This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Daniel Glass, founder/CEO, Glassnote Entertainment Group.
Daniel Glass is destined to be one of the most successful stories in the history of American music.
Glassí great strength as founder/CEO of Glassnote Entertainment Group that was launched in 2007--other than his work ethic, and curious, well-formed, active intellect--is that he excels at discovering, signing and collaborating with trailblazing artists.
Boutique-styled, independent Glassnote Records is the North American home of Mumford & Sons, as well as the recording home base for Phoenix, the Temper Trap, Two Door Cinema Club, GIVERS, Oberhofer, Daughter, Robert DeLong, Little Green Cars, CHVRCHES, Jeremy Messersmith, Foy Vance, Half Moon Run, Justin Nozuka, Flight Facilities, Panama Wedding, Aurora, Son Lux, HOLYCHILD, Flo Morrissey, and actor Donald Gloverís rapping alter ego, Childish Gambino.
Glassnote Entertainment Group, based in New York City, with offices in Los Angeles, London and Toronto, also encompasses Insieme and Four Song Night Publishing which oversees the songwriting activities of Cara Salimando, Givers, Deap Vally, HOLYCHILD, Tor Miller, and Brad Oberhofer.
Glass takes pride that he has built a balanced, and talented team at Glassnote Entertainment Group that continually seeks to embrace societal change while exploring innovative ways to monetize musical content.
Glass himself is renowned for his peerless work ethic, his integrity, and for actively fostering a vast network of working relationships. Not only with artists and songwriters and other label executives, but also with managers, agents, broadcasters, technologists, and talent bookers.
The man is wired to all sectors of entertainment.
Unlike many of his peers, Glass does not disdain their talents and insights. Rather he seeks to harness and adapt their skills and aptitudes to improve Glassnote's marketing and promotion reach in order to further promote his roster.
Prior to Glassnote, Glass held executive positions at Chrysalis, SBK, EMI Records Group, Rising Tide, Universal Music, and Artemis working with such artists as Wilson Phillips, Vanilla Ice, Technotronic, Billy Idol, Huey Lewis & the News, Sinťad O'Connor, Jon Secada, Warren, Zevon, Blur, Goldfinger, Reel Big Fish, Erykah Badu, Baha Men, Kurupt, the Pretenders, Sugarcult, Selena, Barrio Boyzz, Blur, D'Angelo, Roxette, Steve Earle and many others.
Glassnote Entertainment Group launched nearly a decade ago. Is the label division making money?
Oh, yes. And the publishing company is too.
The publishing division encompasses two companies, Insieme and Four Song Night Publishing?
Insieme, which means together and inclusive in Italian, is the umbrella for it (the publishing division). Four Song Night Publishing is our BMI company.
The publishing activities of Glassnote Entertainment keep expanding. Whatís been happening of late?
(Dubstep violinist) Lindsey Stirling is an amazing artist that (manager) Troy Carter works with. A huge YouTube artist. On her album (ďShatter MeĒ) there are two Robert DeLong songs. Cara Salimando is about to have four songs coming out with different artists around the world. GIVERS have a song breaking off of a commercial in Australia. Jeremy Messersmith just wrote a holiday song which is great. I am very excited about Tor Miller who I signed for both the record, and the publishing side. Heís 20 years old. I cannot wait for you to hear him.
What releases are planned for the Glassnote label in 2015 or before?
Well, the excitement is we are going to go with Tor Miller, as I said. Aurora is coming. We just signed an artist called Son Lux. Flo Morrissey is coming out with her first song for Christmas before she turns 20. I promised her that we would have a record out, and that we will do it before her birthday on December 25th. GIVERS are coming out with a new album in the first quarter. They are mixing right now at Electric Lady. Itís extraordinary. Obviously, we hope that there will be new Mumford & Sons, and there will be new music from Phoenix, Temper Trap, and Two Door Cinema Club.
Foy Vance has a live album coming for Christmas. CHVRCHES has a new record coming next year. Robert Delong. Little Green Cars, Oberhofer, and Half Moon Run are making their records right now.
The one secret which nobody knows about yet is that we have just signed a band that people will be talking about for the ages, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear from Kansas City. You will not believe this. Wait until you meet Madisen and Ruth. Thereís nobody ever like them. Itís a mother, and a son. I got tipped off to them by our radio guy, Nick Petropoulos, and the radio programmer in Kansas City named Lazlo. ItĎs going to be unbelievable.
[Watch the video of Madisen Ward and the Mama Bearís performing ďLive By WaterĒ at: Youtube]
Meanwhile, Iím very proud that we have the #1 album (with the EP ďKauai,Ē featuring the song ďSoberĒ) in America and Canada with Childish Gambino at iTunes. Heís a genius, this guy. I love him.
