This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Jacqueline Saturn, general manager, Harvest Records.
Jacqueline Saturn not only can trash the conventional belief that major label executives don’t care about music or artists and, married with two young daughters, she also buries the notion that today’s female label executives can’t have it all.
For Saturn, career and family go hand-in-hand, and she’s fiercely proud (and vocal) of her accomplishments within both spheres.
In 2013, following a spectacularly successful 19-year run at Epic Records in New York, Saturn signed on as GM of Harvest Records--a subsidiary of Capitol Records Music Group--and began sharing the top administrator position with veteran label executive Piero Giramonti.
The L.A.-based pair has been building a label filled to the brim with original, cutting-edge acts including: Glass Animals, the New Basement Tapes, Banks, TV On The Radio, Charlotte OC, Nick Mulvey, Death Cribs, Kasabian, Matt and Kim, Only Real, the Preatures, Young & Sick, Syd Arthur, and Best Coast.
Harvest Records was created by EMI UK in 1969 to market progressive rock music. The Edgar Broughton Blues Band’s debut single, "Evil"/"Death of an Electric Citizen,” was also the first single released by Harvest in June 1969,
Among acts on the first incarnation of Harvest Records were Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, the Saints, Wire, Thomas Dolby, Duran Duran, and the Banned.
Saturn had joined Epic Records in 1993 as an assistant in the label's promotions department. She became VP of alternative radio promotion in 1998, and senior VP of rock and alternative promotion in 2005.
In 2007, Saturn was promoted to senior VP of promotion at Epic, overseeing all aspects of radio promotion for the company. She was responsible for establishing long term promotion strategies, and for directing the label's promotion staff.
During her tenure at Epic, Saturn had a major hand in the American successes of such acts as Pearl Jam, Oasis, Rage Against The Machine, Sara Bareilles, Incubus, Korn, Audioslave, the Fray, Modest Mouse, the Script, and Fiona Apple.
Saturn received a BA in 1990 from Syracuse University where she majored in political science, and minored in French. She spent her junior semester year studying in Strasbourg, France.
So many people in the music industry are just passing through. You are obviously a lifer.
I am a lifer. I love the business. I love dealing with artists. I love that whole feeling when you have an absolute belief about something. I always say to people, “You have to wake up in the morning, and know that you are going to get it (reach your goal), and you have to go to sleep at night, and know you are going to get it. And be confident, and don’t let anybody distract you.”
What led you to leave Epic Records after nearly two decades, leave a condominium on New York’s West Side, and relocate your family to Los Angeles? A big change, lady.
There’s only man that could have gotten me to do that change. The man’s name is (Capitol Music Group's Chairman & CEO) Steve Barnett. That is fact.
You two had worked together at Epic for about nine years.
We had worked together, and we had such a good run. It was right when we were truly becoming an artist development company. Having a vision about the artist, and thinking about a plan, making it unique, and really doing all of the grassroots work. I can be honest with you. The day it was announced that Steve was going to move (from Chairman of Columbia Records Group), and do this Capitol Music Group (job), I remember that I was on a plane from Houston (to New York). I did radio promotion, and I had gone to that market. I don’t fly United Airlines. It was the only flight to get me back. Never fly United. You know why? They don’t have Wi-Fi. I got on the plane, and they said, “No Wi-Fi.” As a promotion person, you get anxiety (not having Wi-Fi access), but it was on a Friday. I remember thinking, “Screw it. I just got to get on this plane.” I landed and my Blackberry was exploding because everybody was emailing and texting, “Did you read about Steve Barnett?” Steve Barnett. Steve Barnett. I remember thinking, “He’s going to move” I was in shock. That was a moment where part of the story (for me) changed. That very day. And I hadn’t even spoken to him.
Meanwhile, L.A. Reid, chairman and CEO of Epic Records, was re-building his team at the company. You had been a senior VP since 2007. Jump or be pushed?
