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Coming Up on 50 Years, Veteran Record Promoter Brad LeBeau Has Survived the Fall of The American Music Business and Thrived


When it comes to contemporary pop music — from Beyonce to Miley Cyrus and far more — the independent dance music marketing company PRO MOTION has been the go-to place for remix curation and dance/pop marketing agency since the early ’80s.

They’ve handled contemporary pop stars such as Adele, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Bruno Mars, Coldplay, Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran, Jennifer Lopez, Kelly Clarkson, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Sam Smith, Shakira, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd. 

Launched in 1983, PRO MOTION is the oldest and largest in the world. The New York and Los Angeles-based firm has played an essential role in curating remixes and creating the ground swell for thousands of up-and-coming and established, domestic and international recording artists, helping jumpstart careers and propel pop culture status. 

PRO MOTION is the only independent dance/pop promotion agency of its kind to market the music they remix and represent it to both the industry and the consumer. Social media is a priority with all domestic and international PRO MOTION campaigns. With over 500,000 devoted online followers, the Manhattan office custom designs each initiative utilizing its clients’ visual and auditory assets. Such leaders as American Express, Cirque du Soleil, NBC/Universal, Pepsi, and Smirnoff have retained PRO MOTION’s expertise to help brand their products within the music consumer space.

Its founder, Brad LeBeau, has quite the story. “As a child I was never interested in rock music. It was groups like the O’Jays, the Spinners and the Jackson 5 that got my attention. Growing up in the ‘70s, I was more interested in watching “Soul Train” with Don Cornelius than Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” It was considered odd for a boy like me to be tuned into black music, but I didn’t care. I was guided by instinct then and now.”

Now 66 years old, LeBeau started deejaying in clubs while attending Brandeis University in 1976. After graduating, LeBeau returned to NYC where he deejayed at Manhattan’s Xenon (Studio 54’s biggest competitor at the time.) While playing music during the early ‘80s, LeBeau was approached by major labels interested in him spinning their 12″ singles. Realizing that his support mattered, the 26-year-old opened PRO MOTION on his father’s birthday, July 5th, an homage to the man that “encouraged his son to follow his dream.”

Since then, LeBeau and his team has not only promoted the latest and greatest but also legendary artists such as Billie Holiday, Bob Marley, Cher, Curtis Mayfield, Diana Ross, Donna Summer, Shirley Bassey and Whitney Houston, among others. They’ve worked with iconic rockers AC/DC, Billy Idol, Blondie, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran, INXS, Lenny Kravitz, Rolling Stones, Queen, The Doors, and U2 as well as superstar DJ/producers Calvin Harris, Chainsmokers, David Guetta, Deadmau5, Diplo, Kygo, Marshmello, and Tiësto.

As a career highlight, LeBeau proudly cites his executive producer role with Diana Ross. There he oversaw the remix of four classic Ross tracks (by Eric Kupper). Each secured #1 Billboard chart status to the #1 spot again, making her the only artist ever to have her charted songs reach #1 twice, as a career highlight.

Due to his commitment to club culture, LeBeau is the idea man and independent producer (along with Ian Bonhôte and Scout Productions) behind the forthcoming “Teardrops On The Dance Floor” documentary that will deal with the never-before-addressed Herculean popularity of dance music and the work of some of today’s most successful DJs. The series will look at the cultural and historical context in which dance music was born and subsequently grew over the last 50 years.

BRAD3Deadline said: “Teardrops On the Dance Floor will offer a deep dive into the work of some of today’s most successful DJs and an exploration of their influences over 50 years of music, dancing and raving.”

In order to get a handle on LeBeau’s celebration of his 50 years surviving in a very arduous business, I had to make a pilgrimage to his uptown Harlem HQ — which doubles as an archive and museum of pop culture mementos and collectibles. Though I could spend an entire day interviewing him over his vast and fascinating collection, I ended up discussing his history and how it relates to the general story of pop music.

Q: Your first record was Freda Payne?