Glassnote Entertainment didnít have an office in its early years. Werenít you and your staff meeting at the Waldorf Astoria?
Yeah. We met every day. Chris Scully lives in Connecticut. So he comes off at Grand Central. I live uptown. We met at the Waldorf Astoria mezzanine.
You met there because they had Wi-Fi?
They had Wi-Fi, and it was really nice there. It had these velvet cushion banquettes. It was very quiet. Then one day security came up to us with these ear phones, and said, ďYou guys have to leave.Ē They suspected, I guess, that we were running a prostitution ring.
After that you met at Freds at Barneys on the Upper East Side?
Yeah. My friend is the chef and the owner of Fredís at Barneys, and he let us. Those lunches got very long. We would start lunch at one, and end at five. The funniest thing is no one never asked us or got weirded out about us not having an office. We never heard, ďDonít you have an office?Ē When it came to music, we had earphones. We had technology. Nobody cared about the facade of the address.
The strangest meeting ever was with Sandy Roberton (owner/CEO of Worlds End Producer Management). We had a producer/manager meeting. Sandyís a great manager. I asked him to meet me at Macyís because I was wearing my aids fundraising cap. We were having a fundraiser with Teddy Geiger, and it was at the Tween department of Macyís. Sandy met me there with absolutely no airs or apprehension. He never asked me where our office was.
[Glass is founding board president of LIFEbeat, an AIDS advocacy and hands-on service organization that he co-founded in 1992.]
Where was Glassnoteís first real office in New York City?
The first real office was a little one in our building where we are now at Lexington and 60th. It was a tiny office. We are on our third (office) expansion in our own building.
How much staff do you now have?
Ahhh, I donít want to use a number, but itís a full complement of marketing, promotion, and artist development capabilities. A national staff, and regional staff all over the country in America. We have a Canadian label manager. We have a full team in England now. We have a full team of A&R, promotion, marketing, publicity, and a label manager in London.
You opened up the London office in 2013? Why is it important to have a UK presence?
When you look at the world and where music comes from, the inspiration, and where our roster is, thatís number one. Number two is my respect for the media from the radio, press, and just street vibe, the festival world, and the live world of UK and Europe; to be there, and to be represented there is very, very important. I also felt that we would be hypocritical to sign artists for the world, and not have a team of people that could be on the ground in the UK and Europe.
For example, last week our international person was in Berlin. We had Flight Facilities, and Panama Wedding playing in London. We have a full team there. I donít have to fly over. We work beautifully together. We Skype and FaceTime a couple of times a day. Itís very important to be there and be in close contact.
And I think last, but not least, culturally, if you look at the A&M/Chrysalis model, they were very strong in the alliance of London, New York and LA. We have a wonderful LA office that handles our licensing and A&R. I love our team in LA. Itís a great little team. But the London thing has just been my ambition. When Childish Gambino went on the A list at Radio 1, we popped champagne. When Half Moon Run, which has been breaking (in the UK) off of Radio 1, and XFM, played in Hyde Park this summer (July 12th, 2014) with Neil Young and the National....well those are (the reasons) why we do this.
The Glassnote label has a small artist roster. About 20 artists?
Less. I would say about 16 artists. And the publishing company is about 9 (songwriters).
You donít do 360 deals?
If you liked an artist for the label, but couldnít attain publishing or merchandising rights, would you still sign them?
Absolutely. Most of the people (on the label), we donít publish. Itís down to the publishing team. If they can enhance, help and nurture you on the publishing side with your writing, then you go with them. But otherwise, itís not a land grab or anything like that. Not at all.
Many of your signings have come from tips within the music industry. Much like the old days, Itís obviously about relationships.
Yes. When I get a call from someone at radio being enthusiastic (about an artist), I take that call right away. I take it very seriously. I really trust radio guys because they are getting reaction from the phones or from the street. A lot of it (signings) comes from tips. Very few come from attorneys. There are a couple of attorneys that I trust, but it really comes from the street. Various people that recommend. The most important recommendation is an artist. If Phoenix or Mumford & Sons said to me, ďListen to this,Ē Iíd drop everything. That, to me, is the ultimate.
You appear to have unusually close relationships with your artists.
Yes. We are very, very close. When we put the business plan together for the company we wanted by the third year for artists to recommend us to others artists. Now, itís such a family. It was almost like being like an uncle or a father when Phoenix took Two Door Cinema Club out on tour. The mentoring that went on during the tour, I was so proud to be on the side of that stage, and in the audience because that is really the essence of our company. It was them helping each other, and it happens all of the time. Mumford & Sons took Half Moon Run out. Thatís what itís about. We have two new artists Tor Miller and Flo Morrissey both making their records in England. Itís great to be around them both. Flo is 19 years old. She lives in England. Even though Tor Miller is from New York, he spends most of his time in London. The two of them together are just great. So family is important. Plus if you know anything about our company, you will see my wife and our three children everywhere.