I had a great relationship with L.A. Originally, it wasn’t ever about leaving (a job). It wasn’t that. It was really about trying to take the next step in my career. I had started as an assistant at Epic. Originally, in the music business, you think that if you are loyal, you move up the ladder, and you are going to make it all the way. But there’s a point where it felt like people just look at you one way. They don’t see you in another way. That doesn’t mean that it’s like that for everyone. For me, it just kept feeling like, “Wow, I am never am going to be able to accomplish all of my goals, and get to actually run something.”
How do you balance so well a high-level career, a marriage, and two young children? A bit of juggling?
It is. It was a choice. It was something that I really wanted. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted to do it all. I am so fortunate that I have a great partner, my husband, and I have good girls. But it’s always juggling. One of the things about this industry is that for a long time you (as a woman) weren’t supposed to talk about anything else. You weren’t supposed to talk about your personal life. You weren’t supposed to talk about how you had a personal life. You weren’t supposed to act like you had any other conflict except for saying yes that you could get on a plane and go to the show. You could be at the dinner....
I think that pressure has applied more to women.
Men can say, “I get to go home” or “I’ve got to go to my kids.” All of the guys can say, “I’ve got to go to my kid’s hockey or football game,” but you (as a woman) cannot do the same.
There have only been a handful of women who have operated or owned labels: Lillian McMurry (Trumpet Records), Florence Greenberg, (Scepter/Wand), and Sony executives Polly Anthony and Michele Anthony.
I had this exact same trajectory as other guys, but they would get the promotions. I found it interesting that I was constantly being asked to do the intern lecture series, or the Sony Women events. I did them every year and talked about, “How can you do it all?” I’m happily married. I have two children. They (labels) want you to sell that part.
When you were pregnant with your oldest daughter, Alanah, you were told by a male peer, “You are not going to be the same after you come back from having your baby.”
Oh yeah. “You are never going to be the same. You won’t be at 100%. You will be at 70%.” By the way, I got promoted.
You became senior VP of rock and alternative promotion at Epic following your pregnancy leave.
Yeah. All those things happened to me afterwards. Then I went and I had another kid. You can’t let people stop you if you have a vision, and you have the drive. That’s never going to happen with me.
You now work at the Capitol Records Tower in Los Angeles. Had you been in the building before coming to work at Harvest?
Only during my interviews. I had never been there. Ever.
What are your thoughts about working in this historic building?
I can’t believe it. For me, it was more that I had been at Sony for so long. You walk into this building, and you take the elevator to the sky lobby, and it’s so dark. Then you are going into this piece of history where such incredible albums have been made. It just feels incredible. The minute you walk into the building, there’s the music, and the photos, and the studios. It’s crazy. It’s unbelievable. There are no words to describe it. It’s an incredible place to come to work every day. Every day you come in, and you are fired up. Every day. I still say, “It still hasn’t gotten old.”
You took a position as co-head of Harvest Records. Did you have any hesitation in accepting a shared position with Piero Giramonti?
Oh, because Piero was already here? When I took a meeting with Steve, and he said, “I’d like you to be the GM at Harvest,” I said, “There is a GM.” He said, “I know but you two are going to do it together. You complement each other. It will be such a great team.” First of all, I love Piero, and I had worked with Piero.
He had also been at Epic Records.
Yeah. I was already excited to be working with him because he’s so smart. He’s an unbelievable human being. He had done jobs that I hadn’t done. He had worked in the UK. He oversaw international (for EMI). He had done video production. Things I had never done. So it was, “Oh, I don’t have to cover that? Great.” Then there were things that I had done. Obviously, coming from the promotion side, and dealing with the digital marketing team. Just sort of all the creative side at being at Epic. So when they put us together, it was like one perfect human being.
[Piero Giramonti served as senior VP of global marketing for Warner Brothers Records; senior VP of worldwide marketing for Epic and Virgin; and as an international marketing executive at EMI working throughout Europe. Prior to joining Harvest in 2013, Giramonti had been president of the indie label Dangerbird Records.
How do you split duties?
In the very beginning, we did every single meeting together. Everything. We were everywhere together. We traveled together. We did all of our New York meetings together. We met with every management company together. We met with every partner together, whether it was iTunes, Spotify or Beats at the time, or whatever it was. With all of the management teams, we were together. You never saw us apart at the very beginning. It was very important that people could understand what the company was.
