|Mike & Jolene
Industry Profile: Mike Gormley & Jolene Pellant
By Larry LeBlanc
This week In the Hot Seat (s): Jolene Pellant & Mike Gormley, co-presidents Yes, Dear Entertainment.
Jolene Pellant and Mike Gormley are co-presidents of Yes, Dear Entertainment (YDE), a Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing, music publishing company and talent management firm.
YDE’s management clients include American singer/songwriter Quincy Coleman, and Danish singer/songwriter Simon Lynge.
Founded in 2007, YDE utilizes strategic marketing, including the use of new technology distribution outlets, supportive special promotions, and media events, to drive campaigns for music and non-music clients.
Pellant began her career in the entertainment industry at Los Angeles’ classic rock radio station KLOS handling promotions and marketing. At the same time, she was a music video editor at the Pop-Art Film Factory, and then worked briefly at modern rock station Y-107.
Following KLOS, Pellant moved to Avalon Attractions to oversee regional marketing. She was at the company for 8 years as it evolved from Avalon Attractions through SFX Entertainment and Clear Channel Entertainment to become Live Nation (since merged with Ticketmaster to become Live Nation Entertainment).
At Live Nation, she was VP of national marketing and oversaw dates by Aerosmith, Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Journey, Chicago, Earth Wind and Fire, Backstreet Boys, Fiona Apple, Damian Rice, Il Divo, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley and others.
Canadian Mike Gormley started out in the music industry as a musician and journalist in his native Ottawa. Later, he was a columnist at the Detroit Free Press and freelanced for Playboy, Creem, Billboard, the Chicago Sun-Times, and others.
Over the years, Gormley has managed the Bangles, Oingo Boingo, Concrete Blonde, Angelique Kidjo, Paul Schwartz, Anne McCue, Concrete Blonde, Lowen & Navarro and he oversaw the early film career of composer Danny Elfman,
in 1970, Gormley joined Mercury Records, based in Chicago, as director of publicity. He oversaw media for Thin Lizzy, the New York Dolls, Rush, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the Runaways, the Ohio Players and others. He also successfully lobbied for the label’s signing of the New York Dolls, and Kraftwerk.
Moving on to A&M Records in Los Angeles as VP of publicity, and as assistant to A&M co-chairman, Jerry Moss, Gormley supervised publicity for the Police, Joe Jackson, Supertramp, Styx, Peter Frampton, Squeeze and others.
Gormley left A&M in 1982 and teamed with Police manager Miles Copeland to form the management firm, L.A. Personal Development which handled Oingo Boingo, Wall of Voodoo and the Bangles. Copeland left after 5 years and Gormley operated LAPD until teaming up with Pellant.
You didn’t set up Yes Dear Entertainment as just a management company.
MIKE: Management and marketing. We work with all aspects of the music industry. We are helping to sell tickets. We are helping to sell product. We are helping to establish artists. We are doing it as managers, and we are doing it as marketing people. It’s all together.
Do managers and acts have to adjust to the new reality today that many of the things that they previously took for granted they have to take care of themselves today?
MIKE: Yes. Jolene and I realized three years ago that we would be doing these things ourselves more so than ever. We are using our marketing background; particularly Jolene’s marketing background, and management background to present artists.
JOLENE: We farm our marketing service out to other managers. Marketing is such a key (component) for a management company to have. It’s an integral part of anything. Quite honestly, I think it’s integral for agents these days to really be on top of the marketing because it’s a tough, busy and competitive market out there in terms of the entertainment dollar. You have to find new and innovative ways to sell your tickets, products -- whatever you are selling. Without that sort of (marketing) background or having marketing as part of your team, you miss out on a lot.
There’s a gap still with marketing in the music marketplace
JOLENE: You are absolutely right. It is interesting seeing the awareness, or the enlightenment in recent years, as people are realizing what was (previously) missing from the label side of things. How everything was fragmented before. Now, you really do have to focus on marketing the artist overall because the revenue stream from the recording side has diminished considerably.