Brad LeBeau: My first favorite record was “Band of Gold” by Freda Payne on Invictus Records. I remember that because I was at a sleep-away camp. I hated it. I was the kid who cried when he got on the bus. I couldn’t sleep one night and was walking around. I had heard this song come out of some kind of bunk and it was “Band of Gold.” I was not raised in a rock-and-roll space when my contemporaries in grammar school and high school were listening to rock-and-roll, the Beatles, the Stones. I was listening to Black records. My whole thing was R&B. It was The O’Jays and The Spinners. I did like Elton John because he had a bit of soul in his music. He, by the way, was one of the first white artists to perform on “Soul Train.” I always watched Soul Train with its dance line, the jumble board and Don Cornelius who became a client of mine later in life. He really had that low voice, a really nice guy. I was about nine and watching Channel 13 in my room. There was a group performing and the MC called them The Main Ingredient. I didn’t know who they were but I watched them sing this song and was just locked in. As soon as it was over, I literally ran to the fucking record store and said, “Do you have the new Main Ingredient record?” The guy behind the counter says there is no new Main Ingredient single, because back then it was 45s. I said to him, “Do you have the album?” He said, “We have their last album. I said, “Can I listen to it before I buy it? He said no, but I bought it anyway. I ran home, put the needle on the record player but the song that I heard on television wasn’t there. I ran back to the store and asked him, “do you have the record album before that?” He said, “Yeah.” I asked, “Can I listen to it before I buy it?” He said, no, but I bought it anyway. It wasn’t there either. It was a new song. “Just Don’t Wanna Be Lonely”.

I wasn’t raised to be in the music business. Most people who are in the business knew early. We didn’t discuss that in my house. Jewish pre-med was the thing. I remember coming home from high school in my junior year and I said to my mother, “This whole college thing, I’m not really feeling it. She said, “Is that right?” I said, “Yeah” But she goes, “Good because here’s the list of schools we’re going to apply to. If you get into Brandeis, that’s where you’ll go.”

My mother ruled with an iron microphone. I didn’t test well, I got very nervous. I suffered from anxiety. When you’re a kid, they say if you can’t get the first question right, just go on. They did that for people like me because I would get paralyzed. My SAT scores were very low. I knew early on, I wasn’t going to get into a good school. I tried to set it up so that I don’t have to go to college. My mom died when I was 19, at the beginning of my sophomore year. I called my father from the pay phone at the cafeteria. “Now that Mommy’s passed away, I don’t think I’m cut out for this.” I wasn’t; they were so smart at Brandeis and I wasn’t prepared. I said, “Do you mind if I drop out of the program?” 

My father said something that changed my life. “As men, we have to work more during our waking hours in this society than anything else. If you’re truly blessed, you’ll love what you do for a living. do whatever you want to do.” If my mother was alive, she’d have me stay in the program. That conversation changed my life. “I appreciate that, Dad. Can I have a larger allowance?” I was getting 25 bucks a week in 1976. He said, “No, I’m paying for your college. You want more money, get a job.” I said, “I’m a full-time student.” Then he said, “Get a job at night or on the weekend.” Every semester at Brandeis then was $6,000.

We didn’t discuss the music thing. I only found music because  he then said, “Get a job at night or on the weekend if you’re a full-time student.” This is 1976. I used to go out dancing with my girlfriend from the Five Towns in Whitmere. We used to go to these clubs in Boston on the weekends and I fucking loved the whole disco scene. I would go to these clubs where I would dance all night long and see the DJ doing his thing with the records. What is the thing with the 45s? I’m looking, but it was too intimidating to ask.

Q: You knew early on that it was called a pole — what motivated you.

BL: There’s a pole, something that attracts you. That Main Ingredient experience had attracted me but we didn’t talk about it in my house. With my mother, I listened to Broadway show tunes, Mamas and Papas, the Beatles, Nat Cole, Judy Garland, a collection of everything. My father was a jewelry designer on Madison Avenue for like a million years. When I was in my 20s, my father said, “Come into the store, I want to talk to you. Do you want to get in on the business? Don’t you want to be known as LeBeau and Son for the rest of your life?” I didn’t want to be in the business. He asked me why and I said, “If I ever work for you, they’ll never find your fucking body.” I love my father, but I treated him like my father.

