, what they have stood for, and what the message is. Once I understand those three things, then my task is to build a credible bridge between them. So, when I look at an artist, I can do one of three things. I will either move forward, and sign that artist and manage that legacy; number two, if I feel that I can’t do the best job or I don’t feel there’s not enough for me to do or if it’s not efficient, I can offer to consult them. Or, if there’s not enough money flow, if there’s not enough income to support the kind of stuff that we do, I will just help them for fun and for free. I do a lot of that.
Do you work with most of your clients on a percentage basis?
Is there anyone else doing precisely what your company does?
No. I think we are the only one.
There are firms dealing with celebrity estate management.
Well, there's CMG Worldwide (headquartered) in Indianapolis, Indiana, which is a whole different thing, CMG is an interesting company. They are mostly (handling) celebrities and actors whose only IP (Intellectual Property) is their name and likeness. Of course there’s Elvis Presley Enterprises, which does Elvis and Muhammad Ali, and there’s Apple Records (for the Beatles). They each use a different model than us.
Handling celebrity estates isn’t new, especially in the film world, but it hasn’t been done while dealing with so many advanced technological changes. Today, it’s different from just handling name and likeness rights or overseeing rights of recordings and music publishing.
I’m not sure that your comparison is accurate. I actually think that this is the first time that it (pop culture brand management) has ever been done. You do bring up an interesting comparison, which is film stars or film artists. There are all kinds of different artists in different media; whether it be film, music, books, canvas or sculpture. But the interesting thing is that with most film artists, the only thing that they really control is the name and likeness. There is no other IP.
Actors control their name and likeness. They don’t have any rights to their characters. They don’t have rights to the films. They don’t have any rights to any stills from their films or any other iconography. So in the case of say Judy Garland, you have Judy Garland. She has no rights to (the character) Dorothy. She has no rights to “The Wizard of Oz.” It didn’t belong to her. She didn’t write the songs. She doesn’t own the masters. What’s there?
In most cases, recording artists don’t have rights to their catalog either or rights to publishing, if they didn’t write the songs. For master recordings, you usually have to deal with a label.
Correct. But let’s get back to the pop culture brand management thing for a second because it’s an interesting distinction, and I want to clarify it. A lot of companies now use terms like “rights management” or “brand management” or “branding” and they are complete misnomers. I see this new level of employees coming into record labels who are branding managers, and they are not really branding managers. They are managers looking for some money from brands in order to market their records.
All now part of any 360 recording deal.
Right. But it’s not really brand management. When we look at (that style of) rights management, it’s not really rights management. So I really believe that this is the first time in history that we are seeing pop culture brand management.
Still, with the major labels having had sizable cut-backs over the past decade, that greatly affects how your clients’ catalogs are going to be utilized.
It does but you have to understand the basic premise (of pop culture brand management). That these are pop culture brands which music is one part. At my company, we have to be experts in book publishing and marketing. We have to be experts in Broadway production, development and marketing. We have to be experts in regional theatrical projects. We have to be experts in apparel manufacturing, and apparel retailing; all over the world. We have to be experts in international publishing, and licensing; and film and television, both in production, and in licensing music; and name and likeness; and photos and posters. And, oh yeah, records. It is one of many things.
The idea here is that the artist is the brand; that this artist is a piece of pop culture; and that this artist is important in many different ways. They are important historically, socially, culturally, politically, and artistically. That art and that import Larry extends across many different media; whether it be a piece of stretched canvas a shiny round silver disc, a bound book, a T-shirt, a Broadway show or music.
The Doors’ John Densmore once made the point that their music was being played while American troops were being killed in Vietnam in the late ‘60s. “That’s what they were listening to…So you can’t sell this stuff off.”
That feeling that it’s special. That it’s not for rent. The bottom line is we are going to take this legacy, and manage it forward for future generations; to keep it alive and relevant. Here’s my one regret so far. It is a very inefficient model. It is extremely high touch. In other words, we have to oversee all for those areas on a daily basis. It costs me a lot of money in manpower, and time just to take on a client.