While the two of you were in the process of building a label.
Building, signing, showing people how to close things based on our history, charisma, and our beliefs of what we stand for. I can’t say it about that many people, but there is nothing bad to say about Piero. When I saw it was announced that he was GM of Harvest, I was so excited for him. I was also a little jealous the first time I read it.
Among the artists on the Harvest roster are Glass Animals, Banks, TV On the Radio, Death Grips, and the New Basement Tapes. Co-signings by you and Piero or signed separately?
No. Everything we signed together. When I got here, we went to London together and finalized the deal with Glass Animals. He was already in it. Banks was closed by the time I got here. The interesting thing is that Piero and I were already speaking, and I had already fallen in love with her because she had done a showcase that I saw. I remember that I had goose bumps. It reminded me of very early Fiona (Apple). Just something very familiar that is so special. I loved her. Then they were already talking to her. We did TV On The Radio together.
Why sign TV On The Radio together, which has been together 2001, and had previously been on Interscope? This business is usually not about signing a veteran band with an uneven track record.
No. But when you are trying to build a roster and trying have an artist development label, there are only a few bands that you can try to bring to the table that are also examples of everything what you are about, and they are one of them.
Even though TV On The Radio had done well with their Interscope albums “Dear Science” (2008), and “Nine Types of Light” (2009), they had never had that one big breakthrough shot.
Listen, Piero and I were both, “We have to get them.” We met with them together. We are huge fans. Interestingly, every artist when we mentioned TV On The Radio, they were all excited. Young bands look up to them. By the way, when we heard this record “(Seeds”)....they were already working on it when we were talking to them...they told us that it was going to be one of the best records that they had ever made and it is. You can see that from all—not just what the critics say, but what’s been happening with it. There was an incredible article in The New Yorker (Dec. 22, 2014 issue) about them. The album has done all of things that we believed it would.
Harvest Records launched in 1969, and was initially renowned for signing progressive, left-of-center bands. I guess there’s still something in the water.
I hope so. When Steve or people talk about the Harvest label, they just say that anything that came out on the label was cool. That logo. It was a sign. You hope that you can stand for something. My favorite thing now is when my peers in the industry call and say, “My gawd, we looked at your website. You have got the best acts. This is so cool.” When you get calls like that you are so proud because it’s not easy.
Meanwhile, Glass Animals, Banks and TV On The Radio have broken. and the New Basement Tapes album has exploded.
I know. That is incredible. The New Basement Tapes has this special song “Kansas City” which is charging up the Triple A charts. It not like we’ve worked the single. It’s an album project.
[The New Basement Tapes consists of Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes), and Rhiannon Giddens of Carolina Chocolate Drops). Their album, “Lost,” consists of tracks based on lyrics handwritten by Bob Dylan in 1967 from when he recorded tracks for the 1975 album “The Basement Tapes.” After producer T Bone Burnett selected his band for the project, each member was sent the collection of lyrics. Each arrived at recording sessions with a selection of tunes. Burnett and the group then decided to record all the tunes, including multiple musical takes of the same lyrics. Of the resulting 40 tracks, 20 are included on the album released in November 2014 by Electromagnetic Recordings via Harvest Records.]
And the New Basement Tapes have only played the one show.
Just that one show.
I was at the show for New Basement Tapes at the Montalban Theater in Hollywood on November 13th (2014). An unbelievable night. Actor Johnny Depp played guitar on three songs.
When we were trying to figure out the show, Piero and I went to the Montalban Theater, and look at it first. We loved it. We were like, “It’s real. The stage is big. No frills.” Then they said we could have the bars. Someone was like, “Oh, the band isn’t going to like this theatre.” Literally, the band came to meet us there, and they were like, “we’re in” the moment that they walked in.
They recorded over 40 songs for the album.
They had so many (songs). I was someone that was there from the beginning, including when they were recording at the Capitol Studio. Of course, they are very serious, but we did get to go down there a couple of times. It was never about going in and saying, “Hey, we’re from Harvest.” It was more watching them do their magic.
