The Power of Three…Ramble

The past month many of us in the music tech and tech world lost three truly great men- John Loscalzo (MTV, CBS Radio & much more), Dave Goldberg (Survey Monkey, co-founder of Launch which became Yahoo! Music) and Michael Deputato (Universal.)

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When John passed I was speechless. My dear friend Courtney Smith called to tell me the news. John was her boss at MTV and her current role at CBS Radio. My brain could not take in what she was saying. John and I were not only colleagues at MTV Networks, we were neighbors. He owned the local news source, BrooklynHeightsBlog.com and we had only been in touch on a local issue the day prior.

John was a quirky guy with an offbeat sense of humor, who loved his wife Traci Zamot and daughter, Gracie with such joy, it couldn’t help but make you smile to see them together. He was only 51. He liked to scheme, to take part in local politics and he always did it with a tremendous grin on his face. Walking down the streets of the neighborhood after his passing, you can feel John noticing things to report on, delight in and rally in the air. A truly great human who is very much missed.

Then, last week, another friend sent me a Viber message asking if I had heard about Dave Goldberg’s sudden death. My first reaction was to curse, not very ladylike, but it was another blow. When I worked at Yahoo!, I loved to see Dave in action. There was one meeting, the first working day of the year, I’ll never forget. Dave was fired up in a good way. He wanted to counteract a bad contract. The head of legal shook his head – he had put in many months of work with his team and said the ink was still drying on the signatures. Dave was not happy with the terms and asked me for my support.

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It was a deal that effected the programming of the website for years afterward – and Dave was right in his stance. He didn’t need my support, he could’ve, like so many other powerful men, simply dictated for me to carry out his orders. He was a great leader who knew how to inspire and be real.

Between his fire and beliefs in what he did at work, and his big heart- Dave handed out roses to everyone on Valentine’s Day and hosted amazing annual Super Bowl parties with his wife, Sheryl Sandberg at their home in the Palisades, Dave never let anyone feel like he wasn’t interested in what they had to say, and a true example of people who are truly successful championing other people.

It was on Facebook that another smart and wonderful fellow, Jon Vanhala, broke the news of a lovely man, and long time colleague, Michael Deputato succumbed to brain cancer this past Saturday. I remember calling Michael when Spotify first launched in the U.S. to ask his advice about naming conventions. The account was handled by sales, but the only way to make a daily impact is to create playlists, which tapped into my music programming experience.

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While Michael and I discussed the account he asked me how many people were on my digital team. I’ll never forget his shock to find out I was a one person team with ten dotted-line reports, wok ring the active roster. After that Michael would call me to check in on me- and give me a bit of a sanity check. What a good man he was, as were Loscalzo and Dave Goldberg.

What I learned from these men is to pursue your passions, make time and notice people who need your help – most of all do something, so watch life from the sidelines.

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Franzen is the Kanye West of Authors…Ramble

When Kayne West approached the Grammy stage to snatch Beck’s golden statue for Best Album of The Year, claiming it should have gone to Beyonce, he tried to make it a joke- at first. We all know the fall out, Kanye (for a completely different POV click on Kanye’s name) wasn’t kidding. He went on to say he doesn’t want to perform again at The Grammys until they change it to reflect popular sales. Hmm, then he went on to say it was an insult to artistry, but he hadn’t even listened to Beck’s album, Morning Phase, which had been hailed as a critical darling in indie circles. I also want to say his intro for Kanye’s own performance said it was his “most personal” and point out there is nothing less personal than using Autotune.

I’m not anti-Autotune, but let’s not kid ourselves. Here’s a link for Kanye and all the other people, who, instead of wanting to explore and make an informed rant, is Beck’s Morning Phase:

Well, now let’s turn to another accomplished, lauded artist, one who has graced the cover of TIME magazine for his work, won the Pulitzer Prize, Mr. Jonathan Franzen. Franzen has chosen to take many jabs at women’s fiction writer, Jennifer Weiner. While he hasn’t read her work, he says no one has told him it is a “must read” and she is using a real issue – the lack of review space given to female writers, as a platform to get attention when she doesn’t deserve it.

Dude. Come on, if you had read her work, I would think you had some valid points, but you are not A) her target demo B) too busy to take the take time to read it the way Kanye, who likes to call himself an arbiter of all things cultural, could have taken the time, pre-Grammys to listen to every album in the category of Best Albums that was nominated. If you never read or listen to music outside of what you like, how can you really know what is good and what is not?

As someone who has been paid to be a music programmer (Yahoo! Music & Vh1), and a writer, I have listened and read works I was not naturally drawn to, and found it not only expanded my knowledge, it expanded my own creativity. I don’t always agree with awards, mostly they are a broken thing, but they do help curate what is interesting.

I have read many award winning literary books which I found to lack a strong plot or interesting characters or deliver a good ending. How is Kanye’s lack of respect any different from Franzen’s? It negates their point, which might otherwise presented have been valid. If you are going to diss someone at least know what you are putting down and acknowledge that’s not going to be given to you as a suggestion because your crowd is caught up in one scene.