You took several years to consider the lawsuit with the Rick James’ estate against Universal Music Group filed last year. Why?
It was because we had to look at the situation. We had to look at what rights we felt were being violated. We had to look at the political landscape. I think that certainly because it is Rick James—in Rick’s case—the whole idea of standing up for something that we see as wrong, and taking a stand for others is very much in keeping with Rick’s persona. Rick was never afraid to speak up and speak out. Right?
In Rick’s case, he recorded, wrote and produced music.
Correct. He did the Mary Jane Girls, which was his project. And Teena Marie.
The Allman Brothers suit with Sony Music Entertainment was, of course, underway by then.
Yes. But that was with a different label. The reality is that there is (also) a court case with F.T.B. Productions (which handled Eminem in the early days of his career) and Universal. I read your interview with (Los Angeles entertainment lawyer) Jay Cooper, and you guys went over it. I think that the points were all spot on. The fact is that the labels have said that this is not precedential when, in fact, we believe that it is.
Will there be further class action suits?
There have already been three. There’s one against Universal; one against Sony that was just settled; and one with Warners.
[The estate of Rick James, as well as Rob Zombie, filed a suit in April 2011 against Universal Music Group, claiming it is owed 50% of all sales from digital downloads of songs, albums and ringtones. Interestingly, the complaint was filed as a federal class action suit, meaning other artists with similar claims can join in.
The lawsuit came on the heels of previous litigation that opened the question of how labels should be handling royalties for digital music distribution.
The James estate is not the first to apply a class action strategy to the issue. The Allman Brothers sued both Universal and Sony Music Entertainment over a similar issue. The Sony case converted to a class action suit that was settled last year. The Universal case remains ongoing.
In Nov. 2011, California federal Judge Susan Illston allowed the consolidated class action lawsuit spearheaded by the James estate, and Zombie to go forward against Universal Music Group.
Contemporary artist contracts between major labels now specifically spell out how digital royalties will be split. But contracts dating back to before the digital revolution are ambiguous.
At issue is whether digital revenues should be considered a sale or a license. To date, major labels have paid artists as if they were a sale, which generate far less revenue for artists.
Over a dozen suits have been lodged over the issue to date including by the Temptations, Kenny Rogers, Rob Zombie, rapper Chuck D and “Weird Al” Yankovic, to name a few.
In 2010, in the separate case involving the early music from Eminem, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Eminem recordings transferred online were a license.
UMG then argued that the decision was a singular case because of unique contract language that wouldn't impact with other artists.
Asked about the potential impact of the appellate court ruling granting F.B.T. Productions a greater share of royalties from Eminem digital downloads and ringtones, and Universal Music Group saying that it isn’t a legal precedent, Jay Cooper, Chairman, West Coast Entertainment Department, Greenberg Traurig, LLP had told CelebrityAccess:
“I would disagree with that. I think that it is a legal precedent. The language that was raised there (in contracts) was very common to a lot of contracts. Not just Universal’s contracts, but that was common at that period of time in various contracts…..Universal would like to tell you that it’s not precedent, but the court has basically said that language was clear and unambiguous, and that the digital sales fell within the class of licensing. It was clearly a license. That’s what they said, so I think that it is precedent.”]
What do you bring to the table as consultant to the Michael Jackson Estate; reporting to co-executors John Branca and John McClain?
The two areas that we help them the most are that we oversee all of the fan communication, and we also help guide all of the digital media strategy, and the social media.
Whitney Houston died February 11th, 2012 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, submerged in the bathtub. What’s there for her estate to take advantage of? Possibly a Broadway show?
Well, you are looking at it backwards. Here’s what we have to do. We have to identify who this artist is, and what they mean. We then have to identify to whom they are relevant to. Then we then have to figure out how to carry that legacy and that art forward for future generations.
