Industry Profile: Mamie Coleman
By Larry LeBlanc (CelebrityAccess MediaWire)
This week In the Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Mamie Coleman, VP of music and production at Fox Broadcasting.
In her job as VP of music and production at Fox Broadcasting, Mamie Coleman oversees the creation and production of the promotional campaigns for the company’s primetime television series, specials, and live event programming.
Fox, the start-up broadcast network of 1987, has changed the face of American television with edgy comedy and youth programming. It remains the most-watched network in the 18-49 age group coveted by advertisers.
Overseeing day-to-day production, along with negotiating and executing all of the music and clip licensing agreements for all shows, Coleman and her Los Angeles’ staff are the epicenter of Fox Broadcasting’s marketing strategy.
As well, many affiliated departments with Fox look to Coleman and her team for legal advice, research and other media clearances.
Working with TV studios and production companies, record labels, music publishers, recording artists, songwriters, and agents, they are entrusted with creating the sound of Fox Broadcasting promotional content featured on the channel as well as in-theater and MySpace trailers; closed circuit TV or video; and TV show promotional compilation discs.
With her vast musical knowledge and insights into everything from alternative rock to rap, Coleman has worked on campaigns for “Glee,” "American Idol," "The X Factor." "The Simpsons” (the longest running American primetime scripted show) “Family Guy,” "So You Think You Can Dance," "House," "Bones,” "Ally McBeal,” “That 70’s Show” and many, many others.
After graduating from California State University Northridge where she majored in Radio, Television and Film, Coleman landed a position as Junior On Air Radio Producer for Fox Broadcasting Company in 1992.
She soon cajoled her way into getting an interview for a writer’s assistant position on the “Martin” show. She got the job, worked hard, and was then offered a position as an assistant to the show’s executive producer Samm-Art Williams.
After” Martin” show ended in 1997, Coleman got a call from Fox for an opening in the same department she had interned in. She was soon promoted to a manager position; then director; and then to her current position.
You have a 15 year old daughter. Does she think you’re cool?
She thinks that I’m the coolest mom on the earth working at Fox, and she hasn’t even tapped into that whole “Hey, I want to go to this concert” or “Hey, I want to meet this artist.” She hasn’t tapped into that; although she wants to be a singer or a songwriter. She’s been around it (the business) I guess.
How often does your daughter bring you music to hear?
Often. We were recently going to the orthodontist, and she said, “Hey, mom have you heard the new Usher song?” I said, “No. I haven’t heard that one yet.” And she said, “I’ve downloaded it, and I can play it for you.” I know the label has sent it to me, but I don’t tell her that. I just say, “okay.” She has given us some cool ideas because that’s a whole different demographic audience.
Her generation grew up with music on computers.
They listen to SoundCloud, Vevo, and YouTube. She’s always sending me videos and I’m always going, “Oh my gawd. I have never heard ever heard of this person before.” There’s been some interesting stuff that she has found on YouTube, SoundCloud and Vevo. You just never know.
The Internet breaks down genre formats and even the racial barriers of music.
It does. Exactly. Seriously. It was her friend, and her who were in the car and we were on the way to the orthodontist. She said, “Mom can we listen to some music?” I assumed she meant turn on the radio. She said “No. Plug in my iPhone so we can listen to Pandora.” I was like, “So we now have a Rhianna or a Beyoncé station? Oh my gawd (laughing), kill me now.” She has all of these different radio stations on Pandora. That’s a whole other media for artists. It’s crazy.
The rule in our family car has been two of my daughter’s songs; and two of our songs.
We kind of listen to some of the same songs. I let her listen to a lot of my songs on iTunes on my laptop; and then she drops it onto her iPhone. It depends on what it is.
Do you keep an eye on the hardcore rap?
Oh yeah. She does not listen to that. The funny thing is that she’s in first year in high school, and some students asked her, “Do you listen to N.W.A. or Ice Cube?” or whoever; and she’s like, “Who’s that?” She’s not exposed to that. I haven’t allowed her to listen to that.