Synch licensing has become more important as recording revenue has diminished.
MIKE: Yes. There’s still life in publishing but nothing in the way it was. We do placement of songs.
Does Los Angeles still have a music industry community? Is a sense of industry community still there with the loss of so many jobs at labels?
MIKE: I’ve been out of that community for quite awhile. Jolene has been out of it for a little while. We still know a lot of people (in the community), and we see people all of the time. But there is no one place that I know of that people go to hang out and see each other. Not a real prominent one anyway...
It’s been awhile since a big band came out of L.A.
JOLENE: It has been awhile that a real big band has come out period. The music scene in L.A. has changed. It has fragmented. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, there was the Sunset Strip scene and that went into the ‘80s with the metal scene. In the ‘90s it became more indie and grungy. When the 2000s came along, there was the breakdown of the label system. That, as well as technology’s advancement, allowed people to do (work) from anywhere. No one had to come to L.A. any longer to launch their careers
At one time, an act had to come to L.A. They needed a date at the Whisky or The Viper Room. That was their perceived ticket to success.
JOLENE: Exactly. And, sometimes perception is reality. You could convince enough people that was the cool thing to do. It also used to be that a band had a moniker. They were a Geffen band or a Def Jam act or whatever it was. Everybody knew what that meant. I don’t think that’s the same anymore. Now, there are so many tools to use, and outlets to tap into. A label is almost artist dependent on how successful they are and each label is different.
If an act wants to sell bulk today they have to either be with a major label or be distributed by a major. If they want to make a good living, they can work independently. Decades ago, an act made it or didn’t make it. Today, an act can make it on different levels.
MIKE: Oh definitely. They can make a living. They may not get rich and they may not get famous in the way that it used to mean but they can still make a living. But it’s hard work. It’s really hard work. It’s not that it was easy before.
JOLENE: It’s clear that to be successful music funding and marketing are key. But there are quite a few innovative independent labels that are second and third tier to the majors. Some of them use major label distribution. An innovative independent can really get someplace these days. They are not as encumbered by the rules of a major label.
Independents are successful in rap and metal but not in many other genres. There are a few strong indies in country.
JOLENE: That’s true and I am not sure what the measure of success is with an independent. The people who have become successful as independents have usually been affiliated with or somehow bought by the majors over the years.
With 360 deals, major labels are really seeking more direct income.
MIKE: That’s true. If the label does the work, the so-called 360 deal may not be a bad thing because it puts them in the position of also establishing an artist’s career. They used to worry just about the next record coming out. They didn’t worry about the artist for the years to come. That was up to the manager. You would get into arguments (with labels) about not wanting to release that single or that you didn’t like the art work. Or something that helped the label but didn’t help the artist overall. Now, (with a 360 deal) they have to pay attention to all of that to some degree because they are going to have income from others areas. Therefore, it is just not about the record. It’s about establishing the artist so that income can rise in the performance, merchandise and other areas as well.
That’s a true partnership. I’m not sure that mindset is there yet at the labels.
JOLENE: I agree with you. The “let’s work together; spend our money together; and promote together’ form of thinking of hasn’t transcended all of the way yet. I think that people are still in their old habits of focusing on a record release or on a show.
Back in my radio days, it used to drive me crazy that I would get a call from a major label about an artist coming out with their new record. The label would spend gobs of money. My radio station would put together a huge plan for them to do (a campaign that was) really successful. A month or two months later, the promoter would come in and ask for the same thing. To spend money and do the whole (marketing) thing. If (only) they had done it together. By that time, my radio station was a little tired of that artist because we had spent a month on them. If only they (the label and promoter) had had a plan where they both thought of each other.
In the past, if a label lost interest, an act, it might lose a record. Today, with a 360 deal, if a label loses attention or pays more attention to another act, there’s more at stake to lose.