Q: How old are you?

LeBeau: I’m going to be 67 in January. We’re close.

Q: In 1951, “Rocket 88” came out. That was the beginning of the word rock-and-roll. I was born in 1953. I started with rock.

BL: And Alan Freed. That’s “Rocket 88.” Was that a Black record? It was a Black record. The original singer was not credited. It was re-recorded.

Q: You found club music and knew that’s where you wanted to build your career out of that?

LeBeau: It was an intuitive thing. I would say that the greatest things that have happened in my life, more often than not, have happened against my better judgment.  I’m dancing with Elise Broadsky during the weekends and I thought, “If I’m dancing at these clubs anyway, I could probably do something with the records.” I went back home that summer between sophomore and junior year. There was a club on the Upper East Side called Court Street. I go to the deejay and say, “I’m a deejay. Do you need someone?” “No problem,” he said. I had never done it before. He said, “OK, come and audition.” I auditioned and cleared the floor. I didn’t get the job so I went back to college. In my junior year, I started to meet people in the music business in Boston — it was a hub for disco records — such as John Luongo, all those guys, the Boston Record Pool. They took me under their wing. I began my deejay education in a Black club called Kicks in Boston. That’s when I started to really figure out how to do this whole 12 inches thing.

LEBEAUGEORGEMICHAELI’m queuing up a Grace Jones record. What do you do when you queue? You read the label. I noticed on the bottom of the label, the name of the original record label for Grace Jones was Beam Junction Records. I look at the address — 360 East 72nd street, New York City. That’s where I was raised. I said no way. I went back during my break and knocked on the apartment door of Cy and Eileen Berlin/Beam Junction Records. They had signed Grace Jones as a model in France and that’s how I met a lot of these deejays — these big New York deejays — a lot of them since Jim Burgess died from AIDS. All of those guys used to come and pick up records.I met Judy Weinstein before her record pool. Then I got into the pool. That’s when I came back to New York. People thought I was from Boston but I wasn’t. I graduated early from Brandeis. I stayed in school but I dropped out of pre-med. It was going fucking end badly. I knew it and told  my father that probably I’m not smart enough because I wasn’t. So I deejayed during college at these clubs in Boston. Fast forward, I came back to New York after college and there was a club that was opening up in New York called Magique.

Q: You must have known the late Tony Smith — he was a deejay there. I’m good friends with his husband, so I got to know Tony. Sad about his sudden death

BL: Yes. I recently met Mike at Tony’s funeral. In fact, I was supposed to interview Tony for a series that I do, I’ll show you that. A week before he died — he kept putting it off and he called me one day. I said, “We’re on for the interview tomorrow.” He said, “I’m not feeling so well.”

Q: He went into the hospital and never came out. I worked with Mike to get the bulk of Tony’s collection sold because Mike eventually moved out of the place that they lived in.

BL: As I was saying, I heard that this club Magique had opened up right on East 60th Street. Oh, really? Big room. I auditioned, and got the job, Wednesday and Saturday. Drug addiction started right around that time in a big way. I drank alcohol during my senior year of high school and throughout college. I always went to class, never skipped one. First semester of my senior year, I’m at Brandeis’s library which I went to every night. My friend Evan Shyer taps me on the shoulder and says, “Brad, I got something in my room. You wanna try it?” I said, “Sure.” I didn’t say, “What is it?” I go up to his room and he puts two lines out. It started a 25-year addiction. Hang on. I go back to Brandeis, to the library, open my book and I read the same paragraph for 30 minutes. I tap Evan on the shoulder and say, “Can we do more?” That killed so many people.

I went back to New York, got hired at Xenon and Magique. I had been playing at Magique for a year, and got a call from Jellybean who said, “Hey Brad…” I knew him because I used to be a record reviewer for a small magazine called Disco Tech. When I came back from the summer after I didn’t get the job at that small club because I cleared the floor. I auditioned again and got the job five nights a week, 25 bucks a night. The deejay who gave it to me was moving on — can’t remember his name — but the guy who was leaving Court Street, gave me his job after I auditioned and said, “I know somebody who went to high school with you, but they were in a class older than you. They now work for a magazine called Disco Tech. Would you like to meet?” I said, “Sure.” They hired me as an intern for $125 a week. That’s when I started to meet record people in New York versus Boston. At the same time, Magique opens up, and I’m a deejay there. During that time, I got a job at Ze Records.