Generally, people figure that when someone oversees music for television that they oversee music for the programs. But that’s not what your job is.
Everybody just assumes that. No, I do promos for all of the marketing campaigns. My counterparts are strictly music supervisors at networks. They don’t do the same thing that I do because I’m in charge of the production, and the music side of it.
As much as you are a music supervisor, you are a marketer.
Yep, I sure am. I have to look for music for every different media platform, everything. For every show, everything. We work closely with Geoff Bywater (sr. VP Fox Television), Ward Hake (VP Music, Fox Television) and Rodney Griffis (executive dir. of clearance, Fox Television) who all do amazing jobs for us on the TV side. It kind of helps us because they are clearing all of this music in context. But, out of context, I have to clear it, and if I can’t get it cleared then we have to find a piece of music to replace it. We pretty well get most of the stuff cleared, and we are working together as a team.
A few months ago at Musexpo in Los Angeles, I moderated a panel dealing with music supervision and licensing at the various Fox network and associated platforms. The Fox panelists didn’t know each other well.
I know, isn’t that crazy? You just don’t have time to sit down. I will say that we do send each other music. “We’re not going to use this; you guys should use it.” John Varvi at FX Network (as (Sr. VP On Air Promotions), I send him all sorts of stuff. He’s a really nice guy. Janine Kerr is now VP of Fox Sports Music. She and I have a really great relationship, so we are going to starting working on some stuff together.
What does your work week look like?
Monday, Wednesday, Friday are the top three days that people want things tomorrow today. In two hours.
When you listen to music, what configuration do you prefer?
I’m old school, so I love CDs. I like looking at the artwork that the artist has put work into. The artwork is amazing.
How lobbied are you by the music industry?
Oh my God, there are so many people. It’s like a hurricane of MP3s that come to me constantly. You do become fatigued, particularly during different times of the season. During our pilot season, we are producing these 2 to 3 minute sales presentations. It gets pretty hectic trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Even summer campaigns get a little hectic around here with all of the MP3s we receive.
Do artists send you music?
Some artists today are a little lazy. They let everybody do everything for them, and then they get screwed. There are so many artists out there that think that the label is going to market them right and they don’t. I feel that a lot of artists have to come in now and market themselves.
Recently we had Rita Ora and Karmin come in with their label, but they were pitching music directly to me which was really cool. We ended up using one of Karmin’s songs “Brokenhearted” for a “Mindy” (“The Mindy Project”) promo which is going to air soon. They were a very friendly couple, and were very intuitive as to what the whole marketing world is about; and what they can do and what they can’t do. It was really cool. Rita Orr was sitting there going through her iPad, going through every song. I was laughing because artists normally don’t come in and pitch like that. They either get on a phone call (with us) or on a conference call. Sometimes you get big, big meetings. But to do it (pitch) directly one on one is kinda cool.
Do you take your direction for promotions from music used in the program?
No. Not at all. Honestly, we don’t listen to a lot of the music from the shows because they don’t license much that is marketable for us.
Why isn’t it marketable?
As far as promos are concerned, we want something poppy, fresh and hip. It’s very specific songs that they use in their shows, and it doesn’t work necessarily for promos.
Often music is nuanced to a scene or may be in the background.
Exactly. They (producers and music supervisors) may pitch something to us, “Hey, there is a song that we are looking at. Would you use it for the promos?” I am usually thinking, “At the top of my head, I don’t think we’ll be using that.”
The majority of time I don’t even watch the actual episode. It just depends on the campaign that we’re working on. We will either watch an episode or go off on what we know; or what the producers like; or what upper management is looking for. Just (from) the description to feel what they really want to get. It is just to fill in the music. Sometimes they will slip us a scene (for us) to see what is going on.
The whole “House” finale ("Everybody Dies”) that was a crazy ordeal because we didn’t get a chance to see the episode, the final episode. We barely got a script. So we had to go upstairs to management. It was insane. It was like, “Wow.” We were really paranoid that things were going to get leaked. It does happen so I totally understand the whole thing that happened (with the secrecy).