Mumford & Sons toured with the Temper Trap in Australia
Yes, Mumford & Sons opened for the Temper Trap in Australia. The night that the Temper Trap played (in New York at) The Mercury Lounge (in 2009), Temper Trap said to me, ďBefore you go downstairs to the dressing room, you really should see our friends.Ē That was the first time that I saw Mumford & Sons. Then a few days later I flew to London because Mumford & Sons were playing with the Temper Trap at the Roundhouse. It (the excitement) happened again. Thanks to Adam Tudhope, who is an amazing manager of Mumford & Sons, the (signing) came together very quickly, and very naturally. There was no hustle or courtship or bidding war. Just very respectful (negotiations).
Was there any label buzz in America around Mumford & Sons at the time?
I did not hear about them from anybody. In fact, people thought that I was insane (in signing the band for North America). What are you going do (with a band) with a banjo and a kick drum? To me, they were the most passionate alternative rock band in the world. So I loved them on first sight (live). I got it. I also got the EP (ďLove Your GroundĒ).
But I have to tell you that if you know anything about me, the one way to turn me off (an act) is to tell me that ďa lot of labels are interestedĒ or ďa lot of publishers want us.Ē I usually run away. I actually never know (about other music industry interest). The day after we signed Tor Miller I got all of these sour grapes from major labels and major publishers. I didnít even know there was anyone who knew who he was. It didnít matter to me. These are really solid people at major labels and at major publishers, but it didnít matter to me. It doesnít make the music any better. That (competition) doesnít make me want it more. I prefer to be under the radar. I prefer to get in early. We do our own thing. We arenít researching. We are not looking at sales research. Thatís not the way that we do business. Itís in our gut. We really want to attract the best live artists in the world. So we love seeing them live. It was Mumford & Sons live that got us and, of course, the EP that they gave us was extraordinary.
While you may not welcome a bidding war situation, the first act that Glassnote signed was Secondhand Serenade (aka John Vesely). You walked into the Bitter End to see an act that was #1 on MySpace, and every major label was in that room.
Yes, they were and they all had SUVs and drivers outside. But Iím the only one that went to his house to see him. It was my Jerry Maguire moment.
Still, a pretty intimating moment at the Bitter End.
I was petrified. Me and Chris Scully, the only other person who worked here. I brought my son (Sean), and about 7 interns. It looked like we had a big staff. It was the manager of Secondhand Serenade who invited me to the show. By the way, it was Sean who signed Flight Facilities from Australia. So we do keep things in the family.
What would stop you from signing a band you liked? Say, itís a great band with a great tape. Why wouldnít you sign them? Why would you balk?
We donít really look at pop. We arenít really a pop label. Thatís something that we arenít geared up for. I look at the faces of our amazing team, itís just not pop. We love greatness. So, if something is great in pop......Pop is something right down the middle (of the market). We are somewhat like masochists. We like challenges. We like pushing the boulder up the hill. So we like coming from the left and the right rather than from the center.
Letís be honest. A pop act is a very pricy proposition to develop, to record, and to market. With a rock act on the fringes of alternative you have a market shot without the enormous cost connected with a pop project.
Yeah. And I think that we like to be in early. Itís the live thing for us. If we saw something that was a good record, but it wasnít great live then I think that we would stay away. Also if the karma wasnít right in the team. If the management, and the agent combination was something where we just didnít get along with. Life is too short. We want to get along with people. We really have a good day (working) here. If you spend some time here, besides it being family, itís fun being here.
I really believe at this moment that we have got to get along. We really like and respect the people that we work with. If it got to a point where somebody was belligerent or abusive or condescending or overly cynical I would stay away from that. Difficult? I donít want to be in that world. I just feel I should let them go somewhere else.
Still, one of your most cherished relationships in your career was with the late Warren Zevon who was renowned for being an outlandishly difficult artist.
Oh yeah. That did not start out well. That started out very rocky. We wound up on a plane together, stuck in a fog or a bad rainstorm from San Francisco to LA. And who am I sitting next to? I was sitting in coach, and I get bumped up to first class. And, itís Warren. I fell in love. He gave me a lift to my hotel. That was before I knew what was going on in his life. He didnít know at the time.
[Warren Zevon would die in 2003 of peritoneal mesothelioma, a cancer of the abdominal lining associated with exposure to asbestos.]
