10 Questions with ... Judy Libow
January 15, 2013
1. What made you want to get into the music business? Early mentors? First job?
I've always loved music. I was hopeless on piano (my instrument of choice), but I fared much better as a music fan. In college, Buffalo Springfield, Poco, CSN and the Eagles were my most favorite groups. It was my love for Poco that led me to meet Pete Fornatale (WNEW-FM), who was a huge Poco fan as well. My friendship with Pete helped bring me to my first "real" job in the business at WQIV-FM, a Progressive Rock station in New York that was about to change format from Classical Music to Rock. It boasted an "all star" cast of characters (Thom O'Hair, Rosco, Carol Miller, Bob Marrone, John Parsons, Mike Linder, Pablo Guzman, Orville Zitt, Jim Cameron, Dan Kavanaugh, Al Bernstein, Lisa Carlin) and, for me, was a plunge right into the deep end of the pool! The station was the first "quadraphonic" Progressive Rock station in the country but, unfortunately, lasted only eight months before returning back to its former Classical format. I'd like to think that in some way it prepared me for my next opportunity in the College Radio promotion department at Atlantic Records. I remained at Atlantic Records for 16 years rising to VP/Promotion, thanks, in large part, to my mentor Tunc Erim (R.I.P.).
2. You spent quite a few years as a VP/Promotion in the Rock Department at Atlantic. Tell us about those years and some of the bands you worked with.
Whenever anyone asks me about those years at Atlantic Records, I always say the same thing - those were the best years in the music business and I consider myself so lucky to have been a part of it back then. It was a time when music was flourishing, radio was fun, creative and exciting and my peers in the business (both in records and radio) were some of the most innovative and charismatic professionals you could ever work with! How bad could it be to work with bands like AC/DC, Foreigner, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Genesis, Roxy Music, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, CSN, Stevie Nicks, Pete Townshend, INXS and The Blues Brothers in those early years? How bad could it be to work with people like John Gorman and Kid Leo, Charlie Kendall, Sam Bellamy, Jack Snyder, Scott Muni, Bonnie Simmons, Norm Winer, Jeff Pollack, Tommy Hadges, Mike Harrison, Tony Berardini and Oedipus, Beau Phillips, Joe Bonadonna, Ted Utz, Erin Riley, Ted Edwards, Patty Martin, Dave Logan, Alex Demers, Sky Daniels, Dave Benson - the list goes on and on. I treasure those years.
3. After years working in Rock promotion for Atlantic, in 1991 you formed Libow Unlimited. What was the primary business model for that company ... promotions, consulting, artist management or all of the above?
Libow Unlimited was formed as a promotion/artist development company. My goal was to take all of the experience, knowledge and relationships that I had cultivated over the years and offer my services outside of the confines of a label. My first major client was Bon Jovi, who retained me as the band's national promotion/marketing consultant for their "Keep The Faith" release. Working with them was a great experience; I consider Jon to be one of the best front men in music! Moving on I was fortunate to work with a variety of artists/bands that transcended different genres of rock music, including Julian Lennon, Midnight Oil and Sonia Dada. Five years ago I decided to branch out into artist management and have been working with a very special Country artist named David Bradley - a Brit living in Nashville! He's currently in the studio with Rivers Rutherford, arguably one of the most successful songwriters/producers in Nashville. I'm expecting great things from this collaboration!
4. How was the experience going from working for a label to working for yourself?
Scary but exhilarating! I loved my years at Atlantic Records, but things change. While it was nice to have the stability of a "job" and a steady paycheck, eventually I did find it limiting and somewhat frustrating in terms of new opportunities. Creating my own company was challenging, but I welcomed the change. I missed the camaraderie of the staff, but what I realized, which was most important, was that the "company" was not what defined me.
5. Four years ago you started the Classics Du Jour division of Libow Unlimited with your partner Paul Rappaport (formerly of Columbia Records). How did that development came about?
