Industry Profile: Ralph Simon

— By Bob Grossweiner and Jane Cohen

Ralph Simon, the global mobile producer of the Al Gore / Live Earth global environmental music concerts taking place on July 7 in nine major international cities, is regarded as one of the founders of the modern mobile entertainment industry.

Ralph is one of the early trailblazers for mobile music internationally, evangelizing artists, managers, media companies and labels to link to artists and their music via their mobile phones. He also is the chairman emeritus and founding chair of the Mobile Entertainment Forum- Americas, a mobile trade association, working with leading companies and executives worldwide to strategize and successfully expand their influence and commercial opportunity using Wi-Fi, Wi-Max, mobile and mobile entertainment.

In 1971, Ralph and Clive Calder formed music company Bullet Records in South Africa in 1971 and after emigrating from Johannesburg to London in 1975, they started a new company, Zomba. In 1978 they established their first U.S. office in New York, out of which came the formation of Jive Records, home to Whodini, A Flock of Seagulls, Billy Ocean and Samantha Fox, to name a few. The Zomba group also formed other labels, including Silvertone which prided itself by signing the Stone Roses – a major UK act in the 80’s. In 1990, Ralph and Calder went their separate ways with Calder buying out Ralph's stake.

After a career in the recording industry, music publishing and producer management, managing clients like Mutt Lange, and seeing the importance of focusing on Silicon Valley as the next stage of his music career and journey, Ralph moved to California from London in 1990. He set up an indie label and publishing company and soon established a wide range of relationships in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. In 1993 he was appointed the executive vice president of Capitol Records and Blue Note Records, where he started EMI’s New Media division in 1993/4.

Ralph correctly predicted that mobile phones would become the indispensable voice-and-music companion for young music consumers and was responsible for co-founding Yourmobile/Moviso in 1999, the first ringtone company in the U.S., UK, Europe, Africa and Australia. Significantly, he persuaded U.S. music publishers to embrace this new mobile medium and underscoring his belief in mobile, and founded the Mobile Entertainment Forum-Americas, the mobile entertainment industry trade group of which he became chairman emeritus.

In July 2005, Ralph was the mobile producer of the Live 8 global concerts breaking the world record for mobile messaging. The influential Mobile Entertainment magazine identified him as one of the world’s Top 50 executives in mobile entertainment in 2005 and 2006. He is currently working on various global projects in the mobile entertainment arena and is the global mobile producer of the Al Gore/ Live Earth global environmental music concerts/events.

Ralph is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in the UK and a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences in the USA.


Experience & Advice
When I moved to Sausalito, I met 11-year-old Beyonce and her father, Matthew Knowles, who had flown up from Houston to seek a record deal. I was concerned that at 11 years old, as great as she seemed even then, about signing such a young artist. Boy, was I wrong.

What is the Mobile Entertainment Forum?
Since 2000, MEF has established itself as the leading global trade association for companies large and small across the mobile entertainment value chain. MEF's membership base spans the entire range of mobile entertainment activities, including music, film, TV and video companies who create and package content as well as publishers, retailers, service providers and technologists who sell and deliver content and network operators who get the content to the end users. MEF’s activities and membership have both a global reach and a local influence: key activities include lobbying on industry issues, providing comment and analysis as well as organizing educational briefings and networking events. Through our program of initiatives, MEF brings together industry leaders to progress opportunities, track trends and tackle industry challenges.

It's essentially the RIAA of the mobile entertainment and mobile music and content business. All of the major record companies are members of the MEF, and the work that the MEF does is centrally linked in to music and music publishing.

Why were record labels and music publishers reluctant to embrace mobile and mobile music when it first came out?
There was a lot of fear. The more traditional and mainly corporate execs didn't want to embrace the very obvious new media emergence and significance. It was the time of Napster’s rise - record label execs were either spooked or unaware of the speed of the tech revolution, and more pertinently, the changing tastes of America's under 24 demographic.

With the popularity of mobile music today are some executives still reticent about its use?
Most execs agree that it's the most important format since the introduction of the CD as a new configuration. I don't know of any execs that are reticent about the future of mobile music. They, themselves, might not have the dexterity that their teenage kids might have, but they certainly know from what their balance sheet tells them that mobile music is a vital fact of life for the future record biz.