The Glass Animals’ song “Gooey” is finally happening now.
This Glass Animals’ record is Top 20 on the alternative chart, but it has been on the Spotify Viral chart since March (2014). The band recently got announced at Coachella, and they are coming back to do another tour and all of the festivals (including Bonnaroo). To be part of a project like that for all those months that you are developing, and you are finally feeling it making a difference, it just feels so exciting.
You have a bunch of emerging acts that are very cool. Only Real, Charlotte OC, Nick Mulvey, and Kasabian. Interesting signings.
They are great signings. They are all special. With Charlotte OC, and Only Real, Piero and I went to London to meet with them. Listen, when you are starting with brand new artists, and you sign a new artist....like with Only Real. When we saw the first visual, we were like, “My gawd, we have to work with this guy.” It was one video when we first saw it. We were calling the UK company. He’s incredibly talented, and it’s going to be exciting because his first U.S. show he’s playing South By Southwest (2015). We are going to have a Harvest showcase, and he will be there.
It’s ironic that Death Cribs was dropped by Epic.
Dropped by Epic. Completely misunderstood. I was there when (Epic) signed them. They played a showcase only to LA. I remember that they were signed and someone asked, “Can you get this played?” I said, “Have you ever listened to their music?” Listen, they are real artists. When I went to Coachella when they were on Epic, and they played those shows, the crowds were like seeping through the tent. There were people everywhere. It was like a movement when they first played. There is nothing that you can say about them other than that is completely interesting. Their vision, how the music sounds, the artwork, what they’ve done, how they speak to their fans.
Morrissey, what happened?
(Laughing) I will just say this. We were so excited to work with Morrissey. That meeting was amazing when he came to meet with Harvest. We had to close him. Every one of us were fans of his. He made an unbelievable album (“World Peace Is None Of Your Business”). He set out to tour, and we really tried to be very unique about doing this (marketing) and doing things differently. I just think that some of things that we hoped for weren’t going to happen. I think that there’s things that happened with him, and there’s a history. It’s not even like a no comment. It’s no comment could even explain it. There’s no way to explain it.
Morrissey is no longer on Harvest?
He has asked to not have his music on the label.
What do you have on the plate for 2015?
Last week the new Matt and Tim single “Get It” went out to the world. We announced the preorder, the tour, and that they have signed with Harvest. We are very excited that we have signed (the L.A. rock duo) Best Coast. Their album is unbelievable. That’s another exciting one for us for 2015. Those two. You talked about Only Real, which we are so excited to have them in the U.S. at South By Southwest as I said.
Then there’s Young & Sick which the brainchild of Dutch artist Nick van Hofwegen.
Well, Nick is unbelievable. He’s very talented. He’s in the studio. We are cooking up with what we are going to with them in 2015 as well
Terrestrial radio has had its challenges with streaming, and now Beat Music has launched with Clear Channel veteran, Julie Pilat, who knows how to break artists, as curator.
Oh my gawd, she amazing. She knows things before they ever happen. She always has. She always been the one who tells you about that special artist before they break and then they are huge.
Whereas it has been argued that Pandora isn’t quite radio, iTunes Radio, iHeart Radio, iHeart Radio, and Beats Music clearly are. All these services may not overtake traditional radio in our lifetime as Clear Channel CEO Bob Pittman argues, but they are nevertheless a competitive challenge for terrestrial radio, and a challenge for you in promoting and marketing music.
(Terrestrial) radio is still a force. People pay very close attention to it. But there are all different ways to do those (marketing) plans. Not every plan is similar. Some records just take little by little and inch by inch and go, and some just blast off and they are immediate. There are just all different ways to work the system. That’s been exciting because how do you get to the top? Well, there’s not only just one way.
Still Pandora, iTunes Radio, iHeart Radio, and Beats Music compete with terrestrial radio for ears.
Listen there’s plenty of room for all opportunities to listen to music, and get turned onto music. We need them all. We do. We want everyone to win. We want everyone to be successful, and we need for there to be as many opportunities to hear music. That’s the truth. There’s more competition, but there’s also an ability to add more audience to your project.