JOLENE: I agree. Also the problem is really about breaking a habit of thinking just about one (area) and not about the other. There are some labels that do both. You do see the launch of some records over the past few years that have successfully tied in the record launch and the the tour with the overall career. There’s the Coldplay launch of recent. I would give Josh Groban as an example of a label working in tandem with promoters, agents and managers to put out a successful marketing push. I think that those are learning experiences for people. Everybody has to get into the habit of thinking differently. Thinking beyond what they were used to thinking.
You didn’t go for distribution of any of Quincy Coleman’s records.
MIKE: We didn’t have distribution and never wanted it. She’s done well and tours a lot. She hasn’t done much in the past 18 months for various reasons but she was doing national tours and she had records out and she was doing national and local television. She was a very busy artist.
Lo-Max Records, the British home of the Go Betweens, has licensed Simon Lynge's album "A Beautiful Way to Drown" for release in Europe.
MIKE: The name of the album has been changed to “The Future” and it is coming out May 24th in the UK. Simon will be touring a lot in Europe. He’s doing dates with Ingrid Michaelson in the UK in May.
What are the other things you are working on?
MIKE: What we do is varied. Last summer we did the New York Dolls’ tour and CD release (“Cause I Sez So”) which was fun because I had worked with them in the ‘70s. We also worked with J.D. Souther, and with hip hop group Groovaloo. We do the (marketing for) the Great American Food and Music Festival.
JOLENE: We are just about to do a deal with Broadway Across America to do their (Los Angeles) date of Storytime Live which is their live version of the Nickelodeon show.
Music is transferable to other industries.
MIKE: We always thought that. We did the Great American Food and Music Festival last year in San Francisco This year it’s in Boston and New York and maybe other places. Jim Lewi produces.
JOLENE: Jim (president, Jim Lewi Events) and I worked a lot together when I was at Avalon (Avalon Attractions). This event is tremendous. The stars of the Food Network are the stars of the show. This year, we have Paula Deen, Tom Colicchio from Bravo’s Top Chef and Duff Goldman from The Food Network's show “Ace of Cakes.” It is really a blend of food and music on every level. It is an interesting case study in what’s popular right now. Last year, Bobby Flay was like looking at a rock star. He had girls screaming. Guy Fieri walked onstage, and it was like Sammy Hagar. He walked out to Sammy Hagar music, in fact. These (chef) guys have followings that are tremendous. It is really fun working with that event. It blends all of the things that people like and do.
Live event is where I’ve come from. The marketing of a live event is very similar (to marketing music products). You just have to figure out what you are marketing and then you can figure out the who and the where and all of that. I like the diversity of doing projects that are not necessarily music driven.
Mike, is it true you were supposed to go to Hamburg to work for PolyGram Inc. Iin 1979.
MIKE: Oh hell yeah. I was over there four or five times to the point of looking for a house and everything. Then they decided they wanted me to move to New York. Right at that time, I got a call from (A&M Record president) Gil Friesen asking me if I wanted to move to LA. I said, “You are bloody right I do.” I didn’t want to move to New York and I didn’t like the way the PolyGram corporation was pushing me around. I almost sold my house in Chicago thinking that I was going to Hamburg. Then they changed their minds. I would have been really stuck. I had a baby on the way, and I had a son. I didn’t like the way that they were treating me. Gil called and it was A&M Records. I just said, “Let’s go.” That’s what got us out to L.A.
PolyGram Inc., which had purchased Mercury Records in the early ‘70s, was then reorganizing its American label interests.
MIKE: In fact, for about a year I was not doing much music (publicity). I was establishing Polygram Inc. in America. I was flying to London and to Hamburg and meeting some very interesting people and dealing with some very high level people. I found it educational, but they started doing the corporate thing.
[In 1972, the Dutch electronics firm Philips and German electronics giant Siemens merged their record operations with Deutsche Grammophon to become PolyGram Inc. That same year PolyGram bought Mercury. In 1981, Mercury, along with other U.S. PolyGram-owned labels, which included Polydor, RSO, and Casablanca, would consolidate under the new name PolyGram Records.]