You apparently turned to him on the plane, and said, ďWhy did you do what you did to me today?Ē
Yeah. He was nasty to me that day. Wow. He abused me that day. He said, ďThatís what I do. Thatís my shtick. My thing.Ē I said, ďYou donít have to do that to me.Ē It was just two guys on a plane. It was fantastic. After that, it was like ďwowĒ because I loved that guy.
It has been said that you likely wonít hire someone who has worked at a major label. True?
Itís a bad thing to say as a generalization. (Itís) because of major label stuff, and sometimes the baggage that comes with that. Sometimes people talk about, ďThe way we do it.Ē Listen, some of my dearest friends (are with major labels). I adore Rob Stringer (chairman of Columbia Records) who runs of the great companies. I adore Monte Lipman who runs a major label (Republic Records). These are two of my friends. Also Greg Thompson (executive VP of Capitol Music Group). These are my friends and protťgťs.
(Head of publicity Alexandra) Alex Dunne was the first person that we hired here (in 2010) that had worked at a major label, and I was nervous. Sheís one of the few people to tell the truth. She was one of the 21 people at the Mercury Lounge that night for Mumford & Sons as a fan. Everybody says that they were there. They were not there by the way, Larry. She was there. I tested her when I interviewed her. She worked at Epic Records. I was very skeptical on hiring her.
Is the concern if you hire someone from a major labels that youíd have to untrain them of how they did things where they used to work?
Yeah. But I think that Alex felt more indie. I donít think that she was there (at Epic) that long (three years). But I also liked the artists she was working with. She was working with Sara Bareilles, and the Fray. People like that. Then we hired someone in the digital world that had worked at Decca which is not really a big label.
In general, itís very hard to get in this door. A generalization I have to say that if you are coming from a major label, I probably have got issues. I do have some issues. Itís not a lack of respect. Itís the unlearning. We rub two sticks together here every day. Itís an amazing day here every day. We still share Metro cards on the train. I donít think that major labels understand that.
A&M Records co-founder Jerry Moss once told me that heíd never sign an artist that had been with a major label
I believe that. Jerry has told me that too. I feel the same way (about artists). Thereís something beautiful about the embryonic stages of an artist. The only artist that we have ever signed with a past was Phoenix. But they were in an embryonic stage. They were putting in the hours. They had the three albums out on EMI, but nobody really knew who they were. They were just cool. They hadnít made the great record yet. When we heard them they were making the record (ďWolfgang Amadeus PhoenixĒ), and it was great. Phoenix was a career changer for me, and a life changer for our company.
I remember your enthusiasm for the UK-based trio, Daughter after I sent out a video clip of ďPeterĒ three years ago to a number of my friends. You immediately emailed me saying that you had just signed them.
That was one of the most magical experiences. I was in London to see two very hyped bands that everybody was talking about. I spoke to this manager who is a fabulous guy called Matt Brown who was gracious enough to do a Daughter show at a soundstage at a rehearsal studio. I was knocked out. Wow was I knocked out by the three of them. We signed them on the spot. Oh my gawd, I canít tell you. People come in here and...people cry when they see them. They are in the studio now making a new record, and itís fantastic.
In hindsight when you started Glassnote did you know what you were getting yourself into as an independent company? The music industry was in flux, and the market condition for music delivery has shifted so much since.
I had anticipated this conversation. I went for a long run this morning, and I thought about talking to you, and how long I have known you. The thing that struck me was what was going on in my mind 8 Ĺ years ago when the seed was planted of forming this independent entertainment company which I envisioned to be records, publishing, and entertainment.
I thought about it.
It really crystallized on a trip to France about 10 years ago. I go to the south a bit, but I got to Paris, and I noticed the shift from these large restaurants where chefs were working. These big restaurants serving hundreds of diners lunch and dinner to the boutiques. Small intimate restaurants which were mostly run by husbands and wives. Where the wife or husband would be taking the orders while their spouses were the chefs. Very much mom and pop operations. Some of the restaurants had 8 to 10 tables. Besides the dish washer, it really was chef run and intimate. It struck me that all of my favorite chefs were moving in that direction.
And, I relate to that.
I compare it to the indie (music) world which was not present at the time. It (the music industry) was really dominated by majors. It was sort of a depressed world. If you remember the conversation 8 and 9 years ago, it really was about the rise and dominance of MySpace, and what was called social media and social networking, but also piracy, stealing and illegal (file) sharing. I was told by all of the experts, ďDonít go into the record business. Get out while you can. Donít do it. You will never be able to make it.Ē All of these naysayers actually inspired me. But I did think about the chefs.