Once you identify all of that, you can go to the next step, which is: “What IP and other tools are at my disposal to effect this movement?” Once you analyze all the tools, and see what’s in your toolbox, then we build a house. Just to look at it, and go, “I want a slate shower and steam in my master bath.” Well, that’s great but what about the foundation? What about the first floor? What about the framing? We have to look at the entire house here.
So in the case of Whitney Houston?
I have actually looked at it a little bit. If you look at the decisions, they (the Houston family) have made recently, which is to move forward with a (TV) reality series. I would have gone in a much different direction. Some of the tools are limited because Whitney was an amazing singer, but she did not produce the songs; she did not (generally) write the songs; and, in her latter years, she was less than amazing.
And she didn’t tour much.
And when she did there were issues. Then her whole life played out in that reality series (“Being Bobby Brown” on the Bravo network) with her and Bobby, and what was a Tiffany stellar persona came down to earth.
[For Whitney Houston, reported to have a $20 million fortune at the time of her death, the possibilities for postmortem wealth are limited. She didn't write any of her biggest hits, and was considered too much of a liability to score a significant branding deal for the better part of the past decade. Her troubled image could hurt any future branding or licensing opportunities. Meanwhile, Houston’s final film “Sparkle” is set to open August 17, 2012.]
It’s about promoting, protecting, monetizing, guiding, and keeping alive the legacy for the next generation?
Exactly. But there are really two ways to approach this. I believe that we are the first company to take approach B. What I’ve seen in my entire career is approach A. The analogy that I use is it’s almost like these vultures circling a decaying body looking for little islands of pink flesh that they can pluck off and monetize for that day. There’s no long-term vision or planning. It’s just, “How can we feed the machine today?”
Like what happened after Jimi Hendrix passed away?
You see it going on all of the time. I recently saw a press release from a company that bought a lot of the rights to an iconic music figure. In the opening paragraph of the press release, it was talking about the wonderful legacy of what this artist meant to the world; and how important his music is. In the final paragraph of the same release, they were talking about (licenses for) barbecue sauce, shot glasses, and pillowcases.
Regardless, Whitney Houston’s tumultuous life lends itself to being a film or a Broadway show. But after that?
When I said earlier that I think that you are looking at it backwards, what I meant is that you are looking for vehicles, but you don’t know what your end goal is yet.
I haven’t built the house.
Well, if we are looking at vehicles, you are looking at vehicles to generate income. So that’s back to that vulture looking for that bit of pink flesh. What I prefer to do is lift up this body—if you will—and presumably the revenue streams will come with it. But legacy first.
Many families aren’t prepared to deal with aspects of the legacy of an iconic celebrity who has passed away. They may not know about publishing, branding, or the various internet platforms. That’s why “vultures” are able to prey on the estate; or they find advisors who oversee the estate from a traditional point of view.
You bring up two critical points, and you are spot on. Point one is that there’s an interesting psychology, and dynamic with beneficiaries, and families in that they have inherited this thing which they didn’t create; and it’s not their specialty; and they realize that’s its irreplaceable. And, I think that they have seen all of the Hollywood movies, and heard all of the horror stories about these guys in small offices with green visors; and they have heard all these stories over the years about business managers ripping people off; and this guy running away with this money; and this guy desecrating that (legacy).
As a result, there is a certain paralysis that is triggered by fear. Well-placed fear I might add. And they don’t really know what to do. Coupled with the second dynamic which is what I refer to as Jackson Pollock Syndrome which is when a father takes his kid to see a Jackson Pollock painting at MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art in York), and he looks at this huge drip painting, and says to the kid, “I could do that.”
Of course, you can’t. Few people are equipped to coordinate between attorneys, agents, label executives, music and book publishers, merchandising companies, marketing firms, film and TV music supervisors.
You can’t. When I first got into this business, I had Jackson Pollock Syndrome.
When you began working with Danny Sugerman and the Doors?
That’s right. I had Jackson Pollock Syndrome. I looked at it (the legacy), and I went, “I can do this.” But I couldn’t. I couldn’t. My secret weapon was that I had Danny Sugerman. Danny was awesome, and we got to work side by side for several years.
