Industry Profile: Linda Moran
By Larry LeBlanc
This week In The Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Linda Moran
The 2009 Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) dinner takes place at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York on June 18.
This year’s inductees include: Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora (Bon Jovi); Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati (the Young Rascals ); Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Galt MacDermot, James Rado and the late Gerome Ragni; and Stephen Schwartz.
As well, Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. will present the songwriting team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland with the Johnny Mercer Award.
An arm of the National Academy of Popular Music, the SHOF was co-founded in 1969 by American songwriter Johnny Mercer; Canadian folk legend, Oscar Brand; and New York-based music publishers Howie Richmond and Abe Olman of The Richmond Organization.
The organization’s first president was Mercer. Upon his death in 1976, Sammy Cahn was recruited. When Cahn died in 1993, Bobby Weinstein became president.
Following reported in-fighting within the Board, New York lyricist and songwriter Hal David was brought in as the chairman of the Board of the National Academy of Popular Music and the SHOF, and Weinstein resigned.
But there was the feeling within the organization that there still should be a de facto president for the SHOF, and David recruited Linda Moran in 2001.
Moran, who had been senior VP of group and external relations for Warner Music Group, had just been named special advisor to Time Warner's chairman and CEO Gerald Levin and president Richard Parsons to work on music-related special projects and events.
At Warner Music Group, Moran's areas of responsibility had included industry and community relations, charitable contributions, public affairs, events and special projects.
Prior to joining Warner Music Group in 1991, Moran had been senior VP of Atlantic Records, which was then a division of Warner Music Group.
Before joining Atlantic Records in 1970, she worked for five years in the artist and repertoire department of RCA Records. She is a graduate of Claremont-Berkeley School of Business.
Moran has been an officer on the New York chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences board and a member of the executive committee of both the New York Grammy Host Committee and the Los Angeles Grammy Host Committee.
She also served on the boards of directors of several non-profit organizations, including Y.E.S. to Jobs, MusiCares, the T.J. Martell Foundation for Cancer, Leukemia and AIDS Research.
In 2004, Moran retired from her position as special advisor to Time Warner. She also resigned from all of the boards of directors she was a member of, with the exception of the SHOF and MusiCares, which she has been involved with since its inception.
The SHOF’s primary mission is "to recognize the songwriter.” The organization, however, not only celebrates established songwriters, it also is centered around the development of new songwriting talent through workshops involving songwriting craft and music business issues; singer/songwriter showcases; networking sessions; and scholarships.
The SHOF is offering a Master Class showcase on June 16 featuring Lamont Dozier at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center in New York.
Was it Hal David who recruited you to become the SHOF president?
Yes. I was a board member and Hal had come aboard as chairman and CEO. We met during the Grammy Award (week). I was leaving Warners and staring my “retirement” as an advisor (to Time Warner). We had a meeting and he gave me a pitch about being president. I said, “I don’t know. I’m not a writer or a publisher.” He said, “You get things done. That’s what we need.” I said I’d think about it. “I have to go see Quincy (Jones).” I told Quincy about the offer and he said, “You are going to do all of the work anyway, you might as well take the title.”
All of the presidents of the SHOF previously had been songwriters.
Well, Hal is the CEO of the organization and he is a songwriter, of course. I’m the day-to-day person. He’s the face (of SHOF). We work amazingly well together. Hal is such a task master. Where else are you going to find an icon who is a songwriter and an amazing businessman?
Was it a big jump for you moving from the world of a corporate music group to dealing primarily with songwriters and publishers?
I had worked closely with the publishing world while being part of the music group. So I knew who the publishing CEOs were. Coming from a corporate music group, it was easy for me to realize that publishing companies don’t have the budgets that labels do. So I knew we weren’t going to get the huge financial support that you can get from labels. Publishers are like the “cash cow” in a music group. They bring in all of the money but they are given the least amount of respect. They are also given the lowest budgets.
You are the first day-to-day working president of the SHOF.
We are a volunteer grassroots organization. We only have one paid full-time employee and one paid consultant who does our workshops. The dinner is our main fundraiser of the year. It kind of pays expenses for the year so we can do all the ancillary events we do, like the workshops. We have over 1,100 people attending (the event).