Q: Ze was a European French label with a rich guy, Michael Zilkha, as the owner.

BL: I’m deejaying at Magique at night and I got a job at Ze. I did all of them. It was Cristina, August Darnell and Kid Creole. The first number one record I had on the Billboard chart was Don Armando’s Second Avenue Rhumba Band’s “Deputy of Love”. It was b side of the record. The A side was “I’m an Indian Too.” My first Number One. Working at Ze records during the day. Jellybean calls me. Says he’s leaving Xenon and going to the Fun House. Do I want to audition for Xenon? Well, Howard Stein was a whole other thing. His father was a gangster who was murdered by the Westies. They dismembered him and left a body part in each borough just to send him out.

I auditioned at Xenon and got the job. My alcoholism and cocaine addiction was on fire. I’m on fucking fire every night before I played on Wednesday and Saturday. I would go to the bar before I started because I would be nervous about playing. I had anxiety. I didn’t want anyone to know. I would say to the bartender, “Can you make me a Greyhound? It’s grapefruit juice and vodka. Send it up to the DJ booth and keep them coming all night.”

They would do that. On one Wednesday night, I said that to the bartender, Kenya. He said, “I can’t.” I said, “Do know my name?” He said, “Yeah, you’re Brad.” I said, “You know what I do with this club?” He said, “You’re the DJ, right?” I said, “Exactly.” He said, “Brad, let me tell you how I know who you are.” He said, “Thirty minutes before you came to the club tonight, the manager had a meeting and it was about you. He said the first person who serves Brad one cocktail will be fired on the spot.”

Q: You were that bad?

BL: “What do I do?” So I said, “Can you send fruit juice and ice up to the booth? I’ll be right back.” Where did I go? Exactly. That’s how I carried on about 10 years ago. I’m sober now, like 22 years.About 10 years ago, I was thinking about that manager. I found him online. Patrick McBride. I called him and said, “Patrick, it’s Brad.” He said, “How are you doing? I said, “I’m doing really well. I have to tell you something. I don’t think I ever thanked you.”I told him this story, I don’t think he ever knew. And yes, I didn’t get sober. I got sober years later but that was the first time I heard the message, but I didn’t listen. I just want to thank you because I survived me. And he said, “Brad, you’re more than right.” Now he’s involved in religious books. It’s wild. This is the guy who’d take people out the back, but if you don’t do the right thing, the club will fucking hurt you. These people always liked me, but they felt, I think, not sorry for me. I was never this aggressive guy. Anyway, I’m deejaying at Xenon and record people are now calling me at home, saying, “Brad, can you put us on the guest list? We want to bring you records.” I said, “Do I have to pay for the records?” They said, “No, we’re going to bring them to you. I didn’t know about any of that stuff. What do you? I did it just to meet girls and make cash. I thought there was no future in this thing. unexpectedly, Xenon closed in 1983. When Howard sold the club, he sold all my records that were locked in the bin.

Q: He sold your records away? What gave him the right to do that?

BL: That was Howard Stein. Then he opened the O bar. Anyhow, When I’m in the deejay booth and these record people would come to me and give me records and they said, would you play them? I said not right now. They said, what do you mean? I said, I haven’t even heard of them. I may not like them. If I don’t like them, I won’t play them. Apparently he didn’t tell people that. There was one intern who used to call me constantly. He used to say, “Can you put me on the guest list?” I said, “Sure.” He was a really nice guy — Jason Flom.

Q: Oh, really? Jason Flom who went on to run Atlantic and Virgin Records.