By a decade ago, many of your favorite ďchefsĒ within the recording industry, including Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss from A&M Records; Chris Blackwell at Island Records; and Chris Wright and Terry Ellis at Chrysalis Records, were off the scene as all of leading independent labels had been purchased by the majors.
Yeah. Itís interesting that you mention that. I spent a lot of time with three people. They were great. They were fantastic. I spent a lot of time with Chris Wright who was obviously my mentor all my years at Chrysalis. I spent a lot of time with Chris Blackwell. Multiple breakfasts. I wanted to know what to do, and what not to do before I opened the doors. The other person who gave me some advice was Mo Ostin (former president of Warner Bros. Records), one of the great visionary leaders (of the music industry). He really ran a family (company).
That family element is really important to you at Glassnote.
If you leave our office or if you speak to our artists, (you will see) itís family. We love the managers. We love the artists. Family is very important to me. I would say that the words that describe us are family, inclusive, proactive, and patient. Those are the words that I want people to know us by other than, obviously, our sense of belief and passion (for music). Itís really those words.
Most recently, in the last two years, Iíve gotten close to Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert. They have been unbelievable advisers because, to me, thatís who we want to be. Thereís nothing nicer, if somebody gives me a compliment, and says, ďYou remind me a little bit of ChrysalisĒ or ďa little bit of A&M.Ē Thatís it. I go home. Itís not about the money. Itís not about charts. Itís not about how many records that we sell. That to me is it.
You met with Jerry Moss prior to concluding your recent global deal with Universal Music.
I listen to Jerry. I still talk to him. He gives me guidance. He really helped me when I made my deal with (CEO/chairman) Lucian Grainge, and Universal. Jerry was the last meal that I had. We met at the Polo Lounge in Beverly Hills. Jerry told me what to do, and I did it. I listened to Jerry. Heís never steered me wrong. I recently saw (former A&M co-owner) Herb (Alpert) at dinner a couple of weeks ago. Words of wisdom from both of them. Jerry worked with my father-in-law (Sam Weiss) years ago in promotion. I have so much respect for him.
Itís early days but how is the relationship with Universal working out?
Our relationship with Lucian and Universal is amazing. We are distributed by Universal everywhere but Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. They have treated us well.
Another person that I assume would have influenced you is Sire Records co-founder Seymour Stein.
Oh yes, yes. Seymour, Iíve known my whole career. He was very close to my father-in-law. Every time that I see Seymour itís great conversations about the old days, and different things. I run into Seymour in Singapore. I run into Seymour in Australia, and in London all of the time.
Like the A&M, Chrysalis, Elektra, or Island imprints, Sire could also be a template for the Glassnote label.
The only difference is that we arenít owned by a major label. The early days (of Sire), yes. What Seymour did with Richard (Gottehrer)óand Richard is a good friend. They had exquisite tastes. The other thing that I have in common with Seymour is that I am color blind to what nation of origin that our music comes from. I think that Seymour has had the most eclectic international roster, and I take pride in that also. We fall in love with artists from all over the world whether they are from Australia, France, Japan, or Canada. It doesnít matter. We love music.
Music industry observer Bob Lefsetz argues that music today is a track-by-track world. Still, if you are a jazz, blues or classical fan, you might listen to a full album. However, thereís no question that streaming and downloading is driving the popularity of single tracks. In essence, the marketplace is still split.
Yeah. So itís better. Itís better for a band today. There are more avenues. Thereís more exposure. We are seeing different forms of curation. Jimmy Iovine and (Dr.) Dre when they first started their company (Beats Electronics), they hired radio people. Spotify has amazing people in their artist relations department, and in their music departments. The people that Scott Greenstein (president and chief content officer) and Steve Blatter (head of music programming) have hired at SiriusXM, and going back to Lee Abrams, they are great. Amazing people. So you are seeing it. Iím excited that (Spotify) itís now up in Canada.
Are you still selling high numbers of physical product with certain groups?
Oh yeah. We were the #1 selling vinyl for Record Store Day with Childish Gambino. CHVRCHES does well with streaming, downloading and with physical. Mumford & Sons, whatever the package, does well. The vinyl package, the regular package. Phoenix does well. The day of this interview, today, I see that downloads are subsiding a bit, and streams are going up. No question. Vinyl is going up. CDs are not dropping off the way that people think they are.
The 50/50 threshold between physical, and downloads has only recently been exceeded in a number of international markets. Are we in danger of dropping physical too quickly? Perhaps, people will seek out music on different delivery systems.
I donít know. To be honest. I donít concern myself with it. I just want the bands to have a happy life. We have great relations with festival owners, club owners, and agencies. I donít really get that concerned with delivery systems. I know what I like. I know what we like.