[After failing to get out of his upcoming jail time, Dr. Gregory House disappeared in the series finale of “House” which aired May 21, 2012. He awakened in a burning building after shooting heroin with a former patient. With his life crumbling around him, House hallucinated people from his past as he decided whether his life was worth living anymore.]
Sometimes a TV show has a key song featured in an episode but the producers or music supervisors don’t know if they are going to get clearance until near completion of production.
To the very end, and we’re sitting either waiting, or we have to quickly have backups to think of. It just all depends on the song, and the use of it
How far in advance do you work?
A month in advance. For the Fall campaign, we start in the summer. Once we announce the shows.
You are not only overseeing promotional campaigns on Fox TV but also overseeing promotional in-theater trailers, MySpace trailers and TV show promotional compilation discs.
Oh yeah. New media plays a major part in licensing fees for the labels, artists and publishers today. Recently, we had to clear lyrics to be used in print ads, and outdoor marketing. We used Queen’s “We Will Rock You” for the “Mobbed” outdoor marketing campaign, and we used George Thorogood “Who Do You Love” (written by Bo Diddley) for an “Idol” campaign.
Then there are the gas station TVs. You know the monitors at gas stations. You wouldn’t think that you would have to clear and figure out stuff for that that . We were looking to use some “Idol” promos to put on approximately 1,200 gas stations in the top 70 (U.S.) markets with a heavy rotation or concentration on 25 markets. I have even had artists and licensors approach me about using music and videos on bus, metro trains, subway monitors. It’s crazy. But it’s the way of the future, though.
Media now comes at us 24/7.
Definitely. There are a lot of promos that are used on closed circuit TV or video. And there’s in-store use. “The X Factor” is attached to Sony Music. So there’s Sony stores and Best Buy stores.
While there are broadcast standard concerns over producing promotional spots, are affiliates a concern?
I think that there are 205 affiliates, and unlimited Fox internet sites. We don’t concern ourselves too much with that because we clear for all media and we clear for unlimited internet. So that’s not an issue. They also go through and, basically, figure out what promos are appropriate lyric-wise or not appropriate. It depends on what they want.
Can you attain a blank music license for use of music in the various media or do you have to negotiate for each media use?
We have to do for every media use. We will either do an all-media buy which is TV, basic cable TV, radio, and unlimited internet. That’s an all media buy. And we will do it (license) separately. We will do instore or in theatres or in flight for on airplanes, mobile. It just depends, but we have to clear them separately.
There are at least two sets of rights owners; master rights holders, as well as music publishing right holders which may be multiple publishers.
Exactly. But we just put a clearance in for a song where there are two master owners. That’s coming up a lot too.
How does that happen?
Well, it’s a UK artist, and there’s a master owner in the UK, Warner Brothers; and there’s one here, Universal. So it just depends on what deal the artist made with the two different separate companies which is just the most bizarre thing, ever. But it has come up a couple of times now.
Do you have to clear the track on a global basis?
No. Not at all. It is just domestic buys and deals that we are doing.
Few promotions have been as difficult as when Simon Cowell requested using Guns N' Roses' 1991 version of Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die" to promote "The X Factor." Publishing was cleared, but the master rights clearance was more difficult. You didn’t know that you would be dealing with Axl Rose.
Yeah, that was an interesting clearance because Axl really wasn’t involved at first. We were going through the label (Geffen), and everything was okay. We were getting everything done. Then we sent over the spot, and they saw the spot which had Simon and the judges sitting there with Pepsi cups. Pretty much product placement. So when they saw the Pepsi cups, they were like, “That’s product placement. We need more money.” Of course, that escalated the fees and….The licensor was being greedy, basically , and they had us by the balls because we really wanted the song.
The licensor being the label?
Yes, the label. And sometimes labels have to go and get artist approval. That’s exactly what happened and Axl Rose got involved. It was crazy. His mom was faxing us back and forth. It was the weirdest clearance. But we got it done. It was a 72 hour clearance, and I was dead tired when it was done. But it all got worked out.
With the publishing cleared earlier, you probably could have used Paul McCartney’s original version.