BL: We all go back a million years. After these promotions people would talk to me and try to cajole me into playing records. I remember thinking to myself, “You have no idea how to talk to people like me, to get people excited about music. I could probably do that.” I was working at Xenon and at Ze promoting Don Armando, Second Avenue Rhumba band. I was getting a feel for it. I got fired from Ze because of Audrey Joseph.  She was threatened by me. She told him to fire me and I was. I then went to work for Genya Ravan at Polish Records, which was a great experience. I sat with [the late R&B singer] Ronnie Spector — they were very close. We got along and I love the music. If I like music, I’ll promote her. Whatever, this was right around the time that Ronnie wrote the book about leaving Phil [Spector, her husband and brilliant producer]. That was a great experience. I then went to work for a small independent promotion company. I was the head of promotion and now I really got involved with the Billboard Show. His name was Jim Knapp. It was called Music. It was very small but he got a lot of good records. He did a lot of cocaine and gave clients cocaine. It was a mess but I really learned how to promote records to Billboard. 

brad disco 1That’s when my career started. I was there for about six months and then got a call from Gerald Busby, the first Black man to run a pop department at a major label. We did a lot of his records. He was at A&M and went to MCA semi-recently.He said, “I heard about you. You should start your own company. If you do, MCA will support you.” 

Then I’m at Studio 54 doing cocaine on the balcony with my boss’s best friend, Jack Hopke. Jack says to me, “You need to leave Jim and start your own company.” Between Gerald and Jim, I opened my company in 1983. And this is how I did it. I was working for a really nasty guy. He gave me a great opportunity, but I would hear how he talked badly about people on the phone and then talk nicely to them to their face. I didn’t trust him. I knew that when I left, he was good. He would badmouth me. My mother didn’t raise an idiot child. When I decided to start the company, one hour every day during lunch, I did something else to start it. I rented an office, watched the carpet go in and rented furniture since I couldn’t afford to buy it. I saw the phones come in. I didn’t tell anybody about my starting the company because I knew I would get back to my boss Jim.

I remember saying to [journalist] Stephanie Sheppard, “Can we have coffee one day?” This was about two weeks before I was going to launch the company. I started it, July 5, the Monday of that year’s new music seminar at the New York Hilton. I said, “I know you’re a writer. Maybe when I start my own company, you can write something about it. I would really appreciate that.” Anyway, it’s now the Friday before the Monday that I’m going to launch the company on July 5th. I have to get out of my job. I have to leave the company. I have to leave my employer. How am I going to do this? I figured if I quit, he’s really going to be pissed off.

Q: If you asked him for more salary, then he’ll fire you.

BL: So I did and said, “If you can’t afford it, I understand.” He said, “I really can’t afford that.” I said, “Then I have to go and find something else.” I go home and as soon as I get home, the phone rings. I found somebody who we both knew who said, “Jim is already badmouthing you. He said he fired you.” Now, this is Friday night. Monday, first day of the New Music seminar in 1983. Disco News was a free magazine in everybody’s bag. Right on the front page: “Brad Lebeau starts New Promotion Company.” God bless Stephanie Shepherd! Who are they going to believe? They’re not going to believe Jim now. How did I start my company in two days? I had no expectation of this thing ever fucking lasting.

Q: You never have any idea. I’ve read every kind of book on the entertainment business, whether it’s the professional guide or a memoir, and you’ve got to tell them a story. But OK, 40th anniversary, you’ve been doing this for all these years. You must have 1,000 million insights.

BL: David Salidor is the first person who approached me and said, “Maybe we should do this after 40 years.” I said, “I don’t know.” I have never hired a publicist, ever. David and I worked here when I started the company. I rented office space to David in my office at 8th Avenue and 57th. He had a small office and when I started the company, a block away, he rented an office. Anyway, he did some press for us in a barter deal because we had to get up and running. I had never done press before that. I just never found the right guy. Now I’m thinking my story is important after 40 years. I thought, especially in a business that’s gone through many trials and tribulations, almost nobody’s around from when I started. Either they’re dead or they’re just not relevant or they’re not in the business anymore. And my business is flourishing. I said, “I’m thinking about this. What do you think?” He said, “You really should do it.” We went back and forth for months on this, I couldn’t commit because it’s just like, how relevant, how self-involved? Yes, I have a lot of stories.