Glassnote sells music products.
Yeah, but I donít get into it that much. I want to survive. I want to thrive. But I donít know. If you know the business, it morphs. It was 8-track, cassette, and vinyl. Itís not what we do. I donít want to pontificate, and preach about all of that stuff. Itís not what we do.
You continue to sell CDs.
Yeah, and I want retail to be healthy. I just feel that if we make great music we are going to do well. Thatís really what it is. Itís A&R. It really is about A&R, and the band has to be good live, be true to themselves, and be true to their fans. So Iím not dissing retail at all or deliveries, or DSPs, but you know what they are going to evolve with or without me. Iím not going to change the iPhone or Android. Itís not what we do here.
You were an early champion of streaming services. Did you look at Spotify and others, and realize that this is a way of retaining music fans, and that this is an avenue of exposure for many artists? We will work out the terms, later.
That was my philosophy. Itís fortunate that Deborah and I have three kids. You listen to your kids. My kids were very excited by Napster when it came in. Doug Morris and I were segueing from Rising Tide, which was a independent company, to Universal when Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker were putting Napster together. I was a huge fan. I was in the minority (in the music industry), but I was a huge fan. Then when Daniel Ek and Sean Parker brought Spotify back, it was so exciting. I went on the record 6 years ago at a KROQ Christmas show to the Huffington Post how much I loved it. To me, it was a form of exposure.
You were heavily criticized for your Napster views.
Yeah, I wasnít popular. It was okay. It was ahead of its time. Whatever it was. We have a beautiful relationship with Spotify. Itís fair. The compensation is great. The checks are great. They do so much with our artists. What they have done with Phoenix and with Panama Wedding. What they are about to do with Tor Miller . We have a new artist called Aurora, and they are all over it. I consider them partners in breaking artists. They are great. Childish Gambino and CHVRCHES in 2014 are examples (of Spotifyís support). You look at all of the things that we have done with Spotify with those two artists. Itís fantastic.
Do you consider Clear Channel a partner as well? You were the next label to make a deal with them after Scott Borchettaís Big Machine Records.
Scott Borchetta is an amazing guy. Remember, Scott and I have same roots. Scott loves radio. He respects radio. Heís always ahead of his time. He has a great label in Nashville. Heís a great entrepreneur.
To me (Clear Channel) was about sitting down with three guys, Bob Pittman, John Sykes, and Tom Poleman. All old friends. I always trickle up in an organization. (Clear Channel CEO) Bob Pittman loves radio. He loves broadcasting. He loves talent, and heís so friendly to our artists. And they (Clear Channel executives) keep their word. To me, it (the deal) was a leap. I didnít know if the compensation would be equal or more. Itís been very fair. We have a direct relationship with them. They have been great. Childish Gambino just played at the iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas, and it was great. Last year Phoenix did it. I hope that they invite us back next year.
Many people dismiss traditional media like radio, TV, and print. Your company utilizes traditional media along with new media.
Funny we are doing this interview today, and I cannot remember a time since the Ď80s....the word radio has come up more in the last two weeks with managers, industry, concert promoters, agents, club owners, artists, and producers. Radio is more ubiquitous, and more important today than it has been in many, many years. And, Iím talking 20 something years ago.
Now radio is morphing. Thereís now SiriusXM. Thereís the iHeartRadio app. Thereís all kinds of different radio. Thereís the online components of the radio stations. I do put Spotify and Pandora in that (radio) category somewhere now because of how their playlisting is curation. The playlisting on Spotify is so wonderful.
I will tell you that I really believe in old media, in traditional media. I believe in radio. We have a full radio team around the world.
All of the hypocrites, and the cynics and the B.S. artists say, ďWho cares about radio?Ē Well, as soon as the record gets put on a Radio 1 or an XFM or a triple j or KROQ or Z100, everybody starts screaming. It all changes. So give me a break. So some people are listening to the radio. What they do at SiriusXM with Alt Nation and XMU and all of those stations is unbelievable. You go to any EDM festival in North America, and it is dominated by what goes on at SiriusXM on their BPM channels and all of that stuff. And SiriusXM is right there, right next to the stage. All of those (EDM) DJs are treated like royalty; the way that Scott Muni used to treat rock stars at WNEW-FM, and Ivor Hamilton used to treat you in Toronto on CFNY-FM.
Iíd categorize YouTube as traditional media today.
Yes it is.
Itís like a giant radio station
Your first concert was seeing the Who in 1968 at one of the Catskills Borscht Belt hotels?
