January 23, 2010

Putting Pop Music on Pause

I came to work in the music industry because I love pop music. I love it dearly, unashamedly and unabashedly.

My foot in the door to the industry was in the classical department of Atlantic Records, where I was usually the youngest person around, and got too drunk at fancy parties and spent inappropriate time with the artists. Because I was at Atlantic Records, which celebrated its 50th anniversary during my tenure there, I was surrounded by pop music: the music videos playing in the lobby, the piles of CDs sitting by the freight elevator, the rolled-up posters and other memorabilia in the promo closet in the same conference room where I stored my opera box sets. And then there were the celebrity sightings.

I saw Phil Collins go into the men's room as I toiled away at my desk and answered the phones.

I bumped into Mike Rutherford on my way out of the ladies room in the publicity department.

I rode the elevator with Jimmy Page, Aaliyah, Scott Weiland, Ahmet Ertegun himself, and Flavor Flav (who invited me to move into a crib with him after I complained about my Brooklyn apartment).

I missed Stevie Nicks by a narrow margin as the elevator doors closed with her inside and me still in the elevator bank.

I kissed Kid Rock at the Warner Music Group Christmas party and held his red leather pants for him outside of Irving Plaza.

I went bowling with Hootie & the Blowfish.

But despite how close I was to the legendary Atlantic Records artist roster both past and present, I was always on the outside looking in. I had to beg for Tori Amos and Matchbox 20 concert tickets, abscond with a signed Stevie Nicks box set, and lurk down the hallways to catch a glimpse of Gavin Rossdale and Gwen Stefani.

I worked in the classical department of Atlantic for four and a half years, eventually taking on jazz, world, blues, country, and comedy artists as well as a couple cooler alternative and electronic acts. I had a meeting with Andy Garcia about a jazz soundtrack to a movie he starred in, which rendered me speechless and utterly starstruck. But I still didn't get the chance to work the pop music that littered the Billboard charts I still monitored, as I did when I was 12 years old.

At my next job at Razor & Tie, I worked plenty of wacky - and successful - projects, but only one could really be classified as pop music: Neil Sedaka. I had the pleasure of visiting him in his Park Avenue penthouse, wiping my washed hands with his monogrammed guest towels, and holding his parrot on my arm. I drank champagne with him to celebrate his reappearance on the charts after a number of years. And I was tickled to have helped.

Although Kidz Bop sold millions of CDs during my term as its lead marketing executive, and it certainly consisted of pop music, it doesn't count.

So last year when I had the chance to work with Ziggy Marley, 12 years into my music business career, I thought, "Finally! A pop star!" Maybe he's best-known as Bob Marley's eldest son, but he's a Billboard-charting pop star in his own right, with his single "Tomorrow People" from the late 80s. Sure, I was helping him release a children's album, but it didn't matter to me. And I couldn't be prouder to see him perform on the Thanksgiving Day Parade and root for him to win a Grammy this year.

A few weeks into 2010, I'm still trying to figure out what the next big project will be for me to work on - either as a continuation of my consulting business, or as a full-time, long-term assignment. And as much as I don't want to work at another record label, and am interested in exploring another industry, I have that nagging feeling that I've failed in achieving my dream of working with pop music. Can I possibly give up on it before my work is really done?

Or maybe can I just take a break....

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