Still, you have to also figure out what sticks, and what won’t stick.
Well, that’s what everybody says. That’s funny that you used that line. Sometimes you will see things happening virally. You know they are going to happen but somebody might say. “We have to see which ones are going to go all the way.” And you are like, “We can already tell you because we are seeing the signs.”
As a label executive you are always looking for early signs that an artist or a track may blow up in the marketplace.
And it’s the littlest of signs. It is that one thing. Like I said it’s about going to sleep at night and waking up in the morning, and knowing that you believe. Like knowing (about a band or music) and then that one little thing happens.
Then we see acts who jump formats. One of the interesting stories of late is Sam Smith.
As well as Ariana Grande.
There are just so many artists who just do not have any boundaries. That there’s no age or color or race. It like you can like Sam Smith at all different levels. Whether you are age 7 or you are 82, it feels special to everyone.
Today, a record can break from one radio format into another. That wasn’t possible years ago.
No. With Sam Smith, it was like after they got all of the formats it was urban (radio) playing him.
Someone else who has spread into all formats is New Zealand singer/songwriter Lorde. Didn’t “Royals” start out at alternative radio in America?
Spotify to alternative.
For decades, labels tightly oversaw the timing of band’s touring. That’s not as true anymore.
No. Not always. Of course, they are going to work together (with management and agents). Last year we knew that with Coachella Glass Animals wasn’t going to be asked but we knew that we were going to focus all our efforts into getting it this year, and we did.
Tour support by labels isn’t as much a factor anymore.
No. There’s plenty of places where one partners in the touring though. I think that everyone makes the overall goals, and the planning together. Listen, if you are going to break an act you all have to be partners. You are not going to wake up one day and be, “Oh rats, this record is exploding and the band is going to be in Japan for three weeks” when you probably need them. That’s not happening because everyone has to plan together.
With many of the acts on your roster, you have to consider a global plan early on.
Absolutely. You can’t do it any other way.
As you build a British or an American story are you looking at further international development opportunities?
You are always looking at those things. We think about international all of the time. Where there are things that we can break in the U.S. then we will sort out the partner as we are building, developing, and getting a story really heated up.
Harvest is with Universal for world distribution?.
Most of our things are partnered with Virgin in the UK, but it depends on the project. Some are different. Like the New Basement Tapes is through Island/UK. We have the most incredible partners in the Universal system. I’ve never seen anything like it. One of the first trips we took when I came here was that Piero and I went to Europe. I had never met any of the labels. We met everyone. I just couldn’t believe being in their marketing meetings, talking to them about artists, hearing their artists, and all of the things that they have done. It’s an incredible system. We are constantly thinking about those plans.
We have an incredible international department here with Robbie McIntosh who runs it out of the Tower (as head of Capitol's international operations). He was at Sony also. We have a team that helps us with all of the international partners. It’s an incredible system.
Many of the Harvest signings aren’t obvious radio acts. Since you come from a radio promotion and marketing background, do you subconsciously listen to an act that may be signed, and try to gauge their radio appeal?
Well, I always will do that. I can do that because the music that I worked in my career was not cookie cutter. It was anything but cookie cutter. Neither was Rage Against the Machine, Korn or (Hasidic reggae singer) Matisyahu’s “King Without A Crown.” Even Sara Bareilles’ (hit single) “Love Song” which was the #1 at Hot AC, and (Hot Adult) Pop charts (reaching #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 2007). Nobody who heard that song got it immediately.
Traditionally radio is slow to respond to new music. There is always a wait and see.
I think that they wait for those signs to be so strong that they are going to be sure things. That’s sort of the mentality. However, there are so many people in radio that I know that are excited about new music. Who want to be first breaking things that helping to build a story. That’s been exciting with my new role at Harvest Records. I know who they are. They are out there, and they are excited about breaking new artists. Maybe, it’s format-related but there’s a huge handful that we have been dealing with on the alternative side and that has been real fun.
If you have an alternative project that may a tough sell where do you start at radio?