The most rewarding part my career has been working as president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. It is rewarding because when I talk to a songwriter — not a songwriter/performer but a songwriter - they will usually tell me, “It’s great being a songwriter but nobody knows my name.” People, of course, know the recording artist that made the record popular. For me, when we are there (at the dinner), I have this maternal feeling having these people get their dues.
The Songwriters Hall of Fame dinner has become a pivotal event in the music industry.
Everybody is there because they like songs and music. The executives who come are not just suits. They are the ones (at companies) who like music. They don’t come to our event to be seen. They come because they want to be there. It is the only event where there are producers, writers and engineers, all of the creative people, and the professional (music industry) people who are music fans. I think people like that mix.
One reason the event has become successful is because there are many artist-songwriters who want to be celebrated for their songwriting.
That’s true. They have become successful as artists and now they want to be applauded for their songwriting which, for most of them, is where their heart is. The ASCAP, SESAC, and BMI dinners are for songwriters but many of the awards are based on sales. The Songwriters Hall of Fame gives songwriters an award based on their catalog. They are being honored by their peers, in a room of songwriters. Songwriters get (onstage) and they talk about how they wrote their songs, what they mean to them and what the song means. Everybody is the room gets blown away because there’s an intimacy going on listening to all of this.
How are the songwriters chosen?
You have to have been a published writer for 20 years. We have hundreds and hundreds of names on the (overall) ballot. Each year, a committee of 12 people goes through those names and narrows them down to two lists of 12; 12 writers and 12 performer-writers. Our 1,400 voting members then pick three names from the writer ballot and two from the writer-performer ballot. This year we have six inductees because Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora were chosen last year but they couldn’t come (to the dinner) because of their touring schedule. We do not induct anyone if they aren’t going to be there.
You are known for insisting that all songwriters and performers be treated the same at the event.
There is no way that I let anyone have special treatment. Honorees and performers get two comp tickets each. The tables (for honorees and performers) are all seated in the first five rows (from the stage).
Acceptance speeches can often go on. Quincy Jones’ speech a few years back was famously long.
I think John Sebastian’s speech last year beat it. This is a subject that comes up every year. It is hard to control. We try to get through to them that we have a lot of honorees and that we need to move the show along. We tell them to try to speak for three minutes or so. But then there are those who disregard our request. It is rude and inconsiderate.
In 2006, Kris Kristofferson received the Johnny Mercer Award, and he was apparently very humble in his acceptance.
These awards bring out the humble side of people. Kris was a wreck the whole dinner, asking others, “What am I doing here? Look at these great writers.” He couldn’t believe he was being honored. He got up onstage and said, “I don’t know what I’m doing here.” People were cracking up, but he was serious.
Then there was Barry Manilow in 2002. The minute he knew he was being inducted, he bought a table and had invitations sent out (to other songwriters who had helped his career). He is the only honoree who has ever acknowledged other songwriters. He acknowledged every writer at his table. Nobody has ever done that.
What performances at the event have stood out for you?
One that comes to mind was when Marty Bandier (chairman/CEO of Sony ATV Music Publishing) got our Patron of the Arts Award in 2003. It was his idea — and it was beautiful — to have Pink perform "Me and Bobby McGee" with just her guitarist. Oh my God, it was chilling.
An important component of the SHOF today is the development and education of young writers.
Five years ago, John Stephens was BMI’s Songwriter Hall of Fame Abe Olman Award winner. In 2007, as John Legend, he received the Hal David Starlight Award which is given to a young promising songwriter. Last year, he came to our event to perform a song by our Johnny Mercer Award honoree (Paul Anka). He did “Put Your Head On My Shoulder.” That’s my second favourite performance.
John’s our poster child. He represents who we are. He was one of our scholarship winners and he has gone on to have a wonderful career.
What are the challenges for the Hall of Fame?
We want to have a museum. It is just so hard to achieve. We’ve come close so many times. We get offers for locations but it doesn’t work out for whatever reason. The last few years the economics have been bad to do what we want to do.
Is the problem that it would be based in New York?
New York is where people feel it should be. We had an offer to be in Washington, and we probably could have done that. It was a great location near the White House and The Smithsonian Institution. But New York is really where it has to be. We have so many songwriters and board members from New York. And the home of American songwriting traditionally has been New York. We are now thinking of doing different things, like having kiosks in another museum or maybe doing a traveling presentation.