For $1.99 at the Tamarack Lodge in Ellenville, N.Y. The first guy out of the curtain was this guy with a big nose named Pete Townshend. My father took me there and stayed with us because we were all 12 and 13. The weekend after I saw the Chamber Brothers, and I saw Ten Yearís After that summer. Every weekend I went. It was $1.99 every show.
One of the first albums you bought was ďThe Young RascalsĒ in 1966?
Ohhh. I bought that record at Alexanders in Queens on Queens Boulevard, I believe. I bought all my other music at Titus Oaks Records on Kingís Highway in Brooklyn. I bought the rest at Korvetteís. Those were my stores. Then on the weekends my father took me to New York and I went to (discount stores) S. Kleinís, and Mayís, and I bought three (records) for $1.00. I had every song on the WMCA (AM) 57 survey chart. I had all 57 songs.
Were you a WMCA Good Guy?
I was a Good Guy. I won it (the contest) twice. I got a Good Guy sweatshirt twice. I won tickets to see Al Hirt, the trumpet player.
The Rascals turned a generation onto R&B.
Oh yeah. I went to see the Rascals as a Broadway play (ďOnce Upon A DreamĒ) which my friend put on in at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester (New York). It was great. As much as the Rolling Stones were emulating American R&B music, the Young Rascals were these white guys making soul R&B records. Each one of their records was great. I felt like I knew Eddie Brigati (vocals), Felix Cavaliere (keyboard, vocals), Dino Danelli (drums), and Gene Cornish (guitar). To see them was such a treat.
Meanwhile, your older sister was a fan of the singer/songwriters. You eventually became a fan of Simon & Garfunkel.
Yeah. She was playing Joni Mitchell, Laura Nyro, Carole King, and Fairport Convention. She was playing Hot Tuna, and Poco. I fell in love with Laurel Canyon music. That was the sound that was in our house. She was all Laurel Canyon. Anything from that genetic (musical) tree. I was studying (music) on my own. I studied John Mayallís tree. and I got into Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. That was my tree. That got me into rock and roll and the Who, the Kinks, and bands like that.
The musical diversity of that era was remarkable. Concert bills were so eclectic.
So was radio. WMCA and WABC. That was the beauty of it. And thatís what Radio 1 is still good at. Not as much as they used to be. But thatís why I love listening to those radio stations from around the world. Thatís really one of the reasons that SiriusXM and some of the new radio stations because of the eclecticism of it. Thatís why I like that.
You studied pre-med at Brooklyn College?
Yes. Brooklyn College. I worked at three or four jobs while there. I was a short order cook at a luncheonette.
At your uncleís luncheonette?
Yes. In Brooklyn on Coney Island Avenue. And, on weekends, I spun records.
At Regineís, and then at Doubles.
Yes, I was a DJ working in some clubs, and I was mixing and producing records.
While at college you pitched songs for songwriter Gladys Shelley who had songs recorded by Carmen McRae, Eydie Gorme, Mabel Mercer, Dakota Staton, Connie Francis, Vic Damone, and Mel Torme.
My first three covers were Vic Damone, Trini Lopez and Shirley Bassey as a publisher. Thatís what I did for her.
Then you heard from Barry Mardit, who has since become a well-known radio consultant, asking you to be a DJ.
Yes. Barry Mardit called me. I had a broken leg. He asked me to come in and audition, and I got the job at (Brooklyn College radio station) WBCR.
You didnít want to be a DJ?
No. I just wanted to get my cast off. I went to do it for 6 to 8 weeks. But, boy was it great. To go into the stacks, and pull that vinyl. To smell and touch that vinyl and work on my set lists and other things. I started to play a lot of rhythmic and dance music. Nobody was doing that. I would get people coming up to me in the cafeteria saying, ďMan, I loved that thing that you played. Where did you get it.Ē Even though I loved rock music, all I was playing was dance and rhythmic music.
You speak of Glassnote Entertainment Group as being a family business. You worked at SAM Records which was, in fact, truly family. It was headed by your future father-in-law Sam Weiss, the brother of Hy Weiss, father of label executive Barry Weiss who worked with Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, and 'N Sync. SAM Records, an excellent training ground?
Yes. Those are my roots. That was my finishing school when I was a DJ. I got two things out of it. An amazing wife, and a great street education. There was nobody more street than Sam. He took me on my first trip to MIDEM. He was a great boss and a great father-in-law. I miss him. Nobody loved R&B music more than him. His whole lens in life was black music.
Samís background in R&B no doubt left a mark on you.
Iím always listening to music with the R&B groove even if itís rock I look for a groove. I look for a beat.