Well, first of all they are all tough. They are all tough. Well, that’s going to get me in trouble (laughing). There’s been some incredible partners out there for us. Whether it’s Sirius XMU, Sirius Alt Nation, KRBZ Kansas City, KNRK Portland, KROQ Los Angeles, 98.7 Los Angeles, KNDD Seattle, WRFF Philly, KTCL Denver and every radio station on the alternative panel who is supporting new music like Banks who is very close to cracking the Top 10. Listen, here in LA, there’s KCRW, and it’s unbelievable. There’s a whole group of (radio) people who are interested in learning about music. You can’t write my list. I just have too many stations to mention. There are so many people that are passionate about new artists. They want to know first and they want to see them play and they live the story.
When you do break through at radio, it really pays off.
It sure does.
You spent 19 years at Epic Records?
Weren’t you at Savage Records previously?
I started at Savage Records. I was the first employee hired.
You went to New York City after graduating at Syracuse University.
I remember one conversation with my dad saying, “You should come back to Nashville, and get into the country music business.” I was like, “I want to go to New York.”
When you are in Syracuse University, everyone there was going to New York. After all they were all from New York.
Still, you went to New York City with no job, and zero contacts.
No contacts. I went on my own. I went to a New School course, “This Business of Music.” I loved it. I kept reading the want ads, and pounding the pavement for any interview that said “music.” It was a total random story how I entered the music business. It was through this friend of my mom’s, Sheila Gross, who has worked in theatre and Broadway for many years. I remember that she came to Nashville. She was writing songs, and she used our piano, which I still have in our house in LA. She was somehow working with a start-up, Savage Records, and they were talking about hiring a receptionist. It was David Mimran, Didier Phitoussi and Dick Asher.
When you were interviewed, you said, “I have to start today.”
Yeah. I was like, “This is it. This is a one-time thing.” I didn’t know what to do. I just felt that this was it. “I can do this thing.” Man, did I love it. The first thing was they were doing these contracts that had to be notarized because they were from Europe, and they were doing business here, and they were selling properties, and they were doing this and that. The first thing was, “We need a notary public.” Oh, I will become a notary.” So I’m a notary. I went and took that class, and I became a notary in New York City so I could notarize all their documents. You would sort of do anything.
How long were you at Savage?
Well, we only lasted I think it was a little over two years. It was Savage Records and Frank Dileo Management. I brought Joel Klaiman (executive VP and GM of Columbia Records) into the company. Joel and I went to Syracuse University together.
[On June 5 , 1993, Savage Records, with plush offices on New York City's Broadway, shut its doors for the last time after opening in 1990. The 18 member staff was out in the cold immediately. The label's failure was largely due to the inexperience of its 24-year old Swiss-French playboy boss David Mimran who had not foreseen severe cash flow problems for Savage Record Group. Savage’s roster included David Bowie, Gene Loves Jezebel, Danni Minogue, the Believers, 2 Lost Some, Homeboy. Mean Street and others. Frank Dileo Management, housed under Savage Record Group, represented such acts as Laura Branigan, Jodeci, Taylor Dyane, Richie Sambora, and Al B. Sure!.]
Wasn’t it through Michael Jackson's former manager Frank Dileo that you landed at Epic Records?
Yeah. After we all got let go, Frank said, “Work for me over the summer, keep everything in order”—he had an apartment in New York—“and I will help you get interviews.” So I went to work for him every day. I would have to walk Laura Branigan’s dog, and Taylor Dayne would come over and I would make her hard-boiled eggs, and help her. I did everything. And Frank was getting me these interviews. I interviewed with many people that I could name but I don’t want to who didn’t hire me. Harvey Leeds hired me. I kid you not. I love him like I love him. I went to meet with him, and he was fascinated when I told him that when I got bar mitzvahed that my aunt and uncle had to fly the bagels down from Boston for my brunch on the Sunday of my bar mitzvah because we didn’t have a bagel place (in Nashville). I swear to you. It was like, “You are hired.” He was like, “In a suitcase?” And I was like, “In a suitcase.” That’s where I started with Harvey.
You started in the promotion department at Epic?