When you make statements, that have some merit, but no foundation of their own, it not only disrespects the other artist, it disrespects their fans. How likely am I to buy Kanye’s next album or his ridiculous Adidas lineKanye_3

How likely am I now to read another Jonathan Frazen book? The answer to all those questions, is highly unlikely, even if they have critical acclaim. Why should my cash line their pockets when they clearly value their own taste and are unwilling to leave room for anyone else’s? Fans who started the #whoisbeck Twitter campaign are also in need of some more cultural exposure. Why must we tweet about our own ignorance or make statements in the press about it? Why not show the courtesy to make an informed opinion and allow that while not your taste, it can be very important to other people.

My friend Courtney Smith’s book, Record Collecting For Girls, has a chapter on guilty pleasures. It was inspired by our conversations. I don’t believe in having musical guilty pleasures. If it speaks to you, if it helps you, touches you, makes you dance or feel good in any way, then go right ahead and enjoy it.

9780547502236_p0_v1_s260x420 However, Courtney calls bullshit on that in her book and says anyone who doesn’t say they have guilty pleasures is either boring or lying or an asshole. That was the chapter she read on a book panel we did during her book tour. I started with the question “did you call me an asshole?” We have lively debates to say the least, but during that panel people asked me the most questions because they wanted to know about the popular artists that I got to work with in pop music over obscure indie bands — yes, even in Brooklyn! Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world.

Popular doesn’t mean bad. Jennifer Weiner is a fun, great writer who writes heartfelt stories about women that I can relate to, in fact, she is one of the reasons I got a dog. She wrote in her novel “Good in Bed,” every writer should have a dog. So, thank you, Jennifer Weiner for not only providing me and many other women with entertaining fiction we want to read. Thank you for standing up for female authors getting equal press coverage. Thank you for using the platform you EARNED for sticking up for everyone else who does not have it.

5 Questions with @courtneysmith…Ramble

courtneyMy first official ‘hang’ with @courtneyesmith we went to see The Finn Brothers play in Central Park. She has a thing for Tim and I have a thing for Neil so we became instantly bonded. I popped up in a meeting with her at Viacom a few months later much to her delighted surprize solidifying our friendship. If I’m going to recommend someone on #followfriday the least I can do is provide some insight into their minds!


Vocation: manager of digital and video promo at Rock Steady, a new music marketing company
Location: Los Angeles
Sign: Virgo

1) How do you like your caffeine?
I strongly prefer it in the form of Coke Zero. I hardly ever drink coffee. Really, only about once a month and then it’s always a vanilla flavored something or the pumpkin spice dealies when Starbucks offers them – you know, something that tastes nothing at all like coffee. People seem to think that is strange. Just never developed a taste for it, move along, nothing to see here.

2) What’s your signature style?
I have basically no eye for design so I do whatever Anthropologie suggests I should. I like shabby chic – things that look nice but comfortable – in clothes and furniture. As much as I enjoy looking at photo shoots with Pouty Spice there’s very little chance you’ll catch me in a corset and unmanageable shoes. I want to sit on my furniture and not slide off of it. And I want you to look at my books and album collection. It will help you realize that I’m fascinating.

3) What are your current projects?
Oh goodness. Ok, at work I’m in a brand new company and learning, learning, learning! I’m pitching ideas to the bands we’re working with (Boys Noize, k-os, Silver Starling, Plastiscines, Vitalic) in the digital space to engage their fans. I’m taking their videos to networks, retail outlets and online portals. I can’t design my living room but I am aces at designing the feel around an album.

In my personal life I’m in the last stages of pitching a book idea called Record Collecting for Girls. My agent and I are editing and taking it to publishers this fall. I wanted to write it because I love music but also because I read a lot of music books and I realized almost all of them are written by men. I’m tried of reading emo stories about how some chick broke hearts and then you made a mixtape. So my book is going to speak to women – the RIAA reports women have purchased 50% or more of all the music bought in the last 10 years, why do men get to do all the talking about it?

I’m also doing a monthly podcast series for the Uncensored Interview website called Uncensored Discussions. I sit down with a band or music industry professional and we discuss in depth the history of whatever topic they’ve chosen. So far that includes The Sounds on Depeche Mode, Annuals on Johnny Cash and Miranda Lee Richards on The Beatles and John Lennon. Coming soon: ’60s girl groups with Best Coast!

I also write a weekly must-see music video column for The Daily Swarm. I continue to obsess on music videos because of it. I also continue to snark on music videos because of it.

4) What fascinates you about space?
OMG you guys I am totally obsessed with space. Outer space, that is. Have you ever looked at a picture of the horseshoe nebula? It is literally a huge chunk of everything that makes up human life. I don’t understand how anyone can look at pictures of the vastness and beautifulness of space and not feel their humanity and want to do something nice for their fellow man because it’s so obvious how incredibly lucky we all are to exist.

5) What drove you to pursue a career in music?
In thinking about the answer to this I traced my history of music back and it has to all relate to my parents’ giant record collection. There was always music around, we always played “do you know who sings this song?” and I still have a mixtape I made off their vinyl when I was 8. It’s not very good but it is very amusing. Once I went to college, started doing internships and realized that it was possible to have a career in music it was on like Donkey Kong.

Anyone who gets to work on their passion as a way to make their living is very lucky. Half the time I want to kick some people out of the music industry and make room for some kids who are wicked into music. Less industry, more music people.

Thank you Courtalicious! For more on Courtney’s music picks read her blog: http://howsthatworkingout.wordpress.com/