We actually did get that cleared. It just did not work. We needed the real deal. Simon wanted it. He wanted drama. The whole campaign was big. I had licensors and colleagues calling me, “How did you get ‘Live and Let Die’ cleared” You are a hero.” I said, “well, you know it’s called ‘The X Factor.’”
You were also a hero on the Madonna campaign for “Glee.” But when the show’s co-creator and director Ryan Murphy got Madonna for the show’s 15th episode "The Power of Madonna” on April 20, 2010, you must have first thought, “Oh no.”
That was a tough clearance too, I must say. We got that one done too. I’m not going into all of the details, but that was insane. And you know, we got a good deal on it. So it all worked out. And she loved the show. So it was all good. It was fun.
[The Madonna episode was the first time the music on “Glee” was turned over in its entirety to one performer. According to Nielsen, the episode was watched by 13.5 million viewers in the U.S. The stand-alone "Power of Madonna" soundtrack from the episode debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200.
Sony Music Label Group chairman Rob Stringer explained to Ann Donahue in Billboard (May 08, 2010 issue) that "The Power of Madonna” was a risky album release being that it was based on the songs from a single episode. "It's kind of weird," he said. "It's a different marketing angle, but the episode is so bloody good."
Getting Madonna’s approval for the "Power of Madonna" episode and the album and promotional campaign that followed was, by no means, easy. Her camp originally passed on the concept. Further pitching was done, and the deal was only green-lighted after Ryan Murphy sent an appeal letter directly to Madonna.]
Over the years “The Simpsons” has featured many top music stars.
Lady Gaga was recently on the show. She did a voiceover for an animated character, and we got a whole big campaign out of her that she was gung-ho for. And we got a good deal.
Obviously tied into her being a guest on the show.
Yeah. It is kind of cool when they have guests like that. Eminem was on “Family Guy” as well. Different artists get on these animated shows and they really help us out with the music because they want to be a part of (the promotion).
A few years back, you were able to get Fleetwood Mac’s “Say You Will” for a promo for “That ‘70s Show.” That was big-time back then.
Oh my gosh yes. That was amazing. That was like the first big thing that I did beside Barry White doing "Ally McBeal," Half the people (artists) don’t want to license their old stuff. They just don’t.
They are aware of only having one or two hits and they don’t want to overexpose the hit.
Yeah. I think that’s what it is because the popular bands now--the top artists--the label and so many people behind it pushing it that everybody gets involved.
“Glee” and “American Idol” are both contemporary music programs. What are the differences in the promotional campaign devised for each of them?
The best part about “Glee” is that everything that they use we end up using in our promos. In context, and it’s in the scene. That’s the one show that we can get away with using the music.
Recently, Coldplay’s “Fix You” was used.
Gwyneth Paltrow was on the show (as Holly Holliday, a substitute teacher) and she went to her husband (Coldplay’s Chris Martin) and asked, “Can they use it for the show.” So it was greatly beneficial for her to be on the show because we got to use a song. You know that Coldplay never clear for any marketing. So it was very very cool. So we got “Fix You.” We got “I Kissed A Girl” by Katy Perry. It’s been a lot of good stuff that they have put in the (“Glee”) show.
With “Idol,” it is usually the publishing that we clear because we are using “Idol” contestants”; songs that they are singing like “I Will Always Love You.” Sometimes our radio department will use David Cook, Daughtry or Kriss Allen. It just depends on what campaign people are working on; but we use out-of-the-box stuff too (on promos). We use indie artists. The one thing that we are trying to gear up to throughout the season is using indie artists because they are a lot cheaper than the majors.
Finally, someone says that out loud.
They are cheaper but also the quality of the music is out-of-the-box different. It’s fresh. It’s really, really cool music. Not to say that the major (major label signed artists) aren’t, but why spend $20,000 a week on Beyoncé song when you can get someone else similar or someone a little fresher?
The entertainment industry faces constraints of budgets these days, including Fox.