You arrived at A&M in 1979 with the emergence of the Police, Joe Jackson, and Squeeze. A pivotal time.
MIKE: I arrived there at the beginning of the end of the “family” label. It started becoming corporate. It had to. My lofty title was vice-president of publicity and assistant to the chairman. I ran the PR department, did the publicity on the Police, Squeeze and all of those Miles (Copeland) bands and other bands like Supertramp.
You were (A&M co-chairman) Jerry Moss’ assistant.
MIKE: I kind of ran The Moss Foundation. I would sit with Jerry and go over who should get what money at what point. It was more of a corporate thing. But Jerry was making his decision at that point to move out of the independent distribution world into working with RCA and, eventually, Polygram and Universal.
You left A&M in 1982 to start L.A. Personal Development with Miles Copeland.
MIKE: It wasn’t a big shift to go from A&M to LAPD because it was a lot of the same people. I knew the guys in the Police because I had met them when they hadn’t had a hit yet. I had done PR for them at A&M. So I knew the “family.”
MIKE: I was his partner for quite awhile, and I learned a lot from him. He’s a brilliant guy. He would have 10 ideas and one of them would be amazing and with the other nine you had to let him run his course.
At this point Miles was living in London.
MIKE: He didn’t even have a house in L.A. One of the reasons we got together was that he had signed Oingo Boingo and Wall of Voodoo, but the Police were at their hottest. He was never in town. He could never pay attention to these artists as much as he wanted to. He knew that I was tired of being a record executive. Going to meetings to find out what time the next meeting was. There was no creativity going on (at A&M) anymore. So, he said why don’t we start a company and it’ll be with Oingo Boingo and Wall of Voodoo. We did and within six months we found Bang which became the Bangles. And that’s what I did for most of the ‘80s. When Miles was around, it was crazy and creative. We would have fantastic conversations.
At Mercury and A&M you had done publicity. You had never done management. You must have been flying by the seat of your pants at first.
MIKE: I learned from Miles, but I was also in the deep end of the pool. Miles was going around the world with the Police. So I’m sitting there with Wall of Voodoo about to go on tour, and they needed a tour budget. I’m going, “What’s a tour budget? I called somebody who did that sort of thing and asked them to send me a blank form. And I put together the tour budget. I figured out how much it was going to cost, and I figured out how much they are going to make and here’s what we needed. And it worked. They went on the road and everything was okay.
More managers are marketing savvy today. They are taking marketing plans to labels and asking, “Where can you fit in?” It wasn’t as cut and dry in the ‘80s.
MIKE: I still have the marketing plan I put together for the Bangles in 1981 or early 1982. They didn’t sign with Columbia until 1983, I think. I don’t know if other people were doing that or not but we did at LAPD. That marketing plan stood through the non-Columbia years and, in fact, for the first couple of years at Columbia. The marketing plan was an LAPD plan for the Bangles, not for any specific label or record. We followed the plan until things really started taking off.
The Bangles were worked by a little indie label (Faulty Records) just like what’s going on now. By the time that they were signed by Columbia Records, they had a national, if not an international following, and they had done national tours and had been in a lot of magazines. It sort of irks me a little bit when I read about this new idea of (grass-roots marketing). I try to make it sound not like I’m not bragging but that’s what we did then.
Being that you came from a label background, and Miles Copeland had I.R.S. Records and had been working with the Police, you may have been a rarity. You both knew what had to be done so an act wouldn’t drop through cracks at a major label. That was important as the Bangle’s first Columbia release "All Over The Place" we didn't get much support from the label except from a couple of people on the west coast.