When I first partnered with Danny, I had been working unofficially with Danny for a couple of years. I started first working with and advising Danny and being part of the mix in probably 2001. I then formally became the co-manager (of the Doors) with Danny in mid ’03.
Following your Jackson Pollock discovery about yourself, what did you learn about management from Danny?
Danny pulled me back from the edge of the cliff literally hundreds of times; until the light bulbs starting going off (in my head). Then I made a bunch of real soul connections. I would come to all these nexuses, and I would all of a sudden just understand everything on a visceral level. And the more that we moved forward, the more that I started to gather statistically significant samples. After awhile, more light bulbs went off, and I saw the paths, and the patterns. Once I saw the paths and the patterns, I was able to capitalize on that and I was really, really able to turn it into an efficient machine to protect these legacies.
Overseeing the management of the Doors is separate from handling the Jim Morrison Estate.
Correct. It was a great partnership because Danny was such a great creative and he was so heart and soul; and he understood the Doors, of course, better than anybody. He had been with them since he was 12 1/2 years old (answering their fan mail).
Hanging around (former Doors’ manager) Bill Siddons’ office.
And working for them. He wrote (the Doors’ bio) “No One Here Gets Out Alive” (co-authored with Jerry Hopkins, published in 1980), and (the autobiography) “Wonderland Avenue: Tales of Glamour and Excess” (first published in 1989).
[Danny Sugerman died on Jan. 5, 2005 after a prolonged struggle with lung cancer.]
Here’s the thing, in this business, you have to be what I refer to as “ambi-brained.” That’s the phrase that I always use. I think that a lot of people in our business, you are either a suit or a creative. I think that in my business you have to be left brained enough to really understand and be able to control marketing, branding, promotion, publicity, finances etc. But you also have to be right brained an equal level to understand, appreciate and protect the gravitas—the art and the poetry of these great artists.
Jim's estate is controlled by the Successors-In-Interest, which are the Morrison and Courson families, together?
[On July 3, 1971, Pamela Courson, the long-term companion of Jim Morrison, found him dead in the bathtub of their apartment in Paris, France. Courson herself died in 1974.]
You represent the Jim Morrison Estate, which is separate from managing the Doors. Do the two responsibilities ever conflict?
A good question.
The reason I’m asking is that in 1968 three of the Doors’ members agreed for $75,000 to license “Light My Fire” for use in a Buick Opel TV campaign. Jim, who was out of town, was so outraged that he had the commercial scrapped.
Are there conflicts in overseeing the two roles—management of the Doors; and Jim’s estate?
Again, a very interesting question. But that incident really codified and solidified their governance of unanimity in which anyone could veto anything; that all them had to agree for something to move forward. There was a certain magic in that. To the Doors’ credit today, they all understand, respect, completely embrace and love Jim’s influence; and what Jim was to them; and what Jim was to the world. And Jim, being a rock and roll singer was just part of his persona. He was also a gifted published poet and a filmmaker. So the stuff that he did with the Doors is overseen by the Doors’ Music Company, and Doors Properties. The stuff that he did outside the Doors i.e. poetry and film is overseen by the families. And the families are also a partner in the Doors.
[Today, all deals, licensing and otherwise for the Doors must be approved by all partners in the group’s assets: The three surviving group members have a 75% share; Morrison's family; and Pamela Courson’s family, share the remaining 25%.]
At the 53rd annual Grammy Awards last year, “When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors,” won for Best Long Form Video. A great thrill to for you to receive the award.
Oh God yes. It was a very surreal moment.
[The documentary “When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors” is an account of the Doors’ history, from their inception to Morrison’s passing.]
in 1991, Oliver Stone's bio film “The Doors” relit the fire of interest in the band, What’s the impact of all these recent reissues and films? Like a million drops of rain falling?