Oh, yeah, we all are. In general, we are seeing an increase in the cost of weekly licensing fees for the past years. I have sat with some of the major record labels and publishers and they have all said that their fees are increasing at least $500 to $1,000 per week per media due to the fact that they have their overall departmental dollars (costs) increase just like us.
If the merger of Universal and EMI goes through will Universal have more clout in negotiations with TV for the use of music?
As far as weekly licensing fees? No. All licensors use the same formula; and it’s the same with all of the competing TV networks. And all of the networks are being hit with these higher fees anyway. So as a whole, we continue to expose and utilize independent artists for much cheaper (fees) rather than major artists because independent artists invite a new exposure and publicity for themselves.
You attended John Muir High School in Pasadena, the same high school as baseball icon Jackie Robinson and singer David Lee Roth.
I was surprised (in 2011) when they called, and told me that they were giving me that Alumni award (for the John Muir High School Hall of Fame). What was I doing back in ’89? I don’t know if you have been back to your high school. I didn’t go back to any of my reunions. I didn’t do it. So it was interesting to go back, and see the school. It just seemed so small.
Were you raised in Pasadena?
For four years; my high school years. I was actually raised in the Valley (the San Fernando Valley). I’m a Valley girl (laughing).
I tease songwriter Diane Warren for being a Valley girl.
Isn’t she the coolest person on earth? My gawd, she’s so sweet. I love her.
I grew up in Lake View Terrace, and then we moved to the Valley--to Sherman Oaks from preschool and junior high. My mom was a seamstress--a tailor--and she worked at a cleaners. We ended up with our own cleaners. My dad was a US Air Force sergeant. He worked at the Pentagon and he was a boxer for the Air Force. After he retired, he was a VP at Sunkist, and then at Bell Phone. He was always into technological stuff.
What music did you listen to.
R&B hip hop. In junior high, because we were in a predominantly white neighborhood, we listened to punk, rock and little bit of R&B. Madonna, Boy George and Iron Maiden and all of that stuff was coming. Then I get to high school and the R&B and hip hop scene exploded.
During a spring semester break from California State University Northridge, where you were majoring in Radio, Television and Film, you attended the Jack the Rapper Conference in Atlanta.
Yeah that was cool. I met 2Pac and P. Diddy. The “Jack the Rapper” (conference) was very interesting because I had people that I knew at the record labels. I met some people down there. Then we flew to New York, and got on “Yo MTV Raps.” Sat in the audience and met my predecessor (the head of Fox On-Air Promotions). I had no idea that my future was being told right there. That it was going to start right there.
One of your goals had been to be a journalist.
I wanted to be a journalist. When I applied to CSUN (California State University Northridge) my major was journalism. I took a couple of courses, and they sent me out to Watts to do a story in the Hood. I went down there and I went, “I don’t think that this is me.” I don’t think this is for me. I don’t think that I want to represent this, and report the bad and negative things from the Hood.” So I got out of it.
You started at Fox as an intern?
I came in as an intern.
Did you want to work in the music business?
I was not even looking at being in the music business. I was trying to be a TV producer. The department that I was working for was on-air promotion, and it was production. They did not have a music department. So they stuck me in this little room with all of these “needle drop” live music libraries. I started organizing and listening. People would come in and ask, “Do you know any new cool hip songs?” I would tell them, and they’d say, “You are pretty good at this. Maybe, you should consider doing it for a living.” I would go out to auditions (as an actress) and everything.
Fox started out as the maverick of the TV networks; but is no longer that you-never-know-what-you-are-going-to-see network. Still, it’s edgier than other networks.
Actually, that’s how all the other competing networks think about us. I also feel that way. I feel that we are edgier, more competitive and not necessarily renegade but we have an edge over everybody else. We are fresh and hip and young. Our demographic audience is 18 to 49. So I feel we are a little more edgy.
Are Fox’s competitors fairly conservative?
I think so. I think that a lot of the other networks are conservative. NBC used to be the number one network, and now we are blowing them out of the water. We just have a very youthful, fresh set of executives here who know what they are doing, and will know what the audience wants.