Is mobile music on phones still a hard sell?
Not at all. The bigger obstacle is finding music execs that are knowledgeable about the new form of A&R that's required when making mobile music and mobile artist content chunks.

What is the new form of A&R that is required?
One has to think of a wider range of mobile content products that go beyond traditional record label genres. These would include behind-the-scenes footage, special video edits, musical phrases chosen specifically for their use in a mobile configuration and also educating and guiding managers and creative talent on the new and emerging content elements that are making their presence felt in mobile – domestically and internationally.

What new technology will you be using as the global mobile producer for Live Earth that is different from producing the global mobile platform for Live 8? There is a much more sophisticated global SMS messaging platform than we had in 2005. We have arranged for there to be a global call to action on TV that in turn gets people around the world sending in their SMS message to Live Earth. Also, we will be having the concomitant oomph of the global TV coverage that will give us a world wide call to action. This is also something we didn't have the technology for in 2005. It will be interesting to see how the global telecast will impact. One thing we know for sure: it's going to be a cross platform experience for most who cue in to Live Earth on the TV, web and mobile.

What will the impact of the iPhone be?
The iPhone's impact already sent shock waves into the business before its formal launch. The iPhone will set a new standard for the user experience, and the widgets built in to the new phone are sure to accelerate enhancements by Apple's competitors, the mainstream mobile phone manufacturers and brands.

How did Zomba and Jive get started?
The company was originally started in Johannesburg, South Africa. The name Zomba, which I coined, was named after what has become the capital town/city of Malawi, a central African country. I'd just returned from the U.S. and fresh from seeing Blood, Sweat & Tears in New York City. I made contact with my local mate, Clive Calder, and explained how the two of us could and should start a music company, a concert company, a record label and a music publishing company. We had an in-house producer named Mutt Lange, and a burning sense of ambition and musical optimism. That's how it started.

Do you miss working with record companies?
I always miss the interaction with the creative execs, producer community, songwriters and good musicians and sonic and mobile producers. Finding the great songs was and is always one of my imperatives.

Do you miss being a music publisher?
More than anything, especially since its the process of discovering great new writing talent that gives me the juice. I was privileged to sign many writers – Iron Maiden, Def Leppard, Joy Division, just to name a very small trio of acts – and one of my favorites, an amazing writer and artist, the UK musician and creator, Imogen Heap. She is one of Britain's great musical talents and has proven herself as a writer of distinction and for me is the embodiment of why music publishing is the key to being successful in today's music and cross platform business.

Why did you sell your stake in Zomba and Jive?
I decided not to continue my business association with Clive Calder and also wanted to explore new media in a substantial manner.

First concert attended
Fillmore East, December, 1968. Blood Sweat & Tears in New York City.

First concert worked
1967 in South Africa as a concert promoter putting on shows featuring local musical talent such as Trevor Rabin, now a well known movie composer.

First industry job
Started my own record label and concert company in South Africa in 1972 – Bullet Records and Sagittarius Management. This was not Zomba yet. That came in London in 1978.

Career disappointment
Seeing reluctance of record labels and music publishers to embrace mobile and mobile music in 1997.

Greatest challenge
Continuing to evangelize the importance and commercial justification for mobile music on phones.

Best business decision
Moving to Silicon Valley and San Francisco in 1990 as it was clear that the future of the music business was going to be technology laden especially since young people and music lovers were entranced by the social networking that the early Internet promised.

Best advice you received
Always seek out the good songs, the good producers and the good songwriters.

Most memorable industry experience
Producing the global mobile platform for Live 8 and seeing Jive and Zomba grow to become the world's most successful indie.

What friends would be surprised to learn about you
Former South African high school buddies who stayed on in South Africa through the political troubles wouldn’t know of my show business career trajectory.

Industry pet peeve
Not enough executives understand the importance of mobile.

If I wasn't doing this, I would be...
…playing keyboards in a band and teaching graduate students mociology -- the study of human behavior in a mobile world and the study of mobile device/phone lifestyles; the sociology of mobile-phone use.

Industry mentors
Chris Blackwell, Berry Gordy, Jerry Moss, Herb Alpert and Vint Cerf.