Yeah, that’s a good observation. I call it “death by a thousand cuts.” I like your (description) better. It’s a little less violent. Yeah, well the thing of it is that if you do all of this stuff over here on the left—there are the good things and the cool things and the right things, and the protective things; then all of the things on the right—meaning income, revenue streams growth etc. will take care of themselves.
Basically, you market artists without advertising. There’s some radio and internet airplay but it’s really grassroots word of mouth…
Well, there’s a lot of social media. That is one of our specialties.
The internet provides greater access to music.
This is one of the great fallacies of modern pop culture. Access is one thing; but I think that an effective filter is just as important.
You control the filter.
Well, we are the filter; and we help create the filter. So yes, a kid has access to two million artists, the question is how are you going to get him to pay attention to yours?
If they are touched by that artist in some way.
Right. It resonates with them.
That’s your biggest tool in if something resonates with them.
I have to understand how audiences think.
In the years following Jim’s passing, the Doors licensed such products as belt buckles, calendars, incense holders, a purple plastic-topped Lava Lamp-like table lamp, magnets, and even a “Light My Fire” bobblehead. Over time, you terminated most of the Doors’ licensing deals.
Well, there are two periods (of termination). Period one was in early ’04 after I had been on board for a year or so. We terminated 160 to 180 licenses. That’s when we really went through it. Nobody had really looked at it that closely. We felt, once again, you can try and produce items for money, for revenue growth and for sales; but that’s the wrong way to look at it when you look at these legacies. One of my old mentors is (retired publisher) Denne Goldstein who always used to say to me—he drummed it into my head—that “if you watch the pennies, the dollars take care of themselves.”
So in ’04, we weeded out the market, and we terminated 160 to 180 licenses and we took the Doors out of all of the categories that I thought were low hanging fruit, hoary, cheap or tawdry. We saw all kinds of stuff. There were incense burners, purple lava lamps, and there was the "Light My Fyre!" action-figure doll. Oh my gawd.
In 2008, you terminated more of the Doors’ licensing deals, and took them out of Kmart and Target.
Right. We whittled all of that down. Once again we used the Doors apparel and merchandise as an example of the legacy of the Doors, not merely a thing in which to make money. As I alluded to earlier, in my business, you have to be an expert at merchandising and retail apparel and retail apparel marketing.
Tour merch and retail merch are completely different businesses. Most merchandising companies, and most apparel companies in the entertainment sphere deal with tour merch. And tour merch is not apparel; it is a souvenir. It is a souvenir of the evening that you just spent. If that souvenir happens to come in the form of a cloth thing that you can put over your body like a T-shirt so be it. That’s not the reason they are buying it.
In a retail environment….
People are buying it for apparel. They are buying it to wear.
The apparel is competing against everything in that shopping mall.
Right. There are three tiers of retail with many other sub-tiers. But the basic three tiers are: high end; mid-tier or specialty; and mass. And those tiers are divided by a dollar figure.
When you go to mass market, the items are usually sold to customers for less money than you are charging at wholesale to mid-tier. So you lose a lot of the co-operation, and the ability to go to mid-tier, and high end (retailers) when you are at mass. Then mass tends to work on a 24 to 36 month cycle. At the end of that cycle, they (mass retailers) are through with you and they move on to the next (product).
So what we like to do when we begin a program is we start at high-end; we trickle into mid-tier; and then rinse (withdraw the product from the market), and repeat; then rinse, and repeat; and then we may or we may not go to mass. When we go to mass, we will do it right, and we will do it in a very strategic way. Then when we are through with mass we will rest the brand for one to three years.
Mass retail has a quicker burnout or turnaround?
It depends. It can be 12 to 36 months.
You aren’t really building a brand at mass.
The demand may already be in the marketplace; whereas at high-end retail, you are branding and going forward.
Well, it’s all branding. The question becomes is it good or bad branding? Mass bespeaks certain things; and high-end bespeaks certain things. You are making a branding statement either way; and there are benefits and detriments to each. So in every move you make, hopefully the benefits will far outweigh the detriments. You make a strategic decision to move forward or not move forward based on the assessments of those various benefits and detriments.