One of the game changers at Fox Television at the time you arrived was “In Living Color.” That is not a show another network would then have picked up.
Yeah. That put us on the map for sure. When I was to get internship one of the reasons that I wanted to come to fox was like, “Wow some of the best shows were there.” Very diverse; very outlandish, edgy and crazy. It was cool. It was cool to do that. And I always wanted to be to be a "fly girl dancer" for the show.
You went over to the “Martin” show as an assistant.
It was really cool. Being in college, you don’t know really what you are going to do. In life. But you major in all of these different categories, but you also think, “What is it that I want to do?” When I got to the Martin Lawrence show, I was a writer’s assistant. But I thought, “Do I really want to be a writer’s assistant for the rest of my life?” So I would finagle my way onto the stage, and sit there and listen to the actors. “Mamie come over here, and act like you are Martin or Tisha (Campbell).” I would stand in and I would read their parts. Then, I started doing table reads. I thought, “I want to be an actress.” You go through all these things in your head, thinking that you want to be in front of the camera; when obviously all of the money is made behind the scenes, and there’s more stability.
Los Angeles is like a candy store once you break into entertainment at a certain level.
Yeah, you see so many different things. Even interning at Fox, the interns that come in now are like, “I don’t know what I want to do.” There are so many different departments that I have interned, I don’t know what department to go into because there are so many cool departments that you can work for and you don’t know what area you evolve into. So it’s kinda interesting.
“Martin” was cancelled in 1997.
The show went under and I ended up marrying the co-executive producer (and writer) Kenny Buford. and had a child. The show went under and I went back to Fox. It was family and I wanted to go back. To the same department. I had stayed in touch with the people I had worked with and they were good to me.
You returned to Fox as a manager, and then as a director. What’s the difference?
Money. Salary and a little bit more responsibility.
In a 2006 interview with Flow Online Magazine, you said that “Humility is the key that opens doors. Women and minorities join organizations—give back. Be a mentor.”
You meant that it’s important to acknowledge one’s roots. The film and TV business was a white industry when you came in.
There were only a handful of minority-based programs on-air when you came to Fox. Few minorities in top TV positions even now.
Fox is more diverse than most of the companies and networks out there right now. Bringing people in, and helping people as interns and bringing in minorities is a goal of mine. It is a goal of mine to keep attuned with the community that I am part of. To be social, and be networking with the different non-profit organizations that I am part of. Giving back is important to me.
Has anyone said to you, “What are these black people thinking about Mamie? You’re the expert here.”
Yes. It happens a lot. A lot because I am one of the few minorities in my division as far as being a executive is concerned, just creative wise. We have hired more creative people that are minorities. But I am supposedly the young, fresh hip girl who is in tune with what is going on right now. So they do come to me, and they don’t know certain people or certain artists. So it’s kinda cool that they come to me, but it is also, “Wow. You aren’t really aware of what’s out there right there.”
By the color of your skin, you are automatically considered an expert in urban music. People don’t always anticipate that you know other types of music so well.
Surprisingly here, not too many times do they come to me with that (stereotype). When we have the Image Awards (NAACP Image Awards) on Fox, people have asked me about this or that artist or what does this sound like? But, now I’m the alternative girl; the alternative pop rock girl. They just know (that) because when I’m pitching to them, and they’ll says, “You find some amazing new music.”
We actually don’t use that much R&B hip hop music unless it’s trendy or out there and mainstream. I’m not really listening to that music as much. My daughter and her friends and several people pitch me a lot of that stuff; but we can’t use a lot of it because it’s not marketable. But there are so many crossovers these days. Nicki Minaj is a pop artist now. She’s not even considered hip hop. She’s now considered a pop artist. There’s been that crossover.
In an interview five years ago, you said that you envisioned yourself owning your own music/TV production company by this time.
I am eating my words because that was five years ago. Well, my daughter is still in high school. So I can’t really do that until she gets into college. I’d love to become my own vendor; and vendor out to networks and companies. Just to get into the film side of (music supervision) because I do find some pretty cool music for film.
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.”