You don’t sound as if you are “retired” as you put it.
I left Warner Music Group in 2001 because I was burned out. I wanted to retire early. I was 54. Then Time Warner gave me a 3 1/2 year deal as a special advisor which meant I stayed on payroll with all of my benefits. They set me up at my homes in Florida and Long Island with (office) equipment. I did events for them and made some introductions. At that time, I also became president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
At 19, you came to work at RCA in New York?
Right out of business school, I started at RCA as a “floating” executive secretary for my first 9 months. I got to work with the heads of every department in the company so I knew exactly how a (record) company ran. RCA also sent me up to Reader’s Digest in Pleasantville, New York for three months. [Reader’s Digest was then operating the RCA Record Club].
I wanted to work in A&R because I had been in fan clubs when I was younger. That’s how I started in the music business. I was a fan club diva. I reported for 16 and Teen Life magazines as a teen reporter. I was a semi-regular for “Connecticut Bands" which was our TV dance show. I knew I wanted A&R.
Elliott Horne was running A&R at RCA back then. He worked with many of the most important musicians in jazz and R&B, including Sam Cooke and Sonny Rollins.
I adored Elliot Horne. The opening to work with (A&R co-coordinator) Tom Berman came just as the Reader’s Digest thing was ending. So I became a secretary in the A&R department and I stayed there for five years. My boss did the comedy, movie, TV soundtracks and all of the independent production work. So I got to know all of the independent producers because I did all of the session paperwork.
Your husband Mike Moran was a master recording engineer at RCA for 45 years. He engineered sessions for Elvis Presley, David Bowie, The Monkees, Lou Reed, and so many others.
He was also the engineer for the recording of “Hair.” So he’s excited this year about Galt MacDermot, James Rado and Gerome Ragni being honored. I met Mike at RCA but we didn’t get married until I moved to Atlantic Records.
You joined Atlantic Records in 1970. In what position?
I went in as secretary to (Atlantic CFO) Sheldon Vogel. I became VP and later Senior VP. I loved being an assistant. I loved being the person behind the scenes. And I loved the nurturing (of executives and artists).
You joined the company three years after it was bought by Warner-Seven Arts.
You are the only person who realizes that Warner Bros. used to own Atlantic. I would tell that to people in the company and they wouldn’t listen to me. They hated Warner Bros. so much. They didn’t want to know anything about that.
[Atlantic was sold to Warner-Seven Arts for $17 million in 1967 in a deal that Ahmet Ertegun wasn't so keen on but Atlantic’s other principals, Jerry Wexler and Ahmet's brother/partner Nesuhi Ertegun wanted. With Atlantic being run by Ahmet Ertegun and its president Jerry Greenberg, Wexler decided to leave Atlantic in 1975. He resurfaced two years later at sister label Warner Bros. Records as VP of A&R.]
The company that Atlantic co-founders Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson, and later Jerry Wexler had built had changed by this point.
I worked very closely with Ahmet and Nesuhi but my main man was Jerry Wexler. I adored and worshipped him.
"Ahmet didn't run the company," longtime Atlantic executive Dave Glew told Billboard’s Ed Christman in 2008. "He left that up to Sheldon Vogel, Jerry Greenberg and Jerry Wexler, who was the heart and soul of that company, and people tend to forget it."
In the early ‘70s, Atlantic was in transition, moving from its R&B roots to a broader label with such signings as the Rolling Stones, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, John Prine, and Foreigner.
Oh god, I got there at the greatest time. We had the whole English invasion. We ended up with Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Genesis, everybody. Later, we got Bette Midler, Laura Branigan, AC/DC, and ABBA. Atlantic had the greatest jazz catalog; the greatest R&B catalog; and the greatest rock catalog. When you think about it, it was an amazing period.
What was in the DNA of Atlantic that led the label to have such a diverse roster?
I think it was because there were these people there who had the power to make these deals. There were executives who had their own niches, their own genres of music they were really good at.
With jazz, there was Nesuhi Ertegun who was one of the country’s biggest jazz experts. He brought in (producer) Joel Dorn who, at 14, had written him fan letters. Nesuhi hired Joel when he got out of school. Jerry Greenberg brought in Foreigner. And there was Ahmet who loved all kinds of music.