Ralph can be reached at: (310) 393-7600 or 44 (0) 787 617 606; e-mail: ralph@ralphsimon.com

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Kevin Lyman, 4 fini 03/30/01
Kevin Lyman, Vans Warped Tour 05/23/12
Bubba Mac, 09/14/07
David Macias, Emergent Music Marketing 06/17/05
Kristen Madsen, Grammy Foundation and MusiCares 11/22/10
Larry Magid, Larry Magid Entertainment 05/04/10
Peter Malkin, PM Management 02/07/03
Toby Mamis, Alive Enterprises 02/12/01
Tasea Margeolas, Multi Entertainment 06/23/06
Tony Margherita, dBpm Records 09/06/11
Bob Roux & Mark Campana, Live Nation 12/20/11
Lee Marshall, Magic Arts & Entertainment 09/13/02
Zach Martin, Radio Producer at New York's WAXQ-FM 08/30/02
Mario Martin, Gorgeous PR 04/27/07
Molly Martinez, Ticket Summit 2008 05/23/08
Paul Mascioli, Mascioli Entertainment 01/14/05
Michael Maska, Big Hassle 01/28/05
Ted Mason, Mi-5 Recordings 11/16/01
Steve Masur, Masur & Associates, LLC 11/21/03
Pam Matthews, The Ryman Auditorium 04/08/05
Terry McBride, Nettwerk Music Group 03/01/10
Michael McCarty, ole 06/20/11
Jim McDonald, McDonald Group 12/19/03
Virginia McEnerney, HeadCount 11/26/07
Doc McGhee, McGhee Entertainment 06/14/10
Camilla McGuinn, Tour Manager 08/24/07
Andy McLean, North By Northeast (NXNE) 04/01/05
Dennis McNally, Grateful Dead historian/publicist 09/06/02
Garry McQuinn, Back Row Productions 06/14/11
Ruthann McTyre, The Rita Benton Music Library; and president of the Music Library Association 08/31/10
Dick McVey, Musician's Referral Service 10/27/07
John Meglen, Concerts West/AEG Live 02/21/13
Dan Melnick, Festival Productions, Inc. 02/22/02
André Ménard, Festival International de Jazz de Montréal 06/12/09
Bob Merlis, Merlis For Hire/Memphis International Records 01/16/04
Doug Merrick, Cumberland Talent Agency and Merrick Music Group 07/21/06
Louis Messina, The Messina Group 10/22/04
Louis Messina, The Messina Group/AEG Live 07/17/09
Louis Jay Meyers, North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance 03/30/07
Louis Jay Meyers, Folk Alliance International 01/23/09
Todd Miller, House Of Blues - New Orleans 11/14/03
Jeff Miller, Fantasma Productions 03/16/07
Ben Miller, Rock Ridge Music 11/02/07
J. B. Miller, Empire Entertainment 08/22/08
Richard Mills, S.L. Feldman 11/02/09
Linda Moran, Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) 04/05/09
Jesse Morreale, Nobody In Particular Presents (NIPP) 09/20/02
Chuck Morris, Live Rocky Mountains 09/28/09
Mo Morrison, Independent production 05/24/02
Nick Moss, Blue Bella Records 11/30/07
Jim Musselman, Appleseed Recordings 04/14/06
Marc Nathan, Flagship Records 07/01/05
David Neilon, Rising Star Promotions 11/30/01
Don Neuen, Star Coaches Inc. 10/10/12
Dennis Newhall, DIG Music 10/07/05
John Nittolo, John Nittolo Productions 04/13/07
Ian Noble, Metropolitan Talent 05/23/03
Josh Norek, JN Media, LLC 07/05/02
David Norman, Tour Manager 04/20/07
Mimi Northcott, Canadian Recording Services (CRS) 04/11/08
Bill Nowlin, Rounder Records 01/05/07
John Nugent, NY JAM Inc. 11/08/02
Andy Nulman, Just For Laughs 11/20/13
Sal Nunziato, NYCD 06/01/01
Bob O'Neal, Ryman Auditorium 06/28/02