Q: It’s mid ‘80s. Talk about the pivotal changes that have occurred in your experience and what you consider, let’s say the five to 10 touch points in your career.

BL: When I started the company, it was mailing finished vinyl. The big thing then was overnight mail. Then people were talking about cell phones. They were talking about personal computers. We ended up getting one. A couple of years later, there was no internet. 12 inch vinyl reminds me of those times of the fax machine. Big. No more big fax machines. We got one, I was hip. We did that and it went from vinyl to cassettes. Then, remember the DAT, that lasted for about 20 seconds. Then it went to CDs and now it’s digital.  

My company has always ridden this wave of formats. At the end of the day, it’s not how you consume music. It’s how good the music you’re consuming is. When I started, the first record I still had was, “Meet The Beatles.” On that album, of the 12 tracks, there were six number one pop records, and reasonably priced. Now there were 14 tracks on an album before they were digital and the price was ridiculous. You might get one single. Somewhere along the lines, as the British say, somebody lost the plot. Prices went up, quality went down. Now with digital, it’s a singles market and who’s going to buy? You’re not buying for $9.99. You can listen to the same fucking record all day long and you have to buy anything and you could choose the song. The record business created its own extinction. It’s like yellow cabs bitching and moaning about how Uber stole their business. Uber didn’t steal your business. You didn’t look after your business. Uber came in and took advantage of the marketplace. The way I’ve operated this business, all I care about is quality. I’m not taking the money if I think the record is a piece of shit. Now, if I do — if I get involved in a record and you hire me to remix it and we do it but if you don’t like it — I still fucking love it.

Q: There were lots of changes in promotion.

BL: You asked me about touch points. I started promoting vinyl billboard charts. Numbers are great. We get involved in retail promotion. Remember dance music? When I started, it was gay. A couple of people liked it, but really pop departments were not getting involved. We’re going straight to the Pop charts, we’re going to the Black charts, whatever the moment. If those records don’t hit, they come back to Club culture. Club culture has always been the back door. We’ll always let you in but you’d prefer to go through the front door — the Pop department. You’re desperate enough to come through the back door as a dance record.Now, every pop artist wants their record remixed. Let’s get a hip executive producing Reba McEntyre’s Greatest Hits, and Diana Ross — her Greatest Hits. We must have A&R’d over 1,000 remixes here. The biggest in the world like Beyonce. And new ones, domestic and international people. They trust me with their repertoire. 

Take The O’Jays… I got a call from Chuck Gamble — Kenny Gamble’s nephew — who says, “Did you executive produce the Boss remix by Diana Ross? I’ve been looking for you.” I said, “How can I help?” He goes, “Look, it will be the 50th anniversary of Philly International. We would like you to remix a record for our next 50 years. We’ll send you the catalog.” I said, “You don’t have to. I already have it. That’s the musical fabric of my youth.” He sat here for six hours. I said, “I’ll tell you what the record is — ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ by McFadden and Whitehead. That’s the record we have to remix.” We did that one during COVID for Philly International. It’s been this way since the remix thing started — again, not my idea. I used to recommend remixes. I knew if I recommended them to record companies, I would get the project to promote.I got a call about 25 years ago from Hillary Shave, who was then the head of promotion for Virgin Records. “Brad, we just signed Depeche Mode from Mute over to Virgin. Part of the deal is that Dave Gahan has his own solo record on Virgin. Do you know who Dave Gahan is? I said, “Yeah. Do you?” She goes, “We have no one here to A&R the remix because we let go of the remix department. Can you help?” I was right there. We remixed the record and it went number one on Billboard. 

About six months later, I got a call on Christmas Eve Day from a  guy with a deep British voice, “I just want to say ‘thank you’ for remixing and promoting the Dave Gahan single. I said, “It’s my pleasure but the record is six months old. Who are you?” He said, “My name is Daniel Miller.” I said, “Oh, Daniel of Mute.” He said, “Would you like to executive produce the Depeche Mode Greatest Hits package?” That’s how it started. I did the Spice Girls remix package and it became this thing again. Hillary called me, not because I woke up one morning and said, “Oh, great idea. Let me do this. This is my life.” It’s not like I’m that bright. It’s not like I need to do that or need to do social media.