How many licenses do you now have for the Doors?
We don’t do that many licenses, right now. I would say a couple dozen at most; and we are doing a lot of our own manufacturing.
Why? To have quality control?
No. Merch companies tend to work on different models. For instance, I think that Signatures (Signature Networks) which is a big company owned by Live Nation, works mostly on a licensing model where most of their revenue comes from issuing licenses to have other companies manufacture. Bravado, which is a Universal company, I think tends to have the opposite strategy which is that they want to manufacture as much as they can. They are really in the tonnage business. They are in the Lady Gaga/Justin Bieber business where they can move hundreds and hundreds of thousands of items.
Neither of them are set up specifically for the business that I do.
What’s the difference?
My business is much more strategic. I make strategic licensing deals all of the time. How much money we make is a secondary consequence. There may be a certain brand that I want to be tied into. There may be a certain place I want to be. A certain design or fabric that I want to use which speaks well to the ethos of the Doors and which may or may not be a money maker.
So I am really in a different business; and you have to understand each of these businesses, and respect them. Bravado and Signatures are both in the businesses of spending a dollar and making $1.20. That’s what they are supposed to be doing. I am supposed to be in the business of protecting my legacies; moving them forward; and exposing them to future generations in a way that is meaningful. That’s not what business they are in; and they aren’t supposed to be.
So I like to construct a hybrid model that works for my clients which is a combination of manufacturing, strategic licensing, revenue licensing and controlling the tiers. It is a very hand’s on, high-touch proposition all of the time.
Are the end strategies different for a live heritage artist than a deceased artist.
It’s not about live versus deceased. It’s what is the brand of that artist. Kiss was very clearly a very crass commercial band that was proud of it from the word go.
And it works for them.
And it works for them. But it’s not the right brand for the Doors.
Are we going to see a Doors’ hologram?
First, what you saw at Coachella was not a hologram. That’s a 2-D digital projection. It was Snoop (Dogg) and (Dr.) Dre together with a live band and a 20 plus song set in which half through up pops this digital projection of Tupac and he and Snoop do a duet on two songs (“Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted"). Then they resumed the rest of the set. For that (event), it worked perfectly. A beautiful execution. It surprised everybody. But robo-lights work great too. Does that mean you should do a whole robo-light concert? I think it’s part of entertainment. It’s another tool, and we have to figure out how that tool can be employed.
[Digital Domain Media Group, the company that created the Tupac Shakur projection was recognized with a prestigious Cannes Lions Titanium Award on June 23 during the 59th annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for the “Virtual Tupac at Coachella.”
While widely referred to by the media as a “hologram,” the projection at Coachella was, in fact, created using the Musion Eyeliner system—a high definition video projection system that allows moving images to appear within a live stage setting. The system employs a version of Pepper's Ghost, a stage illusion. Thin metalized film is placed across the front of the stage at an angle of 45 degrees towards the audience; recessed below the screen is a bright image supplied by an LED light source or powerful projector. Viewed from the audience's perspective, the reflected images appear to be on the stage.]
According to a 2008 interview in the Los Angeles Times with you, there had been negotiations for a standing Doors’ production to be in a purpose-built theater, and would feature laser holograms, and theater seats individually wired for sound.
We have been looking for seven or eight years at doing some kind of multi-media experience that I refer to as “Laserium for the 21st Century” where I want to put you inside a maelstrom where there are going to be holograms around you; and there’s going to be projected images; and big huge sub-woofers bolted into your seat. There are going to be different sensations, and you are going to be assaulted by all the different media. Almost like an acid trip where you don't come down. I have been working with this great director Jake Nava for several years putting something together and I think that we are close. And holograms may play a part in that.
Part of the magic of a live performance is the interaction between the performer and the audience….
Obviously, with any kind of digital projection or holograms, it’s pre-scripted and pre-programmed. So there’s no spontaneity. I don’t think that audiences will come to watch just a 2-D projection for an entire concert. I think it would be great for three months.