Andrea Orbeck, Prehab Health and Fitness 03/15/10
Heather Orser, Toad's Place 01/29/01
Janet Oseroff, MultiMediaProperties 11/18/05
Marc Ostrow, Boosey & Hawkes 12/05/08
Riley O’Connor, Live Nation Canada 07/24/09
Jeremy Palmer, Buddy Lee Attractions 11/02/01
John Palmer, Megawave Records 08/31/07
Panos Panay, Sonicbids 12/23/05
Julien Paquin, Paquin Artists Agency 04/30/14
Crispin Parry, British Underground 02/24/08
Donald Passman, Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown 04/09/10
Bruce Patron, Overland Entertainment 07/28/06
Alexandra Patsavas, Chop Shop Music 09/27/11
Cheryl Pawelski, Omnivore Entertainment Group 09/26/13
Kerry Peace, Alligator Records 08/18/06
Eric Peltoniemi, Red House Records 12/14/09
Scott Perry, Sperry Media 03/11/05
Lawrence Peryer, Jr., 23 Omnimedia 11/07/08
John Peters, MassConcerts 06/07/11
Holger Petersen, Stony Plain Records 04/15/05
Jon Phillips, Silverback Professional Artist Mgmt/Controlled Substance Sound 08/29/08
Vince Pileggi, Music Inc./Music Inc. Sounds 12/01/06
Eric Pirritt, Endit! Presents / The Fox Theatre 10/17/03
Neil Portnow, The Recording Academy 02/08/11
Louis Posen, Hopeless Records 04/04/11
Stephen Posen, Estate of Glenn Gould 01/23/13
Nadia Prescher, Madison House 06/20/03
Jeff Price, TuneCore 02/28/11
Tom Principato, Powerhouse Records 02/01/08
Roger Probert, Core Records 12/08/06
John "Grinder" Procaccini, JP Squared (JP2) 01/17/03
Mark Pucci, Independent Music Publicist 09/09/05
David Pullman, The Pullman Group 11/03/00
Rod Quinton, Saigon Sound System 04/18/11
Dolphus Ramseur, Ramseur Records 10/19/07
Jack Randall, Ted Kurland Associates 04/05/02
Debra Rathwell, AEG Live 05/03/13
Jeff Ravitz, Visual Terrain 02/08/08
Rich Rees, M.P.I. Talent Agency 09/19/08
John Reese, Freeze Artist Management 08/01/08
Bill Reeves, WRIII, Inc. 10/20/06
Stephen Rehage, Rehage Entertainment 07/30/04
Lisa Reiss, Pearl Productions 08/17/07
Salaam Remi, Composer, producer, musician and label executive. 01/08/14
David Renzer, Universal Music Publishing Group 08/23/09
Alison Richard, Universal Orlando Resort 05/06/05
Kelli Richards, The All Access Group 02/07/12
Gary Richards, HARD Events 08/29/13
Sam Righi, Waterfront Entertainment Group 05/30/03
Jon Rinaldo, Joker Productions 01/02/04
Geary Rindels, Geary Rindels Enterprises, Inc. 12/05/03
Doreen Ringer Ross, BMI 01/18/08
Lisette Rioux, Island Def Jam Music Group 05/16/03
Dave Roberge, Everfine Records & Everfine Artist Management 12/03/04
Sandy Roberton, Worlds End Producer Management 02/20/09
Ty Roberts, Gracenote 01/31/12
Bill Rogers, BRE Presents 07/13/07
Ian Rogers, Topspin Media 06/01/10
Benji Rogers, PledgeMusic 12/19/13
Dave Rose, Deep South Entertainment 09/15/06
Eric Rosen, Ronald S. Bienstock & Associates 05/25/01
Stuart Ross, The Ross Group 02/23/01
David Ross, President IAAM; Director, Show Me Center 09/23/05
Bobby Rossi, Ruth Eckerd Hall 02/28/03
Michael Rothschild, Landslide Records 04/29/05
Robert Rowland, Red Entertainment 06/13/08
Bill Royston, Mt. Hood Jazz Festival 03/07/03
John Rudolph, Bug Music 05/24/10
Elizabeth Rush, E.R.A. / Elizabeth Rush Agency 08/20/04