I worked for Laura Curtin who was the head of rock promotion. I was the assistant to Harvey and Laura. If Harvey’s phone rang, you had to answer Harvey’s phone. If Laura’s phone rang, you had to answer Laura’s phone. A few months in Harvey said, “You have to come and work for me.” I kept saying, “I don’t want to work for you. You want those people just to be the assistant for everything.” He said, “No no no, I will promote you. Don’t worry.”
You became VP of promotion for alternative radio.
Yeah. Alternative was humming during that time. Of course, we were the home of Pearl Jam.
Was college radio a factor in launching alternative acts during that era?
No. It was really rock and alternative radio. I didn’t deal with any college radio. It was really that format at that time. When I started with Harvey, the second Pearl Jam album (“Vs” in 1993) was launching. It couldn’t have been huger so we were...it (Epic) was the whole world. Then things started happening after that. We became the home of Rage Against the Machine. It was one of the biggest stories in the business of how that band broke. There was Korn, and Incubus. All at different times, but we were breaking these rock bands which were rock and roll but were getting played at alternative radio.
At Epic, you also were involved with some mainstream pop artists like Natasha Bedingfield, and Fiona Apple.
And Sean Kingston.
Today’s music business is a new business. The old business model is derided despite sales going through the stratosphere due to the convergence of an older population, the evolution of FM radio, and the emergence of alternative and grunge. Anything you read about that time, it’s like it’s the dirty old business.
It wasn’t because it was based on passion. It was. Everybody was getting excited. You were hearing songs. You were saying it was great. You were coming up with plans. Little things kept happening. You still had to have the army working together to deliver something.
When label people knew they had a big record, out the door they went...
Man, you were on that plane, I saw a friend recently and we were talking about the years of my career. It was like nobody knew where I was. I was never around. I was just travelled. You would have CDs in your bag, and you were playing them for everybody. Going to dinner, and figuring out how to break it in the market.
You had a great run at Epic. People criticize the major labels of that era but when a team takes an act from nowhere, like Pearl Jam or Rage Against The Machine, and builds them up, it really is about people and their love of the music. Outsiders don’t understand that.
I will always love my run at Epic. It was incredible. I loved the artists that I worked with. I loved the management team. Certain relationships I still have. Some of the most incredible people that I encountered like Dave Glew, Richard Griffiths, Polly Anthony, Michele Anthony, and now one of my biggest advocates, Steve Barnett. That was all part of that time. I learned so much. I learned things that made me a better executive to be here.
The late Polly Anthony had many accomplishments throughout her career, not the least of which being one of the first female executives to head a major label.
I remember the first time I saw her and (heard) the click of her heels, (and saw) her make-up, and her clothes. She always had the clothes. She would wear leopard pants. and the next day, all of us, the thing we needed to know would be about the leopard pants. She always had “it.” She was so tough. You just wanted that one “Good morning, Jacqueline.” The one thing from her was so hard when I started to work with her. But there was just nobody better.
[In 2013 Polly Anthony passed away in 2013 at her home in Beverly Hills, after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. She was 59. The former Epic Records president had worked with such artists as Macy Gray, Shakira, Celine Dion, Rage Against the Machine, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Pearl Jam.]
You were born in Nashville?
Yeah. Born and bred.
While Nashville is the center of the country music industry, it’s always been a sizeable rock town.
Okay, true story. I went to Syracuse University and the first time that I ever went to a bar without live music was at college because that’s all we did in Nashville.
The Exit/In all the time. We had The Cannery (Ballroom), and The Goldrush. There were always performers in those clubs. It wasn’t even about country.
In 2009, you lost your father Alan. In 2010, you lost your mother. Nancy, who operated the American Artisan gallery and boutique for 38 years. She also ran Nashville’s annual craft fair, the American Artisan Festival. A remarkable lady.
She was amazing She was such an inspiration because when we were growing in Nashville a lot of women didn’t work. I was definitely one of those kids that when I was playing basketball all of the moms were there. My mom wasn’t there because she was trying to build this business which really became a brand. She had a store and then she changed the name, and she built a festival on it. She was ahead of her time.
Your father Alan had worked in Washington for the F.C.C. and then Saturn Title Services.