[Reflecting the sound of New York City rock and roll and doo wop of the Ď50s, brothers Sam and Hy Weiss launched Old Town Records in 1953. its catalog includes releases by the 5 Crowns, the Solitaires, the Royaltones, the Co-Eds, and Robert & Johnny. On its affiliate Paradise Records was the Harptones. In 1957, the Weiss brothers co-founded Superior Record Sales Company which, with Sam as president, also distributed Argo, End Cindy, Vee-Jay, Gone, Ace, Vin, Combo, Lamp, Coed, Tip-Top, Bullseye, and ABKCO. Headed by Sam Weiss, SAM Records operated between 1977Ė1983, and 1989Ė1991, releasing records by John Davis and the Monster Orchestra, Glen Adams Affair, Gary's Gang, and Komiko. Sam Weiss passed away in 2008.]
After working at SAM Records, you were hired by Jack Craigo at Chrysalis Records. A significant transition for you to be now working with the likes of Spandau Ballet, and Huey Lewis and the News.
Well, I didnít know anything about rock and pop world. I didnít know anything about marketing and promotion. I was a studio rat, and I was a DJ. So I had to learn.
Chrysalis gave me the freedom to go into the studio, but also I learned....I think itís really, really important, to know the street....and know about radio and marketing and about retail and how it all worked. I didnít know how it worked. Jack (Craigo) was a great boss who gave me the freedom to do both. I guess my passion said that the music that I was working with; that I just brought to my friends naturally, and said, ďWould you play this?Ē I didnít realize thatís what promotion is.
You honed all those skills further at SBK Records.
I think that SBK wanted me originally for my promotional skills. Musically, we started off with Technotronicís ďPump Up The JamĒ (reaching #2 on Billboardís Hot 100 in 1989), and we quickly had Wilson Phillips. We also had Jon Secada, Jesus Jones, Blur, and Vanilla Ice. We had so many hits in three years. It was sad when they sold the company. I was very, very sad. But (Charles) Koppleman and (Marty) Bandier allowed me to get involved in every facet of the company. They let me do my thing.
You then became president of EMI in the U.S. deemed to be a somewhat fractionalized company due to all of the mergers.
They sold SBK and, as a result of part of the deal, was that I under contract to EMI Record Group, and I became president/CEO of EMI Records Group of North America.
You were given the questionable task of trying to streamline, and overhaul operations of three labels, SBK, Chrysalis, and EMI USA.
Listen, in retrospect, it (merging them) was not smart. To take three vibrant cultures. and merge them. I saw what happened with Island Def Jam, and I never got that. What was that about? Thereís an entrepreneurial vision and, all of a sudden, itís melted and in the history books it becomes an asterisk.
How do you look back at that time in your career? It must have been frustrating.
Look, Iím an independent person. I am an independent executive. Iím an independent thinker. I am an independent record guy. So when your company is sold, you want to accept the check. You have to do what you are told to do. Thatís what it was. I donít regret it. itís a path of learning; a path of life; but I felt bad for the artists. I felt bad for my team. I felt bad for me. To me, when Chrysalis or SBK sold or Rising Tide was merged (with Universal Records), I was like a fish out of water.
Next up was Rising Tide, an asterisk in music history books, which Edgar Bronfman Jr. financed.
Doug Morris and I started that company. We got off to a great start very fast. Edgar had funded it. Very quickly, we were successful. But Edgar wanted Doug to run the world (at Universal Music). It was a very smart move. Doug did an incredible job there. He took them to #1 and heís doing a great job at Sony now. Doug chose me to be the head of Universal Records in America. Iím proud of what I did. But I think that Doug and I saw, even though we were building something very special, that I wasnít comfortable doing that. Itís not what I do.
Tell me about your stint as president at Artemis Records with Danny Goldberg. That was one great indie label.
Yeah. Danny is a dear friend. I loved his politics. I loved his (musical) tastes. I got to meet Ricky Lee Jones, Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne and there were sessions with (Bruce) Springsteen, and (Bob) Dylan. It was just a very, very special few years together. To work with someone that you really like, and who is wonderful is so great. As soon as the hedge funds came in, I ran for the hills.
On a personal note, how are the legs for running?
Today, was great. I did a half marathon last Sunday. Iím going to help at this yearís New York Marathon. Iím not running there. But I love running. I donít listen to music when I run. People think thatís crazy, but I donít. I take in the smells, and I listen to the sounds of the city. I just got into GoPro (high definition personal) cameras. I now take GoPros all over the world. I just did Marrakesh, Paris, Rome, London, and Cannes. I have been GoProing and having fun. I do markets. I do everything. I love GoPro.
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 ďMusic From Far And Wide.Ē Larry is the recipient of the 2013 Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, recognizing individuals who have made an impact on the Canadian music industry. He is a board member of the Mariposa Folk Festival in Orillia, Ontario.
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