Q: Why didn’t you develop a music supervisor division?

BL: I don’t know… I haven’t but I’m at a point in my life right now where, I feel so blessed. I tell you, I was close to losing this company because of the cocaine and the alcohol. I had, as my father would say, one foot in the grave, the other on a banana peel. I was ready to meet a girl. She wanted me to quit using it. I said I would but I didn’t. She left me and I was destroyed. I got sober to get the girl back. I did not, but I had the chance to get her back 10 years later and then she started drinking. That’s life; it ebbs and flows. I got sober to get the girl back and got a call. I was left with no staff. Now, everybody who works with me was working remotely because of COVID. I had no staff left. I’m sitting in my office one day. I’d just gotten sober or started to stop drinking. 

I got a call from the woman who used to manage INXS. I had never spoken to her before she went, “I heard about your company. INXS just did a record with Ray Charles and we have a remix. Would you be interested in promoting it?” Now? I had basically no business. Then I said, “My pleasure. Let me listen to it. If I like it, I’ll do it.” I always kept quality in front of me. I listened to it. It did very well. She said, “If it goes top 10, I’ll give you a bonus.” It went top 10. I got a bonus and then I realized, OK, I was sober. Yeah. if I don’t drink, this happens. But if I drink, that happens. And you know, in the program I was in — which I don’t really want to talk about — they say, “Hang around for the miracle.” I don’t have just one cookie; I have to have the box. I don’t have one slice of pizza; I eat the whole pie. I go to the gym so I have to go every day. That’s how I am and I understand that now.

Q: You’ve had quite a journey…

BL: I’ve lived two lives in one lifetime. I fucked up half my life. But it was the first half. Now I have this opportunity which, when you’re sober, the decisions are a lot better. You’re not as impulsive as you think about things. I’m grateful to be alive today. I used to walk around with a fucking chip on my shoulder. You need to know who I am and it’s very, very different now. I didn’t intend it to be this way. It just happened. I’m a reasonable guy. I’m open to things. I was never open to things when I drank. It was contempt prior to investigation. If it wasn’t my idea, it sucked. And now, I asked for help. The fact that I’m alive is a miracle for what I did to myself. I thank you for coming here. But here’s the thing today — I listen more than I talk. I’ll talk to you if you want. I’m an open book about it. I’m ok talking about my addiction.

Q: Your history is very important. What’s most important is that you’ve addressed the state of the business. But what’s happened now is a variety of things. I love alternative music. I just love rock-and-roll. I appreciate hip hop as an alternative offshoot of rock-and-roll. There are still rock bands and a huge audience for them and rock-and-roll. We don’t have it because radio doesn’t function in the same way it used to function. Clubs don’t function in the same way they used to function. It’s all changed. Give me five minutes on the state of things now.

BL: The music business created whatever extinction it’s experiencing. Where major labels are giving the biggest pop artists a smaller window for their music to secure the kinds of streams and numbers that they need to support and spend more money. A lot of it is because of this machine — your cell phone. Back in the day, the only music show you’d ever see was the Grammys. Now, you have a music award show on television every 10 minutes. Whether it’s country, urban, pop or whatever. Everybody now has this vehicle. This device is moving so quickly that the consumption of music is a nanosecond. When I got involved in the music business, I would go to radio station program directors and say, “OK. What are the stations in the marketplace playing the record if it’s new? What are the local sales? What similar stations around the country are playing it?” But now, forget about local. It’s all digital. Local doesn’t count anymore. What are the social media numbers? Nobody wants to make a commitment to new music. They’re waiting for the last nine guys to tell them what’s been happening with the record. I call it the “American Idol” model, which is, they’re going on the numbers. They’re not going on the quality of the music.

Q: I used to say “American Idol” damaged the music business. The problem with “American Idol” is that it’s basically a show of singers doing lounge music on TV. Everybody’s playing songs everyone knows — there’s no art or innovation.