Back in 2007, my good friend and business colleague Paul Yeskel passed away. Paul was responsible for creating Classics Du Jour, a niche that was sorely overlooked by the labels. After his death, with the encouragement of his family, I assumed responsibility for Classics Du Jour and "made it my own." Rap reached out to me at a time when he was seeking new opportunities and the partnership developed from there. Between us we have years of history, relationships and knowledge of the business that serves us (and our clients) well. Everyone loves Rap!
6. Classics Du Jour is a unique company model that seems to fill a much-needed niche for promoting Classic Rock artists. What has the response been to this company from both the artists and radio?
The response to CDJ has been fantastic! Our radio friends couldn't be happier that there is a "go to" company that services their needs musically and promotionally. Classic Rock Radio has a huge listenership that, except for the obvious few stations, has been underserved. Our contention is that as long as there are "Classic" artists releasing new music, new music from their archives, or touring, there is a large music buying audience that wants to know. Where else are they going to go? It isn't only about airplay - it's about awareness. CDJ helps maximize these releases on all fronts along with our radio partners. The artists couldn't be happier and the labels are realizing the benefits of what we can accomplish for these bands. Our website (www.classicsdujour.com) is value-added and quickly growing into an end-user site with a large and loyal following (boasting over 4.3 million hits for the year!)
7. Who are some of the artists you're currently working with? Any other artists that you're going to be working with you can tell us about?
Coming out of 2012, we're continuing to work with Don Felder, who will be releasing a new track from his recent solo release, as well as Neal Schon (both amazing guitarists from high-profile bands). Throughout the year we were involved in campaigns for Pink Floyd, Queen, Van Halen, Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith, ZZ Top, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Heart, The Outlaws, Jeff Lynne, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, Blue Oyster Cult and The Rolling Stones. We'll see what the New Year brings! :)
8. You've done Rock promotion at a high level for years. What's your take on the current state of Rock radio?
Rock Radio today is very fragmented and, unfortunately, operating within the constraints of large corporations that are focused more on the bottom line than on the creativity of the people who work for them. It's a business. Rap and I try to bring some "old school" fun back into our working model and remind stations that it's okay to think outside the box - even in these times! Many of the programmers that we work with came from Progressive Rock radio. They have a point of reference. Those that are newer to the game are figuring it out. At the end of the day, if we can all accomplish our goals, it's a win-win.
9. Artist development is a key intangible for new artists and bands. But for a Classic Rock artist who has already built a career, I suppose your challenge is how to make that artist still relevant today. How does your company accomplish that?
Classic Rock music is defined by its staying power - music that is considered timeless. What changes is the audience ... it grows. It's not just about "our generation" who grew up with these bands; it's now about our children who are discovering this music for the first time and embracing it. Rap and I treat each release as an event with the goal of securing as much visibility through airplay, promotions, artist access or tour involvement, as possible. Our job is to remind radio why these artists are considered "classic" and then provide the tools to help educate (or re-educate) their listeners.
10. Every promotion person has a record close to their heart that for one reason or another never broke through, "The One That Got Away"..... What is your "One That Got Away" -- and what did you learn from that record?
There was a time when Atlantic distributed Richard Branson's Virgin Records. The roster included The Motors, XTC and a band called The Records. We worked a single from The Records entitled, "Starry Eyes" - I loved the song and the band. It should have been a "hit," but never really broke through. Unlike Hall & Oates "She's Gone," Roxy Music "Love Is the Drug" or Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill," The Records came and went. These other artists/songs eventually found success - if not on the first go-around, but certainly the second or third! Persistence and timing. That's what I learned.
What was the first album or single you purchased on your own?
Oh, I can't even remember - my bad!
Are you more a movie or TV person and give us some of your favorites of each medium?
I would say both! TV: Shameless, Game Of Thrones, Treme, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, The Good Wife, Fringe ... Movies: Slap Shot, The Godfather, Schindler's List, E.T., One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Funny Girl, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sixth Sense, Back To the Future, Being There, Bourne Identity, Die Hard, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Silence of the Lambs....
When you're NOT in Rock promotion work mode, what do you like to do to relax and get away from the business?
Movies, sporting events, travel, shop, try new restaurants, read a good book, spend time with friends and family (not necessarily in that order!)