They were incredible couple and they took Nashville by storm. My dad had gone to Vanderbilt University, and had grown up in Nashville. But my mom just came down there. This young woman who had to sort of make a difference for herself. She did that because she believed in the arts so much. She really made a difference to Nashville. You can see it around there.
How competitive were you with your sisters, Rachael and Samantha growing up?
I love my sisters. The thing is that we are all so different. We are so close. Thank God that I have them now. Samantha, my younger sister, we brought to Sony. She worked at Columbia for Michele Anthony, and for Steve Barnett. She worked for Steve. I’m always like, “Family affair. All Steve’s people.” Rachel has been a social worker for many years. That’s always what she wanted to do and, she moved from New York to Minneapolis.
Your husband Yigal Dakar is GM of Sonya Dakar Skin Care Clinic today, but he has worked in the record industry. At Interscope, and then Risk Records.
Yeah. He was a renegade too. He was at Interscope where he got the best experience under Jimmy Iovine. Then he and two friends did their own label, Risk Records. So he always has had good advice, and he knows how hard it is, of course, because they didn’t quite make it with their own label.
Is having a sounding board with someone who worked with Black Eyed Peas, Nine Inch Nails, and No Doubt a comfort?
Oh, always. First of all, he has great ears, and he loves music. It’s great. He’s tough. Sometimes, I’m afraid to ask him (about music). He’s tough, but it’s very comforting because he has always been supportive of my career. He’s excited about Harvest. For many years, when I was in New York, he wouldn’t come to any of my shows. It’s nice to know that’s been upgraded. That he’s a fan, and comes to see the music I work with now.
You were introduced through e-mail by a mutual friend?
We were set up by Michael Lieberman, who was the San Francisco rep for Epic. Now he’s a consultant here in L.A., and we get to see him. But he was the one.
You then convinced Yigal to move from Los Angeles to New York City.
I was like, “This is it.” I had just moved back from LA. Polly let me live in LA for two years. I said I wanted to move to LA because I was doing alternative and I really wanted to be in the Los Angeles area. It was about 15 years ago. She said, “You can go but you can only stay for two years.” They (Epic) didn’t really let people live in LA. I only lived there for 15 months. I got promoted, and I moved back.
While driving with Alanah and Leora who controls the music you hear?
Numero uno, Alanah. Straight up. Mom has to be asked though. That’s the rule. They love to flip (stations). KIIS FM (in Los Angeles) to KISS FM because they are New Yorkers, and Sirius XM Hits 1.Then the little one, if we ever ask her, which she gets vetoed by her sister, we will also throw in Radio Disney. Today they put it on because it was the Shawn Mendes/Vamps’ song “Oh Cecilia.” They were like, “Mom how do you know all the words?”
Do they listen to the artists you work with at Harvest?
They finally got integrated into modern rock with Sirius XM Alt Nation because it added Banks really early. The girls love Banks because they have been living with that for awhile. Every morning they were like, “Mom let’s see if we can hear it.” They got so excited. For many months they were like, “When are we going to be able to hear Banks on the radio?” We are so used to dealing with the things that I work on the radio. Now it’s fun. They are going to catch a little bit of Banks on the radio, Glass Animal’s “Gooey,” and TV ON the Radio. So that’s been fun.
Have you taken Alanah and Leora to any shows?
Oh yeah. For the first year I took Alanah to the (annual) KROQ show which was a huge deal for me as this is a station that helped shaped my career. That was so fun. There were a couple of artists that I have worked with that she got to meet. They love going to shows. The little one, Leora, I was lucky enough that we went to the Radio Disney Show last year when we got to LA which they loved. They loved every act on that. That was when Ariana Grande debuted a new single. Phil Guerini from Radio Disney gave me these passes. I didn’t know what they were. They were for the after show. I’m with the girls, and I say, “Okay, let’s go home.” They are like, “Mom, there’s the party.” There were all these arrows to something that I was looking at. I take the passes, and we go to this party. It is not just with the artists that performed, but all of the stars from the (Disney) shows. I was like Hall of Fame. I can stop now and I am good with the little one.
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.” 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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