Aran Rush, Expo and Foro Imperial 02/16/07
Maurice Russell, Harry Fox Agency 10/21/05
Barron Ruth, Skyline Music 02/14/03
Andrea Sabata, Skyline Music 01/07/05
Numa Saisselin, Count Basie Theatre, Inc. 02/04/05
Ron Sakamoto, Gold & Gold Productions 01/16/10
David Salidor, dis Company 07/20/07
Shaw Saltzberg, S. L. Feldman and Associates 06/21/10
Bruce Allen & Sam Feldman, A&F Music 12/19/08
Mark Samuels, Basin Street Records 06/11/04
Tamara Saviano, American Roots Publishing 07/22/05
Michael Scafuto, Mountain High Entertainment 12/07/01
Steve Schankman, Contemporary Productions 12/21/01
Steve Scharf, Carlin America 10/11/02
John Scher, Metropolitan Talent 11/21/08
Al Schmitt, Producer/Engineer 02/13/10
Bobby Schneider, Tour Coordinator, Third Eye Blind 01/31/03
Jake Schneider, Madison House 04/02/14
Steven Schnur, EA Music Group 07/03/13
Elaine Schock, Shock Ink 02/19/10
Stacy Schott, Mad Booking and Events 08/22/03
Daylle Schwartz, Revenge Productions 08/19/05
Dean Sciarra, ItsAboutMusic.com 11/26/04
Joel Selvin, Author and Journalist 08/07/14
Jay Sendyk, Sendyk, Leonard & Company, Inc. 05/03/02
Peter Shapiro, Ideal Entertainment 04/16/04
Seth Sheck, Access Pass & Design 01/03/03
Jay Sieleman, The Blues Foundation 07/18/03
Anya Siglin, The Ark 03/05/10
Bill Silva, Bill Silva Entertainment 10/19/10
Tom Silverman, Tommy Boy Entertainment 03/06/12
Steve Simon, Clear Channel Communications 05/14/04
Ralph Simon, Live Earth 07/06/07
Ralph Simon, Mobilium 04/12/11
Michael Simon, The Harry Fox Agency 08/14/13
Ron Simpson, RCS Productions 01/11/08
John Simson, SoundExchange 07/15/05
Dion Singer, Warner Bros. 12/07/09
Gram Slaton, The Community Arts Center 02/25/05
Owen Sloane, Gladstone Michel Weisberg Willner & Sloane 10/11/10
Peter Smidt, Eurosonic Noorderslag & manager Buma Cultuur 07/17/13
Mike Snider, Paradigm Talent Agency Nashville 05/17/11
Andrew Snowhite, Musictoday 05/04/01
Bruce Solar, The Agency Group 05/14/14
Michael Solomon, Brick Wall Management 05/25/07
Mark Sonder, Mark Sonder Productions 07/25/08
Steve Sonnier, UIC Pavilion at the University of Illinois, Chicago 09/03/04
Kathy Spanberger, peermusic 06/20/12
Carolyn Specht, CIE USA Entertainment Inc. and OCESA PRESENTS Inc. 03/26/04
David Spelman, New York Guitar Festival 10/01/04
Jason Spiewak, Rock Ridge Music 04/07/06
Dan Steinberg, Square Peg Concerts 11/29/12
Dan Steinberg, Square Peg Concerts 02/18/05
Jeremy Stephan, Ventures, LLC 04/23/04
Walter Stewart, Mars Talent Agency 02/21/03
Gail Stocker, Gail Stocker Presents 11/12/04
Jon Stoll, Fantasma Productions 10/13/00
Jesse Stoll, AEG 06/27/09
Henry Stone, Henry Stone Music 06/24/05
Jason Stone, Live Nation New York 03/31/06
Howard Stovall, Resource Entertainment Group 05/28/04
Cameron Strang, New West Records 10/18/02
Don Strasburg, AEG Live Rocky Mountains 02/27/09
Barbara Strauss, Sovereign Ventures 05/12/06
Richard Stumpf, Cherry Lane Publishing 08/07/06
Patrick Sullivan, RightsFlow 10/25/11
Bernie Swain & Harry Rhodes, Jr., Washington Speakers Bureau 12/07/00
Dean Swett, Paramour Group 06/14/02
Jake Szufnarowski, Rocks Off 05/02/08
Marc Tanner, Chime Entertainment 12/22/06