BL: My point with American Idol” is this: even if you’re voted off of “American Idol” in the first round, you can still get a record deal. Why? Because the number of views and impressions you get is enough to impress a record company to say, “We’ll sign you. You have a built-in audience.” Radio stations now are not interested in the quality of a record even if it’s a major label. They go, “Tell us Brad, what are the numbers, the streaming numbers, YouTube numbers, social media numbers on the new John Legend record? It’s not enough in a week. We need more.”How much more do you need? “We’ll let you know what we’re talking about — millions upon millions of streams before someone wants to take a look at it.” Now they’re looking at the numbers, they’re not listening to the music and therefore, when they sign records, they’re not listening to the music. It’s based on who’s involved. Take a look at the number of collaborations now, it’s a fucking running joke. You have SNL skits where the rapper has 16 collaborators. No one’s trusting acts that are going out on their own anymore. In concerts, it’s Enrique Iglesias with Ricky Martin. Two superstars have to go together. They can’t sell tickets otherwise.

Q: With what they’re doing now, they can be an unknown artist as long as they get a sneaker deal.

BL: That’s right. But who discovered the artist? This guy basically grandfathers this act in; they can’t fucking sing to save their fucking life but they look fucking hip. They’re slick and appeal to that 18 to 24 sweet spot demographic that every advertiser wants for cars, for credit cards, as does everybody else and with that comes TikTok. Now it’s all sound bites. It’s not a full song. somebody doing the 22nd dance routine and that’s your song. Can the artist sing? It doesn’t matter. Look at TikTok. There’s no career. They’re signing singles. There’s no career left. I’ll tell you something: you and I could dress weird and do a 20-secon video. I’m telling you we can get a fucking record deal.

Q: Even me….?

LeBeau: What we don’t sell is records. We will sell some big chain or you get McDonald’s to give you a deal like they did. You’re not in the music business anymore. You’re in the advertising business. You’re in the business of selling video. You want to sell sneakers, booze, cars. You want to endorse a credit card. You want to do fashion, whatever you want. It’s Ben Affleck for Dunkin Donuts with the Bronx rapper, Ice Spice, and her “Munchkins” fanbase. Did you see the commercial? It’s fucking brilliant. He’s like an executive at Dunkin Donuts with a real Boston accent. He doesn’t really get the whole souI thing. I don’t get it. Duncan Munchkin, that’s what it is basically. The music business has clawed their way to mediocrity. You have no argument with me. Why is that? Somewhere along the lines, it happened right after the age of Mo Austin [the late head of WarnerBros.], all you need is one great guy to hire somebody who’s not really good. They assume it’s the Peter Principle gone amok and they hire someone else who doesn’t know and they hire someone else who doesn’t know.

By the way, it’s not just the music business. I went to the post office the other day and I’m waiting in line and the woman behind the post office is looking at her phone and doesn’t say that it’s closed. I said, “Excuse me, I’m waiting. She goes, “Okay.” What the fuck is that?” I don’t run this company that way. I’m not interested in mediocrity. I don’t want bonuses on my work. You hire me to excel. I shouldn’t get a bonus because I excel. What? If you hire me to do a mediocre job and I do a good job, I get more money. If I do a great job, I get more money. You hire me to do the best job I can do. That’s why I’m in business for 40 fucking years. That’s why I only do one new record a week for 40 years. We just released the Martin Garrix with Lloyiso on RCA; superstar deejays now compete against rock stars. That’s my life.

Q: We just have to have a handle on what’s going on and you can get something in through these new ways as long as you understand the technology.

BL: Remember when we started with music, it wasn’t visual; it was only auditory. Then MTV happened, which by the way, they never thought that would last. They thought it was a fad like rap music. They never thought rap music would be more than a fad. the internet. It’s not going to last. Napster, it won’t last. Let the kids share. It will go away. It was ignorance that created their extinction. It was the perfect storm, bad quality, ignorance and sticking heads in the sand like an ostrich when new things were coming. The record business has always been run by older men who didn’t want to change. They change when they are forced to change. Not when they saw the light but only when they felt the heat was still on.

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