MIKE: Even once the Bangles signed with Columbia, there was a two-year period where they thought of them within Columbia as the little girl band from L.A. But they also got to be known as the band that wouldn’t go away because they would sell a couple thousand records a week. When we signed with Columbia, I said that it was not time to sit back. It was a time to kick ass. “Columbia is gravy. If we get something out of them, great. We have to keep on doing what we have been doing.” I didn’t make the decision all by myself. As a group, we realized that we had to keep on going the way we had been. That’s what happened.
Finally, we got the group into Radio City Music Hall with the Psychedelic Furs so that the Columbia people had to come across the street to see them. The New York (Columbia) people hadn’t even seen them.
Oingo Boingo’s song “Goodbye, Goodbye" appeared in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” in 1982.
MIKE: That was first track that I had ever placed. The only reason I did it was that it would make some money. Oingo Boingo at that time was playing the Whiskey. So there wasn’t a whole lot of money floating around. This (the soundtrack) was an avenue. You could make good money then. You got good dollars. Now you get $500 or $1,000 as a startup situation.
What was good money then?
MIKE: It was good for us. I honestly don’t remember what we got paid. I just recall that we were ecstatic with that much money.
Often the attitude today is “sell us the track or we’ll get an unknown band.”
MIKE: That goes on but, back then, there weren’t that many bands
You were also music supervisor on several films.
MIKE: I did a few films. I got (film composer) James Newton Howard his first gig as a composer. It was a little film called “Head Office” (directed by Ken Finkleman in 1985) that was shot in Toronto.
And you oversaw music for “Adventures In Baby Sitting” (1987) as well as the TV series “The Equalizer” that ran on CBS, with Stewart Copeland doing the music.
MIKE: That was fun and it was pretty good income. I would have liked to have done more (music supervision) but I got involved in other things. It didn’t continue but it made me realize what (music supervision) is like.
Film supervision today is a full time job today. But, you and Jolene have been successful in placing your artists in films.
MIKE: We are always looking at that. As matter fact, we are about to sign Simon (Lynge) with a company that does music supervision full time because we recognize that it is a full time job to place things. We have a lot of things on our plate so we‘re about to do a deal with Secret Road (Lynn Grossman’s Secret Road Artist Management and Music Services) that is going to take care of Simon. They are already soliciting his music to some pretty big companies. We just completed the verbal side of the agreement.
JOLENE: Music placement has almost become the new radio because people are being introduced to music through their favorite television show as often, if not more often, than through their favorite radio station. Radio is so fragmented now with FM, satellite and all of the different HDs (HD Digital Radio) and everything else you can listen to online. They fill the void in terms of breaking music in a lot of ways. (Music supervisor) Alex Patsavas at Chop Shop MUSIC, gosh “Grey’s Anatomy” is responsible for breaking quite a few artists recently.
The impact of a song depends on the placement and the rare case of it being identified.
JOLENE: It does depend on the placement. Some of the ABC family shows and some of the Disney and Nickelodeon shows are now tagging the artists. You are right. (Identification) is not often and it’s about the individual placement. But (music placement in film or TV) is like getting airplay. If you are in high rotation you are going to get more notice than the guy who gets played on the specialty weekend shows.
Mike, you apparently talked Danny Elfman into composing the music for “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure” in 1985. He didn’t want to do the film?
MIKE: What happened is that we got a meeting at Warner Brothers about this film. So we are on the lot and we are like lost kids. It was like, “Wow, Warner Brothers.” The meeting was with Pee-wee, Tim Burton--it was his first movie--and Phil Hartman who wrote it. It was a Friday, and Danny got the job. We weren’t doing cartwheels but we were thinking, “This is interesting.”
On Saturday, Danny called me and said I had to get him out of the deal. He had only scored a little movie that his brother had made (Richard Elfman’s “Forbidden Zone” in 1982) so he had a little bit of knowledge (about film composing). I said to wait until Monday, and I would talk to them. I found out there was someone called a music editor that neither one of us knew about. Someone who would help put some of the mechanics (of the music and film) together. We also made (Oingo Boingo guitarist) Steve Bartek part of the music team. Danny felt more comfortable with all that.