On the other hand, if you look at the Japanese anime artists that have been created doing whole virtual concerts, that’s a whole other story. It’s an animated character, and they can make her do whatever they want her to do.
Obviously, you have been approached regarding theatrical musical productions featuring the Doors’ music.
When “Mama Mia” first came out (in 1999), all of the geniuses in our business went, “Pop music, rock and roll, and Broadway; it’s a natural.” It was a natural for ABBA; it wasn’t necessarily for rock as a whole. In quick succession, you saw (musicals featuring the works of) Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, John Lennon and Billy Joel come and go; and you saw Queen (with “We Will Rock You”) stay around for awhile, and then go.
Of course, people have reached out to us. Of course, the Doors was a natural because they were such a psychedelic visual band. So we have really thought about what is the best way to do something theatrical with the Doors.
You attended the Hutchins School of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University north of San Francisco, taking media and communications?
Yeah media studies. I got into college very young—at 16—and I had to find a special school for gifted kids. When I got there, I had all of these glorious dreams of campus life; and there I was in these really dry classes of 8 or 10 students taking Greek literature and logic and physics. I discovered the campus radio station (KSUN) one day. Nobody had told me about it and I lost my mind. That’s when I dropped all of my classes and re-enrolled in media studies. At the same time, I had started to manage and produce punk bands. I dropped out of college after 18 months to continue managing punk bands. I just thought, “This is where I want to be.”
What bands did you manage?
I had the Symptoms, and Eye Protection, which was Andy Prieboy (who replaced Stan Ridgway as the lead singer of Wall of Voodoo after Ridgway left the band in 1983).
You did some work for CBS and Atlantic in San Francisco during this period.
I was intern/gopher for CBS Records in San Francisco. I worked under then 22-year-old Burt Baumgartner who was the local (Columbia) promotion rep; and David Newmark who was the Epic/Portrait and Associated Labels local promo rep; and Jerry Pitti who ran the office (as branch manager). Then I went to work at Atlantic under Steve Feldman. All the while managing, and producing punk bands.
At that point, you obviously wanted to be in the music business.
Absolutely. Later, I worked for WEA Special Products, and I was a consultant for Dolby (Laboratories) for several years. I was one of their consultants to the music industry for some of their technological initiatives; most prominently being DVD-A and (Dolby) 5.1 Surround Audio.
You also managed acts within Jampol/Atencio Management; as well as your own self-named company.
Yes, with Tom Atencio who has managed New Order (in North America) for over 22 years now
You managed Tal Bachman, and Dimestore Hoods.
I also had Charlotte Martin on RCA, and Dropline on 143 Records with David Foster.
Were you any good back then as a manager?
It’s funny. Managers basically make their money the same way that artists do, which is through touring—tickets and tour merch. That’s where 80% to 90% of the income comes from. My entire career, for whatever reason—call it bad taste, bad luck, bad ears—I never really had a hit touring act. All those years. I had a couple #1 records, and a couple of hit artists; but I never had a hit touring act.
All of my contemporaries were making lots of money, and becoming experts at touring, tour merch and radio which are the things that you need to know as a manager. I was stuck at home. So I just started studying everything else (in the music industry). I became an expert at publishing. I became an expert on international (entertainment business). I became an expert on film and TV licensing; and an expert on name and likeness and all of these other areas. Then I just thought to myself, “How am I going to monetize this?”
I also have become quasi-unbeatable at music trivia, which always makes for a good bar trick but how do you monetize that?
Lo and behold, all of my faculties, my experience and my expertise all combined in this one area. I was born to do this job. It is the greatest job I’ve ever had; and it’s the most fun I’ve ever had, and I am the guy to do it.
We work in a great business.
We do. I feel like a 13-year-old all of the time. I feel like a school kid in the middle of all of my fantasies. I’m working with my heroes.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008 as senior editor, he was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including Time, Forbes, and the London Times. He is co-author of the book “Music From Far And Wide.”
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