Managers loved to work with Atlantic. We would get first dibs on so much stuff. When artists had the choice where to go, they picked Atlantic because of Ahmet, Jerry Wexler, and Jerry Greenberg, as well as (producers/engineers) Tom Dowd, and Arif Mardin. These were the reasons why people wanted to be at Atlantic.
There were also industry connections. Ahmet was friends with Robert Stigwood so The Bee Gees were there. Stewart Young managed Emerson, Lake & Palmer and then he was doing AC/DC and Bad Company. Bud Prager managed Foreigner.
It was the aura and the roots of Atlantic that enabled the label to get many of the artists it sought. Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton, for example, signed with Atlantic because it was the place where Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin recorded.
Exactly. As each new artist came along, if their idols were on the label, that’s where they wanted to be.
You joined the Warner Music Group in 1991 to handle group and external relations.
Warner Music Group was created in 1991. That was the beginning of the formation of (Warners’) corporate music group. Bob Morgado [Chairman and CEO of the Warner Music Group from 1985 to 1995] brought me upstairs to be the first female executive there. He created this title of group and external relations. And the job was created for me. He said, “Whatever you want to take on, just do it.”
I oversaw seven departments at the Warner Music Group. I was the facilitator for whatever projects needed to be done. I also had what I called “my divos.” I had Arif Mardin, Frank Wildhorn who had three plays on Broadway, David Foster and Quincy Jones. These are people who I did a lot of projects with. These were my men.
[In 1999, Frank Wildhorn became the first American composer in two decades to have three shows running simultaneously on Broadway: “Jekyll & Hyde” at the Plymouth Theatre, “The Scarlet Pimpernel" at the Minskoff Theatre, and “The Civil War” at the St. James Theatre].
Was there competition between the Warner label families at that point.
Positively. And the competition was fierce. You had Bob Krasnow at Elektra; Mo Ostin at Warners; Ahmet at Atlantic. They were all friendly on the surface but there was a terrific personal and professional competition between them.
The first year, Bob Morgado called me into his office and said he’d just had a meeting with Mo, Ahmet and Bob and he’d told them there would no longer be three Grammy Award parties (for their labels). There would be one Warner Group party. He said, “They really raised hell until I said you’d be the one overseeing it. They know you will treat them fairly.”
The first year (1991) of the (combined)Grammy party was the worst (for label politics).
Another time in Los Angeles, I had Elektra set up on one side of the doorway and Warners Bros. on the other side. I had to do this because they each had their own separate kingdoms. To the day I left (in 2001), it had to work that way (with Warner Group parties).
While at Time Warner, you created and coordinated company and artist projects around the world.
Yes, I got to do projects in Switzerland, South Africa, all around the world. I was involved in everything from being at the White House several times a year to being involved with philanthropy projects.
Were you able to get Time Warner-affiliated artists involved in these projects or use the synergy of company’s music, book and movie divisions?
The good thing working for Time Warner was that they were so socially responsible. I was encouraged to get artists involved in a lot of philanthropy and different things. I was able to create the literacy program for Faith Hill and get Brandy to be the youth ambassador for UNICEF. And with Tori Amos, I helped set up a rape, abuse and incest network. We were able to do things other music groups couldn’t do. I was given that freedom because this is how the company operated.
Who have been the major influences in your life?
When people ask me what person I’ve met who has had the biggest influence in my life, I name Quincy Jones with whom I’ve done a ton of projects. Quincy has the innate ability to make everybody feel special. My other mentor is (BMI president emeritus) Frances Preston. She is my all-time dearest friend, and my role model in life.
How do you view the recording industry today?
I feel sad for the people working in the record industry today. They missed the camaraderie that we had in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. Once the corporate (music) groups got started (at the multinationals), people at the labels started thinking they wanted to move upstairs.
When I go to L.A. now, it depresses me seeing all of the artists, managers and producers working in the business. They all have big smiles but (they have) hollow eyes, as they are telling me how everything is great. It’s so depressing.
Larry LeBlanc is widely recognized as one of the leading music industry journalists in the world. Before joining CelebrityAccess in 2008, Larry 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, the London Times and the New York Times.