How long did the two of you work?
MIKE: 15 years. It ended in 1995 or 1996.
Did you make the deal for The Simpsons in 1989?
MIKE: Yes, and I got Danny his first four movies. After that we decided he needed an agent. We weren’t interested in any of the regular agents that worked with composers. They weren’t jumping at him. There was a guy working at Varese Sarabande Records, Richard Kraft, who was a music film nut. We talked him into becoming Danny’s agent. Now he’s one of the biggest agents in that field. Danny was his first client, and he’s still with him. Richard took on negotiations for Danny’s film work and I would oversee what was done, but I wasn’t on the phone with studios or anything. After a while, it was a matter of “yes or no.”
When did you and Mike meet, Jolene?
JOLENE: I was at Live Nation working as the VP of marketing along with several others. I enjoyed working there. At the end I think I was needing a change. I had my eye on going into management. I thought that it would be the logical next step. It turned out that it was.
At Live Nation, you did marketing campaigns for Aerosmith, Motley Crue, and others. What does marketing consist of when working for a promoter?
JOLENE: It’s advertising, promotion, overseeing the publicity, street retail, internet lifestyle, putting together campaigns in terms of where to spend the money and where to augment it with promotional campaigns in order to sell tickets and image the shows, the bands, the company, depending on whatever your assignment happens to be.
How many years did you work for the company?
JOLENE: I was there almost 8 years. From 1998 to 2006.
You started there when it was Avalon Attractions through SFX Entertainment, and Clear Channel Entertainment to Live Nation.
JOLENE: I think at one point my email tag said “Whatever we are called today.”
How did you come to be hired at Avalon Attractions?
JOLENE: (Founder and president) Brian Murphy and Brad Locker (now VP of marketing), called and asked me if I wanted to come over and work with them. I was at KLOS doing marketing. We had a really great relationship from that. I liked that live event world. I had liked working with those guys and coming up with creative things to help them.
At KLOS, you did promotions and marketing. Was KLOS your first job in the music business?
JOLENE: My first job in the music business. I was 19 when I started at KLOS. I started in the research department. I was looking for a part-time job while I was going to school. I was studying film at Cal State Northridge. I lived in L.A. not too far from KLOS. I saw a job posting at the university job board and remembered the radio station from when I was growing up.
You stumbled into music.
JOLENE: I was intending to become the female Steven Spielberg and we can see how well that worked out. I didn’t graduate. I was a couple units short of graduating.
You worked in films as a kid
JOLENE: Oh yeah. I did mostly extra work and some bit parts. I played Marlo Thomas’ daughter in a Christmas special (“It Happened One Christmas” in 1977). I was in ‘Back To The Future” (1985). Not big parts. I grew up in Alhambra which is near East L.A.
When did you work at Pop-Art Film Factory as an editor?
JOLENE: That was while I was going to school in the early ‘90s. I was crazy. I was working at KLOS. I was going to school full-time. I was editing music videos. I would leave the radio station, working either the morning or the afternoon, and then I would have either morning or afternoon classes at school, and then go straight to Pop-Art and edit to 2 or 3 A.M.
Did you work on any cool videos?
JOLENE: I worked on a Bodeans’ music video. I worked on a Kristen Hirsch video. One of my favorite was "The One” by WC and the Maad Circle. That music video was comical.
[WC and the Maad Circle, consisting of WC, Coolio, Sir Jinx and DJ Crazy Toones, released a pair of hip hop albums, “Ain't a Damn Thang Changed” (1991) and “Curb Servin'” (1995) and a few popular singles, notably "Dress Code,” "West Up!" and "The One.” WC left the group to work with gangsta rap supergroup Westside Connection with Ice Cube and Mack 10.]
Film houses use film students as grunts to edit music videos.
JOLENE: It was interesting being integrated into that musical world. I was really young at the time. I hadn’t edited much. But I was paid to edit. It was good.
Larry LeBlanc 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.