Donald Tarlton, The Donald K Donald Group 04/12/02
Tess Taylor, Los Angeles Music Network 08/09/02
Race Taylor, WPLJ - New York 10/27/06
Race Taylor, WPLJ - New York 10/27/06
Chris Taylor, Taylor 03/15/09
Peter Tempkins, DeWitt Stern Group 03/16/01
Peter Tempkins, Momentous Insurance Brokerage 03/27/09
Lisa Tenner, Tenner & Associates (EAT'M) 08/06/01
Jeremy Tepper, Diesel Only Records 10/10/03
Allan Tepper, Bicycle Music Company 09/28/07
Martin Terefe, Kensaltown Studios 05/31/11
Milun Tesovic, MetroLeap Media 10/18/09
Jerry Thompson, Promoter Line Inc. 03/05/04
Jose Tillan, MTV Networks Latin America 12/02/05
Jon Tiven, Hormone Studios 08/05/05
John "J.T." Toomey, 25/8 Management 11/15/11
Livia Tortella, Warner Bros. Records 01/10/12
Phil Tripp, IMMEDIA! 01/19/06
Claudio Trotta, Barley Arts Promotion 11/26/01
Chris Tsakalakis, StubHub 01/11/10
Ben Turner, Graphite Media 05/10/10
Steve Vai, Favored Nations Entertainment 04/26/02
John Valentino, Fantasma Productions 04/18/03
John Valentino, AEG Live SE 11/01/10
Don Van Cleave, Coalition of Independent Music Stores 04/09/04
Casey Verbeck, Partners in Music 06/06/03
David "Boche" Viecelli, The Billions Corporation 04/18/10
Ray Waddell, Billboard Magazine 08/27/04
Rob Waggener, Foundations Recovery Network 03/07/11
Jim Walczak, Racine Civic Centre 06/03/05
Jeff Walker, The AristoMedia Group 08/16/10
Carla Wallace, Big Yellow Dog Music 11/04/05
Russell Wallach, Live Nation Network 03/20/12
Steve Walter, The Cutting Room 10/24/08
Neil Warnock, The Agency Group 05/02/09
Diane Warren, Realsongs 08/14/09
Butch Waugh, RCA Label Group Nashville 01/10/03
Lauren Wayne, The State Theatre 05/09/12
Ken Weinstein, Big Hassle Media 04/22/05
Bruce Weinstein, Bethel Woods Center for the Arts 02/15/08
Larry Weintraub, Fanscape 05/18/01
Pam Weiser, Momentous Insurance Brokerage 10/11/11
Kevin Welk, Welk Music Group 01/24/12
D-J Wendt, Dmand Management 05/09/08
Alison Wenham, Worldwide Independent Network 02/13/09
Bill Werde, Billboard 08/03/11
Joel Whitburn, Record Research 11/13/09
Judd White, Tour Manager/Accountant 02/13/04
Jeff White, In Ticketing 12/16/06
Fenton Williams, 04/04/08
Del Williams, Right Arm Entertainment 04/18/08
Bryan "Birdman" Williams, Cash Money Records 09/13/11
Paul Williams, ASCAP 10/19/11
J.P. Williams, Parallel Entertainment 10/03/12
Kurt Willms, Green Room Productions 09/20/03
Chris Wilson, Heartbeat Records 03/02/07
Tony Wilson, Factory Records/In The City 06/01/07
Tom Windish, The Windish Agency 07/26/10
John Wiseman, XL Touring Video 05/05/06
Thom Wolke, Twincloud.com 02/08/02
Michael Wood, City Lights Entertainment 08/08/08
Nigel Wright, Independant Record Producer 11/07/03
Dusty Wright, CultureCatch.com 07/27/07
Jeremiah “Ice” Younossi, A-List Talent 09/20/09
Ron Zeelens, RAZco Visas 04/20/01
Rick Zeiler, Sidney Frank Importing Company 06/04/04
Danny Zelisko, Live Nation 06/19/09
Hillary Zuckerberg, Brick Wall Management. 07/09/04
Steve Zuckerman, Global Entertainment and Media Summit 03/22/02
Paul Zullo, Muze 01/23/04
Nanette Zumwalt, Hired Power 02/03/06

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