Stephen Elliot from The Huffington Post recently interviewed Danny Goldberg. Danny Goldberg used to manage Nirvana, run Atlantic Records, Artemis Records, Air America Radio, produce movies and write political books. He wasn’t really great at any of those jobs but it’s cool because he wrote a book about the music industry and we all go gaga over that kinda stuff. Having worked for Danny, I can say that he was sort of like Commandant Lassard from the Police Academy movies: a genuinely good guy but he never knew what was really going on. Anyways, here’s a brief excerpt from the interview but you can read the whole thing here and check out the video of Goldberg at GoogleTalks in regards to his new book.
Huffpo: How did you start out in rock and roll? You make it seem kind of random.
Danny Goldberg: The first step was completely random. I just needed a job and wanted to get my own apartment. I didn’t even know what Billboard was. I thought it was a magazine about highway signs. Today kids are very sophisticated about things like charts but in the 60’s, when I got my first job, there was no real pop awareness of the business. So the first step was completely random and lucky. Once I realized there was a business I was quite taken with it. I was at Billboard a few months and a promo guy form Capitol gave everybody a copy of The White Album the day it came out. That was one hell of a perk. It dawned on me you could be part of it without being a musician. After that I did the best I could to climb whatever ladders were in front of me.
Huffpo: You mention that it isn’t enough to have talent. You have to have a talent for having talent.
Danny Goldberg: I think that artists that I’ve met who have been successful all had some desire to be successful. Not that they would always do things the easiest way or most commercial way, but they had a focus that helped propel them. Like Stevie Nicks doing the songs with Tom Petty at a certain time or working with a producer that, at first blush, was not part of the community that she was into. Or Bruce Springsteen focusing on trying to get a pop radio hit. The music business is competitive and having musical talent itself is not sufficient.
Huffpo: The section of your book about Kurt Cobain made me want to cry.
Danny Goldberg: He’s the most talented person I ever worked with because he was talented in so many different ways. He’s a guitar player and a lead singer and he wrote all the songs. He did everything for Nirvana that it took Jimmy Page and Robert Plant to do for Led Zeppelin. Kurt also designed the album covers and wrote treatments for the videos. He even designed the t-shirts. He was really a comprehensive genius when it came to the art of rock and roll. As an artist he was the most talented and as a person he was the most tragic. I never worked with anyone who killed themselves, before or since. It’s just a terrible feeling and a terrible loss. I’ll never get over it.
Huffpo: Any advice for people wanting to get in the music business?
Danny Goldberg: Well, the only advice I can give would be platitudes, but I’m happy to give them. One is don’t get easily discouraged because everyone who has ever accomplished anything has been rejected. What matters isn’t the people who reject you, but the people who don’t. Perseverance is a big deal. Be loyal to your friends in the bad times because they’ll remember you in the good times. Regular stuff like that.